Chapter 1: Sea Dreams
January 18, 2016
I feel a bit silly for even writing this and honestly, I have no idea how to begin, but I guess I just did, so there you are.
How are you? Does anyone ever ask you that?
Undoubtedly, you get hundreds of letters, gifts, and requests for autographed photos, so I’ll try to keep this brief. Who knows, maybe you’ll even get around to reading this. I certainly do not envy your daily task of having to decide which letters to read and who to respond to – that’s assuming, of course, that you even have time for that sort of thing.
I simply wanted to say thank-you for inspiring me. Do you hear that a lot, as well? Probably. The point is, you said something that stuck with me. Even the tiniest of words and the smallest of actions can change someone else’s life even if we are not aware of it. We go about our daily lives, unaware that our very existence can affect the life of another to such a great extent as to give hope or shatter it. It is for that reason that we must be so careful when making choices in our lives.
When our lives are affected positively by someone else, I feel that the least we can do is acknowledge it and perhaps, if possible, say thank-you to that person. Those words of thanks can be just as profound as the words or actions for which they are offered.
I have, at times, been on the receiving ends of those thank-yous and so I know how it has made me feel to know that I have made a difference in the life of a complete stranger. I write these words with the hope that I am giving you that same feeling of value in your heart. Cheesy, eh? But it’s true.
So … thank-you, from the bottom of my heart, for making a difference in my life. Below is my gift to you. It is just a small portion of the work you inspired. It is my wish that you can take these words, and perhaps find your own inspiration within them.
One last note: I am not a poet. I have never written poetry nor do I have an inclination to ever write it again. Let’s call it a happy accident.
I must go down to the seas again, to the endless ocean tide,
And all I ask is a sturdy yacht and the stars to steer her by;
As the waves kick and the winds blow and the main sail’s shaking,
A ghostly mist arises, as the grey of dawn is breaking.
I must go down to the seas again, for the breath of the endless tide
Whispers my name, it calls me, it cannot be denied;
All I ask is a windy day to fill my sails for flying,
To feel the spray upon my face and hear the sea-gulls crying.
I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
Where the gulls fly and the whales breach, where the wind cuts like a knife;
All I ask is a merry tale from a lonely fellow-rover,
A quiet sleep, and a sweet dream when the long sail’s over.
With my sincerest gratitude,
Chapter 2: Opportunity Knocks
Sent: Sun June 5, 2016 2:51 PM
To: Rose [email@example.com]
Subject: Sea Dreams
I think the word you are looking for is serendipity, but I do not believe that it was merely a happy accident that resulted in Sea Dreams.
I am fine. And no, no one ever asks me that, not in these letters, anyway, so thanks for thinking of me.
Thank-you for your heartfelt words. I truly do appreciate them. Yes, I understand the feeling of knowing that you’ve done something positive to change someone else’s life. I’m glad that I was able to inspire you however you’ve left me wondering what it was that I said or did that caused such a change in your life that you felt the need to contact me and thank me.
You are correct in assuming that I receive hundreds of letters every day from around the world. Unfortunately I don’t often get to read many of them. There are people whose job it is to make sure that autographed photos are sent to those who request them, but there are only so many of the other letters that actually make into my hands.
So I’m sure you can imagine my surprise when I received your letter. It was a refreshing change from the types of letters I usually receive and it was a joy to read.
Your poem was beautiful. Maybe amazing is a better word. I wish you knew how much it affected me to read those lines. It’s not often that a gift from a fan means as much to me as your words did. Can I be correct in assuming that you are a fan? Or is that too presumptuous of me?
Sea Dreams defines the very essence of who I am. It was rather unsettling to think that a complete stranger could seem to know me so intimately. Then it occurred to me that you didn’t necessarily write those words for me, but as part of the larger work you mentioned. Perhaps it was serendipitous that your poem touched me the way it did.
Since you left no other way to contact you, I took the chance and created this email account so that I could send you a reply. That’s how moved I was. Did you notice the email address I used? Ha ha.
But seriously, I have taken a chance by replying to you. I hope you understand that. If any of this email appears on the internet or in a newspaper or magazine, or if this inbox is suddenly overwhelmed because you handed out the email address, I will suspend the account immediately.
Feel free to reply, but I cannot guarantee that I’ll be able to answer.
Sent: Thur Aug 11, 2016 1:18 AM
To: Rose [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Subject: Sea Dreams
I hope my last email didn’t end up in your junk mail. Or maybe my words were a little too harsh, however, I meant what I said. It is a risk for me that I answered you that way and so perhaps in my nervousness about it, I may have come across as a grumpy bastard. If that’s the case, my apologies.
The reason I am contacting you again is because I have received an offer for some voice work. A company in the shipping industry wants me to do some narration for them. The script was missing something and has gone through multiple re-writes. Then I showed them your poem and they loved it! They want to use it in their commercial. In order for that to happen, you would have to sign a release and a contract. You would receive royalties for the use of it every time it is aired.
If this is something that you’re interested in, you would have to contact me within the next 60 days. Please provide me with all your contact information and I’ll pass it on. It’s a busy time for me right now, but I’ll be sure to check this inbox regularly so that you don’t miss out on this opportunity.
From: Rose [email@example.com]
Sent: Mon Aug 29, 2016 9:47 AM
Subject: Re: Sea Dreams
That’s the only way I can express my surprise at seeing a response from you in my inbox! And then, not one, but TWO emails from you.
Oh wow oh wow oh wow oh wow!!!!
Okay, now that that’s all out of my system …
Please rest assured that your confidences will be shared with no one. To do so would be like receiving the most precious gift you’ve ever been given and then smashing it with a hammer. I know that if I ever betrayed your trust, it would be the end of that and it would be a very sad day for me.
The reason I never saw your first email is because I just don’t use this email address for anything so I rarely check it. I’ll be sure to check it much more often!
You are correct in assuming that I am a fan. The Hound is one of my favorite characters. The other is Tyrion, of course. I think he must be everyone’s favorite character. How could he not be? Don’t we all wish we could speak that bluntly when the situation calls for it?
And BTW, I did not find your words to be harsh, just blunt. But that is as it needed to be.
Yes, I noticed the email you chose. Did you choose it because you are the hound (the dog)?
Getting on to your second email … I was further shocked and surprised! I guess you’re right, Sea Dreams was not a product of serendipity, but a labour of love. The initial idea came to me in a dream – I, too, dream of the sea sometimes, so that part was a happy accident, but I had to put a lot of work into it to make it perfect. Here is where you’re wrong: I did write it for you.
The larger work that I mentioned would never have existed if it wasn’t for you. I’ll be honest and admit that I’ve learned a little bit about you from the internet. Don’t worry, I’m not going to be a stalker or anything like that. I just admire the lifestyle that you have chosen for yourself and that led me to an idea and that idea grew into something bigger. It’s a long story and a boring one, so I’ll skip that part.
The point is, Sea Dreams is my gift to you. Use it as you wish, call it yours. Claim ownership of it because it does, in fact, belong to you. I cannot be involved in its use or promotion and I can’t give you my contact details. Please don’t ask me to explain.
The only thing I ask is that if it’s at all possible, I’d love to see this commercial when you’ve completed it. Could you send me a link or something?
Chapter 3: Who Are You?
Sent: Tue Aug 30, 2016 4:53 AM
To: Rose [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Subject: Re: Sea Dreams
How are you? You asked me that once and it has only just occurred to me to return the courtesy.
Also, I’m asking because I am left wondering why you don’t want to jump at this opportunity. Do you realize what you’re missing out on? Giving up your rights to Sea Dreams is a big mistake. You could make a lot of money from allowing the company to use your poem.
Is it because you don’t want me to know who you are? Why? Should I be worried about that?
Sorry this note is so short, but my car is waiting to take me to the set and I’m already late. I’ll try to send you a longer message later in the day if possible.
P.S. Is there any way I can convince you to take this deal?
From: Rose [email@example.com]
Sent: Tue Aug 30, 2016 1:29 PM
Subject: Re: Sea Dreams
I’m fine. How are you?
It seems weird to me to write like this to you as if we are old pals. I still can’t believe that it is really you. I hope this is not some kind of cruel joke. But then you are the only one I gave this email address to, so I guess it couldn’t be anyone else, could it?
No. You cannot convince me and I won’t change my mind. You are the sole owner of that poem so please make sure that you keep the rights to it for yourself. Do not give away the rights to it! That would really bother me.
Just knowing that Sea Dreams is worth so much to someone else, means more to me than you could possibly understand. I hope I don’t seem ungrateful. I have never had an opportunity like that and I do realize exactly what it is that I’m giving up. Thank-you so much for giving me that opportunity, but I just cannot accept it right now.
As I said before, please don’t ask me to explain. My reasons for keeping my identity a secret really do not have anything to do with you, so don’t worry about that. I’m not a stalker or a crazy fan. (Well, I suppose that would depend on your definition of what makes a crazy fan. Ha ha)
I just don’t want to upset my life right now. That is all I’m going to say on that matter.
I am still wondering why you chose Spot the Dog. I noticed that your email was sent just before 5am. Early mornings, eh? That must be really difficult.
One last thing. You really don’t need to be so formal. I know who you are. You are the only person who has this email address so I know it’s you if there is something in my inbox. If you insist on formalities, I shall insist on referring to you as Mr. McCann.
I hope your day is not too long and difficult.
Sent: Thur Sept 1, 2016 4:53 AM
To: Rose [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Subject: Spot the Dog
I told you I would try to email you again on Tuesday afternoon, but filming did not go well. I didn’t even get a lunch break and I didn’t get back to the hotel until after 1am. I usually get up at 3:30 every morning so that I can be in hair and makeup by 4am. That takes four hours and then filming tries to start by 9am. By the time I fell asleep on Wednesday morning I only got two hours. Wednesday filming wasn’t much better partly because I was a grumpy bastard all day.
How are you?
I’m really tired and thoughts are a bit scrambled so take them as you get them. I chose Spot the Dog because any email address involving the name Dick always came out sounding rather rude. See-dick-play or watch-dick-jump? Ha ha no thanks.
I’m sorry that you cannot take advantage of the opportunity. I’m sure you have your reasons and I won’t push and ask for an explanation. I’ll respect your wishes and leave well enough alone. I did what you asked and I’ve arranged for ownership of Sea Dreams to be put in my name – for now. At some point in the future, if your circumstances have changed and you want it back, it’s yours.
Why is the Hound your favorite character? I agree, Tyrion is my favorite character as well. Pretty much for the same reasons. I wish I could say what’s on my mind more often, but I have to be careful what I say and who I say it to. That’s why I hope that what is said between us stays between us.
I guess I will have to be a little less formal with you. I don’t want you to start calling me Mr. McCann. That would be weird because then I’d be wondering how old you are. Are you a polite woman or a teenager with a large vocabulary? The way you express yourself makes me lean toward the former.
Is there anything you can tell me about yourself? All this secrecy has got me curious.
From: Rose [email@example.com]
Sent: Tue Sept 6, 2016 10:51 AM
Subject: Re: Spot the Dog
My apologies for not getting back to you sooner. It was a holiday weekend and I couldn’t get a moment away to write to you until now.
I keep starting this email to you and then I keep deleting what I have written and start over again. Hopefully I can get through it this time.
I suppose it had to come to an end eventually. I’m going to smile and be thankful that I was able to write to you and receive as many emails as I did. After I tell you what little I will about me, I won’t expect to hear from you again for obvious reasons.
I’m still not going to tell you my full name or where I am, but I’ve been honest with you so far, and I’ll continue to be honest with you, so here goes it.
I am a woman, not a teenager. Although I like to think I’ve kept a childlike innocence about me, I am about the same age as you are. I am remaining purposely vague on that one. After I tell you the next thing, you’ll probably be wondering why I wrote to you, but please bear with me. It’s hard enough to write this knowing that you’ll be disappointed in me for not telling you earlier.
I’m married - happily. I have been for almost 20 years. I have a 17 year old daughter. Contrary to what you may already be assuming, I am not a bored and lonely housewife. I work from home and have a well-established and profitable business.
The reason I wrote to you in the beginning is exactly as I said in that first letter. You inspired me and changed my life and so I wanted to thank you. I never expected to get a response from you. When you did respond, I wasn’t about to brush that off just because I’m married with a child. As the line goes in the movie When Harry Met Sally: “Why can’t men and women just be friends?”
Even though we don’t really know each other, I’d like to think that we might be friends. That’s why I keep writing back. No, my husband does not know that I write to you. Does he need to? Have we done anything wrong by emailing and engaging in casual conversation?
One area in which I may have a little more wisdom than you is marriage (from what I’ve read about you I assume that you’ve never been married but I could be wrong about that). Anyway, after 20 years, you tend to lose your individuality. Everything is “us” and there is very little of the original me left in this body. Does that make sense? So when you wrote back to me, I felt like I had something that was just mine again. Something that I didn’t have to share, something that was just for me and me alone.
Every moment of my life is shared financially or emotionally with either my husband or my daughter. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t give up any of that. I love them both. I just don’t want Rose to fade away completely and disappear. I don’t want to only be known as Mrs. Somebody or [her] mother.
I was a young girl once with hopes and dreams for the future. Some of them came true and some did not. That’s the way life goes. When you inspired me, I re-discovered one of those long lost dreams and realized that Rose [maiden name] was still alive somewhere in there. She is the strong and confident one and I suspect I may need her in the not too distant future.
I’m sorry this email has rambled on for so long. I hope you don’t think that I’ve been stringing you along or that I have some sort of ulterior motive. That’s not who I am and it was certainly not my intention.
It has been wonderful being able to talk to you and I’m thankful for the time you’ve given me. Best of luck with the rest of your time on GOT.
I’ll be watching!
Chapter 4: Friends
Sent: Sat Sept 24, 2016 9:18 AM
To: Rose [firstname.lastname@example.org]
I’ve only got about 5 minutes, but I just wanted to let you know that my life has been a little crazy the past two weeks so that’s why I haven’t written back until now. To be perfectly honest, I was a little unnerved by the things you told me. However since I couldn’t write back to you right away, it forced me to take some time to think about what you said. I’m glad I didn’t make any rash decisions and I promise I’ll write a longer email to you as soon as I get a chance. I just wanted to get this to you before you closed your account or I wouldn’t have any way to get hold of you again.
I’ll explain myself in my next email, but the subject line and the salutation should ease your mind.
Sent: Sun Sept 25, 2016 11:05 PM
To: Rose [email@example.com]
We were supposed to fly out this morning so that we could start filming in another country tomorrow, but things got switched around at the last minute. Because of that, I didn’t think I would have time to write you again until next week, but as it happens, I’m sitting in bed getting ready to go to sleep. Back to the regular schedule tomorrow – up at 4am!
To answer your question: “Because the sex thing always gets in the way.” But as you stated, we don’t really know each other and we’ve only engaged in casual conversation. I’m okay with that. It bothered me at first that you hadn’t told your husband that we were talking, but then I realized I haven’t old anyone about you either. I asked myself why. I haven’t even told my sister about you or the poem you wrote and I tell her everything. She is my best friend and confidant and yet I won’t tell her that I have been emailing you.
I guess it’s like you said. I want something that is just mine and mine alone, even if it is a small friendship with someone I’ve never met before. Being such a public figure right now makes me feel like I have no privacy. I can’t say or do anything without it ending up on the internet. I’m not allowed to talk about GOT. I’m always surrounded by people who are not necessarily my friends. There are always co-workers, staff, fans, media people and so on. Sometimes, I feel like one of those dead ducks you see hanging on display in a Chinese food restaurant. Weird allusion, I know, but I’m not as good with words as you are. I’m never alone and never just with a friend. Even when I go to see a friend, they inevitably invite along someone who wants to meet “the Hound” and then I feel on display again.
Just like you mentioned being referred to as Mrs. Somebody or [her] mother, I feel the same way. I am the Hound, I am Sandor Clegane, or I am Mr. McCann (which is why I didn’t want you to call me that). Sometimes I don’t even get that much. I get told (not asked) to pose for a photo. People want me to tell them to fuck off (sorry about the language), or lift them over my head (I won’t for reasons I won’t go into right now). And then there are the chicken comments ... GROAN!!
Emailing you makes me feel like I have some privacy again. It is something that no one else knows about. It’s personal and it’s private and that is important to me. I feel like plain old Rory for a change.
So if you don’t mind, I’d like for us to continue being friends. As long as we can keep the sex thing out of it. I’m pretty sure I can control myself. But can you? Ha ha (I hope).
From: Rose [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Mon Sept 26, 2016 2:37 PM
Subject: Re: Friends
The last two weeks have been tense in my house and it’s my fault. I’ve been bitchy and depressed. I think it was because I really hoped we were friends. Even though you really have no idea who I am, I was worried what you would think of me. Ridiculous, eh?
I read what you said about feeling like you have some privacy again when you’re emailing me, but why me? Do you really want a penpal that you’ve never met and know nothing about? Of course I would love for us to continue being friends, but to what do I owe this honour? And it is an honour, believe me. Not looking a gift horse in the mouth here. Or should I say a gift duck in the window?? Ha ha. I loved that allusion, BTW.
I guess it never occurred to me that your life could be so difficult at times. When we, the unknown, think of you, the celebrities … well I guess I just imagined you being chauffeured around in a limo with champagne and sexy women hanging off your arm. That’s why I wondered why you’d want to be friends with someone like me. I think I’m a little closer to understanding now.
Sorry I have to go now. School’s almost out. I’m looking forward to hearing from you again.
Sent: Mon Sept 26, 2016 7:42 PM
To: Rose [email@example.com]
So are you going to tell me anything more about you? Now that we’ve decided to be friends, maybe you’ll be willing to share a little more about yourself and your life. What is the home business you mentioned? Where do you live?
It’s not fair that you know what I look like but I don’t know what you look like. And you never told me how it was that I inspired you. What is the larger work you spoke of that Sea Dreams was a part of?
Just give me a little something. You’re killing me here!
You asked why you. Because you never asked me any questions about GOT. You have never treated me like a celebrity. I’m not a celebrity, btw. I suppose I am but I don’t think of myself that way and would prefer if you didn’t either.
And because I know nothing about you, that’s why. Everyone needs a little mystery in their lives, and for me, you’re it. I scour your emails for clues and it’s like a little puzzle for me. I love puzzles.
And because contrary to what you might think, I do know some things about you that you don’t realize. I figured out that you are American. You mentioned the holiday weekend a few weeks ago. That’s the American Labor Day. I’m thinking that you might originally be British, though, because I noticed that you spell certain words the British way. Like honour instead of honor.
You have always been honest with me even if it meant the risk of possibly losing a friend. There is a lot you haven’t told me, but I’m sure we’ll get to that in time. Trust and respect are earned not entitled.
Chauffeaurs? Yes. Champange? No, I prefer beer. Sexy women? If only. Sure there are some but a woman is only as sexy as her outward behaviour. Is it possible to feel humiliated on someone else’s behalf? Because I do all the time.
Maybe sometime I’ll share a few horror stories with you. But for now I’d like to know more about you. Will you tell me something about yourself, Rose?
Chapter 5: All About Us
From: Rose [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Tues Sept 27, 2016 8:42 AM
Subject: About Me
So you think you’ve got everything figured out, eh? Apparently I’m a British expat living in America. Guess you’ll just have to wait and see. And no, you’re not getting a photo of me. I hate having my picture taken. My last driver’s license photo looks like they used my prison mug shot. JK!
You asked about my business and my big “project”? I’m not quite confident to tell you about that just yet. I have a cat named Cash. I’m short, well compared to you anyway. 5 feet 4. I like to sing karaoke, but I hate the sound of my own voice.
I can’t think of anything interesting to tell you. I’m sure your life is very interesting, though. You get to travel all over the world and meet lots of new people (besides fans, I mean).
I’d like to travel, but life gets in the way of that. I have a few friends that I’ve known since high school, but everyone has their own lives and there’s never enough time to spend with them. I suppose that’s the same everywhere.
Am I allowed to ask you anything personal? I do have a million questions about GOT but I don’t ask because I’m sure you get tired of answering the same questions for the millionth time. So instead tell me, what are you doing right now? What country are you in? What’s going to happen in season 7?? JK I know you can’t tell me so I won’t even ask.
If there is anything specific you’d like to know, please ask. It doesn’t mean you’ll get an answer, but please know that I will always be honest with you. I want to earn your trust and your respect and I’m very glad to have you think of me as a friend.
Sent: Wed Sept 28, 2016 1:08 PM
To: Rose [email@example.com]
Subject: Re: About Me
Yes, you can ask me something personal, but as you said, you may not get an answer. Does anybody’s driver’s photo look good? Mine looks like I came off a week long bender of cocaine and £3 hookers! And no, I don’t take drugs, never did cocaine and no hookers.
Why is your cat named Cash? Do you sing well? What songs can you do? What kind of music do you like? Do you play an instrument?
I used to be in a band and sometimes when I’m out and about I like to get on stage, but I’ll never make the mistake of trying to make a career out of it. It is just a lot of fun.
I do get to travel a lot and I meet lots of people. But when I travel, it’s for work. I don’t get to choose where I go, I live out of hotel rooms and suitcases and I spend way too much time in airports. When I do have time off between filming and other business that I have to tend to, I can’t just go out and wander the streets and be a tourist. I would like to be able to do that, but if I tried, pandemonium would follow. Sometimes the staff will organize a group outing for us. That means that a tourist attraction is shut down for a private tour, but the day always results in us standing outside the attraction and signing autographs for the hundreds of fans that somehow find out we’re there.
I can’t tell you what country I’m in but I will tell you a secret. Shredded paper may look great as snow but it tastes like shite! It’s cold where I am but there is not enough snow, so they have to make it and it’s a bloody pain in the arse. I hope you don’t mind a bit of language.
Right now, I’m sitting in my hotel room deciding whether to turn on the box and maybe order a movie. I hurt my knee quite badly during filming the last few days so they are giving me a day off to see if the swelling will go down at all. I’m sitting with an icepack on it.
Even if I could tell you what is going to happen in season 7 (and you know I can’t) the honest answer is that I don’t know. When you’re watching the show, you’re seeing Dani and Tyrion in one part of Westeros, then it moves to Jon and Sansa in another part and then me and the boys in a different part all in one episode. All I know is my little bit. I have no idea what’s going on in other parts of the script and those parts are usually being filmed in a different country than where I am.
You never told me why the Hound was your favorite character? I’d like to know what you think about the show. I know you try not to mention GOT too much, but I’m genuinely interested in your thoughts about it.
From: Rose [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Wed Sept 28, 2016 1:14 PM
Subject: Re: About Me
How are you? Haven’t asked you that in a while and thought I should seeing as how you are laid up. How did you hurt your knee? How bad is it?
I can’t believe that I was checking my inbox and just as I was about to close it, your message popped up. I have a feeling that no work will get done today.
Well, I’m glad that you’ve got that hooker and cocaine habit under control. Now we’ll just have to work on your language, young man. JK! Actually that made me think of a funny story to tell you about me. You know how for most babies, their first word is mama or dada or something like that? Well, my dad liked to swear – a lot! So my first word was the MF word! And my habit has gotten worse ever since. So no, I don’t mind a bit of language at all.
My cat is named Cash after Johnny Cash. There is a country music station that we often listen to on the radio. Every time a Johnny Cash song came on, the cat would start to howl. I like all kinds of music. My taste in almost everything is very eclectic. No matter whether it is books or movies or music, I like a bit of everything. So in music for example, I like country, big band, oldies (Motown), soft pop, rock, reggae, you name it. My latest fascination – please don’t laugh – is with bagpipe rock. You probably think I’m a lunatic. Oh well, that was bound to come out sooner or later.
I don’t think that I sing well, although husband and daughter both tell me that I’m good. I just enjoying singing. It doesn’t matter to me whether or not I’m good. It’s fun. My best song is “To Sir With Love” by Lulu. I like the British pop oldies.
I play the piano. Self taught.
The Hound is my favorite character because I am a hopeless sap. I am a sucker for the underdog. I feel sorry for him and I think all he really needed was a hug and a good woman to set him straight. It seems to me that the poor guy just couldn’t catch a break in life. Needless to say, when Arya left the Hound to die, I blubbered like a baby. I cried bucketfuls. And then, when he (you) came back in The Broken Man … Oh. My. God!!! I cried again. I loved that episode. I needed windshield wipers for my glasses ha ha. Finally got to see a glimpse of that soft little underbelly!
Are you anything like the Hound in real life? I’m sure you get asked all the time, and I promise this will be my only GOT question.
About the show in general – hated it the first time I saw it. HATED it! But now I love it. This email is already too long and I’ve got a deadline, so I’ll explain more next time.
P.S. Do you speak Gaelic?
Sent: Wed Sept 28, 2016 1:52 PM
To: Rose [email@example.com]
Subject: About You!!
Aha! You wear glasses! Are you sending me these clues on purpose or was that just a fluke?
My knee hurts like a bitch, but thanks for asking. Writing and waiting for your email is taking my mind off it though. Just a strain, I think, but I twisted it pretty good and it swelled like a balloon.
How are you? Hope you and your family are happy and healthy.
So what is the MF word? There is only one I can think of and it is really a bad one! And you said that as a baby?? Are we talking about the Samuel L Jackson kind of bad? Your parents must be so proud!
I love your taste in music. But I don’t love your cat’s taste in music. How can anyone not love Johnny Cash? I like to play Johnny Cash on my guitar. My tastes in music are pretty similar to yours. I also like bagpipe music. I haven’t heard too much bagpipe rock to be honest but now you’ve got me wondering so I’m going to go on YouTube this afternoon for a while. I wish I could hear you sing. I’ll bet you’re better than you let on. So you play piano. Who knows maybe when we finally meet we’ll be able to jam together.
My heart is beating fondly for your love of the Hound. I wish he could get more love. He and I are a lot alike in some respects. He just wants to be left alone but then sometimes he feels too alone and wishes he could let his guard down a little, but he doesn’t dare because he always ends up regretting it. I’ve got a bit of a temper and can be pretty grumpy at times. Have you seen those Betty White Snickers commercials? That’s me. I am hypoglycemic.
