Inspired by ‘wanderlust’ by frank turner.
Time is a funny thing. How it has a habit of passing by so quickly; how it was summer just the other week but when she checks her calendar, it’s late November. She can’t remember what she’s done in those past few months. And time doesn’t give her any warning, doesn’t slow down for her, or for anyone, just lets her get sucked into a life over rehearsed that she didn’t sign up for. Time wakes her up at half seven every morning, except on a Sunday where she can sleep in and ignore what the hands on her clock tell her; it makes her wriggle half asleep and unmotivated into the pair of jeans she’s been wearing for a week, makes her catch the same bus to the same part of town where she’ll work the same job, work the curve balls that day throws at her before she can clock out. It lets her buy the same small bottle of wine, and lets her curl into a ball on her hand-me-down-sofa from her sister that’s criss-crossed with scratches from their dog, and lets her watch the numbers tick away as she binge watches telly until she falls asleep.
It’s Sunday, and she curses herself as she wakes up with a jolt, heart jumping and her hair sticking to her neck where she’s sweating. She sits up and rubs her eyes and then counts her fingers, counts her breath until she can open her eyes and take in the comfort of her bedroom, the familiar fairy lights, the poor paint job and a cluttered bedside table. She glances at the ugly alarm clock and groans, because of course the only fucking day she can sleep in, she wakes up at eight. She flops back down onto the slightly damp sheets and stares up at the ceiling, but she knows there’s no point in trying to sleep again now, not with her latest nightmare still fresh behind her eyelids and the uncomfortable stick of it on her skin.
She’s doubtful as she turns on the shower, letting it run over the palm of her left hand to see if the water will heat up any. She smiles when it does, before she props her phone up against an almost empty shampoo bottle that she uses as a stand and sets up a queue of youtube videos to watch before ducking her head up the weak stream of warmth. It’s comforting, to listen to voices when she wakes up to help her adjust to the quiet of her tiny house. She likes living alone, she’s gotten used to it now, and she likes her own space, but sometimes the quiet isn’t always so good if her thoughts start to spiral.
She avoids looking in the mirror as she rinses her mouth with mouthwash, and spits out her toothpaste, avoids it while she washes her face and rubs in her moisturiser, rubs it onto her chest and stomach, rubs it into the little patches of eczema that the doctor said was from stress; they appeared a few months ago now though, and they’re still adorning her skin and she hates to look at them. Hates to see herself blotched and itchy, hates to see more reason to pull at her skin.
She lets her hair fall in wet curtains, tucks them behind her ears as she slides on her oversized glasses and into a thick, turtle neck jumper. She decides to treat herself by putting on a fresh pair of jeans, and slinging the other into an over piled laundry basket. She hums to herself as she fills up a thermos with some tea, and pulls on her coat, wraps her neck in a checked scarf and slips out the door, feet finding the familiar path as she settles into her Sunday routine. She hates routine. She kicks at a few stray acorns that’ve fallen from the barren trees, and sips her tea, scrunches up her nose. She can never get the balance of the milk and sugar right in a cup this size. She ducks under some low hanging branches on her right and stops.
There’s footsteps printed into the mud, softened by last night’s rain, into her abandoned pathway. Footsteps that weren’t hers, when she swears that hers are the only one that follow the winding path here. She follows them, makes sure she takes big enough steps to fill in each shoe print, though hers only make up half the size of theirs.
If she keeps following the path, follows it’s meandering turns, ducks under more branches and jumps over the puddles of dipped ground that flood every time it rains, she’ll come to field. It’s not that hidden, not really, because she can still hear cars when she’s there, can still see the distant head of walkers by. It overlooks a farm, but it’s quieter now in the winter, the cattle aren’t out as often to graze so instead she looks over at the hills. When it’s particularly cold, the fields are coated with a frosty white, and they’ll twinkle in the weak sun. They takes up half of the pictures on her phone.
Someone’s there, sitting in the centre on an old blanket, leaning back on his hands covered in fingerless gloves and a grey beanie tucked tight over his ears. It highlights the cold flush of his cheeks, the red tip of his nose. She feels herself stop breathing, feels it stutter and catch in her throat and her chest feels a little like it’s about to cave into her lungs. He hasn’t heard her and she watches his head drop back to look up at the sky. It’s cloudy and its grey, the clouds are thick just like her tongue as she readies herself before walking towards him, steps quickening before she’s running. He only just looks down in time to see her, and the smile that breaks across his wind-chapped lips are enough to break up the clouds. He straightens his back, steadies himself before she launches herself onto him. He laughs breathlessly as she rearranges herself, clambers properly into his lap, and touches her cold nose to his.
“Hey,” He beams, voice as clear as the sky on the day he left.
“When did you get here?” She asks instead of hello, breathing him in as deeply as she can with her slightly stuffy nose, “I thought you weren’t coming back until the New Year?”
