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Swear It Again - Henry Cavill. WIP


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This is my current WIP, although technically it is finished. I'm sort of editing it and changing things as I go (making it longer instead of shorter like I hoped... emoticon) and it may change again in the future but for now, here 'tis. Also, this is first person written and while I have alternated between my hero and heroine, the story is mostly told from the heroine's POV, hence the un-evenness of alternating chapters.

Please feel free to comment or ask questions. I might have missed something or your thoughts might prompt a new edit emoticon

**DISCLAIMER**


I do not know Henry, his family, business associates or anyone else in his universe. No disrespect is intended to any of these people, some of whom I may have turned into a hero/villain, for the purposes of telling a story.

Although this story is based on a real person and a lot of things he has done or said, it is a work of fiction. While a lot of real places/events/people are included, they are done so, again, for the purposes of telling a story and not from any first hand knowledge.

This story is for entertainment purposes only and not for sale or profit. All real people and products/movies/songs etc remain the property of their respective owner but the rest is © to me.

~*~*~


Last edited by HeavenLea27, 15/5/20, 14:30


---
"Driver picks the music. Shotgun shuts his cakehole."

7/9/18, 13:49 Link to this post Email HeavenLea27   PM HeavenLea27
 
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Re: Swear It Again - Henry Cavill. WIP


Prologue

Ally


I have been back in Perth some ten days now, after two years away and yet stepping into the room of my youth has me feeling like I never left; notwithstanding the fact that I hadn’t lived in this room for some six or so years even before I left for London.

As it usually did when I entered, my eyes were drawn to the movie sized poster of Johnny Depp; as he was in the 21 Jump Street days; on the wall above my bed. A lot has changed; for us both; since the poster went up and yet it stays up all the same.

It’s odd that despite all the years I’ve been away, the poster, along with the rest of the room, was as I left it when I first moved out of home. I’m surprised my mother hadn’t removed my things and turned it into a home gym or sewing room but as she says, it’s here if I should ever need it.

She’s kept my sisters’ rooms the same for them too, despite neither of them living at home for more than a decade each. It would make sense for her and Dad to move out and into something smaller and easier to manage, although with the possibility of grandbabies, maybe it’s best they did stay. At least that might have been my mother’s logic in staying.

Finally tearing my eyes away from the poster, I sigh and have to take a moment to remember why I was in the room to begin with. Moments later I recall that I was after a pair of earrings. It took a little effort and I was lucky I didn’t rip my dress in the process but I was finally able to hoist my still mostly packed suitcase onto the bed.

Once I had unzipped the lid, I ferret around inside until I come across the small, navy blue velvet box I had been looking for. Just as I pull my hand free of the now even more scattered belongings, I hear a commotion outside the window. Naturally I walk across the room to take a look.

~*~*~

Looking out and into the garden from the second-storey window, I can’t help but feel a rush of happiness take hold over the nuptials that are to take place down there in a matter of an hour or so. The day itself is shaping up to be a beautiful one, Perth treating us all to yet another glorious day, perfect for an outdoor wedding. I was thankful we had been so blessed.

The yard itself isn’t overly large in size but with the aid of some strategically placed flowers, fairy lights and a small gazebo for the ceremony itself, we had managed to transform the area into a setting that would easily accommodate the small gathering of friends and family that had been invited. There was also enough spare room to allow for dancing, should the notion strike any of the guests.

Before I have a chance to get too emotional and allow tears to form and run, ruining my freshly made up face, I have to stop and laugh. The reason for the commotion that had brought me to the window to start with is now visible and a farce is taking place before my very eyes. My little dog Pippin is running around in circles in a most teasing way, always just that one little paw step away from the man who is giving chase.

Dennis; Brian’s younger brother and Best Man; is cursing like a sailor as he tries valiantly to grab the Shih Tzu who is dragging something along in his mouth. It has to be something important or I’m sure that Dennis wouldn’t be chasing after him in a panic, with the ceremony not too far away.

Pushing aside the curtain a little more so I could now lean out the window slightly, I call down “Run, Pippin; don’t let that bad man catch you.”

Dennis stops long enough to look up and give me his ‘not happy Jan’ look. “Hey, instead of encouraging this mutt of yours Al, how about a little help? He’s got my bloody cummerbund.”

“You’re doing just fine, Den. Besides, I can hardly chase the dog around the back yard dressed like this, can I?”

Muttering something; I couldn’t quite make out what it was but was more than sure it was less than becoming; he resumed his chase. I watched only a few more moments before letting the curtain fall back into place as I turned back into the room.

~*~*~

Still smiling as I think of my beloved pooch giving Dennis the run around, I remember the small box in my hand. The earrings inside – cushion cut sky blue topaz stones in an Art Deco concentric circles filigree edging – are going to be the perfect bride’s accessory as they would co-ordinate with the blue shade of the bridesmaid dress perfectly.

It isn’t until I open the tiny velvet box to make sure they are still in there that a new wave of emotion rolls over me, almost taking my breath away. The earrings are stunning and I had no doubt they were expensive but that isn’t what causes the breathlessness. It’s actually the memory of the special night that they had been gifted to me and more importantly, the man who had gifted them.

They had been an early birthday present from a man I had known little more than six months and yet loved all the same, just a small part of what had been a magical night from start to finish. On that very night, little did either of us suspect that less than a few hours into the following morning that we would be estranged, soon to be living in separate countries and each of us angry at the other, only both too stubborn to sort it out.

This past month and a bit, it has taken every ounce of strength I possess not to just sit and think of Henry; more so today of all days; and the breakdown a couple of days ago notwithstanding, I had been succeeding. Our fight over whose job was more important and which of us should compromise the most led to our subsequent parting. It had hurt like a sonofabitch but just as he had, I had tried to move on with my life. Knowing it was over but sitting around and pining for him was pointless.

At least I thought I had been doing well but seeing the earrings now has just brought everything back that we had been and lost in one fell swoop. Now all I want to do is sit in the corner and cry. Had it truly only been nine or so months since Henry had come into my life, only to change me in a way I could never have suspected or hoped for? Would I even be where I was now had it not been for him? It didn’t bear thinking about.

~*~*~

“I wish you were here” I whisper softly, no longer caring that my makeup would be ruined if the tears start to fall.

As we had argued in the hotel room on that last night together, both of us practically naked and yet not caring, I had carelessly thrown at him a line about loving him, just not enough to stay and at the time suspected it had just been my way of hurting him. I knew now that it wasn’t just a line at all. I did love him and wanted to stay but I couldn’t. The only one I had ended up hurting was myself.

Snapping the small box closed, I stand tall, sniffle in a most unladylike manner and inhale deeply as I try to get a grip. The slight feeling of queasiness I had been feeling off and on the past few days was still present but thankfully it wasn’t enough to warrant a glass of alka seltzer. Between that and the feeling of loss I had for Henry, I had to wonder how I was going to get through the day.

I of course realize I didn’t have the luxury or time to sit and wallow in what could have or should have been; it was too late for that. Instead, I head out of the room and back to where my sisters were still getting ready. I could never in my wildest dreams imagine that within twenty minutes of the ceremony concluding that the man himself would show up.

~*~*~


---
"Driver picks the music. Shotgun shuts his cakehole."

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Re: Swear It Again - Henry Cavill. WIP


Ch 1 – Ally

Eleven months earlier.

After unlocking the door to the flat the first thing I did; after stepping over the threshold and dumping the keys onto the small table just inside the door; was kick off my boots. My feet were practically numb due to the cold but it had been a long day and I was more than happy to be out of them. Thankfully my slippers – yes, the bunny kind – were still under the table where I had left them earlier that morning on my way out the door.

“Is that you, Al?” I heard a voice call from the kitchen area.

Smiling, I called back that it was. My room-mate Lizzie knew I was the only one with a key and yet she always asked if it was me, at least on the days she managed to get home from work first. Even after living together for about sixteen months, her asking the same question never got old; it actually made me feel good knowing someone cared and was happy enough to have me home.

Dumping my bag beside my recently vacated boots, I padded in my now slippered feet to where she was. Surprisingly, she wasn’t baking away as she normally would be, unlike all the other Friday afternoons where she had finished work early and was able to be home before the sun set. Today she was simply seated at the small table we use to share meals, her laptop opened up before her and a distant look on her face.

~*~*~

“What, no muffins today? I’ve been looking forward to one all the way home” I asked in a tone of mock disappointment before I headed to the fridge to grab a bottle of juice instead.

In a semi distracted voice she replied “Hmm? Oh, maybe a bit later. I’m just a little too angry to cook right now. In this frame of mine I’d only burn them. How was your day?”

I took my seat opposite her. “Never mind my day, why are you so angry? What’s happened?”

Sliding her tortoise shell framed glasses to the top of her head, she looked at me. You couldn’t miss the anger in her eyes and I knew that whatever had been the reason for that look, it was something bad. Lizzie was the happiest person I knew, always ready to cheer everyone else up.

“Do you remember that case I’ve been working on for the better part of the last three months, staying back at work till late only to come home and be up all hours doing follow up?” I nodded my assent and she continued “Well, that bastard James stole the files from my Cloud account and presented them to Gabriel, claiming he had done the work himself. Gabriel went on to use them to secure a better payout for his client and as a thank you to James, submitted his name to be the next junior partner. That slimy little weasel stole my promotion; it’s absolute bollocks!”

Being all too aware of all the work she had put into this case, I reached for her hand. “I’m so sorry, Lizzie. Did you tell your boss the truth, about it being you who actually did the work? There has to be a way to prove he hacked your account. Surely someone else in the office knew you were working back all the time for this case. I can certainly back you up if you need me to. I was here often enough to see how much time and effort you put into it.”

“I doubt they would believe me, even with you as back-up” she countered with, a half smile on her lips. “I do appreciate the offer though. It just toasts my crumpet that I’ve been killing myself for weeks trying to prove I’m every bit as good as, if not better than that lowlife James and now he is about to get the promotion that is rightfully mine. It’s not fair.”

“No, it’s not. I thought Gabriel was a lawyer who prided himself on details and knowing what was going on around him? He can’t really be that blind, can he? It seems to me he’s oblivious to the obvious. On the few occasions I’ve talked with him, he seemed like a smart man; and a half decent one too, for that matter.”

“That’s just the thing of it; he is. Unfortunately, it’s still pretty much a boy’s club at the firm. Most of the Senior Partners are antiquated enough to still believe that the few women who do work there, do so in order to make coffee, fetch lunch orders or take dictation. The thing that pisses me off is that we women are bringing in just as much, if not more business than some of the men there but does that count?

