“Let’s meet up here at the end of the day shall we?” Galen said, waving.
“What a little conniving ferret,” Rhae said, kicking aside rubble as Galen’s truck rumbled away.
Thomas fiddled with a button on his trench coat. He kind of liked the idea of spending time with her alone. They haven’t had the time to do that much in forever. Granted they did get that one really nice night. A smile warmed his face at the memory. More time like that would be greatly welcomed.
“What are you smiling about?” she said, pointing a finger in his face.
“You. I was smiling about you,” he said, grasping her hand and kissed it lightly. “I want to spend time with you.”
She yanked her hand away and rubbed it. “We have things to do.”
He threw his hands into the air and then dropped them to his sides. “Like what? Find Peccant? My sister? The brood? Without our weapons?” he said. “We’re sitting ducks, Rhae.”
“So we’re just going to parade around town like a pair of fucktards?” she said, glaring. “Might as well stick neon signs on our heads too, shouting we’re over here.”
“Well I don’t have neon signs,” Thomas said, sliding his hands into his pockets while struggling to keep a straight face, “but if you want we can run naked down Main Street.”
Rhae stared at him. “You can’t be serious.”
“I’m sure it will get somebody’s attention.”
His grin creeped through and earned him a hard punch in the shoulder. She reached into his coat to hold him tight. Her forehead rested against the side of his neck. Clutching his back, she squeezed him before pulling away.
“I don’t like this,” she said, crossing her arms. “We’re defenseless.”
“Here take the sword for now,” Thomas said. He unbuckled the belt and offered it to her.
“Take it,” he said. “The blade is only a little longer than your knife. You should be able to use it in a pinch. I have my runes. We’re going to be okay.”
Rhae accepted the belt and strapped it on. “It does feel weird,” she said. “I’m used to having it on my leg.”
“When you get your knife back we can practice together.”
“I won’t go easy on you.”
“Okay boyfriend,” she said, playfully wiggling her fingers in the air, “where to?”
“You’re asking me?”
“I planned the last date.”
“That was a date?”
“You got dinner and sex,” she said, teasing him with the promise of a kiss before walking away. “Do believe that counts.”
“Great,” Thomas said. He stared up at the lazy clouds floating by in chill blue sky. “How the hell do I compete with that?”
“You’re not going to cut me any slack are you?” he said, shaking his head at the mute sky.
Thomas turned to join Rhae on the sidewalk as he mulled over his options. Traffic was just heavy enough that teleporting wasn’t exactly practical. The nearest movie theater was a fifteen minute drive away. They were walking and it was only open at night so that’s out. He supposed they could just walk down Mill Street together for a time until he figured things out. There was no harm in that.
Even though still in late summer, the crisp autumn winds whispered across the pavement. Rhae stepped along the curb in stubborn indifference. Her hands gripped her elbows, shielding her from the world. She always fought to stand on her own, and Thomas respected that. Now Thomas realized it was isolating her. No one can live in a vacuum and thrive. It’s true that the most beautiful flowers bloom in adversity but they still need soil, rain, and sun to grow. He didn’t know which of these he was and he guessed it didn’t matter much so long as he became better at it.
“Hold up, Rhae, and put my coat on,” he said.
“I’m fine,” she said, walking backwards.
“I know, but it will hide the sword.”
“Oh, good point.”
Since she was taller than him, it was a little awkward helping her put it on but they managed. He tenderly buttoned it and cinched the belt.
“Was that really necessary?” she said bending down to rub noses.
“Yes,” he said, closing his eyes as he caught a whiff of her summer scent.
“Do you know where you’re going?”
Thomas sighed. He didn’t have a clue but wanted to not sound like a dork. Taking her hands he said, “I’m already where I need to be.”
“On the corner of Mill and Main?” she said. “It’s not exactly a romantic hot spot.”
“I have you with me,” Thomas said with some hesitation, “so it doesn’t matter where I go. As long as you’re by my side it’s the perfect spot.”
“And if we’re in the depths of hell?”
Thomas chuckled. “Okay fine, I promise you if for some reason we are in the depths of hell I will still kiss you,” he said. He hugged her. “I’ll do whatever it takes for us to be okay.”
