A reasonably short one. It's one of my 2013 goals to finish this one this year so I'm going to try and power on through. Read and review if you get a chance :)
Roger's thirty-first birthday in April arrived with a much smaller fanfare than Amelia's had. Indeed, both of us were working until late that night and so apart from a brief few moments in the early morning light, it was after midnight before we really spent any time together. Roger's enthusiasm for cooking had somewhat diminished since it had become his living, and with it being his birthday, I picked up a pizza on the way home. It was less a celebration and more of a quiet curling up together on the sofa and trying to stay awake longer than we had been managing recently.
'Well that was nice.'
'Really?' I wrinkled my nose up at what was left of the pepperoni pizza I'd bought. The grease stains on the box were testament to the sheer unpleasantness of the experience. 'I thought you had better taste.'
'It's not Tex-Mex. That makes anything good in my book. Now. Come here.' Roger gathered me up in his arms and pulled my into his lap, something made more difficult as I burst into fits of giggles as he did so. It was only when I was firmly ensconced on his lap and his mouth was mere millimetres from mine that the laughter subsided and something altogether more serious but no less thrilling shot through my entire body. I still wondered if this was ever going to get old, if I was ever going to want Roger any less than I did right now. As long as he kept looking at me like that, I highly doubted anything was going to change.
'I love you.'
'I love you too.' I smiled, and after a pause added in a whisper, 'You can kiss me now if you like.'
'But I haven't had my present yet.'
'Maybe if you kiss me, you'll get it.'
'Oh really? Is it wrapped up?' His hands moved to the top button of the shirt I was wearing and began to slowly slide the button out of the hole.
And then the phone rang.
'Who's calling at this time?' Roger frowned, his hand remaining where it was as he was caught unawares.
Despite the interruption, I couldn't help a grin spreading across my face. 'If you don't answer it, you'll never know.'
'Cat?' he said questioningly, eyeing my suspiciously. 'What have you done?'
'Answer it.' I waved a hand towards the phone on the table next to us.
Roger reached for it and lifted it to his ear. 'Hello?' Confusion turned suddenly to surprise and then laughter. 'Mark? What the…? What are you calling for? She what?' He shot me a bemused look. 'No, she didn't tell me. I'm sure she was just about to.'
I giggled and climbed out of his lap. 'I'll leave you boys to it.'
Mark had kept in touch via letter since we'd moved to London, but phone calls had been rare. The time difference was the main issue and so I knew that a call from his best friend on his birthday would make Roger's day. He never said much about Mark apart from to crack a joke at his expense, but I knew he missed him. God, I missed him and I'd not even known him twelve months yet; Roger had lived with him for over ten years. Tempting Roger away from that close circle of friends was still something that sat uncomfortably with me and anything I could do to sew the seams of that particular relationship back together would never quite repay the debt I owed Mark. I could definitely give the two of them some time alone to talk today.
I busied myself tidying our bedroom and bathroom to the soundtrack of Roger's laughter. It was something I didn't very often force myself into doing, and something to which Roger seemed oblivious, so it took much longer than it should have, and even stifled the tiny jealous voice in my head which wanted to be a party to the men's conversation. Even so, when Roger's voice drifted through from the living area, I was more than ready for some company again, and returned to his lap without any second request.
'In more ways than one.' Roger's eyes flickered over my face, his mouth unable to contain the smile that speaking to someone from home had brought, but there was something else as well – a certain gravity and tension which instantly set me worrying.
He gave a small laugh, even as the concern remained in his eyes. 'What makes you think something's happened?' Then, without waiting for an answer, he said, 'Mark's invited us for Thanksgiving.'
A little taken aback, I giggled. 'In November? It's only March, since when did Mark plan ahead?'
'Stacey's pregnant.' It was clear that the words had fallen out of Roger's mouth without his express approval, as he followed them up with a slightly less blunt, 'Mark… Mark wants us to meet the baby. It's due in September.'
It took me several seconds to get my head around the news, and I was fairly certain that I sat with my mouth unattractively open for the duration of my thought process. Even from the other side of the Atlantic, it was clear that Mark and Stacey's relationship had been hotting up. It wasn't as though Mark wrote in intricate detail about her or stated she was his girlfriend in as many words, but her name was cropping up so frequently in his letters that it was obvious that, now a certain time-consuming friend had relocated from New York to London, Mark had much more time to cultivate his own friendships. Yet this was an unexpected event, and what's more, my maths was fairly good. If the baby was due in September…
'So… new year?' was all I was eventually able to get out, much to Roger's amusement. 'They… oh my God!'
'Yeah.' For a moment, Roger seemed genuinely thrilled for his best friend, and then his face clouded again as he stroked the hair back off of my face. 'So… do you want to go for Thanksgiving?'
'Of course I do!' The thought of seeing our friends – plus baby – less than nine months away filled me with an energy that had been lacking over the last few weeks. The thought of my aching limbs reminded me. 'Can we afford it, though?'
'Sure.' The answer was given easily and seemingly without much thought; Roger had decided we could afford it and therefore we could. It was a split second decision which I would think back on in the months to come, one which came with its own series of consequences. Right then, I overlooked it.
'But how is Mark?' Knowing him as I did, I couldn't really imagine him taking imminent fatherhood in his stride.
'Anxious.' Roger smiled fondly. 'Worrying. Stressed. The usual.'
'Lucky Stacey.' I rolled my eyes, wondering how she was going to cope with a full on Cohen-style freakout. Yet even then I smiled. 'He's going to make a brilliant dad.'
'Yeah.' Roger spoke absent-mindedly, still playing with my hair. Then, 'You okay?'
'Yes. Why wouldn't I be?' I frowned, remembering that talk on the way home from Amelia's birthday. 'Why do you keep asking if I'm okay?'
There was a pause, a heavy Davis-special pause, and for a moment he seemed on the verge of saying something. He'd been getting better at this. Then he shrugged, the tension dissipating. 'I don't know. Just checking. I guess I just miss you.'
I forgot my suspicion as I smiled. 'Urgh, could you be any soppier?' I giggled and then pulled his face closer to mine. 'I'm here now. Where were we earlier?'
A pause again. And then, 'I thought I might call my mom.' He pulled a face. 'Sorry, I know, total mood killer, sorry.'
'Don't be silly.' I shook my head. 'It's your birthday. You haven't called her in a while anyway, I'm sure she'd love to hear from you.' It was almost a relief to not have to nag him to contact his parents; old habits definitely died hard with Roger.
'It's just hearing from Mark…'
'Rog.' I smiled and stroked his face fondly. 'It's fine. Honestly.' Kissing him on the cheek, I added, 'I'll go and warm the bed up, shall I?'
He smiled. 'Yeah. I won't be long.'
I believed him when he said that. Roger and telephones and his parents – they'd always be a difficult combination, and I expected him to be joining me in under ten minutes.
An hour later I fell asleep, still alone in bed.