I picked my way through Henry's toolbox to find the Robertson screwdriver. I didn't know there were different ones. They all looked the same to me. Risking my luck, I picked one at random, handing it over to Henry, who seemed pleased with my choice.
We were trying to build Mabel's new bed, adding the finishing touches to her newly decorated bedroom. I was midway through putting the dressing table together when he called over to me for help, seeming to be close to losing his temper when the holes and lines wouldn't line up right.
He did an excellent job in choosing the accessories too, bringing home tiny glass jars from our trip to the town centre, also buying two multipacks of hair bobbles and clips to put inside them. Even treating her to some toy makeup and perfume bottles to dress her drawers and the top of the table, ready for her to play with when she wanted to get dressed up.
"Are you sure you don't mind taking Mabel to dance tonight?" he said.
I picked up the sealed hair accessories pack and emptied the bits and bobs onto the floor, choosing which ones would go in which jar. "You know that I don't mind. She's a total natural in the art of dancing. I love to watch it."
Henry let out a few grunts as he dragged the bed frame across the floor, positioning it along the wall to give the room more space. "I've got fond memories of her mother dancing around the house to silly songs that I used to beg for her to turn off. No matter how awful the lyrics were, she'd still be singing at the top of her lungs. Even when she was ready to pop pregnant, she'd spin around the kitchen table like it was nothing, always begging me to dance with her."
It was two weeks since our first date, and while he had yet to ask me on a second, we'd spent a lot of time together. We didn't mention the wobble we had at the hog roast, seeming to have forgotten about it. It had to be hard for him. I got it, but it was a red flag in my mind. I didn't need to get messed up with an emotionally unavailable guy.
Mum is talking some sense after all, I thought.
I put the plastic cover in the black bag near my knees, glad that he felt comfortable enough to open up to me. "It sounds like Mabel takes after her then."
"Grace," he declared, clearing his throat as his eyes darted across the room at a million miles a minute. "Her name was Grace, and she was the purest person I knew. Our relationship meant everything to me. I loved her body and soul."
I waited for him to look at me before I spoke, wanting him to have this moment alone. It appeared to be near impossible for him to say Grace out loud, so I could only imagine the pain it caused him. "Thank you for sharing her with me."
He hesitated. "I don't want to say too much and scare you away."
My smile was gentle in return.
The air seemed clearer now as I took in a deep breath. "I think communication is key. I'll let you know when something doesn't feel right, and you do the same."
Henry's hand flew up to his face to swipe back the hair that had fallen into his eyes that were darting away from me. "Yeah, that sounds good."
We seemed to fall into silence again while I put the last minute touches to the room by dressing the bed with pale pink bedding, fluffy pillows and a cream throw, while Henry hung up the curtains.
I rearranged the pillows for the third time by laying the grey one at the back of the pink. "Did you ever go to therapy?"
Henry turned to me with the curtain hooks in his hand. "No. They offered me a few sessions at some point, but I didn't feel ready. I probably should've taken the doctor up on it."
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Strain of LoveRomance
FREE STORY WITH PAID BONUS CHAPTERS. A shy primary school teacher, who falls in love with her student's father, learns that the secrets he keeps will change her life forever. ... Primary school teacher Verity Rose's life is simple and straightforw...