Thanks to all of you that have read and reviewed TC. It was a little different to my other stories, but something I wanted to try - I hope you enjoyed it.
For those of you that like my work, you need not hold your breath for too long... Dino will be along shortly - just head for movies and 'Proof of Life'.
And now... the finale..
John jogged carefully down the steps outside the apartment and smiled. The sun was warm, but not too warm and the breeze was actually quite fresh, rather than humid as it had been over the last few weeks. Crossing the road carefully, he went into the park and began to stretch into a longer stride.
A heavier workload meant less time for his daily run, though today he had taken a much needed day off, and wanted to make up for the runs he had cut short the previous days. He waved to the elderly Chinese couple that he had joined to do the Tai Chi exercises he had learnt from Sarah, indicating that he would not be joining them today, but promising to join them later in the week. Sticking to a shaded path, he smiled at the children he could see playing nearby and wondered if he'd ever have any of his own.
The thought sobered him for a moment, and his thoughts became reflective. He had turned down Janice's offer, saying he needed time to think, which she had sadly accepted, even though he had promised to give the idea some thought.
Within a few weeks, his mind had been set, his company had been offered another contract, meaning that he would no longer have to do the late night escorts, or the surveillance work that had once been his bread and butter. He and Mike were now reaping the benefits of their hard work and he wasn't going to walk out on his friend for a questionable future.
He sighed, there was just one thing missing… company. Though he didn't need to, John found himself continuing some of his escort duties – usually for the more established clients, basically because he didn't want to be home alone.
Before he knew it, he was near the park entrance and looking for a gap in the traffic. Quickly darting across, he was about to continue when he heard a voice calling his name.
"Long time no see Mr Kelly…"
Turning, he was confused to see Kara Richards standing outside the school, "What are you doing here…? I thought you'd be off to college by now… By the way… Which did you accept?"
Kara chuckled, "Dartford… Dad's over the moon… As for why I'm here – Just helping my sister settle into her senior year, and I'm getting some work experience until I leave."
She nodded, "With the new English Classics teacher. The class is larger than usual, so I'm helping out for the next two weeks."
"Is she any good?"
"As good as Miss Mitchell… She's nice too, and a lot more fun… Miss Mitchell was a little quiet…" He was just about to say something when Kara saw the look on his face, "Have you heard from her?"
John shook his head, Sarah had helped Kara study a little shortly before returning to the UK and the young woman knew about her identity. "Not for a couple of months, but the case was getting a bit tough… She warned me that it might be a while before she could write again. I'll mention that you asked after her next time though."
Kara smiled softly, "I'd appreciate it… She helped me so much… Mrs Van Der Zandt asked me to say hi too, she misses Miss Mitchell's help at the gallery. They used to enjoy talking to each other, especially about the European Impressionists. She's hoping Miss Mitchell comes back too"
She was about to say more when the bell rang, signifying the end of break. "I've got to go… Nice seeing you again."
John nodded, about to continue home, when he heard a voice calling for the students to hurry to their next class, the voice sounded so familiar… and yet… He turned to look around but saw nothing, sighing he faced the direction of home when he heard the voice again.
He paused and saw Kara talking to the owner of the voice, but couldn't quite make out the face past Kara's head. He hesitated further, not wanting to cause offence if it was someone he knew, but also not wanting to look like a fool if the person was a complete stranger.
Listening carefully, he noted the pitch and tone of the voice, the lilt on certain words. Without realizing, he began staring in Kara's direction, not believing his ears… It couldn't be… Could it?
"Ok Miss Michaels, I'll start them off… Do you think Romeo's soliloquy in Romeo and Juliet would be suitable?" Getting an affirmative, Kara turned toward John and winked, startling him for a moment until he realized that she had stopped him for more than one reason.
As she moved away, John couldn't help but swallow as he saw a shy expression cross Sarah's face and she bit her lip nervously. "Miss Michaels…?"
John chuckled softly, but for some reason felt nervous "You're using your own name?"
Sarah nodded, "No need for me to hide anymore. Scotland Yard were able to round up the top people in Phillips organization, because of his death, people who were at first afraid to talk are now singing like canaries. The case is going to court as we speak."
