Julie stayed glued to the top step of her parent's home, eyes tightly shut, breathing and waiting, centring herself and enjoying the comfort of her mother's warmth surrounding her. Could she contain herself enough to wait? Without driving herself crazy with wild images or deluded thoughts. Her mom let go, she could hear her sitting up and getting to her feet, a sweeping hand caressed her forehead but still Julie kept her eyes closed. It was almost as if the longer she kept still, the less she might have to wait for him. Crummy logic she knew, but nothing about their relationship so far had made sense.
Breathing in the fresh cool air of the night, she wrapped her arms around her middle and imagined what it would be like to be a million miles away. Tim would return and she would be nowhere to be found. He'd have to deal with the knowledge that he drove her away with his insensitive, oafish behaviour. It sounded nice but she would eventually have to come back and deal with the situation herself. She sighed. There was no running away here, well not for her anyway.
She heard the trees move with the night breeze, the neighbour's cat treading carefully over the roof of her parent's home and some scuffing. She tried to ignore it all. Forget the world.
Eyes still closed she felt something brushed against her temple. Soft and fleeting. She swatted at it, she hated moths with a fiery passion that could only now be reserved for one Tim Riggins. Something, or someone, grabbed her hand mid-swat. She opened her eyes quickly, shaking her head trying to make the blurriness dissolve. She was looking straight in the eyes of the guy she had begun to despise. He was on the bottom step, crouching with his knees jutted forward and her little hand dwarfed by his own.
His face was difficult to read but there was a small smile on his face. Was he here for her or her family? Julie couldn't withhold her need to get her hand free, touching him, being in close proximity wasn't in her best interests. She needed to think. She snatched it free. Folding her hands in her lap she looked straight at him. They were looking at each other eye for eye and she felt her heart jump, he was back.
"Where have you been?" she asked hoping to sound casually indifferent.
"What? No kiss hello?" he joked. Her immediate frown made an instantaneous impact on him, his face serious. She couldn't say anything, was this a joke for him? He seemed to sense this was not going well, he rose to his heels and manoeuvred his body to sit in the place where her mother had just been. There was a dividing space between them much to her relief. She continued to look straight ahead but sensed he was examining her.
"What's going on Jules?" If he was looking for some sort of reaction he got one. Her hair flew around her and she turned to gape at his question with incredulity. Was he serious?
"Are you serious?" she asked him, her exasperation clearly obvious in her tone and on her face.
"I came back. I thought you might be here." He said it quietly and calmly. As if that were enough. As if that was all she needed to hear. Two weeks ago it would have been. But then again he was her for her, not her family.
"That's not good enough. Two calls weren't enough. You coming back isn't good enough." So much for listening. Her mother's advice flew away as her anger grew. She was almost choking on it.
Julie expected him to back up, recoil from her but he didn't. He leaned in closer and just looked at her face.
"You are mad at me." Again he was doing the calm thing and it intensified her anger all the more.
"Yeah you might say that." She sounded like a petulant teen who hadn't gotten her way.
"I am not a huge talker Jules. Phone calls are worse." What a load of crap? He'd been talking his darned jaw off in that hotel room.
"You spoke to my dad... a lot." He sighed, pushing his hair away from his forehead and looking at her with more understanding. In that moment she realised he hasn't been anticipating this kind of reunion.
"Yeah but that was about football and coaching. Talking to you is different."
"Fine." She was now using all the tools in her belt, passive-aggressiveness sure wasn't pretty. At least she hadn't lowered herself to the silent treatment yet.
"Fine?" He scoffed. "Clearly it's not."
"Two calls where I talked the entire time."
"Of course you did. I missed you, I just wanted to hear as much of your voice as I could."
"Fine." She was beginning to crack. Why did he have to say things like that? She straightened her back - it wasn't a good enough reason.
"I just didn't know what to say. We had an incredible time together. Once I was in Denver all I wanted to do was get back here as fast as possible. It was like, focus on the move then get back to Jules."
She could feel her body softening. Maybe she had been acting a little half-cocked about the delay.
"I needed something too Tim. I needed to know that I wasn't some random fling."
He looked shocked. "But I told you, it's you and me. You are not a fling."
"I felt like one." Her anger dissipated but the hurt was there for him to see. It was in her eyes, in the downturn of her mouth and even in the lines of her forehead. The realisation of how his actions had impacted her began to sink in. She could see it on his face. She felt better, none of this was knowingly done. He was just being boy dense.
"But I left things solid. I said that thing to you at the airport. You knew what I meant right?" He was beginning to look panicked.
"That falling thing?" He nodded, still looking completely befuddled by how wrong things had gone in three weeks. "I didn't know what you meant. I was afraid to guess."
