Harry looked at the pub’s sign. The Well. It really couldn’t have been clearer and yet both he and Maggie had missed the one clue that was obvious from the beginning. He took a deep breath and opened the door for her, letting her walk in first and following very close behind.
The bartender waved at them when he saw them, recognizing them from the day before. “Morning! Glad to see you again, hope you’ve been enjoying our little town.”
They both smiled.
“It’s been lovely.” Maggie said, feeling Harry’s hand on her shoulder as she took a seat on one of the chairs.
They sat at a table at the back of the establishment, below the second-floor deck. The lights in there were dimmed, making it appear like night time even though it was still early in the day.
"What if he doesn't come in today?" Harry asked quietly, fiddling with his fingers nervously.
Maggie placed a hand on top of his, her fingers wrapping around it as she brushed it with her thumb. “Relax, he’ll probably be here any minute. I know how freaking crazy this must all be for you and I can only imagine how you’re feeling." She smiled, knowing she could easily sense it if she wanted to. "But you're not alone, Har. I'll be right here. You can gain strength from me.” She winked, making him smile.
Harry’s voice was bold and spirited as he spoke to the bartender. “We were hoping Mr. Westwell would be here. We’re uh,” he paused, gathering himself for a moment, “I’m a distant relative of his grandfather.”
The bartender didn’t have a chance to answer before the heavy sound of footsteps materialized from the wooden stairs above them, along with a voice and an English accent.
“You’re related to my grandad?” He was a tall middle-aged man with dark brown hair and a pair of square-shaped glasses. Curiously eyeing them as he approached them. "I'm sorry, I don't believe we’ve ever met.”
Harry’s mouth went dry, his heart pounding in his chest. “You’re James Westwell?” He muttered, holding back the urge to hug him and tell him everything.
Maggie recognized him right away, the same man she’d seen in one of the pictures on Carter’s Facebook page. The one where he was celebrating his birthday.
The man smiled. “James Westwell II, actually.” He laughed heartily and shook Harry’s hand. “My dad named me after my grandad.” He narrowed his eyes, studying Harry, maybe even recognizing him from old photographs Carter might have possessed. Or perhaps it was just his blood calling to him, finding himself strangely drawn to Harry for some unknown reason.
“Harry. Greenwood.” Harry said, letting go of his hand. “My,” he looked at Maggie, “girlfriend and I tried one of those ancestry kits recently and long story short, we ended up here. We thought it would be nice to connect with relatives.” He was right, there was no other choice but to lie, and he felt awful about it.
James smiled, eyes wide with excitement. “That’s incredible! I just bought my dad a 23andMe kit for his birthday this year.” He sighed. “Strange, we didn’t get a match with you. Not that I can recall, anyway. Maybe the family tree wasn’t updated at the time.”
Maggie chimed in. “That happens a lot. The family tree takes a while to update sometimes.”
James smiled at her then. “I’m so sorry, where are my manners?” He shook her hand. “James Westwell.”
“Maggie Vera.” She introduced herself.
“Very nice to meet you both.” He signaled to the bartender and a few minutes later there were three pints of beer on their table.
“It’s five o’clock somewhere.” Maggie said, making James laugh as he took a seat.
“I’m sorry if I’m staring, you just resemble my grandad so much.” James said, looking at Harry. “My dad has just one photo of him, very old and faded,” he laughed with a bit of uneasiness caused by the uncanny qualities they shared. “Never mind. It’s just great to run into relatives, I find the tech advances in genealogy fascinating.”
“It is.” Harry agreed. “Fascinating.” He drank from his beer, the alcohol settling rather strongly in his stomach after having eaten only half his breakfast earlier that morning.
“So,” Maggie jumped in again. “Your family is from England. What made you relocate to Stillwater?”
James smiled. “My wife, actually. My family is originally from Manchester—as you probably already know.”
Harry smiled and nodded.
