She’d been washing the dishes when he knocked on the back door. Her hands were wrinkled and clammy and resembled the way her head felt. It had been a long day at the store and even Muriel had succumbed to a headache and was lying down. Izzy had offered to do the dishes for her and was almost regretting that decision. It still didn’t stop the thrill that thumped through her whenever she saw him.
He started to wring his hat in his hands, a sure sign that he’d done something he didn’t think she’d approve of or had something to apologize for. With him it could be either one. She smiled wryly and told him to wait while she told Muriel they were going out.
They didn’t take their bikes, but ambled along as he steadfastly refused to say anything about what was worrying him. She let him be silent, knowing him as she did, this must be something big. He took her to their favorite spot, the clearing in the woods behind his farm. She sat down on the grass and sighed in contentment even though she was worried about whatever he was worrying about. She loved this spot and she knew he did too. Despite his ineptitude at farming, this was his home, and he’d never be able to completely sever himself from it.
“Thanks for not pushing,” he finally said. “Felicity would have had my head by now.”
“Felicity’s your sister and she’s supposed to be impatient with you. I’m your…friend and I’m different.”
“You are different, Iz. I know we haven’t exactly cataloged whatever this is. I haven’t forgotten the last time I treated you like an experiment.”
She laughed. The memory held some mortification for her, but it had mostly passed.
“No, but something has changed since then.”
“Exactly and that’s why I wanted you to be the first to know, or at least the first to ask. With my parents I guess I just get to tell them, but with you I don’t want you to feel like I’ve forgotten us in my decision.”
“Spit it out before you choke, Felix King,” she said, her brain starting to race as to what he could be about to tell her. The whole situation didn’t bode well, despite the layers of comfort he had actually tried to lay.
“I…I joined the Navy.”
“What?” She was stunned. It was the last thing she expected to hear. She knew he hadn’t been as happy at the hotel the last while, but to join the Navy? That was new.
“Don’t be mad. You know that I love the hotel. But I just…I don’t fit in there right now. I still love the hospitality business and I think that’s what I want to base my future in. But I can’t…do that right now. I need to travel; I need to figure myself out before I do that.”
She chuckled somewhat bitterly. How well she knew that feeling. She felt the urges within her to burst out from the world she lived in, to roam freely and forget all her responsibilities. But she didn’t have that option.
“I’m happy for you, Felix.”
“Of course I’m happy for you, doofus. Just because you get to do what I always wanted to do doesn’t mean I can’t be glad you get to.”
He looked down.
“I know. I wish you could come. I’m pretty lost without you.”
“But it’s more than that. I want you to be happy. You’ve had so much happening lately and I just…wish I could fix it.”
“That’s not what I keep you around for,” she said in an attempt at playfulness. “I fix things for you.”
“What do you keep me around for?” He would persist in being serious.
“To make me laugh. To eat as much as I do. To play ball. To ride and explore. To make me feel beautiful.”
He hesitantly reached over and took her hand. She smiled at him even though she felt like she wanted to cry.
“I remember when I first met you. Morgan said you would be the first woman to run the British army. I always thought that would happen.”
“So did I at the time. But it’s not quite my calling.”
“Do you know what is?”
“Not really.” She looked down, and then changed the subject. “Did I tell you my aunt Lillian married? He’s pretty wealthy too. She wants to pay for me to travel.”
“I think it’s what I want to do.”
“Maybe you can travel wherever I am?”
“I think I’d like that,” she answered, squeezing his hand. “We’ll keep in contact. That is, if you actually write to me.”
“You know how hard that is for me,” he said, “but for you, I’m willing to try.”
“You’re such a boy. For all my slightly non feminine traits, I can at least write a letter.”
“Like: my heart will burst, the pain’s the worst?” he asked teasingly.
“Felix!” she said, violently shoving him. He fell back on the grass, laughing. After a minute, she joined him in chuckling over the memory and he played with some blades of grass while he resumed their original topic.
“I can write. Aunt Hetty would’ve killed me if I didn’t learn at least that much. It’s just not something I normally want to do. But I want to write to you. And I’ll come back.”
“So will I.”
“Because…” he took a deep breath… “I love you, Izzy.”
She started to blush. It was funny how often one of them seemed to be on a page the other wasn’t. With the Greta fiasco, or the kissing incident. But now…now they both clicked.
“I love you too, Felix.”
He smiled, that huge smile that she loved because it was so genuine, and stood up, helping her up too. Slowly, he leaned in and brushed his lips against hers. She put her hand on his face and he deepened the kiss for a fraction of a second before pulling away.
“Wanna walk?” he asked.
“Of course,” she answered, taking his hand.
“You’re coming to the wedding with me, right?” he queried as they ambled along.
“Sure, wait till the last minute to ask me!”
“I just figured…”
“Felix King, what am I going to do with you?”
“Go with me to the wedding?” he offered. She swatted his arm playfully.
“Fine, I’ll go.” They walked along, handfast, together for today and the future.