“I’ve been there almost eight years and it’s been the same the whole time. Women being overlooked for promotions or work on high profile cases unless it helps the case to show diversity. I used to think Gabriel was above the politics of it all but I guess he isn’t. It’s a bloody farce, is what it is. If I could find another firm with the same high profile and success rate, I would leave in a heartbeat. After telling them what I thought first, of course.”

“I wish I had an answer for you sweetie. Other than going in and demanding that that wanker James prove he did the work himself, I can see the pickle you’re in. It’s hard to believe that it’s already 2011 and some men still haven’t learned to appreciate the value of a woman and her work. It’s their loss and one day they are going to realize it but it will be a case of too little, too late by then.”

This time when she smiled it actually reached her eyes. “Thanks, Ally. I knew I could count on you to cheer me up, even if only a little. It’s good to vent to someone who won’t think less of me or feel like I’m whining for the sake of it. I’m still beyond annoyed but I’ve decided I’m not going to let that arsehat ruin my weekend; especially when I’m going to be spending that weekend with Phil.”

With that little statement of defiance, she got up from the table and started gathering the fixings for those muffins.

~*~*~

“So, when is Phillip going to pull his finger out and finally propose?” I asked, surreptitiously trying to dip my finger into the freshly prepared muffin batter.

With a quick and not so gentle tap on the hand to let me know I wasn’t fooling anyone, Lizzie replied “I don’t know that he’s all that serious about us; at least not to that degree anyway. Something tells me he’s gun shy and not ready to get married again; if ever.”

“Oh please” I replied, complete with eye roll. “That man thinks the sun rises and falls with you. I’ve seen the two of you together and if I didn’t love you both dearly, I would find it nauseating. Even his girls love you and don’t even try and tell me it’s not mutual. You have been baking muffins for your weekend visits with them and their father for at least the last six months. Considering you don’t like muffins; or cooking regular meals the rest of the week; I’d say that’s a huge clue as to what you’re prepared to do to be with that family.”

A blush tinted her cheeks, making the smudge of flour already there seem even more pronounced. “I guess I can’t argue with that logic, although every inch of the lawyer in me wants to try.” We both laughed before she continued. “I do love the girls, more than I ever thought possible. I never wanted kids but now, I think I do. When you consider that our first-time meeting had been a nightmare of biblical proportions, things have turned out better than I could have hoped. As to Phil...”

“It’s ok, you don’t have to finish that sentence, I can see it written all over your face, clear as neon. As jealous as I am, I’m also really happy for the both of you. Now; hurry up and get engaged already so I can throw the party to end all parties. We haven’t had a decent night out in so long I’m beginning to forget what it’s like to mix with adults.”

Once the third and final batch of muffin mix was in the oven, replacing the second batch she had just removed, Lizzie turned her focus back to me. “It has been a while, hasn’t it? I’m often surprised you don’t come home and want to spend your night finger painting or playing with dolls.”

I had to chuckle at that. “My 4th graders are a little more advanced than finger painting, I will have you know. Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids and some of them can be quite loquacious for their age but unfortunately, not about things most adults would be interested in. Just today, Sarah had me cornered so she could tell me all about how she wants her parents to take her new baby brother back to the store and swap him for a sister. It was hard to keep a straight face when she became serious and said that they could do it, because Harrods always takes things back, just so long as you have a receipt.”

My best friend laughed along with me, shaking her head as she did so. “That is too precious! I actually envy you your job, you know. You have young, unadulterated minds, full of wide-eyed innocence and wonder to hang out with every day. I’m stuck in an office or courtroom all day with a bunch of Armani wearing Neanderthals.”

I could do little more than nod my head. As much as I craved adult stimulation, I wouldn’t trade my job for the world. For one thing, it was what brought me here to London, all the way from Perth to begin with. Having said that however, I still thought about how nice it would be to mix it up every once in a while, and mix with people my own age.

~*~*~


---
"Driver picks the music. Shotgun shuts his cakehole."

26/5/20, 11:56 Link to this post Email HeavenLea27   PM HeavenLea27
 
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Re: Swear It Again - Henry Cavill. WIP


Ch 2 – Henry

Living alone isn’t always fun and you can be lonely sometimes but overall, the benefits outweigh that loneliness. Like right now, for instance. I was cursing like a drunk rugby fan because I couldn’t find my keys and I didn’t have to worry about apologizing or even toning down the language. It was kind of freeing, in an odd sort of way.

I could have sworn I put those bloody keys on the sideboard in the kitchen after getting home late last night; then again, in my condition maybe not. It was almost as though they had grown legs overnight and had decided to pick themselves up and wander off to parts unknown.

It was my own fault. I had been umming and ahhing about putting a hook stand or something like it near the front door for ages, to save myself the grief every day of having to hunt for not only my keys but usually my wallet and phone too. I should have ummed a little less and done it already.

Not that I was really in all that much of a hurry to find them, if I was being honest. What I wanted was to just spend a night at home for a change, alone and with my thoughts. It was something I hadn’t been able to do in quite some time now, what with family, friends and work commitments. Between all three of those things, it was starting to feel like I only ever came back to my house just long enough to shower and change. Not that I wouldn’t be without them of course but sometimes, it was nice to just keep one’s own company, without the expectation to be, do or give something.

In fact, it was because of my friend Stewart that I was now on the lookout for those errant keys of mine. He had called about an hour earlier and insisted I join him for a ‘quick pint and a couple of laughs’. That was usually code for ‘hey, let’s go to that new club at such and such and see how many women we can pick up’. We had been friends since boarding school and although I still enjoyed his company, for the most part I also had this feeling that I was outgrowing him.

~*~*~

All of the things we had once enjoyed doing together when we were younger, or even as we got a little older, were now starting to feel like a chore. Going out clubbing, meeting a group of different women every other night, playing poker with the lads; all of these things had just been a few of the activities we had once shared and I had loved every minute of it.

We had partied hard and left more than our fair share of broken hearts along the way but it wasn’t enough for me anymore. Somewhere along the line I had actually stopped and weighed up the long-term outcomes of this type of lifestyle and I had found myself coming up wanting. I had also come to the realization that I wanted more than just one one-night stand after another.

This isn’t to say that I wanted to become a monk or anything. I wasn’t quite 29 years of age and I knew I wasn’t right at the point, where I wanted to give up my freedom completely to be tied down to just one woman – I had almost made that mistake a couple of years ago – and start producing grandbabies for my mother. Then again, I also wasn’t truly at the point where I wanted to be out every night of the week either. Somewhere along the line, sleeping with random women; some of whom I might have seen more than once; didn’t quite hold the same appeal it once had.

A big part of this change had come around once I started becoming more known because of my acting, thanks to a little show called The Tudors. I could no longer tell with any certainty if the women who approached me were doing so just because they were after a bit of fun, or if it was because I was someone semi-famous and they were hoping to use that to their advantage.

Sex for sex sake was one thing but sex in the hopes that it will lead to dating, so that you could then be seen on the arm of someone even remotely well known, hoping to be introduced to someone else who can further their own ambitions, was something else entirely.

~*~*~

“It’s only going to get worse” I half muttered to myself. People who wanted to be friends with me for their own agenda were part and parcel of being in the spotlight and I knew that going in. If I wanted to be an actor, I had to learn to take the good with the bad.

I also knew that if I wanted to go that one step further and make a name for myself in Hollywood – which I really did want – then I was going to have to learn how to tell the genuine people from the rest. But that was food for thought on another day. Right now, I was supposed to be on my way to catch up with an old mate, have some fun.

Finally locating my keys; wedged between the coffee and sugar canisters on the top of the fridge, no less; I picked them up and headed out. Stewart was waiting for me in the drive by this time, having pulled up and tooted the horn no more than five minutes earlier. Bounding down the stairs two at a time, I hopped into his car and put on a smile I didn’t quite feel, acting as though I had been looking forward to the upcoming evening’s events all day. My drama teacher from school would be so proud.

~*~*~

The Bar Soho was already brimming with people by the time we arrived, with the line to get in just starting to snake its way down the street. Thanks to the fact that Stewart and I had frequented this particular establishment quite a lot over the past several years; even before I got into acting; we were able to go to the front of the line where head bouncer Micah was stationed, letting us go straight through.

A few of the waiting patrons complained and I did feel a little guilty about pushing in like this, just not enough to go and stand at the end of the line. I wanted to get in, grab a drink and get out as quick as possible, despite my mate’s hopes to the contrary.

Rather than move into the main room of the bar that had been designed for such things, people seemed to prefer camping out as close as possible to the front entrance, almost as though they too wanted to make a quick getaway. A little ducking and weaving was required but we finally managed to make it to the bar.

Thanks to the low lights and the fact that we kept our heads even lower, I had managed to get to the bar unrecognized and took that as a win. Having said that however, as we pushed through, I did have to stop a moment after I inadvertently bumped into a young lady who was walking out as we were walking in. The look on her face wasn’t of recognition though; rather it seemed to mirror mine in that she too didn’t want to be here either. As we apologized to each other, I had half a mind to turn about and follow her.

With the first drinks of the night ordered and served, Stewart turned his back to said bar and started to scope out the women, quickly laying his eyes on one he thought might have potential. For my own part, I made out I was doing the same thing although I was actually only taking in the room as a whole.

~*~*~

Growing up, Stewart had been made to work hard in order to gain the attention of the opposite sex. Not that he was hunched over like Quasimodo or anything but the girls we knew when we were younger always seem to go for the others in our group first. All of that changed once we left school and he seemed to grow into his features. I’m also pretty sure that his best mate getting a job in a little drama that played out on the BBC boosted his chances quite a bit.

He had even admitted to me once that he wasn’t so naïve as to believe that his luck had changed quite as much because he had become more appealing but more for who he associated with. He also admitted that he wasn’t going to look a gift horse in the mouth either. At the time I had thought it was funny but the more time went on, the more I started to feel used. I don’t mind admitting that it’s a feeling I don’t enjoy.

“So; are you we going to go blonde or brunette tonight, mate? How about we shake it up a little and go red for a change? I could do with a little fire.”

I rolled my eyes before turning to look at him. The music was now thumping, people were still seeping in although I was sure we had hit capacity a good ten minutes before and those pushing to the bar had to shout their orders to the barman so he could hear them. Despite all this, I still heard my friend’s comment quite clearly. I chose to ignore it.

“Listen, tonight isn’t going to be a late one for me. I have a family thing tomorrow and I’d like to be able to stay awake while I’m there.”

“Seriously; you sounded just like my old man then. Can’t hold your liquor anymore mate? How do you hope to hook up with a lovely young lady if you’re going to flake on me and go home before the street lights have a chance to come on?”

“Maybe I don’t want to hook up tonight.”

