Authors: K.A. Hobbs
“I hope so, for both our sakes, Daniel.” I smile.
“Now, shall we go so we can get steaming drunk?” he laughs.
“Steaming drunk?” I laugh a little, Daniel doesn’t come across as the kind of man who would get steaming drunk.
“Well… Maybe not steaming, but pleasantly drunk?” he raises an eyebrow at me and my heart warms a little.
“Pleasantly drunk sounds like a good idea.”
“Then let’s go. I’ll follow you.”
I turn to get in my car before I realise, I have no alcohol in the house. Not since I decided drinking everything in my drinks cabinet was a good idea. It wasn’t. I passed out, vomited everywhere and Ginny found me on the lounge floor the next morning.
“Change of heart?” Daniel asks, turning around to face me.
“No…It’s just..I don’t actually
any alcohol in the house.”
“Aaah. That I can fix. Here, give me your address, I’ll stop by a shop on the way to yours. What do you drink?” he hands me his phone for me to input my address, I put my mobile number in there too.
“Red. A nice, heavy French red.”
“Okay. I can do that. Give me half an hour.”
“Thank you, Daniel. Not just for this… just, thank you.” I look down at my feet and feel stupid all of a sudden.
“There is no need to say thank you. I’ll see you soon.” he smiles and gets into his car.
His car, that now I look at it, is blocking a large portion of the road. I’m surprised no one has hooted at him. I get into my car and start the engine, Daniel drives off first and I follow soon after. It only occurs to me on the drive home that I have no idea what state the house is in. Have I left my knickers drying on the downstairs radiators? Did I load the dishwasher last night after dinner or did I just leave the plates in the sink? When was the last time I hoovered? Suddenly asking Daniel over seems like a really bad idea.
As soon as I park, I jump out of the car and run into the house. Throwing my jacket and bag on the floor, I run around the house making sure it doesn’t look like a bomb has hit it. Luckily, I did put everything away after dinner. But I do have my knickers on the radiators. I collect everything I can carry and run it all upstairs, dumping it onto my bed. Quicker than I expect, there is a knock at the door. I race downstairs, blowing hair out of my face and throw the front door open.
“You were quick.”
“I don’t mess around.” he grins, holding up the bags in his hand.
“Is that what I think it is?”
“What do you think it is?” he raises an eyebrow at me.
“Then yes, it is what you think it is.”
“What kind of chocolate?”
“The only kind of chocolate adults should eat. Dark chocolate of course.”
He hands me a bag and I peek inside. There isn’t just one kind of chocolate in there, there is a whole variety of chocolate in here.
“Did I happen to mention that
are my absolute
“No. But they are delicious. Closely followed by
Terry’s Chocolate Orange
. Dark chocolate only.”
“A man after my own heart.” I smile as he walks into the house.
“I got a couple of bottles, and this.” he holds up a bottle of
“Yuck!” I shudder and scrunch my nose up.
“You don’t like whiskey?”
“No I do not
I shake my head, “It tastes foul and it burns your throat. Why do you like it?”
“For those reasons, except the foul part. It tastes delicious. If you find the right one, and this,” he holds up the bottle, “Is the right one.”
“If you say so. Do you want ice?”
“No.” it’s his turn to shudder now, “Dilute what is already perfect?”
“You want a glass though, right?” I say over my shoulder as I get myself a wine glass.
“As I have company, yes.” he laughs.
I fill my wine glass with the red wine Daniel so kindly purchased and he pours himself a generous measure of his foul amber liquid. As the evening is warm we head outside to the garden. I’ve not been out here much at all, but Ryan and Ginny have kept it all looking nice. I put my sunglasses on and sit at the table, trying desperately not to picture Richard over by the barbecue last summer. However hard I try though, the memories come flooding back and I feel like I’ve been kicked in the stomach. I must show signs of distress, because Daniel frowns and leans over to run his hand over mine.
“Are you okay?” he whispers.
“Not right now no, I’m so sorry, Daniel. I’m not always like this I promise.”
“Why are you apologising? There is no need. Do you… Do you want to talk about it?”
“I want to talk about him, Daniel. I just can't seem to be able to without ending up in tears.”
“The same thing happens when I talk about Poppy. But I seem to end up in tears even if I don't talk about her, so I figure, I may as well make the tears worth it.”
“His name was Richard. We were high school sweethearts. I met him in my English class. He was so smart and funny, even then. We left school, went to college and he proposed for the second time in Paris. At the top of the Eiffel tower, which is so not who he was. But he did it anyway.”
I look up at Daniel and he is listening so intently. His eyes sad but his mouth smiling like always.