“I met my wife while she was on holiday almost twenty years ago.” He smiled, thinking back to it. “She and her girlfriends liked frequenting my family’s pub. I sometimes filled in as a barman when it was too busy.”
“Your wife’s American?” Maggie asked, genuinely curious.
“Yes, from Saint Paul. We hit it off right away. Kept in touch after she came back to the states and one thing led to another. Seems like we couldn’t quite stay away from each other for too long. She was still finishing up her studies at the university, so I took a leap of faith across the pond and couple years later we decided to settle down.”
“That’s lovely.” Harry said. “It’s funny how things work out sometimes.”
“It is. Very serendipitous.” James continued. “Soon after that, this business opportunity came about. I opened the pub as a form of tribute to the one my father owns back in Manchester. It’s kind of like having a little piece of home away from home. “
“Your father–” Harry sounded a little nervous as he spoke, afraid that James would somehow see right through his lies. “I understand his name is Carter?”
James nodded. “Yes. Carter Westwell. Truly the greatest man I’ve ever known. He’s gonna get a kick out of this story, by the way. He told me he wasn’t sure the ancestry kit was even real.” He laughed. “He was afraid the government was just going to store his data for nefarious reasons.”
Harry took another drink from his glass, listening to him talk about his son. A knot forming in his throat.
“He and my mum are looking to move into a retirement home sometime this year. They’re both very excited about it, knowing they’ll be practically living in a five star resort.” He chuckled. “They’re great people, I wish you could meet them.”
“They sound like they are.” Harry said softly, almost sadly. “I’m glad to hear they’re doing well.”
“Oh yes, they’re great! I couldn’t be happier. They’re healthy and always in good spirits.” James said. “If you two are ever in Manchester, I would love it if you visited the original Well pub.”
Maggie grinned, excitedly looking at Harry.
“You can have authentic fish and chips and drinks on the house!” James boasted. “And you could connect with my dad as well. Though maybe your striking resemblance to my grandad might startle him quite a bit.”
Harry chuckled nervously. “We’ll keep it in mind. I have not been to Manchester in many, many years.”
“Then the offer stands, if you’re ever so inclined.” The cellphone in his pocked buzzed then, and he took a second to check it.
Harry smiled at Maggie, squeezing her hand. She turned it over, intertwining her fingers with his and returning the gleeful gesture.
“I’m so sorry, I wish I could stay and chat longer but I promised my wife I’d take our kids to a matinee. I’m afraid I have to dash.”
Harry was gracious for their time together. “Don’t worry about it. We have to start our journey back home too. I appreciate you being so welcoming and open to talk.”
They all got up from the table. “Please extend my well wishes to your father. I hope he’s blessed with many more years of health and happiness.” Harry said, wholeheartedly.
He was going to shake James’s hand but the man went in for a hug instead. Maggie could tell how touched Harry was by it and she smiled.
“It’s been an absolute pleasure meeting you Harry, and you too Maggie. I hope you have a safe trip back home and that you come visit us again sometime. We’d love to have you back and have a longer chat next time. I’d love to learn more about you.” He dug into his back pocket. “Here. My business card, should you wish to keep in touch.”
Harry took the card in his hand. “Thank you, James. It means a lot.”
They watched him head back upstairs in a hurry, said he needed his jacket and scarf, but they didn’t wait for him to come back down. Harry gave Maggie just one look and she understood that it was time for them to depart.
“You’ve been quieter than usual.” Harry said, finding a new kind of beauty in the view that surrounded them. The trees lightly covered in flecks of snow, the highway deserted but tranquil.
“Just thinking.” She said, a little coy smile adorning her face as she wiggled in her seat. “And trying to be respectful of the fact that my boyfriend might want some silence to ponder all that information on his own.”
Harry looked over at her for a quick second, taking his eyes off the road and keeping only one hand on the steering wheel. His other hand reaching for her, coming to rest on her knee.
“I’m sorry. I wasn’t sure what to say and it just felt right in the moment.” He said.
