Day twenty-six and it’s Monday, so time for the next installment in Cassie’s story. For anyone new to the blog, this is a weekly post of a slice of Cassie's life from when the last book ended to when the next book will begin:
I slid a couple of pieces of the raspberry slice onto a plate and handed it to Matt with his coffee. He thanked me through a mouthful of muffin, before adding, “These taste a bit different, what did you add?”
“A little bit of chile powder. Is it too spicy?” I had worried about that, since these muffins were a tryout for the lunchtime coffee run in the van tomorrow. That meant that they had to appeal to a wide range of tastebuds.
“No, just a little bit of bite to make them interesting.” Matt waggled his eyebrows at me suggestively, and I turned to pack the rest of the muffins into a container so that he didn’t see me blush – again. While I worked he continued, “What’s the plan for this afternoon?”
My wayward skin under control I poured myself some coffee and came to sit at the table across from him. “Emmerson comes later on, and we are going to have supper with Andrew and Bev.” Emmerson is my step-daughter from my ex-marriage – it’s complicated.
Mark’s expression sobered at the mention of Bev. “How is she doing? She was so frail last time I saw her.”
I shrugged. “She’s kind of translucent these days, like one day she will just disappear. But you know what they’re like, every time I ask if I can do anything Andrew just smiles and says they’re fine.”
Matt reached across the table and took my hand in his. “Buying the business off them when you did gave them this time together without any stress. And you bring them meals all the time too so Andrew doesn’t have to cook so often. They’ve lived with Bev’s cancer for a long time, the best gift for them now is whatever time they have left together without having to worry about anything else.”
I sighed, I knew he was right but I still wished I could do more. “She’s so lovely, they both are. It seems so unfair that this has happened.”
Matt squeezed my hand, making me realise that he was still holding it. “I know, it’s not fair, they should have years together yet. But Andrew said something to me last time I was there. He said that before Bev was diagnosed they were so busy with the coffee van and their lives that they were drifting apart. They didn’t spend much time together or talk much. After Bev’s diagnosis they both realised nothing else mattered but each other. He told me that even though their time together was shorter because of the cancer, it was more precious to them than it would have been if Bev had stayed healthy.”
I sat staring at Matt, digesting what he had just said. He stared back at me, still holding my hand. There was a message in his eyes that I was afraid to read, so that when Mark came barreling into the kitchen I was relieved to have an excuse to break free of his gaze.
“Emmie’s here,” he said unnecessarily since Emmerson had followed him in. She waved a hand in the general direction of us all before grabbing a muffin.
“How are you Emmie?” I asked as I got up from the table to pour her and Mark some apple juice.
“I’m good, mum says hello and hopes you didn’t get another dog. I told her it was Matt’s dog and I thought she was going to drive into the fence!” She grinned at me cheerfully.
“Why would she do that?” Matt seemed genuinely bewildered.
“I think she thought Matt was staying here for the weekend.” Emmerson smiled at me, her angelic expression reminding me of her brother’s when he had teased me earlier on about Matt.
“I hope you told her he didn’t.” I really did hope so, I didn’t want any word about Matt getting back to Nathan, even though I knew Julia rarely spoke to him.
“Oh I told her that Barney probably escaped again. He did, right?” Her expression an odd mix between hopeful and expectant she waited for my reply.
“That he did, he probably smelled Cassie’s muffins.” Matt held out his plate to me with a wistful expression and I took it and placed another muffin on it, before handing it back.
“Would you like to come with us for supper?” I asked the question casually, inwardly hoping that he would accept. I enjoyed his company, and more I knew that Bev loved seeing him.
“Oh I wish I could, but I’m rostered on this evening.” Swallowing the last of the muffin he stood up and carried his cup and plate to the sink. He brushed past me where I was standing and the fine hairs on my arms rose in response. “Say hi to them both from me, and tell them I’ll be over to see them soon. I’d better get going or I’ll be late.”
“I’ll walk you out.” I led the way to the front door and opened it. Barney came rushing up and flopped at Matt’s feet, tongue lolling as he panted. “Looks like he’s worn out,” I observed, seeing my two lying in the grass next to the pond and showing no inclination to rise.
“That’s good, he’ll sleep while I’m at work.” Matt hesitated, before adding in a diffident tone, “The kids will be going to Nathan’s next weekend?”
“Yes, unless he changes the plans.”
“Maybe we could go out to dinner next Saturday night? There’s a new restaurant opened up where the old art gallery used to be.”
We often went out to dinner when the kids were at Nathan’s, and we often went to each other’s houses for dinner too. It wasn’t always when the kids were away, they got on well with Matt so there were plenty of occasions that were almost like a family outing. It was always a relaxed and enjoyable evening, but there was something about his tone this time that made me feel nervous.
Swallowing to ease a throat that had gone dry I said, “Sure, sounds good.”
A casual, offhand acceptance, meant to put the mood back to the usual friendly style. Matt met and held my gaze for several long seconds and I found myself blushing again. I dropped my eyes, unable to meet the intense expression in his any longer.
“Ok, well I’m sure we’ll see each other before then, right Barney?” Barney jumped to his feet when he heard his name and leaned against Matt. Matt patted him affectionately, then grinned at me. “See you later, thanks for the food and coffee.”
I smiled back and murmured, “You’re welcome.”
I watched them both as they went down my path and out the gate, turning towards Matt’s house. Then I went back inside, wondering if I had imagined the turn our relationship seemed to have taken this afternoon. Deciding to forget about it, I went back into the kitchen where Emmerson and Mark were arguing about a movie they had recently watched. I clapped my hands to get their attention.
“Right, remember we’re going to see Andrew and Bev tonight, so early showers for both of you.”
They headed off to get ready without complaint. They both loved Bev, Mark in particular had formed a close relationship with her. I worried about he would cope when the inevitable happened, but knew I couldn’t shield him from grief. Death is a part of life, no matter how much we wish it wasn’t so.