Elsie wrapped her arms around his waist. “Just wait. It will get even better.” She laid her head against his chest.
Hildreth hugged her in return. There were so many things he wanted to say. Words full of passion and sweeping romance. Words he stole from a poet’s pen.
Her arms wrapped around him and her head lying on him stole his words from his throat. He couldn’t speak. He could only feel. So, he just hugged her.
Carol Burnett’s Tarzan yell cataclysmed the moment.
Elsie sighed and reluctantly released him. “It’s my mom.”
Hildreth raised his eyebrows. “You set that as your mom’s ringtone? I feel like I should be appalled for your mom’s sake.”
“Don’t be. It was her idea.” She answered it. “Hello?”
He watched Elsie as she talked to her mother.
The brightness in her eyes.
The way she blushes when her mom says something presumably off-color.
I love her.
I love everything about her.
I just wish I knew how to fully express it.
“Okay, Mom. Don’t worry. We’ll be fine till then. We’ll find ways to keep ourselves occupied. Mom! I didn’t mean it like that. Okay. Yes. Yes, love you too. Bye.” She ended her call and put her phone away. “There’s been a slight change in plans. Mom wants to get her hair done before she meets you.”
“So, it’s going to take a couple of hours.”
“What time we gonna meet up with her?”
“Well, that’s the thing. Her hair appointment isn’t until 5:30.”
“Seven-thirty. Maybe eight o’clock. Unfortunately.”
“Maybe Pinkerlee doesn’t have vampires.”
She gave him The Look. “You might as well say Pinkerlee doesn’t have any sky. Vampires have a way of infesting every populated city.”
“But we’re together. We’ll keep her safe.”
She smiled. “I love you.”
The words stuck to his throat. He could almost taste their black ink.
He hugged her and kissed her and she gladly joined in the making-out fun.
And it was all fun and love and loveliness until a woman with two urchins showed up. “Excuse me. I need to get to the dining car. Now.”
Elsie and Hildreth came up for air and stared at her as if she were speaking an incomprehensible form of pig Latin.
The youngest urchin pulled her thumb out of her mouth and declared, “I not like meeloaf.” Having made her statement, she put her thumb back into her mouth and stared intently at Hildreth.
“Hey, Emma.” said the boy. “I heard they only serve meatloaf on this train.”
She screeched. “I NOT LIKE MEEEELOAF!”
“Bubbly green meatloaf with lumpy purple mold goulash spread all over it.”
Her screech jumped a full octave. “I NOT LIIIIKE MEEEEELOAF!”
“Will you two stop it?” The mother glared at Hildreth. “Out of my way now or I will slug you.”
Elsie and Hildreth got out of her way.
“And the meatloaf is going to stand up on your plate and growl and wave its meatloafy arms and—”
The mom swatted the back of his head. “Don’t test my patience, young man.” She escorted her children into the next car.
Hildreth looked at Elsie and smiled.
“I can’t wait to start my life with you and produce our own special blend of offspring.”
“You’re presuming I want kids.”
His smile fell. ‘You don’t?”
She smiled. “I do.”
“And they’ll be the best kids ever.”
“They’ll never be brats.”
“They’ll be one hundred percent awesome.”
He stroked her face. “Just like you.”
“I love you, Hildreth.”
Of all the things he could have said, he said the one thing that was the simplest truth: “I love you too.”