Why did you hate the show? And what got you turned around on it?
I know a little Gaelic but no, I don’t speak it. Do you speak any other languages? My sister and I speak a language we made up as kids. We call it Egg Language. Egg-I-l-egg-o-v-egg-e y-egg-o-egg-u.
Email right away again, okay? I’m bored and I don’t much care for television.
Sent: Fri Sept 30, 2016 7:27 PM
To: Rose [firstname.lastname@example.org]
How are you?
I was hoping you would email me again on Wednesday, but you did say you have a deadline, and so I’m sorry if I distracted you.
I listened to some bagpipe rock on YouTube. I can understand why you like it. It really gets the blood flowing doesn’t it?
I really don’t mind you asking me questions about GOT. You seem like a very intelligent woman and the things you say and ask get me thinking. There are not many people who can do that ha ha.
Just getting ready to go down stairs for something to eat so I thought I’d send a quick note. I have two more weeks of filming then on break for a while. It might be busy but you will definitely hear from me.
Sent: Wed Oct 12, 2016 5:12 PM
To: Rose [email@example.com]
Subject: Are you okay?
Haven’t heard from you in two weeks. Are you okay? Is everything all right? I am heading to Australia for a week for that commercial. Are you sure you don’t want to reconsider the offer for Sea Dreams? I’ll let you know how it goes.
If you’re just really busy, email me when you get a chance.
Sent: Tues Oct 18, 2016 12:15 PM
To: Rose [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Subject: Are you still there?
I just got back last night. I’m in London right now and will have to go back to work for GOT tomorrow. Not looking forward to it.
I hope everything is all right. Getting a little concerned that I haven’t heard from you. Email is not bouncing back so your account is still open. Did I say something to offend you?
Hope to hear from you soon.
Sent: Sat Oct 29, 2016 2:37 PM
To: Rose [email@example.com]
Subject: I’m sorry
Since I haven’t heard from you in a while I went back and re-read some of our emails and I realized I said things that you might have taken the wrong way. Did I say too much? If I did, it wasn’t my intention to upset you, but I’d like to know I can be open and honest with you about who I am and what I’m thinking about.
I hope that we are still friends. Please don’t be afraid to tell me if you feel differently. Please just let me know something either way.
Sent: Mon Nov 14, 2016 4:17 AM
To: Rose [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Subject: How are you?
I decided that I will just keep sending an email every so often in the hopes that you write back. I really was enjoying our friendship and maybe you were too. I’m afraid I might have pushed you a little too much.
I would like to know that you and your family are okay.
The commercial work in Australia went well. Almost wrapping up filming for GOT for this year. Before we know it the holidays will be here and then another new year. I won’t have a lot of holiday time to myself though. I have to go to California in January. I’ll tell you more about that if you want to know. Just ask.
Keeping my inbox open for you.
From: Rose [email@example.com]
Sent: Thurs Nov 17, 2016 9:23 AM
Subject: Re: How are you?
You have to go to California in January to attend the premiere of your new movie. The one with Vin Diesel, right? Congratulations.
No, I’m not fine and no everything is not okay.
Yeah, you pushed a little too much but I suppose it is just as much my fault for not pushing back. Maybe it was just bad timing. A lot has happened here and none of it is good.
Why does this happen Rory? Why does God dump on us all of a sudden? It’s bad enough when one thing goes wrong, and then there is something else and something else.
Back in September you said “My heart is beating fondly for your love of the Hound. I wish he could get more love. He and I are a lot alike in some respects. He just wants to be left alone but then sometimes he feels too alone and wishes he could let his guard down a little, but he doesn’t dare because he always ends up regretting it.”
Were you talking about the Hound? Or were you really talking about you? Are you lonely, Rory? Is that why you write to me?
I killed Jackrabbit, Rory. I’ve had that horse for 16 years, and I killed him. I was devastated. I’ve had to put down horses before, because they were sick or badly injured, but Jackrabbit was MY horse. I’ve had him since he was a foal. Now, because of me, he’s dead.
We ahd an early snow. It was beautiful here. Big fluffly flakes winter wonderland kind of snow. Do you like snow, Rory? I love it. So I took Jackrabbit out for a ride. We saw a gopher and I made him chase it. I should have known better. Where there are gopghers, there are gopher holes. He broke both front legs. I had to shoot him. I will never gforget the look in his eyes. Not sure if he was begging me to do it or beggin me not to. I can’t get it out of my mind.
Yur the first person I wanted to talk to about it. That’s what bothered me. Holly told me it wasn’t my fault, of course (but really it was). HSe was trying to consol me, I underastand that but she didn’t really TALK to me about it. She’s got much bigger things to worry about right now. It’s just that no body asked me hwo I felt about it. They just kept saying it will be okay, everything’s fine. Fucking blah blah blah.
Was it wrong to want to talk to you fisrt? Did I read too much into your email? We are still friends, aren’t we?
There’s more, but I can barely type, I’m making too many mistakes and I don’t even care. Besides I think that’s enough of my problems for today. Sorry for dumping all this on you.
I hope you’re doing well.
P.S. I know what the egg thing means. Not sure what to make of that.
Sent: Sun Nov 20, 2016 8:08 AM
To: Rose [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Subject: We are friends
Wish I knew what to say to make you feel better. I’m sorry that you had to lose your horse that way. I can’t imagine how much that must hurt. I wish I could be there for you but maybe it’s better that I’m not.
Yes, we are still friends. Just friends.
I don’t think it was wrong that I’m the first person you wanted to talk to. Sometimes families are too close. They can take your feelings for granted, I think. They have known you for so long, that they already know how you feel so they don’t bother asking. When we’re feeling bad, we need to say it out loud or it gets bottled up inside. If no one asks, then we have no reason to talk about it. Naturally, you wanted to talk to someone who you knew would want to hear what you had to say. You can talk to me and I will always listen.
I know that when I talk, you are listening to me. No, you didn’t read too much into my email. This is very difficult for me to admit, but I guess I was talking about myself just as much as I was talking about the Hound. I’m embarrassed about that and I’m sorry for putting that on you. I do get lonely sometimes but I suppose I do it to myself. It is hard to let myself get too attached to people when I have no idea who they really are on the inside. That’s enough about me for now.
You said there was more? Please tell me. I am assuming that Holly is your daughter? Is she okay?
Rose, please don’t ever be afraid to tell me how you feel. If I’m being an arsehole, tell me. If you are feeling crowded or confused about our friendship, I need to know that so that we can do what we must to make sure things stay the way they’re supposed to.
For anyone interested, here is a link to a pipes rock band called Celtica. I love this video and it is what got me interested in bagpipe rock.
Chapter 7: When It Rains, It Pours
From: Rose [email@example.com]
Sent: Mon Nov 21, 2016 1:26 AM
Subject: Congratulations on your new movie!
I’m glad we’re still friends. I’m sorry for dumping on you like that. When I mentioned it was bad timing it was because of the things you said to me, just when I needed to hear words of comfort the most. My emotions got all mixed up. I won’t let that happen again. If I ever say anything that confuses you, come right out and tell me. With emails, there is no tone of voice and we can only convey so much through mere text.
How are you? I truly and sincerely did mean congratulations on your premiere, although it might have come across as sarcastic. Can’t wait to see it!
I guess you have found out a few things about me whether I intended it or not. Yes, I wear glasses, but not all the time. My daughter’s name is Holly. We have horses, but I don’t live on a ranch or a farm or anything like that.
I hope you have built up enough trust in me now that I can tell you what I do. I have never told anyone of our friendship and I won’t. I will never tell anyone the things you tell me. Please keep that in mind, okay?
I am a freelance writer for a newspaper. The work I do, however, is not reporting or anything like that. I write copy for the magazine they put out as well as fact-checking and copy-editing for the “big guns” as we call them. I don’t actually work for the newspaper. I freelance because it allows me to work from home. It also gives me time to do my own writing.
I wrote a novel. Okay so there it is. After I finished writing the book, that is when Sea Dreams came to me. I don’t know why. The book was the thing that you inspired. If you ever read it, you’ll understand why. I don’t want to go into that now.
Back in the spring before I sent that letter to you, I started submitting queries to literary agents. I got lots of rejections (expected) but I kept on undeterred and kept sending out queries. I was determined. This is my dream and that’s a good thing, right?
So about a month and a half ago just after Thanksgiving …
(I’m Canadian!!! You were close but not quite)
After the holiday I got a request for the full manuscript. I week later, my agent – yes I have an agent now – said she loved it. She asked if I have any other books in the works? Yes, I do. I have so many stories in me, but I didn’t start working on them because I needed some validation in my efforts.
I’m sure you understand that because at some point in your life you must have asked someone if they thought you were a good actor, right? Because if you’re not good at something, you want to know so that you don’t keep wasting your time on a pipe dream.
This is going somewhere, I promise.
If it wasn’t for my husband, I never would have known I was a good writer, I never would have pursued it. He is the one who encouraged me, helped me, even pushed me toward it. Now my agent has asked me to start working on another book, I have to make edits to the first one so that it gets to the publisher in time, and I have to be involved in the cover art. Oh and I’m supposed to do all this self-promotion on social media (ABSOLUTELY NOT!!) but that’s for some other time. As a result of all this, I have to cut back on my freelancing work.
Suddenly, my husband is not so supportive. He says I’m wasting my time, I should be doing REAL work, and … get this … who are all these people I’m talking to? Like he is suddenly a jealous and possessive high school jock or something. The people I’m talking to btw are my agent, her secretary, the publisher, editor, cover artist, etc.
All these things happened so close together – Jackrabbit, getting an agent, all the stress to get the book rolling, then the thing with my husband – it was a roller coaster. I was up and down and all over the place from one day to the next.
You kept emailing me and I was feeling tempted to say or do something I would regret instantly. You understand why I was confused, right?
I think that is enough for now. I haven’t told you the worst yet, but I’m worn out and I want to hear about you. Tell me something nice.
Sent: Thurs Nov 24, 2016 8:08 AM
To: Rose [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Subject: I trust you
I waited a few days to reply so that I could process all this. Am I part of the reason things are not going well for you? I don’t want to get in the middle of something and that concerns me. You told me to be honest with you about that so I am.
I’m sorry to hear about all your troubles. You can always confide in me. I was thinking about what you said earlier (in your email from Nov 17) about why God dumps so much on us all at once. I’m not a religious person but I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that God never gives us more than we can handle. You have support and there are people in your life that will help you through this – even if you haven’t met them yet. Yes, that means me. I said I would always be here to listen and I meant it. Sometimes that’s all we need is someone else’s ear (in a manner of speaking).
Congratulations on your book! I understand about validation. I went through that when I was starting in this business. The thing is, don’t look for it too often or you’ll start to get either an insecurity complex or an ego. It may feel great when you’re on the upswing, however going up is a gentle slope. Coming down is a violent crash landing. I know because I’ve been there.
As far as your husband is concerned, I think I might know what’s going on and it has nothing to do with you. I’m going to tell you something that happened to me and you can decide if it is the same thing.
When I was getting into acting, there was someone in my life (who will remain nameless) who supported me and encouraged me. The reason SP (supportive person) backed me up in my efforts was because that’s what SP’s are supposed to do. The SP could be a parent, a sibling, a best friend, a spouse – they support us because it would be wrong if they didn’t. That's what they're supposed to do. SP did not really believe in me. The thing about SP's is, it's all about them. They need us to fail so that they can rescue us from our own misery making them feel validated and important. So imagine SP’s surprise when I became successful. I was supposed to fail so that SP could be my knight in shining armour (so to speak). When I didn’t NEED SP the way SP wanted to be needed – suddenly SP was a completely different person. That SP is not in my life anymore.
I’ll let you think about that.
Thank-you for being honest about working for a newspaper. You’re probably right that I might not have trusted you if you told me that earlier, but I’m glad you told me now. Are you going to tell me the name of your book so I can read it? If it is as meaningful as Sea Dreams you know I will want to and I will love it. So you’re Canadian, eh? I should have got the clues, but I’m a dumb cunt at the best of times. Ha ha.
I can understand how your emotions can get all twisted in knots. My advice is this: never act on those emotions for at least 24 hours after you’re having them. If you can hold out even longer, that’s better. Chances are that tomorrow you will always feel differently, you’ve calmed down and got your wits about you again. I only wish I could live by my own words. I can be pretty emotional and headstrong then I go and do things without thinking and I regret it later.
Finally, you asked me to tell you something nice. Okay.
I like you, Rose. From what I have learned about you so far, you seem like a strong and remarkable woman. It takes a lot of strength to be able to stand up, face your responsibilities, and do the right thing even when it hurts that bad. I’m thinking of Jackrabbit. So I know that whatever is coming next, you’ll be able to handle it. Just keep your sense of humour about you and you’ll be fine. And remember, I am always here.
From: Rose [email@example.com]
Sent: Sun Dec 4, 2016 11:58 PM
Thank-you for the kind words. It means a lot to me that you understand. And thanks for the advice. It is unfortunate that you had to suffer with SP to be able to give me that advice but I think you are exactly right. You have nothing at all to do with my problems. The opposite. If I didn’t have you to talk to I’d be in a much worse place right now.
I don’t think you are a dumb cunt! Maybe a grumpy bastard, but aren’t we all? That made me laugh btw so thank-you.
I’ve decided to leave the rest of my news until after the holidays. The Christmas season is supposed to be filled with joy. Since I finally feel like I can breathe again, I want to keep things light and festive.
I brought Holly to Toronto for a long weekend. Just the two of us. We did some Christmas shopping and had a mother-daughter trip. Bought her some new clothes, went out for dinner and to a movie. It is just what I needed. She is in bed watching TV and I am down in the business center answering some emails from my agent. It’s the first chance I’ve had to write you back. We will be heading home tomorrow.
I am a lot closer to telling you my full name and more about my book, but I’m not quite there yet. Soon, I promise. Just give me a little more time.
When I asked you to tell me something nice, I certainly wasn’t expecting that. Thank-you, Rory. You are one of the most patient and understanding men that I’ve never met (ha ha). You once wrote that you’re not as good with words as I am but I think you’re wrong. I wish I had known you a long time ago. You are an amazing man and deserve great things.
I like you, too, Rory.
Chapter 8: Season of Joy
Sent: Mon Dec 12, 2016 9:19 PM
To: Rose [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Subject: Photo please
I’m glad that you have decided to stay positive through the holidays. I’m sure everything will work out for the better, but since you haven’t told me the last of your news. I’ll reserve judgment on that.
It sounds like you and Holly had an enjoyable time in Toronto. This is the first I’ve been able to answer because I just got back from a short trip abroad. Can you guess where I was? I was in Toronto the end of last week. It’s too bad our schedules didn’t overlap so that we could meet. It sure would be nice to put a face to these emails. Maybe you’ll send me a Christmas present?? That was a hint btw. I’d love a photo or a copy of your book, but I’ll just have to wait until you’re ready.
Tell me what you will be doing for Christmas over there in Canada. What will your holidays be like? Is it really cold where you are? Lots of snow? I’ve had so much going on with work lately, that I think I’m going to try and keep my holidays as quiet as possible. I’ll spend some time at mum’s with Sally, her husband and the boys, but the rest of the days will be quiet time to myself.
I’ll be sure to get another email to you before Christmas, but until then here is a little incentive to persuade you. Hope you like it!
From: Rose [email@example.com]
Sent: Wed Dec 14, 2016 10:03 AM
Subject: Re: Photo please
Big smiles here!! Thank-you! Looks like you really let your beard grow in. (I like it.) Will it be like that for the next GOT season or will they make you trim it down? Did you let it grow for your new movie or is it just your personal preference?
How are you? Are you ready for Christmas? What do you do for the holidays? I know you said that you will spend time with family, but is there anything special you like to do together?
For us it will be a quiet holiday. Just staying close to home, I think. Things have quieted down around here so I’m actually looking forward to us all being together and just doing nothing. Neither of us have much family anymore so we don’t visit or have parties or anything which is just fine by me. I’m a bit of a recluse at times. Like you I guess, I really enjoy my solitude. I like being alone, but I also like spending time with Holly and her dad.
The one thing we have always done early on Christmas morning is go riding in the snow. Sadly that will not happen this year since Jackrabbit is gone. We have talked about it, but I don’t want another horse, at least not right now. I don’t want to feel like I’m finding a replacement for him.
Funny that you were in Toronto almost the same time as me. I guess we weren’t meant to meet yet, though and that’s okay. It will happen when it is supposed to. There’s a right time for everything but this isn’t it.
I hate to admit it, but you’re far too persuasive and if I’m not careful I’ll end up doing whatever you tell me to. Still not ready to send you my photo, but here is a compromise I hope you can appreciate. My maiden name is McClellan. My book will be published under that name. It will be released in late spring in time for the summer reading list. Won’t tell you what the name of it is yet, but you’ll get a laugh when you see.
After some thought I have broken down and reluctantly attached a photo. It is not me. It’s a picture of Holly, but when I was her age, that’s exactly what I looked like and even now there is a strong resemblance between us, so it should give you an idea. That’s Jackrabbit in the photo with her. Not sure why I can’t bring myself to send you a pic of me. Maybe it’s because I’m really shy. It took me a long time to get over that btw. FYI, my face is really hot and I’m blushing because now that I’ve given in to you, I have the feeling you’ll be relentless. Am I right about that?
I’ll do my best to reply to you before Christmas, but please don’t be disappointed if I can’t. You can be assured that I’ll be thinking of you and wishing you Happy Holidays.
Sent: Sun Dec 25, 2016 3:16 PM
To: Rose [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Subject: Happy Christmas!
I got your email with the attachment. Thank-you. Beautiful! I’ll answer your email in a few days with more comments. Everyone is in the kitchen cooking and the boys are playing a video game so I snuck out back for a smoke and to type something out to you.
Happy Christmas, Rose! I wish you a wonderful day with health and happiness. You probably won’t hear from me again until after new years. Hope that day is a good one for you as well.
Cheers, Ms. McClelland!
From: Rose [email@example.com]
Sent: Sun Dec 25, 2016 3:18 PM
Subject: Re: Happy Christmas!
Your timing couldn’t have been better! It is just after 10am here and Holly and her dad went out for their Christmas ride. I don’t mind because I’ve got a bit of a cold. Eagerly checked my inbox for your Christmas greetings and your message popped up before my eyes.
It has been a wonderful day. Hope yours is just as happy and healthy. Wish you all the best. Don’t get sick like me. Have a wonderful holiday and New Year. See you (I have a feeling we may cross paths) in 2017!
Merry Christmas, Mr. McCann!
P.S. Get your butt back inside and help in the kitchen!
Chapter 9: Season of Sadness
I have no idea what Sally-Gay McCann’s husband is named. Apparently, no one knows so I just made one up. I do know that she has sons, because in an interview, Rory once mentioned his nephews (pural), so I kept it purposely vague since we don’t know how many boys she has.
Sent: Wed Jan 11, 2017 8:45 PM
To: Rose [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Subject: California cancelled
How were your holidays? How are you? Are you over your cold yet? I have been fortunate so far this winter, no colds or flu so keep your fingers crossed for me.
Sad to say my trip to California is cancelled. Can’t get away from filming. At least I’m not in a cold climate anymore. I’m enjoying the tropical weather where I am. Unfortunately that’s all I can tell you. It’s not that I don’t trust you, but it’s a lot easier to remember which things I told and who I told them to if I never tell anyone anything. Don’t want to forget myself and say the wrong thing to the wrong person and get myself killed off the show (that’s what happens when you get fired).
I’m glad you took a chance on me and told me your name and sent me a photo. Holly is a very beautiful young lady. If she looks anything like her mother then maybe it’s better you don’t send me a photo!
About the beard, it’s just the way I like it and it worked out nicely that they wanted it that way for the movie. For GOT I usually have to trim it down a bit so that it stays as even as possible. Because of the prosthetic I wear, they have to shave off a bit on the right side so that the fake skin will stick to my real skin. That means I’ve always got a bald patch below my right ear to the corner of my chin. Makes me look like a right fanny walking around with half a fucking beard! I keep reminding myself that it’s worth the paycheck and that hair grows back.
Can’t imagine you as being shy. Would you believe I am also? Acting is what brought me out of my shell but I still feel a little awkward at times in some social situations. So I made you blush, did I? I’ll have to work on my persuasion game if you’re that easy. You have no idea just how relentless I can be when I really want something!
Followed your advice and offered help in the kitchen. Got chased out when Sally and mum started throwing things at me. When they found Gavin and me deep into a bottle of scotch, they yelled at us for not helping out so mum threatened me until I agreed to do the dishes. Just can’t win. But all in fun and games. We enjoyed ourselves thoroughly.
It’s after the new year and you told me that you had more bad news. Warn me ahead of time so that I’m in the right frame of mind to read it. Put BAD NEWS in the subject line. If I’m in a bad mood or having a terrible day, I’ll know to wait before reading it.
From: Rose [email@example.com]
Sent: Tues Jan 17, 2017 11:21 AM
Subject: Not yet
I’m feeling much better which is a good thing because I want to spend as much time with Holly as possible.
I must say I have great respect for you. It’s refreshing to know that a man your size and age can still be afraid of his mother. You seem like the shy quiet type but it’s difficult to piece together from what I really know about you and what I see on the internet. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t go looking for info on you! I have seen a few of your interviews on YouTube but I prefer to stay ignorant in all that. There’s just too much bullshit out there and I don’t want to start guessing what’s real and what’s not. I’d do just as well to find out directly from you.
The reason I’ve been watching the occasional Rory video is that Holly is a big fan. I think she has taken a liking to the Hound and so it’s natural for a girl her age to go looking to the internet for her answers. That’s why I’ve been doing it with her, so that I can remind her that likely most of what she’s finding is conjecture and other people’s fantasies. I’ve been using my persuasive talents as a mother to help her decide what’s real and what isn’t. Frankly, I’m downright embarrassed at some of the things we find. Is that the sort of thing I’m going to have to face when my book comes out??
I’m glad I got that out there because when she realized that the Hound is a real person under the makeup and costume, she discovered you. It’s my turn to make you blush, sir. She thinks you’re “smoking hot.” That’s a direct quote. She saw the trailer for Xander Cage and so now she’s begging me to go with her to see it when it comes out. If I don’t take her she won’t get to go. She does have friends but she’s not able to go places with them too much. I’ll explain later.
So are you okay with me taking her to your movie? Be forewarned I am going to tease the bejeezus out of you! I’ve seen the trailer. Gotta love a man in plaid pants and blue Adidas who’s longest relationship is with his rugby mouthguard! Ha ha
Wish I was where you are. I could stand some tropical weather right about now. We have three feet of snow! Enjoy your sunny location.
Sent: Thurs Jan 19, 2017 9:27 PM
To: Rose [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Subject: Go to the movies!
I have a sneaking suspicion what it is that you might tell me in your BAD NEWS email, but I’ll try not to think about it until I hear it directly from you. And I appreciate that you prefer to learn about me directly from me. I don’t like internet news or social media at all. I won’t get started on that because it makes me furious. Trust me, you don’t ever want to see me when I’m truly angry.
Sounds like you are an amazing mother. Never really thought of you as a mother until your last email. Holly is lucky to have you, and thanks for setting her straight. Could you set her straight on something else as well? Yes, it is embarrassing to have you tell me that your daughter has a crush on me. I’m used to it though. I’ll never understand how a teenage girl can look at an old man like me with stars in her eyes but who am I to judge. So I always just smile and wink and watch them go all aflutter – it’s my only form of amusement sometimes.
Definitely take Holly to the movie. I can stand a little ribbing now and again. You might think Tenny is funny looking in plaid pants and running shoes from 1981, but that was the most comfortable wardrobe I’ve ever worn!
Okay, I know I’m going to regret this, but tell me what you saw about me on the internet. Skip the trash talk please. I tend to be a little insecure about that stuff.
Whatever you decide to tell me, about me or about Holly, keep in mind that I have come to trust you, okay. So be gentle and I will go willingly.
Time for bed. Up at 4am and back to the regular grind.
From: Rose [email@example.com]
Sent: Fri Jan 27, 2017 8:57 AM
Subject: GOOD NEWS
Holly and I went to see Xander Cage on Tuesday. She loved it! And of course I did, too. Sort of. You told me to always be honest with you, so here goes. Frankly, my dear, you were the best part of that movie. It was a good movie but just not quite my thing. I’m more of a Bridget Jones kinda gal. If it wasn’t for you, I would not have enjoyed it as much. You were the one who made the movie watchable. Loved your humour and enthusiasm in it. I kind of thought that Vin Diesel was really full of himself.
Now, hear me out. Even though it’s not the kind of movie I normally watch, I can understand why you made it. Filming for a movie like that must have been a lot of fun. It seemed like you were really enjoying yourself so you must have had a blast making it and I would have been right there with you enjoying every moment.
I saw the on-set interview you did about making the movie. I’m not much of a poker player but you’ve got a bit of a tell. When you’re telling the truth you get this little crinkle in your forehead and you look right at the interviewer. When you’re stretching the truth (or not being honest) you look down or to the left and your forehead is smooth. So tell me, did you really like working with Vin Diesel?
Also watched the Q&A from the Glasgow Film Festival. Really enjoyed that one! Lucky girl the one that got your copy of GOT. After that Holly and I watched the Thronecast interview that was on the Sky Channel. You have big feet! We also watched Jack and Jill. I personally think the dancing scene is the most comfortable wardrobe you’ve ever worn! Nice boxers, Dude! And the hip action … oh god the hip action!!!! 😜
You know I’m not going to let you live that down, right? 😁
That’s all for now. I’m taking a short break and then I’m writing you another email. I won’t write again until I hear back from you.
From: Rose [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Fri Jan 27, 2017 9:32AM
Subject: BAD NEWS
In 2007, when Holly was 8 years old, she was diagnosed with non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma – Chronic Lymphocyctic Leukemia. She underwent aggressive chemotherapy and radiation and went into remission. In 2010, when she was 11 years old, it came back. The first week in November last year – after losing Jackrabbit and after the blowout with my husband, we discovered that Holly’s leukemia has come back again.
