What Doesn't Kill You

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Chapter 16

Lucky was stood at one end of the pool and Scout was at the other end. It was the end of November and Swansea was freezing with relentless rain and wind that might have taken you to the yellow brick road if you weren’t careful.

Scout’s knee had been given the all clear and she was allowed to try and strengthen it by running and swimming. Running had caused some pain and so despite the fact that it was freezing when they first took the plunge, Scout had chosen to move her strength training to the pool. Lucky joined her whenever he was free but that was more because he was a dirty pervert and less because he wanted to help her.

Things had been going smoothly between the pair. There were moments when fear seized them both and made it hard to breath. Moments where Lucky thought she would disappear without him. Moment Scout thought it would all go south.

For someone who hadn’t had a serious relationship, Lucky had done well. He continued to pop into the shop and took Scout on their Sunday brunch dates but they also went on dates and Scout had learned more about him.

She swam the length of the pool, towards her boyfriend, kicking her legs and feeling just how much easier it was compared to earlier in the month. When she reached Lucky he was grinning and gave her a kiss. It was wet from the bool and had the vague taste of chlorine.

“Babe, You’ve seriously improve,” he told her. Lucky had been there the first time when Scout had struggled. It hurt something deep inside him to see her frustrated and upset with her body. A body he’d grown to worship.

“Thanks. I think I want to try running again soon,” she told him brightly. “Swimming is getting easier so I must have built up some strength.”

“You sure about that?”

Scout nodded at him vigorously. It felt good to be moving again. She didn’t realise just how much she’d missed the freedom of movement until it was taken from her. “Yeah. I’ll take it slow.”

“You could try that couch to 5K thing.”

“I’ve heard about it. I’ll look into it.”

She could hear Ava in the back of her head telling her not to overdo it. She could cause herself another injury and Scout promised Ava she would look after herself. The worst thing was she had an in house spy and Lucky would report back to her if he saw she overdid it.

“I’ll race you,” Scout told him.

“Oh, you’re on.”

They aligned themselves with the wall and set off down the pool. Lucky had longer arms and legs so there was no surprise when he steamed ahead. Scout kept her focus on the wall at the other end and kicked as hard as she could. The sound of the splash of water around her was soothing.

Lucky beat her but Scout wasn’t far behind. She reached the wall and clung to it, taking in deep breaths before she smiled.

“You seem happy lately, sunshine,” Lucky commented. “You want to tell me something?”

“Just thanks to my other boyfriend,” she beamed.

“Ha. Ha. Stick to your day job.” He didn’t even like jokes about her with someone else.

“You don’t think I have a glittering future as a comedian?”

“Baby, you have a glittering future but definitely not as a comedian. Leave the laughs to me.”

Scout snorted a laugh and Lucky pulled a face at her.

They left the pool and headed to A Page A Day. Chris was seeing his wide so Scout was looking after the shop with Lucky helping her out. He put an effort in these days whenever he was around.

“Hey, Chris,” Scout greeted.

“Hey, Dad,” Lucky chimed after her.

“Hey, you two. How was the pool.”

Lucky hugged Scout close and said, “She probably won’t make the Olympic team any time soon.”

“Neither would you,” Scout told him.

“I have a better shot at it than you.”

“I didn’t mean to cause a domestic,” Chris laughed.

Scout walked around the counter, swapping places with Chris. He kissed her cheek and Lucky tutted. “Hand off, old man.”

“As if you would have stood a chance against me back in the day,” Chris told his son.

“It wouldn’t have been a difficult competition,” Scout teased.

“Babe!” Lucky whined and Scout blew him a kiss to be greeted with an eye roll.

“Have you asked her yet?” Chris asked. Lucky’s eyes went wide. Chris had barrelled in when he hadn’t been ready.

Scout piped up, “The answer to that is no. What is it you want to ask?”

“Oh,” Chris said. “I thought you said you were going to ask her.”

“I hadn’t got around to it yet,” Lucky said through gritted teeth.

“Well, that looks like my cue to leave. See you soon, Scout.”

“Bye, Chris.” The bell rang as he left the shop and Scout turned to her boyfriend who had turned an attractive shade of pink. “What did you want to ask me, babe?” She looked at the notepad where Chris had made a list of the books and quantities that needed to be ordered. She pulled the laptop used at work and started on the order. “Lucky?”

She glanced up to see him stood by the window display. Ove the past few weeks, Scout had added colour, paper planes and cranes. She changed the books in there regularly and set them up social media pages.

Lucky had opened the place because he’d always wanted to own a book shop. Reading had been something he’d enjoyed with his Mum and he wanted others to enjoy it. But the project had been a little lost since his Mum’s diagnosis and he’d left. Now that he was back on top of it and Scout was helping to turn it around, maybe they would get some younger customers through the door.

“Christmas.” He blurted out the word.

“Tree.”

“What?” Lucky turned and looked at her as if she’d lost her mind.

“I thought we were playing word association.”

He looked unimpressed by her quick wit and walked over to her. His mouth ran dry and it suddenly became uncomfortably warm. “Dad wants to know if you’d like to spend Christmas with us?” Lucky said. He was almost certain he was on the verge of an anxiety attack. “We’d visit Mum in the morning but then we’re back at ours. Michael will be there and… you don’t have to say yes.” He shifted his weight between both feet and then gave into his nerves. “You don’t have to say yes or anything. It’s no big deal.”

