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yesterday i would have run away

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It’s early on a Saturday morning in late June, and Rebecca is awake in bed having the To Have a Lie-In or Not To Have a Lie-In debate. She’d gone out with Keeley and Sassy the previous night. It was fun, but Rebecca had also felt a little off. Ever since breaking it off with Sam, she hasn’t been able to shake this strange discomfort that’s settled over her.

The odd thing is it’s not about Sam. She feels one hundred percent confident that ending it with him was the right thing to do; she feels better than good about it. But without that situation to obsess over, she can no longer ignore she’s been feeling uncomfortable in her own skin. Something’s missing. Something’s not right. Something’s nagging at the back of her brain.

At first, she figured it was grief. After all, one never knows how she’ll handle losing a parent until she loses a parent. But now she’s not so sure. A separate sort of unsettled surrounds her father’s death and all it has unearthed.

She’d split a cigarette with Sassy at one point last night, and Sass asked about Ted. Which is a completely normal thing for Sassy to do.

What hadn’t been normal was the bubbling of anger Rebecca felt deep in her belly.

What isn’t normal is now, having been reminded of his absence, he’s the first thing she thinks about upon waking.

Something is on the tip of her tongue.

She shoots Keeley a text—Call me when you have a minute. xo—and decides to get up.

After a trip to the bathroom, she makes her way downstairs to start the kettle. She turns on the news and preps her tea cup.

Her phone rings. She answers without looking at the caller ID: “Didn’t think you’d be up so early after the state I left you in last night.”

Instead of Keeley’s inventive innuendo, she hears Ted’s drawl, casual and teasing and tentative all at the same time: “Well, where I am, it’s still last night.”

“Oh, shit. Ted.” She laughs awkwardly. “Sorry, I thought you were Keeley.” She rolls her eyes at herself.

“Hi, Rebecca,” he says, chuckling.

A smile spreads across her face. “Hi, Ted.”

“I’m kinda drunk.”

She laughs lightly. “Is that so?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

The kettle goes off, and she fixes her cup.

“An’ I just wanted to hear your voice.”

“Oh.” A little something blooms deep in her belly and radiates warmth through her body.

“Is that okay?” he asks. “Is it okay I wanna hear your voice, or is it a problem? ‘Cause I couldn’ decide, an’ if—.”

“No, Ted, no,” she says, cutting him off. “It’s okay.” As if split in two, she hears herself reassure him, “I like that you wanted to hear my voice. It’s quite nice to hear yours,” while chastising herself for showing too much. At least he has the excuse of intoxication.

“Didn’t wake you up, did I?”

“No,” she replies, taking a seat on one of the stools at the island. “But you did get me before my first cuppa.”

“Uh-oh.”

“Mmm,” she agrees and blows gently over the hot liquid to cool her cherished first sip of the day. “What has you up so late?”

“Met some old high school buddies out at a bar,” Ted explains. “A mini-reunion of sorts.”

“How was that?” she asks, enjoying this aimless conversation with her morning tea.

It’s his fault. He’d insisted on Biscuits with the Boss, and now she's been engineered to associate his voice with the pleasure of eating one of his biscuits. Now his voice being the first one she hears in the morning feels normal. A nice kind of normal. Familiar like the warmth of hot porcelain on the palms of her hands.

“Oh, y’know, it was how those things are,” he answers with a sigh. “Mostly good but nothin’ to write home about.”

They let a short silence linger. Just as it starts to feel awkward, Ted says, “I miss you.”

That feeling again. That burst of blooming heat in her belly.

“I know I shouldn’ tell you,” he continues, words slurring the slightest bit. “An’ I know I shouldn’ miss you, but sometimes, y’know, sometimes I get tired of doin’ the right thing when the right thing always seems to mean me losin’. So I’m a little drunk, and I’m callin’ you and tellin’ you things’m not s’posed to ‘cause I can’t help how I feel. I can’ help I was gutted when you told me about Sam.”

She gasps. “Ted.”

“I been tryin’ so fuckin’ hard not to think about you.”

Did he just curse?

“Remindin’ myself you’re over there datin’ rich chaps and young footbal—.”

“I’m not,” she interjects.

“Huh?”

