Authors: K.A. Hobbs
“Hi, Ryan,” Daniel holds out his hand, “Great to meet you.”
I notice it’s still shaking and my heart aches a little for him. Daniel is a confident guy, he meets strangers all the time at the hospital and speaks to them like long lost friends.
“Are you sure?” Ryan asks, frowning, “Because your hand is seriously shaking.” They shake hands and Daniel laughs nervously.
“It really is, just this whole thing is terrifying to me.”
“We’re terrifying? Did you already see Ginny without her makeup on?” Ryan jokes.
“No he saw you without yours!” she slaps his arm and heads to the counter where she is busy making things for the barbecue.
“We’re not that scary. What can I get you to drink?”
“What do you have?”
” Ginny laughs, “What do you like?”
“We have loads of it, lager or bitter?” Ryan asks, heading over to the cupboard where the glasses are.
“Lager, please.” Daniel smiles at him.
“The food won’t be ready for a while, but I’ve made loads of yummy things to eat before so we won’t starve.”
“What can I do?” Daniel asks, removing his jacket and rolling his shirt sleeves up.
“You’re the guest, you don’t get to help!” Ginny swats his hands away.
“But I love to cook, please?”
“He’s really good, Ginny, go on, let him help.”
“Okay, can you help me make the little quiches?”
He gets to work while Ryan and I take Aidan outside to play. I place Aidan on the blanket surrounded by his toys and sit down next to him, kicking off my shoes and sinking my toes into the soft grass. I turn my face up to the sky and inhale, filling my lungs with the summer air, the smell of flowers and freshly cut grass filling my nostrils. Today, I feel happy. I worried I’d forgotten what it felt like to be happy, I also worried, I wouldn’t ever be genuinely happy ever again.
“You’re smiling.” Ryan’s voice floats over to me as he sits down on the other side of his son.
“Am I?” I look over to him and raise my hand to my face.
Sure enough, my cheeks are puffed up in a smile. I feel like the happiness is coming from deep within me, from the place that hasn’t had anything to be happy about for months, from the place that has been so consumed by grief it was drowning. The pressure I’ve felt pushing down on my chest since that day is so slight, I can’t really feel it today.
“Yes and you’re beautiful when you smile, Katie. You should always be smiling,” he reaches over and squeezes my shoulder, “Daniel has made you smile again.”
“He has,” I smile, my face seeming to want to take advantage of remembering what to do, “It still hurts, every day but today, I feel happy, Ryan. I feel like I’m healing a little.”
“He’s nervous today? Why?”
“You were Richard’s best friend, he’s a guy.”
“He’s worried I won’t like him because he’s a guy you’re…
with?” why does it sound like there is more than one question there?
“Does he realise there is no need to be? That yes, I was Richard’s best friend, he was mine. But that you’re my best friend too? That all Ginny and I want is for you to be back to the Katie before the accident?”
“I don’t think that Katie exists any more,” I look over at him and shrug my shoulders, “I think that Katie died the day Richard did and if she didn’t she certainly died the day I buried him.”
“She’s still there, the smile on your face today, that’s that Katie you were,” he sighs and looks at me, “Let’s keep her, shall we?”
“I think we should, she is so much easier to live with, she washes and tidies and gets dressed.” I joke.
“She’s still a Munchkin though!”
We both sit and watch Aidan playing, when Ginny and Daniel appear twenty minutes later carrying a tray full of food and a big jug of
Ryan picks Aidan up and we all sit around the table. Ginny gives us all a little plate and tells us to help ourselves. Everything is delicious, everything melting in my mouth as always.
“So Daniel, what is it you do?” Ryan asks, popping an olive into his mouth.
“Well, I gave up working when I had Poppy, but before that, I was a photographer.” he smiles easily.
“Really? What kind of photography?”
“Landscapes, people, anything really. I used to travel for work, capturing all sorts of things, I hope to get back in to it one day.”
“That sounds incredible!” Ryan says excitedly, “Where did you get to travel?”
Just like that, they’re bonding over a mutual love of photography and travel. Both leaning over the table to talk to each other. Daniel is smiling and laughing and Ryan looks relaxed and happy, he looks like he did when Richard and I would come over. It makes me feel both happy and sad at the same time. Ryan has other friends, but what he didn’t have is someone who he is like this around. Maybe Daniel is going to be able to fill a little void in Ryan’s life too.
“He is everything you said he was. Gorgeous. I see why he stirs feelings in you.” Ginny leans closer and whispers in my ear.
“It’s not just me then? He really is gorgeous?” I whisper back.
“More than gorgeous,” she nods, “And not just gorgeous, he is so lovely too.”
“Looks like they have some things in common.” I nod my head in the boys direction and smile.
“We’ll lose them now for the rest of the day, they will be bonding over coals and fire soon enough!”
