The waiting room was quiet and it had been all day. Staring down at the pages of the wedding magazine I found my mind wandering to a happier place. After everything that had happened I was a little surprised that David had insisted on the wedding planning going ahead.
David claimed he hated his father that after everything that he had done he could never be forgiven but I knew better. You couldn’t possibly hate someone you visited every single day, it just didn’t make any sense. Perhaps a part of David felt guilty for his father’s heart attack, Gertrude had certainly tried hard enough to lay the blame squarely at David’s door and mine.
I wanted to marry him, I really did but a part of me couldn’t shake the feeling that David was rushing ahead with everything. Why did we need to rush? There was no one to stop us from getting married, no one stood in our way, we had literally all the time in the world. Yet, something felt a little off to me, something I couldn’t quite put my finger on.
I closed my eyes slowly, waiting for David to return. Why did everything have to be so hard? David was perfect for me, I knew this so why was it so hard to believe that we belonged together? Why did I struggle with these thoughts?
A door down the hall opened and David appeared, he looked tired, I could see the strain on his face. I stood and went to him my arms automatically wrapping around his waist my face pressed against his chest.
“How is he doing?”
I drank in his scent, my face buried in against his strong body. In that position, in that place I never wanted to move. There was and always had been something special about being in David’s arms. There was something in the way he made me feel, so safe, so utterly loved and I never wanted to lose that.
His voice was curt, harsh even and I flinched inwardly. Something had obviously happened. David pushed out of my arms, moving past me down the hall. I watched him go, his shoulders hunched, his body drawn in on itself.
I followed him, my hand automatically reaching out to him, to comfort him. He gave me so much, the least I could do was give him what he needed, a shoulder to cry on if he wanted it. And if he didn’t? Then I would simply do whatever I could but I would be there for him.
“David, talk to me, what did they say?”
“He’s doing much better, everyone is very hopeful.”
David’s voice was filled with barely controlled anger and I couldn’t hide the surprise from my face. Although I loved him, I wasn’t sure I knew who he was anymore, who he had become. He was always so angry and a part of me understood why. But this anger had become almost like a part of him, he behaved as though he didn’t know how to experience any other emotions. How could I help him through that? How could I help him with something I didn’t fully understand?
“David, look at me, tell me what’s wrong?”
I grabbed his arm and turned his body towards mine but that was as far as I managed to get. David shrugged out of my grip faster than I could anticipate and strode away down the hall. I tried to follow him, my low heels clicking across the tile floor but he was faster than I was. I made it outside into the parking lot in time to watch him speed away.
We hadn’t fought, in fact nothing had been said to him as far as I was aware to cause such a dramatic and hurtful reaction. I wanted to be there for him but how could I be when he kept pushing me away? How could I marry him when I wasn’t sure what was going on inside his head?
I tugged the cell phone from my bag and quickly typed out a message, my finger hesitating over the send button. What choice did I have? I was stuck here unless David decided to come back for me. I pressed the button and watched the screen as the little icon appeared telling me the message was sent. Now all I could do was wait for the other complication in my life to make an appearance.
Stuart pulled up alongside the curb, a small smile curling his lips. It had started to rain as I waited for him and the mist had quickly turned me into some sort of drowned rat creature. I slid into the passenger seat beside him and closed the door, the heat sliding around me drawing the chill from my bones.
“So why am I picking you up and not David?”
Stuart shot me a sideways look as he steered the car away from the curb and back into the flow of traffic.
“He had something he needed to do.”
I dipped my head in an attempt to avoid his penetrating gaze. Stuart had a nasty habit of knowing when I was lying and I really didn’t want to talk about my ‘feelings’ or my suddenly unstable relationship with the man I loved.
“It doesn’t seem like him to just ditch you out here on your own. He’s normally so protective of you.”
“Yeah well I don’t always need protecting. There is not always something waiting to pounce on me.”
“Really? With your track record you could have fooled me.”
Stuart grinned over at me but I didn’t smile back. I didn’t see a reason to smile and not everything in life could be solved with a joke.
“I really irritate you don’t I?”
He asked, his voice suddenly serious.
“Why? What is it about me that gets under your skin?”
His voice sunk lower, there was something in the way he said skin that made me want to close my eyes. I could remember the hard press of his body against mine as he protected me when Richard’s bomb had gone off. The memory of that moment haunted me.
I loved David, so what the hell was I doing thinking about the press of another man’s body against mine. Why did I always find myself so mesmerised by the sound of his voice. The way he could practically purr certain words, making them feel like silk trailing across my body.
Stuart was a complication, a complication I didn’t want to be around and yet I constantly seemed to find myself in his company or needing his help.
“Don’t do that.”
I whispered closing my eyes and pressing my hand over them. I could see David’s face in my mind, the expression he wore, such rage. My heart twisted and one small tear escaped from beneath my lashes to trail down my cheek.