“Landed about four this morning,” he rumbles, bringing a warm palm with cold fingertips to cup her cheek, and she nuzzles into the comfort, “And we weren’t, but we were running out of money pretty quick, gigs weren’t paying much and we were having trouble getting enough to afford to keep going. And Ash got some pretty shit news about his gran, so we figured we’d wrap up and head back for abit.”
“I loved the photos you sent,” She hummed, wriggling slightly and putting her thermos down so she could wrap one arm around his neck and run the other through his hair, “What was it like touring a different country?”
“Most of the photos didn’t even do the place justice, baby,” He exclaims, and she notes how his eyes have lit up and watches his tongue swipe out to dampen his plump lips, and she wants to kiss him, but she also wants to hear about his travels.
He talked for at least half an hour, pausing every now and again to show her videos and pictures he hadn’t managed to send her. And she was smiling, eyes trained on his when not looking at photos, at how his hands left her hips every other sentence to gesture with his hands.
“-and Luke was running to the bathroom as soon as our set finished,” He chuckles, and she laughs lightly too, stopping short when his thumb rubs at her cheek, follows it down to part her lips gently and she can’t help but tug him closer. He gazes at her for a second or to longer, before letting himself fall forward enough to kiss her.
She feels warm all over, and her stomach tingles with it as she pushes into him, presses her body closer until their chests are flush and his arms are wrapped tight and she feels safe, she feels content. She feels at home.
“God, I’ve missed this,” he mumbles, kissing the corner of her mouth before nudging to kiss at her neck, mouth at it wetly, and when he pulls away she shivers from both him and the cold.
“I don’t like it when you leave,” She whispers, and he sighs because he knows. He kisses her again so she can forget, kisses her again so she can see he’s back, he’s home, he’s with her; even if it’s for a limited amount of time. She doesn’t want to think about just how limited.
When they walk home, he holds her hand, fingers linked and thumb rubbing soothing circles into her skin and she feels drunk, as they stumble over tree roots and giggle when they come across the puddle.
“Wanna try jump it together?” He grins, and she raises her eyebrows,
“We won’t make it,” She smiles, and he scrunches his nose, eyeing up the pool of water,
“We totally will, c’mon, we’ll do it on the count of three,”
She sighs but she backs up with him, ready to take it at a run. He tugs her forward, but she stumbles and yanks him back half way through his step over, and they land in the middle with a splash. Freezing water soaks into their shoes, sinks into their socks and trickles cold up their spines. She gasps,
“Shit that’s cold, I fucking told you we wouldn’t make it,” She whines at him, kicking a foot that sends a cascade of muddy water up his jeans. He accepts her challenge, grinning, and by the time they make it back home, they’re cold, they’re wet and they’re in love.
She’s half way through a sentence as he closes the door, but he interrupts her sentence as he crowds her back against it, brings one hand to rest beside her head and the other to grasp her waist, leaning in to kiss into her mouth, lick at it, into it, press himself as close to her as life could possibly let him. And kissing her had always come so easy.
They stumble through the house, as he eases up off her coat, takes the end of her scarf and spins her around as he undoes it, to hear the laugh that sends fire through his veins, and pushes up her jumper with gentle fingers. She shies away and he frowns, pushing her chin up so she’ll meet his eyes,
“I don’t look as good as last time you saw me,” She mumbles, arms crossing over her stomach, and he pushes them away, pressing kisses to her mouth, down her neck, bites at the smooth point of her collarbone,
“You’re the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen,” He murmurs, and she clenches her hand around his shirt, blushes warm at his words. He steps back to shrug off his top, and she’s left breathless at the sight of him shirtless again. At the warm glow of his brown skin, of his black tattoos, his tiny nipples, and the thin trail of hair that disappears in his jeans. She reaches out and he lets her fall into him, lets her kiss him as desperately as she needs to, as desperately as he’s wanted to kiss her for everyday he was away.
He leads her back to her bed, back to the room he’s spent an endless amount of hours in, and he basks in remembering them for a moment, until she bites at his chest and fumbles to unbutton his jeans and he groans, letting her shift him so she can cup him through his boxers and let his head fall against her shoulder.
“I love you,”
The words come easy, fall from his mouth like it was his second nature to say those famous three words to her, just like everything else with her was. And, right now, he wishes they could stay locked up in her room for the rest of his days, so he doesn’t have to live without her again. But he knows he can’t, and he knows he’ll be gone again within a month or two. He swallows back those thoughts and focuses on her. Her, her, her.
“At least you’ll have new content to write your songs about,” She tries to joke, voice rough as he presses his face to her stomach, kisses it, despite her protests, strokes a finger over the dry patches of her skin. He ignores her, though it’s true. He ignores everything that’s not her, as he pulls away her underwear and promises to make her feel so good that it’ll be like he never left.
