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Officially, Will pays Holly to tutor Jamie and to give him painting lessons. Unofficially, she helps him deal with the loss of his mother.

Officially, she’s with Jamie from 3 to 5, Monday to Thursday. Unofficially, she stays for dinner most nights. Just for the duration of the meal. And then, sometimes, to help out with the dishes. And why not a cuppa, today? Might as well stay for a bit of telly. Or for Jamie’s football game. Once, twice. Every week.

At Tesco’s, he buys her favourite brand of coffee and crisps on a whim. 

There’s a mug only for her in the cupboard now.

She never stays past Jamie’s bedtime. Except the once. Twice. Every week. Most days. They watch the same tv shows anyway, it’s only common sense. They don’t pay much attention to the screen, though. They have a chat over a game of cards. Or she studies child psychology while he works on a case. His companionship keeps her grounded.  

He clears a shelf for her in the bookcase. Jane Eyre stays on the coffee table.

She warms her toes under his leg now.

She stays until he’s fallen asleep. His head in her lap. Her fingers in his hair.

She keeps a pyjama there now.

It’s been two years.

Officially, she still tutors Jamie. Unofficially, Will needs her more than his son does.

Holly’s presence soothes him.

Like a pearl grows around a speck of dust.

She’s in his heart now.

She’s laughing at something. He doesn’t know what and he doesn’t need to. He’s only looking at her and he can’t look away. She’s happy. She’s joy. She blinks, tucks a strand of hair behind her ear, bites her lip, and he feels it on his tongue, and in every muscle of his mouth and jaw, the impulse to form those three words.

They say when you meet the love of your life, time stops. To Will, it feels like the world has started turning again.