“Are you planning to talk all afternoon? Or are you actually going to get the barbecue on?” I call over to them grinning.
“Slave driver!” Ryan laughs, “Shall we do the man thing and continue this over some fire?” he asks Daniel who grins.
“I think that would be appropriate.” he looks over to me and smiles, a smile that would have knocked me to my arse if I wasn’t already sitting on it, “And I think maybe we should have another beer?”
isn’t manly enough?” Ginny asks.
“Exactly, you can’t build a fire and have a drink that has strawberries floating in it!” Ryan puffs out his chest, “We are men. We want beer.”
“Okay caveman. I’ll get two beers.” she grins, standing and heading into the kitchen.
A few minutes later she comes out carrying the boys beers and places her iPod on the dock that is set up just under the open kitchen window. She hands the boys their beer and heads over to sort out some music. A happy guitar begins and she dances over to me, smiling her happy infectious smile. She sits down and scoops Aidan out of his highchair and onto the grass.
“You should be going for a sleep, Little Man.” she coos, kissing the top of his head.
“Babe, he isn’t going to sleep with people here and that awful music you have on!” Ryan snorts.
“What’s wrong with my music?” she huffs.
“I like it, it’s happy!” I lean over and top up our glasses.
“You have awful taste in music though, Munchkin.”
“I do not! How rude!”
“What music do you like, Katie?” Daniel asks, looking over at me.
“All sorts of crap!” Ryan teases me.
“Sure, all sorts of crap,” I roll my eyes, “Your music isn’t all good either.”
“My music is brilliant, tell her, Gigi.”
“Some of it’s good. But some of it, is just… well… not!”
Aidan makes a raspberry noise and claps his hands, much like he is agreeing with his mother. It makes us all laugh. He holds his little arms out at Daniel who doesn’t hesitate to pick him up, cradling his small body in his arms.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve held a baby.” he says, looking at me.
“It suits you,” Ginny says, “We are so sorry about Poppy. I don’t want you to feel you have to talk about it, but I don’t want to ignore it either.”
“Thank you,” he looks at her, then at me, “It makes it worse when people don’t talk about it.”
“I think you’re incredible, Daniel. I really do.” Ginny tells him, standing and going to stand next to him. I watch as she leans up on her tiptoes and whispers something in his ear. He looks down at her and nods, smiling. Ginny nods too then places a kiss on his cheek before heading back into the house and coming out a few seconds later with Ryan’s camera.
“I want a photo of us altogether and one of the two of you.” she points to Aidan and Daniel.
“Why?” he asks, looking unsure.
“Because I have a feeling, you’re going to be a huge part of all of our lives, Daniel,” she smiles before holding the camera up to her face and taking a few shots, “So I want you in the photo albums, on the walls and always in our memories.”
I swallow hard, trying to remove the lump that I feel in my throat, almost choking me. Daniel is being welcomed into all of our lives, Ginny is telling him, he is welcome and she, like I, wants him to stay. I’m not sure exactly what I feel for Daniel. I know he’s important to me, I know he is the reason I am able to smile again, and the reason each breath doesn’t cause me physical pain anymore, but apart from that I’m not sure.
“Come on, Katie, get in here!” Ginny calls over, placing the camera on the window ledge and setting the timer.
I walk over to where they are all standing together, grinning like they’ve known each other forever, like this is a normal thing for us all to do. I take my place next to Daniel who still has Aidan in his arms, as I step closer, he wraps his other arm around my waist and rests his hand on my hip. His hand burns where it rests, the heat from his hand soaking through the thin material of my dress and into my skin. I feel it, travel up the length of my spine and down to my toes. I don’t know what this is, but I am happy so right now, I’m not going to question it, for now, I am just going to enjoy it.
I guess I should have expected it, after spending the day so happy I was bound to have the worst come down in the world, wasn’t I? I switch on the lamp and sit up in bed, pulling my legs to my chest and wrapping my arms around them. I rest my head on my knee and try to calm my breathing and stop the shaking and the furious beating of my heart.
It was just a dream, it was just a dream.
When I'm still shaking ten minutes later, I pick up my phone and dial Daniel’s number. After five rings, I'm about to hang up, then his deep, still thick with sleep, voice comes down the line.
“Daniel, I just need to talk, help me, please.” a sob breaks free from my throat and I try to calm myself down.
“Katie, let's talk about something else till you calm down,” he sighs and I hear his feet pad down his hall, “Tomorrow I want to take you out for the day, do you want to spend the day with me?”
I take a deep breath, his soothing voice helping me calm down. I wait a few more seconds before I answer him.
“Yes please, where?” my voice is shaky and the tears are still coming.
“I can’t tell you that, it’s a surprise.” I hear a car engine come down the phone and I smile. He is coming to me.
“I don’t like surprises.” I cry into the phone.
“You don’t?” He asks.
