Look at us, getting closer to catching up! Woohoo! We’re at “N” when we should be at….OMG….”N”! 😉
All of the stories are linked. Some are better as standalones than others. If you’ve missed any and want to read them, you can catch up here.
“I give you a room and you take over the whole place.”
The voice makes her jump, her heart beats quicker, a smile widens her lips. “Russ!”
They hug. He rubs her back. She inhales his smell, woodsy, uniquely his own, one she remembers from her three semesters in college before she had to leave. Her unmentioned, unrequited love hung on a back shelf.
She pulls back and looks at him, his laughing blue eyes. They haven’t changed and that makes her happier than anything.
Their gazes catch, and if she had been anyone else, she might have thought it meant something. But life’s taught her in the past few years that some thoughts are just too fanciful and shouldn’t be given more regard than deserved.
“What are you planting? It’s not pot, I presume?”
“Of course, that would have been my second guess,” he says, grinning. “What are nasturtiums?”
In that moment her heart aches. None of the Marcuses or the Brians could ever match up to a Russ, not ever.
She feels shy, stupid, like an awkward schoolgirl. Her voice catches, weirdly. Who is she and what has she done with her body? “They’re edible and pretty.”
“Kind of like you,” she thinks he says. She squints at him. No, of course, he didn’t say that.
“How have you been?” he asks. “Come sit. Do you want a beer?”
She nods and he darts into the house.
She sits on a cement bench and watches the waves meet the shore. From the first moment she arrived she felt her tension alleviate bit by bit, but now, it’s elevated. Russ. What was she thinking? She hadn’t been. She had thought the intervening years would have lessened her feelings for him. Who had she been kidding? What she had felt for him had never been simple or slight or easily dismissed. No one, except for Charlie, knew that Russ was her first, maybe her only, love.
He hands her a glass of dark brown beer which she sniffs and glances at him. He remembered? She sips the sweet doppelbock, room temperature. Tears sting her eyes. It’s just a beer, she chides herself. She glances back at the waves swirling white.
“This place has been needing some flowers,” Russ says.
She glances at him, so strangely shyly. “Yeah?”
He nods, sips his own beer, probably an English bitter, from what she remembered And, who’s kidding who? She remembered everything as far as Russ was concerned.
They fall silent, not uncomfortably, listening to the breaking waves, its music, and their company a salve they’ve been needing but never understood.
“Lots of flowers,” he says, his gaze saying so much more.
Josie glances at him surreptitiously. Joy bubbles in her chest. Home, she thinks, but knows it’s far too soon. Maybe. Maybe, it’s home.