Tom tells me I should stop writing down my life, that I should “live it instead” but every time I put down the pen, I remember something he said or the way his eyes looked in mine and I just can’t help myself. He is not currently in the house, hence my writing. He was out, swimming or something of the sort. I shuddered in sympathy, though he did not need it, I could think of an infinite number of activities that I’d much rather fill my time with than tread through the choppy, bitter, black waves of Brighton beach, but Tom seemed to enjoy it, so I did not question it. Outwardly, at least. Thinking of Tom and swimming brought a small smile to my face, though this was not hard as most things relating to my policeman brought a smile to my face.
One night, after dark, I remember the buzzer sounded in my apartment. I jumped slightly, having not expected it, wine spilling onto the fabric of my grey trousers. I checked my watch. 7:43 in the evening. The buzzer sounded again. I stood, warily, to answer it. Not sure who I was expecting to be on the other side of the door, as I cautiously opened it to the cold, it was only when I heard a low “Patrick! C'mon I’m freezing!” that I fully took note of the man at my doorstep. The bones in my neck cracked with the speed of me moving to look at his face. My face softened, and any annoyance at his interruption of my evening promptly left my body. I moved to let him past and walked behind him up the stairs to my apartment and opened the door.
“Tea?” I asked. “Wine?” I moved towards the kitchen to fetch drinks when I felt a warmth on my wrist.
“No.” He said, his eyes shining, the crinkles on either side becoming more pronounced as he smiled wider. This was unusual, he was not the decisive one out of the two of us, and he most certainly was not the first to “make a move”, so to say, that was my lack of control that spurred on our moments together.
I raised an eyebrow, “No?” I implored.
“No.” He repeated. “I want to take you somewhere.”
Take me somewhere?
“But it’s dark! And cold!” I protested. Really, why was I protesting. Here was my policeman, offering me, Patrick Hazlewood, his valuable time and I was. . . protesting?
“Wear a scarf.” He said, flippantly, waving a hand in my direction. He seemed to change his mind. “Actually. . .” He began. “Where do you keep your swimming trunks?” He asked, innocently. Swimming trunks? Why on earth would we need. . . Oh. His words from our previous outing echoed in my head.
“It’d be good swimming here.” He said.
“We’ll come back. In the spring.” I replied.
“Or sooner. We could come one night.”
“It’d be cold”
“It’d be secret”
“Tom. . .” I started. “Do you really think-”
“Yes Patrick!” He interrupted. “It’s a brilliant idea! Plus, I promised we’d swim together.”
“I distinctly remember something about Spring being mentioned.” I said, dryly.
“C'mon Patrick, live a little!” He raised his eyebrows. “Maybe if you’re good I’ll stay over, I don’t have work in the morning.”
“If I’m good.” I scoffed. Who was he to tell me to live a little. I inwardly rolled my eyes. I supposed I must take advantage of whatever had inspired this night-time escapade. I sighed. “I’ll go and get my shorts, you go into that cupboard there and pick out some towels and blankets.” He began to move towards the cupboard I pointed out, while I made my way to my bedroom. I heard him rummaging around the cupboard in the hall as I plucked the singular pair of swim shorts I owned which, thankfully, had not been thrown out. I was already regretting agreeing to go swimming with him, but I didn’t want to dampen his mood. I really should stop complaining about him wanting to spend time with me. We met again in the hall as I picked up my keys.
“Could you maybe drive not as fast as last time, Patrick?” He said, timidly.
“Why? Was I going above the limit, Mr Policeman?” I teased.
He straightened his posture, making himself taller and painted a stern expression over his face. “I believe you were, Mr Hazlewood.” He said, gruffly, attempting to deepen his voice. I almost giggled, like a schoolboy.
“Oh no! Whatever shall you do with me!” I exclaimed, dramatically. “Are you going to turn me in?” I asked with mirth.
“Patrick.” He said, his voice back to normal.
“Alright.” I said. “I’ll drive slower. For you.” I raised my eyes to his, and we were locked there. Only for a moment, before he was leading me back down the stairs and out to the car.
As we drove, I urged him to talk this time. “What about?” He asked. “Anything.” I replied. And for once, he did. He talked and talked. It really was a pity I had to drive, and I couldn’t watch his expressions as he regaled all his tales about the police station and about his sister and about his childhood. We managed to avoid speaking of her, for which I was grateful. Talking of women was not a strong point I possessed, and I was quite sure my patience wouldn’t have fared too long, talking about women regarding him either. Once we had reached the car park, Tom flung open his door, stood, and took a deep breath in.
“Don’t you just love the smell of the sea, Patrick?” He asked.
