23. Someone to Light Up My Life

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Where shall I look for the love to replace you? - Frank Sinatra

7:15 p.m. Thursday, October 14, 2021

Harry kicks off his shoes as soon as they've entered the house, and he pads into the kitchen, prepared to fill two wine glasses while Michele pops the salty treat. When he finds her at the counter pouring the kernels into a measuring cup, he approaches from behind, wrapping his hands around her waist and nestling his chin between her shoulder and neck.

"This feels wonderfully domestic," he says, pressing a kiss to her exposed skin. She shivers, and it awakens his senses. "Do you know how incredibly hot you look doing that?"

Her laugh shakes her belly, and his hands tighten as he feels her stomach muscles moving with her mirth. How had he ever thought her giggle to be anything but alluring and beautiful?

"I don't know how this can be construed as sexy," she smiles, patting his hands and leaning into him before she breaks away to put the jar of unpopped kernels back in the pantry.

"Trust me. It is," Harry argues, removing two wine glasses from the pantry. "Red or white?"

Michele's shoulders shrug. "Is there one that goes better with popcorn?"

Searching on his phone, he isn't too surprised to find that there are guidelines for the perfect pairing. "This website suggests either a French chardonnay or a bold cabernet."

"Wow. Those are quite different. Opposite flavor profiles," Michele adds butter to a saucepan, clarifying it over the heat.

Browsing her wine rack, Harry is disappointed that there are so few left. He needs to restock, as they've had wine every time he's been over. Which has been -- every night. "Okay, you don't have any chardonnay left, and I don't think I've ever seen a cabernet in your stash, but there's a pinot noir that might be tasty."

"Sounds amazing," Michele hums, placing a bowl on the counter in preparation for the popped treat. "Grab some napkins, please. This is going to be messy with actual butter."

With a chuckle, Harry does as she asks. "What movie tonight?"

"Might as well watch Burton's Alice. It's what we would have been watching if Phee hadn't..."

"Yeah. That was weird. Did she text or anything?"

"No," Michele sighs. "I hope she simply misunderstood, but her priority is always going to be protecting you. I'm confident of that."

The dampness around Harry's eyes is purely from the smell of the popcorn. Carrying the two glasses, the now-opened bottle, and a handful of napkins in his large hands, Harry glides to the living room. Sitting in his spot, he pours the pinot noir before placing the remote for the television in front of Michele's seat.

A sharp pain reminds him that this picture of domestic bliss won't last much longer. It's nearly time to get back to LA. Tour will be starting soon, and he is excited to share live versions of his latest album with his fans around the world. Doesn't mean he's not going to miss this though.

As Michele settles next to him, he wraps his right arm around her shoulders loosely as she balances the bowl of popcorn on their connected thighs. Dipping his left hand into the salty, buttery indulgence, Harry relaxes. Michele pushes play and the video begins.

==========

9:10 p.m. Thursday, October 14, 2021

On the screen, the Mad Hatter is saying to Alice, "You could stay."

"What an idea! A crazy, bad, wonderful idea," Alice replies. "But I can't. There are questions I have to answer. Things I have to do."

Michele curls further into Harry's side. Long ago, the popcorn bowl was moved to the coffee table; it's leftover unpopped kernels lonely as they rattle across the greasy, salt-covered bottom. The wine bottle is empty, and Harry's glass is only a quarter full while no liquid remains at all in Michele's. She buries her head in his chest as Alice returns to her world. It's not something she wants to think about -- people returning to their normal lives.

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