The next month is like a different life for her. With Calum home, she’s broken away from her routine. She still goes to work, but she wears clean jeans and she doesn’t have nightmares anymore. And if she does, if she wakes up in a cold sweat, there’s a warm body that grumbles next to her, sits up with her, wraps an arm around her and promises her he’ll keep her safe; she falls back to sleep tucked into his chest, skin soft and heartbeat calming, and she counts her breaths along with its beat.
The eczema on her skin has cleared, her chest and stomach smooth and itch free and every time she breathes in a breath, it reaches further in her lungs.
He’s slouched on her sofa when she comes home, in boxers and a sweatshirt that hangs slightly off one shoulder to show his tattoo on his collarbone, and covers his fingers. She takes a picture and he grumbles at the sound of the shutter, “Delete it,”
“Never,” She smiles, and sets it as her lock screen.
“Fancy going cinema tonight? Maybe some dinner?”
“Ooh, a date,” She teases, “I really wanna see-“
“-Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, I know,” he grins, “I checked the showing times, and there’s one at half six?”
“Where’d you wanna eat?”
“That Chinese down the road?”
She beams, “Dude, I’ve been craving Chinese for days,”
“I know,” He says again, head tipped back on the arm rest to look at her still standing in the door way, in jeans and a smart shirt for work with a teasing one too many buttons undone, “I actually listen to the things you say sometimes, can you imagine that?” He teases and god, she smiles so wide and crosses over to kiss him because,
“I don’t think you know how much I love you,” She admits, and he just smiles and stretches before standing her up and kissing the top of her head before,
“I reckon it’s a little less than the amount I love you,”
Upstairs, in her room, his suitcase is open where he riffles through it, but it stays packed, his bass standing in its case next to it, leaning against the wall with notebooks piled on the floor, lyrics of her scrawled over its pages.
“We should go away for the weekend,” He says. It’s the first weekend of the New Year, and his lips are sore from where he’s been picking at the skin there,
“Why?” She asks, not looking up from her book.
“Just, feel like going away with you. To the country, breathe some cleaner air, y’know?”
She doesn’t question him anymore, just smiles and agrees as he pulls up a website to try find a hotel, trying to starve off his guilt.
‘She has my heart but it is breaking, ‘cause it knows that deep inside she still believes, that there will ever come a morning when i’m staying and not gathering to leave.’
In the car they listen to his playlist, and it makes her think. Most of the songs aren’t really happy ones, and he watches her when he can, watches her watch the scenery fly past the window. Watches the grey of the town turn into the wild of the country, still barren and still lifeless in the winter’s cold. She reminds herself that spring is coming soon.
He pulls into the hotel, and they spend the rest of the day in bed. He fucks her until she feels like crying, from the orgasms or something else, she doesn’t know. When the sun starts to set, he takes her on a walk. There’s a creeping feeling in their chests, and he can feel himself start to miss her while they’re both right there. She’s still here but as his phone buzzes in his pocket with a confirmation e-mail for his flight and the bands group chat of excitement, ready to tour in the back of a van in a new country, he already feels like his left. He finds it hard to breathe in.
She’s not stupid. They’ve been doing this for nearly two years now, and she knows his tell-tale signs, but she begs that she’s wrong. But her chest is tight and there’s something in her throat, a hollowness in her stomach and she can feel herself start to miss him while they’re both right here. He’s still here. But she doesn’t know how long for, and they can both see the sadness in her smile now as they walk.
In the morning, after he’s made love to her the best way he knows how, and they’re in the car, they’re silent. And when they’re home, he starts to subtly repack the things that’ve made themselves at home in her home. Their home. When she speaks to him now, he can hear the edge of desperation in her voice.
She wakes up in the middle of the night, after he finally comes to bed. She blinks at her ugly alarm clock, and it’s two in the morning. Her eyes flit to his suitcase, and in the poor light of the fairy lights, she can see that it’s zipped close. She feels her throat close too.
He takes off his clothes and slides under her duvet, and they reach out for each other, cling as close, as tight, as they can. He opens his mouth and closes it again, his tongue is thick and she begs he doesn’t say anything. So he doesn’t, but he kisses her, kisses away the tears that’ve stained her cheeks now, and she rubs away his and they fall into an uneasy sleep.
She wakes up screaming for the first time in two months, a cold sweat soaking her pjs. She reaches out desperately for the body next to her, but she finds a cold imprint of it instead. A crumbled piece of paper on the pillow,
‘Darling, come morning, I’ll be gone.
I love you’
She can’t swallow the sob that rips from her chest, as she tries to stifle it in his pillow, breathes in where the fabric still smells like him. She doesn’t know when he’ll come back home to her, and as she struggles to calm herself down, her half seven alarm rings.
She pulls on the jeans she’s been wearing for the last couple of days, and scratches at the reappearing patches on her stomach and chest.