I watched him trying not to watch me. Difficult but not insurmountable, considering I was driving. Why he would want to do so was something I couldnít comprehend.
Surreptitiously I glanced in the mirror, ostensibly to see the cars behind. In reality to check whether I had a smudge on my nose or cheek. Nope, clean as a whistle.
Now what the hell was he doing? Twisting and turning like that. Do himself a mischief if he carries on.
"Got a tail?" he asked.
Ah. Now I see. "Nope. Just checking," I replied casually. He'd never know the real reason. "Nothing behind us but countryside."
A comfortable silence followed. Well, as much silence as you can have in a noisy two litre car going a good sixty miles per hour. I continued to sneak glances at him. He appeared to be deep in thought, pondering over some kind of problem as a frown developed on his expressive face. You know, sometimes he can be so difficult to read; other times, his heart is written on his face. This was obviously one of the difficult times. I didnít have a clue what was going on in that brain of his. No doubt he would tell me in his own good time.
The expression on his face intensified, and I could just see his tongue peeking out at the side of his mouth. Very child-like and immensely appealing. Cute.
"Pull over, up that lane there," he interjected, finger pointing towards said lane.
I got a grimace for that, thought he must be feeling ill or something. So I turned off into a narrow, muddy road enclosed by autumnal trees, with bronzy-reddy leaves still clinging on for dear life. Some of them hadnít made it, if the road was anything to go by. I'd always loved autumn; the colours; the smells; the weather, even. Wonderful season. I grinned to myself, and half expected him to issue a sarky riposte. He didnít.
"Where d'you want me to stop?" I eventually asked, breaking the silence.
He glanced behind and around him. "Here'll do."
I pulled over and killed the engine before turning to face him.
"I have to...I have something I want to say." For some reason, he looked...well, sheepish or...shy I would have said, if I hadnít known him any better.
"What?" I was curious now.
He looked up at me properly. For the first time in a fair while, I suddenly realised. In fact he hadnít really looked at me since that almost-disaster with the atomic bomb at that bowling alley. I knew it had shaken him because it certainly had me. Couldnít sleep for days afterwards.
Donít know whether he'd slept or not because...Christ, we hadnít seen each other outside work since that very evening. Almost two weeks ago, and we hadnít been out boozing, or on the pull. We'd not even been round to one another's flat to watch footy on the telly. Almost unheard of, for us that is. The lads back at HQ wouldnít believe it.
As he continued to look at me, one random thought hit me--he has beautiful blue eyes.
Shaken, I remained silent, waiting for him to speak.
"I almost lost you."
Whatever I expected to hear, that wasnít it. He continued, "Ten days ago. I almost lost you." There was a sort of desperateness about his words.
"You didnít. I'm here. Safe and sound, just like you. Here," I held out an arm, "touch me."
His face darkened. "Donít make jokes. Wasnít funny. A few more seconds--"
"--a few more seconds and I'd have lost you," I interrupted solemnly.
As we continued to gaze at each other, understanding pervaded my soul. Now I appreciated what he was saying. I repeated it in a hushed voice, "I almost lost you."
He reached out and squeezed my arm gently. "Glad I didnít," he smiled.
I smiled back, his relief and happiness almost tangible. "So am I. I really am." I stretched my own arm out and squeezed his thigh--the nearest part of his body available to me.
A glint of something indefinable sparked for just a second in the midnight blue eyes, then just as quickly disappeared. I couldnít have said for certainty it had ever been there.
"Let's go back home; my flat. Get a takeaway, watch some telly. Have a lazy evening, hmm?"
We both knew what was on offer, and his expression changed; softened, and he nodded.
We understood now. Finally.
I started the engine.
-- THE END --