“Oh no, it’s totally fine. I’m not bothered by it. Just pleasantly surprised by it, that’s all.” Maggie assured him, her body turning toward him on the passenger seat. Her voice took a comforting tone. “I’m very happy for you. Harry, you got to meet your grandson. That’s a big freaking deal!”
“But I had to lie to him.” He replied.
“Sometimes there is no other choice, to protect those that we love.” She smiled. “I also know that even though you found some kind of comfort in connecting with James, it’s not the same as seeing Carter.”
“What are you saying, we should go to Manchester now?” He quipped.
“Yeah.” She replied in all seriousness. “I think that once you’re completely healed and your orbing is back to normal, we should very much consider that possibility. I’d also like to make a pit stop in London. Maybe even Paris.” She grinned.
Harry laughed. “Well, I think the only way I can make that trip is if you came with me. So if you’re absolutely sure…”
“Then we will talk about this again when the time comes.”
A second later and without warning she asked, “Hey! Can you take this next exit?”
“Just do it, okay? If Google is right, there should be a turnout with a scenic overlook in a couple miles.” She beamed.
A few minutes later they pulled off the road, right into a little nook that was the scenic turnout Maggie was referring to. The only sound once he cut the engine was the wind rushing through the trees, before them was just a precipice adorned with views of snow powdered pine trees and beautifully crafted stone cliffs.
They stepped out of the car, wrapping themselves in their jackets when the wind chill hit them.
“I wish this could last forever.” Maggie said, taking a seat on the car’s hood. The coziness of the heat comforting.
“Don’t you want to go home?” Harry asked, sitting next to her and putting an arm around her.
She leaned her head into his shoulder. “I do. I’m just a little scared of what comes next.”
Harry knew what she was afraid of, she’d voiced that concern previously. “I’m right here, Maggie. I’ll always be right here.”
Maggie looked up at him then, waiting for him to meet her halfway as their lips pressed together. “Harry.”
“Hm?” He said, caressing her cheek with his fingers.
“You said I was everything you ever wanted…” She said softly, a bit of fear in her voice before she spoke. “Did you mean that?”
Harry smiled, kissing her again. “I did, and I told you, you didn’t have to say anything–”
“I know.” Maggie interrupted. “And I know it’s only been one week since this began and a whole lot has happened since then, starting with his overwhelming pull we have toward one another.” She added softly. “You also said it would fade along with our marks.”
“Yes. I thought it a possibility.” Harry replied.
Maggie pursed her lips. “I think you’re wrong.”
She looked up at him, their eyes connecting.
“I don’t think this will fade. Every day that goes by, it’s like I can feel it rooting inside me, deeper still.” Her voice trembled. “It’s not going away, unlike this.” She showed him her arm, only dark shadows of the marks remained. Barely discernible by the naked eye.
“And you're healing up nicely too.” She said, tracing with her fingers the areas of his neck where the marks had been so prevalent—just faint bruises of them now. “Harry. You are also everything I ever wanted. Everything I never knew I needed.” She laughed. “God, it felt good to say that out loud!”
“And it felt good to hear it.” Harry smiled.
He took her face between his hands, looking at her with the most tender of eyes and then kissed her deeply.
It was true, everything felt like it was happening so fast, no one else knew what was going on between them, and maybe at first they’d just been confused about the intense attraction and feelings they were experiencing because of what they’d gone through. But Harry suspected that whatever scorpion venom had once ran through their veins, and whatever remaining memories of Tartarus still plagued their dreams from time to time, it was no longer the cause for the feelings they had for each other.
Still, they needed more time to know for sure.
Their lips parted slowly as he spoke. “We’ll figure it out together. I promise.”
Maggie nuzzled his neck, the warmth of his skin and the smell of him having become almost a luxury to her those past few days. Harry let her take her time, they enjoyed the view for a few more minutes until the cold began to feel unbearable.
“I think it’s time to go home.” Harry said, lovingly kissing the top of her head.
She smiled, sighing as she replied, “Okay.”