I’ve barely slept a wink, but as I roll over and see the beautiful blonde next to me stirring into life, I feel as awake and alive as any man ever could.
Such beauty. Such sweet, unassuming sleeping beauty.
Man, how did I get so lucky??
I glance at the clock hanging just beyond the foot of the bed; It’s 6am.
Hhmmm. It’s early – too early for a Saturday morning – but it’s mid-July which means the sun’s already up from 5am and the curtains in my room are no better than tissue paper when it comes to keeping the light of day out – yet another in a steadily growing list of things I keep promising her I’ll get around to fixing on my own. A promise I mean to keep, but one we both know will end with me admitting defeat and paying someone else to do it for me.
Just like I did with the washing machine, and just like I did when my car needed new brake pads.
And just like I’ve been meaning to sort this bed out. Don’t get me wrong, the mattress is like nothing I’ve ever known; soft and sumptuously spongy; comfort unsurpassed – 5 star hotels aren’t as comfy as this mattress – but the bed frame is rusted and rickety and too small for a man approaching 30.
I’ve never liked sharing my bed, and I’m still getting used to it whenever this beautiful blonde stays over, but even at 6am on a Saturday, I know that waking up to her is worth the price of any lost pillow or duvet deprivation.
I mean just look at her.
She’s so peaceful and happy.
As I watch her sleep, I realise that she’s the only girl I know that doesn’t snore. Not even a little bit.
It’s almost like she’s not breathing at all, but the slow rise and and fall of the bed sheets prove that she is.
I kiss her good morning and run my fingers through her hair as I brush a few straying strands from her forehead.
Almost instantly her eyes open and she’s smiling at me, asking what the plan is.
I love how she doesn’t want to waste a second and wish I could be more like her.
Ordinarily she takes no time to wake up and get with it. She’s the type of person that’s ready to go from the second she opens her eyes but we had something of a late night after a barbecue and party at our neighours overran and it’s taking its toll on her in the form of bleary eyes and a handful of half-hearted yawns.
She wants to roll over and sleep a while longer but we’re taking a trip to my parents’, which means we have to make a move soon if we want to have any of the day left for just the two of us.
She grumbles when I remind her of this but I can tell she doesn’t really mean it; she just wants me to know that I owe her one.
I add it to the list.
10 minutes later and I’m downstairs making us breakfast while she gets dressed and sings along to the radio.
20 minutes after that and we’re holding hands and laughing as we walk down the path towards the car.
By 6:45am we’re off and by 9am we’re pulling up on to the sloped driveway of my parents’ house.
I see that dad still hasn’t spoken to anyone about getting the driveway widened and the lawn has been worn away into a sad, drab mud-bath; I make a mental note to come round one weekend later this month and sort it out for him, but I don’t say anything about it incase she brings up one of the other dozen to-dos that I’ve promised to sort first.
I turn the engine off and glance over at her; she’s quiet.
Poppy always gets shy and nervous around my parents – why, I don’t know; they love her to pieces but I guess it’s only natural.
I try to put her at ease by telling her a joke that I’d heard in the week about why Peter Pan is always flying (because he Neverlands) which gets a wide smile and then I follow it up with a crack about how that joke will never get old, and finally I break her resolve and manage to coax a laugh from her.
A laugh that could save the saddest soul.
I love how she laughs at my jokes.
She’s not doing it to humour me, she just thinks everything’s magical and funny, even my jokes.
My dad’s waiting at the door and greets us with a big, broad smile which only fades at the awkward moment when he and Poppy don’t know whether to say ‘hi’ or hug.
They decide to hug but it’s an in-and-out job that leaves them both fumbling for words.
I usher them both inside and we walk along the hallway to where mum’s pottering around the kitchen. We see her face light up when she clocks us and gives us both the biggest of hugs which leaves Poppy just the slightest bit embarrassed.
It’s a nice day but it’s still relatively early so we sit in the conservatory where we can enjoy the blue skies without the morning chill.
I try to bring Poppy into the conversation as much as possible but she’s still pretty nervous and other than the ‘please’s and ‘thank you’s she offers my dad when he brings her a drink, she barely says a word.
I talk about work.
Mum and dad talk about the neighbours.
An hour or so passes and the day warms up nicely so we head into the garden where Poppy and I spread out on the grass while mum rustles up lunch and dad, being a dad and therefore incapable of sitting still, busies himself around the garden.
I spray Poppy with the garden hose and a mini waterfight ensues between the two of us; playful and carefree.
After I think she’s suitably soaked, I roll out a blanket and lie flat on my back while Poppy lies perpendicular to me with her head rested on my stomach. We both look up at the blue sky with streaks of spongy-looking clouds drifting above us.
We talk about the week gone, the week ahead and what we’ll do with the rest of the day.
The waterfight and sunshine seems to have put Poppy at ease and she’s talking and laughing freely which makes my heart swell.
I give her a peck in her forehead and tell her I love her, to which she’s mortified in case anyone sees.
Mum brings out the food and we all sit on the lawn and devour the chicken sandwiches and pasta salad in a matter of minutes. The ice cream doesn’t last much longer.
The conversation flows and I’m content knowing that three of my favourite people in the world are right here.
We spend the rest of the afternoon drinking iced tea and grazing on the summery indulgences of suburban life; crisps, iced lollies and fresh fruit and before long, I realise we’ve completely lost track of time and Poppy and I are going to be late getting back.
We clear the blanket and bowls up and say our goodbyes before we jump in the car and hit the road.
2 hours later and I pull in to the driveway that I used to know so well.
Poppy’s fast asleep and has been since we left my parents.
I turn the engine off and slide silently around to the other side of the car, opening the passenger door before gently scooping Poppy up and out of her seat – remembering to pick up her colouring book and school bag in the same notion – before carrying her to the faded brown door of her mother’s house.
She still hasn’t fixed the letter box.
Poppy’s light as a feather but her legs dangle way beyond my arm and I start questioning when she got so big
I ring the bell and her mum, Amelie, is there in a matter of seconds; she’s been expecting us.
Our exchange is amicable but devoid of any emotion; the curse of a past of betrayals and broken promises and of not wanting to say anything that could spark another argument between us – sometimes it’s best to say nothing at all.
I hand my sleeping beauty over to Amelie, kissing her on her resting head as I do, and remind her that I’ll pick Poppy up after work next Friday.
She agrees and reminds me about the up-coming PTA evening next week before retreating back inside.
It’s strange; you’d never guess we used to be engaged and, for a time, were blissfully happy together.
I slide back into the car, dejected at the prospect of going another week before I get to hold my little angel again.
I start the car and as I reach for the seat belt, I see a heavy-eyed Poppy appear at the window, waving me goodbye.
Amelie must’ve woken her up so she could say ‘bye’ to me.
I’m touched by the gesture and realise those were the types of little things that made me think Amelie loved me so much when we were together. I guess some remnants of that connection will never die.
I guess. I hope.
I blow Poppy a kiss and start the car rolling as the net curtain falls back into place between us.
Our worlds are separated again.
The countdown to next weekend starts…now.