He took my hand and led me to the door so that we opened it together.
If what he said was a greeting, then it wasn’t received the way a friendly greeting should have been. The brothers trouped in and Dom never let go of my hand.
We went silently to the kitchen where Dom sat me apart from his brothers and pulled out four plates. He dished out mashed potatoes and chicken stew and placed a giant garden salad in the middle of the island. He poured out four glasses of juice and to my surprise, Donny prayed over the meal.
The meal was lovely but we ate it in silence. The tension was thick between them and I kept my head down.
This couldn’t just be about me. There was more to it and I prayed that they could fix it. It felt so completely like an ‘Us vs. Them‘ moment with the older two brothers on one side of the table and Dom and I on the other.
Aiden pretty much swept all the plates from the table and began doing the dishes. Donny was about to get up but Dom said something that stayed him.
I looked between the two men and watched Aiden glance over his shoulder before continuing with his dishes.
Whatever Dom had said caused a sliver of apprehension to glide up my spine.
He had his eyes trained on his older brother’s and his posture was such that I felt like he was shielding me somehow.
His eyes were narrowed to slits in his face, his jaw set.
“It’s fine,” I said, sitting up straighter. “We can start over.”
I looked at Dom and he shook his head – he wasn’t letting it go that easy.
Donny looked at Dom before glancing down at the table.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “And it’s not fine.”
I looked at him and shrugged, leaning back in my seat.
“I’m sorry I jumped to that conclusion… The insinuations of that were…”
I honestly had no idea what the insinuations were because I didn’t know how they’d even gotten to that conclusion.
“Talk to me next time, maybe,” I said. “I mean – it’s just a suggestion.”
He at least cracked a smile and the ice was thawed.
“Look,” I said. “I have no idea who you are or what happened but you’re brothers. You were brothers before me and if this doesn’t – Dominick,”
I looked at him where he grabbed my hand.
“If this doesn’t work out,” I looked at Donny. “You’ll still be brothers.”
I looked at Aiden.
“If it’s about me, let it go.”
I looked at Dom and took his hand. “I’m not good with you beefing with your brothers.”
He rolled his eyes and ended up smiling.
He said something and the other two smiled.
And then he spoke again and Donny’s response was to stare at me.
I looked at Dom with a frown.
“What did you say?” I demanded.
“That I would have killed them if you hadn’t – ow!”
“That’s a shit thing to say, Dominick,” I said, smacking him on the back of his head.
“I’m gonna call Imo,” I said.
“Nah,” said Dom, “Call her later. Let’s sit.”
I rolled my eyes at him. “Fine.”
The conversation turned to cricket, which Dom took no interest in, but Aiden was a fan of.
“Obviously, I’m a Protea fan, but when it isn’t them on the crease, then everyone is fair game,” I said.
“Even the Kiwis?”
“Even the Kiwis,” I said. Aiden shook his head.
“When they’re up against the Aussies, I’m a Kiwi,” I said.
Aiden was about to speak but then he shrugged, “Fair enough.”
“I don’t get the fuss,” said Dom. “Nothing happens. You can go a whole quarter with no action.”
“There are no quarters in cricket,” said Aiden and I in unison, reacting to this by laughing excitedly.
“Let me guess – basketball,” I joked.
“Yes,” he said. “Thirteen.”
“He could have gone pro too, but he decided that guns were better.”
Beside me, Dom stiffened and I remembered the story he’d told me, the pain he’d been in.
“Is it out of season?” I asked. “I don’t see you watching anything.”
“Nah,” he said. “Just that my teams aren’t on at the moment. There might be a game this side.”
I blinked. “Well then, it’s a date.”
He laughed, looking at me with complete amusement on his face.
“What? My cousin is a baller. Number sixty-six.”
He laughed even harder and I beamed at him.
By the time they left, it was passing ten in the evening.
I dropped into the sofa and Dom sat down by my head and I settled my head in his lap. He flipped through channels and I simply watched him as he did it.
He was talking to himself as he did so but I couldn’t hear what he was saying.
He did a double take of me. “What?”
“You’re so grumpy,” I chuckled. “What’s wrong?”