“I’m not dating rich chaps or footballers. I’m not dating anyone.” Her index finger slowly traces the rim of her tea cup. “I miss you, too, Ted. I missed you before you even left London.”

And there it is. A truth she’s revealing to herself in the moment she reveals it to him. A truth to unlock others. The something that has been bothering her. The words on the tip of her tongue.

Some part of her had decided some time ago Ted would never see her the way she wanted him to. That he was never going to be interested in her, that it was better for everyone if he never was. Some part of her had accepted that as her reality and told herself she could choose to not want him. The last thing she could have done was sit idle; she’d needed to move forward, get past thinking about him, stop wanting to know him.

Her mind’s capacity to compartmentalize these feelings sort of stuns her in this moment. Everything is somehow brand new information and deep embodied knowledge at the same time. An ache settles in her chest.

Rebecca sips her tea, and she can hear him breathing. She wants to be next to him. She wants to tell him things. What the fuck is happening?

She asks, “How drunk are you?”

“Hmm?”

“Will you remember this conversation in the morning?”

“Oh, yeah. Yeah, I’ll remember it,” he assures her. After a beat, he asks, “What d’you mean you missed me before I left London?”

“You pulled away from me this spring,” she offers as explanation.

“I pulled away from everyone,” he replies.

“I know.” Then, laced with nerves, “But I’m not everyone.”

“No,” Ted agrees. “No, you’re not.” He exhales audibly. “I needed space to figure some things out.”

“I understand,” she says, and she means it. “And now?”

“Now?” he asks, confused.

“Do you still need space?”

“Oh. No.” Ted pauses. “Not from you, Rebecca.”

She inhales sharply, and she’s taken aback by the tears that come to her eyes.

Voice small, she asks, “You think about me?”

He lets out a half-laugh. “Uh, yeah. Constantly.”

“You don’t have feelings for Sassy?” The question is out of her mouth before she realizes what it’s going to be.

“Wh—. Sassy? No.”

“You left my father’s funeral together,” Rebecca explains. "I just didn't know if—."

“We went out for a drink," he says softly. Not defensive in the least, though he owes her no explanation. "That’s all.”

There’s a lengthy silence. She doesn’t know what to say or what to think or do.

Ted breaks it first: “Can I make you dinner when I get back to town?”

Her heart beats hard in her chest. “I’d love that,” she nearly whispers.

“Well, all right,” he says, and she can hear the smile in his voice. Then, tone more serious, “You know I mean a date, right?”

Rebecca laughs. “Yes, Ted. I know you mean a date.”

“Like the kind where I kiss you at the end?”

She grins and rolls her eyes. “That’s the kind I want.”

“Whew.”

“I might even want the kind where you kiss me in the middle.”

“Oh, really?”

“Mmm,” she hums, swallowing a sip of tea.

“Gotta say, drunk dialin’ my boss went way better than I thought it would,” Ted remarks.

They chuckle lightly together.

“I’m glad you called,” Rebecca says with a soft sincerity.

“Sure do wish I could hold you, though.”

Smiling and closing her eyes, she replies, “Now that sounds wonderful.” After a beat, her eyes open, and she can feel on her face how pouty she looks: "You are awfully far away from me right now."

“I’ll be home soon,” he soothes.

Home. Her insides react, like a small jolt or squeeze. It hurts in the way love does. London is home.

“How many days?” she asks even though she knows.

“Nine,” he says through a yawn.

“I could handle sooner, but that is soon.”

“If I wake up in the morning and this is a dream, I will cry.”

Rebecca giggles. “Are you falling asleep on me, Lasso?”

“Startin’ to, I think." He makes a grunt of effort when he pushes himself up from what Rebecca presumes is a sofa or an armchair. "I should prob'ly go to bed.”

“Have a glass of water before you turn in, eh?"

"Okay."

"And we can talk later,” Rebecca adds.

“Yeah,” he says like a happy sigh.

“Sleep well, Ted.”

“Night, Boss.”

They disconnect and Rebecca sets her phone down on the island but otherwise doesn’t move. Her smile, when it comes, is hesitant at first, appearing and disappearing a few times like it has stage fright. Then a grin breaks day over her face, and it's the kind she couldn’t suppress if she tried.