Happiness, love, laughter; the perfect life, well not exactly perfect but it was as close to it as one could get. What better than having the cool autumn wind brush across your skin as you rest your body on the soft bed of grass beneath you while the setting sun shines its last spotlight on you? Your mind as clear as ever and your body so relaxed you actually feel yourself floating in the air.
“What are you thinking about?” The inquisitive yet playful voice asked next to me. I slowly turned my head to the side only to stare into the familiar eyes of the woman I grew up getting to know and falling in love with. Her voice always brought a smile to my face and this time was no exception. Her wind swept golden hair strew across the ground on the opposite side of her leaving nothing but our breaths separating us.
“You’re beautiful.” I slowly brought my right hand across my body and gently touched her warm cheek before tucking a few unruly strands of hair behind her ear. Her smile soothed the slight tremble in my heart. After years of spending time together, my nerves still got the better of me when I was around her. I tried my best to hide it but I was pretty sure that I just ended up looking like a fool most of the time.
“I’m serious. What are you thinking about?” The playful smile on her face undermined the seriousness in her tone. It was comforting but I knew that I probably shouldn’t take her any less serious. I had the scars to prove what happens when I don’t take her seriously.
“Are you getting cold feet about telling your parents?” So that’s what this was all about. I wasn’t nervous about what we were planning to do, well what I was planning on doing anyway. I guess she still had some reservations about it.
“I’m not. Honestly, I haven’t felt more free.” I looked into her eyes and saw the slight shaking of her pupils so she definitely wasn’t confident about this.
“How are you feeling about it?” I softly put my left hand on her right hand to try and calm her and show her that she can be open and honest with me because we’re in this together.
“I just don’t want you to do something you’ll regret.” I could tell that she was being earnest about that and I appreciated it. She had basically been with me through everything so I’ve never had to hide myself from her and she never had to hide who she was from me. We knew everything about each other. Just like the waves depended on the patterns of the moon, so did we depend on each other.
“I don’t want you to lose your parents because of this, because of me.”
“And I refuse to lose you because of my parents.” I hoped the conviction in my tone settled any doubts she might be having just like her smile calmed the aching of my heart. “All my life I’ve had decisions made for me by my parents. It was their choice to home school me. It was their choice that I was to follow in the footsteps of my father and grandfather. It was their choice that I was to marry someone they chose for me. I’m done letting them make decisions for me now. It’s time for me to stand up for myself now.” My voice was calm but my heart burned with anger as I spoke. Why did I let it get this far? My parents always wanted what was best for me but always forced me to follow their plan. I was basically born in captivity with freedom being only an illusion my parents controlled.
“At least they didn’t force you to fall in love with me.” This was one of the things I loved about her. She always managed to see some sliver of hope in the darkest despairs. She always managed to brighten the dimmest days. No matter how my day had been going, once I spoke to her then everything felt like it was going to be okay.
“I still didn’t have a choice there, it was fate.” That brightened her smile tenfold. Every part of her body suddenly seemed joyful.
“So you’re saying that we were always meant to be?” Her smile turned into a challenging smirk but she never lost the playfulness in her voice and I never wanted her to.
“I guess so. Although, I had my doubts when you literally stabbed me in my back.” This time it was my turn to smirk at her while I tried to hold back a chuckle at that memory.
“How many times do I have to tell you it was an accident? It was your fault for coming up behind me and scaring me by the way. If you hadn’t scared me while I cleaned the dishes then I wouldn’t have tripped us and end up stabbing you.” She was right as usual but that didn’t stop me from teasing her. I knew she felt bad about stabbing me but that happened years ago when we were still teenagers. It’s not like we were old though. Hell, she is 19 so still technically a teenager while I just turned 20 a couple of months ago.
“The bottom line is that you stabbed me.”
“I’m contemplating doing it again right now.” Her threat brought a smile to my lips instead of fear to my heart. I knew that she wouldn’t stab me intentionally, at least I hoped not, but that didn’t stop her from making silly threats.
“You were kind of a drag after that though. Once your mother stitched me up and sent me home, you basically stayed with me until it healed. Our parents had to drag you away from me. I guess that was when I first fell in love with you.” Her cheeks began heating up and she refused to make eye contact with me so she turned her head and looked up at the burning evening sky rather. It was a rare cloudless day during the transition of the seasons. It was bound to start reaching freezing temperatures soon and I certainly wasn’t looking forward to it.
“So you fall in love with irritating girls who stab you in your back with knives?” I had to admire her persistence in challenging me. Despite her innocent features and joyful nature, she really knew how to push my buttons. “Sounds to me like you’re a bit of a masochist.”
