"THREE days." Damien said cheerfully, leaning sideways to see the mirror while he fastened his tie. "Monday morning, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday morning."
His fingers deftly flipped the tie over, pulled it through and slid the knot into perfect position.
"Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays you take OFF. Finito. End of story."
"I've got WORK to do, I'm never going to fit ANYTHING in to two mornings and two days!"
"I'm sure you'll work something out."
"That's the condition of you working. And I don't want to hear any more about it. If you want to go back to work before Christmas, you need to make your mind up to those hours."
I dropped back on the bed, scowling at him as fiercely as is possible at seven am in the morning. Damien pulled his jacket on and leaned over the bed to kiss me, taking his weight on his knuckles.
"Cheer up chicken. I'm taking your car, I'll drop it into the garage this morning and get the light fixed. Have a good day, I'll call you at lunchtime."
The door shut downstairs and I heard him whistling on the drive as he unlocked his car, obviously totally unphased by his aggravated, distressed and thoroughly hassled boyfriend. He was beyond belief. He'd even left the tv on downstairs, chattering to itself.
Actually, he'd done that deliberately: with his current demands that I stayed in bed until nine, I liked the background noise in the house. This morning however it irritated the living daylights out of me. I rolled out of bed and headed downstairs, past Anastasia who stopped washing herself, took another look at me and fled for the kitchen and the cat flap. It was SO stupid. I'd worked for 5 days a week since I left university at the age of 21. I'd frequently worked MORE than 5 days a week. Okay, so I'd had a bad few weeks of asthma this winter, but that was NOT my fault and certainly had nothing to do with my work.
This was just Damien Mitchell, doing what he did best.
And he was going to drive me around the twist if he didn't put a sock in it soon.
Livid, I snatched the remote control from the neat little box Damien insists we keep the remotes in - what NORMAL person keeps their remotes in a box??- and clicked the tv off. And then hurled the remote down, shying it off the carpet instead of returning it to its box.
The remote bounced beautifully off the carpet. It ricocheted straight up again at a steep angle and crashed- hard- into the glass top of the coffee table.
There was a loud and shocking sound and the glass top disappeared.
I looked blankly at the table for a while, before a flicker at the window made me glance around. Anastasia, peering in at me with a NOW-Look-What-You've-Done expression. Dry mouthed, heart thumping, I stepped cautiously forward to inspect the damage.
The glass circle was well and truly shattered beyond repair. The pieces were large but there was no possible way of fixing them discreetly back together.
I was SO dead.
Once Damien knew that this particular breakage had occurred through me- dropping- the remote, he'd want to know why. And once he discovered it had been a gesture of frustration, he was likely to start using emotive terms like 'tantrum' and become very intractable. The last time I'd broken something in the line of frustration the outcome had been distinctly ugly.
There was only one solution here.
I left the glass where it was and headed upstairs, finding clothes as quickly as possible. Ikea stocked our table, and they would stock the glass too. All I needed to do was to get a new sheet of glass and replace it. The whole problem could just vanish quietly into the dustbin and Mr Mitchell need never have to worry about it.
Anastasia was still hiding outside when I took Damien's car keys, took his gleaming Laguna off the drive and headed for Ikea.
Strictly speaking, I wasn't supposed to go to Ikea on my own. I'd suggested it once before when Damien was too busy to go with me and he'd said, flatly and immediately, No Way.
"It's in the middle of nowhere." He'd said when I'd argued. "For a start you've got to drive all around Wembley on your own and it's a hideous part of London to drive through even if you know it well. And it's a tangle of industrial estates and one way systems. Take a wrong turn and you're lost in some very nasty areas where no one's going to see what happens to you. I hate driving there alone and I drove around London for years. No, wait until I can come with you."
But that was nearly six months ago, and Damien was given to being overly cautious anyway. I knew the way, I wasn't going to make any mistakes and I could be home and fine in time for his phone call at lunchtime. No stress to anyone.
