One single word and Kiddo's happy moment was over. Or maybe it was over already when he read the fateful question. I had expected him to laugh or make fun of me. I mean, come on… mind-reading?
Exactly, Portman. This isn't Twilight.
But as I backtracked over our short time together, there had been moments when that idea - however absurd - had actually crossed my mind.
More than once he had known my thoughts even before I had become aware of them myself. And he wasn't easily fooled; it was as if he had a built-in lie detector. Or, like he was reading peoples' auras - if anything like that existed. Until now I had successfully convinced myself that he was just really perceptive. But apparently, there was more to it. And judging from the impact of my question on him, it wasn't anything good.
I waited patiently for him to answer. He hadn't moved yet, his chin still lay on my shoulder. Then suddenly he tilted his head to kiss my neck. I heard him swallow before he whispered, "Next."
I squirmed free from his embrace and turned around to face him, outraged. "That's against the rules. You already accepted this question, and you never said anything about 'nexting' a request to elaborate."
Yep… hello, frown! I'm not falling for you this time - sorry.
"Come on, Kiddo - you can't stop here!" I insisted. "Or else we can stop this whole game now all together." I felt like if I didn't get to know whatever it was with him now, I'd most likely go postal within the next 10 seconds.
His frown deepened. "You have called me that a few times before… why?"
"Called you what?"
"Don't digress, Edward!"
"I don't - I just want to know."
"Then let's hope it is one of the questions in your envelope," I snapped.
He held his hands up defensively and nodded. "Ok," he said, and again, "Ok…" A long sigh escaped him, and then - silence. I seriously wanted to shake him!
"Edward, I swear, if -"
"You will freak out," he declared, as if it was an indisputable fact.
"Just in case you haven't noticed yet - I'm on the fucking point of freaking out right now!" I squealed at him. "Why can't you just fucking tell me what's the matter with you?" Frustrated, I snatched the paper which had caused all this awkwardness, crumpled it into a ball and threw it at his chest. He winced and made a feeble attempt to catch it, but didn't say anything. I immediately felt silly about my outbreak.
Before I could apologize, he opened his mouth as if he was finally going to answer, but instead he just took in a hasty, whistling breath. And then another. It sounded alarming, like he was close to suffocating. Only when he puckered his lips I realized he was trying to fight back a beginning panic attack.
"Edward, what's wrong? Is this an anxiety attack?"
"No… I… yes…!" His eyes widened. I reached out my hand, and he grabbed it at once. "Just a minute…" he wheezed.
I had no idea what to do with myself or what to do at all, other than hold his hand. I knew well that he was able to take care of the situation himself, so I just waited. He kept on breathing in the way he had shown me earlier this morning on the balcony - never taking his eyes off of mine, as if that connection was the anchor for his sanity.
It felt terrible to see him like that, but I wasn't willing to take my question back. I needed him to share the secret. And he needed to go through this now and eventually tell it all.
I was pretty sure the answer was related to the irrational fear he didn't want to talk about. But whatever it was - it seemed to be such a crucial thing. It was my strange boy's ultimate secret, the solution to the enigma he was. And as much as it tortured him, I just couldn't let that go.
My heart screamed at me to release him and tell him he didn't need to answer, but my mind simply overruled it. So I gritted my teeth, bravely stood his haunted gaze and just kept on holding his hand, waiting for him to get by.
There was only one other thing I had to offer…
"Edward - listen to me. I promise, I will Not. Freak. Out. Do you hear me?"
Unchanging, he kept on practicing his pursed lips breathing, but squeezed my hand and blinked, twice. I took it as a yes.
For the next two minutes, which I knew were like an eternity for Kiddo, I watched him silently as he slowly calmed down. Eventually he closed his lips and started breathing through his nose, his chest heaving.
He wasn't done with it though; his entire body was still rigid, and my hand started to hurt from his death grip. I remembered my own scary episode on the balcony, and before I knew what I was saying, I whispered, "Whatever you are going to tell me - I will not send you away, ok?"
He closed his eyes, releasing me from his piercing glance. And to my great relief, the unbearable urge to give in to his silent pleading quickly diminished.
Thank you, screaming heart, for shutting the fuck up - it was about time!