“I don’t get why I have this bouquet. There’s nothing to watch.”
I laughed at him and he switched the TV off.
“You don’t like talking about your time on the force?” I asked.
He shook his head.
“Do they know that?”
“They can’t help it.”
“They didn’t like it…” I realized. And then Donny had prayed over the meal and I asked him about it. He shrugged, looking uncomfortable.
“Okay, okay, it’s cool,” I said. “I’m not a deeply religious person.”
“But you made a vow to God.”
“Yeah,” I said with a shrug. “But I won’t attack anyone who doesn’t subscribe to it.”
He nodded his head slowly.
I sat up slowly.
“I tried. I did. To find a church that made me feel – at home, but I still haven’t found one,” I said. “Every walk is its own so –”
He leaned in and kissed me gently.
“You are so beautiful,” he said and I felt suddenly shy.
“And you? How deep is your love?” I asked.
After a short pause, he spoke. “My family believe in God more than they don’t. Mum goes to church every second Sunday and the rest of them go when they can.”
I looked at him. “They go. How about you?”
He thought about it for a moment. “God and I have an understanding,” he said.
That was a deeply unsatisfactory answer, but I didn’t venture into it.
I was once again enthralled by him.
All this mystery. We had spoken so much and yet there was still so much more.
“I am not shallow, you know that, right?”
He frowned. “Yes,” he said.
“But you’re so fine,” I said. “Or at least, you make me feel hot.”
He keeled over laughing, looking truly shy for only the second time since I’d known him.
But then he stopped, turning to face me, his expression curious.
“What was that with the – no, no. Where are you trying to go?”
I hid my face from him, not sure how to answer the question.
I didn’t know what had happened earlier, when I’d felt the vibration of his phone against my groin.
I couldn’t comment on that because it had never happened before. I’d had phones in my pocket plenty of times, but they never had me squirming when they vibrated.
“I don’t know,” I said, embarrassed. “It just happened.”
He smiled wolfishly at me and simply sat there, fiddling with a strand of my braids.
“What?” I asked.
“Nothing,” he said. “I was just wondering.”
“Dom, what the fuck!”
He leaned back, his eyes wide. “Aren’t we rather angry!”
I mumbled incoherently and faced my front, annoyed by him and his reluctance to share what he was thinking.
First in the kitchen – because I knew he hadn’t really threatened his brothers’ lives – and now.
“You’re pissed…” he said, tucking my braids behind my ear. He traced a slow circle down my throat and I tried to keep my face straight. “I’m sorry, love…”
I looked away from him altogether, taking deep steadying breaths.
He scooted closer along the sofa until his thigh was pressed right up against mine.
I folded my arms over my chest, glaring sightlessly at anything that wasn’t him.
“Won’t you forgive me?”
He’d leaned forward and asked this with his face just inches from mine.
His voice was velvety and seductive, already weaving its spell on me.
“Forgive me, Dilia…”
He pressed a kiss to my jaw and I shivered.
I turned my head, unable to resist him.
He did not tease me or waste time. He just leaned all the way in and kissed me, a painfully tender gesture that I could feel right down in my soul.
When he pulled away, he did not take his eyes off me and I got a sense that he wanted to say something but couldn’t quite find the words.
And then he smiled at me.
To describe what he looked like in that moment with just my words, would have been a disservice to the memory. There was a light in his eyes that made me both envious and determined to protect it.
I didn’t think that I had ever felt whatever he was feeling that had made him smile like that.
Maybe I could assume that he was smiling like that because he was happy to be in my presence, but I was sure that it was more than that.
When I grew to know Dominick, I learnt more and more that he had been through so many dark things and when he was able to glimpse the light, you could see it in his eyes if you knew him.
I hadn’t known him well enough then, to have seen what that smile was trying to tell me and in some ways, I was glad.
My heart hadn’t been ready for the intensity of his feelings for me and I would have ruined us if he’d told me then.
Did he know it? Did he see then that I wasn’t altogether ready?
Was that why he hadn’t come right out and spoken the words that his smile and those eyes were saying to me?
