"Casey?” he asked me, waving his right hand in front ofmy face, “are you alright?”
“Yes, of course I am,” I lied, smiling from cheek to cheek, “I just… I just can’t believe you’re here. I… I missed you so much.” I moved forward towards him wrapped my arms around his neck to hug him. He held me around my waist and pulled my closer to his chest. My cheek sat perfectly against his shoulder. His familiar scent filled my nostril, dancing around and delighting my taste buds. He smelled gorgeous.
“I missed you too.” He murmured, kissing the top of my head and swaying us gently from side to side.
“I thought you couldn’t get any earlier ticket.” I asked, pulling away from him to look up at his handsome face. I smiled to myself; he looked just how I remembered.
“I know, but my dad managed to find me one. It cost a bit more, but it was worth it. I couldn’t stand not being able to see your beautiful face more a moment longer.” He leaned down softly and kissed tenderly on my lips. He smiled but I had to force myself to.
Visions of Marc and I just moment ago filled my thoughts. How could I have been so stupid? I loved Ben, yet I’d gone behind his back and almost, maybe, slept with Marc. If it hadn’t have been for Ben arriving when he did, things could have been a whole lot different right about now. I’d be making the biggest mistake of my life… or would I?
Yes… of course I would have made a mistake. I didn’t love Marc; I loved Ben and always would. If anything would have happened with Marc it would have been for the sheer moment and nothing more… right? Yes! I loved Ben. I loved Ben. I loved Ben!
“Are you alright? You look like you’ve smelt something bad. It’s not me, is it?” Ben asked, half seriously, half jokily. I cleared my mind and looked up at him.
“No, I’m fine, I was just thinking, that’s all. You’ve just missed James; he’s taking his nap.”
“Oh no, I was hoping to catch him before he went down. Obviously I arrived a little late, eh? At least that gives us a little longer to catch up with each other. Are Teresa and Jerry home?”
“No, they’ve gone into town for some shopping, and mum’s with them.” I replied, removing my arms from around his neck to tie my hair up with a spare hair tie around my wrist. The Sun shone down right down on us, increasing my body temperature and making me sweat. I had two good reasons for tying my hair up: to prevent the heat from being too uncomfortable on the back on my neck, but also to refrain me from feeling even more awkward about the complication I’d gotten myself into than I already had.
“So, we’ve got the house all to ourselves?” Ben asked, smiling and pulling me closer for another kiss. He pressed his lips against mine: a much weaker, sterner kiss than previously, on my behalf. I placed my, now, free hands on his shoulder and pushed him away again.
“Not exactly…” I told him, raising my eyebrows and opening my mouth a crack. Ben chuckled.
“I know, apart from James, obviously.”
“That’s not what I meant.”
“Casey?” asked a male voice from behind me. Ben looked over and frowned. I turned and recognized Marc instantly, “Who’s this?” He came to stand to my right, smiling in snidely at Ben. He knew well enough who he was, he just wanted me to undergo the embarrassment of introducing Ben to him… to the guy I’d almost cheated on him with… had cheated on him with.
“This is Ben,” I told him, hiding my frustration with him reasonably. I turned to look back at Ben who didn’t look too impressed, “Ben, this is Marc: Teresa and Jerry’s son. He came to visit them a few weeks ago.”
He’s also the guy I had my hands all over just five minutes ago.
Ben relaxed a little then, taking his guard down now that this mystery man had been revealed and introduced. He removed his arms from my waist and held his left arm out to Marc.
“Pleased to meet you, Marc.” He said, politely, “I hope you’ve been taking care of my Casey whilst she’s been here.” Marc took hold of Ben’s outstretched hand and shook it firmly and tightly. He smirked.
“Oh, I have been, you don’t have to worry about that,” He answered, shifting his gaze quickly at me before returning them back to Ben. He smiled a wide, toothy grin and clasped his other hand around their eloped hands, “you don’t have to worry about that at all.”
“Thank you,” Ben replied, returning the gesture and smiling unsurely back. He loosened his grip and tugged his hand away from Marc who held both of his own hands together at his waist, “I appreciate it.” The three of us remained stood in the doorway surrounded by an awkward silence. The atmosphere was tense and the quietness was uncomfortable.
“Why don’t I take your bags upstairs, Ben?” Marc announced, breaking the silence and smiling a little too enthusiastically. His eyes didn’t match: they were stone cold.
“Oh, yes, thank you… again. I’ll, err… help you, of course. I wouldn’t want to pile the whole load of them on you, that’d be rude.” He replied turning to pick up one of the two cases he’d brought with him – the biggest one – and bringing it into the house, “where will I be sleeping, by the way?”
“Well, you’ve got a choice: you can either sleep in a spare guest room, or you can sleep in the stable. I’d suggest the stable.” Marc replied, smirking to himself. I shook my head at his failed attempt at a joke. However, I didn’t smile; I was annoyed by him because I knew that he wasn’t joking… he would send Ben to the barn if he was given the opportunity to.
“I think I’ll take the guest room. But thanks for offering the barn. I’m sure it’s very nice.” Ben laughed back, accepting the joke as, well, a joke and turned back to face me. I forced a smile so he wouldn’t get suspicious of me, “I’ll meet you upstairs in a minute, yeah?” he kissed me quickly on the cheek before taking the first couple of steps up the wooden stairway.