The motorway south was fairly quiet, I got down to the edge of London without any problems, and then negotiated the busy tangle of roundabouts and dual carriageways around the rush hour's zooming traffic. It was approaching nine thirty when I turned into the rabbit warren of industrial estates at the back of Wembley arena, and after a few false starts and wrong turns, found my way into the Ikea carpark. There was no room by the store, I ended up having to head into the multi storey, which I never liked as it was dark and again very close to the industrial estates. The store however wasn't too busy. Within half an hour, I had my glass, I headed happily back to the car and then spent some minutes wondering where it was. It was only when I remembered that I was driving Damien's car that I found it. One dark blue Laguna. I propped the glass carefully against the car and felt through my pockets for the keys.
I searched again more thoroughly, heart sinking.
I scouted all around the car. No sign of them. Finally I picked the glass up and walked right back around the store. Well, Ikea's not exactly a corner shop and I'd done a fair amount of wandering and sight seeing; there was a lot of it to cover and a lot of places where the keys could have fallen.
I found no keys.
Somewhat panicky now, I headed back into the car park to have one last look around. It wasn't so much the keys themselves- Damien was pretty much innured to the idea of keys being mislaid, we had spare copies of everything- it was that in order to GET the spare keys-
I was going to have to ring him and tell him where I was.
I propped the glass against the car again, stomach full of butterflies, and gave it some careful thought. There HAD to be another and better option to that.
I couldn't think of one.
I was trying, hopefully, to prise the door open when a large man in a denim waistcoat and a pierced nose stepped over the barrier and wandered over to me.
"What's the problem mate? Locked your keys in?"
I gave up and wiped my hands, trying not to swear. "Lost them. I can't find the damned things."
It was a rough, but sympathetic sound. The man glanced around, then pulled a piece of wire out of his pocket.
"Here. Move over."
I stepped back and watched, awed, as the man slipped the wire down the inside of the window and jiggled it. A minute later there was a neat click and the man opened the door.
"Got spare keys at home?"
"Yes- but that's miles away. Thanks, I really appreciate-"
I stopped, slightly taken aback as the man felt under Damien's steering wheel and then yanked two wires down into view, one of which he broke. Before I had time to protest, he stripped the two wire endings, touched them together and the motor coughed and chugged into life. Smiling, the man wound the two of them together and got out of the driver's seat.
"THANKYOU." I said in huge relief. "What do I do?"
"Just pull the wires apart when you get home. Then call the AA out and they'll fix it for you- sure you've got spare keys there?"
Yes. I even knew where they were. Throbbing with relief I dropped into the driver's seat.
"Thankyou SO MUCH. You've saved my life, I'm not kidding."
The man paused, scratching his nose hopefully. "Not going near Watford are you mate?"
Well I could hardly say no. He HAD just fixed the car for me.
"Yes, going past the M1 junctions anyway-"
"Great stuff!" The man jogged around the car and opened the passenger door. Then picked up the wrapped glass.
I took it from him and laid it tenderly in the back seat.
The man's name was Clive and he was an HGV driver I discovered as we headed towards Watford. Apparently, once he'd taken his load through to London, he preferred the economy and discomfort of hitch hiking home and keeping the cash his company allocated him for travel for more useful things. I didn't inquire too closely as to what they were. At the point he mentioned hitch hiking I DID feel a certain slight jar.
I wasn't really supposed to pick hitch hikers up. Ever. Under any circumstances. I seemed to remember the phrase "I promise" being in there somewhere too when Damien issued that edict….. but then Clive wasn't a hitch hiker, I did know him. And this was something else Damien didn't really NEED to know about.
I dropped Clive off at the nearest junction to Watford city centre and carried on down the motorway towards home, heart lightening. It was eleven am, the glass was fixed, all I needed to do was sort the car out and everything was fine again.