Without looking up, Kiddo began to speak. "It's not like I'm hearing peoples' thoughts," he croaked. "No words, you know?"
"Ok." I took his other hand too, soothingly circling my thumbs on the backs of his hands. "Go on, please."
"Have you ever heard of a certain… condition called synesthesia, Annie?"
I rummaged through the drawers in my mind that were labeled 'general education', but didn't score a hit. It didn't sound that bad at all, rather like something pretty, or like some of these modern psychedelics… the shit they constantly try to palm off to you in dance clubs. Fuck! Was he on drugs? All my senses said no, but could I be sure?
He looked up and eyed me nervously. I realized that I hadn't given him an answer yet. "I'm afraid I've never heard of anything like that." I hurried to say, "Explain it to me, please?"
He nodded silently. Apparently, my response was exactly what he had expected.
"It is a kind of neurological disorder where people… when I talk to someone or… it is…." he swallowed, "I see… things."
His eyes were slightly narrowed, and he looked at me as if he was still preparing for the inevitable punch in the midriff and the question was not IF it was going to happen, just WHEN.
"Things?" I asked softly.
He spoke hastily when he continued, "There are acoustic sensations too; they aren't that strong though and harder to read than the patterns. I don't read them all the time, you know, I can control it… I really can!"
He nodded again, whether to convince me or just himself, I couldn't tell. But this particular piece of information seemed to be especially important to him… control! Yes - from all I knew, control was his fucking middle name!
"I mean, I could… I still can," he added, faltering, "but with you, it's different." A brief shiver went through his body. I let go of one of his hands and tenderly touched his cheek. He leaned his head into my palm and exhaled shatteringly. "It's different," he whispered.
"Edward, I'm sorry, but I don't understand a single word of what you're saying. However, it doesn't sound that bad at all. I can see you're having trouble explaining it to me, but you don't need to be afraid, ok?"
"Ok." He laid his own hand on mine and turned his head to kiss my palm, before putting our hands back onto his crossed legs.
"Alright, game time-out!" I said, forcing myself to sound a little more animated. "Would it be easier for you if I asked some questions, so you just need to say yes or no?"
"I don't know. Maybe? I really want to explain, Annie."
"Good. Let's see… you say you see things. Is it like hallucinations? Like on LSD or something?" I was just talking at large, for a start. But I thought this question was as good as any other.
"I guess it is similar. But I'm not sure, I've never taken LSD."
"Oh sorry, of course not, I didn't mean to -"
He smiled wryly and shrugged. "It's ok, Annie. It's not like I need any additional shit to get my mind going, you know, so… " He seemed a little more at ease now. I felt encouraged.
"Ok, so what… do you see bright colors, or fancy patterns, or…?"
"Colors, patterns, grids, waves, sparkles… all of it. It depends."
"When do you see these things?"
"All the time." He hesitated for a moment, as if wanting to say something else, but then he just shook his head and let go a brief snort. "All the time," he repeated.
"Ok. And the things you see tell you what people are thinking?"
I realized that keeping my promise wasn't quite as easy as I had planned. Just now, I was pretty close to freaking out - this was more than bizarre. I needed to remind myself that it was still Kiddo, my beautiful boy.
"Not exactly. It's not like in a movie, ok?"
It's not? If you only knew…
My next thought almost made me giggle, but I managed to fight back the hysterics, "Is it a common, um… condition, this synesthetics? I mean, can I Google it?"
Easy, Portman! It's just Edward, and he reads minds… nothing special. Gah!
"Synesthesia," he corrected. "No, it's not very common. But yes, you can Google it."
"Then it might be a good idea, if I do. Before we go on talking about it, I mean."
He didn't look very enthusiastic, but I didn't care. I had a strong feeling that our current conversation wasn't really leading anywhere, and I was determined to find out what the heck this syneswhatever was.
At this moment the backpack started to sing. Jeff Buckley made it almost through the entire first verse of 'I Want Someone Badly' before Kiddo reached over, got his cell out and switched it off without even looking at the display.
"Don't you want to know who's calling?" I asked him.
"The only one who ever calls me is Law."