“Maybe you’ll like this one?”
“Maybe.” I try to smile.
Daniel stays on the line until he knocks on my door, I practically run downstairs, my face wet with tears, my eyes puffy and when I open the door, Daniel steps forward and wraps his arms around me, he holds me so tight like his embrace can heal me and out of everything in the whole world, I think it might just be the only thing that can.
“Thank you.” I whisper into his chest.
“There's no need.” He whispers back.
We go into the lounge and sit together on the sofa. Daniel drapes the blanket over both of us and we lay down together, me resting on his chest, his arms around me. An embrace of comfort and nothing else. One friend comforting the other, and even though my reason for needing comfort is my husband, and I'm seeking comfort from another man, it doesn't feel wrong. Daniel’s soothing voice lulls me to sleep, safely wrapped in his strong, warm arms. I wake up hours later and Daniel is awake.
“Did you sleep okay?” I ask.
“I slept really well, how are you Katie?”
He lifts his hand and runs his thumb under my eyes, tracing the dark circles I guess are there. In truth, I am okay now. I am feeling safe and protected and it is all down to Daniel.
“I feel okay, I always feel better when you're here. I don't have to talk about it, I don't have to explain anything, you completely understand.”
“Of course. I could say exactly the same thing to you. Do you want to talk about it now?” He asks softly.
“It's the same dream, I'm in the accident, Richard is next to me. I wake up shaking. It's horrible and so incredibly real.”
“It's amazing how real and vivid they can be.”
“When do they go away?” I whisper.
“I don’t know. Mine haven’t yet.”
“Do you think we will ever be healed? Do you think we will always be broken, Daniel?” I whisper.
“No. I think we’ll heal each other, I think we
healing each other. It’s just going to take time and I know that doesn’t make it any easier, but I think that’s how it is.” his hand soothes me, running up and down my spine.
“Am I healing you?” I ask, closing my eyes tight, not sure whatever the answer is, I’m ready to hear it.
“More than you know.” he whispers back.
* * *
“Yes. Ice skating. You've been before?”
“Umm no. Me and slippery ice
“I'll hold you up. I'm very strong.” he smiles at me, stepping up to the kiosk to pay.
“Look, why don't you go on and I'll sit and keep warm with a mocha just over there?” I point to the cafe.
“Katie, you’re coming on with me and I'm going to keep you safe and stop you falling and by the end of it, you'll be able to skate. They'll call you, Skatey Katie!” he groans and covers his eyes with his big hand and I can't help but laugh, “That was awful, please forget I said that!”
“That was the worst thing you've
said, what ever possessed you to say it?” I chuckle making my way over to the lady handing out skates.
“I really don't know, it sounded better in my head.”
“Did it? Really?”
“No. It didn't. I'm an idiot.” he slips off his shoes and hands them to the lady, asking for a size twelve.
My eyebrows shoot up and disappear under my hat.
They are some big feet he has. I can't help but look down at his feet.
They are big.
“Do I have holes in my socks?” Daniel's voice makes me look up.
“Because you're staring at my feet.”
“I've just never met a man or anyone for that matter, who wears size twelve shoes.”
“I'm a size eleven actually, the skates come up a little small and I can't stand feeling like my toes are being squished.”
I get my much smaller size five skates and walk over to the bench where Daniel is sitting to put his on. I am glad Daniel suggested I put thick socks on today, the thought of slipping my feet into boots thousands of people before me have makes me feel a little sick.
“Ready?” Daniel stands and holds his hand out for me.
“Come on Skatey, let's do this. You're going to love it!”
We walk over the rubber matts and I am filled with false confidence and hope that I can do this. Daniel steps out onto the ice first and waits for me, holding out his hand. I take a deep breath and put one foot onto the ice. The minute my foot makes contact with it, it slips and slides all over the place. Daniel is ready for it and holds me firmly, not letting me slip. I cautiously put my second foot onto the ice and the same thing happens. I slip all over the place and grip Daniel so tight I think I feel bones.
“You're way too stiff, try and relax your body a little.” he tells me, moving backwards to let a family through.
“If you say stuff like that, I'm just going to laugh. So stop that.”
“What? That you're too stiff?” he grins wickedly at me.
“Yes, I cannot take you seriously if you use that word. Only one thing springs my mind!”
At my own words, I begin to laugh. Bad idea, laughing makes me wobble and on ice, only one thing happens when you wobble. Daniel has it all under control however, he moves us backwards, pulling me along with him like you might do with a small child. I feel like a small child next to him.
“I've got you, relax a little, let me move for you until you get the feel for it.”
I can't help it, my giggles return and I look up into his grinning face and laugh again. He really is handsome when he smiles, his whole face lights up and his eyes, now they are happier, twinkle too.
“Okay, lean on me and slide your foot out then back and then the same with the other one.”