John smiled, "What about your case?"
Sarah sighed, "It's over… Finished last Wednesday… It was a complete shock." Curious, John asked why. "We went up to the High court – in front of one of the Law Lords… Justice John Deed… He stopped the whole trial for a moment to ask me why I was fighting so hard for the money after what Phillip had done to me. None of the other judges had asked."
"What did he say when you told him?"
"Dismissed the case – said that I should get everything I was owed and asked if I would object to an auditor working on his behalf to make sure everything was done properly."
John smiled, "Of course you agreed…"
Sarah grinned, "It means I won't have to oversee everything – I just need to go back every couple of months to sign some papers and check things… A foundation has already been set up to help some of the kids whose fathers were left unable to work. Hopefully some of them will be able to go to university now."
The happiness was plain to see on Sarah's face and John couldn't help but feel happy for her too, but there were still a few questions he had to ask. Taking a deep breath, he asked the first. "So when did you arrive?"
Sarah looked at him shyly, "Night before last – I was exhausted, such a rush to get things sorted… As it is, I barely have enough clothes for a week." She dropped her head a little, "Then I started at the school yesterday morning, Father Downey had asked if they would be interested in having me back. Obviously the board were happy with the idea, 'cause here I am."
John chuckled, "So I see…"
Sarah blushed and made her excuses, "I'm sorry, but I've got to go… I really must get to class…"
John became apologetic, said his goodbyes and began to turn when he paused, "Listen, are you doing anything for lunch? We could catch up…" He left the sentence hanging, thinking that Sarah might not be interested, she seemed a little wary of him for some reason.
A soft smile lit up her face, "I'd like that. I'll be ready at one. How about we meet at the deli?"
Crossing into the park, John watched Sarah carefully, she seemed different somehow, willing to accept his friendship immediately, but giving no indication that she wished to return to the intimacy they had shared before.
He was a little confused, but kept the conversation light, hoping that maybe she just needed a little time to settle in. Pointing to a favourite place for the two of them, he asked if she wanted to sit down.
"Why not. It's preferable to walking around."
John bit back a comment; there it was again, the cold impersonal answer. Had he made a mistake hoping for Sarah's return? Glancing sideways at her face confused him even more as she looked relaxed and happy. Sitting down, he carefully kept his face neutral as he asked his next question, "So, how long are you staying?"
Sarah smiled to herself, John was being very careful with his questions, not pushing her too much. She was glad to see that he hadn't changed, still honest and respectful of someone else's personal space and confirmed in her mind her feelings, she just hoped someone else hadn't stolen his. "I've signed a one year contract as a trial. If the school is happy and I'm happy – there's the opportunity to make it long term."
Inside, John nearly jumped for joy, even if Sarah was being careful now – he still had time… "So, where are you living?"
Sarah laughed, "In a hotel – but I'll be looking for an apartment near the school. Obviously I lost the old one, the only problem is that there doesn't seem to be anywhere in my price range – I really don't want to dip into my savings to pay the rent.
An idea popped into John's head, but how could he approach it? A direct question might frighten her off…
"Are you looking for anything in particular?"
Sarah shook her head, "Not really… Somewhere in good condition, one or two bedrooms, Furniture is not necessary, I can bring my stuff over from the UK."
"Would you consider sharing?"
Sarah considered for a moment, "I wouldn't say no, but obviously it would depend on the other person too, why?"
John bit his lip, "I have a friend who's thinking of letting out their spare room. The apartment is quite near the school – within walking distance in fact."
"Really? Is the apartment large?"
He pretended to think, "I would say average – though the bedrooms are not too small."
"Would your friend mind me working out?"
John chuckled, "I don't think so, he likes to keep fit himself."
"He?" Sarah gave John a concerned look. Not sure if she was interested anymore, but the look in John's eyes intrigued her and she encouraged him to talk a little more.
"Oh, sorry I didn't mention that the friend was a guy. I think you'll like him though – he tends to keep to himself."
Sarah hesitated, "He wouldn't… take advantage?"
John chuckled, "He might in the kitchen… His cooking's not that great… But nowhere else, that I can assure you… He's not like that."