“Knowing you has been painful and tiring so I guess you must be right as usual.” She gently hit my body with her right hand but immediately grabbed it and intertwined our fingers. I loved the touch of her soft hands. It was always warm and full of life in comparison to my deathly cold hands but she never once complained about it. “Case in point.”
“Whatever.” I knew she had given up this challenge now so I turned my head to face the sky as well. Even if silenced washed over us right now, her presence spoke volumes.
“Just because knowing you has been painful and tiring doesn’t mean I regret it. On the contrary, sticking with you through everything we’ve been through has been worth it.” I really meant that. I honestly couldn’t imagine growing up without having her in life or continuing living without the assurance that she will be by my side.
Suddenly she inched her body closer to mine before I felt her soft lips against my cheek. The sweet innocence of her romantic gesture brought an honest smile to my face. These small moments between us were the ones I cherished the most.
“What are you going to do if your parents don’t want us to be together?” I heard the sincerity in her voice as she asked the question. We had this same conversation before and she didn’t like any answer that I gave her. It was as if she was waiting for me to get that answer right before she agreed to this but I wasn’t waiting any longer. I knew who my heart belonged to and I knew what I wanted to do.
“I’m going to move out to start off with. If they don’t want to allow me to live my life the way I want to then they don’t get to be apart of my life anymore.” I continued looking up at the darkening sky but I could feel her gaze set on me as she laid next to me.
“Where are you going to live then?”
“I have a friend that owes me a favor. He owns a house in the ‘rich’ side of town so he’ll let me use it for a couple of days while I find something permanent. I have enough money saved up to by a house so maybe we could find a house together.” Saying that made me feel really older than I actually was. Which 20 year old says that?
“You think that we could live together?” Her question was filled with surprise rather than accusation. She probably didn’t expect me to say that.
“We could try.” I released a chuckle at that and I could hear her do the same.
“You do realize that both of us are useless in the kitchen. What are we going to eat?” She had a point there. She was never interested in learning how to cook and neither was I for that matter. My parents hired Mrs Davenport to do the cooking and other things since their schedules were a little too unpredictable so I never had to worry about meals.
“On the positive side, if we can’t cook then there’ll be no dirty dishes to clean up.” That set our laughter off again. I loved the calm but enjoyable atmosphere around us right now. We might be talking about our future but I was glad that we could still joke about like this.
“We should probably look for a child-friendly home.” That immediately sent alarms ringing in my head. Why would she say that? Was she pregnant? We did have sex a couple of times but we were careful. We used protection as well but I guess that it wasn’t 100% safe. Was I going to be a father? Hell, I wasn’t ready to be a father. I didn’t know how to be a father. She was definitely going to be a great mother, anyone could see that but I wasn’t ready to be a parent.
“Relax idiot, I’m not pregnant.” She released a laugh at that but I felt too relieved to do anything but release a breath I was unconsciously holding in. She clearly thought this was amusing but my train of thought didn’t allow me to see it that way. If she was pregnant then it would’ve changed my whole approach to talking to my parents tomorrow evening.
“…did I know what you were thinking? I know you better than you think.” She had a triumphant smile on plaguing her lips as I finally turned to face her again while she turned on her side and rested one arm under her head. She placed her other hand on my cheek and gently rubbed it with her thumb as she stared into my eyes while I got lost in hers.
“I’m glad you do. I wouldn’t want anyone else to.” I gently placed my hand over hers and brought it closer to my lips and gave it a gentle kiss.
“I’m just glad that you aren’t talking about leaving the country anymore.” I released her hand so she trailed it down my neck and onto my rising and falling chest. She could probably feel my rapid beating heart right now. Maybe she wanted to test if I might be lying while I spoke.
“I haven’t ruled out that possibility yet.” If leaving the country meant that I would finally be free from my parent’s hold on me then that is what I would have to do.
“What’s stopping you then?”
“You.” That was truth no matter how I looked at it. She was the only reason why I would stay in this town or even in this country. If it wasn’t for her then I would have no problem leaving.
“Why me?” The confusion on her face was evident but understandable. If someone told you that they were unknowingly one of the factors in a life altering decision then you’d probably be confused too.
“I am not going to leave you and I am not going to force you to follow me to another country as well. I know how much you love your parents and I like them as well. I won’t interfere in your relationship with them just because my relationship with my parents isn’t what I want it to be.”
“That’s sweet and all but you can’t leave anyway. Your company is here so you need to be here.” The company was one thing I honestly couldn’t care less about. Lodge Industries, my family’s billion dollar company that ranged from clothing design to financial services. How they managed to do that was a mystery to me but it worked. My father ran the printing and advertising division in our seaside town of Oarkan Bay. My grandfather gave him the money to start it using the family company and their original contacts and since then it has grown steadily into one of the most prominent businesses in the town.