Once home, I called the AA who were very obliging and turned up within an hour. The man smirked when I explained the morning to him and rewired Damien's car, leaving no trace. I took the glass into the house, placed it happily in the wooden frame where it rested leaving NO incriminating evidence whatsoever, and then proceeded to clean up the fragments of the earlier glass.
I hoovered twice.
I even wrapped the glass up in a cardboard box and covered the whole thing with half a roll of sellotape before burying at the bottom of the bin. Even forensics would have trouble finding evidence of this one. I was home, dry and safe and very thankful when Damien rang at lunchtime. He seemed definitely pleased with the way my mood had lifted.
I was asleep on the sofa when he got home. I heard the door unlock in some kind of dream, and rolled over, stretching. Anastasia hit the ground with a disgruntled thump.
There was something about the tone of his voice. I turned over, peering at the door. Damien appeared a moment later, looking very quizzical.
HOW did he know?????????????????
There was NO evidence. NONE. I looked hastily at the table but it was STILL intact.
Damien leaned on the doorframe, folding his arms.
"Whose is the car on the drive and where is mine?"
I gazed at him, wondering when he'd flipped. Obviously he was projecting, and it was HIM needing the three day working week.
"It's yours- the Laguna-"
"No." Damien said simply, straightening up, "Mine is a T registration car. The car on the drive has an X registration number, which is NOT mine, and it's a limited edition model."
I looked at him blankly.
"Where's MY car?" Damien said again gently and more clearly.
"That IS your car!"
"Darling it's not, I promise you."
I did a strangled fish impersonation. Damien took my hand, pulled me gently up off the sofa and outside after him, pausing in the hallway to tell me to put shoes on. I trailed him out on to the drive where he opened the driver's door and sat down to sort through the glove compartment.
"Where did you go today?"
"You obviously went somewhere Nick, the car's still unlocked."
And the spare keys were still in his desk since I'd forgotten to get them.
Damien shut the glove compartment and looked at me, waiting. I went slowly and hotly scarlet, from the nape of my neck to the top line of my forehead.
"I lost the keys.." I eventually mumbled. "I came back to the carpark and couldn't find them anywhere- this guy came over and helped me open the car -"
Which didn't explain why the damn thing had metamorphosed- ah.
Damien nodded slowly, looking resigned.
"There were obviously two blue Lagunas in the carpark and your friend broke into the wrong one for you."
This was not looking good.
Damien got out of the car, shutting the driver's door and heading for the boot.
"Which carpark was it?"
He opened the boot and sorted through. I cleared my throat. Damien shut the boot again, holding a brief case which he flipped open.
He probably wasn't going to take this very well.
I looked at the dark head bent over the brief case, calm hazel eyes checking the contents, tie yanked loose from the collar, his immaculate suit still with it's knife edge creases- Damien looked up, noticing my silence, and his eyebrows became mutely inquiring.
I swallowed carefully.
"WEMBLEY?" Damien repeated, startled. I twisted my hands together, trying to knot the fingers.
"The carpark at Ikea-"
There was a short silence, then Damien returned the briefcase to the boot with an exasperated sigh.
"What on EARTH were you doing at Ikea?"
THAT one could come later. I shrugged, awkwardly.
"I just felt like………"
"I've TOLD you NOT to go there alone. Haven't I?" Damien said sternly.
"Yes….." I admitted.
"It's NOT a safe place to be at the best of times, what on earth possessed you to go there this morning? If you're not fit enough for work you are CERTAINLY not fit enough to drive sixty miles and shop, are you?" Damien took my arm, steering me ahead of him into the house. He shut the door behind us and picked up the phone.
"How did you get the car home? Did you get it towed?"
"The guy that opened it knew how to start it without keys-" I began to explain, "I drove it home, it was fine-"
"You HOTWIRED the car?"
Damien put the phone down again to Look at me in a way I didn't like at all.
"You didn't call me to explain about the keys, NOR called the AA for help despite the amount we pay them for membership, but you allowed a total stranger to HOTWIRE my car?"
