After eating a breakfast of pancakes and pastries we’d spent the first day in San Francisco riding around Golden Gate Park and then across the Golden Gate Bridge. Then another tour of the city in a colourful VW camper van and gasping as we travelled down Lombard Street, twisting and turning and looking at all the beautiful flowers.
By the time we’d gotten back to Cynthia and Charles’ apartment, we were both dead on our feet.
The following day was much the same, out all day including catching a game at Oracle Park and by the time we got back to the apartment, we were hungry and decided to go out and get something to eat.
Sat facing out onto the street ahead, we ate noodles and talked about the weekend we’d had. I would forever be grateful to Oliver for bringing me here and smiling as I watched him come alive, surrounded by his family and doing the things he loved doing the most.
As I waited for Oliver to get dressed and ready to leave, his mom couldn’t help but whip out the baby books, showing me pictures of Oliver as a baby, then a toddler and all the way up to his teens and after, and finally when he graduated from college.
“Mom seriously—,” he grumbled as he pulled our bags out to the door.
“Oh, hush— I love showing you off,”
“Yeah but Sunday doesn’t need to see those,”
“Can a mother not show the woman he loves, the pictures I love?”
“Yeah, but maybe not when you’ve only spent one weekend with her,”
“And when would you say was the right time?”
“Oh I don’t know Ma, maybe when we get married,” he says letting the words slip as both our heads snap up to look at him from the books.
“Nothin’— come on Sun, we need to head back to the airport,”
“No, just— hold on, what did you just say?” She asks sternly, her demeanour changing quicker than I can keep up with.
“Nothin’— just a slip of the tongue,”
“You want to get married— again?”
“Mom not now,”
Her eyes fall to me, another flutter of butterflies in my chest, swallowing hard as she surveys me, “Has he asked you?”
“N-no— well— not in so many words,” I stammer as Oliver shakes his head, his hand swiping across his throat, quickly retrieving it when his mom’s eyes snap back to him again.
“Oliver Charles Ross, are you seriously telling me that you’ve tried to propose, that you want to get married— AGAIN!” She exclaims.
“Not that it has anything to do with you, but I’d thought about it, I love her Ma, you can’t help who you fall in love with,” I can feel my heart hammering in my chest, my palms beginning to get clammy as she just sits there, her mouth agape as he shuffles on his feet, but squaring his shoulders as he gestures for me to stand by him.
“It was uh— so lovely to meet you Mrs Ro— Cynthia, I’m just sorry we’ve not been able to say goodbye to Charles or Ashley before we had to leave,” I say as I edge towards Oliver. She doesn’t say anything, but after a moment, she stands herself up, blindly placing the book in her lap against the couch and walks towards us.
“I just— I don’t want you to make another mistake,” she sighs looking between us.
“If I were ever to ask Sunday properly, believe me, Mom it wouldn’t be a mistake,” he tells her, wrapping his arm around my waist, his lips curling into a soft smile before he places a kiss at my temple.
“It's just— I worry, but I'm glad to hear it,” she gently soothes, her shoulders relaxing, her body softening as she looks to me.
“Don’t go breaking his heart, otherwise you’ll have me to deal with,” she jokes as she wraps her arms around me.
“I promise I won’t,” I tell her and mean it, hugging her back.
She nods as she kisses my cheek, cupping my face as she smiles, “It was so lovely to meet you Sunday, I can see why my son loves you so much,”
“Thank you, but it’s all because of you that he treats me the way he does, looks after me the way he does,”
She smiles another smile, nodding as she finally wraps her arms around her son, “Take care of her and don’t leave it so long before you come back,”
“Yes Mom,” he chuckles as he hugs her again, “Say goodbye to Dad and Ash for me,”
“I will,” she promises as he picks up our bags. Cynthia walks us to the door and watches as we descend down the same concrete steps we’d climbed a couple of days before.
“Look after each other and stay safe,” she calls after us as we offer her a last wave goodbye.
“For what my mom said,”
“She was just concerned,”
“Yeah but she shouldn't be, you’re not her,”
“Who? Your mom?”
“No— Charlotte,” he sighs as we arrive at the airport. We drop off the rental car and wheel our bags to the terminal ready to catch our plane back to Seattle.
Another 2 hours later and we arrive, both tired and hungry and in need of a shower thanks to the air-conditioning on the plane.
As we pull up outside our apartment, Oliver spent most of the journey home quiet, barely talking after he’d apologised but I wasn’t angry. It hadn’t been his fault, besides his mom had been quite understanding in the end and even though I felt fine about it all, I could tell his frustration was still simmering under the surface. Stepping from the elevator, still nothing said between us, we wheel our suitcases down the hallway but both stop when Oliver holds out his arm.
“The doors open,” he whispers.
“What? What do you mean? How can it b—,” but he hushes me, holding his index finger to his lips. A panic begins building inside me, a rush of sensation, the feel of ice-cold sickeningly washes over me as he peers in around the door. He holds his finger up again, “Stand back and don’t move,” he warns and I nod, not saying a word as he steps inside.
Walking further into the apartment, he calls out but gets no answer, “Hello?” He calls out again and then that’s when I hear it. Shouting and muffled yells come from inside and I fumble as I try to get my phone from my pocket, calling 911 as I defy his instructions and rush inside.
I stop in my tracks, dropping my phone as I see Oliver on the floor, grasping onto his head as he yells at me to get out, but before I can do anything the two intruders come for me, both of them, their faces covered in black fabric and knock me to the floor as they make their escape.
“Sunday!” Oliver yells as I curl into a ball. Hearing the thuds of feet disappear.
Crawling towards me, his hand still holding onto his head, Oliver scoops me up into his lap, wrapping an arm around me as I begin crying, the adrenaline overwhelmed by shock as I finally look up to him, “You’re bleeding,”
“I’m fine,” he soothes but I can see the deep crimson red blood dripping onto his t-shirt. In haste, I climb from his lap and rush to the kitchen, grabbing as many paper towels as I can to try and help stop the bleeding, and then darting my eyes towards the door I scramble as I find my phone and pick it up, trying again to call 911 as he sits on the floor, a pained expression on his face as he tries to stop the bleeding.