“Go right to the top, take the corridor to the right and it’s the second door on the left.” Marc called up to him to Ben without taking his eyes off me. Ben nodded and pulled his heavy case up easily step by step. Once he’d disappeared down the corridor, Marc brushed by me, jolting my shoulder ever so slightly as he went, to collect the second case on the doorstep. He grabbed hold of it by the pull along handle and manoeuvredit into the hallway.
“You know what, Casey,” Marc began, pausing by my side. I didn’t look at him. I simply folded my arms, looked away and frowned to myself. He laughed softly and leant in closer to my ear and whispered softly, “things are going to get far more interesting… I can feel it.” My cheek tingled as his lips pricked it sweetly. I sighed, bowed my head a fraction and briefly closed my eyes.
His finger tips were electric against the skin on my chin as he spun it round to face him before reattaching his lips to mine, like before, but I retreated quickly, pulling away and standing away from the foot of the stairs.
“I don’t want to hurt Ben, Marc. I love him and I don’t want anything to happen whilst he’s here that would destroy that. We’ve gone through too much to through it all away now.
“If you do or say anything to him that might jeopardize our relationship, I will never forgive you and never speak to you ever again… and that’s a promise.” Marc smirked and ran his hand through his hair… he really was a handsome man… if only he hadn’t complicated everything up for me.
“We both know that you won’t be able to resist me, Casey,” he sneered, “We’ve both go what we wanted once today and I am more than confident that I can be successful another time; you’re so easy to persuade.”
“You speak to me as if I’m a child,” I snapped, ferociously though not loud enough for Ben to hear or wake James, “you’re acting like the first Marc I met last Christmas: snide, rude and inconsiderate to others. You have no right to talk to me like that; Ben won’t stand for it when I tell him.”
“But you see, Casey, you won’t tell him, for two reasons; one, you don’t want to risk losing him, and two, you don’t want to risk losing me. Actually, let’s make it three reasons because, you see, I have you wrapped around my little finger and there’s nothing you can do about it.
“One little thing goes wrong between us and I let lover boy know about your little cheating ways. Yes, fists may be introduced but it won’t be me he’ll be mad at, it’ll be you because, when you think about it, if you loved him – really loved him that is – you wouldn’t have cheated on him in the first place, would you?” Marc smiled grimly before pacing towards my shocked self and planting a sly kiss on my forehead before turning back and pulling the second case upstairs to Ben’s guest room.
I stood in shock silence with my arms remaining folded and my body shaking feebly from side to side. Had I just been black mailed? Or bullied into some sort of deranged truce? I was too confused.
Marc’s words lingered in my mind, bouncing from corner to corner, scarring it and bruising it as it went. I could feel myself wanting to cry but refusing to be defeated by him. I wasn’t afraid of Marc, no, I was just worried… and concerned about what he could do… what he could do to Ben and I… what he could break within seconds. That’s what scared me the most.
Losing Ben again would kill me. I honestly couldn’t imagine myself without him… I couldn’t imagine him not being there for me… for me and James. James needed his daddy, I wouldn’t be able to do it on my own… we both needed him.
The creak of the stairs made me jump as they echoed around the narrow hallway. I looked up and saw Ben, smiling down towards me. His expression changed when he met mine.
“Case, what’s the matter? Are you crying?” he asked me, truly concerned. He stood in front of me and held my hands tightly. I shook my head.
“No, I’m not crying I’m just… I’m just so glad you’re here. I’ve missed you so much. I’m… I’m overwhelmed more than anything. I thought you were never going to come.” I did begin to cry then. I felt silly crying in front of him, just like I did in front of anybody I knew; even mum.
“Oh, Casey,” he soothed, taking me in his arms and pulling me towards him. I locked my arms around his waist and cried into his chest. He stroked my back with his left hand and held onto the back of my head with the right, trying not to mess up my recently tied up hair, “I’m here now, baby, and I’m staying for as long as I can. I’m not going to leave your side at all during this visit. It’s going to be just the two of us… and James, of course… our little family. I love you, Casey.”
“I love you too.” I answered through snotty tears. Fortunately, I put on water proof mascara this morning so risk of staining his nice, clean, pastel blue shirt was low. That couldn’t be said so much for the damp patches where my tears had leaked onto, “Promise you’ll always be there for me, won’t you? Promise that you’ll always be there for me and James. I don’t think I’d be able to manage without you. You’re so special to me. I couldn’t bear the thought of losing you.”
“You’re not going to lose me. I’ll always be here for you, no matter what. And I promise I will always be there for James. He’s my son and I love him. Now, stop this crying. You were in tears when you left in June and now you’re in tears when I’m here. Calm down my silly, lovely, beautiful girl.” He moved his right hand from the back of my head and chucked my chin up with it, pulling me closer towards him. I tilted my head up as he tilted his down, gluing our lips together and remaining so for a few moments. The kiss was deep and meaningful; everything that a kiss should be.
Marc’s threats would always be in the back of my mind, but Ben would always be in the front and the fact that I loved him and that he loved me and that we had a son that loved us both more than life itself.