In the present moment, I flicked him on the nose with my finger and we both rose to our feet and headed for the master bedroom, turning off lights as we went.
We both geared down to what we usually wore to sleep and for many long minutes, we simply lay in each other’s space in perfect quiet. I could hear his heartbeat through his back and he asked me if babies could hear their mother’s bowel movements while they were in utero. I had sat up and thought about it.
“I bet you they could,” I’d said. “As soon as they have ears and nerves and that part of the brain that processes all of that. Bowel movements. Yuk!”
“You better not be farting then.”
We had laughed this off.
I could see that he was tired but I didn’t want him to sleep just yet.
I wanted to hear his voice and listen to him talk and see his eyes, so he ended up talking about trees and the colour green and how he liked how the leaves never really turned in winter.
I got out of the bed and pulled the duvet off, which didn’t really bother him since he didn’t actually use it. I dragged it to the window wall and spread it out wide on the carpeted floor.
“Come on,” I said. With some reluctance, he obeyed.
I brought over the pillows and we lay right there by the window so that we could see the stars in the inky sky. I could see how peaceful he was and I was glad.
“What are you thinking about?” he asked me.
The question rumbled deep in his chest and I felt it like the words were a gentle caress over my skin.
“The trees,” he said with a smile. “I wish you could see them back home…”
“I really want to one day…” I told him.
“The ones I’ve seen are so green,” I said, “And it’s like they touch the sky.”
I closed my eyes and remembered how I’d felt when I’d been walking back from campus after I’d missed the bus. There was a very short turn off that the bus took on its way to Main where the road was lined with pine trees evenly spaced between other trees that I could not name. It was dark because the sun only barely broke through the canopies and everything was green and beautiful. I told him all of this and he looked at me closely, listening intently.
And at night – oh how beautiful it looked at night!
“The sky – all those stars. It’s like they never end.”
His arms tightened around me and I let him hold me.
“It was so peaceful,” I said. “Everything was like – it was all –”
I paused, searching for the right word.
“Harmony. Like everything on that road was connected to everything else and all of them found such peace with each other.”
He chuckled then and I smiled.
“What?” I asked.
“You speak of it like you think they have feelings.”
“They probably do,” I said, falling back into my own mind. “We just don’t understand them.”
I sat up slowly, staring up at the night sky, realizing how there was so much light here – too much, too many – that the stars didn’t even look like stars anymore.
Living in the city was great for how close everything was, but it was not so great because everything about nature was pretty much pushed aside and its beauty was squashed.
That night under the stars and the trees had been perfect and I knew I would never feel anything like it again.
“Do you think He has a name for them? God?” I asked quietly. “All the stars? And the trees and every single leaf and blade of grass and grain of sand?”
“I don’t know, love…”
How could anyone, really.
“I felt like I was the only person in the world that night…”
He was quiet for a moment.
“And did you like that feeling?” he asked. “When it was just you?”
I turned and looked at him where he lay.
I thought about it.
“In that moment, yes,” I admitted. “There was no noise and there was no need to pretend that I was okay and there was no pressure to act normal. I could be as silent and as still as I wanted to be…”
He nodded his head slowly. “Do you ever feel like you have to pretend with me?” he asked.
I shook my head with a slow, sad smile. “No…”
He reached up and cupped my cheek and I held his hand there, feeling the warmth of his skin. He sat up, looking at me with a quiet intensity about him.
“Let’s pretend, that it’s just the two of us in the world tonight…” I said quietly.
Because that’s the way I would have had it, if it were up to me.
I wished that I didn’t have to meet anyone else or see anyone new. I wished that we were a standalone and self-sustaining unit and that we never had to encounter another being again.
Was that selfish of me? To want to be with him and only him forever?
I knew that even if it was possible, it could never be as simple as that. But the idea of him being the first and last person I would ever communicate with for the remainder of my life sounded very appealing as we sat there in the darkness.
Was this the way that God had intended it before Eden fell?
If He had, I think that I understood why.
There was magic in the union of souls.
He lay back down on the duvet and pulled me down into his arms and held me close to him. I just wanted to be even closer.
I wanted to crawl right under his skin and become one with him.
Him, just him.