Sarah smiled, "Well, if you think I can trust him… Then I guess I can… Though I'd obviously like to meet him first."
John grinned, "Shouldn't be a problem, maybe I can fix something up tonight. I know he's not working today."
"That would be great, what does he do?"
John became careful, he didn't want to play his hand too soon. "Has his own business, quite successful if I have to admit it."
"Any bad habits? Or things I should know about…?"
"Not that I know about – though I guess you'll find those out. Though I doubt you'll see much of him – he works mostly evenings and nights…"
Sarah was intrigued, "Really… What does he do?"
John took a deep breath, Sarah was smart, he couldn't hide very much longer, "I think he's involved in security…"
Sarah's head snapped up from where she had been playing with the grass. Looking at John carefully, she noticed a soft look in his eyes and things started to click into place. She gave a soft smile, hoping that what she was thinking was right, "Did I ever meet him before?"
John shrugged his shoulders, "Don't know, maybe…"
Sarah gave him a questioning look, "Tallish guy, maybe around six feet? Blue eyes… Likes basketball?"
"Yeah… Sounds like him…"
"You think he'd be interested in letting his room out to me… I mean, he might not like me…"
John smiled softly, "What's not to like…"
Sarah blushed, the look on John's face had given her the answer she was hoping for. "Well if you're so certain, maybe I should meet him – are you sure he's available tonight?"
John nodded, smiling as he heard the warmth returning to her voice, saw the look in her eyes as she realized that she no longer needed to hide her feelings from him. "I'm positive. So you're interested?"
Sarah gave an amused, but shy half smile, "I am… very interested." Dropping her head she avoided John's gaze which had become very intense, knowing that her hopes were being fulfilled, also knowing that she would have to explain why she had initially been a little cold towards him, knowing that she would no longer need to worry. She had no intention of hiding any further – it wasn't necessary and he deserved to know the truth about her actions.
"Why didn't you call me to say you were coming back…?"
"Two reasons… One, I didn't have time, the court case ended so quickly – and there was so much to do before I came over," she paused before continuing quietly, "Two, I was scared… Afraid that you'd changed your mind about us… Last year we were pushed together by circumstances… I was terrified that you'd moved on, found someone else… That I'd lost you… Especially as I haven't been able to keep in touch over the last couple of months."
John averted his eyes a little, Sarah was almost right – he had seriously considered joining Janice in LA, but changed his mind at the last minute due to the contracts his company landed. He was about to say something when Sarah continued.
"When I went back to the UK, our time together felt like a dream, that it wasn't real… At first it made me glad I hadn't promised you that I would return… After a short time I regretted not making that promise."
Gently she placed her hand on his cheek, "I'm sorry I didn't call, I wasn't sure how you would react. I wanted to make sure that you still felt the same way I did, wanted to speak to you face to face, so you would know that I was telling the truth, needed to tell you something."
"Tell me what?" John moved closer, his voice barely above a whisper…
"How much I missed you… How much I wished I'd taken up your offer of coming with me." She paused for a moment before giving him a shy smile, "How much I wanted to tell you that I … I love you…"
John pulled Sarah towards him, delivering a soft kiss that she had hoped for, one that stirred her blood, one that she could return without hesitation. Pushing her hair out of her eyes, John grinned, happy to see that she had indeed come back to him. Sarah closed her eyes and snuggled in close, feeling the bond between them snap back into place as John wrapped his arms protectively around her.
For a few moments they remained in that position, saying nothing, not needing to say anything. Just happy to be back together, Sarah overjoyed to be back with the man that had helped her, protected her… Loved her. Her thoughts of a happy future were interrupted by John's voice, a hesitant query.
"How soon can you pack your things and move in?"
Sarah chuckled softly, "Who said I had unpacked…"
John jumped to his feet and pulled her up, "Well, in that case… Let's go and get you checked out, and home where you belong…" Seeing Sarah's broad smile, he teased a little, "By the way… do you still have that little bottle of oil…?"
Sarah's eyes glinted, not afraid to tease him back, "and a few others besides… But who says we're going to need them…?"
John roared with laughter and as Sarah began to chuckle, he tucked her under his arm and the two of them made their way through the park, her journey finally over.