Dreams Unwind

[e i g h t]

Talking about Wil doesn’t hurt nearly as much as I anticipated. The memories have always been wrapped in delicate silk, hidden away from the forefront of my mind, since the day I had to watch his casket lowered into the ground. I have been too scared to delve too deeply into the recollections, too afraid that they would fade from my mind more and more if I looked too closely. But here, under the silvery glow from the moon on the empty beach, the shore stretching for miles on either side as the ocean sings its tune... it feels right to put the memories into words. Harry doesn’t let go of my hand as I speak, and I cling fiercely to that warmth and comfort.

His presence steadies me, pushes me on, and I find myself going further back into my history, telling him about the first date Wil and I went on together - and how disastrous it had been. Our first fight as a married couple. The awkward morning after that fight when we had tried pretending it hadn’t happened. Harry stays silent through everything, but his arms instantly come up to wrap around my shoulders when the first tear falls. I lean against him, though I don’t shatter apart like I expect to. His lips press to my hair, and I close my eyes at the gentle pressure.

“I didn’t want to come with you,” I admit on a whisper, and his hold on me tightens fractionally. “I mean, I did, but... I thought if I did, it would be like saying Wil wasn’t such a huge part of my life.”

“That’s understandable, love.”

“Is it, though? I still have our rings, I still have the photos and memories, so how could going on one date mean I’d be turning my back on what he and I had?”

Harry shrugs, sighing softly. “Logic and emotion don’t often coexist happily. Our heart can tell us one thing while our minds tell us the complete opposite. You just have to remind yourself that it’s not necessarily a ‘this versus that’ kind of thing. Being scared of something doesn’t mean you can’t do it, or that the fact you want to doesn’t mean you can’t be afraid of doing it.”

“I’m glad I did.”

“So am I.”

We sit there for a few minutes longer, and I let myself relax into the solid heat of him against me, let myself learn the way he feels on my skin. It isn’t until a shiver runs through me that he pulls away, and the spell is broken. He taps the screen of his phone, frowns.

“What is it?”

“It’s almost eleven.” He gives me an apologetic smile. “Your dad is going to want to kill me, isn’t he?”

“It’s a distinct possibility. But don’t worry, I’ll protect you from my big, bad dad if you’re so scared.”

“You are so mean!”

He flicks the end of my nose teasingly, and I let out a dramatic gasp before pinching his side. He catches my hands, surprisingly an easy feat, and our fingers lace together without hesitation. The amusement melts from his face as he stares down at our linked hands; I don’t know what I’m expecting, but the sudden ringing of my phone isn’t it. I squeak and jerk in surprise, flipping Harry off when he laughs at me. Muttering under my breath, I lift my phone up to see Unc on the screen.

“Can I help you, kind sir?”

“Dennis is going insane, Jo, and I don’t think he believed me when I said you were in a study group. You better get home before he decides to report you missing or something.”

“Thanks for the heads up, Henry. I’m on my way back.” I end the call and sigh, unhappy that the night is coming to an end. “Sorry, my dad is losing his mind right now.”

“Let’s get you home then.”

Harry holds me steady as I brush the sand from my jeans and bare feet, then closes the door gently behind me once I’m sat in the passenger seat. There is no hesitation when he reaches for my hand this time; I settle comfortably into my seat as the tires eat up the miles between the beach and my house. I really don’t want tonight to be over. No matter how conflicted I felt before accepting the offer of a date, it’s been such a wonderful few hours with Harry, and the fears that consumed me have faded enough, replaced by the fragile blossom of hope for what’s ahead.

Too soon, Harry pulls up to the sidewalk outside of my house, puts the car in park, and I stare at the darkened windows with a frown. When I turn to face Harry, I find him already watching me closely. His lips quirk upwards slightly.

“Do you want me to walk you up?”

“Unless you want to meet my dad, that’s probably not a good idea.”

His soft chuckle fills the car, and I bite my lip before I can blurt out how much I love hearing his laugh. The words are stolen from me when he leans over, his hand coming up to cradle my jaw, and my breath hitches as his lips brush mine. A sharp zip of electricity races down my spine, my heart hammers beneath my ribs, and my body floods with warmth. I stifle a quiet whimper and his breath fans across my face; pushing closer, I tilt my head and kiss him more insistently, firmly. His thumb strokes along my cheek, his lips parting under mine. He tastes of fruit, celery, and something I can’t identify. My lungs burn with lack of oxygen by the time we separate.

