Love and…

‘Are you all right?’ Alison leans forward, a hand reaching out to touch Tim’s knee.

‘I’m fine. Really.’

‘You’re very pale.’

‘It’s the heat.’ He rearranges himself on the blanket, ‘I’m not very good with the heat.’

‘You’ve always been okay with it before.’

‘Well, it’s not normally this hot, is it?’

‘No, I guess not.’

‘And we’ve never been abroad together, have we? So you’ve probably never seen me…you know, hot.’

In the distance, a group of children play football. Alison refills her plastic cup.

‘Would…would you like to go abroad together?’ Tim asks.

‘Sorry?’

‘Abroad. Would you like to go abroad together?’

‘We can’t really afford it, can we?’

He holds her gaze, then looks away. ‘No, I guess not.’

‘But maybe we could go to Cornwall or something?’

He smiles. ‘Yes, that’s a good idea. We could go for a week or two, perhaps.’

Alison picks at the corner of the rug. ‘Or a long weekend.’

There is silence for a moment. Tim lies back, his face turned towards the sun. When he opens his eyes, Alison is squinting at him.

‘What?’

‘I thought you said you didn’t like the sun?’

‘I said I didn’t like the heat.’

Her eyes narrow momentarily. He pats the empty space next to him.

‘This is nice,’ she says, her head buried in the crook of his arm.

‘Mm.’ He inhales, ‘Look, Alison, I-’

‘Hey, did I tell you Luke and Michelle have split up?’

‘What? Oh, uh…really?’

He feels her head move. ‘Last Tuesday.’

‘How come?’

‘She said things were moving too fast.’

‘They’d been together for three years, hadn’t they?’

‘Well, yes, but, he was keen for them to start a family and well, it is a bit quick, isn’t it?’

‘Not after three years.’

Alison sits up.

‘Besides, Michelle’s thirty-one now, you’d think she’d want to get on with it.’

‘”Want to get on with it”?’

Tim swallows, leaning himself up on his elbow. ‘I just mean…three years is a long time and-’

‘We’ve been together for nearly two.’

‘Yes and it’s been wonderful.’ His hand moves towards his pocket. ‘Look, Alison, I’ve been wanting to ask you some-’

‘I can’t believe you, Tim.’ Her arms are folded.

‘What?’

‘Taking sides with Luke.’

‘I’m not!’

‘You’ll be saying that you think we should start a family next.’

The sound of birds, of laughter, of activity, fills the silence between them. Tim waits, then: ‘Well, I’m not expecting to right away, but-’

‘I can’t believe you!’

‘What?’ His hand is on his pocket again. She spots it.

‘What’s that?’

‘What’s what?’

‘That thing in your pocket.’

‘It’s…’ He hesitates, biting the inside of his mouth.

‘Tim?’

He pulls the box from his jeans.

She stares at it. When he moves to open it up, she stands.

‘Ice-cream,’ she says. ‘Do you want an ice-cream?’

‘What? Uh…’ He notices the look of panic on her face. His fist tightens around the box. ‘Look, Alison, I…’

She’s already backing away. ‘I’ll just get one for you,’ she calls over her shoulder.

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