Is it the Navy who say do what you like with a man's wife, but NEVER mess with his car?
"It wasn't a stranger," I said in what I hoped were reassuring tones, "He was very nice-"
"WHO was?" Damien demanded.
"Clive broke into the car and fiddled the wires for you?"
I felt he was being rather slow on the uptake about all this. Damien folded his arms.
"Who or what is Clive?"
"He came over and asked to help- he's a driver, he was on his way home-"
"So you let this total stranger hotwire the car."
"He wasn't a stranger, he lives in Watford." I protested. "I talked to him long enough to know he was allright-"
"Nick he could have told you anything!" Damien said exasperatedly. "If he's able to break into and hotwire a car, he's obviously not the local choirmaster, is he?! You have NO way of knowing if any of it's true!"
"It WAS true, I took him to Watford!" I retorted.
Damien's eyes steadied.
"You TOOK him to Watford?"
"You GAVE this man a lift?"
"I-" I began assertively, and trailed off. Damien waited until he and I were both sure that was the end of that statement, then he said gently,
"Nicholas, what do I say about hitch hikers?"
"He WASN'T a hitch hiker, I thought about that!" I argued. Damien shook his head.
"He was a total stranger, who asked you for a lift."
"He HELPED me!"
"Yes," Damien said wryly, "He helped you hotwire what you thought was my car!"
Damien shook his head again and picked up the phone.
"Is there anything else I ought to know?"
No, he knew QUITE enough already. I watched him apprehensively as he dialled and spoke to the police.
He's seriously good at this kind of thing. I knew from experience: by the time he'd explained this situation with his usual easy charm, the police would be quite satisfied. In his voice, the presence of someone else's car on our drive sounded perfectly rational. He quoted a licence plate number over the phone and a few minutes later said cheerfully,
"Thankyou very much for your help. Yes, of course we'll cover the expense of towing, I'd be very happy to get it returned as soon as possible this evening. Yes, I'll be retrieving my own vehicle immediately. Thanks again."
I looked at him hopefully as he put the phone down. He opened his desk and took out the spare keys, then picked up the phone again.
"Hi- Allen? I need to beg a serious favour of you and Robin."
I listened, stung, to the arrangements he made. Robin would come to pick him up in a few moments, bringing Allen who would stay with me………
"I DON'T need a babysitter!" I said hotly as soon as he hung up.
Damien simply looked at me, eyebrows raised.
He can make SPEECHES with those eyebrows.
"That is NOT what you've proved so far today!" he informed me politely. "At this moment in time, leaving you alone for five minutes seems like pure insanity. Upstairs with you my lad, and get yourself ready for bed please. Now."
In that tone, and with that expression on his face- I was less than inclined to argue, despite it being only twenty past five in the evening. I fled upstairs, stomach now doing it's best to climb out of my throat.
Damien followed a few minutes later and stood over me while I hurriedly scrambled into pyjamas and under the covers. He drew the curtains over the window, pointedly unplugged the tv and changed his jacket and tie for one of his scruffier sweaters.
"Will the carpark still be open?" I said very tentatively. Damien yanked the sweater down and took a jacket out of the wardrobe.
"I would have thought so. I'm a little more doubtful about what state the car will be in after sitting around that particular carpark all day. Whereabouts did you park?"
"In the multi storey." I confessed.
"The other carpark was full!" I pleaded. Damien stooped to kiss me, giving me an extremely sinister look as he straightened.
"We've got an awful lot to discuss once I get this car home my boy."
There was a knock at the door. Damien pulled the duvet over me.
"Behave. I won't be long."
I heard the murmur of voices downstairs, then the door shut and a moment later a car pulled away.
I knew I was supposed to stay in bed. Goodness knows I was in quite enough trouble. I lay, heart thudding, mouth dry, trying not think about how much trouble.
It was hopeless of course. I slid out of bed a minute later and moved very cautiously down a stair at a time. Allen was sitting at the kitchen table, drinking tea and reading a newspaper. He looked up when he heard me and gave me a sympathetic smile, but put the paper aside.
