He began the dinner preparations, which consisted of toss-in-the-oven macaroni with cheese and sausages on top. The dinner itself was just as quiet as the breakfast and the boys chose to get to bed early, whispering with each other from the safety of their blankets rather than face the grownups picking on each other. They weren’t, but the air was thick with unspoken words and there was no way hiding their displeasure with each other.
Alik picked Tessa up and took her to see sunset, which in these parts of the world always lasted for hours, boys ducked each other in and when he looked up from the plates, he seriously needed distractions to deal with Laura’s still upset glares, when he was left alone with the dagger master, who’d taken her seat on the other side of the table and just watched him work in complete silence. At least she wasn’t the type to hide, but would face him after the fight as well, which was far more than his ex girlfriends had allowed, texting him for a quick breakups. He wasn’t sure now if he should call them relationships if they didn’t survive a single argument.
“I’m sorry.” He said over his shoulder, and meant it. “I should have asked first, what he wanted of me. He caught me off-guard and I slipped. I didn’t mean to put boys in harm.”
The chair moved away and he heard her come around the table. Her shivering hand brushed over his hip before her finger hooked in the belt loop and she pulled him away from the plates, into a soft hug. He sensed her fear and it struck him as odd, for there hadn’t been anything to be afraid of.
“I shouldn’t have hit you like this. I’m sorry too.” She said, pressing her cheek against his back and swinging them slowly from one feet to another in the rhythm of the serene music from the radio playing in the corner. She was master of slowing things down with music and he allowed her work her magic on him. He’d been on a roller since that morning and he seriously needed a way out.
“I am no longer angry at you.” She stated, giving one tighter squeeze before getting the towel and began drying them. “Nor at your brother, if that’s what you were afraid of.”
He had felt the thread of it, but he knew it meant little if this would be the only time they’d meet. But still, he wanted her to like them and the fact Alik had so willingly ruined his chances, made his stomach ache.
“He can be a brick.”
Her smile was tight. “I noticed, he’d make a good foundation for a lighthouse.” She mused.
“What?” He snorted.
“Something Joni said.” She waved it off, but continued nervously. “Joni and Kaspar were arguing over dynamics of a tower, why one stone would sit on top of each other and other would not.
She kept working on in silence after that. She was clearly uncomfortable in his presence and wanted to finish drying the dishes up before saying her peace and she wouldn’t look up once from her hands. He squared his shoulders, recognizing her posture. He’d seen it often enough at the office, when one of his employees had to ask for something they clearly thought he’d refuse. The serious talk posture. He studied her without openly staring at her, taking in the way her feet rubbed against each other, or often stood on top of each other, the way her back looked straight, the worrying of her lips and her slight frown while focusing on the task. She was no longer contemplating, she’d already come up with the decision. Without concluding him, which left him to bonder only one option. She was thinking of them, and whatever she was to say was about them.
The last plate was set down quietly and she wrapped the fabric up into a nice rectangle before setting it on the counter and paused. Her eyes rose on his, clearly struggling to keep them there, but she managed. And he’d bear it, he told himself, whatever she had to say.
“We’re here for another week and this,” she waved between them, “shouldn’t be happening. It’s not good for them nor for us if we allow ourselves be caught up with something that clearly won’t last. I don’t mean we should ignore each other or that you have to go back to town. To have you around has been closest to a family we’ve had in a long time and they really like you and I… like you…” She stuttered. Her eyes fell on her hands and he saw clearly she was struggling to say it out. “But it’s just a dream, for them and me. And I don’t want them hoping for more, when we can’t fulfill them. They’re still kids and I have to put them first. And that means we have to stop being so familiar with each other or they’ll get the wrong impression.”
She fell silent, though her lips kept moving, as if searching what she hadn’t said. She whispered a winded apology and waited a bit longer, hoping for his response, but his tongue was full of lead. She shrank back, turned and headed to her and Tess’ bedroom.
It took him awhile to move his stiffened limbs, for everything in his body was having a fight between the heat of anger seething in his soul and the prickling cold her words had left behind. He was pissed despite understanding her reasons and it irritated him even more. He rubbed his chin. So much of their relationship living past the first fight.