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And the Body Had a Mind of Its Own

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When Matt returns home that evening he see’s Alex’s shoes by the door and handbag on the floor, but other than that, there’s no signs of life. She normally has the TV on or music playing, occasionally he catches her singing, but not tonight. Heading to the kitchen to grab a drink, he shouts, “Honey, I’m-”

The words die in his mouth as he enters the kitchen and his eyes fall on Alex.

She sits cross legged on a chair pulled up to the table, bar of chocolate and an empty mug before her, face streaked with greyed trails of tears. Seeing him, she wipes at her face and smiles. “H-Hello, love.”

Her voice is warm but she can still hear it shaking and knows he must be worried. Truth be told, so is she. She reaches her hand out and Matt hurries over to sit beside her, pulling her into his chest and smoothing her hair. Tightly gripping his hand, she realises that she can’t say it. Alex physically cannot speak.

He is so young and has so much yet to do, a whole life of experiences that she’s already lived. She’d do them all again with him in a heartbeat, but she has her ties and he does not - she is his only one. Can she really do this to him?

She’s being rocked and he’s murmuring into her hair, god knows what he must think but she knows she can’t say it now. Not this moment.

“What’s up, sweetheart? Ay? Come on, talk to me, love.” Matt lets out a constant stream of reassurances, trying to get her to calm and talk to him. Alex can’t really see herself calming down an awful lot, she needs some room to get her head together. This is so far from ‘the plan’ she doesn’t know where to begin.

“I’m o-kay,” she chokes out and it doesn’t even convince her so it definitely won’t be doing so to him.

Alex hears him chuckle humourlessly and he continues to rock her for a few more minutes, which she’s glad of - even if she can’t tell him and feels awful about it, she can find solace in his embrace. Settling down a little, she sniffles against him and composes herself, pushing her thoughts aside and wiping up her tears. When she pulls away and looks up, Matt’s eyes are full of concern with his hand still stroking at her arm, squeezing affectionately.

Opening his mouth her speak, Alex quickly cuts him off, pretending not to realise, “I should go get my laptop; Salome will be calling soon.” She gives him a reassuring smile, before getting up - only to be pulled down into his lap, arms wrapped around her waist. Wriggling pathetically, she slapped at his hands, “Let me go, Matthew, I’ll be late!”

“What’s wrong? What happened?” He murmurs in her ear, giving it a gentle kiss, still full of concern.

“Nothing, just upset is all. You know it’s not a first,” she’s desperately trying to think of a reason to give him, but there isn’t one forthcoming.

He sighs, placing a kiss in her hair, “Yes, but when you’re upset it’s not normally this bad unless there’s a reason- wait, was everything okay this morning?” Suddenly sounding serious, arms tightening around her.

“Hmm?”

“The doctors, what happened?”

Oh. “Nothing, just.. um, a bit of a cold is all.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m the picture of health.” Alex continues wiggling against him, pulling at his hands playfully so as not to upset him further, “I’m going to be late and little miss will blame you-”

“You’re still crying.”

“No, just runny eyes - cold remember?” She smiles weakly and her eyes blur up again, “Let me go, Matt.”

He looks into her eyes, searching for answers, “Tell me what’s wrong, whatever it is, it’s okay. I promise.”

“There’s nothing, let me go.”

“Alex, you’re crying and I found you in pieces in the kitchen, it took ten minutes for you to stop crying, what is it?”

Nothing.

“You’re lying,” his tone is more factual than accusing, but he sounds irritated and she can’t blame him. She’s being deceptive and there’s no good reason that she can give him, well, not that she’s ready to just yet.

Glancing at the clock, she sees Salome will have already started calling and pulls on his hands, standing, but Matt’s still pulling on her and she shoves him off forcefully, “She’ll be calling me.”

“Alex, speak..” His hands go for her again, more frustrated this time.

“Matthew, stop it!” She slaps his hand on her hip as she moves away, she really feels sorry for what she’s done to him, he must feel awful, but her heart is pulling on her to get to Salome. Matt  is lost, feeling as though she doesn’t trust him entirely doesn’t know why. It’s frustrating because he spent a good part of their first year together convincing her they were equals and age, among other factors, was inconsequential.

His eyes darken and he drops his elbows to the table, looking ahead and lacing his fingers, twitching. Voice barely a whisper, he sounds like a dejected child, “Okay.”