He looked at me as though I had just confessed to wanting to join a monastery. “Henry Cavill, not interested in hooking up? Don’t make me laugh. You seem to be forgetting that you have to make up for all the time you lost when you were settling down with just one woman. And of course, you have to make up for all those years when girls wouldn’t look at you sideways because you were a porker.”

I literally had to bite my tongue. A few years back I had joked with him about that very thing and in truth, had done all I could to make up for that lost time. But that was then and this was now. I was sure that Stewart didn’t mean anything by the comment but it still irked me no end. More so than it really should have and it was probably because I hadn’t wanted to come out tonight to start with.

Rather than get into it here and now, I turned and picked up my glass of freshly poured Glenfiddich, sculling it one large gulp. It burned as it went down but I gave my friend another unfelt smile and pretended to check out the competition some more; anything for a peaceful although undoubtedly long night.

~*~*~

A couple of hours later I was pretending to hang up my phone, slipping it back into the inner pocket of my jacket. I then attempted a few hand signals to Stewart to let him know I was going. He was currently on the other side of the dance floor, doing his utmost to win over a lovely young lady, who for her part seemed to be more than a little interested. I had been here longer than I had wanted to be and I had finally hit my limit.

My phone hadn’t rung at all but I faked it, moving away from my friend and the woman, under the guise of finding somewhere quiet. He was having a great time but I wasn’t and so rather than drag him away from his potential conquest, I faked the call, giving me what looked like a legitimate reason to go. I guess I could have been man enough to tell him I was bored and wanted to leave but this seemed the easier option.

I had also picked up on a couple of the paparazzi sneaking in, trying to act like regular punters in the vain hopes that they could get someone of note doing something noteworthy or scandalous. I had counted at least five other celebrities here tonight, more well known than me but it didn’t mean I wanted to hang around and hope they didn’t spot me on their rounds, taking shots in lieu of something better.

It turned out that leaving the bar was a lot harder than it should have been, what with the twice as many people being here as there had been when we first arrived, and yet still more people trying to get in, even now. Unfortunately, my being unnoticed streak came to an end and I had to stop and pose for a photo or three, a couple of autographs and even some stray kisses from an over exuberant woman. Her even younger and more exuberant male friend even managed to grab one of my arse cheeks, which was something different. It took me a good forty minutes to get out but get out I did.

~*~*~

“Leaving already Henry; everything is alright I hope?”

“Its fine, thanks Micah. I just have an early start in the morning” I answered the doorman. Before I had a chance to add anything further the woman who had been at the head of the line that now literally ran down the side of the building and around the corner, rushed over to me and pulled me into a hug before kissing me.

Micah thankfully managed to pull the woman off me before she got too much more comfortable with where her hand was heading, and I was grateful he was there. The woman; who if I had to guess was least 45, if not a little older; and her behaviour had been downright rude and I was a little more than pissed off about it but I didn’t say anything.

The last thing I needed was to draw attention to not only the situation but her too; which I’m sure she was hoping for; what with the press being close by. I thanked Micah and gave a small wave to a few of the crowd who called out before hopping into a taxi that had mercifully come along at the moment I needed it most. Moments later I was safely inside and heading home.

Had Micah not been there I had no doubt that the woman would have tried more than to just shove her tongue down my throat and grab my balls, whether we were in public or not. Photos, autographs and hugs are one thing but a fan crossing personal boundaries like that was beyond wrong. For as much as I loved my work, I disliked the loss of anonymity that came along with it or the over-familiar attitude of some of the fans.

London was becoming smaller and smaller all the time and before I had a chance to really notice the change, one day I found I just couldn’t walk down the street anymore without being recognized. Not everyone stopped me but it wasn’t hard to miss the look on their face when it dawned on them who I was, or who they thought I might be.

Run-ins with fans like that woman were enough to make me rethink this idea of being an actor. Maybe I should have just gone and signed up to be in the Navy, something I had planned to do when I was a kid.

~*~*~



---
"Driver picks the music. Shotgun shuts his cakehole."

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Re: Swear It Again - Henry Cavill. WIP


Ch 3 – Ally

Lizzie had no set plans to meet up with Phil until tomorrow morning and so with all of the muffins cooked, cooled and stored – minus the one I was able to snaffle before she could stop me – for her trip in the morning, we decided to go out for the evening.

It had been a long week for us both but we also agreed it was something we could both do with. I needed it for the chance to socialize with people my own age for a couple of hours and she wanted to put the work dramas behind her, so it wouldn’t ruin her mood for the weekend plans she had with her man and his girls.

Camden was a great place to live and there were many clubs and bars to be visited upon and we had done just that, during out time together as room-mates. Tonight, however we decided to broaden our horizons a little and step outside the boundary of our local area.

As each of us planned on drinking, even if it was only a little, we left her car behind and hopped on the #24 bus to London, ending up at the Bar Soho. Most Friday’s they had a happy hour from 5-8pm and then every other week there was a DJ spinning as well. I felt weary but knew that once I had taken a drink or two and maybe even danced a bit, it would be just the pick-me-up I needed.

~*~*~

We arrived at the club just as they were opening the doors and found ourselves being ushered straight through. Most people were just finishing work at this hour and would start filling up the place soon enough but until then, we could at least grab a drink easily enough and sit down to chat without having to yell ourselves hoarse.

As Lizzie went to grab us a table, I headed to the bar to buy the first round – a gin and tonic for her and an ouzo and coke for me. It wasn’t what I usually ordered but I had had a hankering for liquorice all day and it seemed like the best bet. Taking a sip before I left the bar so as to not spill it on the journey back, I almost choked when I realized that the coke part of my drink might have gotten lost on the way to the glass. Quickly getting my breath back, I then headed over to where my friend was seated, trying to not act like I hardly ever drank.

Thanks to the glass being 99% ouzo – at least it seemed that way – I knew that by the time I had finished just this one glass I was going to be well on the way to being three sheets to the wind and that was a scary prospect. When I was more than tipsy, I usually became friends with everyone and eager to do anything – dangerous, stupid or both. I was going to have to pace myself and hope this didn’t happen tonight.

~*~*~

By the time I managed to reach Lizzie, a couple of guys from her work had managed to bump into her and were now seated at the table too. Introductions were made and before long, I was laughing and talking with them like we had known each other for more than an hour. The second round of drinks; bought by Neal; was just what I needed to release the weeks’ tension and weariness and the buzz I was now feeling meant I was up for some fun.

Paul, the shorter of the two men and the one sitting on my side of the table, asked me to dance and I accepted. The music at this point was loud and had a great beat and soon we were moving in sync. I even forgot how sore my feet had been earlier, such was the fun I was having. No doubt the alcohol had played a big part in that.

My dance partner was better at it than I was but if he noticed, he didn’t seem to care. Given the way he kept trying to pull me close; even if it was the wrong type of music to suggest that kind of closeness; it made me think that even if I had of been standing stock still in the same spot, he would have been just as happy. Two songs later, I wasn’t quite tipsy enough to ignore the fact that his over attentiveness was starting to creep me out.

To be fair, he had been flirting with me from the moment we were introduced and although I had reciprocated to a degree, I didn’t expect anything to come out of it. It was all just about having a laugh, enjoying the night and then going home in a great mood. I was no virgin but I also wasn’t going to sleep with someone I had only met little more than an hour earlier.

It had been a while since I had had any kind of sex but no, I wouldn’t be shacking up with Paul, for the short or long term, despite his best efforts. Aside from not knowing him or the fact that he was getting a little too slick for his own good, he just wasn’t my type. Then again, I wasn’t too sure on what exactly was my type. All I could hope was that I didn’t end up drinking so much that I would wake up with a hangover and a mess of regret.

~*~*~

“Another drink, Milady?” Paul asked as I put down my just now emptied glass onto the table. It was hard not to roll my eyes.

“No, thanks; I believe I’ve actually just hit my limit.”

“Are you sure? You’ve only had a couple. Surely one more couldn’t hurt.”

“Maybe not but I will still pass if it’s all the same. We haven’t had dinner yet and the couple of drinks I have already consumed are starting to go to my head.” This actually wasn’t a lie.

“And that’s a bad thing?” he asked with what he no doubt thought was a flirty smile. It actually came across as more than just a little sleazy.

“Leave the poor girl alone, Johnson. She’s clearly not interested.” The suggestion came from Neal, as he and Lizzie had just arrived back at the table after a dance of their own.

Paul’s look went from a smile to a pout but at least he stopped pressing me to get another drink. I honestly didn’t want another and that is why I declined and yet somehow, he had taken it as a personal affront. Could be that he was hoping that after a few more and some more close dancing he would be onto a sure thing. I had news for him.

I might have enjoyed the dancing in the beginning but his sudden clinginess and less than subtle groping was setting off alarm bells. Lizzie must have picked up on my predicament as she suggested we all leave now that the place was too full to hear clearly and go to grab a bite to eat elsewhere.

~*~*~

“Shelley’s sandwich bar is in the next street and they’re usually still open at this hour. How about we head down there for a bite; I’m actually pretty ravenous.”

Neal was already putting on his jacket. “Sounds good to me. Maybe then we can kick off somewhere else, make a night of it. Are you girls up for a good time?”

Standing up myself, I picked up my bag before declining. I was hungry and happy to go out for a burger but the thought of spending the rest of the evening with Paul nearby put me off. “I might actually call it a night, guys. Those drinks on an empty stomach are starting to disagree with me.”

“All the more reason to come with us and grab something to eat” Paul added, clearly not ready to stop pushing.
“No, it’s fine. I just need a hot bath and an early night, I think. Sorry, guys, it’s been fun but I don’t think I’m going to last much longer. I don’t want you to miss out though. You should go, have fun.”

Lizzie put her hand on my arm. “Are you sure you’re ok, Al? I can come with, if you want me to.”

“I’ll be fine, honest. Go and have a great time. You deserve to, after today. Have a kebab for me. I really am just worn out. I thought the drinks would perk me up but it would seem they have had the opposite effect.”

A quick hug and a peck on the cheek from Lizzie, followed by a quick hug from both men; Paul’s lasting way too long; had me soon weaving my way out of the club. I felt bad for leaving my friend but I really did have a sudden need for some fresh air. The club wasn’t quite at capacity but it wouldn’t be long before it was.

Even so, I still had to push past more than a few people who were content to just stop near the exit and not move, blocking traffic coming in and going out. Other than bumping into some guy just as he was entering, I made it out in one piece. The cool breeze hit me as I reached the pavement and it was just what I needed.

~*~*~

As I lay back in the bath, the classical radio station on my portable radio; playing something from Brahms; and the scented candle were starting to do their thing. The water had gone from scalding to hot rather quickly but from hot it was only just now hitting lukewarm, some forty minutes later. The cooler the water became and the wrinklier my fingers turned, the more I could feel the tension leave my body.

