I watched Rhea's eyes flickering to her father nervously.
I had never seen Rhea so tense or afraid before and it made me seriously question to myself what her father had done to make her this way. The coffee house was full of animated chatter, and as much as we all tried to keep up our own conversation, each of us was fully aware of this man sitting not ten feet away from us. I glanced surreptitiously out of the corner of my eye, and was startled to find out how much he actually looked like Rhea. They shared the same dark hair, the same face shape and the same slightly distant, slightly cautious glint in their eyes.
'Let's go to the beach,' I suddenly announced, standing up. I couldn't sit around any longer with that creepy guy watching us.
All of their heads turned to face me in surprise.
'Shouldn't we, well, stay in public view?' Rhea murmured, keeping her head down.
'What's he gonna do?' I scoffed, half of me really curious as to what was so bad about him.
'Come on,' Elijah stood up beside me. 'We'll be fine. It's a sunny day, there's bound to be loads of people at the beach. Besides, Tom and I can handle it if anything happens.'
'Oh,' Rhea laughed. 'Trust me, you couldn't.'
* * *
Ten minutes later and Rhea was fully convinced to come to the beach with all of us. We had all dispersed in a crowd, heading off in separate directions so her father wouldn't notice us, arranging to meet at the Beach Shop near the sea front. I was the first one there and stood obediently by the entrance, my eyes scanning the crowd for my friends.
I noticed Elijah's dark head bobbing along and smiled to myself, instantly feeling tonnes better. I didn't know what it was, maybe just the fact that I felt comfortable and secure around him. It was like whenever he was near me, all of my problems melted away.
Bright blue eyes flickered through the crowd and he dissolved into a smile as he saw me.
'Rhea's with Tom and Chrissy. They're just up there.' He inclined his head in the direction of our friends and I was relieved to see them all hurrying along, Rhea's father nowhere to be seen.
'That was kind of creepy,' Chrissy murmured.
'Yeah,' Tom frowned. 'Come on, let's go to the beach and just chill.'
I had changed into a pair of shorts and stripped my jacket off, thanks to the sudden burst of sunshine that had appeared in the clear, blue sky. The sand crumbled beneath my bare feet, scratching in between my toes. Elijah's hand was warm in mine, his thumb would stroke mine occasionally, or he'd glance over at me to smile, melting my heart.
I felt like I was really falling for him..
Tom and Chrissy hung back a bit, obviously in deep in conversation. Their heads were close together and Tom's arm was slung round Chrissy's shoulders protectively. Rhea was on the phone to someone ahead of us, every now and then she'd laugh slightly, a genuinely happy sound that confused me. I had never seen Rhea so comfortable in conversation. I was glad she was finally easing into her life though, it seemed like she might have found it too awkward before.
'Wonder who she's talking to,' I murmured, sinking down into the sand.
Elijah sat behind me and I leaned back on him, resting my head against his chest, shielding my eyes against the bright sunshine. Chrissy and Tom flopped down beside us, much in the same way. Only Rhea continued walking, still on the phone.
'Maybe it's her boyfriend,' Elijah shrugged.
'We're gonna go in the sea,' Chrissy giggled, dragging a reluctant Tom up. 'Wanna come?'
'Nah,' I smiled. 'I think I'm just gonna chill here.'
'Okay, what about you Elijah?'
'I'll stay with Isobel, maybe later!'
'Spoilsports!' Chrissy pouted, before running towards the sea, her long blonde hair billowing behind her. Tom chased after her. We watched them for a bit, just messing around. Tom grabbed Chrissy round the waist, lifting her into the air.
'They look so happy together,' I laughed.
'It's very natural with them,' Elijah agreed, beginning to stroke my hair very softly.
'It's natural with us, isn't it?'
'Of course. You don't know how long I've waited for you Isobel,' he sighed. 'I always used to see you in Photography. I remember first laying eyes on you, thinking how beautiful you were, but hauntingly alone. You always seemed to have this look in your eye, I saw it flicker for a second occasionally, then it'd melt away, too fast for me to identify properly.'
'You weren't like the other girls. There was something about you, something which drew me in. You fascinated me,' he laughed slightly. 'You don't know how pleased I was when we were paired up together.'
'Good old Mrs Garrett,' I tried to laugh along with him, but I was secretly stuck for words. To hear all of this coming from his own mouth, well it stunned me. I had no idea he felt that way about me. I didn't know he was caught in so deep...
The kiss that followed was soft and sweet, his lips melting against mine, his hand lightly resting on my jawline, tilting my head upwards. When he pulled away, he was smiling.
'I love you.'
There were so many things I wanted to do and to say when he spoke these three words. My heart felt like it was going to explode from the staggering sense of happiness that surged through me. I wanted to laugh and to cry, to jump and to run. To tell him how much I had longed for him to speak those words. I did none of these things though.
Instead, I simply smiled and murmured: 'I love you too.'