28. Photograph

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We made these memories for ourselves - Ed Sheeran

5:13 p.m. Saturday, October 16, 2021

Michele stands at Harry's side as the rest of the Moore family fades away into the gloom of dusk. His hands rest in his pockets, shoulders hunched, and Michele wants to comfort him. But how? Especially when she wants so desperately to be comforted too. Wrapping her hands around his arm, she leans into his side, pressing a kiss to the fabric covering his bicep. She aches on his behalf, yet there's no escaping the fact that she also feels pain. Twisting his head, Harry presses a kiss onto her hairline before withdrawing his hand from his pocket. Wrapping her hand in his, he steers them away from the school.

Jaywalking together, they cross Main Street to The Cellar. Harry's Gucci suit looks as crisp as ever, although Michele feels wilted in her White Queen dress, the bodice covered in beadwork and the skirt ballooning from her waist. Catching their reflection in the windows of the restaurant makes her heart lurch. It's like a distant memory of a wedding that never happened. Her sadness is tainted by the elegance of their clothing, like a single dot of bright red paint that drips onto an all-grey canvas. His impending exit from Nowhere weighs on her heavily even though she's done her best to focus on the fun of their last day together. Building memories.

It's at that moment that she vows not to cry until he's out of town. She's determined to make this night about capturing memories to keep close to her heart.

Without a word, the hostess Madeline holds the door for them. Harry remains a step behind Michele as her enormous skirt enters the restaurant first, her hand still encapsulated in Harry's fingers. Their usual table is open, and tonight someone has placed a fresh bouquet of pale pink and cream roses in the center. Although there are several townsfolk dining at the Cellar tonight, they all fall silent as Harry and Michele make their way to their seats. Being the only two still in their Alice costumes should make Michele uncomfortable. Instead, it feels absolutely as it should be. Notable. Special. An occasion.

Elegantly, Harry holds the chair for her, and she sweeps her gown to ensure it doesn't get caught on the back of the chair. Settling across from her, Harry gazes at her, his eyes roaming her face as though he wants to memorize it. A shiver runs the length of her spine.

Melody approaches with a bottle of red wine, pouring it into their glasses. Michele raises her eyebrows at Harry. Shaking his head, he glances questioningly at the server.

"The chef has prepared a special meal for you tonight," Melody informs them before placing the bottle of wine on the table and heading towards the kitchen.

No crying allowed, Michele sternly reminds herself.


6:24 p.m. Saturday, October 16, 2021

As the server places the dessert in front of them, Harry is sure that his stomach is going to burst. So much amazing food, prepared fresh. It's a touching gesture from the owner, but it drives home the point that Harry is leaving. As does the subdued nature of the other diners. Perhaps it would have been better to simply rise one morning and leave without a word. Both more and less cruel for all of them.

"Passionfruit Cheesecake," the server murmurs, "Baked especially for you by Patrick Moore."

Michele's eyes water, and she blinks the tears away quickly, wiping her finger under her eyelids quickly as though she's merely tired. Harry would love to do the same, but he's promised himself that he's not going to cry tonight. It will detract from his experience. The whole town is making sure his send-off is special. With all of his being, Harry is going to miss this small town. Opening themselves up to him was a giant risk, and he's been paid in full for his investment in their future. Already he has a list of people lined up to contact when he returns to LA.

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