Word Count: 1,411
Summary: Waking up feels funny, a little.
Author's Note: For sistergrimm36 via the mighty alphabet fanfic meme! I actually wrote this a couple days ago, but in the midst of my academic devastation, posting did not really seem like a priority. But now, I'm freeeeeeee! Gloriously free!
Er. Here ya go.
Waking up feels funny, a little. It’s like an impulse tugging her out of sleep, this tiny insistent feeling, the distant unpinpointable cousin of “hungry now” or “need to pee.” She’s not hungry and she doesn’t need to pee, for the record. She’s just awake, totally awake. She looks over at Tom, who’s asleep on his back with his mouth open. He’s snoring lightly. Dork, she fondly decides, and kisses him on the forehead. He mumbles something and fidgets a little, but he doesn’t open his eyes.
The window’s open. Outside it’s sunny and filled with morning sounds. Her legs beg to be stretched all of a sudden, so she climbs out of bed and finds her underwear and pulls yesterday’s dress over her head. It’s white and the fabric is loose and light; the feeling of it is great next to her skin, and she’s happy that she’s not a caffeine person (Tom, just so you know, totally is, not that she hasn’t tried to get him to kick the habit like a zillion times) and she can wake up and be up and be happy. She’s not sure why she feels so good.
In the kitchen, she scribbles him a note to let him know she’s going out for some fresh air, and that if he’s lucky she might stop by somewhere and get coffee and muffins. She signs it ‘xoxo Isabelle’ and makes the last ‘e’ a little unnecessarily loopy just for fun. She slips her feet into her sandals and steps outside. It’s warm and calm, and the sidewalk rocks are full of heat that she can feel even through her shoes. It’s a nice neighborhood, which she guesses you can afford when you’re a millionaire literary genius. She still can’t believe she’s dating a millionaire literary genius. He doesn’t really seem like one. Just a guy. Just a really good guy. She really feels like he needs her, too, which is nice. Sometimes he looks at her with this look, this deep sad look that she still doesn’t really get, and she figures it’s probably a good thing he found her when he did. Artistic temperaments, or whatever. It’s not so good to be alone with that kind of brilliance. She knows it bugs him that she has to travel so much for work, even with the phone calls and the emailing and the texting. When he opened the door and saw her last night, all blah thanks to jetlag and airplane food, he looked at her like she was the greatest thing he’d ever seen, and hugged her so tight she still thinks maybe she’s lucky she got outta that one unscathed.
It’s nice, to have somebody need you like that.
She smiles at an elderly couple on the opposite sidewalk, hand-in-hand with one of those corgi dogs trotting in front of them. She starts to think Maybe someday and then catches herself, because she gets that the whole blissfully-in-love thing means she can be a little lame, but not that lame.
And then all of a sudden, she’s not alone anymore. There’s someone else walking next to her. It would maybe freak her out if it was anyone else, but this, it isn’t like that. Here, where she is, it’s the place he’s supposed to be. She gets that.
He’s wearing a suit – even at seven in the morning; the guy deserves an award or something – and he looks even more exhausted than usual. She feels like she hasn’t seen him in forever. It’s strange.
“Treatment time?” she asks, knowing the drill.
“Just about.” His voice is a good sound, like always. Hearing it makes her feel more at home in her own bones.
“You’re the boss,” she says obligingly. “But hey, can we walk slow?”
One corner of his mouth twitches in a little smile. “Sure.”
They fall into step next to each other. Her bare arm keeps brushing the sleeve of his jacket. She hums a little, a song she can’t quite place. She’s not sure where she remembers it from.
“You seem happy,” he remarks.
“Well, yeah, now that you’re here,” she says, very adoring-damsel, and gives him a teasing grin. He smiles back, but for some reason she feels guilty. Something in his eyes. She sobers up a little bit. “I am. I’m really good. How ‘bout you? I haven’t seen you in awhile.”
“I’ve been busy. Promotion at work.”
“Ooh, so now you’re really fancy and important?”
He chuckles a little, but he still sounds tired. “Something like that.”
“You still remember all us little people?”
“When I can.” He smiles at her, to prove he doesn’t mean it.
“Good.” She pokes his arm. “I miss you.”
“Well, yeah. You’re my you. You’re kind of an essential ingredient to the whole Isabelle Walker existence.”
He doesn’t answer, just looks at her. She feels like he must have something going on that she doesn’t know about. She wishes he’d tell her. Maybe then she could make him feel better.
“Don’t worry,” she adds, once it’s been quiet so long it gets awkward. “I’m not gonna cry or anything. Or if I do, I’ll be discreet about it. Fake some allergies. To …” She flounders, glancing around for inspiration, “—pavement.”
“Grass,” he supplies.
“Right,” she says, laughing, “maybe I don’t miss you, smart ass.” She fake-glares at him, and he cracks a smile. It’s enough to make her crumble. “No. I definitely do.”
“I miss you too,” he says. His voice is steady and everything, but for some reason she can just really tell that he means it.
“You better, old man,” she declares, and loops her arm through his. They walk in easy silence for awhile.
“I worry about you,” he says then.
“You shouldn’t,” she replies. “I am a grownup, you know. I can do the whole taking-care-of-myself thing.”
“I know,” he says after a pause. “But I worry.”
“That’s sweet. Hey, tell the promotion-givey-people they need to pay you more.”
“I’ll pass that along,” he says, smirking a little at the idea.
“Nothing but the best for my walking buddy here.” She rests her head briefly against his shoulder.
After awhile, he gently detaches his arm from hers. She guesses that’s the cue. “Time for the parting of the ways?”
“You’ve got someone to meet,” he replies. He sounds about as gung-ho on the whole thing as she is.
“Yeah,” she agrees, kinda reluctant. “He should be here soon.”
For a long time, he looks at her without saying anything. One of these days, she’s going to get him to tell her all the stuff he’s keeping to himself. Finally, he says, “Don’t mention that I was here.”
“You kidding? Cross my heart.” On a whim, she stands up on tiptoe and kisses his cheek.
“Take care, Isabelle,” he says, letting a little of his sadness sneak through.
“Always do,” she promises. “Don’t work too hard.”
He doesn’t say anything back. She figures it’s because he’s going to work too hard no matter what she says. She hopes he stops worrying about her, at least. She doesn’t want to be part of the reason he looks so drained. Besides, she’s happy now. There’s not much to worry about. She stands still and watches him walk away. He only turns back once. When he does, he waves. She waves back.
After he’s gone, she wanders on her own for another couple of minutes. She still likes the sun and the quiet, but she feels a little emptier now. She thinks that after this is over with, she’ll climb back into bed with Tom and curl up next to him. Try to get a little more sleep. She’ll even love the sound of his stupid snoring.
She turns a corner to find a black van parked along the sidewalk. The door opens too-loudly.
“Would you like a treatment?” asks the man she’s supposed to meet. His voice sounds odd, like he’s reading from a script. It’s like there’s nothing under the words.
“Sure,” she replies. (She doesn’t want to, really, but she knows this is what the tugging feeling meant.) “But let’s make it quick, okay? I promised my boyfriend I’d bring him some coffee. He’s a real grump in the morning.”
“Of course, Isabelle.” He offers a hand to help her up inside the van. She pretends not to see, and climbs in on her own.