Our heroes discuss what happens when jokes become reality.
Nate’s kiss poured a golden glow into every crack and fissure of Adelie’s anxious heart until she could breathe again. He held her together with his strong arms until she wasn’t falling apart anymore and the painful idea of a life without him retreated.
“Thank you,” she mumbled into the folds of his shirt, bringing out his great chuckle. She looked up, diving into the blue of his eyes with abandon because they were her own personal sky. She expected them to be full of mirth, ready to tease her with her silliness, but instead she found him just as undone as she was. He wasn’t just holding her, he was as much holding on to her as she was to him.
“Thank you for taking your job as my guardian angel so seriously.” His chest expanded with a deep sigh, and he lovingly brushed away her hair while his gaze swept her face. “Guess, it’s not just a silly joke anymore.”
She chuckled. “Was it ever just a joke?”
Their eyes met, and he cleared his throat. “I think it started as one. But it became real quickly. As…” He stopped and looked at the ceiling. “As our feelings for each other? From friendship to attraction to… to something bigger. But we don’t trust this feeling yet.”
“No, we don’t.” She took his hand and laced her fingers through his. His thumb brushed along her index finger. “Right now, I’m feeling as if we’re both standing on a very large pogo ball, like on the rings of Saturn. And we’re holding on to each other so neither falls off, and we don’t – but it’s not a stable act yet.”
He grinned. “That’s the most accurate description of my emotional state I’ve ever heard.” Excitedly, he turned and propped himself up on his elbow, not letting go of her hand. “But I’m convinced that one day we reach the stability we both desire. We will dance on the rings of Saturn and laugh at gravity. We will, babe, we will.”
Those blue eyes, sparkling with utmost sincerity and enthusiasm. His smile, bright and happy and contagious. She wrapped her arms around his neck and shoulders and pulled him down. Yes, he was worth learning how to defy the laws of physics.
He was also worth sacrificing her vocal chords, as she discovered the next day. Neither Adelie nor Leslie had any voice left after the eighty minutes were over, and Westerhaven celebrated a victory by a mere point difference. She met her knight at the sideline, dirty and bloody and bruised, but wearing the biggest smile.
“We won, babe! We won!” He lifted her up and spun her around until she squealed.
“You made it to the playoffs!”
He put her down, very abruptly. “What’cha done to your voice?”
“I cheered you to victory.” She sounded like the rusty water pump in the farmhouse garden. Nate’s mouth twitched, but he succeeded in keeping a straight face. Until she spoke again. “I’m so proud of you!”
He chortled. “Gosh, that sounds painful. And thanks for your commitment, I’m sure it made a difference.” He wrapped her into one of his bear hugs. “Thanks, babe, I know it wasn’t easy for you,” he whispered into her ear. She framed his face with her hands.
“Tiger, you deserve to go to the playoffs so, so much. All of you. You worked so hard to bring Westerhaven back after twenty years of absence. Yes, it’s hard for me to see you go, but damn, I was once a competitive athlete, and I want you to win that trophy.” Her voice was reduced to a rough whisper, but he understood her nonetheless in the celebrating crowds and clutched her tightly. He looked around and then back to her.
“You know… I better get you home and make you a hot milk with honey, to appease your vocal cords. I don’t want you to ruin your lovely voice.”
“But don’t you want to celebrate with your teammates?” Adelie pulled a face as her hoarse pipes eliminated all emphasis. Nate still had trouble not to burst into laughter when she spoke, as his twinkling eyes betrayed. He shook his head.
“I’m dead on my feet, it was a hard match. We’ll leave for Shanghai Five in three days, and I rather spend as much time with you as possible until then. I’ll see the boys long enough during our trip.” He put his arm around her waist and steered them towards the exit. “Let’s go home, babe. Shower, hot milk, cuddle time. I need that right now.”
She snuggled close, absolutely d’accord with his priorities. Three days wasn’t a lot of time left with him.