What's the worst that could happen?

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic
Amanda's lived a quite life ever since her enigmatic lover Max disappeared to join the military five years ago. Now he returns, bringing with him a package that shakes Amanda's now-peaceful existence to its core.

Submitted: August 01, 2016

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Submitted: August 01, 2016

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It happened when I was out in the back garden, in my pink, silk nightie, checking my raspberries. I’d wandered out in it  by accident due to the weird, intense heat that was plaguing the country and was excited to see something actually growing in my tiny garden.

“Feeling the heat then?” a quiet voice volunteered behind me. I jumped.

“Sorry…” I stammered, looking down and trying - failing - to cover up, before realising who it was.

Max.

Standing at the top of my stone steps was the man I’d known for six years of my life, before, except it wasn’t him. His once broad shoulders had narrowed and slumped, thick hair had thinned and around his eyes had grown puffy and lined.

Behind him, a small hand and then head crept around his knee.

I peered at Max, dazed in the heat and sun, and watched the little boy step forward.

“What on earth are you doing here?” I asked, looking toward the safety of the open double doors and my dressing gown lying on the table inside.

“I came to drop something off, actually,” he said, and I noticed for the first time the long, thin package in his hand. By this time, the blonde-headed child started laughing gleefully and picking the raspberries, his fat little hands stripping off leaves and everything. I’d never seen him before, but the curve of his mouth and piercing blue eyes could only mean he belonged to Max.

He handed me the parcel apologetically, and his eyes, which once danced in my direction, didn’t even anywhere near meet mine.

I knew what it was; of course I did. But it had been many years since I’d seen Max, and coupled with the heat, the strange little boy and the early morning hour, I didn’t pay the package any attention, laying it aside on the rockery.

We’d been lovers, at least, that’s what I’d called us in my head. We were never really ‘together’, but spent years, six of them, on and off, unknown to anyone else. There had been boyfriends, an almost-husband, but Max had always been there, in the background; waiting to pick my pieces up when they smashed.

He had been strong then. Strong and fit, the life and soul, the thick-blond haired and clear-faced entrepreneur who was always getting in and out of trouble, both with his shareholders and the law.

Max wasn’t one for being bored, however, so when he tired of his manic lifestyle, he packed it all in, joined the military and I never really saw him again. I wasn’t even quite sure where he went, or whether it was the Army or RAF or Navy, but I remember feeling oddly blank once I found out. We never ‘owned’ one another’s company, but I missed him like a tightrope walked might miss the net; they might never need it, but it’s reassuring to know it’s there.

I realised I’d been staring open-mouthed at his appearance, and in the time since, his mouth had hardened into a narrow line. There were deep furrows in his forehead.

“This is my son, Jake,” he said, gesturing to the small figure and removing the focus from him.

“Hi, Jake,” I managed to get out. He waved a fat, now red-streaked hand, at me and smiled.

“Do you, eh, want a drink?” I asked.

“No, thanks, I don’t think we’ll stay. Nice place you have here though. Is it just you?” Max asked, glancing around the small cottage. This surprised me. Max had never asked about the company I kept.

“Yes, it’s just me,” I shot back, somewhat more defensively than I meant. “How I like it.”

Max’s back stiffened. “Very well, we shan't keep you. Come on, little dude,” Max said, grabbing the boy’s hand and wiping the raspberry juice off with his polo sleeve, walking around toward the front gate.

I dashed in, hastily wrapped my purple dressing gown around me and followed them out.

“Wait… Max. How did you find me?” I shouted, running to keep up. I wanted to ask, “And why?” but something held me back.

“Google Maps is particularly useful, even this far out of town” he said with a wry smile, brandishing an iPhone at me. “Hold this.”

He strapped Jake into his carseat in the waiting silver Jeep and turned to me, gripping me by the shoulder. For one minute, his hand ran through my hair, and he pushed a long, brown lock behind my ear.

In all the years I’d known him, he’d never made such a tender gesture toward me.

“Take care, Amanda, yeah?” he whispered softly, and then with a final squeeze of my shoulder, swung himself into the Jeep.

I stood at the side of the road and listened to his tyres crunch off on the gravel, watching until the Jeep disappeared beyond sight through the winding country roads. I looked down, and with a shock realised I was holding the iPhone he had brandished at me earlier. I swiped a finger across the screen - it had no lock.

I’d never in my life been more confused, and remembering what was now sitting on my rockery, in that long, thin package, turned back to face the house and let out a huge sigh.

“Well, that’s one way to start a Sunday morning,” I murmured to myself.


© Copyright 2017 Leah Fox. All rights reserved.

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