“You make it sound so easy!” I wail.
“It is once you've got it. Try.”
I do what he says and I wobble, he holds me tighter and I keep trying. After a few more circuits, I have the hang of it. Daniel holds on to one hand and we skate around the ice rink together. I'm still not brave enough to let go of him and he doesn't show any signs of wanting me to.
“I told you, I knew you'd be good at this.”
“I'm not good. I'm barely standing up and I'm spoiling your fun. I'm going to wait over there,” I point to a cluster of seats outside the rink, “I want to see what you can really do.”
Daniel helps me over to the side and waits for me to climb off the ice. When I'm seated and comfortable, he takes off. He looks so handsome in his big brown jumper and beanie. It might be a nice day outside, but it’s freezing in here. I sit and watch as he moves with grace and elegance over the ice, he skates backwards and forwards, he jumps and spins in the air and lands perfectly back on the ice. He is mesmerising to watch. While I’m watching him, an old lady comes and sits next to me and watches him, smiling as Daniel whizzes around the rink.
“You're a very lucky lady he’s so handsome and the best skater I've seen in a long time,” She tells me, “How long have you been married?”
“Oh, we're not,” I smile, “We're just friends.”
“That isn't a look of friendship on his face when he looks at you sweetheart, that is a look that says he’ll do anything for you if you only ask. I know that look, my Bert used to look at me in exactly the same way.”
“Daniel doesn't think of me like that. He’s helping me through a very difficult time, he is one of my best friends. Nothing more.”
“And because of that, he has fallen in love with you. It's clear to see, even if it’s not to you.”
We watch as Daniel's feet leave the ice, he spins then lands perfectly on the ice again. I look back at the old lady but she’s gone, back sitting with her family a few tables away. Daniel finishes another circuit of the rink and climbs off, coming to sit next to me.
“I'm impressed, you didn't say you were like
standard!” I bump his arm with my shoulder.
“I am not
standard. I just spent a lot of time with my Dad ice skating. He played hockey.”
“Well, you're really good. It was awesome to watch.”
“Thank you. Ready for a mocha?”
“You're having a mocha?”
“No I am not, disgusting things.” he laughs pulling me to my feet.
“They are heavenly!”
“Then let's take you to Heaven shall we?”
I bite my bottom lip and stifle the laugh I feel in my cheeks. The man is testing me, I was sure of it. When we get to the little café, Daniel orders a mocha and a cappuccino. Then he turns and asks what I want to eat. It’s only ten-thirty so I opt for a muffin. Daniel orders a double chocolate muffin for himself, just like I knew he would and pays for everything, again, just like I knew he would. We grab two seats and tuck into our muffins. When I cheekily steal a piece of his, he leans over and steals a piece of mine too, scrunching up his face at me.
“Mine is much nicer.”
“You don't like blueberry muffins?”
“I don't. Muffins are supposed to be chocolate.”
“You're a chocoholic!”
“I know. And proud.”
“What are we doing for the rest of the day?” I ask, sipping my mocha.
“Is it weird that we have become a
” Daniel asks, looking at me over the top of his cup.
“Sorry, I just assumed, you’ve probably got stuff to do, I’ll just finish this and th—” Daniel leans over and places a finger over my lips stopping me from talking. He shakes his head then laughs at me.
“I wish I hadn’t mentioned anything now. I
to spend the day with you, I just meant, is it strange we’ve become a
and we’re not dating.”
“I don’t know, is it?”
“I don’t think it’s weird. Is it weird for you?”
“Honestly? No, it’s not. I feel so comfortable with you, so—”
“That.” I hold my hand out and he slips his fingers around mine.
“So, if you’re happy to spend the day together, I have something I’d like your help with at home.”
“What is it?”
“You want me to help you with dinner?”
“I’d like you to come over for dinner, the thing I need help with is hanging some new photos, I’d really like your opinion.”
“It depends… What are you cooking?” I tease, sipping my drink.
“I was going to make, what is, the most incredible chicken caesar salad.”
“So that’s chicken and salad?” I frown.
“No. Not the way Jamie Oliver does it. It’s the most delicious chicken and salad with the most spectacular croutons, I’m probably not selling it very well, but you’ll have to trust me.”
“Trust that your salad is better than any other salad I’ve ever had before?” I raise one eyebrow at him and try not to laugh.
“I’m prepared to take the risk. You and your salad have a lot to live up to now, you know that?”
“I think we’re more than up to the challenge.” he smirks at me.
“We’ll see won’t we?” I grin.
* * *
“I really like that one.” I point to the black and white photo of Poppy blowing bubbles.
“I do too, but I love this one, and that one, and that one over there,” he points to another framed photograph sitting on the table, “This is why I need your help.” he runs his hands over his face and looks at me.
“Well, why don’t you make one of those photo walls?” I suggest.