"Damien sent you to bed, didn't he? Back you go then."
"I just-" I began helplessly. Allen shook his head.
He was no Damien but I knew that tone of voice. With no other option accessible, I dissolved into tears. Allen got up and gave me a hug, rubbing my shoulders until I calmed down a little.
"Go on. You don't need Damien any more aeriated, do you?"
No, most definitely not. I went with him back upstairs and he sat on the edge of the bed, handing me a tissue from the box on the dresser. He's a good listener, Allen. I ended up blurting the whole sordid story out to him. From the thrown remote control, right down to Damien shocking the living daylights out of me with the revelation about the car.
"So he's going to kill me." I said dejectedly at the end of it all. Allen shook his head soothingly.
"No he won't."
"He's NUTS about driving to safe places, AND about parking in multi storeys, but there was nowhere else to park!"
"Have you told him all of this?" Allen asked gently. I shook my head, still sniffling.
"Not about why I went to Ikea. Or about breaking the table."
"The best thing you can do then is be very honest with him."
That was NOT going to prevent him throttling me.
I heard the car turn on to the drive just before seven. Allen's voice was audible outside for a few moments, then the front door shut and the car pulled away. I heard the familiar crash of keys hitting the key dish on the shelf, and a few moments of footsteps in the hall, then I heard the first creak of Damien headed upstairs and my heart made a spirited attempt to exit via my throat. There was no point whatever in pretending to be asleep. I lay where I was and tried to gather my nerve. Damien appeared in the doorway, pulling off his jacket. I watched him hanging it in the wardrobe, trying to swallow on the thick silence, then he sat down at the foot of the bed and folded his hands between his knees, looking at me.
I swallowed a few more times.
"Was the car okay?" I hazarded. Damien nodded.
"Fine. And the garage is transporting the other car back to the poor man it belongs to. You do realise you were VERY lucky not to be arrested for car theft today? He'd reported the car stolen at about the same time you were driving it."
"I didn't realise it wasn't yours." I pleaded. Damien shook his head.
"Nicholas, when you didn't have the keys, the LAST thing you should have done was driven it! Why on earth didn't you call me?"
"Because I wasn't supposed to be at Ikea." I mumbled.
"And you were so worried about what I'd think of that that you let a total stranger break into my car- or what you THOUGHT was my car-" he amended, seeing me about to protest, "and hotwire it, and then you happily drove without a key in the ignition sixty miles home? That was SO much better than calling me?"
I curled up into a ball, hugging my knees as I summoned up the courage to do this. There was no point in holding onto any secrets now, he might as well know the full, awful picture.
"I broke the glass in the table, I had to go to Ikea to replace it."
Damien looked at me curiously. He knew as well as I did that I would never be at all nervous admitting a genuine accident to him.
"How did the glass get broken?"
I hid my face in my knees, seriously embarrassed now as well as miserable.
"I sort of threw the remote and it bounced up off the carpet."
"What were you doing throwing it?".
"I was sort of fed up about not going back to work."
"I see." Damien said dryly.
After a few more minutes I risked coming out from behind my knees far enough to see him.
He'd been waiting for me.
"So," he said mildly, holding my gaze, "I make that a grand total of one tantrum leading to broken glass; one trip to Ikea which you KNEW you weren't allowed to do alone; parking in a multi storey which you know you're not allowed to do; allowing a total stranger to hotwire the car AND driving it home instead of calling me AS you knew you should have done; and THEN giving a lift to a hitch hiker. WHICH you know you're not allowed to do. All in aid of concealing from me the tantrum and the breakage. Is that everything?"
I nodded very slowly. Damien looked wry.
"You've had a busy day. You've also been so lucky I can't believe it."
Lucky? Was he kidding?
Apparently not, his eyes were perfectly serious and quelled the outrage in me in a nanosecond.