“Even if I looked like some kind of chopped up Lovecraftian monster?”
He scrunched up his face and groaned. “I don’t know,” he said. “That might be a deal break breaker. I mean who wants to make out with something built like a sucker fish bat named Zh’motskel?”
Rhae stomped on his foot. “Wrong answer,” she said, “and for all you know such a thing exists, it heard you, and now its feelings are hurt. It will hate you for life.”
“Please do not hate me for life,” Thomas said. “I swear I was only yanking her chain. I meant no offense.”
Praying that the majority of demons possessed a sense of humor, and not entirely at his expense, Thomas hurried after Rhae. Perhaps if Zh’motskel, or sucker fish bat demons for that matter, did exist they would at least grant him some mercy. He landed himself into enough trouble on his own. He didn’t need any assistance from whatever cosmic forces that be on this one. Thomas begged the Fates to allow him to salvage today and not completely spoil Rhae’s mood.
Lacing his fingers with hers, he smiled up at her. “Hey I know,” he said, “how about we head up the street? Have some coffee and brunch together?”
“I could go for that,” she said, giving him a shrewd smile.
“But?” Thomas said, raising an eyebrow.
Rhae squished up her cheeks with her hands to make a fish face with her lips. Then she said, “You have to give your girlfriend a kiss first.”
“Ew, no.” Thomas put his hand on her forehead as she leaned in while making sucking sounds. “Weirdo, get away from me.”
At this point Rhae was struggling to hold the face through her laughter. “What’s the matter Thomas,” she said. “Come on big boy give me some sugar.”
“Do you have any idea what you look like?” Thomas said. He made the face back at her. “You look just like this. Now isn’t that the sexiest thing ever?”
“Okay, okay,” Rhae said, grabbing his hands. “You’re right, that’s weird. We never speak of this again.”
“You’re the one that started it,” he said. “I can’t unsee that. I’m scarred for life.”
“You’re right. I’m sorry,” Rhae said, rolling her eyes with mock drama. “How can I ever make it up to you?”
“You can’t,” Thomas said, feigning anguish. “Not even kisses will make the pain go away.”
“Not even kisses?”
“Oh, that’s a shame,” Rhae said, “I guess we better get going then. Don’t want to miss out on brunch.”
“Oh come on, I’m dying here,” Thomas said.
She deliberately walked up to him in slow, measured steps. A small smile tugged his lips as she wrapped her arms around his shoulders. His fingers splayed across her back as she combed hers through his hair. Rhae’s lips barely grazed his before her hazy earthly aura enveloped him with warmth. He sighed into her as she deepened the kiss. She followed through with a light peck on each eye brow.
“There,” she said, “all better now.”
He felt as though he’d float away if she hadn’t held his hand the rest of the way. With an untroubled and upbeat pace, they reached the coffee shop long before mid-morning. They missed the morning work run and had gotten there before the lunch time slam. This was good because Thomas hated the lines and thought that the tables were too small for a place like this.
“I’ll have a single latte please,” Rhae said.
“I’ll take a flat white please,” Thomas said. “What are you eating, Rhae?”
“We come to a coffee shop and all you ask for is a regular blonde cup of coffee?”
“Yes,” Thomas said. “What are you having to eat?”
Rhae scrunched up her face and shook her head before turning back to the lady at the counter. “I’ll have an egg and sausage muffin sandwich and two glazed donuts.”
“I’ll get the same sandwich,” Thomas said, “but I would really like the pumpkin muffins.”
They take the table nearest them next to the window and sit across from each other. In Thomas’ opinion, the table was barely big enough for one person’s coffee yet the table had two chairs.
“What’s the matter?” said Rhae, over the rim of her cup.
“This place is so cramped,” he said. “They make all places like this now. Even in Galen’s old place you felt like you had space to breathe without knocking something over.”
Rhae chuckled. “That’s a lost art right there.”
She rolled back her head to stretch her neck. “I wonder what that old ferret is up to right now.”
“Well,” Thomas said, “the day is still young so it’s likely he’s with the jeweler’s still.”
“The day is dragging,” Rhae said, resting her chin on her fist.
“You don’t like having me all to yourself?”
