Just Not Mine(133)

By: Rosalind James

“You should be an actor,” she said, trying to joke, because she wasn’t sure where this was going, and she so desperately wanted it to go in the right direction, “the way you remember my lines.”

He didn’t respond to that. “Maybe,” he said, “what we need to do is try that. Try living in domestic bliss next door to each other for as long as we need to. For as long as it takes for me to convince you that I can love you, that I will love you, and that this is the real thing. That this is forever. I know it already, but I can see you need some telling, and some showing, too, and I’m willing to keep telling you and showing you until you believe it. All I’m asking is that you give me the chance to try, and that you try too. And that, whatever happens,” he said, his face filled with so much tenderness, “whatever happens, you promise me that my rubbish bags are safe.”

She was laughing, and she was crying, and she was in his arms.

“So is that a promise to try?” he asked after he’d held her and kissed her and wiped her tears away.

“That’s a promise,” she told him, both hands on his face, her fingers smoothing over the dark rasp of his beard, and she’d never wanted anybody or anything more in her life. “To keep your rubbish bags safe, and you, too. To keep you safe, and cared for, and loved. That’s my promise to try.”


One year later

Another December day, a fair one this time, the pohutukawa just coming into bloom in Katikati, and there was music in the air.

“Are they coming?” Charlie asked for what must have been the tenth time.

Hugh looked down at his brother, whose hand was going up to tug at the unfamiliar constraint of the gray necktie for what must have been the twentieth time, and reached out himself to give the thing a quick straighten. Charlie was nervous about doing this, and about the dance he was doing later, too, he guessed. His brother tap-dancing at his wedding reception. That was one he could never have imagined a couple years ago, and here it was, and how lucky was he?

“Wait,” he said. “Almost. Got the rings for me?”

Charlie swallowed with nerves, gave a quick bob of his head. “Yeh.”

“Then we’re all good,” Hugh said. “Hang in with me here, mate.”

The music changed, and he looked up fast and saw his sister standing at the end of the aisle, clutching her bouquet, saw the figure in ivory leaning down, a graceful shape, to give a tug to the skirts of the pale green dress Hugh hadn’t yet been allowed to see. He saw a hand lift a veil for just a moment to allow a kiss on Amelia’s cheek, and could imagine the smile, the encouraging word before Amelia had turned to face him, had started her slow march down the aisle, concentration evident in every fierce line of her thirteen-year-old body. Josie’s maid of honor.

And this was it. This was the day. The villa next door was on the market again, because when he and Josie came back from their three-week honeymoon in the Cook Islands, she wouldn’t be living there anymore. The kids would have another Christmas with Josie’s parents, her mother would be spoiling the mokopuna, truly hers now, with chocolate fish every day, no doubt, and then they’d be together. All of them. A family, complete at last.

His sister continued her achingly slow progress down the aisle, and Hugh waggled his fingers at her, got a nervous little waggle in return, and offered a smile to his mum, sitting in the front row with Aunt Cora and her Henry. However much any of them had to give now, it was going to be all right, because he and Josie had enough. He and Josie had it all.

Everything was coming together, except Dr. Eva, because Dr. Eva had disintegrated about as thoroughly as a woman could. She’d met her nemesis at last in the cliffhanger to end all cliffhangers, to be revealed in the first episode of the following season, when her obsession with her brilliant colleague had reached crisis point, the woman scorned had demanded revenge, and a plot had been hatched involving a highly improbable assassin and a car bomb gone horribly wrong.

Dr. Eva was no more, because the new series had been cast by the network, Josie’s script for the pilot was being refined even now by a team led by Rose, wooed from Courtney Place as head writer to everyone’s satisfaction, and the men of a fictional Northland town weren’t going to know what had hit them.