“Fuck,” he whispers and abruptly pulls back; I follow his wide-eyed gaze to see my dad standing on the porch, arms crossed over his chest. “I don’t think I’d like to meet your father tonight. I’m sure he’s a lovely man, but I, er, have prior engagements?”

I giggle, stretching to kiss him again. “Yeah, I don’t blame you. Drive home safely, and let me know when you make it.”

“Of course.”

Harry’s eyes seem to glow in the light from the dashboard, and he brushes a lock of hair from my face before he leans over to capture my mouth once more. I pull away slowly, reluctantly conceding that our date is officially over. I step out of the car and ignore the fact my father is still watching us closely. Before I close the door, I duck down to smile at Harry.

“I had a wonderful time tonight.”

“Jo Beth.”

I grimace at the tightness in my dad’s voice. Harry’s lips twist into a sympathetic smile, and I roll my eyes and push the car door shut. I know my dad is waiting for me, but I make no moves toward the house until the brake-lights of Harry’s car disappear from view. Then, and only then, do I turn and make my way up the sidewalk. Stopping a foot away from my dad, I give him a bright, innocent smile and bounce on the balls of my feet.

“Hi, Dad. Beautiful night, isn’t it.”

“Do you want to explain why your uncle had to lie to me tonight, tell me you were with a group of friends from school studying for an exam, and now it’s after eleven at night, and you’re just now coming home? Who was that?”

“I… Okay, fine. You’re right. I shouldn’t have had Uncle Henry lie to you, but, in my defence, he offered first. I just took him up on that offer. I just - Dad, I just wanted to go on this date without a million questions first. If it worked out, I would’ve told you about it. If it hadn’t, then there wouldn’t have been anything to talk about, and no one would’ve been any wiser about me making a fool of myself.”

“And how did it go?” he asks after a long minute in which he stares at me as if I’ve grown another three heads.

I push past him into the house without answering. He follows closely behind, and the scrape of the deadbolt is loud in the quiet. The television is off, the living room illuminated only by the table lamp, and I stare down at my empty hands. In my rush to not further antagonise my father, I forgot to grab my flats from Harry’s car before he drove away. I sigh and make my way to the kitchen for a drink.

“Jo.”

“It… it was great, Dad. It really was.” Once I have a glass filled with water, I turn and face my dad. We’ve never really been the type to have heart-to-heart conversations, but he’s always cared. No matter how awkward this kind of talk is for me, I don’t want to hide anything from him. “He, uh, he took me to the beach for a picnic. We were the only ones there, so it was quiet, peaceful, y’know? We talked a lot. Literal hours, actually. I, uh, I told him about Wil.”

My dad’s brows furrow, his hand reaching for me, and I step into his embrace. His heart beats rhythmically under my ear. “How did he take it?”

“Rather well, once I explained that I’m not cheating on my husband. He let me talk about Wil.”

“Wow. Sounds like a terrific guy.”

“He is.”

“Just, just be careful, okay? I don’t want you to get hurt.”

“Trust me, I’m going into this with my eyes wide open.”

My dad drops a kiss to my hair, pats my back, then steps away. I watch him make his way to his bedroom, wave when he stops outside the door. His smile is reassuring, the same smile I grew up with, the smile that tells me everything is going to be okay. His door closes with a quiet click, and I finish my drink before going to my room. Tubs chirps sleepily on the bed when I step inside. I toss my phone onto the mattress, strip down to my underwear, and flop down onto the bed, bouncing a bit before I sprawl out. There’s a sense of peace inside of me that assuages all the doubts and worries, and my heart feels lighter than it has in such a long time.

>> I’ve made it home so you can stop worrying now.

I peel my eyes open to stare blearily at the text, having to reread it a few times before the blurred letters start to make sense. A lazy smile tugs at my lips, and I slowly poke out a response with one finger.

<< I had a really great time tonight. Thank you.

>> Thank you for agreeing to the date. I’m glad I could make the time enjoyable.
>> And thank you for trusting me enough to tell me about Will (I don’t know how to spell his name, so if I’m wrong, apologies!). It means a lot that you did.
>> It’s almost one. Get some sleep, love. xx