“Make no mistake,” she said, “I always have you to myself.”
She gave him the knowing look that all women everywhere seem to have mastered. Thomas wondered if every female was just born with it and figured they were.
“Even if we were in the depths of hell?”
“Rest assured, Thomas,” Rhae said, her face taking on a stern bearing, “if we are ever in the depths of hell I will be the only thing that exists to you.”
Thomas clasped her hand in his. “You’re the only thing that exists to me now.”
They finished their brunch in comfortable, albeit cramped, calm. He didn’t mind that the day ambled along in long slow ticks. The slower the better as far as he was concerned. Who knew what sort of contention tomorrow would bring? Thomas didn’t even want to consider the possible death count to come if they didn’t resolve this soon. So for now, today was a day for rest and dreams. They would have to wake up soon enough to answer the battle call.
“Well,” she said, standing up. “What’s next?”
“What’s next?” Thomas said, looking out the window and read the sign next door. “Candlepin bowling next door. Should be open now.”
“Just like ten pin,” Rhae said, “only different.”
“That’s what you keep telling me,” Thomas said, watching his ball go right into the gutter.
“Too much spin on the ball.”
“They have ten-pin lanes here.”
“The balls for ten-pin are too heavy,” Rhae said.
“You don’t like the fact I can beat you in ten-pin,” Thomas said.
“You don’t like the fact you suck at candlepin,” she said.
“We could play duckpin.”
“Fuck that shit.”
Thomas snorted. “Come on,” he said, “it’s the best of both worlds.”
“Hell no,” she said. “Besides, there’s no lanes for that here.”
“You’re no fun.”
“I’m plenty fun,” she said. “You’re just being a snot maggot.”
“Now wait a minute,” Thomas said. “I can’t be one of those.”
“And why not?”
“Because you’re kissing on me all the time.”
Rhae considered this for a moment. “You’re right. I rescind my insult,” she said. “I’ll have to think of another.”
“Now just a second,” he said.
“What?” she said.
“Think about it,” he said, “any insult you come up for me, don’t you think will also reflect upon you too? I mean, since we’re a packaged deal.”
Rhae raised her eyebrows. “Whoa, I think Thomas just won the game,” she said. “Fair and square.”
She gently rolled her ball, a little larger than a baseball and much heavier, down the lane. It kept itself straight but only punched through the center pins.
“You play better than I do.”
“That’s because you hammer the ball down there,” she said. “This game needs more finesse than that and I need more practice.”
“You need more practice?”
“I didn’t get a strike did I?”
“No,” Thomas said, “I guess a little practice never hurts anyone.”
“Looks like the afternoon senior leagues are coming in.”
“If you want someplace quiet,” Thomas said, changing his shoes, “we can hit Barrows Point. People might be there but they shouldn’t bother us.”
“Twenty minute walk from here isn’t it?”
“About that,” Thomas said. “It’s another thirty minutes or so from Galen’s old place if that’s what you’re thinking.”
“We have three hours left.”
“So we have time.”
Rhae nodded and didn’t argue when Thomas helped her put his trench coat back on. This time he didn’t touch the buttons or belt. They returned the bowling shoes, paid for the lanes, and left the building holding hands. Stopping at the gas station, they picked up two sub sandwiches and hard ciders for their visit at the lake. It was gratifying to walk with her along the street. Even though they didn’t speak, he felt connected with her.
Most of the people at Barrows Point were out on boats or on the docks fishing. Thomas was able to find a small private cluster of trees for the two of them to sit under for their picnic. The fresh breeze off the water warmed their skin as they ate their sandwiches. Serenity enveloped them both as they cracked open the hard cider and lit up the clove cigarillos. He propped himself up against the white birch as Rhae stretched out in the grass with her head in his lap. Cigarillos had been butted out long ago as the sun set in rosy hues. Reluctantly they knew it was time to go. Summoning the will to move, they stood, stretched, and lingered longer than they should.
Finally Thomas wrapped his arms around Rhae in the waning light. “Thank you for today,” he said.
Rhae smiled and kissed him lightly before pulling away. “We should get back,” she said.
Hand in hand, they reached the sidewalk before freezing to the sound of tittering.