This time it has progressed and she has developed macroglobulinemia. I pray that you don’t understand what any of this means. It means that the cancer has become more aggressive than ever. It isn’t just in her lymphatic system anymore. Now it’s in her bone marrow.
The first two times were beyond devastating. I can’t even describe what we went through with her. Holly was the one that suffered the chemo, the hair loss, the endless vomiting, and the pain. Excruciating pain for days on end. I was right there with her, holding her while she screamed, staying awake all night in her bed, and carrying her to the washroom because she couldn’t walk. When she was 11, we had to feed her like a baby because she was so weak. I can’t put her through that again. And this time, with the macroglobulinemia, it will be a lot worse.
Her doctors have informed us that they will give her a more aggressive form of chemo and radiation, but her chances are markedly decreased because her body is being attacked from both directions (in a manner of speaking).
She remembers all of it, Rory. From the time she was 8 years old, she remembers every treatment, every day in the hospital, every needle stick, and all the pain.
When we came home from the appointment with her oncologist, we didn’t discuss it. We all needed a couple of days to process it. One evening a few days later, Holly informed her father and me that she doesn’t want to fight it. She knows that even with treatment, her chances are slim at best. The oncologist told us that if she does manage to overcome it and go into remission this time, it WILL come back again.
We talked about it for a long time and I have decided to respect her decision. I have taken Holly out of school and we are living her life to the fullest.
Her father however does not want to let go. He wants to fight. I understand him not wanting to lose his daughter. She is my daughter, too and I don’t want to lose her, but I cannot see her go through all that again. And even if she wins this time, there will be a next time. But she won’t win, Rory. I know it in my heart and I think it’s time to let her go. All I can do now is help her to live and enjoy what she has left.
It’s taken me a while to come to terms with this, but I’d rather love her unconditionally and give her what she wants than to spend her last days fighting and crying and writhing in pain.
I have quit my freelance work and the edits to my book are complete. I submitted it last week and told my agent that I’m taking some time off. So if it takes me a while to answer an email, you’ll know why. It means that Holly and I are out somewhere having an adventure together. It’s what she wants, and I want to give her everything I can.
Chapter 10: With Love
Sent: Sun Jan 29, 2017 8:38 AM
To: Rose [email@example.com]
Subject: Re: GOOD NEWS
I have both of your emails in my inbox, but I’ve flagged the other one to read for later. I will get to it eventually, but I have a feeling now is just not the right time.
Okay I have a few things to tell you. You obviously know my secrets. I wouldn’t want to play poker with you. Yes, making the movie was the most fun I’ve had on set in a while. I loved working with Vin Diesel – at first. He’s an entitled nancing little fucker with a big ego. But in an interview I’ll say that I loved working with him because I would like to work again in this industry at some point in the future. That’s probably some good advice for you when your book is released. There are just some times when you’ve got to smile with a mouthful of shit and try to remember not to swallow.
Depending on my mood, I can be more of a Bridget Jones kinda guy. That movie made me cry. If you ever tell anyone that … I probably won’t do much about it because I’m a big wuss. At other times, I like a good action flick or a gritty historical drama.
Of course I have big feet. I’m 6 feet 6. If I didn’t have big feet I would fall over.
And lastly, that dance scene in Jack and Jill was the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever done. Do you realize how hard it is to get a conservative Scottish man to dance like that when he’s drunk?? Well I was stone cold sober … and in my underwear … in front of cameras and crew!
You’re not going to let me live it down are you??
Please do me a favor and don’t answer this email. I want to be in the right mood when I read the other one. Your emails always make me smile and laugh and I don’t want that in my head when I start reading your second email.
Sent: Sun Feb 5, 2017 8:42 PM
To: Rose [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Subject: Re: BAD NEWS
Holy Christ, Rose!
Do you realize what you’ve done to me? I read your email this morning and it has taken me this long to stop crying like a baby long enough to write something to you.
I have no words. Nothing I can think of to say would come out sounding worthy of being spoken. After reading your email, I went back to the photo of Holly and tried to imagine your beautiful daughter going through all that. All it served was to make me angry, fiercely angry. How do you deal with that, Rose? How can you not be angry?
Your words moved me to tears. I was surprised and confused by your eloquence under so much strain and stress and heartbreak. And then, to think of all that you’ve been through on top of that, with Jackrabbit, with the stress of getting your book out there. I can’t imagine how you deal with it.
Is there anything I can do? I realize that the words I’m about to say might be wrong somehow, but I’d like to help you give Holly an adventure. Would you let me do that? Would you let me meet the both of you and do something special for her? Since she’s a fan of GOT, I have a few ideas that I’d like to share with you if it’s something you think she’d like and is capable of.
If Holly has a wish, I’d like to grant it for her.
One last thing, Rose. Please take care of yourself. I know that your primary focus will be on caring for Holly, but if you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to be there for her and you are what she needs most in her life right now. Don’t fail her because you put too much of yourself into her and not enough into you.
If you ever need anything, Rose – if all you need is someone to listen, I’m always here. If there is anything else you need, anything at all, please let me know and I will make it happen.
From: Rose [email@example.com]
Sent: Thurs Feb 23, 2017 1:12 PM
I can never be angry about it, Rory. How can I be angry that I gave birth to such a wonderful human being? How can I be angry that I got to spend more than 17 beautiful years with her? Almost 18 years and that is more than some people get with their loved ones. To be angry would mean forgetting about everything we have had and instead being selfish, only thinking about what I won’t have in the future. But what good is it to be angry about losing the future if you can’t appreciate the past?
Thank-you for your wonderful offer. If I knew it was possible, if there was any way that I could say yes, I hope you realize that I would. I can think of nothing that Holly would want more than to meet her precious Hound however, in order for Holly to meet you, I would have to accompany her.
I wish you knew how hard my heart is pounding in my chest as I write this.
I don’t think that would be such a good idea. I’m afraid that if we met, I’d be meeting more than just a friend. I can’t meet you. Not now. It’s difficult for me to say that to you, but we promised to be honest with each other.
You have been so wonderful to me. Keeping our distance as we have has allowed me to maintain a friendship with you. If you and I saw each other, I’m afraid I would not be able to maintain that distance. I fear that all the wrong words would be said, there would be regret and I would make the most terrible mistake of my life.
My focus needs to be on Holly. I hope you can understand that. Please don’t be angry with me for taking this opportunity away from her.
Perhaps I am very wrong, but I believe that you may have had similar thoughts on this, and that deep in your heart, you know it is better this way.
With Love, Rose
Sent: Tues Feb 28, 2017 10:56 PM
To: Rose [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Subject: Re: Thank-you
I read your last email with great trepidation. The last thing I would ever want is to get in the way of any relationship. I hope you understand that. I also know that it is difficult to go through things, especially as much as you have, and not experience a lot of confusing emotions.
It is for that reason that in a friendship such as ours, there always needs to be one person who is strong and unaffected and who can remain distant enough from the situation to make sure that those emotions don’t turn into words or actions that would become regrettable later. I hope that what I’m saying is making sense to you.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that as I read the words you wrote, I realized that I may not have remained as distant as I intended. The obvious solution would be for me to step back from this, but I can’t. I promised I would always be there for you as a friend and so I refuse to abandon you now when you need that support the most.
The decision, of course, is up to you. I believe we can still remain friends, perhaps with a little bit of turmoil in our hearts, but friends nonetheless. If you feel differently, I need to know.
As far as Holly is concerned, I’m still offering to grant her a wish, but it would not involve me in any way. I have contacted several other members of the cast (those in whose discretion I have faith) as well as D&D, and told them about Holly. If Holly is capable, she has been invited to the set and will be given the opportunity to participate as an extra. There are some interesting dragon scenes being filmed in the spring in a studio in London that she might enjoy being part of. She would get to meet some of the cast including Peter Dinklage, Emilia Clarke, and Conleth Hill. I think it would be good for both of you to meet Emilia - she's been through some things and she has expressed sympathy for your situation. I’m in a different part of the world right now, so I wouldn’t be there. All the arrangements would be taken care of and you wouldn’t have to do a thing except show up with her.
Let me know what you decide (about everything).
Rose looked up from her keyboard just in time to quickly minimize her browser and pretend to be looking at the one she’d opened behind it – just in case.
“Hmmm?” Rose said turning to see Holly standing in her office doorway. She could immediately see that Holly was excited about something. It plucked a painful string in her heart knowing there soon wouldn’t be much excitement left in anything for Holly.
Rose took a deep breath and nonchalantly wiped a rogue tear from under her eye. She plastered a smile across her face as Holly looked up from the tablet she was holding in her hand.
“You really like Game of Thrones, right?” Holly said holding a deep breath in her chest. Her eyebrows arched high and there was a dramatic hopefulness in her expression that, combined with the email she’d just finished reading, made Rose want to burst into tears. But she wouldn’t. For Holly’s sake, she wouldn’t do it.
Holly knew damn well that her mother was just as big a GOT fan as she was. Rose bit her bottom lip and nodded. Holly turned her gaze back to the tablet and dragged her finger up over the length of it to scroll to a spot further down the page.
Holly took another deep breath and stepped into her mother’s office, turning the tablet to show Rose the page she’d found. Rose took the tablet and examined the web page. Before she had a chance to discern what the page was even about, Holly blurted it out.
“There’s a Comic Con in Indiana next month,” she stated breathlessly, optimistically, expectantly. “Some of the Game of Thrones actors will be there.”
Oh shit, Rose thought, please no.
Rose tried to relax her face to keep from giving something away, something she’d kept hidden for nearly eight months now. She tried to swallow silently, but Rose was sure that Holly could hear the very loud gulp that her constricted throat made.
Rose continued to pretend she was looking at the information on the tablet page, but in reality, she was stalling for time. How was she going to respond to this? As she scrolled the page aimlessly under the pressure of Holly’s stare, Rose caught the one piece of information that she had dreaded.
Guest Appearances Include: Gwedolyn Christie, Maisie Williams, Liam Cunningham and Rory McCann.
Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit.
“It’s only a six hour drive from here,” Holly pleaded as though it would be a tough fight to win over her mother. Nothing was a tough fight with her mother right now and she knew that. But Holly always felt guilty, truly believing that she was asking for too much. What Holly didn’t know, was that this time she might actually have some resistance on her hands.
“I’m not sure, Sweetie,” Rose told her. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes to try and steady herself. The tears were beginning to pile up heavily behind a weakening dam. Rose really and truly wanted to give her daughter this opportunity. Not only was it a once-in-a-lifetime chance, but it would be the last-of-a-lifetime chance for Holly.
Truth be told, Rose really wanted this for herself, too. She wanted to finally lay eyes on the man she’d secretly been corresponding with for so long now. Rose wanted to see Rory but it was for all the wrong reasons. The timing couldn’t be worse.
Rose would rather have given Holly the opportunity to be part of a GOT episode, but she doubted very much that it might come to fruition. It would have been easy to distract Holly’s attention away from the comic con by telling her about the possibility of going to London, but Rose had only just read the email. Besides, she couldn’t just blurt it out without discussing it with Holly’s father first. The last thing Rose wanted was to disappoint Holly if her father should say “no,” which he probably would.
And before Rose even mentioned it to her husband, Rose and Rory would have to come up with a story regarding how this amazing offer even came about in the first place. Rose did not want any more animosity between her and Jason by admitting that she’d written a fan letter to anyone, let alone the Hound.
So for now, Rose had to act as though the comic con was the only offer on the table. She didn’t want to disappoint her daughter, but there was no way she’d be able to go through with it.
Rose handed the tablet back to Holly and swiped her sweaty palms down the length of her thighs.
“I just think that –”
“If it’s about the money,” Holly pleaded not expecting the initial resistance her mother had shown. Before Holly had a chance to say more, Rose held up her hand.
“It’s not about the money, Holly. You know that.” Rose gave her the concerned parent look. Holly had seen that one many times before. “There will be a lot of people there, big crowds,” Rose said with a grimace. “A lot of germs.”
“I can wear a mask. I’ll –”
“Holly,” Rose interjected.
“Mom! It’s a comic con. I’ll dress up as an evil scientist and wear a surgical mask.” The look on Holly’s face almost had her convinced. Almost.
“I thought we talked about going to Walt Disney World?” Rose was done pleading with her daughter. If this was really what Holly wanted, it’s what they would do. Rose just needed to be sure.
Holly shook her head slowly. “Disney is so expensive and so far away. And I’m not even sure if I would have fun. I might have fun or it might be a lot of waiting in line with nose miners and ankle biters.” Holly pointed a finger at her mother. “Those little cretins would be a whole hell of a lot more germy than older people,” she said waving a hand between herself and Rose as if they were the representative sample, “… people who can blow their own noses and wipe their own butts.”
Rose snorted trying to hold back the laugh. She sighed deeply resigned to the fact that they were going to Indianapolis.
Out of curiosity, Rose navigated to the web page for the Indiana Comic Con. If she was going to convince Jason to let them do this, she would need all the details – travel times, hotels, information about the comic con itself.
Rose had never been to a comic con before so she wanted to know everything she could about how it worked. Would Holly actually get to meet her hero, the Hound? As she perused the website, Rose discovered that the answer was “no.” In order to meet the celebrities, you had to sign up and pay for the opportunity to meet them and get their autographs. Not just anyone could walk up and ask for an autographed photo. In addition to paying for an autograph, there was a deluxe meet-and-greet package. For an exorbitant fee, you got to attend a roundtable meeting with the celebrity of your choice followed by a one-on-one photo session. Rose would love for Holly to have that opportunity.
Rose gasped. That’s it!
Just supposing they went to the comic con and Holly met the Hound. And just supposing he found out about her condition and prognosis. And just supposing he was so moved by her situation that he pulled her aside and offered her a trip to London.
It just might work. But she still did not want to meet Rory. That was going to be the hard part to figure out. Holly would be the one they had to trick into believing that it was all just a big coincidence. At almost 18, Holly was old enough to do all of this on her own, at least, under normal circumstances. But where traveling to another country was involved, Holly would get suspicious if her mother was conspicuously absent when she met with the Hound and even more so if Rory didn’t ask to meet her mother.
Rose sighed, saved the comic con webpage in her bookmarks and went back to her fake browser page. Everything works out, Rory had told her. Rose just had to have a little faith. Before changing browsers again, Rose checked the hallway to make sure that Holly wasn’t lurking about. When she was confident that the house was quiet and the Holly was somewhere else, Rose opened her hidden browser page.
Rose reread Rory’s last email and began to type a reply.
From: Rose [email@example.com]
Sent: Wed Mar 1, 2017 2:35 PM
Subject: Indiana Comic Con
I don’t feel differently. Not about anything. Yes, there is a bit of turmoil, but it is as you said. So much has happened in such a short time that it is hard to emotionally separate one thing from the next, especially when you have offered so much support.
I remember you once told me that you don’t always get the support you need from family because they take your feelings for granted. They already know how you feel, so they don’t ask. That’s not the case between Holly and me anymore. We talk all the time and we tell each other everything that we are thinking and feeling. However, her father and I are in the same position of being a parent who is soon going to lose a child, so what is there to talk about? I’ll just leave it there.
As for your offer to bring Holly to London, I accept. I was worried how we might pull it off without mentioning our affiliation, but Holly has suddenly made a request that could make it all work.
Call it Serendipity.
That is the name of my book and it also seems to describe the happy accidents that keep occurring including the one that took place here just an hour ago. Holly wants to go to the Indiana Comic Con to meet you. If her father agrees, that could be the catalyst that sets everything in motion. I haven’t figured out all the details yet, because I still don’t think it would be a good idea for you and I to meet in person, but if serendipity graces us again, it will all work out. I still have to discuss it with my husband, however, so for now, it’s all just speculation.
I’ll tell you more later when Holly and I have spoken to her father about the possibility of traveling to Indianapolis. There’s no sense in getting ahead of ourselves and fretting about our friendship if he refuses to let her go to the comic con.
Holly peeked out the front curtains and made sure that her mother had fully backed out of the driveway before making a mad dash back up to Rose’s office. She knew that her mother was going to be gone for a while, but Holly also knew that she’d have to do some digging to find what she was looking for on Rose’s computer. Holly worried that it might take longer than expected because Rose was very protective of her files.
Holly carefully navigated through all Rose’s open browser windows and tabs. Her mother was doing research for the book she was working on. That often meant at least six browser windows would be open so she could switch back and forth in order to inject believable details into her writing.
For the moment, however, it was only browser windows she had open on her desktop. The files containing the Word documents for her new book … she’d really have to go searching for those. Holly hadn’t bothered asking first, because every time Holly asked for something, Rose would start to cry. Having to remind her mother that she wasn’t going to be around long enough to read the new book – that would send Rose over the edge completely.
So Holly took it upon herself to at least find the completed chapters. Maybe she might even tell her mother that she’d done it so that Rose would let her read the rest.
One by one, Holly minimized the windows so that she could have a clear screen and not accidentally delete anything or navigate away from an important page. As she was about to minimize the last window, Holly came upon her mother’s email inbox. Except that this was weird, because her mother didn’t use a browser account. Rose used Outlook for all her multiple emails and appointments and scheduling. It allowed her to organize her work and correspondence and constantly be reminded of deadlines and important follow-ups.
Holly might not have thought too much of it, but the browser email account was opened to an email that Rose had received only a week ago. Holly wasn’t nosy and she respected her mother’s privacy, but her eyes caught the words near the bottom of the screen that made her immediately sit up and say “Holy shit, Mom.”
The email had been signed, “With love, Rory.”
As far as I'm aware (and I did do some research) there was never an Indiana Comic Con attended by Rory McCann in 2017. There was one, however, in March 2015 that he attended with Jason Momoa. I just changed things up a bit to suit my needs for this fic.
Chapter 12: Indianapolis
Rose and Holly huddled together on the bed closest to the TV and watched one of their favorite movies together. Rose looked over her shoulder and glanced at the digital clock on the nightstand between the beds. It was just after 10:30pm.
It had been a long drive and an exciting afternoon and so Rose thought that relaxing and watching a movie would help both of them to settle down and get at least a little sleep before the big day tomorrow.
When they’d arrived at the hotel, Rose was a little more than shocked and delighted to see the variety of people … of characters … that were showing off for the benefit of the other attendees of the convention. And that’s exactly what they were doing – showing off. Rose knew that there were diehard fans out there who dressed up as their favorite TV, movie and comic book heroes, but nothing had prepared her for what they’d encountered in the lobby of the hotel.
Rose and Holly had walked into a massive crowd that included several versions of Batman and Superman. There was an entire flank of Stormtroopers. Holly pointed out Harley Quinn – one over there and another over there. There was a very convincing Deadpool and a rather pathetic Daenerys Targaryen. There was even a German Shepherd dog dressed up as Iron Man. There were just too many of them for Holly and Rose to point out all of them to each other. And there were just as many that Rose had no idea who they were supposed to be.
Not really paying attention to the movie, Rose smiled. All of it had been just as exciting for her as it had been for Holly. She squeezed her arm around Holly a little tighter. If it wasn’t for Holly’s insistence, Rose never would have gotten to experience this, and she was, admittedly, having the time of her life.
Rose was nervous however, about how it was all going to go with seeing Rory tomorrow. Rose was still working on an excuse for leaving Holly alone in the autograph line and disappearing for a while so that she wouldn’t have to face Rory. That was the one thing they hadn’t quite figured out yet. Everything else had come together marvelously.
True to his word, Rory had helped out enormously. He’d worked his magic to reserve them a room in the hotel that was attached to the convention center so that Holly wouldn’t have to travel around the city too much. That in itself had been a miracle so close to the convention date. Rose still had to pay for the room so that it would show up their credit card statement, but Rory had done enough already.
The movie wasn’t doing much to help either of them unwind, so Rose decided that now was as good a time as any to give Holly a special present.
Rose got off the bed and went to the suitcase shelf to open her over-nighter. From the netting inside the lid, she removed an envelope and brought it over to Holly on the bed. She sat sideways on her knees facing her daughter and partially blocking the TV. Rose knew that Holly hadn’t really been watching, either. There was just too much excitement in the air.
“I know how much all this means to you,” Rose explained. “So I got you something special.” She handed Holly the envelope and watched with her breath caught in her throat as her daughter opened it excitedly.
Holly removed two sheets of printer paper and unfolded them. Rose braced for the shriek. It was more piercing that Rose had expected and it made her ears ring.
“Oh my god, Mom!” she said shaking the pages in her mother’s face. “This is a ticket for the roundtable!” Holly looked down to read more of the details then looked up in disbelief.
“Seriously? I get to spend an hour with Rory McCann?!”
Rose nodded enthusiastically. It was heartbreakingly wonderful to see her daughter so happy. “I thought you might like that,” Rose said. She could feel the beginning of tears starting to pool on the bottom edge of her eyelids. She hastily wiped them away before Holly noticed.
Holly shuffled the two pages then looked up in confusion. “Mom, there’s only one ticket here.”
“Yeah, Sweetie. I got it just for you. That was expensive you know. And besides, it’s not really my thing,” she lied.
Holly set the pages down on the bed between them and crossed her legs Indian-style to face her mother. Holly’s face turned serious. She looked concerned. Holly took a deep breath and contemplated whether she was about to say the right thing to her mother. But they were alone, away from home and although it wasn’t quite Vegas, Holly knew that whatever happened between them would remain here in Indianapolis.
“You still don’t want to see him, do you?” Holly asked.
A prickly rush jolted through Rose sucking the breath out of her and turning her instantly cold. Her head snapped up and she glared at Holly.
“What??” Rose tried to calm herself. It probably wasn’t what she thought. Holly didn’t know anything … did she?
Holly turned her head down to focus on the edge of the papers that she was worrying between her fingertips. Holly prayed that Rose wouldn’t be angry, that after she explained, Rose would see her as an ally in all of this.
“I know about Jane and Spot,” she finally admitted. Her head was still down but she was looking up and biting her bottom lip. It reminded Rose of the time when Holly was 10 years old and had come home from Church in her Sunday dress covered from head to toe in mud. She’d had the same look on her face then as she did now. It was the “I know this is bad but I couldn’t help myself and it was so much fun” look.
Rose knew her mouth was hanging open, but her heart was beating on the back of her tongue and she couldn’t get words out around it.
Holly sucked in a deep breath and gushed out the whole story in a whirlwind that left Rose stunned.
“I’m sorry, Mom. Don’t be mad. I was on your computer looking for your new book to read when I found the emails by accident. I wasn’t going to read them, but holy shit, Mom. Rory McCann?? And I knew you’d been sad. At first I thought it was just about me, but then I realized it was more than that and so I took a chance because I care about you, Mom, and I want you to be happy and .. and Jesus Christ, Mom. Rory McCann?!?! You know I want you to be happy and all that made me way too curious and so I … okay, I invaded your privacy and I’m sorry about that but at least I know now. You know I wouldn’t say a thing about this to Dad. And I do understand. You and Rory are just friends and I understand about the feelings and getting your emotions all confused. I agree with Rory about that and I think he’s a really good friend to you and I think you two should keep being friends. I think you’re really gonna need him as a friend because he’s been so supportive and especially when I die and –”
The dam broke. Rose burst into tears and didn’t try to stop them. She wept uncontrollably allowing the tidal wave of emotion to pour forth that she’d been so desperately trying to hold back. She let it all out as Holly’s arms encircled her and held her tightly. Her whole body shuddered as wave after wave of grief hit her all at once. Holly gently rubbed her back and tried to soothe her. Rose’s body was so wracked with sobs that she continued crying even after her tears had dried up. Holly held her until she was done.
“It’s not supposed to be that way,” Rose finally whispered quietly between sniffles. “You’re not supposed to die before me. Parents are not supposed to bury their children. I’m the one who’s supposed to be strong and hold you and comfort you, not the other way around.”
Holly shrugged. “That’s just the ways things happen sometimes and there’s nothing we can do about it, so why worry about it?” Holly finally let go of her mother and backed up on the bed so that there was still an intimate distance between them.
“You’re not angry, are you?” Holly asked timidly.
Rose shook her head empathically. “No, Sweetie. Not with you. How could I be?”
“But I invaded your privacy …”
Rose sighed heavily. “I realize that but frankly, I’m kind of glad that you know. I was a having a hard time dealing with everything that happened and I had Rory to talk to and he helped me through it. I was having a hard time dealing with my friendship with him, but now I feel like I’ve got someone to talk to about that as well.”
“I know you two were having trouble coming up with a way to instigate the whole London trip without me getting suspicious, but that’s not going to be a problem now, because I’m going to help you both get away with it.”
“What? Holly … no. Rory and I will figure it out,” Rose insisted.
“But that’s just it. You don’t have to figure it out because I already know about everything. And I really, really want to go to London. I can say that I bumped into Rory in the hotel and we got talking and … voila. I can even tell dad that you were there, even though you won’t be because I know how you and Rory feel about meeting each other right now and –”
“Holly! For heaven sake, take a breath.” Rose couldn’t believe it. This was all way too much. She wiped her hand over her forehead and down the side of her face and peered at her daughter through the corner of her eye. Rose puffed out her bottom lip and blew hair out of her face.
Suddenly Holly scrambled off the bed to retrieve something out of her suitcase. She climbed back onto the bed next to Rose. In her hand, Holly held one of the prototype copies of Call It Serendipity in her hand. Wedged inside the front cover was a sealed envelope. Holly showed it to her mother.
“I wrote him a note,” Holly said.
Chapter 13: I'll See You Tomorrow?
Rose looked at the digital clock. It was now 11:45pm. There was no way either of them would be getting much sleep tonight.
“Do you think he’s still up?” Rose asked clutching her cell phone against her chest like a nervous teenager. Holly shrugged.
“It doesn’t matter, Mom. If he’s gone to bed already and doesn’t want to be bothered he’d turn off his phone or block message notifications.”
Rose looked hopefully at her phone screen. Before leaving home, she had downloaded the chat app from her chatmail account. So far, she and Rory had only been using the mail portion of the messaging service. A nervous tingle wormed through her butt as she opened a new chat with firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hi, are you still awake?