“It’s not my company. It’s my father’s.”
“You’re leading your own division in the company already and you’re going to inherit it when your father steps down so it’s basically yours.” That might be true but it was still my choice to make. Just because my grandfather handed his company down to my father and he is supposed to hand it down to me doesn’t mean that I have to accept it. We have lots of other family so if they wanted the company to stay in the family then they could give it to one of my cousins.
“If my father wants to give the company to someone in the family then he can give it to one of his niece’s or nephews.”
“Don’t be an idiot. Inheriting the company is literally what your parents have been grooming you for.” She wasn’t wrong there. I knew exactly how the company worked and I knew every single person that actually made use of our service. I knew every employee of the company better than my father probably did.
“Exactly why I don’t want it. I don’t want to be a puppet that they get to control anymore.” Why was she pushing this so much? She knew how much I didn’t want it and she knew that talking about it soured my mood.
“Just think about this realistically. You know the company better than your father does right now so if your father wants to hand it over to you then he can’t control you or the company anymore. You will be able to do whatever you want to with the company. You will be able to take it in the direction you want to take it into.” She made valid points there but that was all in the long term and I couldn’t deal with the circumstances I was put in right now. I’d rather be happy and living in some dump than be miserable and still being controlled by my parents.
“I never wanted any of this. I never wanted my family’s business. All I wanted was the freedom to make my own choices.”
“What do you want to do then? Write books?” She really did know me it seems. Writing was a form of therapy and a way to release all my anger or sadness but one day it just evolved into me writing stories and I just never stopped. “You can’t be an author if you don’t let anyone read your work anyway. You won’t even let me read what you write. If you were really serious about writing stories then you would’ve given your story to a publisher or something.”
“Not all of us can follow our dreams. You’ve wanted to be an art collector since you were young and your parents and the rest of your family supported you. Who do I have to help me support my dreams?” My anger wasn’t with her but more with myself. I allowed the idea of becoming an author rule my dreams even though I knew that I was setting myself up for a lifetime of disappointment.
“You have me.” I looked into her everlasting eyes and found the strength to continue dreaming. I hated that she had such a powerful effect on me. “Look, your father’s company is a printing company. They can print your story and maybe you could make use of some of their contacts from publication houses and get your stories to them. It makes perfect sense to me.”
“You’re so damn frustrating you know.” That brought a radiant smile to her face for some reason. She knew that she won whatever battle we just had but I found solace in the fact that she could do this to me.
“It’s one of the reasons you love me.” She slowly inched her head closer to mine. Everything inside my yearned for touch right now. Our breaths danced together the closer we drew to each other until finally our lips met. The unblemished act of romance only served to assure our love for each other. The smoothness of the simple movement of our plump flesh drew us closer and closer into each other trying to reach the unattainable perfection of happiness but we enjoyed the journey we were being taken on right now. No overthinking happened on both our parts, it was as natural as the sun kissing the horizon before it disappeared for the rest of the day. It was perfect, she was perfect. “You need to get home.” I hardly registered her words. Her lips were still against mine as she spoke so all my mind focused on was the subtly of her plump skin brushing over mine causing my intense hunger for her to grow wilder with every syllable.
“Why?” I groaned out as I opened my eyes and found hers graciously looking back at mine.
“You and your parents are meeting some new clients tonight remember.” With that, my mood was officially spoilt. I reluctantly moved my head back to it’s original place on the grass as I stared up at the sky. Sometimes I just wished I could get lost in the vast ocean of space than be trapped in this bondage of life I found myself in. “I promised your mother that you’d be there. Don’t do it for the company or for your parents, do it for me.” She tried staring at me with those ‘puppy eyes’ but she could never master them. She always ended up looking like a dreary supermodel. It brought a smile to my face watching her attempt it though.
“Do you think I’ll get fired if I don’t show up tonight?”
“Let’s rather not find out.” Suddenly she began standing up and dusting herself off. Her white t-shirt was soiled with dirt from lying on the grass but she didn’t have any plans for the rest of the night, well not that I knew of, so she didn’t have to look neat. I didn’t really care how she looked anyway. As long as she had her picture perfect smile then I was happy.
“Tomorrow night you’re mine then.” I tiredly stood up as well then stretched my stiff muscles. My bones ached as renewed energy began coursing through my body again but I was used to it. My body was probably as weird as I was.
