Sandra put her phone away, saddened by Roger’s stubbornness.
Rhyley winced sympathetically.
“He still thinks I cheated on you?”
“Yeah,” Sandra murmured, sighing. She took his hand again - she had been holding it before Roger’s phone call but had let go upon answering it. She swung it slightly as they resumed walking, making their way around the perimeter of The Common.
“He hates me,” Rhyley said without any self-pity. “I tried to tell him I was willing to turn over a new leaf with him but he was sure I was playing some kind of game with you.”
Sandra shook her head, sighing again.
“I don’t want him to feel like I don’t respect him anymore. But it’s hard when he just insists on you being the bad guy.”
“I know,” Rhyley said softly.
Sandra looked up at him and stopped walking, reaching up to stroke the side of his face.
“I don’t want to lose you either. You’re mine forever now.”
“Yes,” Rhyley said simply.
Sandra’s lips met his in a kiss. They wrapped their arms around each other and kissed deeply, half under the cover of one of the trees that lined the field’s edges. Sandra was engulfed in the pleasure of the moment, of the physical contact, and the contentment of knowing she was being kissed by her soulmate - someone who thought of her as his and accepted his status as hers. She let Rhyley walk her further into the shade until she was lightly pressed up against the tree trunk. His hands travelled down her sides, squeezing her hips gently, which brought a thrill of delight into the feelings she was drowning in. They pressed against each other and she stroked the skin above his waistline as he stroked her back beneath her shirt. Sandra thought it was blissful. Half of her never wanted it to end but the other half didn’t want things to go dangerously further. She reluctantly pulled away.
“That was wonderful,” she told Rhyley, who nodded, smiling, though looking like he’d wanted perhaps a bit more.
“Let’s go for a hot chocolate now - I love hot chocolate. Do you?”
“I haven’t had one in a while,” Rhyley confessed. “My mum used to make me one before bedtime but that was when I was a kid.” He blushed slightly.
“Aw, that’s so sweet,” Sandra said, surprised that Rhyley had told her this snippet of information which gave an insight into his earlier years.
“Well, you said we should share facts about ourselves,” Rhyley said, clearly embarrassed.
“I did,” Sandra replied, smiling. “My mum used to give me a mug of hot milk and we’d sit in my bed while she read stories to me. I think that’s where my love of reading must have originated - in being read to.”
“That’s sweet,” Rhyley said.
“Maybe I can read to you,” Sandra suggested, enchanted by the idea that had just entered her head. “Poems I like or scenes from my favourite stories.”
Rhyley looked doubtful.
“I guess you could. I don’t know how much I’d enjoy it.”
Sandra sighed, frowning a little.
“I just thought it could be something special. Literature can be so ... inspiring. Or just plain beautiful. I’d really be sharing something with you - like you shared your comic books with me.”
“I get it. No, maybe you’ll get me into reading, Sandra. If I like what you read to me.”
“I’ll take that as a challenge.”
They held hands as they walked to Sandra’s favourite café, a shop which also sold chocolate and cookies. Sandra liked holding Rhyley’s hand; it solidified the relationship, it felt like a connection between them and Rhyley stroked hers absently with his thumb while their hands clasped each other, making her feel happy in the way that simple pleasures do. They sat down at a table for two and Rhyley said that he would pay for whatever she ordered - as long as it didn’t cost more than £20, which made Sandra laugh. She was finding herself forgiving Rhyley very quickly. It was maybe too soon, but it was easier on her to let herself be happy around him than to try to hate someone she felt like she needed.
“Are you having a good time?” Rhyley asked after the waiter had taken their order.
“Yes,” Sandra replied - completely truthfully. “Yes, I am.”