Hi, Rose! How are you? How was the trip?
Drive was long but worth it. Never been to a
con before so having lots of fun! How are you?
That’s awesome! I’m fine. Bit of jetlag, but I’m
good. How is Holly? Is she there with you now?
No. She’s off investigating downstairs.
What are you doing right now?
I’m chatting with you! What are you doing?
Getting ready for bed. I’m glad I got to talk to
you before going to sleep tonight.
Rory, I just wanted to say thanks for everything!
The room is great and Holly is really looking
forward to meeting you tomorrow.
What about you? What are you looking forward
I’m looking forward to helping you grant her a
wish. This means so much to me. I don’t know
if I can thank you enough for all this.
Rose glanced over at the hotel room phone. The little red light blinked spastically. Rose swallowed hard as her heart dropped into her belly.
“You gonna answer that, Mom?” Holly asked with a devilish grin. Holly had not been able to wipe the smirk off her face the entire time that Rose had been texting Rory. “I think you should thank him in person.”
“I can’t!” Rose pleaded. “I told him you were downstairs.”
Holly rolled her eyes. “He can’t see you, Mom. It’s a phone.” Holly shook her head and fluttered her hand at her throat. “You know I won’t make a sound.”
Rose ignored Holly and texted Rory again.
Is that you calling?
Yes, Rose. Please pick up the phone.
I can’t. You know I can’t.
I’m going to call again, so please pick up the
phone. I want to talk to you. If I can’t see your
face at least let me hear your voice.
That’s not a good idea and you know it.
Last chance. Final warning. Pick up the phone.
And if I don’t?
You’re only three floors below me, Rose. You remember
that scene from Jack and Jill? I will come down there in
my boxer shorts, bang on your door and sing and dance in the
hallway until you answer. Don’t think that I won’t do it!
Thanks for the visual!! 😜
But I know you won’t do it for two
reasons: you are a conservative Scottish
man and you hate social media. If you did
that, you would blow up the internet!
Okay. You’re right. I wouldn’t do that. Please pick
up the phone or we’ll both just have to find out exactly
how far I will go to get you to pick up the phone.
Rose gnawed on her bottom lip and glowered at the phone.
“If you don’t pick it up, Mom, I will!”
“You wouldn’t dare!”
Holly crossed her arms defiantly and glared daggers at her mother. Her eyes darted toward the phone and her body tensed slightly. Both of them suddenly leapt at the nightstand, but fortunately, Rose got there first and pressed her palm down on the handset. Rose pointed at the hotel room door. Holly giggled grinning widely, grabbed her key card and left.
Fingers shaking and palms sweating, Rose picked up the handset.
Rose suddenly felt lightheaded. Her heart wrenched painfully at the smooth deep sound of Rory’s voice, thick with Scottish brogue. She felt an intense burn creep up her neck and into her cheeks.
“I can’t believe I’m finally talking to you. It’s nice to hear your voice, Rose.”
“I feel the same way. I didn’t think I’d ever get the chance to talk to you like this.” There was a long pause but it didn’t feel awkward.
“Why didn’t you want to answer the phone? I was worried that you might not want to speak to me.”
“I think you know that’s not true. I guess I was afraid I’d want to talk to you a little too much. I was really nervous about that. And I was worried that I wouldn’t have anything to say.”
“That hasn’t been a problem for us so far,” Rory mused. “We always seem to have something to talk about.”
Rose nodded even though she knew Rory couldn’t see her. “That’s true.” Rose closed her eyes and pictured Rory talking as she listened to the sound of his words. Her heart fluttered dangerously. Truly, she wanted much more than to just hear his voice and that’s exactly what she had been worried about.
“I suppose we could have continued texting, but I thought it would be easier to talk since we still have some things to figure out for tomorrow.”
“Actually, it’s not going to be a problem,” Rose informed him. “Something has come up and …” Rose stammered, “… well, you know … serendipity.”
“What do you mean, Rose?” Rory asked concerned. “Is everything still on for tomorrow? Don’t we have to figure out how we’re going to get Holly to talk to me about her … uh … her illness?” Rory wasn’t quite sure if he’d been tactful in his choice of words. Rose felt a hitch in her breath at the sound of her daughter’s name coming from Rory’s lips. She cradled the handset against the side of her face as though Rory was right there with her.
“Rory? Do you trust me?” Rose asked. There was a brief pause before he answered. Rory wondered what Rose was up to, but not because there was any doubt in his mind. Over the last seven months of their correspondence, Rose had always been unfailingly honest with him. He had no reason not to trust her.
“Of course I do, Rose. What’s this about?”
“Everything will be fine tomorrow. I promise. Please don’t worry about anything. You’ll see.”
Rory sighed. “You’re always so full of mystery. You won’t send me a photo. You won’t tell me what’s going on. I was honestly surprised that you picked up the phone. I was afraid that I really would have to come down there in my boxer shorts.” Rory listened to the sound of Rose’s laughter through the phone and wondered just what he’d gotten himself into. He knew he was becoming too attached to Rose, but he couldn’t help himself. Even though he kept asking her for her picture, Rory was glad that Rose was so steadfast and stubborn. Seeing her face might make him act on what he was starting to feel. That would ruin everything – for him, for Holly and for Rose ... and for her husband, he reminded himself. Rose was married – happily. He wouldn’t do that to her.
Rory couldn’t do that to her, and yet he couldn’t help but persist. Just as she’d predicted, Rory was relentless. “Rose, will I see you tomorrow?” he asked even though he knew the answer.
“No, Rory. You know that can’t happen. And you know damn well why.”
“Tell me why.”
Rory’s voice was so soft and deep that Rose could feel it roll through her body from her toes, up through her thighs sending her stomach fluttering until it lodged in her chest where it got stuck.
“Because if you had come down here in your boxer shorts, I would have been forced to open the door and then I’d never being going home again. I don’t want to be tempted to do something we both might regret. We haven’t done anything wrong. We have a wonderful friendship and I don’t want to ruin that.”
“I know you’re right,” Rory admitted. “I guess I just needed to hear it from you.”
Rose didn’t want to let go. She wanted to keep Rory on the phone and talk to him all night, but they both needed sleep and Holly would be coming back soon. It would be a long exciting day for both Rose and her daughter, and Holly would need her rest.
“I should go, Rory. I wish I could talk longer, but Holly will be coming back soon.”
“I realize I’ve probably told you too many times already, but thank-you. For everything. I wish you knew how much this means. If there is ever anything I can do for you in return, I –”
“Except that!” Rose blurted. They both laughed. It was good to hear Rory’s voice and it was even better to be able to laugh with him. It made her feel so … normal.
“Rory? Just one more thing.” Rose took a deep breath and held it. “Life never goes the way you think it will. Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, it changes. Sometimes those changes are good, and sometimes they’re not so good. But even when bad things happen, in the end, sometimes you know it’s still going to turn out okay … a happy accident.”
“Call it serendipity,” Rory whispered. He wasn’t sure just what Rose was alluding to, but he could hear a strong note of insinuation in her voice.
“Exactly. Good night, Rory.”
“So … I’ll see you tomorrow, then?” Rose could practically hear the grin in his voice.
“Good night, Rory.”
“Good night, Rose.”
Chapter 14: Holly Meets The Hound
“You do realize how twisted this is, don’t you?” Rose asked Holly with distaste. Mother and daughter admired their costumes in the bathroom mirror. Holly was dressed in a full set of hospital scrubs and a lab coat artistically splattered with fake blood. She finished tying her surgical mask behind her head as she observed her mother’s reflection.
Rose was covered in a black robe with an oversized hood. Her face was obscured by black mesh that made it easy to see out but not in. The stiff wire edge of the hood made the hood appear eerily cavernous and empty. Holly had found the costume and purchased it from a vendor in the lobby while Rose had been on the phone with Rory.
“What will Rory think if he sees me accompanying my dying daughter dressed as a grim reaper?” Rose didn’t really like this, but the costume allowed her to remain very comfortable as well as anonymous. In the event that she did come face to face with Rory by some sort of serendipitous twist of fate, he would never know who he was looking at.
“He won’t see you. Stop worrying.”
“I never should have let you talk me into this,” Rose said shaking her head. The wire stiffened hood wobbled back and forth making her look like some sort of bizarre bobblehead.
Finished tying her mask, Holly turned to her mother and took Rose’s hands in hers. “Everything’s going to be fine, Mom. I promise.”
“I wish you’d let me read that letter,” Rose said referring to the note Holly had written to Rory.
“Absolutely not.” Holly shook her head emphatically. “I read all your emails to each other, so I’ve gotten to know him almost as well as you have. But I’ve known you all my life. I know what needs to be said and I know how to say it. Besides, it’s between me and Rory.” Holly shrugged her shoulders. “If he wants to share it with you, he will.”
“So I shouldn’t worry, right?”
“Mom, Rory is a good friend to you. I want you to keep being friends but for right now, that’s as far as it can go. I know that, you know that, and he knows that. So whatever I said to him in that letter, you don’t have to worry, okay?”
Rose gave a sharp quick nod almost causing her to lose her hood. “Okay. Ready to go?” Rose wasn’t ready, but she couldn’t put it off any longer. It was now or never.
Rory drummed his fingers nervously on the portable table as he waited for the next fan to approach. He quickly scanned the crowd looking for a familiar face, or for someone watching him. There were hundreds of people staring and watching, some in costumes and some in street clothes. Rose and Holly could have been any of them and he’d never know.
So far, he’d signed a dozen autographs for women and girls whose names had been either Rose or Holly. And yet, each time he heard that name, he jolted inside. It was making him a nervous wreck. None of them could have been his Rose or Holly – too old, too young, too … something, except one. A girl that might have been Holly’s age, and who shared her name had come up to his table. Her hair was blonde and she wore a ton of makeup, but girls her age were always experimenting with hair color and fashion. It might have been her, so Rory stalled in signing a photo for her. When she gave him a look, Rory said, “Oh sorry I’ll sign this for you quick as a Jackrabbit.” If it was Holly, Rose’s Holly, she would have reacted, but there wasn’t so much as a twitch. Rory was surprised at himself for feeling disappointed.
Rory took a deep breath to get his nerves under control. He looked up as another comic book evil villain approached. The girl was dressed in blood-splattered hospital scrubs and a lab coat. Her red hair was tucked up into a bun that rested right below the rear edge of her surgical cap. Rory put on his best celebrity smile and looked up at her.
“Hello,” he said.
“Hi,” the girl answered enthusiastically. “I’m Holly.”
Rory’s internal organs dropped … again, and he groaned. Another one. By the time this day was over he’d have to get an abdominal ultrasound to make sure everything was where it was supposed to be – it didn’t feel that way.
“Which photo would you like me to sign for you?” he asked indicating the two piles of glossy 8 x 10’s. The girl just stared at him blankly.
“Rory, it’s me. Holly.” Realizing her voice was muffled, she tugged at her surgical mask. “Sorry, I hate wearing this thing, but Mom says I have to wear it so I won’t get sick.” The two of them were stuck in a sort of visual standoff.
Holly leaned down closer to him and in a low voice said, “You know, because of the leukemia.”
Rory’s stomach did a double flip and his eyes widened. His first thought was that she wasn’t supposed to know that he knew. What was going on? Where was Rose? He quickly scanned the surrounding crowd, but knew he wouldn’t see Rose even if she was standing right there. He turned his gaze back up to Holly with his mouth hanging open.
“Oh!” Holly said, suddenly remembering. She put her hand into one of her oversized lab coat pockets and removed a book.
“You’re Rose’s daughter?” Rory asked hesitantly. The girl nodded enthusiastically.
“Uh huh. I’m Holly McKendrick. This is for you.” Holly handed the book to Rory. Dumfounded and hands trembling, Rory took it from her. It was a dummy edition. Rory had seen them before. It was just a prototype that allowed everyone to see how the book would appear once it was published, but without all the legal mumbo-jumbo and copyright information.
Call It Serendipity by Rose McClelland.
Lodged inside the front cover of the book was an envelope. Rory looked back up at Holly. She was smiling brightly, but quickly pulled her surgical mask back over her face.
“I don’t understand,” he told her. “What’s going on? You’re not supposed to know.”
“Is everything okay, Mr. McCann?” The handler sitting beside him touched his arm tentatively. If there was any sort of problem, security could arrive within seconds. Rory nodded his head absently at the handler, never taking his eyes off Holly.
“It’s fine,” he mumbled to the man on his left.
“It’s all in the note,” Holly explained. “And Rory? Don’t be mad at Mom, okay? She had nothing to do with this, I swear.”
Rory suddenly realized how tightly he was clutching Rose’s book in his hands. He set the book in his lap and nodded up at Holly. He was breathless and stunned. Again, he found himself scanning the crowd looking for that one elusive face.
“You won’t see her,” Holly told him. “She’s there. But you won’t see her.” When Rory looked up at Holly again, he would have sworn he could see a huge grin behind the girl’s mask.
“Excuse me, Mr. McCann? We really need to keep the line moving,” the handler informed him.
Rory nodded dumbly as he picked up a fresh marker. His head was swimming. He blinked trying to clear his mind, but he felt like the world was spinning. He took a deep breath to try and get the right amount of oxygen black into his blood.
“Can I have that one?” Holly asked pointing to one of the glossy photos. In an almost robotic state, Rory pulled the photo in front of him and uncapped the marker. He paused to steady his hands before writing on it.
“Can I take a picture of you?” Holly asked just as Rory finished writing her name. Rory looked up and smiled, but the smile felt goofy on his face. Here he was staring up at Rose’s daughter and he couldn’t even string two words together. He had no idea what to say, how to behave. If Rose was somewhere nearby watching, she might have thought him daft, drunk, or both. It’s definitely how he felt.
When Holly finally wandered away from his table, Rory sat back in his chair and finally breathed. He felt hollow inside, worn out and yet exhilarated as though he’d just finished running the 100-yard dash. As the next fan approached, Rory suddenly remembered the book on his lap. He picked it up and thumbed through the pages already knowing what he’d be doing with his evening.
Rory leaned down beside him to tuck the precious volume into his satchel. When he looked up again to address the new autograph seeker, a flash of movement caught his eye off to the far right. Rory noticed a grim reaper standing about a hundred feet away staring at him.
It was Rose. He was sure of it. Rory stared back, but the grim reaper quickly looked away as though caught red-handed, then turned and disappeared into the crowd.
Rory stretched out on his bed flexing his aching wrist. It wasn’t too bad this time, but with each rotation of his hand, his wrist bone cracked. He barely noticed.
The rest of the day, after seeing Holly, Rory’s mind had been clouded with thoughts of Rose. He’d tried to focus on the fans, but the hours seemed to stretch on forever. All he could think about was getting back to his room so he could read the note. He was worried about what he might find in it.
When he’d spoken to her last night, Rose had assured him that everything was fine, that it had all been worked out. But he still worried about what was in the note. If there was nothing to worry about, there wouldn’t even be a note, right?
Rory decided he would just have to call Rose. But it didn’t make sense to call her until he knew what was in the note. After he read the note, then he would call Rose. Or text her if she wouldn’t answer. But what if she wouldn’t answer a text either?
Rory closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and pulled the satchel up on the bed beside him. He opened the top and stared into it as if there might be a cobra in there ready to strike.
Don’t be such a wuss, he chided himself. He removed the copy of Rose’s book with the note tucked into it and settled himself back against the piled up pillows. When Rory opened the envelope, his fingers felt something rigid concealed within the folds of the paper. He opened Holly’s handwritten pages. Between them, was a photo of Rose. It took his breath away.
In the back of his mind he'd always suspected, but not like this. Rose was gorgeous. Rory closed his eyes and groaned. And this was the reason he hadn’t really wanted a photo of Rose. He did, but he didn’t. Of course he always wondered what she looked like, but there were two things he’d been afraid of: that she might be rather unattractive, or that she might be beautiful. As he studied the details of her natural beauty, Rory thought it might have been better if she'd been unattractive.
Rory gazed over the photo and noted that Rose did in fact look a lot like her daughter. They both had reddish hair and pale, flawless complexions, and amazing smiles. With the photo in one hand, Holly’s pages in the other, and his heart thudding, he began to read.
I hope you don’t mind that I’m writing this to you, but hopefully you’ll understand. Please don’t be angry. It wasn’t Mom’s fault. Just please hear me out.
I know everything. I know about your friendship with my mom and I think it’s wonderful. She didn’t tell me anything. She never betrayed your trust and has never told anyone about you, not even me.
I found out because I’m a total brat, okay? I was snooping on Mom’s computer because I wanted to start reading her next book. I didn’t want her to know because I don’t want to remind her that I’ll be long gone before it ever gets published. I know she keeps all those files well hidden, so I had to do a lot of digging. Instead I found the last email you wrote to her. Maybe I should have stopped there, but that’s kind of like trying to eat just one potato chip.
Eventually, I found your emails to each other and I read all of them. Please don’t be angry!! I know I shouldn’t have and I realize that it was none of my business, but I love my mom and I was concerned about her, so I did it. I’m glad I did and once I talked to Mom about it, so was she. She was worried that she was doing something wrong. I don’t think she is, especially when you consider the circumstances.
Again, I am so sorry for violating your privacy!!! My only concern was making sure that Mom is happy and that she’ll continue to be happy when I’m not here anymore.
I respect what she’s doing and so should you. The one thing that you may not realize about Mom is that she is undeniably faithful. She has a very strong sense of loyalty – to you, to me, and to my father. She is faithful and loyal to a fault, even if that person doesn’t deserve her loyalty. So if there is someone in her life who does not deserve that loyalty, what is she supposed to do? She does the only thing she knows and believes in – she sees it through to the end.
The end is coming, Rory. Not just for me. And when it does, she will need you to be there for her. Please be there for her. I won’t make you promise me because I won’t be around to make sure you keep it. But if you did make me that promise, I know you would.
Don’t give up on her. Trust her. Believe in her. She’s so worth it. I promise you can count on that.
I’ll see you tomorrow at the roundtable! Hopefully we’ll get another chance to talk, but if we don’t I just wanted you to hear all this from me.
Thank-you for everything!!!!!
P.S. I told Mom I wrote you this letter, but I wouldn’t let her read it. This is between you and me. If you want to show it to her, that is up to you and I would be fine with it.
P.P.S. You’re always asking Mom for a photo. I thought it was time that you had one. This was from a photo shoot she did for the jacket of her book. She hates it, but I think it suits her perfectly.
Chapter 15: Comic Con Confusion
Rory let his hand, the hand that held Holly’s letter, fall to the bed beside him. He felt weak and drained, and yet his heart continued to pound inside him sucking all the energy from the rest of his body. Pulling his sleeve down over his wrist, he used the heel of his left hand to wipe his eyes.
He picked up the photo and gazed at it for a long time. Rory almost wished that he had never asked for it. Now he had a face to go with the inner beauty he’d come to recognize through Rose's emails.
He was angry with Holly for what she’d done, reading their private messages to each other, but he’d understood her reasons. Besides, there was nothing to be ashamed of in their emails, so he supposed it wasn’t worth being that angry after all. If Holly was as loyal and faithful as her mother, she would carry their correspondence to her grave. And by the sound of it, that might not be too far in the future.
The anger Rory felt toward Holly wasn’t just about the invasion of privacy, but because she had forced him to face feelings that he’d been able to deny so far. That is, until he’d seen this photo of Rose. Holly didn’t realize what she was doing to them. She was just too young to understand. For Holly, it was an innocent gesture. For Rory and Rose it was much more complicated.
A fresh round of tears dripped down his face. Rory went into the bathroom for a tissue to blow his nose. He was sniffling like a little girl. He quickly splashed some water on his face to get rid of the hot puffiness he felt around his eyes. When he looked up in the mirror, he saw a weary old man. Is this what having kids did to you? No, he reminded himself. This is what kids do to you when they know they are going to die but are only concerned about your happiness after they’re gone.
Rory closed his eyes and held his breath to stave off another round of sobs. He now understood why Rose couldn’t be angry. He couldn’t be angry that Holly was being taken away so young, and he couldn’t be angry that she’d read all their emails. He couldn’t be angry that Holly had given him the photo that he’d repeatedly asked for. And he certainly couldn’t be angry with her letter.
He never thought words from someone other than Rose could be so eloquent. And yet the way Holly had expressed herself had felt like a thousand needles shooting through his heart. Her words had made him physically hurt and that made him realize that somehow, even though he didn’t know her at all, had only met her briefly for the first time today … somehow, he’d come to care for her. Was it just because she was Rose’s daughter? Were his feelings by proxy? Was it vicarious emotion? Or was it because she was just so … so lovable?
Rory laughed as he dropped down onto the side of the shower. He chuckled to himself when he realized that everything in his life had led up to this moment. He was a soon-to-be 48 year old man sitting on the edge of the bathtub in a hotel struggling with his emotions over a dying teenage girl and a woman he’d never actually laid eyes on. The whole situation was just too bizarre not to laugh at it.
Rory realized then that there was only one thing to be done about it. He needed to reestablish his distance. Rory got up, went back to the bed and picked up the letter and the photo.
Don’t give up on her. Trust her. Believe in her.
Rory read those words one more time before he picked up the hotel phone and dialed Rose and Holly’s room.
Rose reached across the space between the beds to take Holly’s phone. Holly had taken a photo of Rory and wanted to show her mother. Rose looked at it and felt a painful pinch in her chest. She wished she’d been able to see him up close and personal. She wanted so badly to meet him and say hello face to face.
Rose’s stomach tightened. She noticed that he had trimmed his beard considerably, and that he had a little more grey in his whiskers. Rose tried desperately not to notice how handsome his smile was, or how his curly hair stuck out from under his hat near the top of his ear. Rose finally tore her gaze away from the screen. When she looked up at her daughter to hand the phone back, Holly was all teeth and wide eyes.
Rose looked over at the digital clock next to the hotel room phone. It was 7:42pm. Holly glanced up at her mother, then at the phone, then at Rose again. They both leapt for the phone, but this time, Holly got to it first.
“Hello?” Holly said eagerly, but with trepidation. She prayed that she was not about to get yelled at.
“Hello, Holly. Is your mother there?” Rory asked. Holly grinned into the handset as Rose watched her from across the narrow space between the beds. By his voice alone, Holly couldn’t tell if he was angry, but at least he wasn’t yelling, so she supposed it was a good sign.
“Sure. Here she is.” Holly handed the phone to her mom. Rose took a few quick breaths to calm herself, then accepted the handset.
“Hello, Rory,” Rose said.
“Hello, Rose. Were you by any chance a grim reaper today?” he asked.
“That was not my idea,” Rose pointed out immediately. “It was Holly’s idea. I didn’t really agree with it, but I don’t always get the final say lately.” She smirked at her daughter who was listening raptly to Rose’s side of the conversation.
“I just finished reading Holly’s letter,” Rory informed her.
“Are you okay, Rory? Your voice sounds … strange. You know, I mean compared to yesterday.”
“Does your voice sound strange after you’ve been sobbing?” he asked with a touch of sarcasm. “What are we going to do with that girl?”
Rose looked up at Holly and narrowed her eyes. “Why? What did she say?” Rose asked flatly. She covered the mouthpiece on the phone as Holly leaned forward and whispered something to her. “Holly wants to know if you’re mad.”
Rory sighed deeply into the phone. Rose could hear the resignation in it. “I’d rather discuss that with her, if it’s okay with you. Would you mind if she came upstairs to talk to me? I would come down there, but the hallways are pretty busy right now and I don’t want to attract any attention. Are you comfortable with that?”
Rose didn’t answer, but instead covered the mouthpiece again and leaned toward Holly. “Rory wants to know if you’d like to go up and talk with him in person.” Rose didn’t even know why she’d bothered asking.
“When do you want her to come up?” Rose asked Rory.
“How about now?”
Holly cracked her knuckles and stared at the hotel room door. She always cracked her knuckles when she was nervous. She was about to meet Rory McCann. In person. Really meet him. She took a deep breath, bit her lip and knocked on the door.
When the door opened, there was no one there. Rory was safely hidden behind it in case someone should happen to walk by at that exact moment. It wasn’t even 8pm yet, and despite the fact that he was on a secure floor, the hallway was busy, so he wanted to take precautions.
Holly walked past Rory into the suite. He quickly gestured toward the lounge area and offered her a chair at the table. They sat down across from each other and had another staring match. But in this one, Holly had a huge grin plastered across her face. She couldn’t help herself.
“Did you have any problem coming up?” Rory asked. He’d had to call security and tell them she was coming so that they’d let Holly up to the restricted level.
Holly shook her head.
“Would you like something to drink?” he asked nervously. Holly shook her head again. Her grin began to waver as the awkwardness grew between them.
“About the emails …” Holly blurted suddenly.
“Don’t ever do that again,” Rory told her sternly. His voice was hard and forceful, but not angry or mean. Once again, Holly shook her head. What was left of her smile began to falter.
“No. Never. I’m sorry. And now that I know you and Mom –”
Rory put his hand up between them to keep Holly from saying more. “I’m going to stop you right there.” Rory leaned forward on his knees and looked up at Holly with concern and regret.
“I like your mom, Holly. But we’re just friends.” He bobbed his head in concession. “Yes, sometimes I tease her a little and maybe I shouldn’t, but I’m not that kind of man. Your mother made it quite clear to me in the beginning that she was married, that she had a family, and that she’s happy. We’re just friends and that’s all.”
“Why are you telling me this?” Holly asked. She could feel the corners of her mouth start to pull downward.
Rory picked up the pages of Holly’s letter from the table and waved them in her direction. “Because I read this and it makes me think that you’re asking me to give your mother much more than that.” Rory set the pages back on the table.
“Even if it was something that your mother wanted – and you’ve indicated that she’s not that kind of person, either,” he said pointing his finger down into the paper, “I wouldn’t do it.” Rory picked up the photo, displaying it for Holly. “And then there’s this. There was a very good reason why your mother didn’t want me to have her picture.”
