“You are,” she said, “a remarkably patient person.”
He grinned. “There are some things in life that are worth patience.”
“But what about if I’m not one of them?”
“Then I have lost nothing, because I’m enjoying your company immensely.”
“But what if I can’t? I mean never. Kissing and cuddling and stuff ”
Mike turned his hand over on the table so that it was beneath hers and their hands rested palm to palm. He offered her a gentle smile.
“Palm to palm is holy palmers’ kiss,” he said gently.
The sweetness of that pierced Jenny’s armour in a way she didn’t think was possible any more. She awaited his next move warily.
It was a mark of the man that he made no attempt to press home any advantage that he may have accrued. Instead he pushed the plate or chocolates towards Jenny.
“You going to eat any more or will I have them make you up a doggy bag to take home?”
“Doggy bag, please. I might like to eat them in bed with a cup of hot milk.”
“Then you shall.”
His smile was a complicated thing, but warm and comforting too.
“Thank you, Mike.”
He leaned across the table. “Don’t thank me, just be comfortable with me.”
Almost of its own free will her hand came up to briefly touch his cheek. “I’m beginning to think I won’t be comfortable without you.”
He signalled for the bill and Jenny phoned her usual cab company. As he walked her to the end of the road she looked up at him and put on her best hard girl face. “I’ll understand if you don’t want to see me any more.”
“Silly woman. How about lunch tomorrow?”
“Only if you come to mine, and I cook for you.”
“I’d like that.”
“Okay then. Come as soon as your hotel throws you out.” She scrabbled in her bag and handed him a card. “Here’s the address.”
She got into the waiting taxi and left him looking down at the little piece of pasteboard as if she had given him the world.
Jenny got up early the next morning and spent a happy hour in her shining kitchen before she sat herself down to a breakfast of brown toast and honey.
Her phone bleeped and she saw it was a text from Mike. She felt something sour in her gut at the idea he might be cancelling their lunch date.
Is half eleven too early? What can I bring?
She found herself smiling mistily as her thumbs flew. Time is fine. Just bring yourself.
With the answer sent, she went back to her interrupted breakfast, but not before mentally chiding herself as a silly cow to even think about getting attached to another man.
Putting that aside as irrelevant for now, she ran down the road to the mini-market where she bought certain necessities for a traditional roast dinner.
By half-past eleven all was in readiness and Jenny had even managed to shower and change into a very becoming flowered silky dress. Right on time, she heard the sound of a car being parked outside her gates.
Unwilling to admit, even to herself, how much she was looking forward to seeing a man she had seen only the night before, Jenny resisted the impulse to run to the front door. Instead she waited for his knock.
When it came, she trod lightly to the door to find Mike had stepped back and was eyeing the little house appreciatively. He had his hands behind his back, and when he saw Jenny he stepped forwards.
“Pretty house and pretty lady.”
He took a very attractive bouquet of simple garden flowers from behind his back and presented it with a half bow. Jenny chose to ignore the ‘pretty lady’ comment, instead focusing on the flowers in her hands.
“Oh. How lovely. However did you?”
He grinned with exaggerated pride. “Internet. Last night. Independent florist down on the quay. I described you and she made the bouquet.”
Jenny felt herself blush, uneasy at the idea of the implied compliment, but Mike carried on speaking as if nothing had happened.
“Told her you were a country girl at heart, and as prickly as a briar rose.”
It felt to Jenny as if he would always know what to say to ease her over the rocks of her crippling memories, which left the overriding worry of for how long she could trespass on his patience and kindness.