We'd both said it. Both expelled those words that I hadn't had the courage to say until five days ago. And that's how long it had been since I'd seen Harry last. Those final few seconds had been etched into my brain, replaying every small detail as he soundlessly shaped the words on his lips, "I love you."
It was a commonly used, commercialised phrase that seemed to hold little worth in the current day. But coming from Harry it gained new meaning. Apart from his family I doubt he had ever uttered the words to another individual. Maybe he had never desired that sort of connection with someone, too many emotions, too intimate. To love another human being.
Harry's words had given me a new type of strength I didn't know possible. One that allowed me to suppress the heavy fear that weighted in my chest as the sound of rushed footsteps approached behind me. I was walking back from Zoe's house, the night clouded in an eerie darkness. My fingers pried the popper on my bag open to grasp the can that lay at the bottom. I didn't want to be the victim of intimidation any longer.
"Back off!" I yelled, stumbling around to face the pursuer.
My right hand tightly held the can, arm outstretched as I aimed it at the figure.
It was only then I recognised his slightly panicked features. Harry stepped back as he waited for me to lower my weapon. My heart thumped against my chest, relieved I wasn't forced to confront a stranger.
"Is that pepper spray?" He spoke in disbelief. The small can was taken, Harry reading the label as I attempted to calm my breathing. "Where the hell did you get it?"
It was handed back to me, dropping it safely into my bag.
"Lucy's dad works for the police." I explained. "You shouldn't have crept up on me."
"I won't make that mistake again." He teased.
Even through his playful tone it was obvious that my defensive gesture had surprised Harry. But as seconds passed a noticeable silence loomed over us. The few texts we had exchanged seemed easier to communicate than a phone call, at least then we weren't pressured to speak. As I stood before him I didn't know what to say. The last time we had properly spoken to each other we had confessed our love. Where do you go from there?
I looked to Harry whose bottom lip being chewed between his teeth, an indication of nerves. It gave me a little comfort to know he was in the same boat.
"Shall we.." He gestured to continue our journey along the path.
As we walked I covertly observed his hesitant hand, not certain if attempting to hold mine was crossing the imagery line drawn between us. I hadn't placed it there, it was Harry's fear.
"They've noticed, Harry." I abruptly spoke.
"What?" His tone hinting at misunderstanding. "Who's noticed what?"
"The fights, pub brawls." I lightly shook my head, continuing to walk alongside him. "They're on the rise and the police have noticed. Look, Harry, I just want you to be more careful. I've told you before that I'm not visiting you behind bars and I stand by that."
"Alright." He replied simply.
"Just like that?"
I was expecting a little more protest, Harry's quiet confirmation causing me to stop in the middle of the pavement. He turned to face me, still looking somewhat cautious. The warmth of his hand moved to reached out to mine, but it dropped almost instantly back to his side.
"I'm not losing you." Harry paused. "If it means I have to be more restrained then I'm willing to try."
I was astounded with his reasoning. Harry's stubborn nature was one of his more bold characteristics, finding it difficult comply to other people's instructions. He was never one to go along with the crowd.