“Are you telling me you don’t have feelings for her?” Holly asked. Her enthusiasm had been noticeably dampened and her spirits downtrodden.
Rory shook his head. “My feelings don’t matter. I think maybe I needed to be reminded of that,” he admitted. Rory could see that the girl was very disappointed. She was young and no matter what she was facing in her life, she was still just a kid. It made it that much harder to make her face the truth. But then as he said the words to her, it made him realize that he, too, needed to face that truth. Life was so much more complicated than that, and Holly would never get a chance to find that out.
“Does that mean …” Holly held her head down. She could feel the shame burning in her cheeks. “So, you don’t love her?” Her eyes started to well up, but she looked Rory in the face, straightened her posture and tried to show him that she was strong.
Holly may have been strong, but her question had pricked him like a needle to a balloon. The air seemed to drain out of him as his body sagged. His heart wrenched painfully reminding him that there were, in fact, some strong feelings there. He swallowed his emotions and pushed them down deep.
“Holly, I’ve never actually met your mother,” he reminded her. “There’s a reason for that, and a damn good one. Your mother and I are friends. That’s how it needs to stay.” Was he trying to convince her, he wondered, or himself.
Holly stood up from her chair and took a step toward Rory. “You look me in the eye and tell me that you don’t have feelings for my mother,” she demanded.
Rory sat up straight and locked eyes with her. “My feelings don’t matter,” he stated harshly. “I can see that I’ve made a mistake. I’m going to need to back away from this.”
“Don’t you dare!” Holly said. “It may not be that way now, but I’m not going to be around much longer and when I’m gone, she’s going to need you. You’re the only friend she’s got.”
“I highly doubt that.”
“You’re the only friend she’s got!” Holly repeated louder. “Do I have to spell it out for you?”
Rory pointed a finger in Holly’s face. “That’s none of my business! Your mother told me that she’s happy and that she loves your dad. We’re just friends and that’s the way it’s going to stay.”
Holly slumped back into her chair. She nodded apathetically. “You’re right. She does love him. And she will never leave him. But I also know my dad. I know the kind of man he is.” Holly took a breath before continuing. “When I die –”
Rory interrupted her with a groan.
“When I die,” she continued, “It’s going to break her heart. Once will be bad enough. My mom’s heart is going to be broken twice.” Holly scooched her chair closer to Rory’s. “All I’m asking is that you be there for her when that happens. Please don’t let her heart be broken three times. No one can live through that.”
Rory and Holly sat and regarded each other for a long, quiet moment. What Holly was asking seemed impossible. Her words were asking for friendship, but in her heart she was asking for much more. Rory wanted to give her everything, just as her mother had expressed a similar sentiment, but it was a dangerous line he was edging toward.
Their eyes dared each other to break the silence. It was Rory who finally gave in.
“Alright,” he finally said, “This is how it’s going to be.” He rubbed his hands together in front of his face, then pressed the edge of his fingers to his lips as the words formed in his mind. He lowered his hands and pressed them between his knees.
“I’m not going to stop talking to your mom, but things between us are going to change. I will continue to be her friend. I will stay in touch with her. I will be there when she needs me, but only as a friend. I can’t let myself get drawn into this any further. It’s already gone too far and if we’re not careful, someone is going to get hurt. That means that you can’t discuss any of this with her. Understand?”
“I need to apologize to you, and when the time comes, I will apologize to your mother. I never expected to have feelings for her the way I do and I certainly didn’t mean to confuse her. I know that I did, and I take full responsibility for that.” Rory held his hands out to Holly and so that she could place her hands in his. When he wrapped his fingers around them, her hands completely disappeared.
“I won’t let it happen again. I’m not going to play with her emotions and I want you to leave well enough alone. But I will promise you that I will be there for her when she needs me.”
Holly opened her mouth to agree, but Rory added one more thing. “I will be there for her – as a FRIEND,” he stated emphatically. The young girl nodded begrudgingly, but Rory could see that she understood and would stick to their agreement.
Holly and Rory talked for a while longer. Rory allowed her some time to ask the usual fan questions - questions about GOT and questions about his life. They talked about her illness and what would eventually happen to her, how much time she would probably have. Rory explained how he would get everything set up to get her to London, preferably sooner than later before her body was ravaged by the leukemia.
As far as anyone else was concerned, Rory had met with Holly and her mother and discussed all of this with both of them. He took down all their contact information so arrangements could be made.
Before Holly left, she asked Rory for one more thing. “I agree with everything we discussed … about you and Mom,” she said haltingly. “But could you call her? Just to say goodnight. It would be kinda weird if you didn’t since you talked to her last night.”
Rory nodded. “I will, but it will be the last time I talk to her because I’m leaving immediately after the roundtable tomorrow.”
“Thanks, Rory.” Holly ran into his arms and hugged him tightly. Rory briefly wondered if this is how Rose would feel in his arms, but pushed the thought away. He hoped someday that he would be able to find out, but for now, he was only a friend. He had a feeling that he’d be reminding himself of that a lot.
Chapter 16: Love Is A Four-Letter Word
Rose chewed on a nail and wondered what Rory and Holly had been talking about for so long. She hoped it was just a celebrity entertaining a fan, and not a friend and daughter discussing relationships.
The little red light blinked in time with Rose’s heartbeat. With great apprehension, she took a deep breath and picked up the phone.
“Hello, Rose. Has Holly come back down yet?”
“No,” Rose told him eyeing the door to their room. She couldn’t be sure, but Rory’s voice sounded very reserved. “Should I be worried?”
“She’s probably giving us time to talk before she comes back,” Rory advised her deftly avoiding answering her question.
“Is there anything I should know?” Rose asked. She could hear Rory breathing on the other end. It was the first awkwardness she’d ever felt with him. Finally he spoke, but he was obviously avoiding saying what he really wanted to.
“Holly and I talked about making the arrangements for London. She gave me your contact information so that we can get this thing rolling.” He paused for a long moment in an attempt to avoid using the wrong words to say what he needed to.
Rory cleared his throat. “Holly and I also talked about what she did, Rose. I told her I wasn’t happy about it. I think you know how much my privacy means to me.”
“I do,” Rose said nodding to the phone. “I won’t excuse her behavior. It was wrong, but I promise you that she can be trusted. She’s not like other girls with social media and such.”
“It’s not the social media thing I’m worried about.” Rory hesitated, thinking before speaking as he got to the heart of what was on his mind. “She’s very intuitive, isn’t she?”
“Holly has always been able to read people very well. I was worried about the conclusions she might draw from all this.”
“Well, Rose. I think you might have had a good reason to be worried.” A long silence blanketed the line. “Rose, Holly knows a lot more than you think. Or at least … she’s made assumptions.” Rory sighed heavily. “I’ve had a chat with her about it and we came to an agreement about things. I won’t get into it because that’s between Holly and me. I just think that maybe …”
“I know what you’re –”
“Please, Rose. Just let me say this.” What Rory really wanted to tell her was how he was feeling, what he was feeling, but it was the absolutely wrong thing to do, and besides, what purpose would it serve except to make things abominably worse. He had made Holly a promise and he was determined to see it through, but he also needed to protect himself and Rose from … from each other.
“We’re friends, Rose.” Rory finally blurted. “We’re only friends. Nothing more. That’s the way it is and that’s the way it needs to stay.”
Rose felt a lump form that made her throat constrict painfully. “I know.” Her heart was pounding, her head was pounding, and her eyes were growing hot and watery.
“I want to continue to be your friend. I would like to stay in touch with you, but if it goes any further than that, it means I would have to break a promise to Holly. I don’t want that to happen. And I don’t want to lose you as a friend. But I also don’t want to hurt you.”
“I understand.” Rose tried to keep the sound of her tears out of her voice, but she suspected that Rory would hear it anyway.
“It hurts too much already, Rose.” He paused, waiting to see if Rose would say anything. “I hope you understand what I’m trying to tell you.”
Rose struggled to articulate a word, any word, just so that she could answer him. “Yes,” she finally said. The word had sounded strangled as she said it. She took a deep breath to try and clear the lump from her throat.
I love you, too, she wanted to say. But there were far too many reasons why she couldn’t. Rose cared too much for Rory now. She couldn’t … she wouldn’t … do that to him. He was already hurting. Rose didn’t want to make the wound any deeper. And it was a wound that was stinging them both.
“I guess this is good-bye,” Rory finally said after a long moment of quiet. When he heard Rose draw in a quick breath he realized he'd spoken too quickly without thinking. “I mean, for now," he added. “I’m leaving immediately after the roundtable tomorrow, so I won’t be able to talk to you again, but I’ll email. If we both happen to be on at the same time, we can still do a chat.”
Even though that last was a statement, it was also a question. Would Rose still want to chat with him on occasion? Would she even feel like emailing him anymore? Rory worried that forcing themselves to turn away from their feelings would draw them apart putting too much distance between them. That’s not what he wanted, though, and he needed Rose to understand that. He still wanted her in his life. He just felt that they needed to temper their emotions. But he also knew that for some people, that was a difficult thing to ask. Rory felt that it was possible for him to withdraw himself to a safe distance without disappearing completely.
But could Rose do that? Could she pull back enough not to hurt, but not so much that they lost sight of each other?
“Chat. Sure,” Rose answered numbly. “Holly and I will be pretty busy over the next few weeks,” she said finally finding her voice again. “But I promise I’ll tell you everything that happens. I’ll send photos. I mean … that’s if you want them.”
“I would like that, Rose. I really would.”
“Rory? I know I’ve said it far too much already but … thank-you. Thank-you for everything. What you’ve done for Holly is amazing. And for what you’ve done for me as well. I’ll never be able to thank you enough for all the support you’ve given me. Your friendship meant a lot to me.”
Rory let his head drop. He’d lost her. Just like that, she was gone. Rose had conveyed it in one simple word.
“Meant” she’d said. “Your friendship meant a lot.” Not, “Your friendship means a lot.” No, she’d used the past tense. It was over. Rose was gone.
Rory swirled the Glenlivet around the ice cubes in his glass. It wasn’t often that he indulged in anything alcoholic when he was flying, but today, he’d made an exception. He needed to take the edge off so he could try and relax.
Looking out the window, all Rory could see was the brilliance of the sun bouncing off the top of the clouds. He thought of Holly and wondered briefly if this is what Heaven looked like. He was quite sure that this wasn’t what heaven felt like.
Don’t give up on her. Trust her. Believe in her.
Holly’s words circled his mind. But it was Rose’s words that had left their mark. Rory kept telling himself that Rose was just doing what she needed to in order to deal with what was coming. Even with all the arrangements made for them, it would still be a stressful trip for Rose when she took Holly to London.
Traveling was always stressful, especially when you didn’t do it as often as Rory did. And even he felt the stress of navigating an airport, worrying about catching a bug in what amounted to a giant petri dish at 30,000 feet, whether you would be delayed, if you would ever see your luggage again. Rose was going to have to face all that with a very sick child.
Holly wasn’t suffering too much yet, but from what she’d told him, that could all change very suddenly. That meant that they might get to London and Holly’s health could take a downturn. Getting her daughter back to Canada if that should happen, would stress her out even more.
Facing all that, and dealing with her feelings for Rory … Something’s gotta give, he reminded himself. Rose could only fight a war in so many directions at once. So she had turned her full attention to Holly’s battle. Rory couldn’t hold anything against her for that. Actually, he respected her for it.
Really, could he love someone who didn’t put their full focus on the dying loved one? If Rose had continued trying to face the struggle with her emotions alongside Rory while Holly was in the background, he would have rejected her outright. He wouldn’t want someone like that in his life. Rose was doing the right thing by turning away from him. It was as it should be, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
But it still hurt.
Don’t give up on her.
All he could do was wait it out. It would take a long time. He knew that. But hell, he was almost 48 and he’d waited this long. He could wait a little longer.
She’s so worth it, Holly had written.
Rory agreed. Rose was worth it. He just didn’t know whether he could take the pain for that long.
Chapter 17: Keeping The Door Open
Sent: Wed April 12, 2017 8:12 PM
To: Rose [email@example.com]
David Benioff let me know that you should have received all your travel arrangements for the plane and hotel, and a full itinerary. I’m sure he’s already let you know that when you arrive at Heathrow, there will be someone there to greet you with a car waiting. Look for your name on a whiteboard. Just thought I’d make sure you were aware.
I’m sure you’ll be completely taken care of and told everything you need to know. However, if there is anything you’re unsure of or if you need anything, please let me know right away. I’m used to all this sort of thing, but I know that you and Holly are not, so don’t be worried of asking a silly question of me or anyone else. Being thrown into the limelight can be a bit overwhelming and I know that the two of you are going to get the red carpet treatment.
Please keep me updated on your daily adventures (if you have time). I want to know that both of you are enjoying yourselves. I hope Holly is feeling well. Make sure you tell her I’m thinking of her. I’ll be getting updates from Peter and Emilia, but I’d really like to hear from you.
Don’t forget to send photos!
P.S. Happy Easter!
From: Rose [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Thur April 20, 2017 2:08 PM
Subject: Re: London
We’ve just arrived and already things have changed dramatically. I’m guessing that’s the normal way of things in this industry? As it turns out, we will not be meeting Emilia Clarke or Peter Dinklage. The studio has rearranged its schedule and so we will be in a scene that takes place on Yara’s ship. Something about a battle in the Iron Islands. It’s all very mysterious because they don’t want to give us too many details. I guess they don’t trust us to keep our mouths shut about what’s going to happen in season 7!
They’ve told us that it will be a much better opportunity for us to experience real film-making and will give Holly an active chance to participate in the scene they’ll be shooting. I’m told that I can take photos, but anything I take will be screened before I’m allowed to keep them or send them. So I’ll do my best and hopefully get a photo to you of Holly in action.
Filming doesn’t start until Monday, so we’ve been told that we have the weekend to relax although we’ve been assigned a guide to take us on a whirlwind tour of London. They’ve already made arrangements for a tour of Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London if we want it. I’ve cautioned Holly to take it easy and save her strength, but there’s no stopping her. She’s determined to meet the Queen!
Of course I’ve explained to her that it doesn’t quite work that way, but she’s unwavering in her pursuit of adventure. Can’t deny I’m enjoying myself as well.
Rory finished reading Rose’s email and it hurt. He wouldn’t deny it. Not only had she dispensed with the more personal salutation, but the entire email felt impersonal and distant. Rose was only doing him the courtesy of keeping him up to date on their trip. It was probably because Rose felt she owed him at least that since none of it would have been possible without him.
Rory took a deep breath with his fingers hovering over the keyboard. He wasn’t sure that it would be wise to respond right now, especially with the way he was feeling. He remembered telling Rose that she should wait 24 hours before acting on her emotions. He also told her that he never followed his own advice. This time, he would.
Rose was effectively pulling herself away from him. All he could be thankful for right now, was that they were still communicating. If she had stopped responding altogether … Rory didn’t even want to think about how that would make him feel.
The door was still open. That was the important thing.
There would be enough hurt and pain when Holly started getting sick. She was already sick, of course, but for the moment, still healthy enough to enjoy her life. Soon enough, there would no longer be any enjoyment. When that time came, Rose would have all she could handle without thoughts of Rory putting an extra strain on her heart. She was simply removing that pebble from her shoe for right now. Rory understood it, he accepted it, but it still hurt.
When there was a loud knock on the door of the trailer, Rory logged out of his chatmail account and closed his laptop. He hated separating himself inside when everyone else was outside, but the damn prosthetic was making him miserable right now. The fake skin made him sweat, but it wasn’t porous. And it was just cold enough outside to make his sweat freeze solid into a block of ice against his temple. The makeup specialist needed to drain it before he went back outside again or he’d have a bloody migraine that would make his brain feel like it was splitting in two.
That’s why he needed to wait. If he responded to Rose right now, he would either say something regrettable, or end up pleading with her and sounding pathetic. He was glad Jenny had shown up right at this very moment. If she hadn’t he’d be typing something he knew he would regret in the morning.
Sent: Tues April 25, 2017 4:28 AM
To: Rose [email@example.com]
Subject: On Location
I’m not supposed to be telling you this, so keep it a secret, okay? I’m in Iceland right now. We’ve finished filming the outdoor scenes, and now they’re scheduling the studio work. I’ll be flying in tomorrow and I will be in the studio on Thursday. I’ve asked if Holly can be there to watch, because I was hoping to catch up with her, find out how she’s doing. Unfortunately, they’re telling me it’s too risky – liabilities and such. Apparently there will be a lot of pyrotechnics. I’m supposed to be fighting off a polar bear that’s on fire!
Please tell her I’m sorry that I missed her (and you, too, of course). Also, sorry it didn’t work out with Emilia and Peter. I was really hoping you’d get to meet them. It’s exactly as you said, though. In this industry, the schedule is always changing and often at the last minute.
How is Holly doing? Is she holding up okay? And how are you doing? It must be challenging to deal with the turmoil of seeing her so happy and having a great adventure, but worrying about her health at the same time. Stay strong for her!
If you need anything, even if it’s just to chat or talk, let me know. I’ll make myself available at any time. Thinking of you both. Attaching a pic for Holly. Kris says “hello!”
Rory read over his email carefully before hitting the send button. He wanted to make sure that he wasn’t forcing his feelings back into the mix. Rory wanted to let Rose know that he was thinking about her, but not so obviously that it got her confused or upset.
He was keeping his promise to Holly. Rory was making himself available to Rose if she needed him. He was being a friend – a concerned friend.
Thank-you, Jenny, Rory thought to himself. If the makeup specialist hadn’t knocked on the trailer door at exactly the right moment, he definitely would have written something regrettable. Instead, he’d followed his own advice for the first time in … okay, it was the first time ever. And he hadn’t just waited 24 hours, but almost five days. In that time, his emotions had calmed considerably, but there was still an anxious knot in his belly that wouldn’t quite go away.
Rory was afraid of losing Rose. That didn’t make sense even to him, because Rose wasn’t Rory’s to lose. She belonged to someone else. He supposed it was her friendship that he didn’t want to lose, but lying to himself wasn’t helping the situation any.
If Rory lost Rose as a friend, there would be no hope of recovery in the future. Deep in the recesses of his mind, Rory still harbored a hope in Holly’s words.
The end is coming, Rory. Not just for me.
Would there be a day in the future when he and Rose … Rory realized he needed to stop this. It was this sort of thing that made a man pathetic. His mind could circle over it and over it, but he didn’t have that kind of time or energy. He needed to focus. He had a life without Rose immediately in it and he needed to live it. He had a job to do. He had his own friends and family to think of.
Just stick to your promise to Holly, he told himself. Be a friend. Be supportive. Be there when Rose needs you and try to prevent her heart from breaking three times in a row.
After making a few slight changes to the wording in his email, Rory hit the send button.
Chapter 18: The Other Side Of The Coin
From: Rose [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Tues April 25, 2017 6:47 PM
Subject: Fight in the Iron Islands!
That was amazing! Holly enjoyed herself so much! Me, too! Unfortunately I have some bad news. I think Holly has a new crush (for the moment, anyway). Pilou Asbæk was so amazing working with Holly and he absolutely adored her. Really wonderful guy and I thanked him profusely for being so patient with her as they worked through their fight scene.
Holly didn’t really have to do much, and her scene will only last about three seconds in the episode, but for her, it was like a dream come true. She is so happy, Rory! Thank-you for this. It is a memory I will cherish for the rest of my life!
I’m sure you know how it all works. They put a steel vest on Holly underneath her costume. The vest was welded to a steel post made up to look like a spear. Euron Greyjoy spears the sandsnake (Holly) and lifts her off the ground as blood is gushing out of her mouth. End scene!
It wasn’t much but I can’t wait to see it on TV. That of course, makes me sad knowing that Holly won’t get to see it, but she doesn’t care. It was just too much fun. The whole crew was amazed at how well she did in her scene. Holly was actually supposed to be lifted by a harness, but because Holly is so light weight, Pilou was able to lift her on the steel post with only the help of a small springboard under her feet which will also make a lot less work for the SFX people who have to edit it, I guess.
Which brings me to my next point. Unfortunately I have more bad news and this really is bad news. We were supposed to stay until next week, but we are leaving tomorrow. We need to go home. I have attached a photo of Holly in costume. She is smiling and happy and looks overjoyed. What I didn’t know at that time, was that she was in extreme pain. She didn’t tell me until we got back to the hotel that night because she didn’t want to spoil the day for everyone else. I can’t believe it, Rory. All she was worried about was upsetting the filming schedule!
She is so brave, Rory. How did I ever deserve her? How could I not notice the kind of pain she was in? I feel as though I have failed her as a mother. A mother is supposed to know when her child is suffering and yet I couldn’t see it.
Back at the hotel, she collapsed on the bed and started to cry. She informed me that the entire time they were filming, she had pain in her shins. She described it as though someone was shredding her legs with razor blades, from the ankle to the kneecap but on the inside. I know what that means. The leukemia is starting to eat away at the marrow of her long bones. I was horrified that she’d kept that from me. I was even more horrified that I had no clue.
Holly went from being so healthy and energetic and happy, to such agony so quickly that it has caught me completely off guard. I’m not sure what to do. I am comforting her the best I can, but she wants to talk to you. I know you aren’t coming here until tomorrow and we will be flying out first thing in the morning, but if there is a chance, I would really appreciate it.
I’ve attached two photos. I took many more, but they would only approve these two for release. I guess the rest are on a USB stick and tucked away and they will be sent to me after the TV episode has aired.
P.S. Oh my God! Rory I am sooo sorry! I forgot that yesterday was your birthday. I hope you had a good one. Happy Birthday, Rory!! 🎂🎂🎂 Consider the photos of Holly as a belated gift from us.
“Mom? Can I use your chatmail? I want to text Rory.”
Rose hated seeing Holly like this. As she hurried around the room gathering clothes, souvenirs, and keepsakes, her mind raced with a thousand thoughts. She worried how the plane ride would be for Holly. She fretted over whether she should give Holly some of the good drugs once they got on the plane. Holly had to be lucid and unmedicated when they went through security, but there was no reason Rose couldn’t give her something once they were waiting gateside.
Rose chewed her lip at the thought of facing Jason once they got home. If the man had any sense in his head, he wouldn’t cause a scene in front of Holly. She knew Jason would be angry. There would be accusations of “I told you so!” and “How could you be so selfish!” Their daughter didn’t need that. Not now when Holly needed them to be strong and united during her last days.
And those last days would be coming quickly now.
Rose stopped what she was doing long enough to focus on Holly for a moment.
“I just sent him an email an hour ago, Holly.” Rose turned to look at her daughter, huddled under blankets that were pulled up to her chin. Holly’s eyes were rimmed with red, an indicator of just the sort of agony her tiny body was dealing with right now. Her eyes were wide and her expression hollow to match the sudden pallid hue her skin had taken over the last two days.
“Rory promised me that he would be checking his email as often as possible. Don’t worry, Sweetie. You’ll hear from him.”
“Please, Mom? It’s still early. I don’t want to miss him before we go.”
Rose stopped her work completely and stared at Holly. Although Holly was her first priority, she couldn’t help but recall her last conversation with Rory, on the phone in Indianapolis. Rose didn’t want a repeat of the anguish that twisted them both into knots. She didn’t need that right now. But this wasn’t about her, it was about Holly. At this moment, Rose would cut off her right leg if Holly asked her to.
Rose pulled her phone out of her back pocket and handed it to Holly. “Make sure he knows it’s you.” Rose felt a shiver of ice snake over her skin. “I don’t want to upset him,” Rose admitted sadly. “He’s going to be upset enough as it is.”
Hi Rory! Are you there? It’s Holly.
Hello, Holly! How are you feeling?
Mom told you. Don’t want to talk about that.
Heard you had fun at your shoot yesterday. So
you’ve got a new boyfriend, eh? My feelings are
hurt. Are you really dumping me for
Ha ha. You know Sandor Clegane will
always be my first love!! Can I delete
texts later after I send them?
Oh. I don’t think so. Want me to call you on
the hotel line?
Give me about 20 mins. At dinner. Almost done.
Just had the waiter take a photo for you. Iain and
Kris say hello and send their best wishes.
Rose paced the floor chewing her nails. She kept looking at the digital clock on the nightstand. It had been over an hour. Rory had promised to call Holly. Holly shrugged it off, but Rose couldn’t. If he said he was going to call, then he should call. Holly didn’t deserve to be treated this way.
Don’t take out our problems on my daughter, Rose thought bitterly. The poor girl was dying and Rory was playing mind games with them. What kind of asshole would do that to Holly? The more she stewed on the subject, the more irrational and irritated Rose became. When Holly finally gave up and realized that Rory wasn’t going to call, Rose was going to make sure she stuck her foot so far up Rory’s ass that …
Holly leaned over and picked up the handset before Rose could get to it. She knew her mother was livid, and she knew the real reason behind it. Holly knew her mother wasn’t angry with Rory. It was just Rose’s way of hiding her true emotions, of denying the depth of her feelings for Rory. It was easy, Holly knew, to hide one emotion with another.
“Hello? Rory?” Holly answered.
“Hello, Holly. I’m sorry it took so long for me to call. We got waylaid by some fans. We had to stop and sign a few autographs. I apologize.”
Holly smiled into the handset. “That’s okay. I figured it was something like that.”
Rory took a deep breath to steel himself for what he was afraid might come next. “So what did you want to talk about?”
Holly eyeballed her mother. Rose stood across the room with her arms crossed and her face pinched with venom on her lips. Holly needed to talk privately with Rory, but she couldn’t do it with her mother staring at her like that. And there was no way Rose would leave the room if Holly asked, so she wasn’t quite sure what to say to Rory.
“Well, I … um …”
“Are you afraid to talk because your mom is there?” Rory asked, concerned.
“Let me talk to her, Holly.”
“I’m not sure that’s a good idea at this particular moment. She’s kind of …” Holly squeezed her eyes shut knowing that there was going to be immediate backlash for her next words. “… pissed off.” Holly finished. Holly opened her eyes to see her mother’s mouth hanging open, nostrils flaring. Suddenly Rose lunged for the phone.
