Chapter 23 : Three Months Later
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Three Months Later
Dragging the back of my hand along my forehead to wipe the sweat away, I reached for the roll of Spello-tape behind me to seal the box shut. As I held down the flaps and taped them up, a knock resounded through the now-empty room.
“Have you got everything packed?” Dad asked as he folded his arms and leaned in the doorway.
I nodded as I stood up, my knees and lower back popping in the process. “Yep,” I responded, flashing a smile at him. “I think that’s everything.”
“Did you check the bathroom?”
Laughing, I rolled my eyes. “Yes, Dad, I checked the bathroom.”
“There’s nothing under the sink or in the cabinets. D’you want to know if I checked the ventilation?” I joked.
Dad held up his hands. “I’m just making sure you don’t forget anything.”
“It’s not like I can’t come back home and get it, Dad,” I reasoned as I kicked the box across the floor towards the door. “I’m not moving very far away.”
“But you’re still moving,” Dad pointed out, a slight frown marring his mouth. He met my gaze and added, “You do know that no one is forcing you out of the house, yeah? Just because you got a promotion -”
“-doesn’t mean I have to leave,” I finished for him, nodding my head. “Yes, Dad, I’m aware. I think you and Mum have told me at least a half dozen times a piece.” Reaching out, I put a hand on his arm and gave him another smile. “Don’t worry about me. I’m a big girl.”
“Even so, you’ll always be my little girl,” he said, placing his hand over mine and giving it a pat. He kept his hand over mine for a moment longer before removing it. “That being said, I’ll get the last box.”
Before I could protest, Dad flicked his wand at the box and levitated it out of the room. Rolling my eyes again, I waited until I heard his footsteps retreat down the hall before turning back to my room. My bedroom since I was six weeks old, I hadn’t known anything else. It was strange, packing up all of my belongings and moving them out, but it was stranger still to see just how small the room actually was. When I was a kid, it seemed impossibly large, a place where I could do anything, see the impossible, and be whomever I wanted. This room was my childhood and it tied me down to everything I knew, and now I was leaving it behind.
I took one last lap round the edge of the room, idly running my fingers over the faded purple walls. Though Dad had assured me numerous times that nothing would happen to my bedroom, I knew that as soon as I cleared off, Mum would be in here, picking out new colours for the walls and trying to decide what she wanted to do with the space. I didn’t mind - or at least I told myself I did. It was just a room, a space where I had grown up, had some decent memories…
Releasing a sigh, I crossed back over to the door and, with one last glance round the room, closed it.
When I entered the living room, Mum was sitting on the sofa with Jack in her lap, kissing his cheeks like she wouldn’t see him ever again. Jack, who had just discovered how to blow bubbles successfully, was blowing raspberries at her. I shook my head and laughed. Only one person could have taught him that.
“Are you all ready to go?” Mum asked.
I nodded. “Yeah, that was the last box.” I pointed over my shoulder to the fireplace through which Dad had just disappeared.
“So soon?” She frowned, rising to her feet. “I thought I would have more time with him.”
Jack blew another raspberry in her face.
“Why are you making such a big deal out of this? I’m moving out of the house, not out of the country. You’ll see him again,” I said as I prised Jack out of her arms and settled him on my hip. He latched onto my tee shirt, a small string of drool slipping out of the corner of his mouth. Wiping it away, I added, “In fact, I have a feeling you’ll be seeing more of him than you did when we lived here.”
“Well,” Mum said, mulling the thought over, “when you put it that way…I suppose it won’t be too bad.”
I smiled at her. “It’ll be like we never left!”
“Except it will.”
Sighing, I hooked an arm round Mum’s shoulders and pulled her towards me. “You and Dad worry too much. We’ll be fine. I promise.”
“You also promise to keep your goldfish alive and look what happened to that!”
I blinked. “I had a goldfish?”
Shaking my head, I shifted Jack on my hip and looked towards the fireplace. “I should get going. They’re probably waiting for me on the other side.”
Mum looked up at me, her eyes watering. “I wish you wouldn’t leave. You could always stay here.”
I resisted the urge to throttle both her and Dad. “All of my stuff is already moved out. And I can practically hear the cogs in your head churning. Have any ideas about what you want to convert my bedroom into yet?” I teased.
“Oh you!” Mum made a shooing motion with her hands and I stumbled over towards the hearth, using my free hand to reach into the jar of Floo Powder. Before I could shout the address of our new flat, Mum hurried forwards and planted a kiss on mine and Jack’s cheeks. “Take care, dear.”
“We will, Mum,” I assured her as I turned back towards the fireplace. Stepping onto the grate, I shouted our new address and threw down my handful of powder, the familiar sensation akin to travelling through a vortex pressing down upon my ears.
Thankfully, the journey ended quickly and I didn’t so much as tumble as trip out of the grate. As I stepped into the small, but comfy living room, Jack sneezed and took the liberty to wipe away the snot by rubbing his face on my tee shirt. He beamed up at me, his lips parting to show the small teeth just beginning to break through his pink gums.