“No.” That was surprising. She didn’t want to go out with me. Did I do something to upset her? Was she busy tomorrow evening? I knew that she was in charge of an art exhibition tomorrow at the company she worked for, Le Belle Image, but that ended at 5 so she should be free tomorrow night. I don’t think I had anything planned for tomorrow night either so I don’t think that I was forgetting anything I hope.
“Why not?” We stood facing each other with the last autumn winds racing between the small space between us. I stood at least a head taller than her so she had to tilt her head to look into my eyes. The difference in our heights didn’t play any factor in our relationship though. It didn’t matter how much taller than her I was, she always brought me down to size, figuratively and literally if need be.
“Ask me out on a real date.” Now I was even more confused. We always went on dates and tomorrow night wasn’t going to be any different. What was the difference between the dates we went on and a ‘real date’ anyway? We went to restaurants, had picnics on the beach and in parks, went to all sorts of shows, went for long romantic walks through fields, forests or on the beach; if those aren’t ‘real dates’ then what was?
“What is your definition of a ‘real date’?”
“That’s not the issue here. We’ve been in this relationship for over 3 years now and you’ve technically only asked me out on 1 date.” That made everything clearer. It wasn’t the dates that were the issue thankfully because I honestly didn’t know what more we could do. We had fun no matter where we went or what we did as long as we did it together. “And before you say anything, ‘wanna go out?’ and ‘let’s go out’ doesn’t count as asking me out on a date.” Her stern expression and finger against my chest showed me how serious she was about this issue but I couldn’t help but smile, more out of relief that it wasn’t that big of an issue. I gently grabbed her prodding hand and closed the gap between us. I used my free hand and placed it on her waist without breaking eye contact with her.
“You’re definitely frustrating.”
“And you’re an idiot.”
“I’m your idiot.” A smile flashed across her face before she quickly replaced it with her stern expression but it didn’t go unnoticed. I slowly intertwined our fingers as we watched each other and let our wordless actions convey the message only our hearts could understand. Sometimes words just got in the way and we have to let our actions speak for ourselves and this was one of those moments. Our movements were gradual as if time itself had slowed down for us. Nothing around us mattered and everything seemed to drown out. The only sound I focused on was the breaths she was taking. The feeling of our pulsating hearts seemed to sync up with each others as her entrancing flowery scent filled my mind. Her stern expression suddenly softened and turned into a smile. “Stella O’Connor, will you go on a date with me?” My voice was enticingly soft enough for only her to hear.
“You almost gave me a heart attack with that question.” She released a nervous laugh but my confusion resurfaced again. Why would she be surprised by that question? It’s what she wanted right?
“You were so formal that I thought you were going to ask me to marry you.” That cleared up my confusion once again. I wasn’t thinking about that but it wouldn’t be a bad idea.
“So you are thinking about marrying me?” Confusion settled on her face now.
“Moments ago I asked you to get a house with me. Marriage is not that far of a step from moving in together.” Her confusion quickly changed into nervousness. I could see the fear in her eyes now. Did she not want to marry me? Was I not good enough for her? How the hell did asking her out on a date suddenly turn into this whole situation? “Stella, we’ve known each other since we were kids. There is nothing we don’t share or know about each other. We’re still young and have our whole lives ahead of us to get married and there’s no one else I would want to marry but for now I will settle on a date so I am going to try this again. Stella O’Connor, will you go on a date with me?” The uncertainty in her expression died down leaving her confidence intact now.
“Yes Hunter Lodge, I will go on a date with you.” I was honestly glad that we could get pass that and the stupid smiles on our faces confirmed that she was feeling the same way as well.
“See what happens when I ask you out on a date?” Both our laughter filled the air between us now. I was glad that the atmosphere around us became comfortable again.
“It was worth it wasn’t it?” She challenged me so she was definitely back to her old self again.
“Definitely worth it.” I agreed as we drew each other in again for a sweet but subtle kiss.
“You need to go. We can continue this tomorrow.” She broke the kiss then tried walking away but I refused to let go of her hand so she had to wait for me regardless of the rush she was in. She tried pulling me but she wasn’t really able to move me so I pulled her back towards me.
“Why do you always have to rush?” I asked her once she was by my side again. “Slow down and take in the beauty around us.” I wasn’t looking at her but I knew that she rolled her eyes at that.
“You’re such an old man.”
“Your birthday is in a couple of months as well so you’re not too far from being an old woman as well.” I reminded her.
“Until then you’re the only old person here.” She playfully replied. I turned to her as she turned to me and just smiled at each other. We were really stupid with each other at times but that was just a part of our relationship that both of us were comfortable with. No matter how stupid, weird or irritating I was; I found comfort in knowing that she wouldn’t want me to change and that she loved me despite it.