“We had been out for the day, to
It was such a beautiful day, cold but sunny. The motorway was quiet, and we were listening to the radio. I remember the song that was playing when the lorry lost control and hit us. Bloody
Daniel shakes his head and reaches out for my hand.
“I remember waking up, seeing the ambulance lights in front of us and then I looked over to Richard’s side. There wasn't a door anymore, and Richard.. He was slumped over the steering wheel, kind of anyway, and apart from a trickle of blood coming from above his eye, he just looked like he was sleeping.”
“I'm so sorry, Katie.”
“The doctor said he was dead as soon as the lorry hit us. The impact killed him. There was nothing anyone could have done. The only comfort I have is knowing he didn't suffer.”
When I say the words I inwardly wince. I have that comfort, but Daniel doesn’t. He watched his daughter suffer things I can’t imagine.
What comfort does he have?
“Daniel, I'm so sorry, I shouldn't hav —”
“You need to stop saying sorry,” he smiles at me, “None of this is your fault. It isn't my fault either. It’s just what happened.”
We sit in silence, both of us looking at each other. Neither of us needing to say anything. When Daniel’s stomach growls, it makes us both laugh and the silence is broken. I take a mouthful of wine before standing up.
“So what will it be? Chinese? Pizza? Indian?”
“Pizza sounds great to me.” he smiles, a smile that touches his eyes this time.
“Let me hunt out a menu, I’ll be back in a minute.”
* * *
We take the drinks back inside and sit on the sofa, it’s only once I’ve sat down I notice Daniel’s eyes are fixed on something on the arm of the chair. To my absolute horror I realise it’s a pair of my knickers. They must have fallen out of my arms when I was running around earlier. It’s too late now. He has already seen them. I thank God that they are my nice ones, not the ones I would have been wearing a month ago that even the homeless wouldn’t want.
“They were drying.”
“What were?” Daniel looks up at me.
His eyes are glazed, I’m not sure how much he has had to drink, but it is certainly more than he can drive home on. I finished the first bottle and when he opened the second, I didn’t protest. The wine and the company were both helping me forget.
“The knickers sitting on the arm of the chair, they were drying before you got here. I thought I had taken them all upstairs…. Clearly not.”
“I hadn’t noticed.” he lies smoothly.
“Daniel,” I laugh, “They are right there. You’d have to be blind not to notice.”
“Was it that obvious?” he turns his head in my direction and flashes me the most beautiful smile.
“They are right there, of
it was obvious.”
“They are very nice knickers.” he grins, then his face falls, “I’m sorry. Can I please blame the half a bottle of
I have in me?”
“You’re sorry you like my knickers or that you told me you like them?”
“The last one.” his eyes meet mine again and I see something that scares me in them.
“I think I should go to bed.” I whisper.
“I need to… well, I guess walk home.”
“I have a spare room. Or you’re welcome to the sofa.”
“Are you sure? The sofa is great, if you’re sure. I said that already didn’t I? I’m mumbling.”
“You’re welcome to the sofa, I’ll get you a pillow and a blanket.” I stand up, surprised how stable I am on my feet.
As I walk upstairs, my mind is in turmoil and so is my heart. I just asked him to stay the night.
What am I doing?
It’s not like I invited him into my bed or anything.
But it is still another man, Katie.
He will be sleeping on the sofa.
Three months, Katie. Three months.
I try to shut my brain up but it doesn’t seem to want to. I grab a pillow from the spare room and a blanket and head back downstairs. When I step back into the lounge, Daniel is asleep. He is laying on the sofa, his shoes and socks neatly on the floor beside him. His long eyelashes resting on his cheeks, his chest rising and falling with sleep. He looks beautiful and even though I haven’t said the words aloud, I slap my hand over my mouth, almost like I’m trying to stop any more thoughts like that slipping out. I place the pillow under his head and cover him with the blanket, he doesn’t even stir. I turn out the lamp and head to the kitchen for some water, right before I leave the lounge, I hear his voice carry over to me.
“You’ll be okay, sweetheart. Daddy’s got you and he loves you so much.”
My heart constricts and a lump forms in my throat, I look back and Daniel is still fast asleep. Even in sleep Poppy is on his mind. I know that feeling, Richard is there in my dreams too. I pad quietly upstairs and get ready for bed, slipping on my pyjamas and sliding under the sheets. The last thing I think of before I go to bed isn’t Richard, it’s Daniel and how much I want to take his pain away but I have no idea how to.
