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Behind Her Eyes: Part 3: Chapter 39

Then

She’s been at home alone for two days before David arrives, and she’s surprised at how much at peace she feels. The solitude has been strange after the constant company of Westlands, but it’s also been soothing to her soul. Even at night, in the silence of the countryside where it would be easy to believe she was the last person on earth, she’s felt calm. Not that she ever feels isolated from people and places. Not really. Not with what she can do.

But still, she thinks maybe they were all right, in a way. The young do heal fast. And Fairdale House now feels like a facsimile of her home. The same, but so different without her parents here. She’s even felt strong enough to look inside the charred remains of their rooms and pack up some bits and pieces – her mother’s filigree jewellery box, the silver candlesticks that had been her grandmother’s, other odds and ends that each hold memories for her. Some photographs that were in a box in her bottom drawer that somehow survived the blaze. All taken with her father’s expensive camera and developed in his own darkroom. One of the many hobbies he preferred to being a father. There’s one of her at around fifteen. One of her and David sitting on the kitchen table taken not so long ago. That had been a good evening. Her parents had been drinking and were less disapproving of him that night, a rare time they all spent together. She puts the first picture in one of the boxes, but keeps the second.

She gives it to David when they’re walking through the estate, the air fresh and damp but invigorating. ‘I found this,’ she says, her arm linked through his. He’s been quiet since he arrived, and their reunion was almost awkward. They’d thrown themselves at each other and kissed, both overjoyed to be reunited, but the month apart, and the fire, still sits between them, and after an hour of polite and stilted conversation about Westlands and whether she had everything she needed – even though it was clear she had, and anyway, being David he’d also brought a boot full of food with him – she suggested the walk.

It was the right thing. He was relaxing with every step, and she was annoyed at herself for not thinking that being at the house might affect him too. He’d been there that night. He had the slowly healing scars to prove it. And unlike her, he could remember the fire. She leans her head on his arm as they leave the path behind and trudge into the woods. It’s been raining and the ground is muddy and covered in moss and leaves, but there’s something earthy and wonderful about it.

‘I’ll take it back to uni and frame it,’ he says. ‘That was a good day.’

‘And we’re going to have loads more,’ she says, grinning up at him. ‘A lifetime of them. Once we’re married. Let’s do it at Christmas. Once you break up for the holidays and I’m eighteen and no one can frown at us.’ She pauses. ‘Not that there’s anyone left to frown at us.’

He squeezes her arm. He always gets tongue-tied when it comes to talking about the deep things, and she doesn’t mind that.

‘I was thinking maybe I should drop out of uni for a while,’ he says. ‘To look after you. You know, while you have to stay here.’

She laughs, and she still finds it strange that she can laugh, and she has an ache of missing Rob. She loves David with all her heart, but it’s Rob who gave her laughter back. ‘That would somewhat negate the point of me spending time alone here, wouldn’t it? And anyway, you can’t do that. This is what you’ve always dreamed of. And I’m so proud of you. I’m going to be a doctor’s wife.’

‘If I pass all the exams,’ he says.

‘Oh, you will. Because you’re brilliant.’ And he is. He has the most quietly brilliant mind of anyone she’s ever met.

They stop and kiss for a while, and his arms feel good around her, and she feels safe and settled and thinks that maybe their hearts are building solid foundations for their future.

When they’ve walked a bit further, she realises that they’ve come as far as the old well. It’s barely visible against the greens and browns of the wood, the old brick covered in moss, a relic from a time long ago. A forgotten thing.

She leans on the side and looks down into the darkness, a dry and empty pit. ‘I imagined this well when I was at Westlands,’ she says. ‘I imagined crying all my sadness into it and then sealing it up.’ It’s close to the truth. Imagined isn’t the right word, but it’s the best she can tell David.

He comes up behind her and wraps his arms around her waist. ‘I wish I could make it better.’

‘You make everything better.’ And it’s true, he does. He may not have the wildness of Rob, who makes her feel young and free, but he is solid. And that’s what she really needs. Even though she misses Rob, David’s who she really wants. Her rock. His watch still hangs on her wrist, and she holds it up. ‘Can you wear your watch yet?’

‘I could, but you keep it. You wearing it makes me feel like I’m with you.’

‘You’re always with me, David Martin. Always. I love you.’ She’s glad to keep the watch. She knows he’ll visit at weekends when he can, but the watch is like him – reliable. Strong. There’s a weight to it she can feel. She needs an anchor. Maybe one day she’ll even tell him why. Explain about the night of the fire. Maybe. Maybe when they’re old and grey and he sees more mystery in the world than he does now.

A chill has crept into the afternoon air, and suddenly there’s the quiet patter of rain on the leaves overhead. A gentle steady shower, rather than the force of a downpour, but they head back and make a picnic of all kinds of food, and drink a bottle of wine that David has brought with him, before tumbling into bed in one of the spare rooms. She’s not ready for her bedroom yet. It belongs in the past. So much belongs in the past.

‘We should sell this place,’ she says, when they’ve made love and are lying sleepily in the dark. Her fingers gently run along the new smoothness of the scars up his arm. She wonders how much they still hurt. David would never say. ‘Once we’re married.’

‘New beginnings,’ he says. He doesn’t want to linger here any more than she does, and what do they need this enormous place for anyway? Her father only needed it for his ego.

‘New beginnings,’ she answers, before they both drift into sleep. No swift summoning of a second door for her tonight. She’s not ready for that. Just the first door for a change. She intends to dream of their future together. How perfect it will be.


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