They left the bathroom and walked down the stairs. A happy silence fell – the kind that didn’t need to be broken. Yet, Hildreth wanted to shatter it with joyful song. A tangled jimjamble of notes fluttered from his chest into his throat, wanting release. All he had to do was open his mouth.
But he wasn’t sure what lyrics or melody would escape if he did. Maybe it would be ‘O Sole Mio’. Or maybe it would be any given song from Mary Poppins. Or maybe he’d burst into a random beatboxing fit.
Anything and everything was possible.
He smiled at her profile.
Elsie smiled back at him. “You’re lost in your thoughts, Mayhew.” she said teasingly.
“Oh, you know me. Lost in my thoughts is my default setting. Takes a lot to get me out of there.”
“No kidding. What are you thinking about?”
“Us.” Hildreth stepped off the last stair. “Me.”
She stopped on the last step.
He turned to face her. “I never knew I could feel like this. I never knew that I could love anyone like this. So completely. So joyfully. I always thought I’d be stuck living inside the darkness of Master Initskay’s and my parents’ deaths, wanting to be in the light but unable to quite reach it. Then, you came into my life. And you married me. And Els. I’m happy. I’m so very happy to be your husband.”
“And I am proud to be your wife. Hildreth Mayhew, there is no one else in this world I want more than you.”
“With or without fangs?”
She lightly punched his arm. “Either.”
He grinned. “Such a fierce creature. But that was a very weak punch. You really should try that one again.”
“Let me get your clothes and then yes. I’ll gladly try that one again.”
“Oh? Is this you being all suggestive?” He drama-posed with the back of his hand against his forehead. “Oh mah goodness! Saying such scandalous things where ah can hear them with mah delicate lily ears! Oh, ah shall surely get the vapors and wilt away.”
Elsie laughed. “Idiot. Come. I want to leave so I can come back.”
Hildreth lowered his hand. “Leave so you can come back. Hmmmmm. Okay. I guess that makes sense. I wonder what will happen when you return. Oh, how I wonder. Wonder. Wonder. Wonder.”
“If I don’t leave, you’ll never find out.”
She stepped down onto the floor and took his hands. “Come.”
Elsie released his one hand and held onto the other. She couldn’t help but smile.
His hand feels so good in mine.
So real. No one will ever accuse him of having womanly hands.
She gave him an admiring look.
Just as no one will ever call him delicate. But no one will ever call him ugly. If they did, there’s clearly something wrong with them. Or they’re just being spiteful. No other reason could apply. But even if he were ugly, I’d still love him. He’s so ridiculous. He makes me so happy. I’d fight anyone who tried to steal him from me.
They stopped at the front door. Hildreth unlocked it.
And I would win. Even if I had to cheat, I would win.
Elsie opened the door and stepped out on the front porch.
He followed after her. “Are you sure you don’t want me to come with?”
“Oh mah delicate feelings are bruised and battered.” He seemed to think about it. “Pancake battered? Huh. What would that even mean in this context?”
“I’m not going to even guess.” She kissed him. “I’ll be back. Stay out of trouble. DON’T hurt yourself.”
“Now, Els. When have I done either of those?”
“Booo! Bad answer. Try again.” His stomach growled with vehemence. Hildreth released her. “I guess that’s a sign you oughta go.”
She nodded. “I’ll be back.”
“I’ll do my best to be good and safe.”
“Good.” She kissed him one last time before heading to her car.