I stood from the car, the wind biting at my cheeks. I pulled my jacket tighter and walked around to retrieve our towels from the back. He was there, waiting for me, at the path leading down to the seafront. Well, the sooner we start the sooner it’s over, I thought. As I got closer to him, he stuck out his hand. I looked at his hand, then back at him, and tilted my head to the side. His ears went slightly pink, and he swore lightly under his breath before forcefully taking my hand in his.
The weight of his hand felt nice in mine, his calloused fingers twitched and shivered from the cold, or perhaps nerves, I couldn’t tell. I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding, this felt good, felt right. I looked up at his face, his blush had decreased but he avoided my eye still. I raised my free hand to his hair and pushed it out of his eyes.
“Well then, what are we waiting for?” I whispered.
Finally, he turned to look at me again, his gaze flickered to our joint hands, and an unreadable expression flashed in his eyes before he strode off, with me in tow, down to the seafront.
It was bitterly cold. Without the slight cover from the trees, the cold went straight to my bones. And we weren’t even in the water yet! Tom seemed to feel right at home, having no shame as he stripped right there on the beach, completely bare in the moonlight. Alas, before I had the chance to truly admire his form, he was slipping on his swim shorts. He turned to me expectantly and raised his eyebrow before pointedly glancing at the shorts clenched in my hand. I moved to take off my jacket and expected him to turn away, bashful as he was. He did not. He followed my hand as I undid the buttons of my jacket, then continued to follow it as I stripped out of the rest of my clothes. I pulled on my shorts quickly, becoming flustered under his gaze, and just as I snapped the waistband in place, his hands grabbed my neck and he placed a bruising kiss to my lips, warming me from head to toe, before the cold had a chance to take effect. I stared at him as he pulled away, not quite sure if this was the same Tom who had once avoided me for three weeks after a mere kiss. The presence of the water seemed to give him a confidence boost, it was then that I began to realise just how important swimming was to him. It was something he could do to rewind after a difficult day at the station or something to enjoy on a warm summer’s day. It was a way to be social and also to work (what with his various competitions and lessons he partook in). I continued to stare at him until a small crease formed between his eyebrows.
“What?” He asked, sharply.
“Nothing.” I said, warmly. I put my hand in his again. “Well, are we going to get in the water anytime soon or just freeze our toes off here on the beach?”
I saw the spark return to his eyes, and before I knew it he had swung me into his arms and was striding towards the water. The dark, dark water. The water that was so cold I could feel the cold rolling off it. I squirmed in his arms as he cradled me.
“Tom!” I said hurriedly. “Tom!” I repeated more frantically. “Tom put me down!” I really tried to infuse venom into my voice, but it shook and cracked so much that his only response was a small snicker.
I watched as the waves got closer and closer until we were practically in them. Tom stopped just as the waves started to lap onto his feet. I sighed, waiting for him to put me down on the sand, when he suddenly took off, running into the sea. His steps caused the water to splash up onto me, each drop felt like an icicle, a short stab of cold on my torso or on my legs. The water was almost reaching Tom’s waist now. I looked up at Tom’s face.
“Tom.” I pleaded. His face began to soften, and he looked into my eyes, a small smile teasing his lips. I gazed into his eyes, getting locked in them. Tom really had such a remarkably beautiful face, a small smattering of freckles, blonde curls licking at his temples. I marked over every one of his features, and as I glanced at his lips, they drew into a smirk and, suddenly, before I knew it, I was submerged, head to toe, in ice-cold Brighton water.
In hindsight, Tom should’ve expected what came next.
I flailed about in the waves, coughing and spluttering, rather unattractively. Tom immediately grabbed me by my waist and hauled me up, holding me in his arms again, as I attempted to still my unsteady heart and calm my breath. I weakly hit him around his head, “What was the for?” I wheezed. He didn’t answer me, just ran his fingers through the hair at the back of my neck, it calmed me more than anything. He cleared his throat.
“Right.” He said, slowly lowering me to stand. “Swim? Properly this time?”
I nodded my agreement. He took off, diving into the black water, barely splashing at all, before he appeared a couple feet in front of me. I swam over in his direction but before I could reach him, he disappeared under the water again. I spun in a circle, trying to locate him. It was so dark, the sky and sea bled into each other, it was starting to become disorientating.
“Tom?” I called, my voice echoing off the cliffs. I heard a splash to my left and twisted to face in that direction, just as a pair of hands slithered across my front. I let out a startled yelp, before relaxing into his strong chest.
“You’re not doing much swimming.” He whispered.
“Hm?” I murmured, dreamily.
“Come swim with me, Patrick.” He took my hand and pulled me deeper into the water, the moonlight twinkling in his eyes.