"You could EASILY have got yourself into real trouble today, driving or with letting that man into your car. OR getting arrested-"
"I didn't KNOW it wasn't your car!"
"I know you didn’t, and yes that was an accident. But the police would NOT have allowed you to carry on driving a hotwired car if they'd stopped you, no matter whether it was yours or not." Damien said severely. "What AM I going to do with you Nicholas?"
At this particular moment in time, I really did not want to imagine. I picked at the quilt with no idea where to look.
"I'm sorry I drove it hotwired." I ventured eventually. Damien shook his head.
"That was foolhardy and very careless. Not to mention the result of acting without any thinking being done."
"I WAS thinking!" I protested.
"Yes, about me not finding out!"
"I'm ashamed that my own partner thinks it's more important to cover up the truth from me than to do what he knows is right. Not to mention do one wrong thing after another rather than honestly own up to breaking the table." Damien said very sternly. "Were you really THAT frightened to tell me?"
I shook my head hard, eyes stinging. "Noooo…… it was just silly, I didn't mean to break it and I didn't want you to know I'd done it-"
"IS that how it works?" Damien said crisply.
I shook my head again, hearing the whine creep yet further into my voice. "Noooo…."
"You make choices Nicholas. If you choose to give way to bad temper then you choose the consequences that goes with it, and you face up to those consequences. You do NOT try to lie your way around them. It's dishonest and it's dishonourable, and I will NOT put up with it, is that clear?"
"WHICH you know. Well. As to making the trip, and parking, and taking a hitch hiker despite my making it perfectly clear that I did not want you to do ANY of those things, there is no POSSIBLE excuse. Is there? Pure and simple disobedience. If you need reminding what 'no' means, and convincing that I mean what I say, I can certainly give you some assistance my boy. This is NOT on. I do NOT tell you 'no' for my own amusement OR just for the sake of hearing myself speak."
I stared at the bedspread, eyes getting hotter and hotter while I shrank up, very ashamed. He was right. He DID explain when he forbade something and he didn't really do it all that often. .
"You are very, VERY grounded. No tv, no computer, you don't set foot outside the house unsupervised. And look at me please." Damien added. I forced my eyes up. He did not look happy with me at all.
"I'm taking your car keys for a week, you can work on remembering that driving is a privilege restricted to those who show respect for the safety of themselves and everyone else on the road. I WOULD have spanked you for throwing that remote even if you'd left things there, and I will be doing so. You know perfectly well what to expect for throwing anything in temper. I'm also going to spank you for setting out to lie to me and persisting in that lie against all odds."
This was rapidly going downhill.
"As for blatantly disobeying three, separate rules we have, I obviously haven't made a strong enough impression on you that I mean what I say and when you're faced with a conflict between what you want and what our rules state, you remember and act by the rules." Damien went on grimly. "You are going to have a LOT of lines to keep you busy for the next week And I'm going to have to give a lot of thought as to whether or not I can safely leave you in the house when I'm not here to supervise, or whether I need to ask Allen if he'll have you during the day."
I bit on air at that one, just imagining Robin's face when he heard that one.
He had his 'yes?' face on and it was perfectly apparent when I looked at him that I was going to get no sympathy at all. I thought the other implications of that threat over and swallowed a few more times, eyes starting to sting.
"I DON'T need to be watched all the time."
"That's NOT what you've proved today, is it?" Damien said pointedly. "When I think of what could have happened today, I'd consider giving up that trust in you and the risks that go with it in order to keep you safe!"
That was it. The tears started there.
It had been a long day, I'd been on an emotional rollercoaster for hours and Damien was seriously unhappy with me. My chest was tighter than hell, which did not help once I started to cry. Damien got up, I heard him moving around for a few moments, then the bed dipped as he sat down and his arm wrapped around me, pulling my head against his chest. The nebuliser mask slipped over my face and I heard his voice, steady and firm in my ear.
"Now stop it, you're going to make yourself have a real attack in a minute."
