“I said I was sorry!” Reed was getting desperate, following the furious woman down the path towards her house. He wasn’t even sure what he was sorry about.
She’d stormed off second later, leaving the men staring at each other. When his mind finally cleared, he found Garret still glaring at him with a notion of pity. He shrugged, when he looked around for her and she was no longer there.
“Nice to meet you.” He gave the older man a quick smile and ran after her.
And that’s where he was right now, apologizing like crazy for something he hadn’t even thought through before doing.
“Valerie, would you please stop and listen?”
The woman whirled around so fast, he almost ran into her. Her eyes were misty and she kept chewing up her lower lip, pouting it. She was upset, but not quite how he imagined she’d be. He thought she’d be angry, instead she looked as if he’d slapped her.
“Val?” his voice died.
“You’re a tourist!” she spit out and he saw the first tear break off and run down her nose root. “A tourist!”
“Val, I -”
“I know you heard us before! So you heard what I said!” She whirled around, speeding up her walk. “You know I don’t want that bull, so leave me alone!”
That went through him like a thunder and he grabbed for her, pressing her back against his chest and squeezing hard. “No!” he chanted. He couldn’t explain it, but the sudden fear that she’d walk away and he’d miss his chance again made his heart throb.
She made no attempt to get away and let him, leaning backwards, into his warmth. Her fingers reached up, wrapping gently around his wrist and pressing it stronger against her chest so he could feel her heartbeats while he rocked them back and forth.
“I’m sorry.” He whispered, before his previous thought came rumbling back and he jolted away.
She swayed a bit, but regaining her posture a second later and she used the moment to get away and run.
He was having a major case of deja vu. Not that she’d sent any girl running before, for no matter how much he tried to remember, he hadn’t done it, yet the chill he felt, when he thought he’d lost her made his head swim. Again? He had experienced it before. The feeling of his chest breaking in two, losing the ability to breathe – he knew them from that year he spent in haze.
He turned back and headed to the village. His heart was still beating too wildly to go back home. He needed to cool down before he faced Tomas inquiries. He couldn’t go back to this, taking meds to control even the smallest parts of his life and force himself get out of the bed. He had to cool down, stop this feeling from growing and planting routs.
“Had a fight with your girlfriend?” he heard Garret chuckling on the balcony on one of the light yellow houses next to the footpath that took to Valerie’s house. Meredith burst into high pitched laughter and imitated his father’s weird mockery like the little parrot she was, earning a stern scorning from Reed.
She frowned him back, tossed her nose up and headed to the stairs. “I’ll go see what Emma is up to!”
“You do that.” Her father patted her and she was off towards another adventure. “So?” He turned his attention back on the man by his veranda. They were nearly looking eye to eye with each other despite Garret sitting over a foot higher from the ground. He pointed at the empty chair next to him. It hadn’t been there yesterday, he would have seen it, but it was there now and waiting his attendance.
“Come on,” he cooed, “I don’t bite.”
Why did he get the feeling then that he would if given a chance?
He hesitated, but the look Garret gave him left him only one option, so he dragged his feet up the few stairs and seated his ass next to the man, waiting what would come next.
He couldn’t make up his mind if he liked the guy or not. Since he saw them sitting in the cafe, he had gone from jealousy to admiration to fear and finally to being scared. As if he was sitting next to his own father after committing a crime against humanity.
“I don’t think we’re properly introduced. I’m Garret, Meredith’s father.” The man reached out his hand on his side and Reed shook it. It was callused, dark from constant sunburn and large for his size.
“Reed.” He squeezed him down, assessing him, before adding with pinch of vinegar. “The tourist.”
He had never felt so uncomfortable for visiting some place. Most unwelcoming economical upstaging he’d ever come across.
“Less than a week.” Garret murmured with lighthearted chuckle. “I don’t know what she’s getting by this – it’s not like this island is breeding ground for fine young men. The only ones available are way too old and she deserves to be happy.” He sighed, then realizing what he’d said, he corrected his statement, waving his finger at him. “Don’t read anything into it! I can see your brain going overdrive. She’s right, you know, she doesn’t need some random tourist to make her his life’s sidekick. You do that and I will hunt you down and sit outside your house with my camera until your brain rots in graveyard.”
