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The Warm-Up (BBW, WG, Edited)

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lurkymcduck

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 17, 2014
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64
Location
Brighton
Delurking to post something that's been rattling about in my head for a while.

A young widow mourns her loss the only way she can think of – with food and the company of her late husband’s best friend. To sum it up: Romance, BBW, ~BBW, ~~WG, small amount of mutual gain. Now with a new Chapter Eight and Epilogue



The Warm-Up
by lurkymcduck

Chapter One


The birdfeeder was empty, which was a bad sign. Weeds had started to overrun the garden, as well; an awful lot of it looked like shoot-offs from the mint he’d given her for her last birthday. It wasn’t dark yet, but in the house, the curtains were drawn against the daylight.

Bear knocked at the front door. No one answered.

“Niamh?” he called out, and pushed the door open into the front hall, sending a pile of unopened post fanning out across the parquet floor. “Niamh?” he called again.

“I’m in here,” a small voice said from the sitting room, and he sighed in relief. He found her on the sofa, dwarfed by a half-unbuttoned duvet and a haphazard pile of hardcover books. A sea of tissue swirled out from her feet, balls of paper tumbling over each other as they remained stranded, feet away from the overflowing wastebasket.

“I didn’t know you were coming,” Niamh sniffed. She shifted up with some difficulty, and Bear hoped she didn’t see him grimace. If it wasn’t for the thin-framed reading glasses and the thick black curls of hair that she’d tied up tight on top of her head (How many days ago? he wondered), he would have had trouble recognizing her. The former healthy fullness of her face was gone, the firm lines of her cheeks having inverted themselves into little hollows on either side of her jaw. The colour of her lips had disappeared beneath the spreading red of her nose, and bruises ringed the undersides of her bloodshot eyes.

“Your mum facebooked me,” he said. “Asked me to check in on you. I didn’t know she was going.”

“Dad was having trouble handling the farm by himself,” Niamh said. Her voice was raw, but at last she looked up at him and began to feebly push her pile of books to one side of the sofa in order to clear space. “She flew back yesterday morning. Are you staying?”

Bear considered that for a moment, and that slight, helpful glint to her expression, and said, “Yes.”

He cleared more of a hollow for himself on the couch, increasing the space that she had begun to make for him, piling the sodden volumes on the floor. Each book was carefully labelled as the property of Devon County Council: books on loss; books on widowhood; recovering after the death of a loved one; Grief and the Tender-Hearted. Who had picked these up for her? Her mother? He didn’t even think Niamh owned a library card.

“Sorry,” Niamh sniffed again and tossed another balled-up tissue at the basket (of course, missing).

“What for?” Bear asked, feeling useless and increasingly awkward as he sat there in his little spot on the sofa, books already encroaching on his oversized frame.

Niamh didn’t seem to know how to answer.

“No,” Bear sighed, getting up from the sofa. The books caved in to take his space. “I’m not going to sit here and do nothing. That would be pointless. How can I help you?”

“By sitting here and doing nothing with me,” Niamh answered.

Bear sighed.

“Far leave it from me to counsel someone on how to mourn the loss of their spouse,” Bear replied, “but I don’t think I’m going to help if I join you. Where are your bin bags?”

She hesitated. “Under the sink,” she replied at last.

At least she could move. She hovered like a grey raincloud near him, still wrapped in her duvet, as he searched the cupboard for the bin bags, and again as he wadded up the tissues in his great hands and stuffed them into the black plastic sack. She started to protest again as he unloaded and loaded the dishwasher (though only two side plates and a spoon sat in the sink) and asked her where the hoover was.

“No,” she said, “I really can handle this myself. Why don’t you go home? Caroline must be wondering where you are.”

“Caz is in Newcastle,” Bear replied, “and you are in need of company which I am more than happy to provide.” She looked startled, and he scrambled to add, “If you want.”

She toed idly at the kickboard below the kitchen cupboard. Her silver toenail polish was chipped. “Then why don’t we watch a film instead?” she asked.

He accepted, watching wistfully as she led him back to the sitting room, the duvet slipping from her narrow shoulders, revealing the painfully sharp points of her shoulders.

Niamh had always been athletic – at least, as long as Bear had known her (though she had once exclaimed that she had gone through a very stubborn chubby phase in school) – and had learned to make her living from it, having earned a strong following online for her fitness videos and healthy eating tips. He had checked her blog yesterday at work – the videos she had queued up to post before it happened still appeared as scheduled, but three days after Ger died, it had gone, and remained, silent.

She put on a DVD and he sat on the floor, easily distracting her as he held up each book in turn, asking her which, if any, she’d like him to take back to the library. He smiled when she added book ten of ten to the return pile and exclaimed, “Oh, bollocks, just take them all back!” but she did not have the heart to join him in a laugh.

Time, he reminded himself. This will take time. A lot of it.

He offered to make dinner, but again, she refused.

“When’s the last time you ate something proper?” he asked.

She shrugged her thin shoulders, and Bear immediately thought three weeks ago.

“Anything,” he said. “Takeaway. Whatever. I’ll buy.”

“You don’t have to-“

“I didn’t buy you anything for the funeral.”

Finally, a wan smile. “Those aren’t really things you buy people presents for.”

Bear wondered how many care baskets full of food had gone to waste.

“Well, they should be.” He extracted himself from the books and reached for his mobile phone on the coffee table. “Pizza, then. Thin crust?”

He watched her, his face growing inexplicably hot, and she looked at him with the most sincere and desperate of expressions, and said, “Stuffed.”
 
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