Authors: K.A. Hobbs
I unload all the shopping and get my bag ready, I have zero plans to help Daniel with the gardening, so I throw my kindle and iPad into my bag. When I drive over to the address Daniel gave me I smile. He has a beautiful home, an Edwardian style house with bay windows and a porch over the front door. It is exactly the kind of house I imagined Daniel having. His car is parked on the drive but there is space for mine. I park and get my bags out of the boot, I knock on the door using the big brass knocker and wait.
“Hi.” I grin when he opens the door.
He has changed, I guess he has started work on the garden like he said he would. He is wearing ripped, worn jeans that have green grass stains on them and a grey vest. I can see a slight sheen of sweat on his shoulders and arms and the vest is darker in places and clinging to his body. Ginny’s words come floating into my brain.
You find him attractive? That isn’t wrong either.
Yes. I find him attractive, so overwhelmingly attractive.
“You found me okay?” he steps back and holds the door hold open for me.
“Yes, no problems at all.” I step in and feel his hand close over mine.
He reaches and takes my bags out of my hand and carries them down the hallway and turns left into what I imagine is the lounge. The hallway is light and bright and there are photos lining the walls, Poppy as a baby, Daniel holding his daughter when she must have been minutes old. As I walk further into the house, I get my first glimpse of Poppy as a little girl too. In one photo, Daniel and Poppy are laying in a wicker lounge bed type thing, Daniel has Poppy in his arms and she is laughing down at him. Daniel has the biggest, brightest and most beautiful smile on his face.
“Isn’t she beautiful?” his voice brings me back to the here and now.
“She is the most beautiful little girl, Daniel.” he smiles at me.
“I’m so glad you said she is, and not she was.”
“Wherever she is now, I’m certain she is the most beautiful angel.”
“Thank you.” his sad smile makes my heart ache a little.
“Can I get a tour?” I smile, trying to lighten the mood.
“Absolutely, up or down?”
“Both. But as we’re here, show me downstairs first.”
He walks into a room on the right and I gasp. I actually gasp.
It’s a reading room.
The wall opposite me has wall to ceiling bookcases. Daniel keeps walking then stops and turns around, holding his hands out to the wall I have my back to. I turn around and gasp again. There are more books and one of those step ladders to reach the top shelves.
“I think I’m in love,” I whisper, “Books are my thing.”
Running along either side by the windows are padded bench seats, there are lots of pillows dotted around and a cream blanket. It’s the perfect place to read, and I want to curl up and read a book here all day long.
“Books are my thing too.” he grins.
“I see that.”
Something in the corner of the room catches my eye then. It’s a little pair of red shoes. The way they are placed makes them look like they’ve been discarded recently, thrown aside in excitement to snuggle and read. In my head I can picture exactly that. Daniel would love to sit and read stories to Poppy, they would snuggle together, under the cream blanket that is neatly folded on the seat and he would read her stories about Princesses and Princes, and she would think her Daddy was a real life Prince and I think she would be right.
“Poppy loved it in here,” he moves over to the lowest shelf and picks up a story book, “She would have me read this to her every single day, often more than once.”
The memory makes him smile. This is Daniel’s thing and it was Poppy’s thing too.
.” he holds the book up.
“Good choice, one of the best stories and my personal favourite as a little girl.”
“Do you want to see the rest?” he places the book carefully back on the shelf and stands up.
“I’d love to.”
I follow Daniel out of the room and into the room opposite, which is the lounge. It’s warm and welcoming. The wall behind the sofa has twelve black and white photos of Poppy. Her first year brought to life right in front of me. You can see her growing, month by month, see her become more of a little tiny person and less of a baby. They are beautiful, the most stunning photos I’ve ever seen.
“Daniel, they are incredible.”
“I took them.” I turn to look at him.
“You took those?”
“Yes. Photography, also my thing,” he says shyly, “It’s just for me now though, but I used to travel and it was my job.”
“You are incredibly talented. Wow.” I step a little closer and look at each photo separately.
He stands beside me and looks at the photos with me. A small smile on his lips. Like each photo is a memory he cherishes, and of course they are. I turn around and face the fireplace and there they are. Poppy and Daniel’s handprints. I thought the photos were beautiful, but their beauty pales in comparison to the beauty of these handprints.
“Oh.” It’s a whisper and I know there are tears, but I don’t brush them away, it seems wrong to try to hide them.
“The most precious thing I have,” he steps forward and brushes his fingers over the paint work, “I have them on paper too. And I have them here.” he reaches for the hem of his vest and pulls it up.
There on his perfect skin is Poppy’s handprint. In black, resting right over his heart. My hand rises on it’s own and moves closer, I stop myself before I make contact with his skin.
“She is always with me now.
. No one has seen this, I don’t know why I wanted you to know… I can’t explain it, Katie. I just do.”
“It’s beautiful.” I whisper.
It’s strange, it’s like a magnetic pull between us. We both reach out for each other, both needing to be held, because sometimes, the warmth, safety and solace of someone’s arms is all that is needed, all that will help. We hold each other, like friends and we comfort each other. When Daniel pulls back and looks down at me, I smile up at him, letting him know, everything was okay.
“Let me show you the rest of the house.”
He holds out his hand for me and I take it. It seems natural to me. He shows me his kitchen next and it’s a beautiful cream colour with a wooden breakfast island in the centre. There is a big stainless steel coffee machine on one counter that seems to be the focal point of the whole room and here are lots of bottles with different oils and the windowsill is lined with pots of herbs, this is the kitchen of a man who likes to cook.