“Lucky, be honest with me.”

Scout had noticed that Lucky wasn’t great at expressing himself at times. He came across as confident and cocky but there were insecurities that laid underneath it all. He second guessed himself and she could see it happening now.

“I’d like you to come spend Christmas with my family but I’m worries you’ll think I’m rushing things or that you might not want to,” he mumbled.

“I work with your Dad and your sister is my friend and physiotherapist. I’ve also had dinner with your future brother in law and he’s seen me completely plastered.”

“When you put it like that…”

“And for the record, I would love to spend Christmas with your family.”

“You would?”

“But…” Lucky groaned and Scout continued, “It’s just me and my Dad. I can’t leave him.

Lucky looked at her for a few seconds before taking a step towards her. “Bring him with you.”

“What?”

“Bring your Dad to ours for Christmas.” Lucky didn’t want Scout to back out now she’d agreed. He was already thinking of the festive day with her around.

“I… I…” Scout stammered. She’d inadvertently met his family before she had even met him but introducing someone to her Dad was a little different. There was a small part of Scout that was glad Scott had never formed a proper bond with Jim. She was used to it being her and her Dad. She wasn’t sure how she’d feel with someone else in the mix. Especially if the left them the way her Mum had.

“You don’t want us to meet?” Lucky asked, crestfallen. He could understand her hesitation. The playboy persona was hard to shake. Scout was probably worried he didn’t quite meet her Dad’s standards.

The hurt on his face made Scout’s heart stop. “No. No, it’s not that.”

“Then what is it?”

“I don’t know. Putting out families together for Christmas feels like a pretty big step.”

“We’re rushing things?”

“No,” Scout mused. “I don’t think so.” And she meant it. It didn’t feel rushed. It would have happened eventually. Jim had been progressively noisier and noisier about her love life. That was partially thanks to Chris who filled him in on the things Scout didn’t. The only reason Chris knew was because apparently Lucky didn’t know how to keep his mouth shut. “Let’s do it. I’m sure Dad will be thrilled to have a Christmas where it isn’t just the two of us.”

A smile came to Lucky’s face and he cupped her cheek before kissing her. Any of the nerves she felt melted away with the gesture. She broke away from the kiss and gave his hand a squeeze before turning back to work.

Lucky passed in front of her to go and grab a tin of pain and a roller from the back room. They were redoing the kid’s section to look more friendly. “Do you think your Dad will like me?” he asked over his shoulder.

The question made her look up and raise an eyebrow. “Are you nervous to meet my Dad?”

He turned away from her and entered the children’s section so she couldn’t see his face. “No.”

“You’re a terrible liar, Lachlan James.”

There was a metallic pop as he took the lid off the tin of pain. “I’m not exactly the guy you take home to parents,” he admitted.

“Technically, I’m bringing Dad home to you.”

“You’re such a smartass.”

“You’re such a dumbass. You have nothing to worry about. I’m sure Dad will love you.”

At least, she hoped he would. Lucky was bubbly and talkative. She hadn’t met a person that didn’t like him. Jim just wanted a good conversation and someone who treated Scout right.

They finished up at the shop and parted ways. If she missed Lucky before it’d only been amplified since the got into a relationship.

Scout was helping out at her Dad’s salsa class and it would be a good chance to talk to him about Christmas while it was fresh in her head.

“Sway your hips,” she instructed loudly. Scout weaved in and out of the seniors in the dance studio. Her own lessons growing up where here and they was a heavy sense of nostalgia as she walked around surveying the dance moves of the old person. If any one of them popped a hip she was going to be out of the fast.

Half heartedly, she cha cha’d her way over to Jim. Her knee was still not quite strong enough but the fact she could do anything was a little lift.

“Can’t they salsa to slower music?” Jim complained.

“Impossible.” She stood beside him and did the movements. She watched as Jim nailed some of the moves and then fluffed the next few steps. “So, Dad, I was thinking about Christmas…”

“Already? We aren’t even in December yet.”

“Next week Dad.”

“What were you thinking? If you’re going to ask to be a princess I’m going to tell you the same thing I told you when you were five.”

“Dad, if you’re not careful I’ll put you in a home.”

“Sweetheart, I’ll break out. If it’s not about you being a princess, what is it? Oh, you aren’t about to tell me that you aren’t going to be home?”

Scout’s heart tugged at how dad he seemed. “Don’t be silly. Where else would I be apart from with you?” Jim took her hand and gave it a squeeze before continuing to try and dance. “But what would you say to the both of us spending it with other people?”

“Clarice asked us over for Christmas?”

“Not Clarice. I… Lucky asked us to spend Christmas with him and Chris and his family.”

Jim stopped dancing but Scout continued, hips swaying and looking ahead. Her Dad gently caught her arm to stop her and said, “You want us to spend Christmas with your boyfriend and his family?”

“I want us to spend Christmas with your friend and his family. One of which I just so happen to be dating.”

“Your boyfriend would like our families together over the holidays,” Jim beamed.

“Don’t make a big deal out of this.”

“I promise I won’t.”

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