"Oh trust me you are," he replied, smiling over at her as he placed the bag softly back at the side of the bench, righting himself.
"I was, was I? Totally done?" Faye smiled, resisting the urge to reach across him and grab the bag despite wanting to prove him wrong. She had come here intending to write or at the very least draw after all, so she most certainly wasn't done. But instead, she just carried on gazing at him as they sat together in silence.
"Yeah. You wanted to dedicate the rest of your day to entertaining me remember? I'm like a toddler at times, I need constant supervision," he joked, eyes smiling as they seemed to sparkle like a clear lake in summer. Faye felt like she could drown in those eyes, deep pools of blue that somehow held such warmth.
"That much is definitely true. You are very much a giant child. But wouldn't that make me like your mother?" She grimaced, watching as Avery shared in her horror at her last question.
"Why do you have to make it weird? Like effortlessly so? It's like your mind instantly finds the weirdness,"
"What can I say, it's a special talent of mine," she laughed, nudging him playfully as they sat together on the bench. Avery nudged her gently back, adjusting himself after so his arm rested softly against hers. Faye closed her eyes as the feeling from earlier sprinkled over her, warmth tickling as it spread out from his touch. It radiated through her like the sun had, his closeness bringing a calmness to her.
As they sat there together quietly, the forest filled the air around them with the gentle soundtrack of nature. Honey bees buzzed close by, a low sound that seemed to hum as if it were the base note of a song. The crickets chirped and a robin sang out to its mate from the oak tree overhead. Faye felt as Avery's hand softly covered hers, his warmth reverberating through her entirety. She moaned softly at the sensation, keeping her eyes closed, not wanting this moment to end. She loved these moments where she didn't have to fight Avery, where she could just sit here and be with him as if he were like everyone else in the world. It was so exhausting having to ignore him. But it was also exhausting to have to look over her shoulder every 2 seconds when she wanted a conversation with him, making sure no one was nearby that could see her talking to empty space. Because nobody could see what she saw. Nobody could touch him or hear his voice. Not a person in the world understood how hard yet how amazing these moments were for her. A part of her loved Avery, she was sure of it. She would never say it out loud but she knew it deep down in the very core of her. She loved him. But she also knew her love for him would continue to break her and she was broken enough already.
Faye hadn't realised a stray tear had escaped as her mind rambled until she felt it fall softly down her cheek. Before it had even gotten to her chin she felt Avery's finger upon her face, wiping the tear before it had fallen completely.
"Why can't you be real," she breathed out, her voice catching a little. Faye squeezed her eyes tightly shut, partly so she didn't open them to see the look on Avery's face and partly to stop more tears from falling. She was annoyed at herself for ruining their perfect moment by overthinking. He could never be real and she knew this. Every time she allowed herself to have these moments with him she knew it. This wasn't a Pinocchio situation. She wasn't Gepetto wishing a puppet into existence and Avery would never become a real boy.
"I don't want to have this argument again. Can we not just enjoy today?" He stated, his tone holding a slight annoyance even though Faye knew he was trying to hide it. She didn't answer, merely turned her hand over in his hold and squeezed his tightly.
"So what do you want to do then, oh giant toddler? Do you need a nap?" She chuckled, opening her eyes to look at him now she was certain no more tears would fall. His eyes were already open, twinkling as they met hers.
"Close your eyes. Just for a minute and I'll be right back," he smiled, eyes still glistening playfully as he rose to stand. Faye eyed him sceptically, resisting for a moment before doing as he instructed. A gentle breeze tickled the air at her neck as she sat there in darkness, trying her hardest not to peek. She listened again to the buzzing of the bees that seemed to be a little closer, the sound vibrating almost in the air around her.
"Wow. Did you actually do as you were told?" Avery's shocked tone pulled Faye's eyes open, the soft smile on her face replaced with a scowl as she met his gaze. His smile spread wider across his face at her reaction, something that happened often. He liked getting a rise out of her, trying regularly to win a scowl or glare. Faye guessed it was because of all the times she ignored him, negative reactions were still reactions. Didn't make it any less annoying knowing deep down it was her own fault.
Avery stepped to the side once Faye's scowl had lessened to a glare, revealing a beautiful purple and grey tartan blanket. She instantly remembered it from their childhood, memories trickling through that had been buried beneath years of therapy and medication. They used to sit together upon this for hours in her back garden, wasting the summer hours away as they played tea parties or other games. Faye adored this blanket. Arranged upon it was a banquet of sorts, plates filled with a range of Faye's favourite foods. Chelsea buns, blueberries, cheese and broccoli quiche, eclairs. Anything and everything she had ever loved the taste of was there on a plate. She realised straight away that all this must be a hallucination but that day she didn't have the strength to fight it. Later, after this afternoon, she would go back to her dorm room and swallow the hand full of meds that would steal this moment from her. She wasn't about to steal it from herself. Not yet.