I tuned into my own breathing and realised I was wheezing in great, gulping sobs, tearing sounds which were as frightening as the tightness in my chest. Damien rubbed my back, coming up with that growl which all spasming lungs obey instantly.
"Stop. Breathe slowly, breathe quietly. You CAN do it."
Wheeze. Scrape. Grind.
"NICK. Stop that NOW or I swear I'll smack you."
That was so unfair I stopped to glower at him.
"Can't HELP it."
"You can control it." Damien said heartlessly. "Come on. Quietly."
Here we went again, with him holding up his magic sword…..
"By the power of Greyskull…" I wheezed at him.
"Shut up. Breathe."
I leaned my head against him, forcing it under control since the Master of the Universe insisted. It did actually calm down after a while. I got the choking under control and rubbed at my eyes, getting rid of the last of the tears. Damien kissed my forehead.
"What did you eat last?"
"Um. Some biscuits. About fourish."
"Then I'm going to get you something to eat and some milk and you're going to sleep. We'll talk about this tomorrow."
'Talk' I thought was probably a euphemism.
At the moment however, tired and heavy headed and still wheezing quietly, I was glad to lie down.
I was left on Friday morning with an open dictionary on the table and a list of words in front of me, unpalatable as they were unreasonable.
'No. By no amount. Not at all. Nothing further. Not any more. Particle expressing negative reply to request, question, etc.'
'Disobedient. Disregarding orders, breaking rules, failing or refusing to obey, stubborn, intractable.'
'Foolhardy. Foolishly venturesome, engaging in needless risks.'
'Lie. Intentional false statement. Take away, get into, get out of by lying. Deceive.'
And so it went on. After writing each one five hundred times each, Damien had suggested he would probably be home and I would be usefully and safely kept occupied by other means until a very early bedtime. By chores. (House cleaning, odd jobs, drudgery, see Slave Labour.)
He was right. I had a hundred and fifty left on taking away, getting into, getting out of by lying, deceive, by the time he got home, which filled the gap between him getting home and him calling me for dinner. After dinner I spent a fun hour cleaning the skirting boards and doorframes while Anastasia sat and watched with interest. At eight pm Damien took the cloth and polish from me and nodded at the stairs.
"Upstairs, get ready for bed. When you're done, pick a corner."
I didn't dare take the time for a bath, much as I wanted to. However enough sense prevailed to remind me that I did NOT want an irate Damien pulling me out, wet and extremely vulnerable. Way too soon I was pyjamaed, bare foot and with nothing else to do but go to the corner on the landing and stand there, staring at the plaster a few inches from my eyes. By now, I ought to have imprinted that plaster work: there ought to be letters, several feet tall, saying Wow Are YOU In Trouble. In years from now, centuries from now, ghost hunters would wander this house and wonder at the strange and depressed atmosphere in this particular corner. In fact their questions would most likely be answered by my ghost wandering around the house after them with a wrung neck, marking the day my friend and lover finally lost his patience with me. I'd probably look something like Nearly Headless Nick from Harry Potter- except instead of being semi beheaded I'd be staring backwards over my own shoulder. Probably inspecting the damage.
Damien came to the top of the stairs. I turned and looked at him, stomach tightening unpleasantly. He held out a hand to me.
"Suppose we sort this out?"
Oh suppose we don't? Please?
Yeah, THAT one would work. With all the efficiency of a chocolate teapot, that would work.
On the other hand, I knew; once we dealt with this, it would be forgotten. Forgiven. Oh yes, I'd face another spanking tomorrow, and truth be told I knew I deserved a further spanking for going to Wembley in the first place: Damien was mitigating that to lines out of pity. And I was going to be very short on free time for a while. But he wouldn't blame and he wouldn't remember. And those hazel eyes were gentle. Understanding. No matter how crazy things got, no matter how muddled, they were always there, kind and amused and interested and committed. I always felt understood.
I took the hand held out to me and Damien shut the bedroom door behind us.