There were several stacks of boxes scattered through the place along with several pieces of furniture including a worn leather sofa, a bookshelf, two mismatched end tables, and a worse-for-wear dining set. Something about the disarray made me feel more at home than I expected to feel; I smiled.
From the living room, I walked down the small hall and peered into the first bedroom, which was designated as Jack’s. Surprisingly, his cot was already assembled and pushed into the far corner of the room, just underneath the window. Several large piles of baby clothes along with toys and the like littered the floor, nearly obscuring it from view. I swallowed my growl. This was our first day in the flat; dastardly messes were more than allowed. Right?
Upon the sight of his toys, Jack started to squirm in my arms. It was difficult to maintain a hold on him anymore, so I set him down in his cot and picked up his nearest toy, which happened to be a plush dinosaur. He giggled in contentment and fell backwards, his feet up in the air and the muzzle of the stuffed dinosaur in his mouth.
I left Jack to his own devices and searched the rest of the flat, finding no one. Frowning, I went into the kitchen and looked on the fridge. Sure enough, there was a note attached that read, in familiar handwriting:
Gone to get dinner. Be back soon. ♥
Okay, so the heart was a bit much, but still, I couldn’t help smiling as I replaced the note with the magnet and trudged out of the kitchen, not at all looking forwards to unpacking. I sighed as I dropped onto the floor in front of the fireplace and pulled the nearest box towards myself. With my wand, I followed the seam of the Spello-tape and opened the box. It was full of flatware, none of the patterns matching.
I flicked my wand and levitated the box into the kitchen, following in its wake. I hated unpacking. It was almost as bad as packing, except without the afterwards cleaning. Sure, the boxes would have to be Vanished, but at least that was easy. Much easier than mopping the floors and scrubbing the baseboards, which, let’s face it, no one cared about anyway. Pushing a hand through my hair, I set the box down on the worktop and delved into it, pulling out a short stack of plates and opening a cabinet. There wasn’t much space available, so I’d either have to shrink them or we’d have to get rid of some of the dishes. It wouldn’t have been such a big problem if I wasn’t so rubbish at housekeeping spells.
Before I could grouse any further, the front door opened and the sound of someone shuffling inside met my ears. Again, a wide grin swept over my face, though this time it was accompanied by an excited flutter in the pit of my stomach. My hands started to shake with anticipation, which made the small stack of plates in my hands clatter together. I set them down so I wouldn’t drop them and have yet another mess to take care of.
A small gasp escaped me as a pair of warm, strong arms wrapped round my waist from behind and I was pulled flush against the hard line of his stomach. Before I could greet him, he dropped a series of kisses on the back of my neck, occasionally nipping and licking at my skin. I hummed in response and reached up behind me, threading my fingers through his hair.
“If you keep this up, James, I might start expecting it,” I said as one of his hands left my waist and trailed up my arm, leaving a path of raging fire in its wake.
James took my earlobe between his lips, nipped it, and whispered, his hot breath sending shivers and quakes throughout my body as it caressed my skin, “That is the idea.”
As nice as his kisses felt against the back of my neck, the need to feel his lips against mine was damn near unbearable. My fingers never leaving his hair, I twisted round in his arms so I was facing him, my chest flush against his; I could feel his heart beating rapidly and I grinned. Placing my other hand on the back of James’ neck, I pulled his face towards mine, not letting him say another word until he kissed me proper.
It wasn’t until oxygen became a necessity instead of a luxury that we pulled back.
He grinned at me, bending to lean his forehead against mine. “Hello,” he greeted a little breathless, that mischievous twinkle more prominent than ever.
I returned his smile, my pad of my thumb skimming over his now swollen bottom lip. “Hi,” I breathed, marvelling at the smoothness of his mouth. I kissed him simply because I could.
“What was that for?”
I lifted a shoulder. “I felt like it.”
“So you give into your every whim now, do you?”
“More or less, yeah.”
James cupped his hands round my face, the curve of his fingers conforming to my cheeks, and pressed a light kiss to my mouth. The kiss wasn’t heated; it wasn’t long and there was certainly no tongue, but it conveyed every bit as much emotion as a so-called passionate kiss might’ve. Maybe even more so.
My eyes fluttering in time with my heart, I threw his question back at him, though I sounded a lot more breathy than he had. “What was that for?”
“I don’t know.” He brushed the tip of his nose against mine affectionately. It was one of his stranger, yet oddly endearing habits I had discovered over the last few (blissful) weeks. “I guess I felt like it.”
I smiled, staring up into his face and wondering what I had done to deserve someone quite like him. “Whatever it was, you have my full permission to do it again.”
James laughed, a deep and pleasant sound that resonated through my chest. “Well, that’s certainly a start.”
And it was.
A/N: Ah, I always love a happy ending! You didn’t really think I was going to let my beloved James marry that wench of a woman, did you? Come on, now! I find your lack of faith disturbing.