The wind blew Emily's blonde hair around wildly; she swayed on her feet as the breeze picked up and she had to grab onto a nearby lamp post to just stay on her feet.
''Arg!'' she complained in a high pitched voice.
The voice that was usually used when she was throwing a complete bitch fit. Okay, fit was probably a little melodramatic, but who wouldn't be wailing like a sixteen year old when you were being tossed around the street on a cold winter night in South Carolina?
Yes. South Carolina, her hometown. Summerville sure as hell didn't live up to its name right now Emily continued to wallow in remorse.
Wearing stilettos on a slippery pathway wasn't such a good idea but how was she supposed to guess her car would run out of gas ten miles from her childhood home?
Karma really was out to crush her into pixie dust.
And it would have been better if she could have phoned her father to come get her but her battery was dead.
Another painful stab from karma.
Emily stopped to catch her breath, careful to plant her feet leg width apart to hold on to what little balance she had left.
She wiped a leather gloved hand across her sweaty forehead. Despite the cold, her hair still managed to cling to her brow.
She heard the vague sound of a car but wasn't interested enough to turn her head and look. She might just lose the stability she managed to obtain.
The car sped by with a speed that was resigned for freeways and race tracks, not for small towns like Summerville. Especially not when the blacktop was slippery and wet.
Every ounce of her poise evaporated when the speed of the car splashed her with a nearby gathering pool of dirty rain water, drenching her completely in ice cold liquid.
She stumbled back with shock and lost her balance, landing with a painful thud on the sidewalk.
She gasped and threw her hands up in the air. They splashed down hard on her soaked coat and the tears began to brew behind her long lashes.
The car squealed to a stop, tires and brakes protesting against the suddenness of it and the driver climbed out.
Emily didn't look up as a towering figure leaned over her sitting stance. She was still traumatized over what just happened and her back was aching a little. Enough to send the tears over the edges of her once perfectly made up eyes.
The owner of the car knelt down a few centimeters from her wet legs. A husky chuckle reached Emily's ears and she had to look up with arrogance.
Her breath blew out of her mouth with a gust, making the sound of a choked gurgle. Not a very attractive sound for a lady to make.
The man's deep ocean eyes stared back, the familiarity of them astonished her and she had to blink wet lashes just to ensure herself that she wasn't dreaming at all.
It really was him sitting her beside her. It really was him staring and laughing at her.
The ocean eyes was framed with thick lashes that brushed across his high cheekbones whenever he blinked, thick black eyebrows hardened the soft planes of his forehead and his mouth, now showing strong white teeth, curved into a smile that she remember all too well.
What was the use of forget when it all came stumbling back within a mere second?
The man she fought to forget for five years, the man she ached to see even though she hated herself for abandoning what they had.
What did they have?
Noah's huge hand reached out and flicked something from her dainty nose, a snorting sound came from him and Emily came back to the present.
''Arg.'' She said again and tried to get to her feet with little success.
Noah wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her up in one swift movement.
She wriggled her way out of his grasp, turned her back on him and walked away.
''You're welcome.'' He yelled and she stopped, wheeling around with anger.
''You want me to thank you after what you just did?'' she shouted back.
Noah crossed the distance between them in four big steps and Emily had to retreat a step just to keep her personal space.
''I just helped you to your stumbling feet.'' He said in a mocking tone.
She snorted, again not a very feminine thing to do. But right now all she cared about was getting out of the cold and getting away from this beast of a man. ''I'm soaked to the skin because of you! If you didn't speed by like that, I wouldn't have needed your help to get to my stumbling feet!''
He broke out in an attractive laugh and Emily sighed deeply. Unable to keep the anger on her face when he laughed like that.
After a moment of laughter, Noah inhaled sharply. His voice taking on a sensitive side. ''I'm sorry I splashed you.''
She nodded her head, shivered and wrapped her arms around her chest.
''Can I drive you somewhere?'' he offered and gravitated himself toward his car.
Emily eyed the car out of the corners of her eyes and nodded. ''Please.''
Her teeth rattled together and Noah laughed again but didn't say anything as he opened the door to his dark black Oldsmobile.
She tried to hide the emotions as the memories of this car flooded back into her mind. She bit on her teeth and climbed inside.
The leather seats were the same color as all those years ago. Dull cream. They probably still held the same odor, muscular vanilla flavor.
Noah walked around the front of the car and slid inside.
The roar of the engine drummed out every unwanted remembrance and Emily leaned into the bucket seat that morphed itself around her body. She shivered once as Noah sped down the road to her old family house.
''What are you doing back here?'' he asked suddenly and Emily raised her head to look at him.
It was such a casual question yet something lurked behind his voice that indicated it wasn't such an easy one to ask but it was the most important.
At the moment at least.
''I'm visiting for the holidays. Christmas, New Year's and all that.'' She said softly and he turned his head to look at her.
''How's the big city treating you?'' he turned his gaze back to the road but she could see the effort it took to make small talk with her and she yearned to tell him that it really wasn't necessary but something prevented her.
It was almost as if she wanted him to speak to her. It was better than being angry with her though he probably had more than enough reason.
''Good.'' She answered in a clipped tone.
He was late. Damn. His fist came down hard on the steering wheel and he picked up speed.
Noah's foot pressed down on the accelerator, the anger building up inside his chest. He was irritated with himself for many reasons.