“Give me that!” Rose growled. She easily wrenched the phone away from Holly and yelled into it. “How dare you! Do you realize how long Holly has been waiting to talk to you? You told her twenty minutes. It’s been –”
Rose suddenly held the phone away from her and gaped at the mouthpiece. Her grip on the plastic was white-knuckled. “He hung up on me!”
Chapter 19: If You Love Something, Let It Go
Rose looked up at Holly and continued to gape. “That son of a –”
Holly held Rose’s cell phone up and looked at the screen. She grimaced at her mother, afraid of the explosion that might occur.
“It’s Rory.” Holly answered it, assuming it was for her. “Hello?” she answered timidly.
“Holly, give your mother the phone.”
Holly held the phone toward her mother. She didn’t have to say anything for Rose to know that it was her Rory wanted to talk to. Rose snatched it and barked into it.
“You hung up on me!”
“Rose, I need you to calm down and walk out of the room right now.” Rory tried to remain calm and keep his voice steady, but the anger was rising within him. He never wanted to be that way with Rose. He never wanted Rose to see him truly pissed off, but she wasn’t giving him much choice.
“Don’t tell me what to do. You –”
“Rose!” Rory bellowed. “Walk out of the fucking room right now! Don’t do this in front of Holly.” Rory could feel his face burn with rage. His head was pounding and his breath made him sound like a bull. His jaw hurt from clenching his teeth.
“Fine!” Rose snarled. With her phone held to her ear and hearing only the fury of Rory breathing at the other end, Rose left the room and stalked down the hall. There were too many people in the corridor. Rose spied the exit sign near the end of the hall and jogged toward it. Once she was in the stairwell, Rose let him have it.
“I seriously can’t believe you. Do you realize –”
“Shut the fuck up!” Rory couldn’t believe he’d said that to her and he immediately regretted it, but it had worked and Rose had stopped talking. Rory took a deep breath and calmed himself.
“Rose, you love Holly more than life itself. I know that. You’re worried about her. I know that, too. She’s starting to die, Rose. We both know it’s not going to be much longer. But Rose, she’s not going to go in the next twenty minutes.” Rory took a breath and waited to see if Rose would react to his words so far. When she didn’t speak, he continued.
“I can’t imagine what you must be going through right now, what you’re feeling. Yesterday Holly was happy and enjoying her life. Today she’s in pain and you know she’s going to get really sick very soon. I wouldn’t want to be in your place right now. If I could take over for you, I would. You know that. If I could take away all that pain and anguish so that you were only left with the happy memories for Holly’s last days, I would step up in a heartbeat. But I can’t.”
Rory waited for some sign of life from Rose. There wasn’t a sound. Not a grunt, a sob, or even the whisper of a breath.
“Rose, are you still there?”
Rose tried to swallow around the lump in her throat, but it was physically painful. “Yes,” she finally uttered with a thin, weak vice. Rory realized then, that he’d hit the mark dead on.
“I understand that it’s easier to take it out on me than to face what you’re facing. If you’re angry, or if you’re scared, don’t let Holly see that. Call me, text me, any time of day. I will make myself available for you. I don’t care if it’s three in the morning. Will you do that, Rose? Please?”
Rose nodded, then realized Rory couldn’t see her. Tears finally started slipping down her cheeks. They were slow sad tears that leaked sluggishly, not like the other times that she’d erupted into sobbing and wailing.
“I will.” It was all Rose could manage to squeak out at that moment. There was a long silence between them, but it wasn’t awkward. Rather, it was comforting and Rose knew that if Rory was there, at that moment, it would be the equivalent to a warm embrace.
“Talk to me, Rose.”
“I’m so sorry,” she finally said between sniffles. “I’m scared. It just happened so fast. Yesterday she was smiling and laughing. Today, she’s a completely different person. Her eyes are hollow, she’s lost weight, and the pain is unbearable. It was so sudden. I’m sorry for attacking you like that.”
“I know you’re scared. So am I. For both of you. I worry, Rose. I really do. I made a promise to Holly that I’d always be there for you and I meant it.”
Rose leaned against the cold concrete block wall and slid down it until her butt hit the floor. She wrapped an arm around her knees and hugged herself tightly.
“Rory, what else did you promise Holly?”
Rory shook his head. He had completely calmed down, but there was still a butterfly of trepidation fluttering in his stomach.
“Please, Rory? Just tell me. I need to know.”
Rory sighed deeply. The two of them were teetering on the edge of something that they’d managed to keep at a safe distance. On one hand, if Rory told her of his promises to Holly, it would be out there in the open. That would cause problems that Rose didn’t need right now. She needed to focus on Holly, not on him. On the other hand, if he didn’t tell her, Rose would get upset and frustrated with him.
“I made two promises to Holly,” Rory finally admitted. “I promised that I would always be there for you when you needed me. This evening has made me realize just how difficult that might be, but I hope you also know that I’m not one to shy away from something just because it’s difficult.” Rose made a sound, but Rory continued on. “The second promise is that I would be there for you until the end.”
“Until the end? And then what? That’s what I was afraid of, Rory. I was angry with you because I was afraid that once Holly was gone, that would be the end of it. The end of everything.”
“That’s not the end that Holly was talking about.” Rory stayed quiet for a moment to let it sink in a little. “The end goes beyond Holly. I think you know that. Maybe you’re afraid of what’s going to happen when Holly’s gone.”
Rory was standing on the precipice looking down. It was going to hurt like hell when he hit the bottom, but if sacrificing himself is what he needed to do to save Rose, he would do it.
“You’ll find a way, Rose. I know at first it will feel strange without her, but before you know it, you and Jason will get your rhythm back. Everything will fall into place one day and you will continue on and the two of you will have a life again. It just won’t be the same one you had before with Holly.” Rory’s stomach clenched tightly when he’d had to say Jason’s name, but it was a lot less hurt than he knew he’d be feeling in the near future.
I was hard for Rose to hear, almost as hard as it was for Rory to say it, but she knew he was right. After all, it was Rose who had told Rory that even when something bad happens, somehow you know it’s going to come out all right.
“I’m not sure what else to tell you, Rose. I just need you to know that I’m not giving up on you, I’m not abandoning you, and I’m certainly not letting go of our friendship. But not just because it’s what Holly asked of me.” Rory closed his eyes and clenched his fists. It hurt to even say the words, but he needed to. He needed Rose to hear it.
“Rose, you and I are friends because I want us to be friends. I want us to be part of each other’s lives, but only if it can be a certain way. One of us has to be the one to concede and if it has to be me, then that’s the way it is. You’re trying to hold on to too many things at once. You have to let go of something.” Rory took a deep breath to steady his nerves. “You have to let go of me.”
“But I’m afraid that if I let go, I’ll fall.”
“Rose, I want you to listen to me very carefully.” Rory allowed his voice to become soft and deep, almost hypnotic. “Rose, if you love something, let it go.” He paused for a moment to let her really feel the words.
“Rose, if I held on, I’d end up strangling us both.”
Rory listened as Rose began to cry. She cried into the phone and Rory waited her out. He shed a few of his own tears, but he kept quiet and allowed Rose her moment of sorrow. When the sob began to die away, Rose sniffled and wiped her eyes.
“Rose, before you go back into that hotel room, I need you to get your shit together. Don’t let Holly see you this way. Find a public restroom. Rinse your face, put on a smile, and hold your head up when you go back to Holly. Can you do that?”
Rose pushed herself up against the concrete block wall and brushed at her backside. She took a deep cleansing breath and let it out.
“Okay,” she finally said. “Are you going to call Holly back? I’ll give you some time before I go back to the room.”
“I would appreciate that. I’m sure Holly will, too.”
“Rory? I’m sorry for the way I behaved. I’ll make sure I apologize to Holly as well.”
“It’s all right, Rose. I understand.”
“I guess this is it. This will be the last time I talk to you for a while.”
“It doesn’t have to be that way, Rose. I told you, if you need me, you can call, text, whatever. I’ll be here.”
“Thank-you. Good-bye, Rory.”
Rose hesitated. Her whole body trembled. She had no breath. Rose closed her eyes and tried to find her courage. She hoped she was doing the right thing and that it wasn’t just her mixed up emotions leading her astray down the wrong path. She knew what she’d felt – she’d felt it for a long time. What it really came down to was timing. Rose knew this wasn’t the right time, but if she was going to do it, it had to be now.
“Rory?” She closed her eyes, sucked a deep breath until her lungs felt like they would explode and she held it in.
“Rory, I love you.” Fresh fat tears rolled down her cheeks. It was out there, between them, and she couldn’t take it back.
“I know,” he said.
This time, when the phone rang, Holly was alone. She would have Rory all to herself until her mother came back.
“Hi, Holly. Before you say anything, I want you to know that your mom and I had a long talk. Everything is fine. She was upset because she’s worried about you, but she doesn’t want you to know that, so she took it out on me.”
“Are you sure it was me she was worried about?” Holly asked.
“Yes!” Rory told her firmly. “Do you remember what I promised you? Your mother and I are friends. We’re going to remain friends. I will always be here for her when she needs me. I can’t seem to say that enough.” Rory cleared his throat and thought of the things he and Rose had only just finished saying to each other. He needed to convey the same thing to Holly, but she was younger and didn’t understand the complications of life quite the same way as someone who had many more years of experience.
“Holly, I really need you to not worry.” Rory felt a lump in his throat and tried to talk around it, but his voice ended up sounding hollow and unnatural. “You’ve got enough things to think about. Don’t waste your time trying to plan everyone else’s future. No one can plan the future, not for themselves, and not for somebody else. I know you realize that’s true because I’m sure that if it had been up to you, you would have planned your own future differently.”
“Okay, you’re right.” Holly played with the edges of the comforter, tucking it under her chin a little tighter. She was cold. And her legs hurt. She sucked a sharp breath between her teeth as a lightning bolt shot down her right arm, the one holding the phone, and she almost dropped the handset.
“Holly? Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” she said weakly.
It almost broke Rory’s heart to hear Holly sounding so frail. He wished there was more that he could do, but resigned himself to the fact that he was giving Holly exactly what she wanted and needed. And that was comfort.
“Holly, when you texted me earlier, was there something you wanted to talk about?”
“Yes. I have another favor to ask you. I tried talking to Mom about it but she won’t listen. Neither will Dad. They don’t want to talk about it because they’re still in denial about some things, but I know if I tell you, you’ll listen.”
“Alright. I’ll do my best. What is it?”
“I want to wear the ivory dress,” Holly blurted. Rory cringed inside. A wave of gooseflesh swept over him and he could even feel it in his scalp as his hair stood on end. “Mom will know which one I mean. I don’t want to wear black. It’s too depressing. Everyone else will be wearing black.”
Rory swiped a thumb under his eyes but only succeeded in spreading the tears across his face. “The ivory dress,” he confirmed in a strangled voice. “Anything else?” He sniffled into the phone and didn’t try to hide it.
“Orange roses. No carnations, no lilies, and definitely no holly.” Holly tried to think for a moment. “That’s it, I guess.” She listened to the sound of Rory sobbing quietly. He was trying to keep her from hearing it.
“One last thing,” Holly finally said when she heard Rory get himself under control.
“Anything,” he told her.
Holly giggled. “Will you be my boyfriend?”
Rory laughed. He cried and he laughed at the same time, but it felt good. “I thought you were dumping me for Euron Greyjoy. Do you really think you can get me to come crawling back to you now?” he said with a chuckle.
“I never dumped you for Euron. I told you, the Hound will always be my first love!”
Rory laughed again. “Okay, Holly. I’ll be your boyfriend. I’m not sure your father will like it too much, though. I’m 30 years older than you.”
“Well, if it comes down to a fight, I know you can take him.” Holly and Rory laughed together. Rory was overjoyed that he could give her this moment of levity.
“Oh, Rory! I forgot. Yesterday was your birthday. I’m so sorry. We’re in a relationship for less than five minutes and already I’m the worst girlfriend you’ve ever had.” That made Rory laugh out loud.
“You’re not, Holly. Trust me.”
“Okay, well … Happy birthday.”
“Thank-you,” Rory said.
“Rory? I know this might sound silly to you, especially coming from me, but … I love you.”
“I know. I love you, too, Holly. But this isn’t good-bye, you know. Not yet.” Rory wiped his eyes again. “I told your mom that I will always make myself available for you. Call me anytime. We’ll talk again before … uh … I mean …” Rory winced at his stupidity and thoughtlessness. He thumped himself in the forehead with the heel of his hand. “We’ll talk again, I promise.”
From: Rose [email@example.com]
Sent: Wed May 17, 2017 8:03 PM
I’m sorry that I haven’t kept in touch these last few weeks. It has been very difficult. We’ve had so many medical appointments and people have been coming in and out at all hours of the day. Holly wants to be home with us, so we have had palliative care workers come in. What used to be our formal dining room is now a hospital room for Holly.
She’s resting comfortably and is taking strong medication to ease her pain. I read to her every night. She wanted to read my new book, but she simply doesn’t have the strength. She’s confined to her bed now. During our time, we lay in her bed together and I read to her. Jason watches her favorite movies with her. Tonight they’re watching The Wedding Singer and comparing notes on their favorite 80’s tunes while I’m writing this to you.
I feel I owe you an apology. It’s so hard right now. I’m happy and laughing with Holly in one moment, and crying and depressed the next. There just doesn’t seem to be any middle ground with my emotions and I allowed you to get caught in the middle of it. And for that I am truly sorry.
Holly has been asking about you. She would like to speak with you, although she would be happy to text or do a chat. Please let me know when you’re available and I’ll make sure she’s had plenty of rest beforehand.
P.S. I still mean what I said to you. I’ll never take that back.
Sent: Thur May 18, 2017 4:17 AM
To: Rose [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Subject: Re: Holly
I’m glad I finally heard from you. I was starting to worry. It’s good that you and Jason are able to spend this quality time with Holly. I’m glad to hear that she is resting comfortably.
Of course you realize that I’m not happy or glad of any of it, but what words are there to convey how we feel? It’s not right to have to face the loss of someone like Holly. I’m honoured that I’ve had the chance to meet her and get to know her. She’s an extraordinary girl and I’d be more than happy to call her and have a chat.
Today is going to be a long day of filming to make sure we get as much done as possible for our wrap tomorrow. Tomorrow is the last day of filming for me on season 7. There is always a get-together after and that goes pretty late. Saturday, however, I am free all day and so I’ll be able to talk to her for as long as she wants and Holly will get my full attention.
I’ll call your cell phone at 1pm your time. It will be 6pm here. However, if you need to get hold of me before then, call or text me. I’m keeping my phone on all the time now and I will respond immediately.
Rose, I don’t know how much time is left, but Holly wanted me to give you a couple of instructions. I’d rather you have them now before it’s too late. She wants to wear the ivory dress, and she wants orange roses. She does not want any holly. Those were the only things she asked for.
Tell Holly I’ll be thinking of her until then.
Jason paced across the room at the foot of Holly’s bed. At first, he seemed concerned, then his concerned deepened. His mood was sinking rapidly. It was the same thing that had happened to Rose when she and Holly were in London and she had attacked Rory for not calling on time.
Rose cuddled closer to Holly. She lay her head on the pillow next to Holly’s and whispered to her daughter. “He’ll call soon.”
“I know, Mom. He’s only a few minutes late.”
When her cell phone finally did ring at 1:12pm, Rose nearly jumped out of her skin. She sat up immediately and answered it.
“Hello, Rose. I’m sorry I’m late. I couldn’t get the international call to go through on my cell phone for some reason so I’m on a landline in the manager’s office. How’s Holly?”
Rose looked up to see Jason hovering over her. He gestured for the phone. Rose hated doing this to Rory, but under normal circumstances, it would have been expected.
“Holly’s been waiting for you. But first …” Rose tried to keep any emotion out of her face. “… Jason would like to speak with you.” Before she lost her nerve, and before Rory had a chance to say anything, Rose handed the phone to her husband.
“Hello, Rory. This is Jason. We should have spoken before and I wanted to apologize to you for that. I should have said thank-you a long time ago. The way you helped Holly is amazing and I appreciate everything you’ve done for her.”
“It was my pleasure. Holly is a very unique young lady and I would do it all again.”
“I wish I could have been there for everything. I would have liked to thank-you in person. I couldn’t be there because of work, but Holly filled me in on every detail and I don’t think I’ve ever seen her that happy.”
Rory winced at the idea that Jason didn’t, in fact, know every detail – he didn’t know the half of it. “I’m glad I had the chance to do this for all of you,” Rory told him as he wiped the sweat off his forehead.
“Can I talk to my boyfriend now?” Holly asked. Jason tried to answer but all that came out was gulp as he choked back a combination of laughter and tears. He handed the phone to Holly. Holly waved a thin weak hand toward the door dismissing her parents. When they were safely out of the room, Holly spoke in a whisper that Rory had to strain to hear over the long-distance phone line.
“Hello, Rory. I just wanted to say good-bye and to say thank-you. I know how lucky I am just to be able to do that. Some people don’t get that chance.”
“Does it have to be good-bye, Holly? Maybe we will get to see each other again in some other way – in some other life.” Rory was surprised that he was able to maintain his composure. He knew that when this call ended, that would not be the case.
“Maybe,” Holly said. “I’m glad I got a chance to know you in this one. You’ll take care of my mom, right?”
“Yes, Holly. I’ll always look out for her. I promised you that and I meant it. Your mom and I will be friends for a long time.” Rory didn’t actually know if that was true, but it didn’t matter right now.
“Thank-you for being my boyfriend, Rory. I know you don’t watch the show, but will you watch mine? Just my part, okay?”
“Thank-you for letting me be your boyfriend, Holly. And you know I’ll be watching you. I promise.”
“Good-bye, Rory. I love you.”
“Good-bye, Holly. I love you, too.”
I've taken some creative liberties here (and possibly in other chapters, as well) because I obviously don't know the filming schedule. I have no idea what the date of the last filming day for Rory on Season 7. I could probably look it up, but I also don't want to have to rewrite previous chapters to get my timeline in order. Besides, the actual date isn't that important to the story line.
Chapter 21: Falling Into Normal
From: Rose [email@example.com]
Sent: Sat May 20, 2017 7:29 PM
Subject: Re: Holly
My Dearest Rory,
I am so sorry for this. I wish I could call you and talk to you in person, but I can’t right now. I hope you understand and I hope you can forgive me for that.
Holly is gone.
She had been waiting for your call. It wasn’t long after that. She wouldn’t let go until she spoke with you. You made her final moments very peaceful. Thank-you.
I’ll make sure she is wearing her ivory dress.
With all my love,
Rose sat in front of her computer and stared blankly at the screen. She couldn’t believe so much time had gone by since the funeral. It seemed like only yesterday that she’d finally said good-bye to Holly. Now, here she was, getting back to her life. Rose knew what she had to do, she even had the energy to do it. She just didn’t want to. It all seemed so pointless now.
There were far too many unread messages in her inbox on Outlook. Some were from friends, distant family members, and friends of Holly offering their condolences. Rose had had enough of those for now. But there were also messages from her editor, agent, publisher, and cover artist. All of them had told her to take her time. “We’ll get back to it when you’re ready,” her agent had said.
Then there was Rory. Rose hadn’t contacted him in over a month. She hadn’t even opened her chatmail to see if there was a message from him. Rose suspected that Rory would be patient about waiting to hear from her. It took time to get over something like this and get back to “normal” whatever that was.
Normal was going to be a lot different now.
Rose looked over the papers and messages that littered her desk. A stack of sympathy cards, some household bills, her notes from the new book she’d been working on, photos of Holly that Rose had gone through for the slideshow at the funeral home.
A small corner of pink caught her eye. Rose moved some loose papers out of the way and picked up a card that had been attached to a flower delivery at the funeral home.
“Holly, you will always be my best girl. Love Rory.”
The card had been attached to a bouquet of orange roses. Rory had told Rose that Holly wanted orange roses, and she’d enquired everywhere, but no one had them. How the hell had Rory found orange roses and had them delivered from … Rose shook her head. She didn’t have a clue what country Rory was in right now.
A week ago, the flower card would have brought a fresh wave of tears. A week ago, it seemed like the tears would never end. Rose thought for sure that she’d be crying for the rest of her life. Now, she just felt hollow and lifeless inside. Is was like being trapped in the center of an ice cube – she could see what was going on out there around her, but she couldn’t hear, see, feel, or interact, and she was cold and immobile.
Rose swiped her thumb across the neat, even penmanship. Rory had written it with his own hand. Rose recognized his handwriting from a note he’d given to Holly for their trip to London. With a deep sigh and strong yearning, Rose picked up her leather writing journal and tucked the little card into the inside of the front cover. Forcing her mind away from the wanderings of the past, Rose placed her journal into her satchel and set her sights on clearing – or at least straightening – her desk. Today, she would push herself to answer all her emails. Tomorrow, she was going to reread the last chapters she’d written.
It was time to begin establishing a new normal.
Sent: Wed May 31, 2017 10:16 PM
To: Rose [firstname.lastname@example.org]
I would give you my sincerest condolences, but that doesn’t seem nearly adequate enough to convey how I feel. I hope you know just how much Holly meant to me. I’m honoured to have given her that last moment of peace and happiness.
I would have written earlier, but I know you probably won’t even see this for a while. I realize there is a lot to be done now, so I won’t expect to hear from you for quite some time.
How are you Rose? I do want to hear from you. I made Holly a promise and I intend to keep it. I hope that you’ve been able to keep your strength and your sanity through all this. If you’ve grown tired of listening to all the condolences and wishes and sorrows, that means it’s your turn to do the talking and time for someone else to listen. I’m here to listen. Talk to me, confide in me.
Whenever you’re ready, Rose.
From: Rose [email@example.com]
Sent: Mon June 26, 2017 1:28 PM
Subject: Moving On
As always, thank-you. Holly received your roses. I don’t know how you did it, but thank-you.
Everything is done now, and it’s time for me to move on. For the first time in almost a year, I feel like I’m on an even keel emotionally.
I have taken your advice, and I’m attempting to find a new normal. Some things have already fallen into place just as you said they would. Other things are more difficult. I can’t even think of how many forms I’ve filled out. It’s hard enough to see the life of someone you love end, but then you have to go about bringing them to an end on paper. Legal forms, insurance policies, government certificates. It wasn’t so difficult – there was just so much of it!
The difficult part is deciding what to do with all of Holly’s things. There are the obvious things to throw away or to give to charity. Then there is the rest. It seems every item I pick up has some sort of memory attached to it. I realize that I can’t keep everything, so I’m going to have some hard decisions to make.
Jason has been wonderful and we have worked together to get through the worst of it. Now it’s time to settle down and get back to the grind.
I know you have said that you will always be there for me if I need you. I appreciate that and I will never forget you. I do hope that we will always remain friends, but I think it’s time for me to focus on my life here. I need to put some effort into finding and settling into a new way of life without Holly. I hope you understand.
When I told you how I felt about you, that was the absolute truth from the bottom of my heart and that will never change. But whatever life this is that I have now has to be the one into which a put my full attention. I have to try and find what was lost and bring it back home. I’m coming back to a different home, so it might not fit anymore. But I at least have to try.
I hope you understand. I hope you will forgive me for all the pain and frustration I caused you.
With all my love,
Sent: Fri June 30, 2017 7:31 PM
To: Rose [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Subject: Re: Moving On
I’m honored to have known you and been able to call you my friend. I wish you the best and hope you find what you’re looking for.
No matter what happens, please know that you can call, email or text me at any time. We will always be friends and my door will always be open to you.
From: Mail Delivery System [Mailer-Daemon@server1.chatmail.com]
Sent: Fri June 30, 2017 7:32 PM
Subject: Mail delivery failed: returning message to sender
This message was created automatically by mail delivery software.
A message that you sent could not be delivered to one or more of its recipients. This is a permanent error. The following address(es) failed:
SMTP error from remote mail server after RCPT TO:<email@example.com>:
550 5.1.1 <firstname.lastname@example.org>: Recipient address rejected:
User unknown in virtual mailbox table
He didn’t even have to open the message to know what it meant, but he’d done it anyway. Rory held some small iota of hope that it was a fluke, that maybe Rose’s inbox was full from messages of sympathy. He was in denial. He knew damn well that the chatmail account had been opened just for him and that Rose had shared it only with him. Now the account was closed.
Rose was gone for good this time. Rory had hoped that Rose knew he would leave her alone to do what she needed in order to get on with her life, but she didn’t have to do this. She didn’t have to close off communication so quickly and abruptly.
Rory pulled on his cardigan sweater. He was cold and trembling, but not because of the temperature. His heart seemed to wheeze in his chest. Rory opened his mouth wide to try and catch his breath, but his lungs wouldn’t quite work they way they were supposed to. He felt frozen by the concrete that suddenly filled his veins and muscles, but he couldn’t tear his eyes away from the words on the screen.
During almost an hour of sitting motionless in front of his laptop, Rory tried to focus his mind on the thoughts that were flying through his head, but they were nothing more than ghostly wisps that he couldn’t quite catch. He wasn’t even sure what he felt. He was confused by it all, perhaps sad, maybe a little disappointed. Heartbroken, but not so much that he would be angry with himself for getting too attached. He was thankful that he’d managed to maintain enough distance to keep at least one foot firmly planted in reality.
Finally able to take a deep breath without it hurting his chest, Rory reminded himself that Rose still had his email address. He would keep his inbox open for a while just in case she changed her mind and wanted to contact him. Rose also had his phone number, though he doubted she would ever use it.
Over the past ten months, Rory had gotten so used to having Rose and Holly in his life that he couldn’t imagine not having either of them anymore. He thought of one of the first emails he’d sent to Rose. He’d told her that the Hound feels too alone but when he takes a chance and lets his guard down, he always ends up regretting it.
Rory realized just how much he really was like the Hound.
Are you lonely, Rory? Is that why you write to me?
For the first time in his life, Rory did feel lonely.
What the hell is that noise, Rory wondered as he came awake.
As his consciousness shifted from sleep to awake, he felt as though he was rocketing to the surface from deep fathoms under the ocean. The pressure washed over him as he was pulled from slumber like a slingshot. His eyes were heavy and his mind muddled.