Faye sat there dumbfounded, words whirling around in her mind but never making it to her throat, let alone her lips. Her eyes flicked between the array of food and Avery whose gaze was now less happy and more concerned. Instead of trying to form the words that refused to reach her mouth she stood and wrapped her arms around his neck, laying her head on his shoulder in silence. She felt as his stiff body relaxed seconds after they collided, her hands splayed out across his shoulder blades. She felt them quiver a little under her touch, her fingertips twirling across them without much thought. Faye felt as his breath seemed to suddenly quicken and he groaned in her embrace, causing her movements to freeze. Avery's hands solidified at her waist as he stepped, rather abruptly, out of her hold, eyes fixated on the trees behind her instead of meeting her eyes.
"Um, what was that?" Faye asked uncomfortably, hating the silence but dreading having to ask the question. Avery stared at the ground, embarrassment flooding the features she could see. The seconds that passed felt deafeningly quiet as Faye grappled for any opportunity to change the subject. "Oh god, the food. Best eat it before the bees steal it. Or even worse a squirrel. They are gnarly buggers. You don't ever want to have to fight a squirrel. It would be to the death," she rambled, relief flowing over her as Avery's eyes once more gazed into hers, a small smile dancing across his lips, tugging at the dimple that hid in his left cheek.
"I think I could take him. I'm somewhat of a squirrel whisperer," he smiled, any sense of awkwardness vanished. He gestured towards the picnic with a nod of his head as he walked gracefully over to the blanket as if he was floating. Faye followed a little more heavy-footed but safely atleast, not tripping over any stray roots or randomly placed bushes like she had a tendency to do. He held his hand out from where he stood on the outskirts, guiding her gently so she sat almost in the middle of it. He then took his place slightly behind her, his knees and lower legs brushing the small of her back. The blanket felt the same as she remembered, soft wool fibres stroking across the palms of her hands and ankles.
"So, what do you want to try first?" He asked, blueberries suddenly appearing on the plate as he swept it in front of her before Faye had even said the word.
"If you already knew the answer, why ask the question?" Turning to her left so her face could see his, her back resting a little on his chest as she did so.
"I was being polite," he replied, picking up a berry and offering it to her lips. She froze for a moment as the soft, sweet purple berry touched her mouth, her tongue pushing to the front as if dying to taste it. Her eyes bounced around as if each object in her sight was a trampoline, her brain telling her to just open her mouth and eat the damn thing. Instead, her hand shot out, almost smacking Avery's in the process. He dropped the berry so it fell into Faye's lap, squishing slightly so it seeped into the fabric beneath her.
"Shit, I'm so sorry," she apologized, scooping the berry up and throwing the offender into the bushes next to them. She heard as it fell through the leaves, falling silent before it reached the ground.
"You could have just said you didn't want the blueberry," Avery stated, his body shifting so he is as no longer softly touching hers. Faye spun around in her seat so she didn't have to twist her body to see him.
"My hand had a mind of its own then. Perhaps it didn't want a blueberry. Not me, it?" She rambled, taking his hand that she had collided with and stroked it. "See, my hand is very, very sorry."
Faye watched as he met her gaze, eyebrow raised as he eyed her doubtfully. He picked another blueberry from the plate next to him and placed it in the palm of her other hand. She ate it quickly, smile widening as it popped a little in her mouth, it's sweet juices exploding gently on her tongue.
"Good?" Avery asked and Faye nodded before picking up a blueberry of her own and offering to him. He shook his head and grimaced as if the thought alone was disgusting.
"God no. They may as well be little beads of poison. No idea why you like them. It's like food Russian roulette,"
"How are they food Russian roulette?"
"Because you never know if the next one will be sour," he replied, wincing a little as he did so as if the berry had left a sharp bitter taste without ever making it to his mouth.
"Well I'd never thought about it like that," Faye laughed, eying the plate more cautiously now. "How about we just eat the Chelsea buns?" She offered instead, reaching across to grab the plate.
"And get my hands all sticky, no thanks,"
Faye stopped her attempts, turning back towards him slowly, eyebrow raised.
"Are you telling me, you brought all my favourite foods here and you won't share a single thing with me? Didn't bring any food that you liked? You know I hate eating alone," she asked, nudging his shoulder playfully.
"Does that even count? When we are in the forest alone anyway? If I wasn't here, you would have eaten something alone right? When you got hungry? So that excuse isn't acceptable. You can't just not eat," he replied, pulling the Chelsea buns over so that they sat across Faye's lap, resting precariously.
"But then I would be alone, alone. Not with you staring at me eating. And this is meant to be a picnic. Both people eat at a picnic,"
"Why on earth would I stare at you eating? I'll just sit here. If my gaze accidentally falls upon you but I'll ensure it's only briefly. Promise. And I don't think picnics have rules," he smirked, tapping the plate so it jostled a little.
"well if I feed you then your hands won't get sticky?" The instant the words fell out of her mouth she regretted them, wishing she could just gather them up and shove them back in. He looked at her warily before shifting forward so his face was closer.
"You want to feed me a Chelsea bun? The girl who moments ago smacked my hand as if the berry I was holding was actual poison?" He asked, just above a whisper so his voice came out low and heavy. He held her gaze as he said it, sending that humming sensation vibrating through her as if his hand were upon her.
"I feel like I'm going to regret answering that question,"