We stayed out in the sea until our fingers looked like prunes and we couldn’t feel our toes. We sat in the car and attempted to warm ourselves for a few minutes before heading off back to the apartment. I walked up the stairs behind him again, watching his tall form blend into the dark shadows of the stairwell. He plucked the keys from my hand and unlocked the door, then closed it behind me before crowding into me, his arms on either side of my head. He-
The door slammed shut and I closed over my diary, before rising to meet him in the hall.
“Hi.” I replied, pulling his jacket from his shoulders, kissing the side of his head and leading him into the side room. I spread my arms, “Dinner.” I stated.
“Looks wonderful, I’m starved.” He sat down and immediately started to dig in, barely looking at what he was eating. I sighed. Unappreciative, completely unappreciative. I asked him about his day, and in turn, he asked about mine. We began to eat in comfortable silence.
“Oh!” I exclaimed. He looked up, raising his eyebrow, a question written in his eyes. “Something came in the post today.” I stood, and briskly walked to retrieve the envelope from the drawer. I passed it to him, a smile peeking at my cheeks.
“Julia’s getting married?” He asked, breathlessly, eyes wide. “How- we can’t-” He stuttered.
“It’s official as it needs to be.” I said, rather harshly.
His eyes dropped, ever so slightly. “August.” He hummed. “Best get our suits out then, eh Tricky?”
I flushed deeply at the nickname; it wasn’t used often anymore but each time it fell from his lips my heart leaped out of rhythm.
“Yes”, I cleared my throat. “We must.” He smirked, bringing his drink to his lips before downing it.
Julia had met her now fiancée while she and I holidayed in London. We were there for a particular art convention of mine, and we had been having drinks in a nearby pub. It was no stingy Brighton pub; the plush velvet seats felt like sitting on clouds, and the tables didn’t have the slight stickiness that seemed present in every other pub they had been in before, even the drinks had a sweeter taste to them. I was moping, missing my policeman. Julia thought I couldn’t see her smirk behind her drink. I knew I was lovesick, that was not an unknown fact. We sat in the pub for quite some time. I managed to keep my wallowing to a minimum and instead listened to Julia talk her politics. I rather enjoyed hearing Julia’s views, she introduced me to new ways of thinking, more open ways, more inclusive ways. I was ashamed to admit, in the past, I had taken my privilege for granted. Julia was good for me, she keeps me grounded, keeps me right. I swirled the remains of my drink around in my glass.
“…which is why it is absolutely necessary that we—” Julia cut herself off. I looked up, confused; Julia never stumbled with words. Her mouth hung open, her next words still sitting on her tongue, and her eyes were locked on something, unblinking. I glanced over my shoulder to see a woman. A tall, statuesque women. Her dark auburn hair was neatly styled around her face, emphasising her high cheekbones and wide smile. She was dressed in tight high waisted trousers with a cable knit sweater tucked into a thick belt. A grey overcoat was draped over her arm, and she carried a brown briefcase with the initials AFD across the centre. I turned back to look at Julia, and with a smirk I said,
“Tall girls will always be your weakness.”
After that fateful day, we returned to that same pub every night for the remainder of our stay in London, and each night the same woman walked in. Each night, I urged Julia to approach her, for she could even form a kinship, a friendship, instead with the woman, but Julia rebuked me every time. She was adamant it would be too painful if she was to watch her walk away with a man. I downed my drink. Oh, how I could understand. We were nearing the end of our trip, our train to Brighton leaving early the next morning. We stood from our table, gathered our things and put on our coats. In order to leave the pub, we had to walk past the woman. Julia’s throat bobbed, her eyes quickly looked over to see her sitting at the bar; legs crossed, cigarette in hand. Today, her head adorned a small woollen men’s flat cap; her curls hung looser and fell to the middle of her back. Julia pushed me in front of her and I startled out of my daydream with a laugh, causing a number of patrons to glance our way. I led Julia to the exit of the pub, when suddenly she was no longer behind me. My eyes swept over the pub and found Julia where I least expected her to be, at the bar, with the woman. As I waited, I watched the two women laugh, and saw something being slid along the surface of the bar towards Julia. I watched the two exchange pleasantries before Julia walked over to me. I raised an eyebrow.
“Her name is Angie,” was all Julia said.
Julia and Angie were sickeningly sweet, although Julia would protest otherwise. They formed a tentative pen-pal relationship, constantly sending letters and postcards back and forth. It was quite often that Julia was found hanging around the post office in hopes a letter, addressed to her, would be waiting. Angie still had business in London, meaning that they did not see each other too often, but nevertheless neither’s feelings diminished, and soon enough Angie’s business in London came to an end. She promptly packed her bags and appeared on Julia’s doorstep the next morning. And now, twelve months later, here we are.
In the months leading up to Julia and Angie’s wedding, Tom and I found ourselves as integral parts of the wedding party. Tom had the task of being the ring bearer, something he fretted over relentlessly, and he regularly woke himself in the middle of the night as a result.
