Left off from chapter 110

Sephy

I heard the lulling sighs of the waves in the darkness as they dragged themselves up onto the sand, then down again. Pulling themselves up, then being knocked down, over and over again, yet they still kept going. I have listened to these waves since I could remember, sitting on the beach with Callum, for all these years, in our little piece of the world, where no-one could touch us, no-one could hurt us. I had thought so. I really had.

My wandering feet stepped into the sand, and out again, ruining its perfect set. A hermit crab wandered out from one of my footprints, running along under its shell until it found another place to sit and wait. He has his own home, always. What did I have? Disowned by my father, disappointment from my mother, betrayal by my sister.

And Callum.

Callum, to see you again, not to ever let go for all eternity, even if the whole world turned their backs on us, stared at us, pointed their fingers, I would never let go.

A movement. Not from around me. From inside me, a sort of tug. I stared down at my bulging abdomen, astonished, until it dawned on me. The baby was kicking. My frown melted into a smile, a smile of such power that I fell to my knees from the wonder of it all.

"You ok?" said a soft voice behind me. I turned my head and stared.

Callum.

Callum

Sephy.

She had changed from the last time I saw her. Apart from her enormous stomach, she had gotten thinner, looked more tired. Shadows had appeared across her cheeks and under her bloodshot eyes. She gazed at me in surprise, seemingly unable to grasp that I was here. Suddenly a flash of recognition came across her face, and she smiled. Her eyes lit up like a child's on Crossmass day. Her mouth, before a small, tight line, stretched across her face.

"Hi" she whispered.

"Hey" I responded, walking over to her. I kneeled opposite her and stared at the sand for a bit, stalling for time as I figured out how to ask her. Silence passed between us for seconds, maybe minutes, maybe even hours. Somehow, without even asking her, I knew that I knew the answer.

"Is it true?" I found myself asking at last, in a shaking whisper. "What they said on the radio. Is it true?"

She raised her head from where she had been tracing in the sand and looked me in the eyes. A moment of connection sped between us, almost like electricity. "Yes, Callum. It's true. I'm pregnant."

I looked across the beach at the moonlit waves washing across the sand in a rhythmic momentum, never stopping, always going on. I smiled to myself.

"Sephy, remember all those years ago when we used to come down to the beach during the summer and I asked you to kiss me?" I said.

Sephy smiled "Of course. I could never forget. I was so nervous."

I laughed at this"You thought you were nervous? I was kissing a girl that I actually loved for the first time"

Sephy's smile faded, just a bit, to a look of wonder. "You loved me?"

"I always have"

"And now?"

Another moment of silence passed between us.

Finally, I could take it no longer.

"Sephy, I have loved you ever since I was twelve and you were ten and you risked the wreath of your mother by going in the water in your best dress to fetch my football. I loved you even more when you agreed to tutor me so I could get in to Heathcroft. I didn't care what my parents said, what your parents said. I didn't care that the whole world would mock us and hate us. I didn't care as long as I had you. I loved you so much over these years, but never have I loved you more than right at this minute."

Sephy looked bewildered almost scared at my little speech. A large tear rolled down her cheek and fell on to her dress. She was crying. That scared me. She was meant to be the strong one, who nursed my scratches in the playground, to tell me that it was going to be okay. And now she was crying.

What had the world come to?

"Oh no, please don't cry" I begged her, pulling her close to me. "You're stronger than that. You're stronger than me."

She stared at me with her enormous eyes. "No-one is stronger than you"

And she kissed me. And I knew at that moment that I became stronger. It was a short kiss, but made me feel so empowered, like I knew that I could do anything, be a man, be a leader, be a father...

"Let's go away together. Leave everything behind. Just you and me." I found myself saying. "We can start over. We can be together. I can save you. You can save me"

"But-" she began.

"No 'buts'." I interrupted. Taking a deep breath, I summoned up all my courage. "Persephone Mira Hadley, will you marry me?"

Sephy

I stared at Callum, unable to grasp what he had said. I looked into his eyes, eyes that I knew so well, from when I was four and I had wanted to play weddings so desperately that finally he caved in and we had an elaborate imaginary wedding, with toadstool tables and an elephant sprinkling out apple juice. But this is not imaginary. And I am not four anymore.

My vision of Callum grew blurry and I realized that I was crying. Why was I crying? Why was I always crying nowadays? He's right I am stronger than that. Callum's face was a hopeful, almost scared mask.

Why was I hesitating? I loved him more than anything else in the world. My big pregnant bulge was enough to prove that. I wanted to be with him, It's what I wanted the whole time. Why was I hesitating? What was the matter?

Nothing. Nothing was the matter.

"Yes. I will."