Chapter Twenty: Summer On The Way

Fergus had actually been in for a change when I phoned him. “Well, I haven’t anything better to do.” He admitted wryly, when I relayed Katy’s plea for transport for her and the broken hearted Fliss. “Will you come too?”

  My heart lifted a little as I said, “Yes, it would be best if I did.”

  The sun had come out by the time he picked me up, and the air was warm with the promise of summer. It was a nice day for a rescue, I reflected, as we headed towards the motorway.

  When we arrived at Stoke, it was to find Fliss and Katy sitting inside the main station forecourt surrounded by luggage, and wearing expressions of misery and trauma respectively. All around them reunions and departures were taking place and the forecourt echoed with the sound of hellos and goodbyes, and the sound of suitcase wheels and high heels on the shiny floor. Fliss was resting her head on Katy’s shoulder, and I noticed as we approached that she had been crying; her face was pale and blotchy, her eyes red and puffy, and she looked absolutely wretched. Katy, I sensed, was very, very, tense; she looked up as we approached, and her shoulders sagged as her eyes lost some of their fire; she managed a cautious smile as she said, “Look, Fliss, the cavalry have arrived.”

  We sat down awkwardly next to them on the surrounding seats. “All set?” asked Fergus.

  Katy nodded, and began to gently nudge Fliss into action. They slowly got to their feet. “I knew we should have got the coach” swore Katy as she stretched.

  We began to make our way across the forecourt, negotiating the crowds with care. “Doesn’t the coach have really bad toilets?” asked Fergus, amiably.

  “No worse than Virgin,” said Katy as she shook her head, “and you pay less on the coach, and you actually get a seat, and they don’t dump you off at Stoke.”

  As soon as Fergus started the engine, Fliss lay her head back down on Katy’s shoulder and closed her tired eyes. Katy remained awake, but seemed uninterested in conversation.

  In the front two seats, Fergus and I silently navigated our way home.  Every so often, I would look at him out of the corner of my eye, and watch his hands as he lightly gripped the steering wheel, or I would watch him lift a hand in order to tuck a loose strand of hair behind his ears.  There was a pattern to it; every ten minutes or so, it would come loose again, and every ten minutes he would reach up to tuck it back into place.  Somewhere around Nantwich, I watched the same strand of hair come loose and lie against his cheek, then, before I could stop myself, I reached out and tucked it back behind his ear. My hand collided with his as I moved away, and he looked at me, startled.  I could feel my face grow hot as I looked away from him, and out of the window.

  In the queue to turn off the motorway, he took hold of my hand, and held it until the traffic began to move again and he was forced to let go, but the next road was gridlocked, and he held my hand most of the way, only letting go in order to change gear.

  We stopped at an out of town shopping centre, and as I leant against the boot of the car, and waited for the others to return, I gazed up at the cloudy blue sky and smiled.  I could feel the warm breeze on my arms and neck, calming me, soothing me.  I turned my attention back to the automatic doors of the supermarket.  I could see him walking towards me, carrying a carrier bag.  He put the bag down on the floor when he reached me, and leant back against the boot of the car.  He was so close that our limbs were almost touching as I reached out and took hold of his hand.  We stared ahead for a few moments, saying nothing, before I turned to face him, “Fergus…”

  He straightened up, and our eyes met once again.  So close… so very close… I could feel his breath on my face.  Then, from out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Fliss and Katy as they emerged from the shops eating ice creams, and the moment was lost.

  Fergus dropped Katy off before continuing on to Heaton Chapel.  He carried Fliss’ suitcase upstairs for her, and I walked him back to the car.  As he unlocked and opened the door, I took hold of his hand once more.  We dawdled for a while, exchanging awkward goodbyes.  “Thanks,” I muttered shyly, “for, you know…”

  He shrugged, “’S’alright”

  I stroked his wrist with my thumb.  He squeezed my hand, and I realised, for what wasn’t the first time, that we couldn’t go on like this.  He was so close to me that I barely had to lean forwards, and as I kissed him I felt him slip his arms around my waist.  He returned the kiss so softly that I wanted to cry.  My hands stroked his face as we continued to kiss, he moved so that he was sat on the edge of the seat, and then pulled me onto his knee as I draped my arms around his shoulders.    It was nothing like the night we went to Juvenile Hell, when all I wanted to do was get his clothes off, it mattered to me in a way that that night never could: I wasn’t scared anymore, I trusted him, this was something that I had instigated, and I hadn’t needed to get roaring drunk in order to do so.  That fact was almost more important to me than what was happening.

  All of these thoughts came to me later; of course, they came to me as I lay in bed this morning, re-living it all.  At the time, all I could think as he ran his hands down my back, as he held me, as he kissed me, was how much I loved him.

  He was still asleep when I woke up this morning. I reached across and moved a strand of hair out of his eyes.  He blinked, sleepily, at me as I kissed him, softly, on the forehead, “Morning”

  “Morning”

  “So glad you decided to stay this time instead of…”

  He placed a finger across my lips, “Shhh…” he moved the finger, and I was quiet.  He kissed me, and I was quick to respond, kissing him back as I pulled him closer to me.

  I heard the sound of a door opening, and Fliss’ voice as she walked into the room already talking; something about gigs and promoters and phone calls.  I couldn’t care less.  She stopped mid sentence and mid stride, “Oh!” I heard her cry in frustration.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her drop her arms in defeat, causing the too-long cardigan sleeves to flop forwards.  She stomped out of the room in a huff.

  Fergus and I stopped, looked at each other, and collapsed with laughter.

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