“What if I don’t do it right?” he slurs, half asleep, into the darkness of our room.
“Tom” – sometimes I wished I had a more endearing name to use for him in situations such as these – “I promise you; you will be perfect. C’mon, lets sleep.”
Not that I would ever tell him but, secretly, I found it quite nice to be the one comforting him, and his determination to not let the couple down was somehow attractive to me. As for me, I was chosen to be Julia’s best man, I’m not ashamed to admit that a tear or two was shed when the letter came through the door. I thanked Julia profusely and immediately set out to work on my best man speech. It had to be perfect.
A few days prior to the wedding, myself and Angie were sent to pick up the cake (it was less suspicious that way and besides, Angie and I had been getting on Julia and Tom’s nerves with our bickering). We were giggling as we were sent away.
“God, you’d think Tom was the one gettin’ fuckin’ hitched, eh Trick?” Angie scoffed, her thick Yorkshire accent slurring the words together. I spluttered with more laughter. Angie linked her arm with mine and half dragged me along the road to the cake shop, as I attempted to compose myself. Somehow, we managed to deliver the cake safely back to Julia and Tom. They seemed to communicate telepathically, both rolling their eyes simultaneously, before grabbing their respective partner. Tom led me out to the car, sat me in the passenger seat, and planted a bruising kiss to my lips, leaving me speechless. He smirked.
“Are you sure you had none of the champagne?” He muttered, pulling the car out of the driveway. I grumbled and looked out the window. “I’ll take that as a yes.”
The ceremony was one of the most beautiful things I had ever witnessed. The couple decided to have their wedding on a nearby private beach, that Tom and I pooled together to reserve for the day. Thankfully, the weather held up. It was neither raining nor too overly warm. A small smattering of clouds was painted across the blue sky and the gentle crashes of the waves onto the beach became the soundtrack for the day. The guest list had been short, only the closest of the close were invited, so the wedding party, and subsequent reception, was rather cosy.
The reception was held a little further along the beach. Blankets and fold-away seats had been set up around a fire. We toasted marshmallows over the fire as the speeches began. As best man, I stepped up first.
“To the newly Mrs Julia Harcourt-Dowdry and Mrs Angela Frances Harcourt-Dowdry, I offer the warmest congratulations-” I looked over at the newlyweds, they had changed out of their wedding clothes and into cropped trousers and t shirts, Angie wore a frown with hers at my mention of her Sunday name, Julia’s eyes twinkled as she stared at the ring on her left hand. “For anyone who doesn’t know who I am, my name is Patrick Hazlewood, a long-time friend of Julia’s. We met through a mutual friend” – I hear a snort come from Tom’s direction – “and have bonded over our mutual appreciation of the arts. Speaking of the arts, I feel it is only fair to point out that, had I not invited a certain Julia Harcourt to my art convention in London many months ago, we might not be standing here today.” I hear Julia laugh. “I’ll save Julia the embarrassment, I won’t tell you all about the weeklong pining I endured. . . whoops.” I laughed and sat back in my spot, basking in the slight applause. Speech and speech was presented, each becoming more incoherent, the drunker we all became.
The night began to cool down and flasks filled with hot chocolate were passed round to keep us warm. The fire remained steady, flickering and crackling, the flames licking across the dark sky. I took a sip from my hot chocolate and looked up across the fire. I watched the flames dance in Tom’s eyes as he talked with a friend of Angie’s, as if he felt me looking at him, he also glanced up. He excused himself and walked over to me.
“May I sit?” He asked, gesturing to the empty seat next to me.
“How about a walk instead?” I took his arm and began to lead him to the water. We stood in silence and watched the reflection of the moon ripple on the surface of the water. I felt his arm curl around my shoulders and felt his lips press a small kiss to my temple. I glanced up at him.
“Today was a good day.” He said softly, still staring at the moon.
“It was.” I agreed.
“They both looked beautiful.” He continued. “I had a feeling Angie might wear a suit. I caught her once admiring mine when they stayed for tea, and Julia likes to pretend she doesn’t enjoy pretty things” He smiles softly. “But I know how much she loved that dress, she told me so.” He sighed softly and met my eyes. He seemed to steady himself, taking a deep breath before saying,
“Who do you think, out of us, will wear the suit?” He said lightly, though there was a slight edge.
He stayed silent, then asked, “Will we ever get married Patrick?” I looked into his eyes, there was a slight shine to them, and I couldn’t tell if it was the stars reflected in his eyes, or the beginning of tears.
My own eyes began to water. “If that’s your way of proposing, you’ve got another thing coming.” I said with a smile.
If he were able to look inside my head, he would see that all I could say was Yes, I would marry you in an instant Tom Burgess.