When he was finally awake enough to open his eyes, the cabin of his boat was completely silent except for the soft shushing of the waves against the hull. He lay quietly and listened, but there was nothing. He wiped a hand over his face to brush away the last cobwebs of sleep.
Grabbing blindly across the top of the nightstand beside him, Rory successfully managed to knock his reading glasses and a book to the floor before finding his cell phone. He squinted against the glare as he pushed the home button bringing it to life.
What the bloody fuck?
Phone still in his hand, Rory let his arm flop back down and closed his eyes. He had no idea what woke him or why, but he could already feel sleep pulling him back down. His breathing became shallow as his body relaxed.
Jesus Christ! Rory bolted awake again. The shrill sound of his phone had startled the living shit out of him. He would have sworn his entire body had sprung two feet off the surface of the mattress.
Rory angrily punched at the surface of the phone. “Who the fuck is calling me at bloody 3 am?” he bellowed.
“Rory? It’s me. It’s Rose.”
Chapter 22: Promises Kept
Rory sat up in bed and shook his head. He was dreaming, he was sure of it. Rory often dreamt of Rose, so it wasn’t a big surprise, but his dreams had never awakened him like this before. Dreams of Rose had always been soft and comforting. Waking like this reminded him of the time he’d dreamt of being covered in spiders. Thankfully that had only happened once.
Rory smacked his lips and wiped his face shaking away the sleep for a second time. He ran his fingertips over the top of his head and through his hair stopping only briefly for a satisfying head scratch.
“Rory? Are you there?” a hollow voice called.
Rory looked down to see the phone in his hand sitting in his lap. He didn’t even remember answering it. He took a deep breath and brought the phone back up to his face.
“Hello?” His voice felt rough and phlegmy. He cleared his throat. “Hello”, he said again more clearly.
“Rory? It’s Rose.”
“Rose?” Suddenly Rory was wide awake.
“Hi. I’m sorry for calling so late. I guess I forgot about the time difference. I just really wanted to talk to you.” Her voice sounded bright and eager … and wide awake, he noted with disdain.
A thousand thoughts flooded Rory’s mind, some of them irrational from the fog of sleep that still clouded his mind. “Rose?” he asked again.
Rose laughed. “Yes, Rory it’s me. I’m sorry. Can I call back later when you’re awake? I’ll let you go back to sleep.”
“No! Rose, it’s okay. I’m awake.” Rory swung his legs over the edge of the berth and sat up straighter. The cold of the cabin floorboards against the bottom of his feet was just as effective as cup of coffee. “What’s wrong, Rose? Is everything okay? You closed your email account.”
“I know. I’m sorry. That’s why I wanted to call. I tried getting my account back, but after 30 days it’s permanently deleted. I …” Rose paused for a long time.
“I didn’t want you to give up on me, Rory. I wanted to get hold of you before you made yourself unreachable.”
Rory sighed letting his body sag. “I wouldn’t do that, Rose. Even if I hadn’t made a promise to Holly, I wouldn’t do that.” Rory stood up stretched his back and moved into the galley. He scratched a spot on his belly just above the waist of his boxers and yawned loudly. Rory flicked on a tiny wall lamp above the dinette before plopping down on the banquette seat. “Did something happen, Rose? I thought you needed some time for you and –”
“I thought so, too,” Rose interrupted before Rory could say his name. “Are you sure you don’t want me to call back later? I don’t want to keep you up if you have to work tomorrow.”
“It’s all right, Rose. I’m not working for a while. Not until October again. I’m just taking some time off, sailing. I’m on the boat right now.” Rory settled back against the seat cushion letting the comfort of Rose’s Canadian lilt wash through him. “Tell me what happened.”
Rose swallowed. “Everything was going well. At least I thought it was. We were falling into a rhythm just like you said we would. Now that I think back, maybe it was more of a rut. I don’t know. I thought we were just fine. I was happy, he seemed happy. Well, as happy as we could be after only a couple of months since Holly …”
“Go on,” Rory urged.
“I went to Toronto for two nights to take care of some publishing business. When I came home he was gone. All his things were gone. No note, no phone call, he’d even changed his number. All he left behind was an envelope sitting on the kitchen counter. Legal papers from the firm of This Is Mine & That’s Yours.”
“Rose, I’m sorry. I don’t know what to say.”
“There’s nothing to say. And don’t be sorry, I’m not.” Rose paused for a long moment. When she spoke again, her voice sounded far away. “Maybe deep down I realized it was already over. I’m not sure, but I do know this. If it was really meant to be, I would have been much more heartbroken, but I wasn’t. When I found those papers sitting on the kitchen counter, I didn’t feel a thing. I don’t think I even really cared.”
Rory listened to Rose’s words carefully and let it all sink in. He immediately wondered what it all meant. What did it mean for him and Rose? He refused to let his feelings get mixed up in her words, it was too soon for that. But he did allow himself to cautiously wonder. Rory needed to approach that subject, but it had to be done slowly and with great care. So much had already happened. Too many feelings had gotten tangled and confused. There had been enough pain and disappointment without subjecting himself to it all over again.
“What will you do now?” Rory asked. He hoped that Rose could hear the message that was hidden in the spaces between his words.
“I know I made the right decisions at the time, Rory. I don’t regret that at all. But at the same time I feel like … like I lost a friend – my best friend. I should have treated you better than that.”
Rory sighed heavily leaning forward on his knees. A butterfly woke up in his belly and began fluttering about. He ignored it, narrowing his focus to the reality of everything that had occurred between him and Rose in the past.
“What is it that you want to happen, Rose?” he asked guardedly.
“I’ve always been honest with you, Rory, and that’s not about to change. I want my friend back. Beyond that I can’t be sure what I want. I think I know what I want, but I also realize that I’m coming into a whole new world and I’m doing it alone. I would have been married twenty years this September. This is the first time I’ve been on my own in more than two decades. It will take some time for me to figure out who I am as a single woman.”
Rory waited for Rose to say more. He refused to lead her in the wrong direction. She was the one who needed to tell him.
“I’m not naïve or stupid about this, Rory. I know I can’t just end one relationship and jump into another. That‘s not what I’m asking. I have to spend some time on my own for a while. I just want my friend back. Wherever it goes from there …” The tone in her voice indicated that Rose wasn’t expecting him to finish the sentence. She wasn’t alluding to anything or hinting that she wanted to know where Rory thought it would go. Rose was simply indicating that she didn’t know the future any more than he did.
“I just want my friend back,” she repeated.
“Rose, I never left. I was always here. And don’t apologize for doing what you needed to. I know that it was unexpected the way it ended, but you couldn’t possibly know what was going on inside his head.”
“You always seem to know what’s going on inside my head,” Rose suggested.
“That’s because we talk. You tell me what’s going on inside your head. I’m guessing you and what’s-his-name didn’t have a lot to say to each other.” Rose laughed and it made Rory smile.
“No, we didn’t. We talked, but we didn’t really talk. Not about anything more important than the weather or what to make for dinner.” Rose made a quiet sound that Rory couldn’t quite interpret.
“Thing is, I had a lot of thoughts to share, Rory. But you were the one I wanted to share them with.”
Annnnnnnd … there it is.
The butterfly in Rory’s belly squiggled its way upward and nipped at his heart. This butterfly has fucking teeth, he thought. He couldn’t help himself but grin. His Rose was back. He cautioned himself that they still had a way to go, it would be a slow and careful climb, but this was the beginning.
“Well, don’t keep me waiting,” Rory insisted. “Share!”
Rose laughed and it was a wonderful sound in his ears. “Rory, it’s almost 4 o’clock in the morning where you are. By the way, where are you?”
“I’m in Scotland, I’m wide awake, and I’m talking to my best friend. I don’t care what time it is.” Rory couldn’t help himself but laugh with her.
“We’re best friends?” Rose asked in shock.
“Of course we are. Now share!”
“Well … Holly’s episode aired last week. Please tell me you watched it.”
Rory settled back into the seat cushions. It felt like no time had passed since Rose’s first emails to Rory almost a year ago.
“Of course I watched it. She was amazing and beautiful … just like her mother. You were right. She looks a lot like you.”
“How would you know?” Rose asked suspiciously.
“I’ve known what you look like for a while now, Rose. Holly gave me your photo back in Indianapolis. Even if she didn’t, it’s on the jacket of your book.”
Rose gasped. “You read my book?”
Rory shrugged to the empty cabin. “Call it serendipity,” he said with a chuckle. “Did you forget? Holly gave me a copy … with the letter and the photo.” Rose gave an affirmative chuckle. “You’re an amazing writer, Rose. But tell me, and be honest. Was I the main character? It felt like you were channeling my life somehow."
“I just wrote what I felt. And yes, I modeled the main character after you. You were my muse. Did you really like it?”
“I loved it and I can’t wait until the next one comes out. What’s the new book called?”
“I don’t have a title yet. And sorry, but you’re not in it.”
Rory thought for a moment. He waded through all the snippets of news and information he wanted to share with Rose. Most of it would have to wait until later when there was more time to talk. Rory finally selected a clipping from his mental filing cabinet.
“That Australian TV commercial finally aired. I wanted to send you a link, but you closed your account.”
“I’ll open a new one in the morning and send you an email,” Rose gushed breathlessly. “Do you still have yours?”
“Yes,” Rory answered. He paused as an even bigger butterfly suddenly sprang to life inside his gut. “Rose? Will I finally get to meet you this time?”
“I’ll need a little time,” Rose sighed. “But yes. If I happen to be in your neighborhood or you’re in mine, I definitely want to see you.”
“I’ll call my agent in the morning and tell him to book me for something in Canada,” Rory blurted.
“Rory, I want you to know that the way I feel about you … that never changed.”
“I know.” Rory closed his eyes and thumped a fist against his forehead. Once … just once could he ever follow his own advice? Everything he’d warned himself against was about to go out the window. Every promise he’d made to himself to take it slow was all for naught. It all came flooding back in a tidal wave of emotion and he was helpless to stop it. Rory couldn’t deny the truth that was inside him.
Flash fire rolled over his skin despite the coolness of the air inside the boat. Rory broke out in light perspiration. He wiped his damp palms on his shorts, watching as his fingers trembled. Squeezing his eyes shut tightly, Rory took a deep breath and prayed silently.
“Rose? I love you, too.”
Chapter 23: Downtime
From: Rose [email@example.com]
Sent: Tues July 25, 2017 7:53 AM
Subject: New account
As promised, I have opened a new account. I couldn’t get my old username back so I had to choose a new one. Hope you like it! Ha ha
I might be busy for a while. I have made some crucial decisions and so there will be a lot on my plate in the next month or so, but not going anywhere this time. I promise.
I need to finalize a certain matter. It has already gotten underway but there is 20 years worth of shit to wade through (most of it is his!) I have also made a lot of difficult decisions about what to do with all of Holly’s things. Now all I have to do is pry my fingers open and let go.
I’m facing all this with a surprisingly light and happy mood. I didn’t realize that letting go could be so liberating. It’s feels like springtime. I’m sure a big part of it is knowing that you are back in my life. I know you said that you never left me, but I feel like I left you. I won’t let that happen again. Things will be much different between us, but only in the best way possible.
Sent: Tues July 25, 2017 2:12 PM
To: Rose [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Subject: Sea Dreams
I never felt like you left me. Even when you were gone, I had both you and Holly. I carried you with me every day. I had you in my heart and in my memories and that’s something that can never be taken away from me. Don’t ever forget that.
I’m not one for giving advice when it comes to “certain matters” and I try not to get involved in the personal business of others, but there is one thing I feel the need to tell you. Make sure that you get the rights (proprietary and financial) for all your writing – past, present, and future. There is a very specific reason I’m telling you this but I’d rather not go into it right now. The less you know, the less you have to deny.
Here is the link to the TV commercial. I hope you like it. Marine Protect
Take as long as you need to do all the things you need to. I’d rather wait a little longer knowing that we have a better chance of being ourselves with each other when we finally do meet.
Rose, I realize that we both think we know what we want, but there are no guarantees in life. It’s difficult for me to admit that to myself sometimes, so I try not to look too far ahead and I try not to have expectations about what the future might bring. However, it’s difficult not to have expectations when so much has happened between us. I just don’t want either of us to be disappointed if things don’t turn out the way we hope they will.
What I’m trying to say is that there is a fine line between fantasy and reality. Unfortunately I discover this all the time when I meet people on the street. The way I actually am is often very different than the way they’ve built me up in their minds. I only know you from emails, a few phone conversations, and one photo. You have a lot more access to me through the internet. Just be careful that what you think and know of me is what’s real – from what I’ve told you. I will try to do the same when I’m thinking of you.
I think about you all the time.
From: Rose [email@example.com]
Sent: Thur Aug 17, 2017 12:15 PM
Subject: Re: Sea Dreams
I think about you all the time, too. But to be perfectly honest, I’ve been through far too much in my life to take anything for granted, including life itself. I’m a very practical person and except on the odd occasion, I keep my feet firmly planted on the ground. No delusions of grandeur here!
If I did have any delusions … do you remember your threat in Indianapolis? I would have opened the door for you!
So tell me, how are you? And where are you? What have you been doing with yourself?
Thank-you for the legal advice. My lawyer made sure that my rights on the matter were properly taken care of. You will tell me what it’s about later, won’t you? Now you’ve got me all curious because I can’t think of anything that I might need to deny.
I realize it’s been almost a month since I’ve written to you, but there is a purpose behind my intentions. It comes down to the fact that I am finding my balance in my independence. When you’ve been with someone else for so long, you don’t realize just how much you’ve come to depend on them. It’s not the kind of dependence where you can’t live without someone, but more the kind of dependence where you trade off duties and decisions in your daily life. For the first time in longer than I can remember, I have to make every single decision alone. Whether it’s a big decision like renewing the mortgage or a small one like what to have for dinner, it’s up to me and only me. I’m the one that has to kill the spiders now, and I mow the lawn. And it’s embarrassing to admit, but I’ve put on a few pounds (just a few!!) because instead of going to all the trouble of making a meal for just one person, I’ve gotten lazy and occasionally opted for Doritos and Chardonnay instead. That’s going to stop BTW!!
My point is, if you don’t hear from me for a month, it’s because I’m learning to rely on myself again – for everything. It’s still comforting to know that you are there, somewhere, if I need a friend or someone to talk to, but I need to know that I can take care of myself. I don’t ever want you to feel as though you need to take care of me. I want us to be able to take care of each other because we want to not because we feel pressured or obligated.
I finally watched the TV commercial. I really don’t know what to say. To hear your voice speaking the words I wrote felt as though two pieces came together to make the world whole again. As I listened, I closed my eyes and imagined everything I saw in my mind when I wrote Sea Dreams and you were right there with me. I know that if I am ever feeling alone or frightened, I will always have my best friend. All I have to do is hear your voice.
Thank-you, Rory. I never imagined that a few simple lines of text could go on to become so much more than mere words and be so entirely comforting.
Sent: Sun Aug 27, 2017 9:38 AM
To: Rose [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Subject: Independence Rocks!
I’m glad to hear that you’ve put so much thought into discovering your ability to be an independent person. It was one of the things that I was concerned about. I suppose I had nothing to worry about because right in the beginning you told me that you needed some time on your own for exactly that reason.
It’s easy to get carried away with independence isn’t it? When I’m working, I’m up at 4am (sometimes earlier) and the rest of my day is subject to scheduling that is completely out of my control. Then, I’m off work for awhile and with no reason to get up, I find myself sleeping in, getting fat and lazy, and eating chips and beer for breakfast at 2pm. Okay, it’s not quite that bad, and it doesn’t take very long for me to get back on track and use my time wisely. I’m sure you’ve discovered that already by now.
So you kill spiders, now, eh? I’d ask you to come and kill one for me, but Fred and I are rather getting used to each other. So long as he stays in his corner where he belongs, we won’t have a problem.
And I’m glad you would have opened the door for me because I likely wouldn’t have been singing and dancing. I would have been hammering on the door begging and pleading to be let in!
At the moment I’m in Norway visiting with friends. Just enjoying my time off, sailing and being alone. When I’m alone I spend a lot of my free time reading or playing my guitar. Kris says hello! I didn’t confide in him the extent of our relationship, but he does know that I sometimes hear from Holly’s mother, and that’s it as far as he’s concerned. When I’m ready I may let some people know about you, but I hope that’s a decision we can make together when the time comes.
I hope you realize that I would always take care of you, Rose, because I know that you would do the same for me. When I read Sea Dreams for that commercial, I felt the same as you. It was not a difficult task for me to put the emotion behind the words. What I was reading was already inside me, it was just a matter that you discovered it and were able to put my thoughts and feelings into words. Sort of like music and lyrics – neither means anything without the other. Warning: I’m going to get corny here but those two halves you mentioned were the song (you) and the instrument (me).
Bloody hell! See what you’ve done to me??
From: Rose [email@example.com]
Sent: Wed Sept 13, 2017 3:41 PM
How are you? Are you enjoying your visiting and sailing? I wish I could be on the boat with you! I’ll bet it’s very calming. I could use that right now.
I can’t believe Season 7 is over. What a shocker! How the hell do they expect us to wait a whole year to find out how it all ends?? What happens in Season 8, Rory? As soon as you get the script I want to know!! (I’m sure you get that a lot, eh?)
Anyway, this is just a short note to keep you updated as promised. It’s official! I am now Rose McClelland in every sense. Thank goodness everything was amicable and uncontested!
You know what this means, don’t you?? Let the shameless flirting begin!! 😜
From: Rose [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Wed Sept 27, 2017 10:27 AM
Subject: You okay?
How are you? Is everything okay? Haven’t heard from you since my last email. If I don’t hear from you soon, I’m going to call. Just let me know that you’re alright, please.
Are you back to work yet? Let me know how that’s going. If possible, let me know where you are. I know it’s a silly question, but what is your favorite colour?
Things are moving along here. I’ve just come inside after signing away my life (or what’s left of it). Not really but it sure feels like the old life is coming to an end. On the other hand, that means a new life is beginning and I want you to be part of it. Preferably sooner rather than later but I’m still being patient and keeping myself real about it.
The house is up for sale now. That’s the part of my life that I signed away. Of course it’s not gone yet, but just making the decision and then carrying it out was a life-changer. The house is just too big for me on my own. It doesn’t make a lot of sense for me to keep it. There are too many memories and empty rooms now.
Besides, my agent has scheduled me on my first book signing. I suspect there will be a lot more travel in the future and so it makes a lot more sense for me to have a much smaller place. I’ve started looking for an apartment. That will make it easier for me to take off and not have to worry about the place while I’m gone. It sure will feel different.
Who knows? Maybe I’ll even be traveling back across the Atlantic??
Rose opened her inbox, but there was nothing new. She’d been checking it every day for nearly two weeks, but Rory had not responded. Rose scanned her previous emails to him in the event that she had inadvertently said something he might have taken the wrong way, but to her eyes it was all positive and optimistic.
Rose chewed on a nail as she stared at the contact information on her cell phone. When she’d first downloaded the chatmail app, she’d listed the new contact as Spot and never gotten around to changing it. It was the kind of endearment she enjoyed having with Rory. It was also the name she’d used for him in her phonebook. That was the page she was looking at now.
It was just after four in the afternoon. That meant that in Scotland it would be around nine in the evening. Even if he was in Norway or Iceland or Ireland, it wouldn’t be more than an hour later. If he was in someplace like Dubrovnik, it would still only be just after ten.
A nervous wave rippled over Rose’s skin. She wasn’t really sure why. She didn’t think she had anything to be nervous about, but then if that was true, Rory would have gotten back to her before this.
Holding onto her cell phone like her life depended on it, Rose hit the call button and closed her eyes tightly as she lifted it to her ear. She listened to the little clicks that indicated the signal was worming its way through lines and cell towers to get to its destination. Without realizing, Rose gasped slightly when she finally heard the ringtone from the other end.
Concentrating on the sound, Rose heard the first ring … then the second … then the th … There was no third ring. There started to be a third, but it was cut off.
“To leave a message, press …” Rose ended the call.
“He hung up on me,” Rose whispered to no one. Rory hadn’t really hung up on Rose, but she recognized it for what it was. Rory had dismissed the call. If he simply hadn’t answered, it would have rung several times more. If he was on the phone at the time, or if his phone was turned off, it would have gone straight to voice mail.
Rose felt a rock splash down in the pit of her stomach. She closed her eyes and took a deep cleansing breath. She had nothing to worry about. Rory was not that kind of man. Rose was determined not to be that kind of woman.
Maybe he was around other people and couldn’t answer his phone at that moment. Maybe he didn’t realize it was her calling. Maybe … Rose couldn’t come up with anything that sounded rational and logical. Part of her wanted to say maybe he’s with someone else, maybe he got tired of waiting.
Don’t be ridiculous, her right brain told her. But the left side of her brain, the creative part, was coming up with all kinds of reasons that made her feel like shit. This is why Rory had wanted them to take things cautiously – so that they wouldn’t get too wrapped up in each other.
Rose forcefully slowed her breathing and tried to defuse the war that was going on between her internal organs. She felt like the alien was about to burst through her chest at any moment. When she eventually worked up enough nerve, Rose hit the call button again. This time, the phone went straight to voice mail.
“Rory? It’s Rose. I’m worried about you, that’s all. I just want to know that everything is okay with you. If you don’t want to talk to me I understand but at least send me a text or an email that you’re okay.” Rose wanted to say “I love you,” but thought that might be pushing just a little too much.
Chapter 24: A Welcomed Interruption
Now she understood how Rory felt. Rose looked up at the next person in line and put on her best celebrity smile. Okay, so she wasn’t quite a celebrity, but to these people she seemed to be. Everyone treated her like she was someone special. Rose didn’t feel like someone special. In fact, she was nervous as a shithouse rat, to use her grandmother’s oft-quoted expression.
Rose forced the grin away from her face at that last thought and opened the front cover of her novel. Her novel, she marveled. Yes, people were coming her to see her, to tell her how awesome she was, to tell her how great her book was, to tell her they couldn’t wait for the next one to come out and when would that be, by the way.
Despite all the praise, Rose didn’t think there was ever any way she could get an ego. Contrary to what Rory had told her, this whole thing was a rather humbling experience for her. Rose felt like she was on display in all her naked glory. She wasn’t naked, but the feeling was the same. This wasn’t a photo-shopped or air-brushed jacket photo, and social conversation with complete strangers had never been her strong point. No, these people were seeing her with a cowlick she couldn’t get to go away, chapped lips (damn it was dry in this place!), and an itchy nose that she kept needing to scratch as tactfully as possible.
The book store assistant handed her another volume and Rose opened it. She looked up at the middle aged woman who had purchased it. “Hello, is this book for you?” Rose asked.
“Yes, my name is Livvy,” the woman told her. She spelled her name as Rose penned it inside the front cover. “This book was amazing, Miss McClelland. It’s about time someone started writing like this again. I’m so tired of mystery novels, political thrillers, and detective stories.”
Rose looked up and smiled brightly at her. “I agree and I’ve got lots more of these kinds of stories in me so it’s good to know that someone will be reading them.”
The woman chuckled and moved aside as the next woman approached. Rose could tell by her excited demeanor that she would be a talker and would want to chat, probably with an endless stream of questions and comments. The woman leaned forward and opened her mouth to start what Rose was sure would amount to verbal diarrhea.
Thank God! Saved by the bell, Rose thought. She held up her finger, smiled pleasantly and said, “Sorry, I’ll just be a moment,” but the woman’s expression had immediately turned sour as though Rose had personally insulted her.
Rose dug her phone out of her purse and looked at the screen.
Oh my god! Rory!
Rose’s heart began a jackhammering that threatened to break her ribs. She swiped right.
“Hello? Rory?” she whispered with her free hand cupped around her mouth.
“Hello, Rose.” Rory didn’t sound very enthusiastic about speaking with her. His voice was flat and lifeless.
“Rory, I can’t talk right now, but give me ten minutes and I’ll call you right back.” Rose hung up without waiting for a response. She turned back to the sour-faced housewife and displayed her biggest brightest smile.
“I’m so sorry. Family emergency,” Rose confided. “So who should I make this out to?” She kept her voice as congenial as possible even though to her own ears, she sounded downright phony. Rose signed the book and listened attentively as the woman praised and gushed and voiced all her theories on where Rose might have gotten her inspiration and ideas – without actually asking Rose for this inside information, Rose noted with derision.
When the woman had finally been urged away by the bookstore staff, Rose immediately jumped to her feet.
“I’m sorry,” she said to the event coordinator. “I have a family emergency and I need to make a phone call. Could I use your office?”
The clerk made excuses to the crowd that Miss McClelland would be taking a short break but ensured everyone that she would be returning soon. Rose made herself comfortable in the clerk’s office and waited until the door was closed before calling Rory back.
“Hello?” Rory had answered immediately.
“Rory? Are you alright? It’s been … what six weeks since I heard from you. Is everything okay?”
Rory avoided answering directly. “I was hoping we could talk, but it sounds like you’re busy.” He sounded miserable.
“I’m at the mall. I’m doing a book signing at the bookstore. It’s just a small thing. My agent wants to see how well I handle a crowd before he schedules anything bigger.” Rose wasn’t about to let Rory change the subject. “Rory, what’s wrong?”
Rose listened as Rory sighed heavily. He cleared his throat. He huffed. Finally, he spoke. “I really need to talk to you. I just wanted to hear your voice.”
“Rory, it’s two o’clock here right now so it’s what … seven there?” Rory made an affirmative sound. “I’ll be home by around six … by the time I get in … seven … that’s nine, ten … it’ll be around eleven for you by the time I call. Is that too late?”
Rose wasn’t sure if Rory was going to answer or if he was even still there. “Eleven. Okay,” he finally agreed.
“You’re gonna answer the phone this time, right?” Rose asked.
“Yes, Rose. I’ll answer the phone.”
Rose eyed the office door where the bookstore staff was anxiously awaiting her return. “Rory, I have to go, but I promise I’ll call tonight and we’ll talk as long as you want.”