"Uh-oh, then you better call him back! Last time he couldn't get through to you he threatened me to call the cops. Really!" Kiddo shook his head and sighed. I felt a mild panic welling up; I seriously didn't want to tangle with Grandpa Law. "Call him back, Edward. Humor me, please."
He didn't answer but pressed a button and held the phone to his ear, waiting. When he connected, he got up from the bed and went for the door.
"Yeah, hi - - - sorry, no, it was just bad timing - - - yes, I'm good - - - "
The sound of his voice faded as soon as he left my bedroom. I decided to take the opportunity and finally put some clothes on. The time for pillow talk was over anyway; as was the time to play seductive. I picked my dress up off the floor and hung it back up into the closet; it hadn't got off entirely scot-free. I smiled and made a note to myself to iron it later. Then I stripped off my stockings, and changed into jeans and a simple white tee.
When I peeked through the crack of the door, I saw Kiddo sitting on the couch - fully dressed, and still talking to Law, the cell clamped between his ear and shoulder, while he was tying up his shoes. Apparently, he wasn't into more pillow talk either.
"- - - I don't know, Law - - - today? - - -" He looked up and smiled at me briefly as I entered the room. "- - - I'll ask her - - - yes, ok - - - I'll call you back in a few - - - ok, bye." He hung up and got up from the couch, gazing at me.
"What?" I spat, watching that dangerously sexy lop-sided smile appear.
"Seems we both had the same idea…" He flitted his hand back and forth between us. "You look great."
Don't you dare blush, Portman!
Ah... too late.
"Not yet, but I'm working on it." I mumbled and turned towards the bathroom. Looking back over my shoulder, I asked, "What did Law say? You mentioned you wanted to ask me something?"
He followed me hesitatingly and stopped in the doorframe. "He wants to invite you over for lunch."
"Oh my God!" I yelled, and Kiddo flinched as if something had hit him.
"No, not you!" I hurried to rectify, "Or… yes, lunch - what the fuck? I mean really, what the fuck, but… oh my fucking God!"
"What's wrong?" He was behind me in no time, looking worriedly into my eyes in the mirror.
I threw my hands up in the air and whimpered, "My hair! What in heaven's name have you done to me?" To call the disaster on my head 'sex hair' would have been the understatement of the year - the woman in the mirror was a fucking cave dweller! With a gasp, I grabbed the brush and started frantically to tidy the knotty streaks. Kiddo's hand came up from behind me, reaching out for the brush. "May I…?" he asked softly.
I stopped mid-tangle and stared at him in bewilderment, "You want to brush my hair?"
He gently took my disheveled mane in both hands, pulled it over my shoulders and let it fall down my back. "Allow me, please," he said. Unresistingly, I let him pull the hairbrush out of my hand. My dopey gape perfectly completed my Neanderthal appearance, but I just couldn't help it.
He wants to brush my fucking hair!
"It will hurt." I objected meekly. He bent to kiss the crook of my neck and whispered, "No, it won't. Trust me." Then he took a small step back and went to work.
It was pure bliss. He attended to my hair like a pro, and I almost purred. As he held the lower ends of my long locks in one hand to prevent tugging the roots, he started to untangle the tips first, step by step moving upwards. It was quite obvious that he had done this before, or had been given directions by someone. A sister, maybe?
The only person who had ever brushed my hair like this was my mother, as far as I remembered. And it had been the epitome of love and caring to me; a warm tingling feeling that started in my stomach and slowly spread, wandering up my throat and to my mouth, where it lingered… like the sensation of sweet whipped cream, melting on the back of my tongue. I hummed quietly in contentment, closed my eyes and let myself sink back into that childhood déjà vu, feeling loved and cared for.
"So, what do you say?" I heard Kiddo ask. "Do you want to come?"
I needed a second to catch what he was talking about. "Oh… lunch at Law's. Right. I don't know… why would he want to invite me in the first place?" I wanted to open my eyes, but Kiddo's skillful hands had worked their way up, and the feeling of the brush strokes on my scalp was just too lulling - my lids seemed to be made of lead.
"I think he just wants to meet the infamous Annie Portman in person," he said. "It's a good day for lunch, by the way. Tuesdays are pizza days. You like pizza?"