He leads me upstairs next. I have to admit to feeling a little uncomfortable when he leads me straight down the hall and into his bedroom. It has a dark wooden sleigh bed in the very centre of the room. It’s big and beautiful and I can’t help but smile at the likeness of it’s owner. Where downstairs is light, Daniel’s room is darker with chocolate brown walls that make the room feel cosy and warm. Above the bed are four photos, all black and white again, but this time they are landscapes. Daniel really is a talented photographer. I can’t help but notice how beautifully decorated everything is.
“Did you decorate yourself?” I ask as we walk down the hall and into the bathroom.
“No. I inherited a lot when my father passed. This house included. The whole place needed gutting when I moved in. A friend of mine is an interior designer, so I asked her to help, I have to say, she did a really good job.”
The bathroom boasts a shower big enough for two and sat right in front of the big window stands a wonderful freestanding bath tub that is wood panelled and faces out into the garden. I could imagine taking a bath in it would be heavenly.
“She did an amazing job.”
“Do you want to see the room you can stay in? If you want to?”
“I’d love to see it.”
We walk into the second to last room upstairs, much like the other rooms, it’s beautifully decorated. An iron bed with lots of pillows and a nautical theme, including the photos on the walls.
“Yours?” I ask, pointing to the photos of a sail boat on the water.
“Yes.” he nods.
“That bed looks so comfortable.” I run my hands over the covers.
“I wouldn’t know, I’ve never slept in it.”
“I will tell you in the morning.” I smile.
“There is one more room… If you want to see it.”
I know what the room it is. There is only one room it can be. Poppy’s room.
“If you’d like me to see it, I’d be honoured.”
We walk next door and Daniel pushes open the door. The walls are painted sky blue and huge painted poppies grace the wall. They stand tall and perfect. All the furniture is white and small. There is a little brown bear sitting on the bed and there is a child’s rocking chair sat in the corner with a pile of books on the floor next to it.
“It’s the most beautiful room I’ve ever seen, Daniel.”
“Poppy loved it. She loved spending time in here.”
“Any little girl would, actually, I think anyone would.”
“So now you’ve seen everything, can I try this
you talk so fondly of do you think?” he takes a shuddery breath like being in this room causes him physical pain.
“Yes we can, and I have some nibbles too.”
We make our way down the stairs and into the kitchen. I turn to look at Daniel and he is holding the shopping bags I brought with me in his hands.
“Do you need these?” he asks, one eyebrow raised.
“Yes, yes I do. Now the big question…”
“Do you have ice?”
“Ha! Do I have ice? Look behind you.”
I turn and smile. He definitely has ice. He has one of those big American fridges with the ice maker in the front, I turn back to Daniel and smile.
“You have everything don’t you?” I raise my eyebrow at him.
“I have most things, yes.”
“A chopping board and a knife?”
“Lemonade?” his face falls.
“No. I don’t have lemonade.”
“Good job it’s in that bag you’re holding then, isn’t it?” I tease.
“Very good.” he smiles, placing the bags on the counter.
He fetches me a chopping board and knife, then takes the jug over to the fridge and presses for ice before stopping himself.
“Cubed or crushed?”
“Oh, so fancy! Cubed I think.”
“It’s just ice.” he laughs.
“It’s fancy ice.”
“Still just ice.” He places the jug on the counter and waits expectantly.
“There are some olives, crisps, and bread sticks in that bag. Do you want to get those out?”
I busy myself chopping the lemon, limes, cucumber and strawberries, placing them into the jug then pouring over a generous portion of the scrummy alcohol. Daniel passes me two glasses and I set them down.
“We need to wait a little while, it’s best when the
has soaked into the fruit.”
“Did you want to put some music on or something? It plays out in the garden.”
“Daniel, I’m in love with your house.”
He smiles shyly at me and heads over to the sound system in the dining room. He presses a few buttons and the sound of a piano comes over the speakers.
Daniel likes classical music?
He switches it off and turns back to face me.
“Do you want to choose?”
“No, no. You choose.”
He scrolls through and presses play.
“Do you mind if I go change? Freshen up a little? You’re welcome to go outside, get comfortable, enjoy the sun. I won’t be long.”
“I’ll be outside when you’re ready.”
I head out into the garden and can’t help smiling. Everything about Daniel’s house is perfect, even the garden, complete with the cutest little playhouse. I take a seat on the bench that sits just outside the kitchen and smile when I hear Daniel’s voice carrying down over the sound of the shower. He was singing along to
Englishman in New York.
This is the most carefree I have ever heard him. Ten minutes later he is standing in front on me, he’s changed into a pair of shorts and a white t-shirt, his wet hair is sticking up in his effortless messy style and he is wearing a pair of dark sunglasses. He looks relaxed and happy and now that I think about it, I feel relaxed and happy too.
“Yes, I’ll just pour the lemonade in.” I stand and walk back into the kitchen while Daniel takes the nibbles out into the garden.
When it’s ready, I carry it out to the garden and stop in my tracks. Daniel is sitting at the table, his head resting back on the chair, a small, sweet smile on his face. It’s a genuine smile, a smile that you can’t control. I feel the warmth wash over me again and I smile too.
“Here you go, be ready to drink the best summer drink there is!”