“I keep it at my grandma’s house because the parking is terrible at my building. I don’t drive it very often since traffic in this city is a nightmare. It might actually be enjoyable to get out on the open road. Sometimes, I feel like all the crowded Tube journeys I take will eventually suck away my soul.”
I laughed at that. “Okay, you can drive us, but before you commit fully, you should know that we’ll be camping out for the night. A friend of a friend has an uncle who owns a farm close to the original UFO sighting. She’s gotten us permission to camp in one of the empty fields.”
Neil went quiet as he thought about it. “I couldn’t convince you to stay at a B&B instead, could I?”
I swallowed tightly. Visions of Neil and me holing up in a bed & breakfast for an entire night was giving me premature hot flashes.
“That would defeat the purpose. If we stay in a B&B, we won’t be able to spot the UFO.”
Neil emitted a heavy sigh. “Fine. Do you at least have a tent?”
I shook my head. “I was going to go to Lidl tomorrow and see if I could find a cheap one in the middle aisle.”
“We’re not staying in a Lidl tent. James has some good quality camping gear that I’m sure he’ll let us borrow.”
“Okay, that sounds like a better idea,” I said, a small smile tugging at my lips. Neil and I were going camping together. We were going to be sharing a tent. The thought made me unreasonably giddy. I was so happy he came over and that we were now talking again.
“Neil?” I whispered, feeling vulnerable.
“Let’s never fight again.”
There was a hint of a smile in his voice when he replied, “Okay.”
A warmth spread through me, and we fell into silence. I closed my eyes and tried to bring my focus back to the meditation. Neil and I followed the lady’s voice, interlaced with nature sounds as she instructed us on our breathing. Somehow, the sound of Neil’s deep breaths going in and out was far more relaxing to me than the meditation. I enjoyed his closeness, the moment of quiet peace and serenity between us. And I guess it might’ve been a little too relaxing because somewhere along the way, I fell asleep.
When I woke up, the first thing I noticed was that I wasn’t in my own bed. A moment later, I became aware of the woman wrapped in my arms, her head resting gently in the centre of my chest. Emotion swelled within me as I gazed down her. She looked so peaceful.
Through the window, I saw it was fully dark out. The clock next to Afric’s computer read 10:35 p.m. We’d been asleep for hours. Her soft, deep breathing filled my ears. I didn’t know whether to try and extricate her from my arms or simply wake her.
A part of me didn’t want to move a muscle.
Okay, so it wasn’t just a part. It was all of me.
Having my arms around Afric felt right. I couldn’t explain it. It just did.
You should probably move, my brain urged.
Stay right where you are, my heart countered.
Finally, I decided to go with my brain. Afric might not appreciate waking up with me like this. She certainly hadn’t invited me to fall asleep in her bed. As gently as I could, I unwrapped my arms and deftly slid out from under her. She made a noise of complaint as I settled her onto the pillow, but then her breathing evened out again.
I climbed from the bed and found my shoes. I sat on the chair by her computer desk to slip them on. Next, I grabbed my glasses and jacket and was just putting both on when a sleepy voice asked in amusement, “Did we take a nap together?”
I turned to the bed, and the sight of her tired eyes and puffy lips made something tighten in my chest. She was so beautiful. I couldn’t believe I didn’t see it right from the first moment we met. How blind I’d been. “Yes,” I replied. “Sorry about that. I didn’t mean to fall asleep.”
“Why are you apologising? I fell asleep, too.” She stretched out like a lazy cat, and my eyes were inexplicably drawn to her body. She was curvaceous and well-endowed in a way that made my blood heat.
I forced myself to look away. “Well, I’d better get going.”
“You don’t have to. It’s late. Just stay here.”
“No, I really should go.” I stood firm. She had no idea how difficult it would be to spend an entire night in her bed and not do something that would jeopardise our friendship irreversibly. Somehow, she’d become one of the most important people in my life. Far more important than Annabelle had ever been.