11.8K 620 142

As Savannah speeds off into the darkness, James and I stand outside the silent house

Oops! This image does not follow our content guidelines. To continue publishing, please remove it or upload a different image.

As Savannah speeds off into the darkness, James and I stand outside the silent house. My limbs are stiff with cold and my breath rises in tendrils of frosty air. The rain - now stopped apart from the scatterings of raindrops from overhead pine trees - is frosting the ground with silver puddles.

Reaching the door, my hand freezes on the lock. 'I'm not ready to go in yet. It's too full of him.'

James nods and ruffles his damp hair, which curls in tendrils around his temples. Checking his watch, he sighs. 'We've still got a few hours till midnight.'

I bite my lip. The thought of spending hours wondering whose Finch's arms would be around at the countdown fills me with dread. I also know that standing in the cold in damp clothes isn't an alternate plan.

James stopped me before I entered the kitchen. 'I've got an idea,' he says, his face softened with a cheeky grin. 'Get changed and meet me here in 10 minutes.'

I furrow my brow, but he rolls his eyes.

'Trust me, Betty,' he whispers, pushing me towards the stairs. 'Just dress warm.'

Ten minutes later, and dressed in the warmest clothes I've brought, I'm beginning to thaw out. It doesn't heal the broken heart, but as I pull on my largest, fluffiest jumper, I feel comforted. Plaiting my hair in the mirror, I scowl at Lissie's unmade bed. A sudden wave of anger rushes over me and I grab her duvet and pillow.

When I reach the kitchen, James knits his eyebrows in confusion. I throw the duvet at the sofa, grunting with the effort of hauling it over my shoulder. He snorts.

'Toboggan?' he asks, holding up a red bobble hat.

'Will I need it?'

He nods, crossed the kitchen and placing it on me. 'Always best to be prepared.'

'So, where are we off to?' I ask as James pulls on his jacket and trainers. I follow suit.

He inclines his head towards the kitchen island. A tartan rug, two lanterns and a picnic basket are piled in the centre. A small smile creeps across my face.

'Final touch,' he says, rushing to a pot on the stove. A silver flask is next to him and he pours a stream of steaming white liquid into it. 'I can't promise to have all the ingredients for a perfect Whittingham picnic, more whatever I could lay my hands on,' he whispers, laughing.

'It's perfect,' I say. 'Except-'

Leaving James standing in the kitchen, I race into the study and open up his Granddad's globe. In the darkness, I rifle through the bottles until I find the one that I want. When I return, James's eyes widen at the half-full bottle. He goes to argue, but I hold up my hand.

'My heartbreak, my cure.'

At this, he allows me to slip it into the basket.

We walk down to the lake by the light of the stars, pausing when we reach the jetty to light the two lanterns. As James sets down the hamper, I lay the rugs across the damp wooden boards.

Under Tennessee SkiesWhere stories live. Discover now