"Sure," I mumbled. The pleasurable stroking stopped and I opened my eyes. Kiddo had laid the brush aside and fanned out my hair, it was perfectly smooth and shiny… and the whole procedure hadn't hurt the tiniest bit. "You did great," I complimented, "thank you."
He chuckled softly. "To be honest, I think I enjoyed it more than you. You have wonderful hair, Annie." He bundled my mane in one hand and glanced over my shoulder into the mirror. "Ponytail?"
Without further ado, I handed him a rubber band - wordless. I had given up wondering by now. Do I need to mention that of course, the ponytail, 'trademark Edward' turned out nothing less than perfect, too?
It saddened me a little that the blissful treatment was over now, but I still relished this whipped cream feeling, and when I turned around, I was kissing him passionately before I knew what I was doing. He moaned and pulled me into his tight embrace. When our tongues met - oh, hello butterflies - I briefly wondered…
"Edward," I whispered against his lips, "do you… I mean right now, are you seeing things?"
"God, Annie…!" He leaned his forehead against mine and exhaled, "Yes, I do."
I raked my hands through his hair. "What, Edward? What do you see, love?"
"Violet," he said huskily. "Just this word…"
"Love. This word from your lips is a violet and purple explosion, the very moment I hear you speak it. Tiny pieces and sparkles. They are…" He squeezed his eyes shut, struggling for words, "…they are revolving around a glowing center, but on different orbits, and they… cross each others' lanes, and then…" He opened his eyes and his shoulders slumped forward. "I can't, Annie. I don't know how to describe it."
"But it sounds wonderful!" I gasped, totally beguiled. I could hardly imagine the beauty of it.
"Yes, it is… with you. Apart from that - not so much. But I've learned to keep it in check, so… you don't need to worry, I could never hurt you, Annie."
"Why... of course not!" I didn't get it. "I don't think there's anything to worry about. I mean, the way your mind works… stunning! Edward, it's beautiful!"
All of a sudden, Kiddo let go of me. He stepped back and shook his head, a downcast expression on his face. "Beautiful!" he snorted acidly, "It is the mind of a killer, Annie!"
"Why would you say something like that?" My heart started racing. What was that supposed to mean? He couldn't be serious!
"Never mind." He straightened himself and gave me a small smile; it didn't look very genuine. "Would it be ok with you if you'd Google 'Edward, the Freak' on my computer instead of yours? Law is still waiting for me to call back and tell him whether you're coming or not."
His sarcasm hurt, but I internally counted to ten and decided to let it go for now. Fine! Maybe visiting Grandpa Law and seeing where and how Kiddo lives would be somewhat revealing. My heart made a few more stumbling throbs, and then slowed down to normal.
"Tell him thanks, and I'm coming," I answered, all business. "When did you say is pizza time today?"
"In an hour. Granny lunchtime is high noon, but the staff is eating a little later, around 1pm. However, we should leave soon if we don't want to miss the good stuff. Park Road Village's famous Hawaiian Pizza for the careless and toothless!" Cue entrance: crooked smile.
"Sounds tempting." I mumbled. He seriously drove me mad. In one moment I wanted to spank him, and two seconds later he'd charmed me into a puddle on the floor. I grinned at him sheepishly. "But the whole situation is a little odd, don't you think? It's like fucking 'meet the parents'."
… and a whole company of grandparents too.
Kiddo chuckled, while he dialed. "No, it's not. Not at all. You'll see."
He was right; it wasn't like meeting mom and dad at all. My memories of that Tuesday afternoon - first with Kiddo, then with Kiddo and Law, and in the end alone again with Kiddo - always became blurred, until I divided the unexpected ups and downs we went through into 'the Walk', 'the Ride' and 'the Clash' in my mind. It helped me to put the events into a chronological order; it didn't help me to understand everything though. Because after 'the Clash', things got even more surreal in Kiddo's room!
But one step at a time…
~ ~ ~ THE WALK ~ ~ ~
It was a weird thing, walking to the train station with Kiddo next to me in broad daylight. I couldn't stop wondering what the two of us might look like in the eyes of a stranger. I felt exposed, as if any moment someone would point a finger at us and say,'I know what you are!' Awkward.