I bolt up in bed, my heart pounding in my chest, sweat covering my skin. There is someone downstairs. I can hear them, I reach out for my phone, slip on my dressing gown and with shaking legs head out onto the landing. I stand there and listen. There is definitely someone down there, I listen for a little while longer then I hear a sound I wouldn’t have expected. It sounded like they were boiling my bloody kettle?
Who is down there and why were they making themselves a cup of tea?
I walk quietly down the stairs, less scared than two minutes ago and more intrigued than anything else. If someone has broken in, they are the worst burglar in the world, who breaks into someone’s house then puts the kettle on? As I reach the bottom of the stairs, I can see into the kitchen. There is definitely someone in there and the click of the kettle just proves they are making a hot drink.
I keep walking and stop dead in my tracks when I see a male figure step out and into the soft lighting cast from the lamp in the lounge. Whoever it is, he is tall and he is wearing a pair of jeans and no t-shirt.
My God, do burglars do it topless now?
I stand there and watch him, he has a perfect back. Strong, muscular. I can see every muscle and line perfectly as he makes his drink. Suddenly, as if I have been slapped around the head, the sleepy fog clears and I realise who it is.
It’s like he hears my thoughts, or maybe he feels my eyes on him, because he turns his head around slowly and looks right at me, I smile and walk the rest of the way into the kitchen, stopping just inside.
“Did I wake you?” he whispers. His voice is thick and husky with sleep, his face still a little creased too. His hair is sticking up at all angles.
“I thought someone had broken in. You almost gave me a heart attack,” I hold my hand to my chest, “Then I heard the kettle, and I just had to meet the burglar that helped himself to my tea.” I smile.
“Coffee actually,” he smiles sleepily, keeping his back to me and slipping his t-shirt over his head “I’m sorry I scared you. I just… I’ve got such a headache. How much did I drink last night?”
“Half the bottle…. I think. I’m not entirely sure, I had a lot to drink myself.”
“But you don’t have a headache?” he frowns at me.
“No. I don’t have a headache, but I’d still love a coffee.”
I walk over to the stool and sit down, glancing up at the clock I see it’s four-thirty. I rest my chin on my hand and watch Daniel in my kitchen. Besides Ryan, no other man has been in my kitchen since Richard. Should I be worried that it doesn’t cause me to clam up? That it doesn’t make me sad? That actually, it feels…
“How do you take it?”
“Your coffee? How do you take it?”
“Oh,” I blush, “Just milk.”
Daniel stirs my coffee then hands it to me. I try not to notice how attractive he is even when he’s hungover, really I do, but I just can’t help but notice. I know I’m grieving but I’m not dead. I challenge any woman alive not to look at the man standing before me. He takes his coffee and sits on the stool next to me. Both of us are silent, it isn’t awkward even though it probably should be.
“Thank you, for letting me stay last night.”
I turn to look at him and see the faint traces of a sleepless night still lingering around his eyes. He doesn’t need to tell me why it was a sleepless night. I know it has nothing to do with what he drank, I know his sleepless night was caused by the same thing I’m pretty sure causes my sleepless nights. Grief.
“Nothing to say thank you for, Daniel.” I reach out and take his hand in mine.
It’s only then I notice it’s shaking. I squeeze it and meet his eyes. There is so much sadness in them, so much sadness I wasn’t sure what to say or do.
“You’re shaking. Talk to me, it might help.” I whisper.
“It’s the same dream I’ve had so many times before. We are in the hospital, I’m curled up on her bed with Poppy in my arms. She is hurting from all the poking and prodding and she tells me she is scared,” he brings a shaking hand up to his face and rubs fiercely, like he is trying not to remember, “I tell her over and over I love her, that she will be okay, even though I know in my heart she won’t be. I lied to her, Katie. Over and over.”
“You didn’t lie, you protected her, Daniel. You stopped her being scared, you were there for her and you were strong for her. You were amazing.”
“I miss her. So much. The ache won’t go away. The pain I feel, there is no cure for that. It just won’t go away.”
I watch as a tear leaves his eye and rolls down his cheek. Without thinking, I reach out a hand and capture the tear on my finger then bring it to my lips. I kiss my finger, then bring it to rest over his steadily beating heart.
With every tear your pain gets a little less. Every tear makes you heal just a little bit. It hurts, I know it hurts, but I have faith it won’t always.
” I quote his words back to him thinking it will help.
It makes everything worse. Daniel’s face crumples and right before my eyes I see a man who is so strong break down and give in to the grief he feels. The pain he lives with every single day. I stand and wrap my arms around him. He rests his head on my chest and sobs, sobs so hard, I begin to cry too, and when Daniel picks me up and carries me to the sofa, I let him. When he lays back with me cradled in his arms, I let him because right now, I need to be held and I want Daniel to to be the one doing the holding.
