Part 87

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I arrived early at Caitlin's. It was still mid-afternoon, but I didn't want to stay away from her any longer. My head was too filled with dread for her safety when we were apart.

I dragged myself up her front steps, trying to pull myself together into some semblance of company for her, instead of the wet dishrag I felt like.

It was piano-lesson day, it seemed. The child I'd heard practising the piano for the last fortnight had played a very simple song, but the virtuoso who played what I barely recognised as the same song must have been the child's teacher, demonstrating how something so simple could become a complex masterpiece. For the second time that day, I felt like crying. Caitlin and I were right there at the child's skill level – our relationship working well enough to appear to be music. Would she survive long enough for us to take it further, to be the symphony we could be together? I wanted it – God, I wanted it, almost as much as I wanted Caitlin herself.

I couldn't wait any longer. I knocked on her door, dying to see Caitlin again.

The piano-played song ended in silence. The music lesson was over for the day, it seemed. Oh God, please don't let anything else be over. Not yet.

I heard Caitlin's steps creak on the boards in the hall before she opened the door. "Nathan – you're early!" Her eyes lit up and she threw her arms around me, delivering a delightful kiss.

My heavy heart lifted a little and I felt my smile return. "Angel," I murmured, not wanting to let go. She was the only light I could see, even with the sun still in the sky.

She laughed as she pulled away from me. "Come on in. I was thinking about an afternoon snack and the cheese looked really good…" She took my hand and pulled me inside, leading the way laughingly to the kitchen.

From the fridge she pulled out something small enough to hold in her hand and proffered it. Nestled in her palm was a small cheese, coated in black wax. "Jo and I bought it this morning and I wanted to share it with you." She flitted around the kitchen, pulling out a cutting board and a wicked little knife. Caitlin stretched up onto her toes to reach the crackers in a high cupboard above the bench, but her balance was perfect.

She took the knife and touched the point to the wax.

"Let me help you with that," I offered, worrying about her hurting her hands by handling a knife and hard cheese.

Caitlin shook her head, still laughing. Her fingers were quick. With a few deft strokes she'd peeled the wax from the little cheddar and laid it naked on the cutting board. I watched her carefully as she started to slice the cheese, but Caitlin didn't show the slightest sign of any pain.

She's really recovering, I realised.My heart lifted a little more.

Caitlin held out a cracker, topped with a freshly cut slice of cheese. She popped another in her mouth, smiling as I took her offering.

I crunched my way through what was good cheese. Better still was the cheese-flavoured kiss Caitlin followed it up with.

Her smile was almost infectious. "What would you like to do tonight?"

I want to persuade you to let me come over tomorrow night, when I'm only a normal bloke who can't promise your safety.

I found my grin again. "I'll leave that entirely up to you. Dinner, maybe?"

"I was thinking about going out to the hawker's. I want to try with chopsticks again…"

I need to ask her out for tomorrow night. Plan a special dinner and maybe something else after, anything to get her to let me stay again tomorrow.

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