The slight nausea I had felt at drinking on a practically empty stomach; Lizzie’s muffin not enough to sop up the alcohol; had also dissipated and I was now feeling more than a little peckish. Once the water became too cool to remain in, I rose from the bath, dried myself off and put on my usual sleep attire. As I glided into my favourite slippers and blew out the candle, I had to smile. 27 years old, home alone on a Friday night and in my pyjamas, and it wasn’t even 9.30pm yet.

I had been desperate for a night out and to have adult company but the real thing didn’t match my ideal. At this moment in time I was glad for the solitude. Aside from being really worn out; 10-year olds were energy sappers on their own but in a group – I had no hope; the unwanted and borderline lascivious attentions from Paul were enough for me to not want adult company again quite as desperately.

He was probably harmless or I’m sure Lizzie would have made sure we avoided him. I still couldn’t shake that feeling though, that I had escaped from something regrettable, even if it made me look like a stick-in-the-mud because I left early. I just prayed I wouldn’t have reason to run into him again anytime in the near; or distant; future.

~*~*~


---
"Driver picks the music. Shotgun shuts his cakehole."

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Re: Swear It Again - Henry Cavill. WIP


Ch 4

With a freshly brewed cup of Irish Breakfast tea and some toast, I headed to the lounge room to grab my laptop, under the guise of answering emails. I was more than likely going to end up playing mah-jong but I at least start out with the best of intentions and that had to count for something. It had also been a while since I had emailed my folks or my sisters, so I figured now was as good a time as any to drop a line.

When I had first left Australia some 18 months earlier, I would email daily; if not to all then to my parents at least. As was want to happen however, that dwindled down to once or twice a week, although I still called on occasion or Skyped in addition to those emails. Depending on what was happening in my life at the time, the size of the email and its contents varied but I always sent one. It was just my way of keeping them close, even if we were physically at opposite ends of the planet.

After spending a good three or four solid minutes just weeding out the spam, I finally found a few emails of interest. One was a confirmation email for a booking I had made to take my class to the zoo just before summer break, another was from a friend from home who was possibly coming to visit her in-laws and was thinking of popping in to say hi. The last one I opened was from my mother.

~*~*~

FROM: mumofthreegirls42@hotmail.com

TO: allyblue27@gmail.com

SUBJECT: You will never guess what your father has done this time.

“Hi sweetheart

Haven’t heard from you in a little while so just checking in to see if you’re ok. I was going to call but your father told me to leave you be, that you were probably out enjoying your life and didn’t have the time to stop and think about us back here. I hope that’s not true. At least the part about you not thinking of us, although I’m sure you would never do that. Oh, never mind; you know how I like to worry if you don’t call or email.

So, how are things up there in the Motherland? Been swept off your feet by a knight or an earl or something equally as regal yet? If ‘our’ Mary can meet a Danish prince in a Sydney pub, then surely your chances of meeting an English one is tenfold, given you’re in London, right? Ha ha…a mother can only hope you know.

Speaking of royals, I don’t suppose you have run into Wills or Kate in your travels have you? I have seen pictures of them out and about in the clubs and things and wondered if they were the same clubs you and Lizzie frequent.
(I had to stop and shake my head and laugh at this – if she only knew the truth about me and night clubs…) Promise me if you do happen upon them that you will let me know what they’re really like. I’m sure they are as down to earth as they seem, just as I’m sure Kate is every bit as gorgeous as she appears in the magazines.

Anyway, that’s enough of the small talk for now. Aside from wanting to reach out and say hi to my baby girl, I just had to let you know what your father has gone and down now. I love him, I do, but sometimes I have to sit and wonder if he’s the same man I married all those years ago. Although, having said that the past 32 years with this man have never been dull, so I shouldn’t complain, should I?

I came home from work two days ago to find a huge caravan in the middle of the driveway! At first, I thought it was your Uncle Roy and Aunt Lucy come to visit but then your father disembarked from it, a grin from ear to ear. Seems he has decided that he does want to take his long service after all, which will mean the both of us could very well be travelling around Australia for the next three months. Three months, in a space half the size of your old room. I had no words. I still have no words even now, some two days later.

I told him I would seriously think about it but in all honesty, I’m not sure. Getting time off work shouldn’t be a problem but I don’t know that I can go and leave the house or your sisters for that long. I just don’t want to rush in to something I will regret but I also don’t want to disappoint your father either. What do you think?

Apart from the hardly shocking piece of news that your father is still feeling very nomadic; a remnant of his Army days, no doubt; all else here is the same. Cate and Joel are coming to dinner tomorrow night to share some news. I’m praying it’s the news that I will finally be a grandmother. I’ll call you if it is, just as Cate will, no doubt.

Bethy is ever the same and not seeing any boy in particular. I know she’s only 29 but she doesn’t seem to want to settle down and have a family; at least not in the foreseeable future. I can’t help but worry, you know? I guess that will now just leave it up to you and Catey to fill up my house with grandbabies – no pressure, but are you seeing anyone? emoticon

Ok, ok; enough of the nagging. This is probably why you don’t keep in contact as much as you used to. I really just wanted to check in, say hi and tell you about your father’s grand plans for our upcoming future. Seems there will never be a dull moment in the Miller household, especially if he gets his wish and we take that household on the road!

Let us know how you are going and if you need me to send up another care basket. I’ve made a deal with Suzie down at the local store to get some Cherry Ripes a little cheaper to send to you and I posted them, along with some other goodies about a week ago, so expect a parcel in the next couple of days.
Please say hi and give a hug to Lizzie for me and remember that we all send you both our love from everyone down here. Stay well baby, talk to you soon.
Mum xxx”


~*~*~

FROM: allyblue27@gmail.com

TO: mumofthreegirls42@hotmail.com

SUBJECT: The Millers – have van WILL travel!

“Hey Mama Bear!

Firstly, sorry it’s been a little longer between emails. I’d like to tell you it’s because I’ve been out and about, having a wonderful time and doing great things but the truth is, I just haven’t had that much to say.

Of course, I could fill the email with all the ways I miss you, Dad and my sisters but just lately thinking about that has only made the homesickness worse. Don’t get me wrong, I love it here and my job is wonderful but I find still now, even after 18 months, that there are some days I really crave my family. I’m a little embarrassed to admit it took me moving thousands of kilometres away to appreciate you all more.

I love Lizzie like a sister and I do consider her family now but it’s not the same somehow. Perhaps I can organize some time off around or near the last school break and come home for a while. Lizzie would love to come too, I’m sure, although now that I think on it, maybe she won’t want to leave Phil and the girls alone with his wench of an ex. Here’s an idea – we’ll all come! Good thing you have that caravan now for the spare beds lol.

Speaking of the caravan, that’s great news. About time I say. I’m sure that once the shock of it wears off, you will be just as excited about it as Dad seems to be. I don’t know why you are all that surprised really, as he has always had itchy feet. No doubt all those years as a soldier, moving every other year becomes a hard habit to break, even if you haven’t been in the service for more than fifteen years.

Why don’t you look at it this way – you can now actually take the time to stop and explore all those little places we only ever breezed through as we moved from state to state. Not to mention catching up with all the friends you’ve acquired across the country. I know there are more than a couple of people and places I would love to revisit myself. Perhaps I will someday, when I come home. Before then, you and Dad should go, have fun and be together, just the two of you. No kids, no worries and no set plans. It’s exactly what you need and deserve.

I’m sure either one, or both of my sisters can keep an eye out on the house for you. We also both know full well that Mrs Carmadie across the road will, whether you ask her to or not lol. As to the van being too small, it’s only meant to be a place to sleep and occasionally eat a meal in as you travel between towns. It’s not as though you are going to be stuck in it 24/7.

Promise me you won’t just dismiss the idea out of hand. What if you took the van out on the odd weekend away, just to get used to it and each other, out in the open, with nothing but trees for company? Might be a better idea to test it out, rather than just get in and drive somewhere and find it’s not what you want. Ok, that’s enough lecturing from me, although I have to admit that it’s nice to finally have the shoe on the other foot for a change, to pay you back for all the times you pushed me into doing things I wasn’t sure of – ha ha.

You will probably be a little disappointed to hear that I’ve not yet hooked up with a knight, earl or anyone else of some standing. It would seem logical to assume that men with titles are in abundance here in London, if the newspapers and gossip rags are to be believed, but I’m yet to run into any myself. Not that surprising really when you consider that I spend the majority of my week with a bunch of 4th graders. Before you start to worry though, I have been going out. Just tonight for example, I went to a club with Lizzie, so it’s not like I stay home all alone, all the time.

That’s excellent news about Catey, if she is indeed what you suspect. Promise me you will call the minute you hear, no matter the time. It’s the weekend so I don’t have to be up early for work and I have no other pressing plans. I’m also behind you in time anyway, so it’s fine. I hope it is a baby they are expecting. I know she and Joel have been trying for a while now. Fingers crossed. Please say hi and give them my love when they come around for dinner.

Well, there isn’t much else to tell you at the moment, but I will do my best to have a great story ready for the next email or phone call. Even if that means I have to make up something lol. I’m just kidding, of course. I wish I had that kind of imagination. Maybe I should take a leaf out of some of my students’ books. They all have great imaginations and you would not believe half the things I hear on a daily basis. It’s becoming extremely hard to keep a straight face when what they’re telling you appears to be extremely serious for them. I do so love my job.

I’ll pass on your best wishes to Lizzie when I see her next and I’m sure she returns hers. As for me, you know I send all my love and best wishes to you, Dad and the others. I miss you guys so much and wish I could be there to help celebrate in person Cate’s hopefully good news. Fingers crossed. It’s times like this that I really miss being at home.

Love you guys. Be well and we’ll chat soon.

Big hugs, Ally xxx”


Once the email was sent, I closed the laptop and went to make a fresh cup of tea. I was a little tired but not enough to go to bed to sleep. I knew if I did go, I would only lay there tossing and turning, only to get up a couple of hours later anyway. Instead, once I had my tea made, I went to put a DVD on. There was nothing like a little Orlando Bloom to help give a girl pleasant dreams.

~*~*~


---
"Driver picks the music. Shotgun shuts his cakehole."

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Re: Swear It Again - Henry Cavill. WIP


Ch 5 – Henry

Walking into the small three-bedroom house that had been home for almost two years now and closing the front door, I was suddenly struck by how silent it was. You could even hear the hum of the fridge from here it was so quiet. The street outside I had just walked in from was mostly quiet itself but this was different.

I had asked the cabbie to drop me off a block from home, wanting the chance to enjoy a quiet stroll without fear of being harassed by an overzealous fan or someone wanting something from me. As I walked, the odd shrill bark from Mrs Cullen’s pet Chihuahua Jacob, the Watsons’ saying goodbye to guests or the sound of a car driving by had been the only signs that I wasn’t completely alone.

