We glided through the busy old stone streets on our bikes and I stopped short in front of the candy shop. Chris stopped next to me and smiled at what I was staring at. It was the biggest, reddest chocolate covered strawberry ever.
“Let’s get that,” he said.
“OK”. We locked the bikes together and went in the candy shop. He held my hand while we waited to be served and for some reason this made me really giggly. He grinned at me. “You’re such a weirdo. All we have to do is get you an alien-looking strawberry and you are giddy as a Zoe on the trampoline.”
We sat outside on the concrete benches lining the street that was blocked off from traffic, just for pedestrians (we probably weren’t supposed to have our bikes there) and I ate my monster strawberry while he had some homemade malted milk-balls. “Now this isn’t so bad.” He said, referring to my original hesitance to go on this bike ride with him.
“This is really fun” I said with a mouth full of dripping strawberry. He nodded happily. “Lets go get a couple for Zoe” I said. “The dark chocolate ones probably don’t have diary in them.”
We shoved the paper bag of strawberries in Chris’s backpack and headed off to the Coquina Spanish Fort where we put a big blanket down on the grass and stretched out under the sun with the cool air blowing gently across us. Chris had his hands behind his head and I sat up pulling grass out of the ground and annoying ants that roamed onto the blanket. “I saw the house you want to get,” I said.
He sat up, “Well its not a hundred percent yet and these things often fall through. I almost didn’t want you to see it yet so you wouldn’t be disappointed if it didn’t work out.”
“We can do this together you know.”
We were quiet for a while but I could practically hear him thinking. His eyes kept twitching and he kept rubbing his hands together. Finally he said, “It takes a gorgeous house to get you back then?”
I laughed out loud. “Actually it took a lot of thinking and soul searching but we both know that we don’t want to be with anyone else right? I mean, I was watching Downton Abby late last night and one of the things the guy, Matthew says to Mary, is, “As long as you are on this earth, I’m not going to be happy with anyone else.” And I realized when he said that, that I completely understand. We may not be perfect but I am never going to love anyone like I love you so we need to try and make this work.”
“I agree, Odette” he said and took my hand. Then he scooted up close to me and kissed me, sitting there on the blanket in front of everyone. I thought then about when we were back at our house in Athens while I sat on the couch with my screen and he sat there looking at his screen and all I wanted was some romance back in my life. Now here it was, somehow, with Chris. And how amazing to feel comfortable, like I wasn’t hurting anyone. But I also knew this could crumble as quickly as it all semmed to come together.
“I need you to promise me one thing before I let my guard down again,” I said quietly.
“What’s that?” He took my hand again and looked into my face to really listen. Once again I was stunned that he was doing what I had wanted all along, to just listen and care and love me.
“You can’t disappear again, like after Meliah died, then again when you went on tour.”
He sat back a bit. “On tour, I needed to work thorough everything. It would have been impossible to chat like everything was OK. And I didn’t disappear when Meliah died. I was with you every day.”
“You know what I mean though, right? We’ve talked about this.”
“Yeah, I know. And I’ve said I was sorry and here you are bringing it up again. Do you want me to bring up what you did to punish me for that whole thing?”
“Well, I don’t really want to fight about it. If we rehash the problems of the past in every fight we have no chance, Chris. You do realize that, right?”
“Then why are you brining it up!!??”
“I just want to make sure you aren’t going to abandon me again!” I yelled at him. The people near us probably thought we were nuts to be kissing one minute then yelling at each other the next.
“How about this,” Chris said, a little quiter. “I promise to stick around and be open with you, if you promise not to even FLIRT with another guy for all the days of our lives, till death do us part.”
“I can’t even flirt?” I smiled cheekily.
“Not funny. Yes, or no?”
“Really? I’ll believe it when I see it. That means with Evan too. And holding hands in a ‘plutonic way’ counts as flirting. Don’t think I don’t have spies out there on the beach.”
“Some friends of Bob and Lucy’s reported that you were holding hands with another guy yesterday so Bob went out there and saw you sitting with Evan. He said he spied on you guys for a while but you just talked about me the whole time, that it was a good conversation and that you obviously still love me.” He smiled.
“Spies? Chris…you are out of your mind.”
“You made me that way. But do we have a deal?”
I looked around us, at the other people lying on blankets on the grass in the sunshine. There were teenagers, like how we were when we met, and there were couples and families of all different ages. Did I want to be here with him again in 10 years? How about 20?
“OK,” I said.