But really - what were we? Friends? A temporary couple? A cougar and her boy toy, like my outraged neighbor (and now ex-lover) James had put it so nicely? I refused to see it like that. But after all, I was…
'The Woman' - in capitals. Yeah, right.
Kiddo didn't seem to be too happy either. With his head bent down, both hands buried deep inside his pockets, he kept looking at his feet, but threw quick glances at me from time to time. Shit - was he checking me out? Seeing… things?
"Can I ask you something, Edward?"
"The purple and violet things you saw when I said 'love'," I had to clear my throat before I could continue, "um... what did they tell you about my thoughts?"
"Annie… God!" he moaned.
"But you said it's like reading minds… so all this violet and purple must have a meaning, right?" We had almost reached the platform, and I turned around and playfully walked the last few steps backwards in front of him, "Come on!" I ducked a little and tilted my head, trying to make him face me. "Edward?"
He looked up, a slightly tortured expression in his eyes. "You won't let that go, right?"
"No." And I don't enjoy disappointment. Just saying…
The small train station was deserted at this time of the day. We stopped at the same spot where he had been waiting for me yesterday. God, had it really just been yesterday? He averted his gaze from me and looked down at his feet again, nervously kicking the rim of a loose paving stone, again and again. After five or six kicks, he said, "I saw that you meant it."
My body ignited 'alert phase one' with a small surge of adrenaline. "I meant what? 'Love'? Of course - I mean, it just slipped me. You were so troubled, and I just meant to… it's like a pet name, people say it all the time, you know? There's no deeper meaning, it's just -"
Distracted by his kicking which grew more frantic by the minute, I lost momentum. I realized I had just been blathering without rhyme or reason.
And then Kiddo began to speak in a very low voice, and I was taken aback by the bitterness that rang with it… he almost growled out the words, staring down at the ground and kicking.
"You are right; people say it all the time. And when they do, it is like a satellite dish in a severe rainstorm.
Instead of your favorite TV show, all you get is interference, pink noise and grey flickers, and it gives you a headache.
You try to adjust your receiver, but it stays the same.
You switch channels because you just can't fucking believe that no one ever means what they're saying. But wherever you look, it's always the same. So you give up and turn the whole shit off.
Crackles and flickering, that's what I see with the things people say all the time, Annie. That's the world I live in. There's nothing beautiful to it, it's nauseating."
The kicking stopped, and he raised his head. "It makes me so angry all the time, and sometimes…" he faltered and closed his eyes for a second, before he added pointedly,
"I can never lose control."
I just stared at him, trying to grasp his revelation. It was hard to imagine what it must be like to live with such besetting visions. My chest hurt for him as the picture slowly sank in. In a helpless attempt to comfort him, I stroked his upper arm a little awkwardly. I felt terrible that I had pressed him so thoughtlessly on this matter and made him so upset.
"I'm so sorry, Edward." I didn't know what else to say.
"Don't be. I turned the whole shit off, years ago. I try to avoid speaking to people, if possible. And if I have to, I tune everything down to almost zero. Can we just talk about something else now, please? Train is coming, by the way."
"Ok," I said and moved one step towards him, hesitating for a moment, unsure whether he might want a hug.
But he came to meet me and pulled me into his arms. His mouth was at my ear, and over the screaming noise of the approaching train I heard his insistent words, "When you called me 'love' you didn't flicker, Annie."
He kissed my temple, pressing his lips ferociously against my skin. "You didn't flicker," he repeated. Then he released me, took my hand and tugged me towards the waiting train.
~ ~ ~ THE RIDE ~ ~ ~
As soon as we got in, I dropped myself onto one of the benches. Kiddo stood there for a moment, eyeing me questioningly. I patted the seat next to me, and was rewarded with a smile - the first since we'd left my apartment. It was the smallest, faintest hint of a smile, but I instantly felt a weight lifted off of my heart.
He sat down beside me, and I leaned against his chest without thinking. After a moment of hesitation, his arm tightened around my shoulders. He kissed the top of my head and sighed into my hair.
