The next morning I snuck out of the house and drove into Tallow. I shouldn’t have driven with the painkillers in my system, but I didn’t take the sedative.
I met Gran and Aunt Myrtle at an Italian restaurant that Gran liked. She used to tell me stories about the building housing her favourite diner when she was growing up just outside of Tallow. Then it housed an ice cream shop, that closed when I was fifteen. Three places, all that Gran liked. She was sure that there would always be an eatery she loved in this building. She enjoyed telling stories about coming to the diner with her friends when they had leave from their boarding school. Two of which became my and Eli’s paternal grandmothers.
Aunt Myrtle told me about Uncle Jorge’s new job in Hong Kong, and I knew what was coming before she said it. Gran had been blind and wheelchair-bound since she was in a car accident a few years ago. It would be hard for her to go to a new city in an unfamiliar country. With Mum and Dad on their second world cruise, there weren’t many places she could go to. Ned shared a small apartment with Eli’s brother Lewis, Mason and Ariella didn’t have space because they were breeding like rabbits and Ralph… even though we emailed from time to time, I had no idea where he was, only that he was okay.
“Can you take care of Gran?” Aunt Myrtle asked.
“The Lacy Manor isn’t exactly wheelchair accessible,” I replied.
“I thought I’d ask you before Mason, because he and Ariella are expecting again.”
I choked on my water. After my coughing fit subsided, I had a headache and a lot of questions. “How do you know before me? I live just down the road from them.”
“Ari and I talk occasionally.”
“It’s Ari, now? I thought she reminded you too much of the girls who bullied you in school.”
“Viola does as well, and I adjusted to her. So why not Ariella? They both gave me the nieces I desired.”
“Thanks for that.”
“I love you boys, but I always wanted a girl to spoil.”
“I’ll take care of Gran. It will be good to spend some time with her.”
Gran was eating her pasta and had been quiet since I hadn’t ordered wine with my meal. I saw her frown when I ordered water. She knew something was wrong. At least she wasn’t going to ask if I was pregnant.
“The rest of her things will be sent in a few days. I have her essentials in the car. Are you okay? You look a bit pale?”
“I’m fine, I just need the bathroom.”
In the bathroom, I splashed cold water on my face. My head was killing me. Maybe I should have asked Aunt Myrtle back to the house. I closed my eyes and leaned against the sink. I heard someone walk into the bathroom, but I didn’t look up to see who it was. I moaned in pain when my phone rang. The loud ring echoed through the bathroom. I pulled it out of my pocket. It was Eli. I slid my finger to the right and refused the call.
“Did you just hang up on me?”
I looked up, as Eli walked into view of the small mirror above the sink. “How long have you been standing there?”
“If I answered the phone right now, you’d know something was wrong with me.” My voice shook.
“If a coughing fit puts you in this state, then maybe you should be at home resting.”
“Why wasn’t I healed with magic?”
“Healing Magic is not something that gets thrown around. It is very exhausting for the caster.” Eli said. “It was decided by the doctors that you had the time and ability to heal on your own. It’s not good for a person’s body either. Do you think Mages would let Mortals die if they could heal any wound with magic?”
“Mortal. Is that how you see me?”
“It’s just a term for non-magical people.”
I looked away from him. “The only reason you even know me, is because I have magic in my family. Without that, I’d just be another Mortal to you.”
He reached out and touched my arm.
“Have you been following me?”
“I want to protect you. One of the Mages that was with me when we saved you saw you walk in here by yourself and she was worried.”
“I rejected that call because it would make you right.” I looked back up at him.
“You would have told me not to go. If I said anything, you’d have been right.”
“Dex, you can’t be mad at me for something I never did! I know you have plenty to be mad at me about, but don’t direct it in the wrong direction.”
“Myrtle can’t take care of Gran anymore. I already said yes.”
“Can I take you home before you faint?”
Eli put his arm around me as we walked from the bathroom back to the table.
Myrtle smiled at him. “Eli. I didn’t realise you were around. My nephew should have invited you to join us. He still hasn’t got the hang of the manners thing.” She let out a small laugh.
“He came here by himself. He should be resting at home. He fell in the tub the day before yesterday and lacerated his scalp. He shouldn’t have driven with the medication he’s taking.”
Myrtle looked at me. “I noticed the patch on the back of your head, but I didn’t want to say anything until you mentioned it. We could have come to the house, or you could have come with someone.”
“I just needed to get outside, I was at home or in a hospital room all of yesterday, and I needed some fresh air.” I rubbed my clammy forehead as a new bout of pain hit me.
“You’re lucky, I brought these.” Eli pulled a sheet of my pain killers from his pocket and popped them into my hand. “Take a sedative pill when you get home.”
I took the pills and went to sit in the car while Eli talked to Aunt Myrtle and Gran.
“Where’s Gran?” I asked when Eli returned to the car alone.
“Myrtle is going to bring Eve in her car. She’ll stay the night to make sure Eve is settling in. Her flight isn’t until tomorrow afternoon. I fixed things up with the hotel.”
“You can call her Gran.”
“You’d have drugged me already if you didn’t have to carry me from the car.”
“Don’t make me caring about you, sound predatory.”
“I know you love me.” I smiled at him.
About halfway home, Eli looked at me for a second before looking back at the road. “Can I tell you something that I’ve never told anyone?”
“We’re married. That kind of comes with the territory.”
“I’ve been in love with you since we were eleven, maybe even before. You’re the reason I realised I was gay.”
“Why didn’t you say anything?”
“Would you have given me a chance?”
“If we were a bit older than eleven. I hadn’t even started noticing girls at that age. When we were fifteen or sixteen, I would have jumped at the chance to have a relationship. Even though I was still coming to terms with my sexuality.”
“What would have happened when you went to university across the country?”
“You know how I cling to people. We would have been fine, and I think I would have chosen somewhere closer if I had a guy like you waiting for me.” I smiled. “I hope you realise you’re never getting rid of me unless you want me to leave.”
“Part of the reason I married you is so you couldn’t leave easy, even if I screwed up. Would you have left yesterday if we weren’t married?”
“I would have been back by now.” I would have left married or not yesterday if I was able to drive. Less then half an hour later, I would have been back home again.
I let my forehead rest against the window and watched the paddocks pass. They were mainly filled with sugar cane, sheep or cattle, with the odd orchard or collection of horses. My life would never go back to the way it was before I walked into that house, though there was something that was calming about how static the rest of the world was.