William Anderson had been sitting in his Lexus on the corner of the familiar street for over an hour. A whole damn hour and he still hadn’t located the strength to get out of the car. His eyes had been rooted on the old Victorian terrace for every painful second. He’d avoided this part of town for over twenty years with the exception of one time. To bring her home.
Now, though, he had to face his past head-on. He had to get out of his car. He had to knock on that door. And he was dreading it.
There were no other options left for him, and boy had he searched high and low in his fraught mind for an out. Nothing. ‘Time to face the music, Will,’ he breathed to himself, sliding out of his car. Shutting the door softly, he started towards the house, annoyed that he was incapable of steadying his thumping heart. It was vibrating in his chest, echoing in his ears. Each step he took, her face was becoming clearer and clearer, until he was clenching his eyes shut in pain.
‘Damn you, woman,’ he muttered, shivering.
He found himself outside the house far sooner than he liked, staring at the front door. His poor mind was being blasted with too many bad memories to cope with. He felt weak. It wasn’t a feeling William Anderson often experienced because he made sure of it. After her, he made damn fucking sure of it.
Letting his head fall back on his shoulders and his eyes close briefly, he drank in the longest inhale of air he ever had. Then he raised a shaky hand and knocked on the door. His pulse accelerated when he heard footsteps, and he very nearly stopped breathing when the door swung open.
She hadn’t changed a bit, except now she must have been . . . what? Eighties? Had it been that long? She didn’t look at all shocked, and he didn’t know if this was a good thing or a bad thing. He’d reserve judgement until he left here. There was a lot to talk about.
Her now-grey eyebrows raised coolly, and when she started shaking her head mildly, William smiled a little. It was a nervous smile. He was beginning to shake in his boots.
‘Well, look what the cat dragged in,’ she sighed.
It’s perfect here. But it would be even more perfect if my mind wasn’t awash with worry, fear, and confusion.
Rolling onto my back in the queen-size bed, I gaze up at the skylights built into the vaulted ceiling of our hotel suite, seeing soft, fluffy clouds littering the bright blue sky. I can also see skyscrapers stretching up to the heavens. I hold my breath and listen for the now-familiar sounds of a New York morning – car horns, whistles, and the general hustle and bustle are all detectable from twelve floors up. Mirrored skyscrapers close us in, making this building seem lost amid the concrete and glass jungle. Our surroundings are incredible, yet it’s not what is making this nearly perfect. It’s the man lying next to me in the squidgy queen-size bed. I’m certain that beds in America are bigger. Everything in America seems bigger – the buildings, the cars, the personalities . . . my love for Miller Hart.
We’ve been here for two weeks now, and I miss Nan terribly but speak to her daily. We’ve let the city swallow us up and had nothing to do except immerse ourselves in each other.
My perfectly imperfect man is relaxed here. He still has extreme ways, but I can live with that. Oddly enough, I’m starting to find many of his OCD habits loveable. I can say that now. And I can say it to him, even if he still chooses to ignore the fact that he is crippled by obsession in most elements of his life. Including me.
At least there are no interferers here in New York – no one to try to take away his most prized possession. I’m his most prized possession. And it’s a title I’m thrilled to have. It’s also a burden I’m willing to shoulder. Because I know that the sanctuary we’ve created here is only temporary. Facing that dark world is a battle hovering on the horizon of our current almost perfect existence. And I hate myself for doubting the strength within me to see us through it – the strength Miller is so confident I have.
A mild stirring beside me pulls me back into the lavish suite we’ve called home since we arrived in New York, and I smile when I see him nuzzle into his pillow on a cute murmur. His dark waves are a mussed mess upon his lovely head and his jaw shadowed by coarse stubble. He sighs and pats around half asleep until his palm feels its way up to my head and his fingers locate my wild locks. My smile widens as I lie still and let my gaze linger on his face, feeling his fingers combing through my hair as he settles again. This has become another habit of my perfect part-time gentleman. He’ll twiddle with my hair for hours, even in his sleep. I’ve woken with knots on a few occasions, sometimes with Miller’s fingers still caught up in the strands, but I never complain. I need the contact – any contact – from him.
My eyelids slowly close, soothed by his touch. But all too soon, my peace is bombarded by unwelcome visions – including the haunting sight of Gracie Taylor. I snap my eyes open and bolt upright in bed, wincing when my head gets yanked back and my hair pulled. ‘Shit!’ I hiss, reaching up to begin the meticulous task of unravelling Miller’s fingers from my hair. He grumbles a few times but doesn’t wake, and I rest his hand on the pillow before pulling myself softly to the edge of the bed. Glancing over my naked shoulder, I see Miller lost in a deep sleep and silently hope his dreams are serene and blissful. Unlike mine.
Letting my feet find the plush carpet, I push myself up, having a little stretch and a sigh. I remain standing beside the bed, staring blankly out the huge window. Could I really have seen my mother for the first time in eighteen years? Or was it just a hallucination brought on by stress?