Her heart drops, but she misses her daughter greatly and her problems with Matthew cannot be solved now, she needs time. Besides, she thought that he’d understood how much the calls meant to her, he’s normally the one fetching the laptop and beaming down the camera waving enthusiastically. Obviously, he didn’t understand that much if he was willing to be awkward with her when she was upset and late for a call.

With a slight sense of remorse, she trails into the lounge and gets out her laptop, switching it on quickly so Salome doesn’t worry or think she’s forgotten about her. She could never do that. Safely locking the days happenings in the back of her mind, she sits cross legged on a cushion on the floor, laptop on the coffee table before her and plasters on her best mummy smile, greeting her little girl. A few minutes into conversation, she hears Matt leave the kitchen and go upstairs, steps a little heavier than usual.


----

Salome had temporarily taken her mind away from her troubles and she felt a little lighter hearted, hearing about her little girls day and what she had planned for the week. She closed the call with a smile, rubbing her hand over her face and sighing - Matt would have cooled off by now, hopefully and she could try and forget for a bit longer, until he went to work tomorrow and she could be by herself in her thoughts again. Stretching, she gets up to make cup of tea and watch some TV, something less demanding than the dilemma going on in her head.

Boiling the water and adding a teabag to a cup, she can hear movement upstairs. He was probably digging through scripts. Pouring out the water and stirring, she puts the teabag in the bin, stirs in milk and sets off down the hall back to the front room, Matt’s noises were coming from the upstairs hall, heading towards the back bedroom - he’d been playing on his guitar then she guesses. Alex grabs a blanket and curls up on the end of the sofa, legs beneath her, leaning on the arm rest, blanket pulled tightly around her.

Blowing cool air across her tea she channel hops before settling on some sort of documentary about how monkey helpers are trained. Seeing the little animals so attentive and learning is amusing and her mind is soon focussed on the television instead of her own internal struggles. Watching as a monkey turns pages in a book for a quadriplegic woman to read, it makes her smile.

Just then, Matt opens the door and mooches in, flopping down beside her, arms stretching across the back of the sofa. Damn. He’s still on edge. Crossing a leg, he slips a sideways glance at her, “What is this... monkeys?”

He’s trying to move on then, that’s good at least, “Helper monkeys. It’s quite sweet.”

Alex keeps her eyes on the screen but sees him give a little smile, apprehensively.

“How’s Salome?” There’s serious concern in his voice there.

“Good. Non-stop as ever. She left me a message for you.”

“Oh?” A definite note of excitement.

“Stop being mardy and come talk to her next time, she misses you.”

Matt’s arms drop from the sofa and he stares at her, “Mardy? Wait, did you tell her I was mardy? Christ, Alex, I miss her too. Like she’s, y’know,” A faint blush tints his cheeks, averting his gaze, “Like she’s mine.”

She knows. Of course she knows.They wouldn’t be here unless he did. But nonetheless her eyes are tearing up, blinking furiously to prevent them falling, bloody stupid hormones. Matt’s hand strokes her arm before he tries pulling her into him, if she lets him though, she’ll sob her heart out and she can’t do that again. With a sniffle, she shrugs him off and wipes at her eyes. His hand flies back, as if burned, “What is this about? You’re keeping something from me, Alex. I feel like I’ve done something or-”

“It takes two.” She bites out before she can stop herself, and for a second she panics, but of course, he doesn’t know.

His expression is shocked before his eyes set, quick to temper, “Do I get to find out what it is I’ve done then?”

Nothing.”

“Funny thing is, I don’t believe you.”

“Believe what you like.” Alex feels anger surge through her, the first time she’s ever gotten so mad at him. All she wants is space to wallow in her feelings and wrap her head around this - if there was just a way she could without annoying him in the process.

His eyes narrow and he huffs, “I don’t know what it is, I don’t know why you won’t talk.” His hands rub at his thighs in irritation, trying to occupy his hands, unleash some adrenaline. Slapping at his leg, he jerks up off the sofa, looking a little remorseful he speaks quietly, “I need some air.”

Alex doesn’t want him to go and she does. It feels wrong, it’s not them but they both clearly need the space and maybe she can wrap her head around it all. She watches as he goes into the hall, hearing him pick up a coat and shoes. Heart sinking into her stomach, she blinks to stop tears falling and stares at the TV blankly, barely registering when he pops his head in and says a quick, “Bye.”

Even arguing they can’t be that harsh.