* * *
When I wake up, pressed against a warm and very obviously male body I snuggle closer. Then I feel the body beneath me tense. I raise my head and look down into a pair of ridiculously blue eyes. Reality hits me around the face and I leap up, staggering slightly in a panic.
“It’s okay, Katie.” Daniel reaches out to steady me and I recoil.
“It’s not okay, Daniel.
It’s really not okay.
” I step back and fall over his shoes.
I know I’m going to fall, but I can’t do anything about it. When I land hard on the floor, the tears come. Not from the fall, not from embarrassment, but from the shock of finding comfort and solace and maybe even arousal at the arms of another man.
“Katie, it’s o— “
“Please, just please,
don’t tell me it’s okay.
” I whisper, wiping my eyes with the sleeve of my dressing gown, “I think you need to leave.”
He stands and reaches for his shoes. I watch as he slips his socks on then his shoes and stands. He walks towards the door but turns around and crouches down so he can meet my eyes.
“I didn’t mean to upset you. I think we both needed to be held, to be close to someone. There isn’t any reason to feel any guilt, there was nothing in it other than comfort.” as he says the words he bows his head.
“It’s okay. I’m going to go. I’m going to leave you my number, if you need anything, will you call me? Please? I really don’t like leaving you like this.”
I just nod my head and he seems to take it that I will phone him if I need him. I don’t tell him that I won’t. He collects his jacket and a few seconds later I hear the front door open and close. I pull my legs to my chest just as a sob breaks free.
What have I done?
Richard. I loved Richard,
I love Richard.
So why do I find so much comfort with Daniel? Why am I able to feel a little less broken when I am with him? I shouldn’t feel this for anyone so soon. I shouldn’t feel this for anyone,
The love of my life is dead. There is never going to be anyone who comes close to him for me. I know that. So what is this I feel with Daniel?
My phone rings in the kitchen and without even looking, I know it will be Ginny with her usual morning call before work. I’m not going to answer, I’ll text her later and make up some excuse as to why I didn’t answer her call. When it stops ringing, I head into the kitchen and make myself a cup of tea, grab a banana and head upstairs. I slip under the covers and reach into the draw and pull out the photo album I have in there.
Page after page of Richard’s smiling face. On our wedding day, on our honeymoon and every moment since then and before it. I run my finger across each photo. Closing my eyes I can hear his voice, I can hear him laughing at me as I tried to take our photo on my camera and kept getting my finger in the way. I can feel his arms around my waist as they announced we were now officially married. I can feel his lips on mine as we had a photo taken on the beach in Hawaii on our honeymoon. I can picture everything so clearly, I can almost feel him next to me, it seems so real, like I could reach out and he would be there. Laying on his side looking at me. But I know when I open my eyes, he won’t be there.
Why is everything still so incredibly difficult? When is it supposed to get easier?
Did it ever get easier?
What am I supposed to do with Daniel? How am I supposed to be around him now? Everything seems so out of my control. Why, for once, can’t everything be easy? I pull the sheets over my head and work on getting to sleep. I’m tired and I want to wake up and find this whole thing never happened.
I can wish can’t I?
* * *
I’m woken some time later to pounding on my front door. I throw back the sheets and go downstairs.
Whoever that is, I am going to kill them.
I throw open the door and see a sheepish looking guy standing there holding the most beautiful bouquet of yellow roses.
“Katie?” he asks.
“These are for you.” he holds them out to me.
“Thank you.” I take them from him and close the door. I carry them to the kitchen, inhaling as I go. They have the most incredible scent. I place them carefully on the counter and remove the card.
Please accept these until I can make a full apology, face to face. I never wanted to hurt you. Daniel.
He is sorry?
I scrub at my face, guilt washing over me. I wanted to help him, not make him feel like this. Everything I seem to touch, I break lately. I place the flowers into some water then head back up stairs to try and get ready for the day, or what was left of it anyway. I check my phone and I’m surprised there’s no text message from Ginny, I type a quick message;
I was in the shower when you phoned. I’m fine. You really don’t need to keep checking on me. Hope you’re all okay. Love you. K x
The shower helps with the tension in my muscles, but it does little for the muddle that is my mind right now. I towel dry my hair and switch on the TV, turning it to some mindless daytime TV. I need to make plans, plans to keep me on track. I need to try and move forward, not keep looking back. So why if my brain know this does it hurt my heart to even think it?
Where am I supposed to start? I don’t know and I can’t ask anyone, how are they supposed to know if I don’t?