I have always been a people person; being the second youngest of five rowdy boys saw to that. Dad was ex-Navy and though we didn’t move around quite as often as an Army family might have, there had been times when a move was necessary. There was also the fact that I, along with my siblings, had at some point been sent to boarding school. It had become a case of make friends or get lost in the shuffle.

Over the years I had adapted and learnt to get along with most people, or allowed myself to become a part of the crowd but there were just those certain moments when I loved the chance to keep my own company. When I had first started work on the Tudors, there had been many a time when the cast and crew alike would get together for dinners, parties or just to have drinks and socialize, sometimes on a very grand scale.

Most of those times I had been right there in the mix, having as much fun as the next person. But there had also been times when I didn’t want to join in, so I didn’t. One of the crew shared with me later that on one such occasion when I hadn’t attended, the others had all felt slighted and that I was being a spoil sport. I explained about my need to have some down time and after that things were fine. I always made a point of making up for it at the next gathering I joined in, so it never really became an issue.

My desire to be alone had been the biggest motivating factor in my leaving the club early tonight. I had laughed, chatted, flirted and even danced with a few women, one of whom I actually half considered leaving with but in the end, I had changed my mind. Why hook up with someone just for the sake of it? Just because you could, it doesn’t always mean you should. The woman herself had been more than willing, given the way she had clung to me but another one-night stand was not something I craved right now.

Society dictates that someone of my age and means, along with career choice, should be out living the high life every day, seizing the moment and never letting an opportunity go by. Or if that wasn’t your thing, you could at least be making plans to settle down with one person and think about having kids as well as a house complete with white picket fence – the whole nine yards.

I often thought society should bugger off and mind its own damn business. I am my own man and I had my own agenda. I was going to do things my own way and in my own time. If anyone didn’t like it or thought I could do better, then that was just too damn bad.

~*~*~

Although the weather outside had become just this side of being comfortably cold, having central heating in my house meant I could change into my ever-reliable track pants and t-shirt and not end up bluer than a Smurf. Not in the mood for TV – not that was ever anything half-way decent on – I grabbed a beer on the way back from having changed and headed to the games room to play a little World of Warcraft.

I was closer to 30 than I liked to admit but that didn’t mean I had to stop doing things like most teenage boys on a Friday night. I wanted my own company but playing online like this meant I wasn’t going to end up a complete hermit. I found it was something I could immerse myself in, just completely lose myself to the things around me in the virtual world. To my fellow Crafters I was Player X, just another in a long line of players who hid behind a pseudonym. It was kind of freeing.

No one cared if I was rich or poor, boy or girl, young or old, famous or a regular Joe. The only thing that mattered to them was that I knew what I was doing and I could hold my own when it came time to fight or even to save the life of a team-mate. In this game and several other like it, I had found a way to have my solitude and yet never really be completely alone. It was the best of both worlds.

~*~*~

As I was making my way to the games room, I passed the phone in the lounge room and noticed for the first time the flashing light on the answering machine. I knew even before hitting the playback button that the message would be from my mother. Everyone else in my circle of family, friends and business acquaintances usually called me on my mobile. She told me once that she preferred the good old answering machine and that she didn’t like to take the risk that she was interrupting something important and so that’s why I kept it.

I half suspected it was more because she finally worked out she could leave a longer message on the machine than she could on voicemail. The truth of it was, I didn’t mind it. Although we were still within easy access of each other location wise, sometimes it was just comforting to hear her voice and know she was there if I needed her. I loved my father dearly but I had always been closer to my mother.

Hitting the button to hear the message play back, I listened as the pre-recorded voice announced I had one message, along with the time and date the message was left. Then came the voice I knew and loved.

“Hi honey, it’s me, Mum. Of course, you know the sound of my voice so you knew that already, right? (A little laugh from her brings a smile to my lips.) Just ringing to say hi and see how things are. We haven’t spoken in a while and I just wanted to confirm that you were coming for Piers’ birthday brunch tomorrow.

Oh, and while I think on it, will you have a ‘plus one’? I need to know so I can cater. It’s not Ellen, is it? I haven’t spoken to her in a while either so it would be nice to catch up with her too. Hmm, never mind that now. All I really wanted to know was if you were still coming or not.

Call me if you don’t get home too late. I’ll assume you’re coming with a friend and add an extra plate just to be sure. The food won’t go to waste, especially with Charlie being there. Love you sweetheart. See you tomorrow, hopefully.”


~*~*~

Hitting the delete button on the machine, I could only smile and shake my head. My mother knew I would never miss a sibling’s birthday if I could help it. There had been many times when I had been away working abroad but even then, I had always tried to make a point of being home for a family event, even if it was only for a few short hours. No, her ringing to confirm my attendance for catering purposes was her less than subtle way of trying to find out if I was bringing a date.

As far back as I could remember, Mum had never under catered an event, even when numbers hadn’t been set in stone and extra people had shown up. If anything, she over compensated which in turn meant that more often than not, the guests would leave with full bellies as well as a full plate to take home. It was something she was well known for. No, she had been on a fishing expedition and although sometimes it annoyed the crap out of me, most times I played along with the game because it cheered me up to keep her guessing. Tonight was one of those nights.

It had just gone past a little too late to call back so I left it. Mum would have her answer when I showed up for brunch tomorrow, alone. I hadn’t been with Ellen (Whitaker) in more than 12 months so I couldn’t understand why she would think it was her I was bringing; if I was bringing anyone at all. If I really wanted to bring someone with me, I supposed it might have been Gina, a fellow actor and someone I saw occasionally off and on but she was away filming in Dublin. I couldn’t see her dropping everything to come back here just for brunch with my family.

~*~*~

Thinking on it as I took my seat on the couch, I realized it was probably best Gina didn’t come anyway given that I knew my mother wasn’t too fond of her, even if she did try her best not to let on about this. Part of me suspected that this dislike of Gina was because my mother blamed her for Ellen and I breaking off our engagement, although that was nowhere near the truth.

Ellen and I had loved each other; and still did now, to a degree; but we had both come to the realization that the love, along with having similar interests and common friends just wasn’t enough. In the end we understood it wouldn’t work because we both wanted different outcomes for our life together. I had my acting and she had her Olympic dream as an equestrian. Neither of us could see a way to compromise and so rather than force the relationship and drag things out to a bitter end, we parted ways as friends.

Gina hadn’t come into my life until several months later. We had been on a few dates but it wasn’t remotely serious or exclusive between us and for want of a better description, it was more about hooking up when we had an itch to scratch than being together as a couple. The idea of taking someone I only ever saw when I was horny to a family function seemed a little too much, even for me. Then there was the fact that aside from not wanting to upset my mother, the merciless teasing and probing questions from my brothers and their assorted partners just wasn’t worth the hassle.

All thoughts of dates, mothers and birthday brunches were of no consequence now, however. Not when waiting at the end of a pushed button was the chance for me to blow something up; even if that something was only made up of a billion pixels. Taking a swig of beer, I pushed that button.

~*~*~

“Oh, come on! You call that a punch; really? Step aside son; let me show you how the professionals do it. We need to make it out of this !@#$ hole alive!”

I often talked out loud when playing, this game in particular, even if I didn’t have my headset hooked in so I could chat with team-mates in real time. It was a natural reaction of course, to curse at, congratulate or motivate teammates, almost as though they were sitting here it the same room as me and not scattered to all four corners of the globe. Anyone walking past the room might stop and wonder if I had suffered some kind of break-down but I didn’t need to worry about that; another plus in an ever-growing list of benefits to living alone.

I had been playing the game for several hours and was more than just a little too engrossed. So much so that I hadn’t even noticed it was now close to 2am. The game was just coming to a crucial juncture when my mobile rang. Because I had the sound on the TV up so loud, I didn’t hear it ring at first, even though it was sitting right on the arm of the couch I was sitting on. It wasn’t until there was a slight lull in the action that I finally noticed.

With no way to pause or save the game at the point I was in so I could come back to it, I tried to ignore the ringing. It didn’t occur to me that at this hour it had to be important – I just didn’t want to let my team-mates down, especially as we were in dire straits at this point of the mission. Besides, I assumed it was just Stewart wanting me to come back into town to get him, or calling so he could brag about his latest conquest. On the off chance that it wasn’t him, I took a quick glance at the phone. I barely managed to see the caller ID when the phone stopped ringing.

“!@#$! !@#$!” I cursed, leaping up and out of my seat, the game controller dumped unceremoniously at my feet. I had been expecting a call from this number for a week and now I had missed it, all because of a game? I tried to call the number back but got no answer. I was actually considering literally kicking myself when thankfully the person who had been trying to call, called back.

In doing so, they had just given me the news that I had been hoping for. This news was not only about to change my work life but my personal too; for the better, although I wouldn’t realize that for a while; in a most unexpected way.

~*~*~


---
"Driver picks the music. Shotgun shuts his cakehole."

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Re: Swear It Again - Henry Cavill. WIP


Ch 6 – Ally

“Al; Ally, wake up sweetie.”

Much to their reluctance and displeasure, I forced my eyes open, taking a moment to recall where I was. The last thing I remembered was seeing Orlando train for a boxing match and now I was looking up into the blurry and yet smiling face of my room-mate.

“What time is it?” I croaked as I tried to sit up, my body protesting at the movement. Our sofa came out with the ark and so after having been contorted in an unnatural way for so long, it wasn’t happy about being forced back into its regular position. Lizzie and I had talked often about getting a new couch and my back was now reminding me why.

Taking a seat in the chair to my left before kicking off her heels, my friend sighed. “Not quite 11pm. I can’t believe I’m at home at this hour and on a Friday night too!”

I gave her a warm smile. “I can. It’s because Phil wasn’t out with you.”

“I don’t think so.”

“I do. Face it, Liz; you love that man. Sure, you still like to have fun and go out with other friends, living as you always have done but since Phil came along, you’ve changed.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Yes, I do. Believe me, it hasn’t been a bad change. You still like to give the impression that you are Ms Independence but deep down you love Phil and love having him do things for you.” I could see she was about to object but I put my hand up to stop her. “Wait, here me out. I’m not saying that you’ve reverted to the one of those women who can’t function without a man. All I’m saying is that you’ve stopped being one who can’t trust in her own judgement or that of others close to you, enough so that you will now let them do something for you and not worry about their ulterior motives.”

“Let me get this straight. You think I’ve gone soft because I let Phil do the dishes occasionally or agree to let him drive me somewhere?”