He scooted up next to her, took her face in his hands. He took a deep breath. "When I said the falling was done I meant-" he gulped "...I was done falling in love with you." Julie's forehead creased, she hasn't particularly thought of that interpretation.
"I love you. The falling was done. I realised I loved you." He didn't make a move despite his fingers stroking her jaw and his face only inches from her own. His eyes were examining her closely for her reaction. The problem was, she wasn't reacting. She was frozen. She couldn't process. She required a reboot.
His fingers moved up fanning across her cheeks and she shook off her daze.
"You ... love me?" He loved her? This was not what she expected. She drew back and punched him hard in the arm.
"You dumb ass. You made me sit, waiting for you for three weeks thinking I was some floozy that you murmured lies to and then ditched. You love me? I felt like nothing. I thought you didn't care. Use your words properly Tim!"
From his spot on the step he looked as though he was trying to hide his amusement.
"I love you, Jules. I've been a dumb ass but this dumb ass loves ya." He reached up for her, knowing that her bluster was a facade. She was abruptly plonked in his lap, his arms securely wrapped around her. Her butt was firmly placed on his knees, her torso facing his own. He bent in to kiss her and she quickly raised her hand to cover his mouth.
"No." She said determinedly as she squirmed in closer to his body. She was a truckload of contradictions.
"No? You don't love me?" He was looking totally confused and hurt.
"Of course I love you, you oaf. But never, ever" she punched him again to stress her point, "...ever leave me hanging like that again. You call me every day. Every day, you hear?"
"You love me?" he asked a big smile breaking across his face, she could feel it growing under her palm. She took her hands away and leaned in for a kiss. It was perfect. Sweet, tender and long awaited. She drew again and spoke into his lips.
"I love you." She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him some more. She had missed him fiercely. She dropped her head to his shoulder, breathing him in.
"Next time you go away you need to talk to me, not my dad."
"Oh I will."
"How can I be sure? I don't want to feel like that again. Unimportant. Forgotten. Used. I really don't want to be left like that again." She was getting
pretty emotional but she wasn't letting him get off the hook because he declared his love.
"You won't. I want to know that you'll be there when I come back." He understood. She had no tolerance for that kind of behaviour and he was right. She wouldn't permit a repeat, she might walk away.
"But I'm not going anywhere. I am the new coach of the Lake Dallas Falcons and I'm going to raise my family here." How could he sound so boastful about something that didn't even exist?
"You are, are you? That's a mighty big assumption. What family would that be?"
"The one I am going to have with you." He was cocksure now.
"Yeah. With my wife." Her stomach dropped what the hell? Her arms were still wrapped around him. "Could you get that thing out of my back left pocket?" He joked. She lowered one of her arms, leaning closer into his body, her chin resting on his shoulder and felt an item there. She fished her fingers into the pocket and jimmied the shape out. She drew her arms back and looked at the item she had grabbed. She laughed when she saw it. It was a ring. So like Tim to pass on the bended knee and opened jewellery box tradtion and have her grope him while fishing a ring from his pants instead.
"Marry me?" His gaze was intense but there was love in his eyes. She hadn't doubted the words when they came from his mouth or when they were in his eyes. He meant it. She looked down at the ring; it was a six-pronged ring with a band of channel-set round-brilliant diamonds. It was beautiful.
She looked at him silently. She was afraid to speak and ruin the perfection of the moment. He interpreted it a completely different way.
"Hey Jules I know it's quick but I love you, you love me. I knew when you stood there splattered with chilli, I knew. Maybe I knew when you were perched up on that lifeguard chair, I knew. Marry me? Let me be your husband."
He never did anything the traditional way. There was no flowery speech. No bended knee. No would you be my wife. He wanted to be her husband? Sure it was quick but she knew too. He was the one for her.
She looked up at him, a twinkle in her eye. She held her left hand and slipped the ring on her ring finger right in front of his face. She nodded, got an answering smile in return and then kissed the stuffing out of him. At one point they came to the surface, their foreheads touching, her butt firmly place in his lap. She groaned.
"Does that mean I will be Mrs Coach?" She groaned again in good humour and Tim chortled heartily. She silenced his laughter with her lips, her arms around him, her heart pounding against his chest where his own was pounding in agreement. She would be the happiest Mrs Coach Riggins ever.
She heard the front door open but she was too happy to recognise the interrupter. She did hear her dad boom-
"Yep Tami, that chilli sure does work good."
Author's Note – Sorry for the huge hiatus but life does give you massive mental roadblocks sometimes. Thanks for all those who spurred me on. Thanks for the reviews, I adore them and they gave me the motivation to finish this last one. I hope the ending wasn't too schmaltzy for you. Cheers and love to you all. WhoJ.