The pizza was a good plan. It was exactly what they both needed. Pizza carried no weight, no manners, no formality. Auggie appreciated any food he could acceptably eat with his hands, and Annie desired the comfort that came with pizza.
University stress had been dulled by pizza. Lonely nights alone in the city had been placated with pizza. Nights with Danielle when Michael was away had often involved pizza. And as Annie watched Auggie coming down the stairs, pulling a t-shirt on, smiling as he guided himself easily with the back of his hand, she knew that this pizza would heal some of her wounds, too.
Auggie crossed the room, his smile bigger as he approached her. “I can only guess that the pizza is here,” he teased her.
She laughed and touched his hand as he came toward her. She placed it on the warm box on the counter. Auggie kept his hand on it for a minute and then he nodded to her. “Did you pick a movie?”
“No. I forgot.”
Auggie laughed. “Okay, well, I’ll get us something to drink, and get the plates and some napkins, trust me, I’ll need some. You figure out about a movie.”
Auggie listened to her as she fidgeted with the remote control, trying to scan the channels or order a movie up.
Don’t forget to check for descriptive video,” he called over to her.
“Of course I won’t,” Annie said matter-of-factly.
Auggie felt something like shooting stars of love go through his body. Of course she wouldn’t. She never forgot. She never forgot and she always didn’t think about it. How could he not see she had been his all along? How had he let her walk away from him? How had he, even for a moment, forgotten how much his heart belonged with her? How had he hurt her in his own lapse of judgement? When she had gone with him to Helen’s after he’d spent the night there, why hadn’t she screamed at him? Why had she pretended it was okay when it wasn’t?
It was because she’d already started putting up walls. Walls against his actions, walls against the hurt. It was going to take a hell of a lot of work to rip those walls down, brick by brick, stone by stone. Because every time she said she was fine, every time she said she didn’t want any emotional attachments, every time she pretended it didn’t matter, he reacted by hurting her again.
Was he doing it intentionally?
Auggie didn’t think so. He was reacting to his own failure, not anything of hers. He was reacting to all the anger he had towards himself. He was reacting to loneliness. He was reacting to his mental tailspin that he would never be enough for anyone, not really. The one-night stands, the women who all loved to flirt with him, the flirting he did back, all pointless. None of those women would ever be strong or willing enough to live as a blind man’s partner. The ones that lasted long enough to see what it was really like, often started to feel angry about it sometimes. Sometimes they started to resent his blindness and in turn, started to resent him. He remembered one woman, Reneé, who actually got mad at him for not seeing things in front of himself and tripping over them. She told him he needed to be more careful and look where he was going. He’d been stunned. He’d told her if he could look where he was going, he wouldn’t need the white cane and her sighted guide assistance. She was angry with him a lot after that. It didn’t last long.
When had Annie ever had an issue with him not being able to see? Barcelona?
Auggie took the tray with the plates and glasses over to the coffee table. He slid it on the table top, feeling to make sure all the sides were not hanging off any edge, heading back for the pizza and two beers.
No, she hadn’t had a problem at all with him being blind in Barcelona. What she had felt was not pity or anger or disappointment. He knew now exactly what it was, and when she had come back to him, her calming hands grounding him to her and safety, he knew it was more than her feeling sorry that he was her partner on this mission. She’d never once given doubts about his capability when they went in the field together. She’d given doubts to some of his decisions, and that was valid, but never any about his disability.
Auggie sat on his couch, and Annie fell beside him, putting the remote on the table.
“I think so,” Annie said, and she passed him a plate with two pizza slices on it. He opened both beers and handed one to her. It was an equal relationship. It always had been. They balanced each other perfectly, as Joan had said.
“Annie. About Monday.” Auggie wasn’t sure why he was bringing up her doctor’s appointment.
‘“We’re not thinking about Monday,” Annie said. “I don’t want to think about anything but watching Forrest Gump.”
“Forrest Gump?” said Auggie, a pretend sneer crossing his face.
“It’s perfect,” Annie sighed. “You can’t tell me you didn’t like Forrest Gump? Everyone loved it.”