I closed my eyes to shut out the few other passengers, because I didn't want to see the looks on their faces. I couldn't stop feeling uncomfortable about this kind of 'PDA' with Kiddo. But the urge to be there for him and assure him of my friendship prevailed - if friendship was what we had. So I choked back the embarrassment and tried to solely focus on him.
"Hey," I said, "we have a few minutes. Give me your backpack."
Instead of handing it to me, he clutched it even more tightly. "Why?"
Geez, I'm not going to steal it!
"I just want to pick a question out of my envelope. If you'd like?"
"Oh… sure!" His face lit up, as he opened his backpack and got out the origami artwork with my name on it. I reached into it and stirred the notes playfully with my fingers before I pulled one out and waved it in front of his face.
He chuckled quietly. My heart leaped for joy - Kiddo was laughing again!
"Ok, let's see…" I unfolded the paper and read aloud, "'Can I borrow your copy of 'Twilight?' - What?" I gasped.
This is a joke, isn't it!
"Why would you want to borrow my book?"
He didn't answer but cocked a brow at me, obviously waiting for… something. Didn't the rules say I could also ask him to elaborate a question?
"Elaborate!" I rolled my eyes, and he laughed.
"Ok... I saw it on your bookshelf, and it is literally loved to death… dog-eared and with post-it's and notes in it. So I got curious about the book that apparently means so much to you. Plus, I read the blurb on the back, and noticed the main character's name is Edward. That's funny, isn't it?"
Yes, too funny….
"I could buy my own copy, but I'd really love to read yours, so… can I borrow it?"
"No!" I replied, quick as a shot.
He shrugged, smiling. "Ok."
"Don't you want me to elaborate my answer?" I asked, surprised.
"No. I understand if it's too personal. I will just buy a copy."
God, that was close! It was still embarrassing enough he wanted to read it. But at least he wouldn't see my personal notes and remarks. And I was glad my refusal didn't upset him again; he was still smiling. Good.
"Shall I pick another one?" I asked, hoping to be luckier with the next question.
"Yes, please." He squeezed my waist in anticipation.
Relief washed through me, when I unfolded the next note; I smiled to myself - this was a harmless one. "'If Annie is a nickname - what is your full first name?' - Ok, the answer is: Annabelle."
"Annabelle… that's great. A perfect fit for you."
"You think so?"
"Want me to elaborate my opinion?" he teased, rubbing his nose against my cheek. "I don't think there's a rule about - ouch!"
I punched him against the chest. "Cut. That. Out," I demanded, insistently poking my index finger in his belly with each syllable.
"Ok. ok!" He squirmed and giggled. It was crazy how good it felt to see him like this. The world was brighter when he smiled.
"It's even a double fit," he explained. "The first half, 'Anna', originates from the Greek word 'channah' which means 'graceful', and 'belle' is French for 'the beauty'."
His voice became softer when he continued, "So your name means 'the graceful beauty', which is…" he placed a soft kiss on my forehead, "… exactly…" another kiss on my nose, "… what you are." The last kiss found my lips, stirring the butterflies again.
I blushed, for the second time today. "How do you know all that?"
He shrugged, a little awkwardly. "To be honest… I Googled it. There weren't too many possible choices about what your full name could be. I checked them all, hoping to get the chance some time to impress you with my brilliance." He eyed me, smirking. "Was it worth the effort? Are you impressed?"
"Very," I confirmed. "I'm almost starting to like my name."
"The actual origin of 'belle' is the Latin word 'bella' though," he added.
"Really?" I asked, slightly alarmed.
"Yes." He took my hand and interlaced his fingers with mine. "It's nice, hm? Would you let me call you Bella?"
I had been wrong! With Kiddo, there was no such thing as a 'harmless question'. I groaned internally. This was getting better and better…
"Yes… no… I mean… let's stick to Annie for now, ok?" I stammered.
"Ok." He kissed my forehead again, and murmured, "But in my mind you'll be my Bella."
~ ~ ~ THE CLASH ~ ~ ~
By the time we got off the train at Park Road Station, I was so accustomed to the sensation of Kiddo's arm around me that I forgot to feel embarrassed about it. I actually liked it. I also liked the small pecks on my cheek and neck. And most of all I liked to see how happy it made Kiddo that I allowed him to treat me like I was his girlfriend. So we walked through the park, hand in hand.
