Richard and Kirsty met on the steps outside the art museum. Kirsty grinned as she saw him. ‘Hey, stranger. How’d you sleep?’
‘Not long enough.’ Richard leaned in and kissed her.
Kirsty let it linger, then took his hand. ‘Woo. Hah. Okay. So, now what?’
‘Well, I don’t have a car. So I guess we go for a walk, maybe find somewhere for lunch?’
‘Cool.’ Their fingers intertwined.
Richard felt bleary. They’d neither of them had much sleep, getting in very late and rather stupidly deciding to meet at noon. Or maybe not so stupid – why waste time sleeping? He remembered last night on the beach, her naked beneath him. He hadn’t stopped thinking about making love to her since he’d said goodbye. He was thinking about it right now. It was making him hard just being next to her, and that was actually sort of uncomfortable, but man, it was good to be here, to be walking in step with a girl he liked and who liked him back. He hadn’t slept with anyone for ages. Was it a problem that when he glanced at her and smiled he just kept thinking about the having sex? Probably not. It was probably normal. Sure.
This was going well. It helped him not think about the whole going-home thing.
As they walked up towards the High Street Kirsty tugged on his hand. ‘Let’s go through the gardens.’
‘Not going to find much lunch that way.’
‘I’m not hungry. Are you hungry? Come on.’
They crossed the street and wandered into Riddiford Gardens, tidy lawns and attractive flowerbeds. Young families sat with their children, elderly couples walked by, a couple of kids riding BMX bikes raced along the path. There was a cold breeze but as long as the sun didn’t disappear behind clouds it wasn’t too bad. Kirsty talked about the Little Theatre nearby, dancing shows she’d been in when she was small, the stupid stuff they’d got up to backstage. It was easy, being together. The conversation never paused, never got difficult.
Richard was caught by surprise when Dennis appeared. They were passing the library and he came through its doors, right in front of them. Without thinking Richard let go of Kirsty’s hand and stepped a tiny distance away, but it was obvious Dennis had already clocked them. He gave Richard a nod.
Dennis had a smaller companion who wasn’t so restrained: ‘Richard!’ The boy ran over to him, holding out a picture book.
Richard bent down. ‘Hey Joe, how are you?’
‘Look at this! It’s got pictures of all the motorcycles – see? It was an adult book but Dennis got it out for me, isn’t it cool? I’ll show you the one I’m going to get.’ He pressed it into Richard’s hands and started turning pages while Richard held it. ‘It’s just here somewhere, um...’
Dennis had a bunch of other books under his arm, most of which looked like they were Joe’s books. ‘Hey Rich. Hi Kirsty.’
Kirsty smiled at him. ‘Hey Dennis.’
Richard looked up from Joe’s book. ‘You guys know each other?’
Dennis shrugged. ‘It’s the Hutt. Everyone knows everyone.’
Richard patted Joe on the shoulder. ‘How are you keeping, little man?’
Joe was still searching for the right motorcycle so he didn’t look up from the pages. ‘I’m good. Dennis says you’re going to be in a basketball team? And he says with you on the team you guys can’t lose.’
‘I don’t know about that,’ Richard said, giving Dennis a glance.
Dennis put a hand on his brother’s arm, pulling him away as he spoke to Richard: ‘You don’t believe that.’
‘What, that we’re gonna win all the time?’
‘We don’t screw up. How else can it go? Come on, Joe, we have to move.’
Joseph took the book back reluctantly. ‘I’ll show you it next time.’
They all said their farewells and headed off in different directions. Kirsty took his hand back as they walked. ‘So. You guys are friends?’
‘Yeah.’ There was something a bit off in her tone but he couldn’t stop thinking about what Dennis had said. We don’t screw up. He couldn’t think of a time he’d screwed up, or Dennis. It just didn’t happen.
‘What are you thinking about?’
‘Huh. Screwing up, I guess.’
Kirsty pulled him up and spun to face him. Then she kissed him hard on the lips.
‘You didn’t screw up with me,’ she said.
And he kissed her back.