You can deny it all you like, but you were really sweet to me from the start, Mrs. Ice Queen.
Sometimes I spend my nights going back and rereading my first conversations with Carol.
Alex busied himself with his fingernails. “Yeah, I’m fine.” He looked up at Murphy and tried a smile. He wanted Murphy to drop it. He wanted them both to stop looking so intently at him, as if they could sense the agony within, like sharks in bloody water.
"Did you need help with dinner?" He aimed the question at Carol.
Sensing his desire to change the subject, Carol directed her gaze elsewhere. A false laugh erupted from her throat, eager to force some life back into the conversation.
"Me, cooking?" Another laugh, this one a little more real. "Sweetheart, if you want to actually eat your food, then don’t look at me."
Looking at Murphy once more, she smiled.
"Go ahead and shower, you’re on duty when you’re done."
Alex’s curtness throws Murphy off a little, and he furrows his brows before murmuring a resigned “Okay,” and glancing back to Carol. At least she seems to have some control over the conversation, so he’s eager to do as she says.
"Right. Be back soon." He steps over to her and leans to give her a quick peck, careful not to touch her elsewhere there might be oil, then makes his way out of the kitchen and upstairs.
Alex blinked. “Hey…” That was interesting. He would never have guessed that the man who had tried to help Alex find a hobby, a man that, if Alex could just fucking open up, could be a great friend.
And Alex began to feel his throat clench. If he saw Carol as a kind motherly figure… that meant that Murphy….
"Sweetheart welcome-" Her voice trailed off as Murphy spoke, words catching her entirely by surprise.
Carol looked between the two of them for a second, brows furrowing. Turning completely to Murphy, she unknitted her eyebrows and cocked one.
"Murphy? Do you know him?"
She turned back to Alex, eyebrow still raised, and mouth parting just a little.
"You two… know each other?"
Shaking her head a little, she nodded Murphy off, still looking incredulous.
And now he seems to be in a far more awkward place than where he started.
Briefly as he can without being rude, he shoots at Carol, “Yeah, honey, we’ve met,” then turns his attention back to Alex. Untalented as he is at actually communicating, he knows enough to be able to read body language, and Alex’s stiffening up didn’t go unnoticed.
Alex shrugged. It was all he could do. Talking was out of the question, especially about Josh. He didn’t want to be a source of pity. Not from someone as nice, as warm as her.
He could only imagine what her husband was like. Just as warm. Just as kind.
She shook her head. A wisp of a memory chased across her mind, of the knife her brother clutched within his hands that night. Fear twisted in her stomach as if she was back there.
"Don’t be," she whispered as she turned to him.
Forcing a smile to her face was difficult. Chasing away the anger, fear, and sorrow that often accompanied the memories of her brother was even harder. But she wanted to hope she had succeeded.
Whether or not she did, she wouldn’t know. The sound of tires drawing near distracted her, and she turned her head to face the front door.
"My husband is home. I’m sure you’ll like him."
The click and opening of the lock and door can be heard even from the kitchen, and almost immediately after it closes again, Murphy crosses the threshold between the entryway and the kitchen. Upon seeing their guest, he pauses to stare, a couple of grocery bags swinging from his hands.
Then he gives a brief, low chuckle.
"Small world, huh?" Really, it isn’t too surprising, given the size of the town, but it’s still a little odd for him to see Carol bring people home rather than himself.
After relaxing again, he moves over to the counter to set down the bags, and looks between the two.
"Nice to have you, Alex," he nods to the younger man, then adds for both of them, “Can you guys hold out an extra ten minutes while I grab a shower?”
Probably for the best. His clothes are particularly messy today and even some skin has patches of oil rubbed in, and it would likely not end well for anyone if that sort of thing ended up in their food.
The theme for this post is just Nathan being unbearably beautiful, to be honest.
… I love hot chocolate.
You’ve come to the right house.