He's here and he's real, but you were too
And every once in a while I think about you
- Adapted from Art Garfunkel
Remus. He was all she could think of. Remus, Remus, Remus. Just thinking his name was enough to make Emilie shiver. She closed her eyes for a second and sighed, trying to get her thoughts organized. The bus’s heating was turned on a bit too high, though, and the constant blabbering of the two old ladies behind her distracted her too much. Emilie reached up and pressed the red button above her seat, getting off the bus two stops early – the walk home should clear her mind.
A cold October wind whirled through the trees, stripping them bare, rattling the window panes of the houses she passed. Autumn leaves were strewn across the pavement and gutter. She kicked some of them up, mildly irritated when a small, red oak leaf stuck to her shoe.
Remus. Thinking of him made her stomach tighten. It made her smile – inexplicably so. Thinking of Remus made it difficult to breathe. Remus, Remus, Remus.
She stood still, briefly closed her eyes and inhaled the crispy autumn air. David, she thought. David can make me shiver. David can make my stomach tighten. She concentrated and pictured him in her mind, his brown curls and his dark eyes.
Emilie climbed up the stairs to her flat, halting when she reached the front door. Her hand held on to the handle, the knuckles whitening as she tightened her grip on the metal and rid her mind of any lingering thoughts about Remus. Only then she turned the key in the lock.
David was sitting on the couch, the remote control in his hand. He looked up when she entered and smiled. “Missed you today,” he said. His gaze drifted back to the telly for a moment, alerted by the football commentator, who had cried out in disbelief at a barely-missed goal.
“Missed you, too,” she said automatically, unbuttoning her winter coat. She smiled a little, but it felt forced, so she turned away from him and lowered her bag to the nearest chair.
“There’s macaroni and cheese in the fridge,” he told her. “And some meatloaf, too.”
She opened the fridge and found a small Tupperware bowl on the top shelf. “I’m not too hungry,” she said, and she took a bottle of milk out of the fridge instead. “It’s too late to eat. But thanks, anyway.”
David smiled at her. “No problem.” He watched the match for a little longer, then turned back to look at her. “How was your day?”
A pang of guilt shot through her, but she determinedly ignored it. “It was all right,” she said, deliberately omitting any mention of her encounter with Remus. “Yours?”
“Dreadful,” he grimaced, but the smile he was trying to hide broke through eventually. “Mrs Gardner kicked my arse for being late after all.”
Emilie couldn’t help but smile. “I told you so,” she grinned, sitting down next to him.
He wrapped his arm around Emilie’s shoulder and pulled her close, kissing her neck softly. “Hmm, but she loves it, regardless,” he said stubbornly.
Emilie smiled. “I’m sure she does,” she said, just enough sarcasm in her voice for him to pick up on it.
“Hey,” he protested, and he buried his nose in her hair, his skin tickling hers.
She smiled and softly pushed him away. “Well, if it’s any consolation – I sure do,” she said. His mock-frown dissipated, a tender smile appearing on his lips when she added, “Very much, in fact.”
Kissing her gently on the lips, he drew her closer. She settled in his embrace, turning her attention to the telly. “What’s on?”
“Arsenal’s playing Manchester. The commentator says it can still go either way.”
Emilie nodded but she couldn’t get herself to care, distracted by the blooming rose on top of the telly. She withdrew herself from David’s arms and took the vase from the T.V., studying the flower for a moment.
David’s eyes followed her as she moved into the kitchen. “Is this a new one?”
She filled the vase with fresh water, her eyes meeting his briefly. “Yes,” she lied, feeling slightly guilty. “How’d you know?”
“It’s much darker,” he said, watching closely as she put it back on top of the telly. “The rose you got last week was almost white, wasn’t it?”
Smiling weakly, she nodded and kissed him on the nose. “I think I’m going to bed,” she said. “I’m tired.”
“I’ll be right there,” he said, checking the telly. “Twenty-six more minutes.”
Emilie nodded. “See you in a few, then.”
She brushed her teeth, changed into her nightgown and crept under the covers slowly. She laid in the quiet of the bedroom – the occasional sound of the football match reaching her ears – and started unconsciously comparing David to Remus, berating herself whenever she caught herself doing it.
By the time David tiptoed into the dark room, she had come to the conclusion that she was well-off with David, and that she should learn to appreciate what she had, rather than desire what she couldn’t have. Despite of this conclusion, she didn’t respond to his voice when he said her name, quiet and uncertain. When she felt the mattress shift under his weight, she held her breath and kept her eyes shut.
“Em?” His voice was soft. He tentatively touched her shoulder. “Are you asleep?”
She didn’t respond to his touch, pretending to be asleep. Only when he had settled down under the covers, his arm circling her waist, did she dare to open her eyes, and long after he had fallen asleep, she still found herself wide awake.