Here he was breaking the town law, his own law, racing against time to see the girl who broke him into a million unhealed pieces five years ago.
How stupid can you get?
Again he cursed a string of loud profanities and inhaled deeply.
But just to see her, just to see her smile even though it wasn't aimed at him, just to gaze at her from across the room, even though she wasn't meant to be his…
That alone would torture him when she was gone again. Just like the previous time.
He'd been brooding for weeks, months, years over her. Raking his brain for information as to why she could have left, as to why she fled without even a single word.
They were happy; at least, he thought they were happy. He was extremely content.
Noah only barely noticed the frail girl on the sidewalk as he sped by the Monroes' home, he noticeably felt the puddle of water beneath the speed of his tires splashing away from his Oldsmobile and he slammed down on the brakes a couple of yards away.
The rearview mirror had to have lied to him. It couldn't be Emily. It was just impossible. She should have been at her parents' house hours ago and he was the one who was running late…
He got out of the car in a hurry and nearly ran to where she had been only to find her on the ground.
His first thoughts were of worry. Had he hit her? Did he mistake the feel of water beneath his tires? Was it really her, the petite girl that could have been only as heavy as a puddle of rain?
She seemed unharmed, fine at least except for the tears that was streaming down her flawless face, and the relief was almost tangible that he broke out in a burst of laughter.
Her head snapped up and he was struck with the depth of her grassy eyes, the contour of her mouth that used to shape itself around his…
He hardly noticed that he was kneeling down next to her until he reached out to flick a stray piece of leaf from her small nose.
''Arg!'' she said, her voice was so lovely to his ears he almost leaned in and kissed her pouting lips.
He had to chuckle as she tried to pull herself to her feet with no success. And without thinking, stupidly was the adequate word to match his performance, he wrapped his arm around her waist and hoisted her up in a quick movement.
He didn't mean to linger in the touch but it was like experiencing this for the first time again. Touching her for the first time, smelling her for the first time…
She struggled out of his grasp and walked away without as much as a hello.
Hello wasn't really what he wanted to hear. More like, what have you been up to? Are you married? Engaged? Single? Why did you leave? Was I not good enough for you?
Those were the words but he couldn't help himself but to mock her. ''You're welcome.''
She stopped, paused for a second and turned around to face him a few feet away. The expression on her face was one mixed with tired anger and humiliation.
''You want me to thank you after what you just did?'' Even in shouting arguments, her voice managed to keep on to its softness. Its dignity.
Noah crossed the space between them and smiled inwardly when Emily took a step back as he launched himself at her.
What was she thinking?
Did she think that he would honestly hurt her?
''I just helped you to your stumbling feet.'' He teased her.
She snorted; a very odd thing for her to do but then again, Noah hasn't seen her for five years and she's changed a lot.
''I'm soaked to the skin because of you! If you didn't speed by like that, I wouldn't have needed your help to get to my stumbling feet!''
Her face and the tone of her angered voice was enough to juggle him into a burst of laughter.
Emily sighed deeply as if she couldn't keep up the false façade anymore.
After a moment to collect his self, Noah took a deep breath. ''I'm sorry for splashing you.''
She nodded her head then, shivered and wrapped her arms around her chest like a protective blanket.
Only then had he the change to really look at her.
She was much the same; her blonde hair was a little bit longer, gushing down to the middle of her spine and it seemed to have hints of copper brown highlights hidden between the strands. Her green eyes were soft and emotional.
He didn't dare to look at her mouth, afraid that he might just get that urge to kiss her again.
Afraid for her that he wouldn't be able to contain himself in time before they did something utterly stupid and painful to the both of them.
Her body, slender and tall on heels, didn't have that teenage look it had all those years ago. She was a grown woman now with a slightly tanned skin.
''Can I drive you somewhere?'' He asked and immediately regretted it.
Stupid, stupid man! He scolded himself and the irritation build again.
She looked at his car. The one they shared so many silly moments in, some of them were special too.
Much too special to remember. And much, much too excruciating.
She nodded and Noah opened the door for her.
He walked around the front and slid inside, eager to have the roar of the engine rule out any means of conversation.
She nestled herself in the seat and for a fleeting moment, he felt sorry for her. He ached to know her again, to hold her.
But he knew those things were out of his control. She had the remote in her palm now and it was all up to her again.
She could make or break him just like all those years ago.
''Why are you back here?'' he suddenly asked and keep his voice level for fear she might notice the strain it took just to be near her.
He never thought it would be this hard. This impossible.
She raised her head to look at him, his hand clenched on the steering wheel. ''I'm visiting for the holidays. Christmas, New Year's and all that.''
He had to look at her then only because her voice said something different than her words did.
Did she miss her family too much? Did she miss him?
''How's the big city treating you?'' he tried again at small talk though this question aimed more and more to the most dominant question that lurked around in his mind.
The answer to this could answer a few others or it could raise a few of its own.
Noah turned his eyes back to the road and turned onto the street where her parents' still lived.
''Good.'' Emily answered in a brusque tone.
All he knew was that she lived in New York and she was going back after the holidays. He knew she would forget about seeing him, forget about little Summerville because there were more important things for her in New York.
Good didn't answer any of the other questions. It raised a whole lot of its own.
Copyright © 2012 by Monica Coetzer