Reed turned his eyes back on the dark haired man. “Is that a threat?” He asked, slow.
He gave him a warm smile which Reed couldn’t decipher and it frustrated him more than he liked to admit, but said nothing. “She’s like a little sister to my wife. I’d do anything for my wife.” He said with such a straight face it sent chills down Reed’s spine.
“So there isn’t anything truthful in that woman’s accusations.” Reed said with a relief.
Garret shook his head. “We get that a lot. They think we have an affair, because my wife can’t come here with us very often. Sometimes I can’t take her with me either, so…” His voice broke, when he said it. Reed didn’t blame him in anything. Despite his first outburst, when he learned of this, he understood what it meant to be too busy.
“Especially from that house!” Garret continued. “The one where the woman lives? It’s like cursed, special place for truthful people, who just have to show to the world their moral upbringing. It’s even painted appropriately pink.”
“Your house is pink too.” He reminded him.
“Oh yes, now that you mention it. I’ve never really thought about it.”
“Pink little girls live in pink little houses.” Reed mused, his eyes searching for the pony tale that skipped off here earlier.
“I don’t think my girl can be considered one of the pink lovers. Especially when she is seen roaming around on a sunken boat with two complete strangers and half naked young lady.”
“Hardly half naked – Val was properly covered.” Reed mumbled, clearing his throat.
“In all the right places? I’m not blind, she’s a looker. But two strangers, too?”
“It was my idea, if you want to fume on somebody. Your girl would have gone there anyway.”
“I know – that thing’s been there since we were little. That’s why we cleaned it up, so they wouldn’t at least find something inappropriate.”
The poster with half naked chick came to mind, but Reed passed it. No point of irritating a father, who seemed so lenient on his misgivings right now. Somebody had made it into their little playing ground. Had there been porn magazines, he would have guessed it was some teenage boys, but as it turned out, the smoking thing was the only indicator. A thinking place then? Who would go through such a length of trouble just to get a private moment?
“Somebody still visits that place.” Reed said after a while.
“The ghost is back?”
“What do you mean?”
“When we used it, sometimes we’d find cigarette buts lying around, still smoking. We never saw anyone. I think Martin might have, he stopped coming out there with us and moved away shortly after that, but…” Reed waited, but it seemed the man descended into memory lane. He continued just as he was about to nudge him to remind him about his presence. “It stopped for a while, the smoking butts, but I guess they’re back now.”
“Val said someone was murdered there.”
“Absurd accident.” Garret corrected. “At least officially.”
“Strange, isn’t it? For someone to choose such a gruesome place for reflecting over life?”
Garret’s eyes turned on him. “We used it to play house.”
“Macabre wins again.” Reed added. He could not see the appeal it would have – it looked eerie, felt cold all over and had nothing appealing that would call out Come and Play and Be Merry! Then again, he grew up in a city with four brothers and kindergarten. This was definitely a different world.
They sat few minutes more, but Reed felt the conversation was over. Still, there was one thing bothering him.
“Has there been…” He scratched the root of his nose, hesitating. Maybe he shouldn’t ask, but he couldn’t get the idea out of his head now that it had planted itself there. He cleared his throat, glancing him under his eyebrows. “Has there been someone like that?” He didn’t want to say, someone like him, but Garret didn’t need such specifications.
“Like who?” Garret asked, before remembering. “Ah! If there were, what would you do about it?”
“Erase them.” He said without hesitation and gulped. When had he become so possessive?
Meredith appeared around the corner on the end of the only piece of street this place had and Reed took it as sign to leave. He got up.
“Hey, city boy.”
He did not like that expression, but he let it slide, turning.
“I’d appreciate if you did not include my little girls in anything dangerous.”
Reed nodded once. Then he plastered a nice smile on and wished both Garret and Meredith a well evening before hurrying away towards his own bed.