I’m not usually happy with vague answers and letting other people decide what I will and won’t be doing, but it’s different with Michael. He says we’ll work something out, and for once in my life I really want to believe him.
It felt so nice in his arms, so warm and safe. I wish he was still holding me. I’ve always felt alone, but never so much as I have these past few days. I’ve always felt like I should be on the road, but I’ve never tried to run so fast as I have these past few nights. It’s nice to let all that go, even if it’s just for a little while.
A few days.
Maybe a few days will just have to do. Maybe a few days will be long enough to convince him he should come away with me.
We drive straight through Lydney and out the other side. The big houses are out this way and I know most of them by sight. I used to wander past sometimes when I had a couple of smokes after my sessions with Michael. People might think I’m a filthy gypsy who belongs in a wagon, and I do – but these houses are nice enough to make even a traveller like me dream a little dream. Michael indicates left and pulls onto the driveway of a big white farmhouse. It’s not where I’d have imagined posh-suit man to live and I’m secretly impressed. I’d have put him down as a minimalist apartment kinda guy. One of those dicks who thinks a cream rug and a piece-of-shit modern art makes you a somebody.
“This is Jack’s place,” Michael tells me, like I need it pointing out.
I wait in the car until he comes around to my side, and my heart does a stupid sappy jump when he opens the door and helps me up again. I hold on a little longer than I need to, just to feel the warmth of him, hoping I don’t stink too bad from a couple of days without a shower. I probably do.
He takes my backpack from the back and helps me to the front door. It’s a big solid oak thing with an iron knocker. Very grand. Maybe this place really does suit posh guy after all.
Michael jangles his keys under the porch light until he finds the right one. It turns in the lock with a click and the door swings open into the darkness. Michael seems to know his way around. His hand lands right on the switch for the hall light, and he supports me right on through to the kitchen where he hitches me up onto the worktop. For once in my life I keep my muddy boots away from dirtying everything. Despite what Bill and Rosie would believe, I don’t really want another cream carpet incident. Especially not now I’ve nowhere else to go. I dangle my feet in the air until Michael drops down to slip by boots off for me.
I grit my teeth as he examines my sprained ankle.
“It’s swollen,” he says, once again pointing out the obvious.
“It’ll be fine in the morning,” I bluster, hoping to fuck I’m right about that. He takes a tea towel from a drawer and some ice from the dispenser on the fridge, then makes me up a weird icepack which he holds on the swelling.
“Nurse Michael,” I laugh, but he doesn’t laugh with me.
He looks so serious when he meets my eyes, and there are those flutters in my belly again.
“Does that feel okay?” he asks and I nod. I know he means the icepack, but it’s not that that’s making me tingle warm tingles, it’s the feeling of his fingers against my skin.
The strength in his grip as he supports my sore foot makes me feel so cared for.
Relief rushes over me. Relief that I don’t have to walk any further. Relief that I’m not going to be cold tonight. Relief that there was someone out there who really did give a shit about me.
“What happened to your lip?” he asks. His hair is messier than usual and a stray wisp hangs over his forehead. I’d love to reach out and brush it away.
“Fell over,” I lie.
“A likely story,” he says and follows it up with a sigh. He moves the icepack along my calf and I grimace. “Can you wiggle your toes?”
I wiggle my toes.
“Not broken,” he says. “That’s good.”
“Maybe you really are a nurse,” I comment and this time he smiles.
“I’ve done plenty of first-aid courses in my time, Carrie. Part of the job.”
I wish I’d sprained my lungs instead, maybe then he’d have given me mouth to mouth. It crosses my mind to hold my breath and pretend I’ve fainted, just to feel his lips on mine. I hope I’m not blushing like a fucking sap at the thought.