5. A step forward, two steps back

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To my sweet Jess, for supporting me and being the great friend she is :P (Miss you, Jess. Come back!!!!) 

Chapter 5

A step forward, two steps back

Hope was a signpost pointing
straight in the air.
Hope was my uncle's middle name,
he died of it.
- Linda Pastan, The Five Stages of Grief


We rode in complete silence, the only sound between us the roaring engine and swiftly passing cars. This felt strange. We had ridden this same road together so many times in the past. Everything was the same - except us.

I pretended to fix the rear view mirror, and titled it to steal a glance at her. She was looking ahead, lost in her own thoughts. I smiled to myself, happy to be in that moment. Just when I decided to let her be, I found myself tangled with her again. Though I couldn't do anything to comfort her, I was thankful for the play of events. Forgetting my phone on the window sill had been a blessing in disguise. She was with me, and she was safe.

Or, so I thought.

I stole another glance at her, and when I looked back at the road, a sudden red light came to view. I pulled the brakes hastily, unprepared and distracted, and almost lost balance. The back tyres skidded making a terrible screech in the silent night and Evie's arms wound around me tight, clutching my shirt, her face pressed to my back. I had managed to keep the balance, preventing us from toppling over but she was trembling. "I'm so sorry," I whispered, closing one hand over hers. 

She was terrified, and I had only myself to blame. After a few seconds, she lifted her head and our eyes met in the mirror. Her eyes were filled with tears. "I'm really sorry, Ev. I promise I'll be more careful." I pleaded, pressing her hand closer to my frantically beating heart.

Her eyes widened, before she broke eye-contact, nodding her head, "It's okay, these things happen." she said in a husky whisper and pulled her hand away. "People die in accidents all the time." she added almost to herself, but I heard it. I stopped breathing for a moment or two, not sure what to say or do. 

Another look at her face, and I decided not to push her into talking to me. She had to find her own way out. I started the bike and rode carefully, eyes on the road. After a few seconds, she put her arms around me again, and rested her head on my back like old times. I almost jolted from the shock but managed to keep my cool, unsure of what to feel. I could feel her breathing deeply before she surprised me by speaking again. "Should we drop the ice-cream at your place first?The kids must me waiting."

"It's okay. They must have gone to bed by now."

"I wouldn't be so sure. It's the weekend." she muttered and I could hear the smile in her voice. I nodded, swallowing the sudden lump in my throat. She was right. I had promised them that they didn't have to go to bed till I came back with their treat.

Soon we stopped in front of my family home and a million thoughts raced through my mind as I took the bag from her.

Maybe she was ready to talk.

Maybe she just wanted to see the kids.

Maybe she wants to tell me that she never wants to see my face again.

Maybe she wants to ask me how I feel for her.

Maybe she simply didn't want the ice-cream to melt.

I walked across the lawn, my head buzzing. I stopped when I realized she wasn't following me and turned to find her standing near Chloe's flower beds.

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