A slight laugh escaped my lips before I had a chance to stop myself. When she gave me a dirty look, I had to quickly try and explain myself again. “Hey, I’m not laughing at you. I’m laughing at...well, I don’t know but I swear it wasn’t at your expense. I was just trying to say that you’ve changed since he came into your life. It’s a good change. It’s about more than his doing dishes or driving the car.

“Bugger it; I’m not explaining myself very well, am I? I guess the gist of what I want to say is that there has been a change in you, a good change and while it might not all be due to Phil, he’s a big part of it. I put it down to the simple fact that you love him. I know he for sure loves you. No disrespect meant but the you ‘before’ Phil would have gone out and had a good time till all hours of the morning, regardless if you were dating someone at the time.”

“So now you’re calling me a slut?” she accused in a tone that did nothing to disguise the hurt.

I sat up fully, despite my back aching, so I could reach for her hand. This conversation was going over so much differently in my head. “No! No, of course I’m not. I’d never think that of you much less say it to your face. !@#$, I just don’t...”

When she burst into a laugh, I could do little more than look at her with a querying glance. “Ally, I’m just messing with you. I knew what you meant the minute you made the comment about coming home early because of Phil. I just couldn’t pass up the chance to mess with you a little. You know how I love to get you all flustered when you’re only half awake. I’m sorry, but that was the most fun I’ve had all night.”

“You !@#$!” I retorted with mock indignation. Still laughing, my crazy friend stood up and went to the kitchen.

~*~*~

By the time I creakily hopped off the couch and joined her in the kitchen, the kettle was well on the way to being boiled and the cups were out on the sideboard, waiting to be filled. I went to the smaller cupboard beside the fridge and grabbed the biscuit barrel. Once the tea was made and steeping, Lizzie joined me at the table.

“I am sorry, Al. It’s just a habit now. I really do love to mess with you. In my defence though, you do make it rather easy.”
I gave her a warm smile. “I guess so. Considering the number of times you’ve caught me out, you would have thought that by now I’d catch onto you when you’re taking the piss.”

“Taking the piss? I don’t think I like the sound of that.”

“You’ve heard me say it before, right?” I asked, to which she shook her head. “I was sure I’ve said it before, but anyway; it’s just another way of saying that you’re making a fool of me.”

Dipping one of the few remaining ANZAC biscuits that Mum had sent in the last parcel from home into her tea, Lizzie managed to get the sodden treat into her mouth moments before it broke off and almost fell to the bottom of her cup.

“We’ve been room-mates for more than a year now and yet I still cannot get used to your Aussie slang. Neither have my workmates, just quietly. Many a time I have had to stop and try and translate something that I’ve let slip subconsciously. You are a bad influence, Ally Miller.”

“I do my best” I chuckled. “I would love to be there if you let something slip while in court. Trying to explain some random ‘Aussieism’ to a guy in a wig would be hysterical.”

“I’m glad that would amuse you. I have to admit that it does make work a little more bearable though, slipping something in just to see who notices. I’m going to need that small guilty pleasure, now that I’ve been passed over for the promotion. I almost don’t want to go back there.”

“You know” I began, leaning in close and lowering my voice to a conspirator’s whisper although we were alone; “maybe I can teach you a few of the saucier ones and you could put them into something James passes off as his own work. Watching him try to explain what it means or how and why it got there should be good for a laugh. If nothing else, it might prove that he can’t do his own work but has to steal from others.”

“I love the way your mind works” was her only response as she laughed, once more dunking the last of her biscuit into her tea.

~*~*~

The following morning, I awoke early despite the fact it was a Saturday. I had wanted to just lie in for a change, waiting until the sun was at least no longer shining directly into my room before getting up, but I was wide awake before it had barely lifted its head over the horizon. The ringing of my mobile ten minutes earlier hadn’t helped.

It had been my mother, calling to tell me all about Cate’s news. Unfortunately, it hadn’t been the news she had been hoping for, rather just an announcement that my eldest sister and her husband of three years were finally moving into their own home. Mum told me she was happy for them but it wasn’t hard to tell that she would have preferred news of the impending arrival of a grandbaby; her first; instead. I assured her now that Cate and Joel had a house, it wouldn’t be too long. Hopefully she could take some consolation out of being able to help with the new home until that time.

Although I was awake, I didn’t get out of bed, instead snuggling under the doona cover, just relishing the silence of the morning. Spending at least seven hours a day, five days a week with a classroom full of boisterous ten-year olds was my calling but every now and then, it was bliss just to be able to sit and ‘be’, no added distractions or noise around me.

It wasn’t altogether silent of course; the outside world was slowly waking up and making a start on going about its business, which meant the sound of traffic picked up, or people calling out to each other in the street could soon be heard. It was just nice to not have the almost complete silence interrupted with calls of ‘Miss, Miss, Timmy pulled my hair’ or ‘Miss Miller, why aren’t you married?’

For as much as I craved the odd spell of silence, I could never stand for it to be too silent for any great chunk of time. All that lack of noise allowed me to think and while that could be a good thing, in the end it invariably ended with me thinking about my life; my job, friends and family, my love life – or lack of one – and that would lead to slight depression. The constant questions from my mother about when I was going to settle down and give her grandbabies didn’t help matters.

The doubts about whether or not I would ever be married were just starting to come up when I stopped myself, hopping out of bed instead before they managed to get hold and ruin my weekend. Pulling on the robe I had discarded only a few hours earlier, I traipsed down the hall to the kitchen.

~*~*~

“Good morning Starshine” Lizzie uttered her usual greeting as I walked into the room.

“Hey” was all I was able to manage, not feeling the need to add my usual ‘the earth says hello’ response.

“I thought you said you wanted to lie in this morning?”

“I did but between Mum calling to tell me Cate’s not pregnant, being restless and my own internal clock having its own agenda, I guess it wasn’t meant to be. Maybe it was the mini nap I had when I was supposed to be watching the movie last night.”

“You really must have been tired if you fell asleep while watching Orli.”

“I know, right? I did have a pleasant almost-dream though, so it wasn’t a total loss.” We both laughed.

Preparing myself some cereal, Lizzie asked after my plans for the rest of the day. I didn’t have any and told her as much. “I don’t know yet. I might go for a run after breakfast but other than that, I suppose I’ll just wing it and see where the day takes me.”

“You’re more than welcome to join Phil, the girls and me on our outing. We’re going to the zoo.”

“Isn’t it still a little cold for that?” I asked as I sat at the table with my bowl.

“That’s what sweaters are for” she quipped with a wink.

“Thanks for the offer but I might pass; you guys go without me. Besides, I’ve made a tentative booking to take my class there some time in May. I don’t want to overload myself on the excitement.” Lizzie laughed. “Actually, I might just spend the afternoon creating a few activity sheets for the kids to work on as they walk around. It might stop some of the rowdier ones from just running amok.”

“I can understand that. Better you than me, taking a whole class. I love kids but not in packs of twenty or more.” Taking a sip of her tea she then added “Just don’t spend the whole day working. I know you love your job but you don’t need to be at it seven days a week. I’m sure the school Board wouldn’t mind if you clocked out every once in a while.”

“Yes Mum” I threw back at her. She simply laughed and finished packing up the bag of drinks and other treats ready for the zoo trip. With a gentle tap on the shoulder as she passed, she told me to behave while she was gone and then left to meet up with Phil and the girls. I finished my breakfast with a smile.

~*~*~

In the end, I worked on the activity sheets before going for the run after lunch and not the other way around. As I had been finishing breakfast, a few ideas had come to me and so rather than go for a run and take the risk of forgetting them by the time I returned, I spent a couple of hours jotting them down and doing a little research.

By the time the third hour rolled around, I had designed something not only for my class but that of Jonah Williamson’s 5th grade class; who would be joining us; also. My only hope was that the activity sheets would not only help them learn something but would be fun at the same time. I couldn’t wait to try them out.

With a little housework done followed by a quick trip to the store for some groceries, I had a bite to eat before changing and then finally going out for that run. I was little embarrassed to realize that it had been several weeks since the last time I had been out; thanks to the not so loving or embracing English winter weather; and I realized I missed it. I was no athlete and given my love for all things chocolate I wasn’t what you would call health conscious, but I did love to run.

I had played tennis as a kid and was quite good at it but after tearing the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) in my left knee and spending several months in rehab, I lost the passion. Running had always been the part of my training that I could barely tolerate but once it became a necessary part of my therapy, something changed.

By the time I was fully recovered, I found I was running because I wanted to, not because my physiotherapist was forcing me to. I never went back to tennis, except for fun, but I continued to run, or jog, for fun any chance I had. I mean, isn’t that what life’s all about – life’s small pleasures?

~*~*~

With an IPod strapped to my arm, I set off for Caledonia Park, about four blocks away from home. It was a decent enough distance there and back and I could also run part of the track at the park if I had the desire to stretch myself. Today wasn’t going to be one of those days however.

I had made it about two blocks and was just rounding the corner for the third when I literally ran into some guy, ending up flat on my arse. Dazed and embarrassed, I sat there a moment and tried to catch my breath.

When the reason for my fall offered me his hand, I looked up to take it and found myself staring into a pair of eyes so blue in color, they almost appeared luminous. It took me several moments to actually take his hand and have him help me to my feet, as I was still feeling a little out of sorts. I wasn’t quite sure if it was because I was partly winded, the adrenalin from running or those eyes that had taken my breath away.

~*~*~


---
"Driver picks the music. Shotgun shuts his cakehole."

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Re: Swear It Again - Henry Cavill. WIP


Ch 7

“Are you ok Miss?” my unwitting assailant asked, once I was off the footpath and standing on my own two feet again.

My breathing was slowly but surely returning to some semblance of normal so I was able to answer him. “Yes, thank you. I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to bump into you like that. I didn’t hurt you, did I?”

“No, no; I’m fine. It was my fault actually. I was more interested in reading about last night’s game and so I was doing just that, instead of watching where I was walking. Are you sure you’re ok? You were the one who took the tumble.”

I didn’t understand his reference about reading until he stooped to pick up a newspaper, sprawled open at his feet. As he stood erect once more, I assured him I was fine. “I’m sure.” As I brushed myself off, I added “It must have been some game if you were willing to read about it here and now. Lucky for you it was me you walked into and not into the path of a moving car.”

“Lucky indeed” was all he replied with. The accompanying look he gave suggested he might have been happy for a different reason. Before I had a chance to again apologize and be on my way, he asked “You weren’t hurt when you fell, where you? You landed a little awkwardly there. Can I give you a lift anywhere? My car is just parked up the street a bit.”

Looking up the road to where he was pointing, I noticed the only car parked on the street was a navy-blue Aston Martin. A nice car to be sure but I knew better than to accept a ride with a total stranger. “No, I’m really ok but thanks for the offer. I had more than enough cushioning to break the fall” I added with a self-deprecating laugh.