He grinned at her. “I loved Forrest Gump. Start ’er up.”
He didn’t hear anything happening on the screen. He took a swig of beer and set it down.
“Do you think I’m too spontaneous?”
“I think you are the right amount of spontaneous.”
“I mean, do you think I am too rash?”
“Annie, you are you. You are who you are and it’s how you are where you are. It has been an amazing characteristic in how you do your job. And you’re good at it. You work on that spontaneity. It’s an adrenaline for you, I guess. I plan everything to a T. Even if I tell no-one, I don’t go in unplanned. I guess it’s because of the military. They drill organisation into your head. And I guess it’s because I’m blind. I need to plan, to be organised. You, you really fly when you’re thinking on your feet.”
“It’s always been because you’re in my ear. You’re there to bounce ideas off of, to set my mind in a different radius.”
Auggie smiled at her, putting his hand out and on her knee. “It’s because we’re a great team, Walker.”
“I know,” she whispered. “I don’t know how to go back there.”
“We can’t,” Auggie said simply. “And we don’t have to. We can go forward. There could be something better for us. We have full-knowledge of our strengths and weaknesses. We know we need to come back to each other at the end of the day.” He looked thoughtful for a moment. “I think all of our rough stuff started happening because we didn’t go to Allen’s. We stopped going and we stopped talking, and we stopped being honest. We didn’t have time to be honest because we were too busy trying to run away from each other.”
“I thought you loved Parker. I couldn’t bear it. I couldn’t listen to you go on about her, about the ring, about any of it.”
“So you ran away and didn’t come talk to me about Simon. And because you were running away, I kept it up. Ran my fist right in to some bastard’s face.”
“I remember that.” Annie sounded both sad and quiet. “I truly am sorry for that.”
“No, it’s done and over, and I learned more about myself from that experience. And don’t forget the counselling,” Auggie said with a cheeky grin.
Auggie heard her giggle felt the weight of another slice of pizza hit his plate. His heart had stopped clenching at the idea that tonight was going to end too fast. Annie was okay tonight. Auggie was going to make sure that tomorrow, she would not take any steps backward into that place where he could not see her.
“We can’t go back there, Annie, but we can start from here. We don’t need to live on the heavy stuff. I want to remember the really good stuff. And I want to be happy. And I want you to be happy. I really think you were for a while there, with me.”
“I was always happy being with you,” Annie said, softly. “We are a team.”
“We’re a team in every way.”
“Can I push play now?”
Auggie laughed out loud, a burst of surprise spilling up from his belly. “Go on then. And eat up. We need to get you strong if you’re going to take me on in the gym. I’ve a judo belt now, you know.”
Annie pushed his chest in a motion that conveyed the exasperated smile that he couldn’t see on her face and pushed the play button for the film to begin. They finished the pizza and the beers and Auggie put his arm around Annie and pulled her closer. He felt her lean against his side and he ran his finger along the strands of her hair. He could hear Tom Hanks talking about running and about Jenny, but it wasn’t registering because the feel of her hair, her shoulder, her neck, and the rise and fall of her body as she breathed eclipsed the sounds that came from the television and the street. He turned his head and he kissed her forehead. It took all his restraint to let it go at that, but she didn’t pull away. One step at a time. One step in the darkness.
“Come here,” Auggie said, pulling her to her feet for a moment. He lay down and stretched the length of the couch, and he held his hand up to her, tugging her back to sit. She picked her feet up off the floor and put her back into Auggie’s chest as Forrest Gump headed out with Lieutenant Dan to catch shrimp. He pulled her in tightly, putting his head down behind hers on a pillow and smelling in the scent of her hair as he combed through it with his fingers. They stayed like that for the entire film. Auggie didn’t need to raise his head up over hers, because he didn’t have to look at the screen. Annie felt no inclination to move out from under Auggie’s hands, clutching her toward him. He knew she was going no-where tonight. She’d be here with him and in the morning, when they woke up, it would be two days of weekend where even he didn’t have to leave the apartment if he didn’t want to.It was never perfect. But in its imperfection, it was more than perfect.