Part 59

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Fifteen minutes later, I'd fastened my first bra. I'd taken off plenty and fondled twice as many firm breasts, but this was the first time I'd focussed so hard on those little fucking hooks, my fingers fumbling as Caitlin held her breath, fidgeted and fought not to ask me again if I'd finished yet.

I didn't have more than a split-second to admire my handiwork before Caitlin yanked a shirt over her head and down to her hips. When she turned around, I realised I was staring at her breasts and quickly shifted my eyes to her face. "Shall we go?" she said.

"Sure," I replied. I looked down for the pockets she didn't have. "Don't you need to get your wallet and phone and stuff?"

Caitlin swallowed, her eyes suddenly shimmering with tears. "I don't…they took…I don't have any…"

Fucking fool. I stood to hug her as her tears flowed, feeling the unfamiliar firmness of a bra between us for the first time. Caitlin had always seemed so soft before. I tried to focus. "How are you going to do food shopping without any money?" I asked reasonably.

"I don't know," was her muffled, miserable reply as she cried into my shirt.

I sat on her bed, pulling her down with me, trying to work out what to do. I could lend her the money, sure, but that didn't fix her problem of not having a phone or access to cash. I tried to remember what I'd had to do the last time I lost my wallet. "Do you have a passport?"

Caitlin sat up straighter, sniffling. "Yes."

"Do you think you have any official letters for you with your home address on them?"

"Maybe some from Uni…" she began, her eyes kindling with hope.

I stood. "Tell me where to find them and we'll take them to the bank. We can arrange cash and some new cards…maybe even get you a new phone, if we have time."

Caitlin looked relieved. "Thanks, Nathan."

Armed with her passport, some official letters and a beautifully fastened bra, if I do say so myself, Caitlin let me take her to the nearest big shopping centre – Garden City. It was too far for her to walk from the car to the entrance, so I gave her three options. "Are you riding in a gopher, wheelchair or a shopping trolley?"

Caitlin choked. "A shopping trolley? I won't fit in the child seat, Nathan."

I grinned. "I know. I figured I'd lift you into the bit where the shopping's supposed to go."

She still looked uncertain. "I'd prefer a wheelchair if we can get one, please."

As I expected, the centre had some for loan and Caitlin was soon enthroned in a wheelchair, her feet tucked up off the ground.

"Right, which bank?" I asked.

Caitlin smiled as she replied, "Not that one."

Dealing with the bank was surprisingly easy, as Caitlin had her identification and the staff recognised her from the front cover of the day's newspaper, anyway. The photographer had captured her delighted-at-the-ducklings smile perfectly, but the pictures of me were blurred and unrecognisable. I promised myself I'd pick up a copy I could keep before we left the shopping centre.

I stuck Caitlin's money in my pocket, at her request, as we headed into the shopping centre proper for a new wallet and the rest of what she needed. A woman almost barrelled into her with a fully loaded trolley and I heard Caitlin whimper as she dragged on the wheels to stop in time.

"What the hell are you doing?" I asked the trolley woman, who glared at us as she kept going. I dropped to my knees beside Caitlin. Her hands were clasped protectively to her chest. "Are you okay?" I held out my hands for hers. She winced as she laid her fingers on mine.

"I want some gloves," she said.

I stared at her. "Gloves?"

She curled her fingers. "You know, like cyclists use."

We bought her the smallest pair of cross-training gloves we could find in a sporting goods shop, though Caitlin looked at the pale pink colour of them with distaste as she slid her fingers inside. "Better?" I asked. She nodded.

A wallet, handbag and basic pre-paid phone later, I stopped to pick up a few new t-shirts, shorts and a pair of pyjamas. Shit, I hadn't worn pyjamas since I was a kid, but I'd have to if I stayed overnight at Caitlin's place, or she'd freak out.

I swung my bag of purchases as I asked, "Time for food shopping, or is there anything else you need?"

"No, food's good," Caitlin replied and spun her wheels in the direction of the nearest supermarket.

I followed her with a trolley as she made her selections. A couple of times, she smiled and nodded at people as if she knew them, but she didn't stop to talk.

I watched her as she rolled down the breakfast cereal aisle, placing bets with myself on what she'd choose. I was expecting her to pick one of the boxes of kids' cereal, because of how healthy the hospital food had been, but she didn't even look at the cereal. I wondered why.

When the trolley was half-full, Caitlin said she was done, so we headed to the registers to pay. I grabbed a couple of newspapers from the stand as we went past, dropping them on top of the shopping. I was careful to avoid squashing the strawberries balanced precariously on top, trying to hide my smile. I'd already earned a glare and a warning when I put my jar of coffee too close to them.

The checkout operator looked at me blankly as I handed over both newspapers, then turned to Caitlin. "Are you sure you want two papers, miss?"

Caitlin looked equally blank. "Do we, Nathan?"

I hesitated, then decided I had nothing to lose by telling her. "Well, you'll want one and I'd like one for myself, so – yes." I nodded for the shop assistant's benefit. I pointed at the picture of Caitlin that kept catching my eye. I couldn't stop glancing at it, though I had the real lady herself right in front of me. Idly, I wondered if I could contact the newspaper photographer and get a copy of the original photo. "It's a beautiful picture and I want to remember the first time you smiled, like none of this had ever happened. Because I was there."

Caitlin looked up at me, a searching smile on her face, as if she was trying to work out if I was joking.

No matter what else happened, at least she'd had one more day of happiness. And she'd shared it with me.

"Nathan?" Caitlin's voice broke through my reverie.

"Mmm?" I tried to make it sound like I wasn't miles away. I started moving the shopping bags into the trolley.

"Will you stay with me tonight?" She looked up at me with those big eyes.

"Sure, if that's what you want," I replied.

She paid the checkout operator and slipped her change into her new wallet. We headed back toward the car.

"I want you to sleep with me."

I choked. "You want…what?"

A light touch on my arm. The brush of three of Caitlin's fingertips was enough to stop me in my tracks. "I want you to stay and sleep with me, so you can wake me up if there are any more nightmares. Please?"

I fought to get the words out. "Sleep. You mean…"

Caitlin looked puzzled. "Sleep. Like you did when I was in hospital. Unless I wake you up because I'm having another nightmare." Her eyes grew huge. "You don't have to if you don't want to."

Oh God, you have no idea how much I want to. And more than sleep…Focus.

"Sure," I managed to say again. Good thing I bought pyjamas.

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