“Very nice cushioning too” he replied. Given the sudden grimace on his face, I guessed that he hadn’t actually meant to share that particular thought with me. “Not that I was looking mind you, all I meant was that you…”

I smiled and interrupted him. “It’s fine, thank you for the compliment. Thank you also for the offer of a lift but I should keep going before my pulse slows down too much. It’s harder to keep going if you have to build up the momentum again.”

“Oh, ok; if you’re sure you’re ok.” I nodded. “Listen, not to be too forward here but how about joining me for a coffee? Once you’ve finished your run. Perhaps we can meet up later this afternoon?” I hesitated so he quickly added “in a public place, of course.”

I fidgeted a little with my hair, under the guise of pushing it behind my ear and he must have taken the slight hesitation as a sign that I was wary of him. I was, naturally, given I had only just literally run into him but I had hoped to be less obvious about it. As wary as I was however, I managed to say yes, all the same. “Well, if it’s in a public place…” He laughed and I continued “that would be nice. I should be done in an hour or so.”

“Great; how about we meet up at ‘Tap’, down in Soho? A friend of mine has been speaking about how great it is all week, so it would be nice to check it out for myself.”

“Sounds good; is 3pm ok or is that a little too late?”

“No, no; it’s perfect. Gives me a chance to finish my errands too. Then depending on how things go, perhaps we can let it lead into dinner?’

“Let’s just try coffee first” I suggested, albeit with a smile. “3pm it is then.”

I was about to walk away when he asked “Do I at least get to know your name before you run away?”

Well, duh! I just spent five minutes chatting to this guy, making plans to have coffee and somehow the thought to introduce myself never occurred to me. I was slipping. Offering him my hand, I admitted “I knew there was something I forgot to say, other than sorry, when I ran into you. I’m Ally.”

With a smile he answered “Hi Ally, Nigel. Pleased to meet you, even if it was in the most unusual of ways.”

I nodded in agreement and then before another quick goodbye, jogged back the way I had just come. I hadn’t run as far as I had hoped to but now, I had a coffee date to get ready for, so it didn’t seem as important.

~*~*~

It had been a while since I had been on any kind of date with anyone and I was a little nervous. Drinks on Friday night didn’t count and while coffee with Nigel couldn’t really be considered a date as such, I still found myself a little apprehensive. There was something about him that I couldn’t put my finger on and as I took a shower to get ready, I had to psych myself into keeping the date.

The only reason I decided to go in the end was because we were only having coffee, in the middle of the afternoon, in an establishment that was bound to have a good dozen or so other people around us. It would also have been rude to have him sitting there waiting on me, if I had no intention of showing up.

Despite Nigel’s hopes to the contrary, I knew going in that we wouldn’t get past the coffee and end up having dinner. I had only just met him and although he seemed nice enough, I couldn’t see us pushing past a latté or two. Anyway, there was no rush to go from virtual strangers to dinner companions in the space of three hours, no matter how nice he seemed to be. If the coffee went well, then I would consider dinner plans for another night.

Another reason for my second guessing was the fact that it really had been more than a few months since I had been on a proper date and I was nervous about being out of touch with what to do. I of course had been out since then, here or there, but only as a part of a group or as a one-off thing that lasted an hour, tops. Then again, how was I going to meet the man of my dreams and produce all the grandkids my mother yearned for, if I stayed home alone all the time?

In the end I arrived at the café a few minutes after three and after putting on a smile, walked through the door. I had to chastise myself over being ridiculous, concerned over meeting a man for coffee and letting it spiral to the point where I was worried I was going to end up a spinster. I have always had an over-active imagination and while that might be a good thing for a primary school teacher to have, in all other aspects of my life, not so much.

Once in the café proper, I allowed my eyes to adjust to the darker setting, spotted Nigel and made my way to the table he had secured, smiling a little wider at the fact that he had picked the one almost dead centre of the room.

~*~*~

Standing as I approached, Nigel even stepped around to hold my chair for me. It might have been just coffee we were about to share but I was a little chuffed at the showing of manners. Once I was seated, he returned to his own seat.

“Did you manage to find the café ok?”

Given that I was now seated before him I wanted to point out the obvious but I understood what he meant, so I refrained. “Yes. Actually, I’ve been past here a few times, I’ve just never taken the time to stop in, despite the lure of the wonderful aroma. I’m a tea person by nature but I love the smell of roasting beans.” After a pause I asked “Do you come here often?”

He gave a small laugh and it took me a moment to realize what I had just asked. "Wow, here less than five minutes and already I’m trotting out one of the world’s cheesiest pick-up lines. Not to mention the fact that you have already told me you hadn’t been here before.”

“You did it so naturally though, it didn’t feel like a line” he conceded, his smile widening. “Depending on how it goes this afternoon, I might have to start coming here more often. I usually go to the coffee bar about two blocks down from here, closer to work, as it’s a convenient place to take clients. I’ve only been seated about ten minutes and I already prefer the atmosphere in here. It seems to me it would be worth the bit of extra walking.”

Before I had a chance to ask about his job, a waitress came over and asked for our orders. I quickly scanned the menu that was already on the table and ordered a chai latté, while Nigel ordered the Caffé Americano. He asked if I was up for a slice of cake too and so I ordered the carrot.

I loved chocolate like living things loved oxygen but my favourite cake had always been carrot. Ordering himself a slice of the same, Nigel handed the menus back to the waitress and then we were alone again.

~*~*~

“So, what line of work are you in?” I asked as the waitress disappeared. It was a boring question but it was as good a place to start as any.

“I’m a senior partner at ‘D’Angelo and Greene’. We’re an architectural firm.”

“That’s cool. I’d love to have the talent and attention to detail required for something like that. Any particular style of buildings you design or just bits of everything?”

“The firm specializes in business mostly; office space and multi-storey complexes, that sort of thing. Occasionally I’ll do plans up for a house for a friend or a client if it’s requested. It’s what I would rather be doing but the firm doesn’t get enough of that type of request to make it profitable, so we tend to stick to big corporations.”

“Ever thought of going to a firm that does offer the work you prefer, or even starting your own business?”

“All the time. Aside from the financial side of things being beyond my capacity at the moment, I do actually love what I do now, too. Then there are the people I work with. We are a fairly small practice compared to our competition but I believe it’s what gives us the edge. We have more time and staff to dedicate to the client, not spreading ourselves thin to please everyone at once. We’re also like a family business, as clichéd as that sounds. Our oldest clients love this about us and so word of mouth brought in more and now we’ve managed to garner up a nice list of clientele. It would be hard to give that up and have to start at the bottom.”

Our waitress appeared with the orders at that moment and so once she had set us both up with our cake and coffee of choice, she was on her way again. “I can understand that” I continued, almost as though we hadn’t been interrupted. “It’s hard enough to find a job you love, let alone one with a work-friendly environment. Not everyone can be that lucky.”

Nigel nodded in agreement. “How about yourself; how do you spend your weekdays? It doesn’t involve running, does it?”
I could feel the heat start to rise in my cheeks and prayed it wasn’t obvious. He was clearly having a dig, making fun of our having run into each other earlier. It was funny, of course, but there was a hint of something in his tone when he said it that didn’t seem so funny. Or I was imagining it?

“It does, actually. Well, not technically but there is a little involved. I teach 4th graders at St Luke’s and keeping up with them has me on my toes quite a lot. Thankfully I don’t tend to run into them though, for which I’m sure they are most grateful.”
“No, I suspect you save that honour for unwitting strangers you encounter in the street.” His smile this time as he spoke suggested he really wasn’t being horrid about it at all.

“If I recall correctly, you weren’t exactly watching where you were going either. Wasn’t there something you mentioned about a football game that was important?”

“Touché. No matter how it happened though, I’m glad it did.”

I simply smiled a reply.

~*~*~

A good 90 minutes and two lattés later, we were still in the café talking. Nigel spoke of his work and when I got the chance, I spoke of home. They seemed to be the subjects that were the safest. We did briefly talk about football but given he was a soccer fan and I was more into Australian Rules, we couldn’t quite find common ground and so left it. It didn’t seem to matter though as there were plenty of other things to talk about and fill the void.

As much as I enjoyed his company however, I still declined the offer to go to dinner later that evening. I was glad I had come now, despite the mixed feelings and was hoping that he would ask for a dinner date on another night. There were still plenty of things we could talk about and we needed to keep them for then.

“I’ve enjoyed our chat this afternoon, Ally. I hope we can do it again soon some time.”

“I would like that. Do you think your wife would like to join us next time?” I had noted the wedding ring long after sitting down but oddly he hadn’t talked about her at all. I had considered asking him about it myself but given we were only sharing coffee I didn’t see the point. I also didn’t want to come off as nosy.

With an almost guilty look, he looked at his hand before quickly sticking it under the table. “I’m not married” he replied. Noticing my raised eyebrows, he hastily added “I mean, I was, but my wife passed away several months back. I haven’t been able to bring myself to taking the ring off yet. I’m still at the point where I don’t remember I have it on, until someone points it out.”

Now I felt like a dick. “Oh, I’m so sorry Nigel. I didn’t know.”

“How could you have known? I should have mentioned it earlier but it’s still a little tough to bring Emily up in conversation. Even in passing. I wasn’t trying to hide her existence or lead you astray or anything; it’s just easier to avoid the topic, you know?”
I didn’t but I reached across and put my hand over the one he still had on the table. “I understand, really. I’m sorry to have mentioned it now.”

“No, it’s ok. If my Emily was here, she would hit me around the ear and tell me to hurry up and move on already. In fact, near the end she almost made me promise her I would. She was never one for sitting around and dwelling on the past, or what might have been.”

“She sounds like she was a wise lady.”

“She is…was. You would have liked her, and she you, I’m sure.” Nothing was said for several moments before he finally pulled his hand away. “Ok, enough melancholy. How about we make a move? Can I drop you off home?”

“Sounds good” I replied as I pushed my chair back. With the bill paid, we headed out into the last of the afternoon sun, before walking up the street a little towards his car.

~*~*~


---
"Driver picks the music. Shotgun shuts his cakehole."

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Re: Swear It Again - Henry Cavill. WIP


Ch 8

The sun was just saying its final farewell by the time we finally pulled up outside the block of flats. This was because Nigel had taken it upon himself to take the scenic route, rather than just drive us from A to B, which meant a good 50 minutes had been added to the journey.

It could be that he had forgotten I mentioned I had been living here in Camden for over 18 months now and knew the way fairly well, perhaps on the off chance that I didn’t notice what he was doing. Or it might have been that he hoped that in doing so, by the time we made it back it would be late enough for me to reconsider going to dinner with him. I hadn’t.