“Do what? Are you crying?”
Stuart’s voice was suddenly filled with surprise and I could tell from the way the car jerked suddenly that his surprise had almost caused us to crash.
“Stuart, I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t want to talk about anything. I just want to sit here and be left alone with my own thoughts.”
He didn’t answer me and several minutes passed in complete silence. The car rolled to a stop and I pushed my hand away from my face. I knew the journey had been too short to have gotten us back to the apartment.
“Stuart, what are we doing out here?”
I glanced around at our surroundings, I could see nothing but trees and rolling hills. How he had managed to get us out of the city so quickly was beyond me.
He unclipped his seatbelt and turned to face me, the look in his eyes serious. Panic fluttered in my gut and instinctively my hand went to my own belt, releasing it quickly as I sucked in a deep breath.
“Look, Carrie, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you, it’s just I saw you were a little down and I thought you could do with a laugh. That was all.”
He must have seen the panic on my face because the next words out of his mouth were filled with hurt and confusion.
“Carrie, I would never hurt you. You don’t need to look at me like I’m some sort of psychopath.”
“Then why are we out here?”
I took the opportunity to finally look around at my surroundings and gasped at the beauty that lay all around. The car was parked beside a cliff ledge, the sight both awe inspiring and terrifying.
“This is where I go when I need to think, escape everything else in my life. I thought maybe you needed an escape. Maybe I was wrong.”
He turned facing forward, placing both hands on the steering wheel I watched him blow out a long breath. He was kind hearted and I had reacted badly. Guilt twisted in my gut as I watched him. Why did I always seem to let my own worries and inhibitions get in the way of something good?
I reached out to him, my hand tentative on his shoulder. I didn’t wait for an answer, there didn’t need to be one, instead I pushed the car door open and stepped out. The air seemed to be fresher here, I drank deeply and climbed the railing.
Railings existed for a reason but I wanted to see the view the cliff edge would give me, I needed to see it. Everything in my life was in chaos and I didn’t stand a chance of dragging it back for myself. But this was a choice I could make, a step closer to something dangerous without the consequences.
“Carrie, be careful!”
Stuart’s voice seemed very far away as I stood on the cliff ledge and allowed the wind to whip around me. I closed my eyes and spread my arms out away from my body. I could practically imagine what it would feel like to take flight, to let go of the problems in my life and just soar.
The thought of him hit me like a punch to the gut. I loved him and here I was imagining simply flying away. What kind of a person was I? I had everything I had ever wanted and yet as I stood on the cliff ledge I knew I had never been more trapped in my life. Everything about my life was about pleasing someone else.
When would David and I do something just for us? Watching him struggle with the situation over his father was like watching him drown and being unable to save him. It was beyond painful knowing that I couldn’t help him.
A small sob escaped me and I clamped my hands over my mouth. I didn’t want to let the pain out, it was almost as though I didn’t deserve to let it out. David was carrying his own emotions bottled up inside, he wasn’t letting them go. What right did I have to some relief?
Stuart’s voice was soft, the hand he placed on my shoulder was comforting. I shrugged out of his grip and let my eyes slowly open before turning on my heel and moving back towards the car.
He grabbed my arms and held me tightly, his grip almost painful but I didn’t show any discomfort. Instead I stared up into his face, my gaze blank, void of any emotion.
“I want to go home.”
My voice was whipped away on the wind, I could practically see the words as they were carried up into the air. Stuart still held me, his fingers digging into the flesh of my arms as he stared into my eyes. I knew he was searching for something, anything he could latch onto. But there was nothing there for him, there had never been anything there for Stuart. Everything I felt, I felt for David. There was simply no room within me for anyone but David.
Stuart drew my body closer to his, close enough that I could feel his breath as it fanned across my face.
“Stop lying to yourself, I know you feel it.”
I shook my head, I didn’t feel for him what I felt for David. I loved David, anything beyond that didn’t matter.
His voice had dropped low and I could feel it curl around me. If I let it, I knew his voice could warm me, it could tighten things low in my body and make my breath come in small needy gasps. But I didn’t want it and I was in control of my body, my desires.
Was all he said to me as he released me and strode back towards the car. I let him go, slowly exhaling a long breath as I watched him climb back into the car and gun the engine. I gave myself another few seconds, calming my heart rate back to normal.
Stuart could be as big a complication and pain in the ass as he wanted but I wouldn’t let him under my skin. The sooner he realised that I belonged with David the easier everything would become.
Pushing my hands back through my tangled blonde hair I made my way back to the car and slid once more into the passenger seat. Fastening my seatbelt as Stuart turned the car back towards the city and home. Life was a giant mess and I needed to fix it before everything spiralled completely out of my control. I needed to fix it before David decided that I wasn’t worth the heartache.