Yes, it was THE park. We didn't talk on the way, but when we passed the corner of our first encounter, Kiddo briefly squeezed my hand. And when I looked up at him, he smiled at me so lovingly that my stomach began to tingle.
After just a few more steps, Park Road Village came in sight. I cringed a little at the thought that I had almost-raped Kiddo practically on the doorstep of the retirement home. To my surprise, we didn't take the front gate but kept on walking alongside the high hedgerow instead, until we reached a small side entrance.
I looked at Kiddo questioningly.
"If we'd walk in through the main building, we'd never make it to Law's before sunset," he explained, grinning. "You'll see why when I show you around after lunch."
I shrugged. "Whatever you say." If that meant I could avoid meeting any grannies, I wouldn't complain. I wasn't eager for a mass meeting of seniors anyway; facing Grandpa Law would definitely be enough for one day.
We reached a group of small brick outbuildings which were surrounded by spacious green areas with coniferous shrubs and trees. Kiddo was right - it was nice here, and one could easily forget it was a retirement home. Maybe it was due to lunchtime that the place was almost deserted. The only person I could see was definitely too young to be one of the residents. It was a gardener, cutting the bushes. It was a pretty handsome gardener...
Nice ass, dude! If all of the staff looks like that,
I should register myself for a nice retreat here in time!
I only noticed that Kiddo was unwaveringly tugging me towards that sexy jeans-clad butt with the hedge trimmer, when he whispered into my ear, "Ok, are you ready?"
Ready for what? Did he want to introduce me to the personnel first? I had prepared myself to meet his grumpy and overprotective uncle, and to be honest, I really wanted to get over with it as soon as possible.
We were only a few steps away from the man and I opened my mouth to object, when the gardener in question straightened up and turned around. My mouth clapped shut, and I wondered instantly if there was such a thing like a lower age limit which excluded me from moving in here right now.
I changed my mind - please introduce me to the personnel!
If the rear view had been appealing, the gardener's front was just stunning. He was well-built with square shoulders underneath his white tee, and remarkably muscular arms. He was a little shorter than Kiddo but by no means less attractive. His hair was very short and dark, just like his three-day-beard. Well, maybe it was a five-day-beard, but it was definitely becoming on his clear-cut masculine face. The guy looked like a movie star!
As we approached him, he threw his tool into the grass and smiled widely, exposing a perfect row of white teeth. I reckoned him to be in his late thirties, or about forty. Wiping his hands on his pants, he came to meet us; I noticed he was walking with a slight limp.
"Hey," he said, beaming, "I'm glad you guys are here!" And then he was there, and I could see his eyes. They were green. Incredibly green! I felt a little…
- dazzled! -
… dizzy. I heard Kiddo speak next to me, "Yes, I'm actually back in one piece, go figure!" He let go of my hand, and then he and…
- the gardening sexgod -
… the guy performed one of these one-armed masculine buddy-embraces, drumming each other's backs. I just stood there, without any will of my own, and gaped at them, until Kiddo put his hand at the small of my back and said, "Law, this is my friend Annie. Annie, Law!"
What the fuck... Pops?
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Annie!" Law said and reached out his hand. I had to blink a few times to relaunch my brain, before I was able to take his hand and answer, "The pleasure is all mine."
His eyes rested on me for a moment. It was the familiar emerald green, and the same intense glance. And then one corner of his mouth curled up, and I almost passed out on the green grass of Park Road Village. The mature version of that sexy lop-sided smile was just… too much!
Law tilted his head to one side, and his smile widened. Intrigued, I watched little laughter lines appear around his eyes, as he said, "Edward told me you were gorgeous but I must say, it was clearly an understatement."
Blush #3! Ok, Kiddo, call me Bella…
"Thank you," I breathed. Suddenly Kiddo's arm was around my waist again, holding me tightly.
I cleared my throat, "You aren't exactly what I expected Edward's uncle to look like either, if I may say so."