It had been a fun afternoon, something I enjoyed despite myself. It helped me realize I had missed doing this sort of thing – going out for coffee with a guy, just for the sake of coffee and conversation – but not enough to try and make up for weeks of no decent social activity in the space of a few hours. If he couldn’t take the hint, I was probably better off not seeing him at all.

~*~*~

Rather than let his car idle as we said our goodbyes, Nigel switched off the engine. I wasn’t sure if he was expecting an invite into the flat for more coffee, although we had already consumed a couple of cups back at the café; he simply jumped out of the car and raced around to open my door before I had the chance to fully remove my seatbelt.

“I had fun this afternoon Ally. Not quite what I had planned for the day when I went to get the paper this morning, although I’m not complaining.”

“Glad to hear it. After all, I was the one who ended up butt down on the footpath. I must admit I had fun too. It was nice to sit and chat, no pressures or expectations; just the chance to get to know someone.” I threw that last line in just to make it perfectly clear that this footpath was as far as he was going to be getting today.

“That was exactly what I was thinking. Listen, I know you didn’t want to go to dinner tonight but could I entice you to accompany me on another night? I will leave the destination up to you – formal or casual, I’m up for anything.”

‘I’ll just bet you are’ was the first thought that popped into my head, although I wasn’t quite sure why. Because I had enjoyed myself just enough, I soon found I was saying yes. “I’d like that. Would Wednesday evening be ok? It’s about the only day I know I can actually get away from school the same time as the students; no extra school activities or meetings to attend to.”

“This Wednesday it is” he quickly replied. I had only picked Wednesday because I thought it might be too soon for him and he would ask for the weekend but it would seem he was more eager than I anticipated. Before I could add anything, he lifted my hand and brushed his lips gently over the tips of my knuckles, smiling as he did so. “Thank you once again for today, Ally. And I look forward to Wednesday.”

I shifted feet uncomfortably, embarrassed at the over-the-top kissing of my hand, not quite sure what to make of it. Holding my chair for me or even opening the car door was one thing but this seemed a little excessive. To cover my embarrassment, I joked that perhaps before he left, he might like to take down my phone number, to which he laughed and shook his head.
Once we had both exchanged numbers, he finally said goodbye and I watched him lope across the sidewalk and around to the driver’s side of the car. Two minutes later he was roaring down the street and out of view.

~*~*~

“So; who was the hottie with the even hotter car?” Lizzie accosted me with before I had even completely entered the flat. Living on the second floor and having a great view of the street seems to make it easy for perving on unsuspecting flatmates, I noted with a shake of my head.

Dumping my keys in their usual place, I kicked off my shoes. “Nigel? Oh, just some guy I ran into earlier today. We went out for coffee.” I weaved my way past her and into the kitchen, knowing full well she would be right behind me and demanding more details. I wasn’t disappointed.

“That’s it; that’s all you are going to tell me? You had no set plans when I left this morning and now this? You haven’t been out on a date in weeks and the only information you give me is vague at best. Spill, sister, or I will have to hide the parcel from home you received today, on the top shelf of the cupboard.”

Knowing that said parcel contained Cherry Ripes and no doubt several other goodies I had been craving since I left Australia, I had to give Lizzie the information she craved in return. Not that there was really all that much to tell but when all that stood between me and a box of chocolate covered heaven was a woman who was at least a foot taller than me, I had no choice. Even more so when said woman had no scruples about hiding things like this from me, on the very top shelf of whatever was closest at the time, knowing full well I couldn’t reach; even with the aid of a chair.

“I went out for a jog after lunch and just as I turned onto Baron Street, Nigel was coming the other way. He had his head buried deep in the morning’s paper; he mentioned something about an article on a game from last night; and so wasn’t watching where he was going. I ran into him and ended up flat on my arse. Once we had both ensured the other was ok, he asked me out for coffee. I said yes.”

 I was a little surprised to find that my room-mate was now wearing a look of disbelief all of her own. Was she truly so shocked that I had agreed to go for coffee? I guess the fact that I had said no several times over the last few weeks to do something similar justified her reaction. “You actually went out, on a date, with a man? Oh Ally; I’m so proud of you!”

“Calm down a little. It wasn’t a date, just coffee. No big deal. It’s not like I just landed on the moon or found a cure for cancer you know.”

“It is a big deal though. You haven’t been out in ages. I was starting to worry about you.”

“So, the both of us going to the club last night was just a figment of my imagination then?”

“Of course not; and that’s not what I meant. Yes, you have been out but it was usually with me or as part of a group. I thought perhaps last night you and Paul were hitting if off and that was going to change.”

“We were, in the beginning but then I was starting to feel a little stifled. I’m sure he’s a nice guy all and I suppose I can’t really judge him on the one meeting but towards the end, he was coming off as a little needy and it was very disconcerting.”

Finally sliding the parcel addressed to me across the table, Lizzie took a seat. “Let’s just say for a minute that you’re not altogether wrong. He is a nice guy but since his last girlfriend dumped him, he’s done his best to try and replace her with any woman he meets, even if he’s only known them a few hours. One of the temps at work had to be talked out of getting a restraining order against him.”

Suddenly I didn’t feel so bad about my decision to leave the club early.

~*~*~

As I eagerly opened the parcel now that it was back in my possession, I continued to tell Lizzie that I had made further plans to meet up with Nigel. This time she did her best to temper her shock but I still managed to spot it as it flashed across her face.

“I’m glad, Al; really. I don’t expect you to go out and rush into anything but promise me you will give it a go and have a good time.”

I rolled my eyes. My mother was literally thousands of kilometres away in a different country and yet in this moment, it felt like she was sitting right here in the kitchen with me. My best friend might not be aware of it but she has this uncanny knack of channelling my mother pretty damn well, eye rolls and head tilts included. If it wasn’t so funny it would be kind of spooky.

“I don’t actively try to have a bad time but I promise to give it a go” I conceded. “I’m not rushing into anything, believe me. If I’m being honest, there is something about him that I can’t put my finger on but it may just well be his personality. Besides; it’s not like I enjoy being home alone more often than not, it’s just turned out that way. Most of the men I come across are the fathers of my students and I can hardly hit them up for a date now, can I? Going out to clubs is fine every now and then but it’s not my thing.”

With a cheeky twinkle in her eye she answered “Mine either, so I get it. And I suppose it wouldn’t be a good look to hit on the fathers of your students. Hey, perhaps literally running into random men could be your thing.” I shook my head at her as she laughed. “Oh, crap; what happens if you have bumped into the man of your dreams already and you didn’t even realize it? After all, it took you being dumped on your butt for you to take note of a man at all.”

I could do little more than laugh with her, no longer interested in trying to justify my lifestyle choices. Some people, like Lizzie, were made to be social butterflies, out and about doing all kinds of things and meeting new and interesting people on a regular basis. I wasn’t quite built that way and although I had adapted to being a little more outgoing since rooming with her, I had yet to go the whole way and just put myself out there all the time, no matter the consequences. It explained why I didn’t go out as much as most people my age but if I was mostly happy with my life, why couldn’t other people be?

“I don’t know how my butt will fare if I have to literally be knocked on it each time. It’s well padded enough, to be sure, but at some point, it’s going to start to hurt a lot more than it’s worth.”

Happily accepting the Cherry Ripe I had just offered her, she nodded in agreement. A moment later a borderline erotic soft moan of appreciation for the chocolate treat was her only response. For the next few delectable minutes, no more was mentioned on the subject of my love life – or lack of – as each of us ravished the small piece of heaven wrapped in its red and yellow foil covering.

~*~*~

When it became dark enough to think about dinner, I opened the fridge and noticed there was nothing there I felt like. I had done a little grocery shopping earlier in the day and yet, it would seem that I had failed to pick up anything that would hit the spot now.

Lizzie had only come home long enough to dump the empty dishes from the goodies taken on the zoo trip and to pick up her overnight bag, as she was staying overnight with Phil and his girls, so it was only me that I had to worry about feeding. In the end I decided I had a yearning for Chinese.

I briefly considered walking the three blocks to the local take-away place but it was a little too dark for that now. I had already run into one strange man today and it had worked out ok. I didn’t want to push my luck and see if it could happen a second time.

Sorting the new from the old, I went through the take-away menus I had found in the drawer by the side of the fridge. Once I had found the one I needed, I called in an order for special fried rice and some honey chicken. Because it was going to take at least 30 minutes for the food to arrive, I went and turned on my laptop.

As I sorted through yet another long list of emails to determine what was spam and what wasn’t, I came across one from Ancestory.com.au. Although I had an account with them, I normally deleted their emails as they were more often than not trying to get me to buy something or upgrade my account. This was no different and while I did delete the email, because I had some time on my hands, I decided to visit the site. It had been a while since I worked on the family tree I had in progress and I figured that if I was going to be spending the night at home alone, I could at least be doing something productive.

~*~*~

My interest in finding out about my ancestors wasn’t a new thing, it had been something that I had been working on for years, although the interest did wane in and out a little now and then. The interest was very much peaked once more when I learned I had been offered the chance to come to London on job exchange, especially when a good chunk of my maternal ancestors where English. Any spare time I had after I first arrived was spent researching, visiting libraries and other well-known sources of family history.

Trips to museums and other well noted tourist venues also took up a huge chunk of my time and money, something I found I was fast running out of. Running into Lizzie at one of the bigger libraries; where she was doing her own research; had been a twist of fate and within a couple of months of being friends she had invited me to move into her spare room.

Having a roommate to do things with and also taking on more responsibilities at work meant my free time was limited somewhat and so my searching for my roots slowed down significantly. It didn’t quite come to a complete and grinding halt but it had been idle for some time now. Thanks to a spam email reminding me of it, I decided tonight might be just the time to get it moving again.

Part of me, like so many others who have a passion for genealogy, hoped to find links to any kind of royalty and I suspected that I had been passed that desire by my mother, who herself had an enthusiasm for all things regal. It was this very passion that had led her to blessing all of her daughters with the names of past queens.

To date however, the only link I had been able to find was a small one to a Sir Rowland Hill, who is thought to have been the inventor of the postage stamp. Not quite as Royal as my mother had hoped for but she agreed that any kind of title wasn’t something to be sneezed at. She had actually been more impressed with a link to George Bernard Shaw, explaining that this is probably where her love of writing stemmed from.

Opening up the site and finding the page with the tree on it, I had a look around and started to search a little in the old records. So engrossed did I become in this search, I almost didn’t hear the doorbell being rung, announcing the arrival of my dinner.

By the time I eventually got to bed several hours later, I had managed to link two more great, great, great aunts to the tree. A night not completely wasted I would have thought.

~*~*~


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"Driver picks the music. Shotgun shuts his cakehole."

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