Kiddo pulled me yet a little closer; it was almost uncomfortable, and I slightly squirmed and turned my head to look at him. Surprised, I saw him scowl at some spot in the middle between Law and myself, his brows furrowed ferociously. I followed his gaze and noticed that Law was still holding my hand… which was nice. It was a good hand, no piano hand but strong and warm, distinctly callused.
I heard Kiddo exhale at length beside me and in the corner of my eye I saw his head jerk up when Law said, "And I need to thank you for being there for Edward yesterday. I guess I overreacted a little, so again… my apologies for that."
"Oh no, it was a pleasure to have him over," I replied and immediately felt blush #4 well up when I realized the double meaning. A little abashed, I looked back at Kiddo and was startled. His eyes were narrowed to slits, and he was staring at something invisible next to Law, or around him, or… whatever - I knew at once, he was 'seeing things'. And he didn't like what he saw. Not at all.
Law had noticed it too, and all of a sudden my hand was free.
Without averting his gaze, Kiddo said, "Annie, could you please wait here for a moment? I'll be right back."
"Sure." The sound of his voice scared me. Something was terribly wrong.
As soon as I had answered, Kiddo let go of me and had one hand on Law's shoulder, shoving him away from me and towards one of the buildings. "We need to talk for a minute…" I heard him say before the two men disappeared inside, the door left ajar.
What the hell…?
No way was I going to wait there like a sheep. I walked over to the House, until I was within earshot and held my breath. I couldn't believe what I was hearing.
Edward: "...otherwise. We're not going to stay.
I'll show her around a little, then we'll leave."
Edward: "You heard me."
Law: "What's wrong, E?"
There was a brief pause. I waited, my heart pounding like mad.
Edward: "I don't like the way you look at her."
Law: "What are you talking about?"
Edward: "You can fool yourself, but you can't fool me.
You know that, Law! I will not bring her back here."
Law: "You're overreacting, E.
I looked at her, so what?
How am I supposed to not look at her?
You just introduced her to me, remember?
And admittedly, she's quite a vision.
But that doesn't mean -"
Edward, shouting: "Shut the fuck up, Law! I know what I saw, ok?"
Law: "You must calm down. You're losing it..."
Edward: "I know damn well, I'm losing my shit right now.
And I can't do anything about it, Law, it doesn't work anymore!
That's what I was trying to tell you on Sunday, didn't you listen?
She... she somehow... cracked the lock,
and I don't know how to fix it, ok?
I'm hardly keeping my filters now.
So yeah, I'm overreacting, and it doesn't help at all
to see you eyefucking her!"
Kiddo had hissed the last sentence like a panther, ready to pounce. The whole scene freaked me out. My heart was racing. I couldn't believe he was starting a fight with his uncle... over me! There were a few moments of silence before Edward spoke again; his voice was so low now, I could hardly understand the words. It rather sounded like growling.
Edward: "Jesus, Law, I don't want that, but right now,
the urge to hurt you is almost unbearable.
Everything is turning black, and you know that one, don't you?
I want to rip your throat or something.
I gotta get out of here."
Law: "I'm sorry, Edward. I had no idea."
Edward: "You know how it was the last time.
If we stay, someone will get hurt.
Do you understand that?"
Law: "I see. You probably better go then.
I guess it doesn't make any difference
if I assure you that I do not have any intentions
whatsoever... regarding Annie?"
Edward: "No. I know what I saw."
And what exactly was that?
Law: "What did you see?"
I held my breath, waiting for Kiddo to answer. After what seemed like an eternity, I heard his voice again. It was barely above a whisper now, and I only caught a few snippets.
Edward: "... saw how... falling in love...
you don't see... not going to happen...
fucking not compete with... get me?"
I heard Law mumble something I couldn't understand, followed by another hiss from Kiddo.
Edward: "Don't... touch me!"
Edward: "I'll see you tomorrow."
I knew Kiddo would come out any moment, but I was too shocked to move and pretend I hadn't eavesdropped. When he appeared in the doorframe, I just stood still. He stared at me for what seemed like an eternity. Then he walked over to me, still holding my gaze, until he was close enough to lean his head against mine. I noticed he was still shaking with anger, as he moved his hand and hooked just his index finger around mine.
His eyes were closed, when he asked between clenched teeth, "You like Law, don't you?"