After she hung up, Rose sat for a moment to collect her thoughts. After all this time, suddenly he’d called sounding depressed. Rose chewed on her lip, but she wasn’t nervous. Something told her that this wasn’t about them per say, but that Rory was in some kind of trouble. Maybe it was her parental intuition. It was that same intuition that had gotten Holly out of numerous scrapes as a child.
Whatever it was, it was time for Rose to step up and be the friend that Rory needed instead of the other way around.
Rose threw her satchel down on the kitchen stool, kicked off her shoes and went straight to the fridge. She poured herself a glass of chardonnay, then thought better of it and changed into her jogging pants first. Rose wanted to be comfortably settled while she was on the phone with Rory.
Rose settled into the nook of the couch cushions and grimaced at her phone. She hoped that whatever it was, it wouldn’t be too bad. She punched the contact and waited for the call to ring through.
“Hello, Rose.” Rory’s voice had the same flat, toneless quality as it had earlier in the afternoon.
“Rory? Tell me what going on. I was worried about you, then when I tried to call, you wouldn’t answer your phone.”
“I’m sorry. I was embarrassed and upset. I just … I don’t know …” Rory stammered.
There was a long pause, but Rose wasn’t about to push him. Rory would talk when he was ready.
“The last few weeks have been utter hell,” Rory finally told her. Apparently it was going to take some time for Rory to say what he needed to. “Sally and I … well, we had a bloody row. Now she’s got mum in on it and they’re both at me.”
“What happened?” Rose finally asked.
Rory made few noncommittal noises. “I just wanted to hear your voice. I wish I could see you.” He sounded so damned depressed.
Rose tapped a finger on the table beside her while she attempted to make a tough decision. “Rory, if you could see me, would you promise to tell me what happened?” Rose took a sip of wine. “I’ll make you a deal, if you tell me what’s going on … all of it,” she stressed. “We’ll talk face to face. How does that sound?”
“What do you mean? How we can we be face to face? You’re at home in Canada, aren’t you?”
“Chatmail just released a video chat app. It’s kind of like FaceTime.” Rose was getting nervous and excited just telling Rory about it.
“Really?” Rory asked. In that one word, Rose could immediately hear the difference in his voice. There was the slightest bit of enthusiasm with a subtle undertone of optimism. “You would do that, Rose? You would let me see you?”
Rose laughed. “Yes, Rory, you’re going to get to see me. But only if you promise to tell me everything.”
They agreed to call back in five minutes giving them both time to download the app and get their phones set up for proper viewing. When Rose was finally ready with her phone propped on the table in front of her, she waited. Because Rory wasn't quite as technically savvy as she was, Rose agreed to let Rory call her knowing that it might take him a little longer to get set up.
Her entire body tingled nervously. Rory was finally going to get to see Rose, not quite in person, but live. She felt even more naked than she had at the book signing. She anxiously nibbled at the edge of her fingernail feeling like sixteen all over again.
Rose jumped slightly at the sound of her app notification. She knew she had a big cheesy grin smeared across her face, but she couldn’t help it. She took a deep breath and hit the button. The app’s opening screen displayed a vibrant blue swirl that slowly dissolved into Rory’s face.
Rose’s smile spread wider. “Hi,” she said shyly with a small wave. Rose renewed the gnawing of her bottom lip.
Rory looked up into his phone. He smiled slightly, but whatever was eating at him was more powerful than his happiness at finally getting to see Rose, even if it was only on a 3 x 5 screen. His smile was genuine, not forced, but there wasn’t much there that could rightly be called a smile.
Rory appeared to be in the cabin on his boat. He was leaning forward on his knees with his face close to the phone. His position gave Rose the opportunity to note that his eyes were rimmed with red and heavy bags pooled under his eyes. But when Rory finally looked up at her, his smile widened slightly.
“I can’t believe I’m finally looking at you, Rose.”
“I never thought we’d see each other this way,” Rose admitted. “It sure is nice.”
Rory nodded.”You’re beautiful,” he said. “Thank-you. I really needed to see your face right now.”
Rose blushed and looked away for a brief moment. “Thank-you, Rory. You are very handsome man, but flattery isn’t going to get you out of your end of the deal. No offense, but you look miserable. What’s going on?”
Rory turned his eyes down to stare at his hands clasped together on the table in front of him. He moistened his lips then skimmed his teeth over his bottom lip. Rose watched his shoulders hitch as he took in a breath and puffed it out. When he turned his eyes back to Rose, they were glazed.
“She knows about you,” he told Rose.
Rose sat back with her mouth slightly hanging open. “Who knows about me?” She wasn’t particularly concerned. Although, if Rory was concerned, there must be more to it.
“Sally. And now mum,” he admitted.
Rose gave a slight shake of her head. “Is that a bad thing? Is that what this is all about?”
Rory looked at his hands again. He spoke without looking up. “Sometimes Sally comes across someone that she thinks I might like. She’s not trying to set me up or anything, but she’ll have a party, invite a few friends, and have me over. She’ll point out the person and from there it’s up to me. I usually go along with it, because she never tells anyone ahead of time that I’m going to be there and she never discusses me with anyone. It’s always up to me first.”
Rory stretched his neck swinging his head around in a circle, but he still wouldn’t make eye contact with Rose.
“So about a month and a half ago, she tells me she’s having one of these parties and that she’s met this really nice woman and …” Rory made a circle with his fist to indicate and so on. “I told her I wasn’t interested and that I wasn’t coming. She got upset because she’d already planned the thing and invited people. I’ve never said no to her before. That led to a fight and I found out it was because this was the one time she’d already told the woman about me. Sally was that sure that we’d hit it off. When I told her I still wasn’t interested, that’s when she said ‘You’ve met someone, haven’t you?’ and I denied it.”
Rory finally looked up. He seemed regretful, but Rose couldn’t understand why.
“Thing is, you and Sally are two people I’ll never play poker with,” he admitted.
“She could see right through it, huh?” Rose asked. Rory nodded sheepishly. “Is it that bad? You said you wanted to tell her eventually.”
Rory shook his head. “Not like that. But I had no choice. So I had to tell her. Now she’s worried and she wants to know all about you. Sally thinks I’m completely daft. She keeps reminding me that we’ve never actually met.”
“And you starting second-guessing yourself,” Rose presumed. Rory shook his head. His mouth pulled down at the corners.
“Not at all,” he corrected her. “But she wants to know everything about you. She wants me to let her read our emails.” Rory looked up at Rose then, presumably waiting for her input on the matter.
Rose shrugged. “I have nothing to hide, Rory. There’s nothing in those emails I’d be embarrassed or ashamed for anyone to see. I’m guessing it’s more of a privacy issue for you, but if it puts her mind at ease …” But Rory was already shaking his head.
“No. I’m not letting my sister read our private emails.”
Rose considered the alternatives. “How would you feel about Sally and me talking … on the phone maybe.” Rose tried to think of other options. “Or I could email her.”
Rory shook his head again. “I’ve already told her to back off. I’m not a kid and I’m sure as hell not naïve. She’s just going to have to trust me.” Rory sat up and stretched his shoulders. He gazed around the room as though he was looking for something.
“So are you going to tell me what the real problem is then?” Rose asked. There was something bigger and Rory was stalling. When she asked, Rory turned his attention back to Rose. His eyes had glazed over again.
Rory chewed the inside of his cheek and nodded.
“Talk to me, Rory.” Those were usually Rory’s words to her. Rose suddenly understood the power of those simple words to a friend in need. Rory was hesitant, but it wasn’t about trust, that much was clear.
“Someone in the media found out some private information about me. Someone I know and trusted talk to the wrong person.”
Rose gasped. Surely he didn’t think that Rose would ever …
“Rory, I have never spoken to anyone about you. I –”
Rory held a hand up to his phone. “I know it wasn’t you, Rose. It was something you don’t know about.” Rory leaned forward into the phone again. “Did I happen to mention that you’re beautiful?” he said with a reluctant smirk.
Rose arched an eyebrow and blushed. “Thank-you, Rory. Are you avoiding something?”
Rory sighed. “Rose, did you ever see my audition video? I know it’s on YouTube so I thought maybe …”
Rose nodded. “Holly and I watched it.”
“Rose, at the time that I auditioned for Game of Thrones …” Rory took a deep breath and exhaled as he continued to speak. “I was living in a tent in Iceland.”
Rose felt that there was something she must have missed. “Okay. And ... why?”
“Because I had no place else to live.”
Rose let the words sink in. “Are you saying you were homeless?” Surely that wasn’t it, but it was the only word she could think of. Rory nodded and Rose felt her face stretch with mild disbelief.
“Oh. Well, um …” Rose shrugged. “Is that it?”
Rory looked almost insulted. “Isn’t that enough? I was homeless, Rose. I didn’t have anything. Now someone’s found out and they’re threatening to release the story.”
Rose balked. “Rory, being homeless isn’t a crime and it’s certainly nothing to be ashamed of. Lots of people have been in your position. I almost was. If I hadn’t met Jason when I did, I would have been out on the street.”
In frustration, Rory used both hands to scratch all over his head. “I had no money, Rose,” he finally admitted. Rory slumped in defeat. “I was no better than a common thief and a beggar. I couldn’t get a paying job. I was reduced to trading odd jobs for food and stealing from people to survive.” Rory swatted a large paw toward the phone. “Now it’s going to be all over the media. It’s humiliating.”
“Rory, I know you’re not going to want to hear this, but there have been far worse things that celebrities have been caught at.”
Rose tilted her head dramatically. Really? She knew that if Rory really put some thought into it, he’d figure it out on his own. Rose also knew from personal experience that when your mind is too focused on one thing, it’s easy to lose perspective and you need someone else to remind you.
“Bill Cosby,” she stated emphatically. Rose watched Rory’s eyebrows knit in concentration. He had that deep crinkle in his forehead that she’d seen so often in his interview videos. He obviously hadn’t considered that there were much worse scandals out there. Rose wouldn’t even really call this a scandal. It was a rather pathetic attempt at celebrity baiting by whoever had threatened him. Rose leaned toward the phone.
“So … here’s what you’re going to do …” Rose looked up at Rory. “Did you ever pay those people back?” she asked suddenly. Rory shook his head. Rose nodded hers. “You are going to go back to Iceland and you’re going to make amends. Tell them the truth, apologize and pay them back. Then, you’re going to contact … well whoever, your PR guy or whatever, and you’re going to have him set up an interview for you and you’re going to be the one to release the story.”
“So you want me to go in front of everyone and just tell them?”
Rose scrunched her chin. “Yes. You need to take back control of your life. The only thing this person is holding over on you is the fact that no one knows. You take that away from them and they’ve got nothing on you.”
“Rose, I’ll be humiliated.”
Rose almost laughed but managed to squash her reaction. She held up her index finger and gave Rory an awkward grin. “Hugh Grant and Divine Brown,” she said. If Rory didn’t get that … but he nodded with the same look on his face. “He took the power away from the tabloids by coming right out and admitting what he did wrong. The difference is, you didn’t do anything wrong.”
“I was a thief,” he reminded her.
“No, not if you pay them back.”
Rory considered everything Rose had said. “Doesn’t any of this bother you?” he asked her after a long pause.
Rose smiled warmly. “Why would it?”
For the first time since they had started their video chat, Rory smiled back. Years came off his face. His expression was optimistic and even his entire body seemed somehow lighter. Everything about him softened. There was something else in his face as well, and Rose knew what it was. She could see it in his eyes the way he looked at her. Her heart gave one massive thump and seemed to swell inside her chest.
“Rose, when am I going to get to see you? And I don’t mean like this. I mean in person.”
Rose let her smile spread into a grin. “In the spring. You have to go back to work soon and I’ve got a lot of work to do here,” she said indicating the house around her. “I sold the house and found an apartment. And then there’s the thing with my agent.” Rose flapped her hand at the phone screen. “It’s a long story so I’ll email you, but it means that in the spring, I have to go back to London.”
“What’s bringing you to London?”
“The London Book Fair. Do you think you can wait that long?”
Rory nodded enthusiastically. “For you? Yes.” His smile grew a little more.
Rose opened her mouth to say something, changed her mind, then changed it back.
“I was going to wait to tell you this but …” She cut the air in front of her with her hand. “You’re all good now, right? Is there anything else?” she asked, concerned.
Rory smiled warmly. “Thank-you, Rose. I suppose I was feeling a little sorry for myself but I was worried. I worried what you might think.” Rory dismissed any concerns he’d previously had. “What did you want to tell me?”
Rose arched her eyebrows at him. Are you sure? When Rory indicated that he was, she said, “Jason came to pick up the last of his stuff a few weeks ago. He finally filled me in.” She displayed her hands as if to say there ya go.
“So it turns out that last summer, Jason met someone and fell in love. He’d been seeing her since May. He had the divorce papers ready last October, but then Holly got sick, so he decided to ride out the storm until things had had calmed down after Holly passed.”
Rory’s mouth dropped. “So you’re telling me that all this time, you were worried about doing something wrong when meanwhile he was cheating on you?”
Rose grimaced, tossing her head slightly. Rory winced at the tingle that erupted in his groin as he watched Rose’s long wavy hair bounce against her shoulders. The soft red was the perfect frame for her face.
“I was angry at first, but I can’t really hold it against him. We were together for a long time – longer than a lot of couples these days. He’s not such a bad guy and he was a really great father. We just grew up in different directions, I suppose.”
There was an extended moment of quiet as Rory and Rose regarded each other affectionately. Rory relaxed as if tremendous weight had been lifted off of him. It made Rose happy to know that she was able to help him, to be there for him at least a little bit as much as he’d been there for her over the past year.
“So it really doesn’t bother you – where I was in life before Thrones?” he asked. Rose could see that even now, as famous as he was, Rory still needed validation in some things. If Rose had ever put Rory on a pedestal, it was because of everything he’d done for both her and Holly. But it was moments like this that brought him back down to earth for her. It was things like this that made him just as normal and human as everyone else. It made her love him even more.
“That could have happened to anyone, Rory. It could have happened to me if that first book didn’t sell. I don’t blame people for the situations they’re in. But I do hold them accountable for taking the initiative to at least try and find their way out of it. You did that and that’s all that matters.”
Rory took a long moment to admire Rose. It was the first time he was seeing her, really seeing her and he wanted to remember every detail of the way her cheekbones lifted when she smiled, how she tucked the corner of her lip under her teeth, the way her eyes smiled along with the rest of her face.
“Rose? Can we do this again?” Rory asked. He pointed between the two of them in the video. “This FaceTime thing.” His voice was low, almost a purr and it made Rose’s insides vibrate. “I don’t know if I can wait until spring. But if I could at least see you like this …”
Rose hid her smile behind her fist and nodded. For some reason, she couldn’t say the words that came to her mind. She felt them, for sure. Perhaps it was shyness. It was different when you were on the phone and only had to hear a voice, but Rory was there, looking back at her expectantly. They both wanted it, she could see that, but Rose didn’t want to crowd him. She didn’t want Rory to feel obligated just to avoid hurting her feelings if he wasn’t quite there yet.
Rose reached toward her phone and touched it with her finger. What she really wanted was to reach through the phone and feel the warmth of his cheek and the soft bristly hair of his beard on the inside of her palm. A rush of heat swept over her and settled in her cheeks.
Rory reached forward and touched the same spot on his phone screen. Rose formed the words silently. Rory sent them back.
In reality, the news of Rory's homelessness prior to GOT came out a lot differently. However, so far in this fic, it has always been Rory coming to Rose's rescue. I wanted Rory to be able to come to Rose with his problems for a change, so I ran with it.
I needed to show that Rory, too, has his vulnerabilities and that if called to the task, Rose could be the strong one. After all, love is a two-way street.
Chapter 26: Shameless, Not Shameless
From: Rose [email@example.com]
Sent: Thurs Oct 5, 2017 7:44 PM
Subject: London Agent
I can’t wait to see you again. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed that video chat, to be able to see your face and hear your voice at the same time was wonderful. Let’s do it again – soon. I presume you’re back at work now so I’ll let you decide when it happens. Please don’t make me wait too long! (I’m not sure that I can wait until spring, either).
Please let me know how everything goes with what we talked about. When will you go to Iceland? If you’re going to be on TV, let me know so I can watch. I want to be rooting for you.
The offer still stands in regards to Sally. If she gives you any more trouble, I’d be more than happy to chat with her. I know you said “no” but I really don’t care if she sees our emails. Whatever you decide, I’ll go along with it.
So the thing with my agent … My latest book is set over here in the Americas, but after some discussion about my reading audience, my agent and my editor got together and proposed that it might be better if the story was set in England. I’m not sure that it’s quite the right thing, but since I don’t know much about the country, who am I to make that decision until I’ve traveled over there a bit.
The book signing here at the mall went over really well and so now my agent has me scheduled for a couple of events leading up to the Christmas holidays. With the teaser launch for the second book scheduled for the spring and Call It Serendipity set to release in soft cover, the London Book Fair makes perfect sense for me to attend. It’s going to be a massive promotion and frankly, it’s scaring the crap out of me, but I’m looking forward to the trip.
My agency, Cairn Group, has a small affiliate office in Toronto, but the main headquarters is in London. Because of this, my agent thinks it might be better to co-agent with someone from the London office for the release of the second book. This means that I’d have to spend some time over there especially if we decide to go ahead with the change in location and setting for the novel. I would have to stay and do a bit of traveling for research purposes.
I’m excited because in addition to everything else, it would mean being a bit closer to you and we would finally be able to meet! I’m only a little concerned about how I’m going to swing it, but by the spring, things will look much different and that’s still quite a way off.
I still want to know – what is your favourite colour? And also … what does a Gael wear under his kilt?? (I told you there would be shameless flirting!)
Sent: Wed Oct 11, 2017 10:58 PM
To: Rose [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Subject: Re: London Agent
How was your holiday weekend? It was Thanksgiving there, wasn’t it? Hope you didn’t spend it alone.
I enjoyed the video chat too. I want to do it again soon, but I have a feeling filming is going to be brutal for this final season. We just did the read-through and there will be a LOT happening. I can’t tell you much more, but they’re saying that each episode will be the equivalent to a movie. I’ll see what little tidbits I can feed you without spoiling anything.
Yes, Sally is still at me. Mum harbours some resentment about the situation and keeps giving me the evil eye, but at least she’s leaving me alone about it. I still say no to the emails, but I’ll talk to her and see what I can work out to ease her mind.
The business with the agent sounds promising. The sooner we get you over here, the better! That’s my main concern. I would offer to come to you, but with scheduling and everything else that’s going on, that doesn’t seem like a possibility right now.
We are currently filming in Iceland, so I’ll be able to take care of that business right away. I’ll keep you up to date with everything as it happens.
My favorite colour is blue-green, ocean blue, sea green. Somewhere in there. I think you get the idea. What is yours?
As for the kilt, that’s for me to know and you to find out.
I have a few questions of my own. How old are you? I know you said that you’re about the same age as me, but when is your birthday? What side of the bed do you sleep on and what do you wear to bed?
All my love, Rory
From: Rose [email@example.com]
Sent: Fri Oct 13, 2017 8:17 AM
All the colours of the rainbow. But if I have to pick just one it’s green – like grass and trees and tulip shoots.
Is that a challenge?? I will find out!
Old enough to know better, but young enough not to care! I’m exactly three years younger than you.
The same side as you. 😜 To answer that last question … probably just what you’ve been imagining!
Love you, Rose
Rory stared at the words on the screen of his laptop. His mouth hung open and an embarrassing amount of heat radiated through his body. It had never really occurred to him to imagine what Rose might wear to bed, it was just a silly question he’d written for lack of anything better at that particular moment.
But he sure was imagining now.
Rory could see where this was going to go, so he was hesitant to answer until he could figure out exactly how he wanted to handle this. Oh sure, it would be easy to answer Rose with another suggestive question, mild innuendo, or a bit of teasing. That wasn’t the problem. The problem was where it would all lead.
It would lead to wanton desire and maddening frustration. If Rory allowed them to go down this path, there’s no way he’d be able to wait until spring. Not without driving them both insane in the process.
Rory let his mind wander back to their video chat. To have seen Rose that way, looking at him and smiling and tossing her hair around her bare shoulders … Ugghhhh! She had been wearing some sort of light blazer, but had removed it while they were talking and under that was a thin blousy tank top with a wide neck that exposed her shoulders, her collar bone, and slim, delicate neck. Since when had a collar bone ever turned him on??
Well, since now, I guess.
Had she known what she was doing? Did Rose take off her blazer on purpose just to entice him? No. He shook his head. Probably not, because at the time, they had been talking about his argument with Sally and mum. Rory knew that Rose was a sensitive woman with tact and dignity. She’d simply been making herself more comfortable, but damn … the way she had slid the jacket over her shoulders …
Unbeknownst to Rose, Rory had captured an image of her during their chat and Rory opened it now. He couldn’t take his eyes off of her. She was perfect. He closed his eyes and replayed the video chat in his mind, watching Rose in his memory, hearing her soft, reassuring voice, and felt warmth pooling in his boxers.
Here he was sitting in his hotel room alone, getting himself all worked up and undeniably aroused by a woman he’d never met, but with whom he was falling in love. When you put it that way, it did seem odd, but he knew Rose, knew the kind of person she was, trusted her and never had any doubts that she was anything other than what she’d shown herself to be.
After more than a year of correspondence, phone conversations, and now a video chat, Rory realized the one big difference between Rose and other women, the thing he hadn’t quite been able to pinpoint until now, was that she had never treated him like a celebrity. Except that very first fanmail letter and her initial response to his first email reply, Rose had treated him like he was nobody special. To Rose, he was just another man, an everyday bloke.
What did he really know about her, though? He didn’t know the little details of her life, like when her birthday was. But did a date of birth matter to whether you love someone, or how you felt about them? The things he did know about her, the information he had gleaned from between the lines, told him what he really needed to know.
Rose was strong and courageous. She was intelligent, sensitive, responsible, and had a sense of humour that matched his. Rose was classy, dignified, and independent. The list went on and on and none of it was negative. The only negative was the distance between them. If that didn’t change soon, Rory would have more to deal with than uncomfortably tight jeans.
Tugging at the inside seam near the top of his thigh, Rory tried to adjust his discomfort. He drummed his fingers on the table and glared at the screen. He had no idea how to handle this. Anything more shameless than what they’d already written to each other would only make the situation more difficult and his pants feel tighter.
Realizing that they’d never shared anything that wasn’t completely true and honest, Rory decided it was the best way to respond – with more honesty. He crackled his knuckles and let his fingers pause over the keyboard just long enough to assure himself that this was the right approach.
Sent: Mon Oct 21, 2017 10:45 AM
To: Rose [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Subject: Re: Shameless!
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t imagining it before, but I am now. It’s making me rather uncomfortable, but only in a physical way if you get my meaning.
I would really love to keep up this flirting, but I don’t want either of us to become reckless in our pursuit of each other. I have a large stock of suggestive comments and innuendos, but I believe it would only lead to a frustration that would drive us crazy until we’re able to see each other in person. If we do allow ourselves to go down that road, I see one of two things happening when we finally do meet.
We will throw caution to the wind and jump head first into a situation that we will regret in the morning and possibly end up resenting each other, or we will be shattered by intimidation and disappointment because of the expectations we built up in our minds.
I don’t want either of those things to happen.
When you come here, I want to be able to be with you without any kind of pressure to perform. I’m not talking about sex. I’m talking about being able to sit with you and having a conversation. I want to be able to go for walk with you and hold your hand, give you a hug. I often think about that first kiss, and I want it to be natural, not because of a buildup of tension and frustration. I’m going to be nervous enough as it is. I’m sure you will be, too.
Trust me when I say that I feel the same as you and the temptation to say something naughty is overwhelming. I looked up the dates for the London Book Fair. It’s not until April 10th. That’s five and a half months away.
I feel like I have really come to know you after more than a year of emails and conversations, but also remember that you have only been divorced for one month. By April, that will be six months. I think that’s an appropriate amount of time before we meet.
Until then, let’s not be shameless. I admire you far too much to treat you with anything less than the respect you deserve.
All my love,
P.S. Tomorrow I’m traveling to the village in Iceland near where I lived to visit some people and take care of the business we discussed. I’ll keep you updated.
Chapter 27: Neither Marriage Nor Family Torn Asunder
This chapter is based on this clip: Season 8 Episode 5 - Behind the Scenes Skip ahead to 21:00 minutes.
From: Rose [email@example.com]
Sent: Mon Oct 30, 2017 10:34 AM
Subject: Re: Re: Shameless!
I suppose you’re right but on some level but I just can’t help myself. I suppose it’s because after twenty years of marriage, I feel like a teenager again. You do that to me. Yes, I’m nervous, but also excited and overwhelmed by all these feelings that I haven’t felt in so long that I don’t even recognize myself at times.
I do agree with you about feeling natural and comfortable when that time comes. I look forward to finding out what it feels like to hold your hand and to have your arms wrapped around me. I’m sure that five months will fly by before we know it, but it doesn’t feel that way right now.
Wasn’t it me who said that I needed some time to find my independence? And you are the one that’s holding me to it. I guess I still need to do some work in that department. It will be tough, but five months from now, it will all be worth it.
For the first time with you, I feel like I don’t have much to say. There isn’t much going on here. I’m settled in my apartment, the boxes are unpacked and I’ve discovered my new routine. I spend most of my day in front of the computer working on the new book and it’s coming along grandly. I’m starting to find that I agree with my agent about changing the location so I’m writing only vague details for the setting. Traveling to the UK won’t come soon enough. There will be a whole new world for me to discover and the country will only be a small part of it. You will be the bigger part of it.
How are you doing? How is work going? I’ve heard rumours of something they’re calling “Cleganebowl.” Have you heard of that? The term frightens me. I hope nothing bad happens to my beloved Hound. I wish you could give me a hint, but I don’t want the ending to be spoiled, so no hints no matter how much I beg. (And there may be a lot of begging as I find tidbits on the internet!)
I miss you, Rory. Is that possible? We’ve never met in person, but I miss you. Can you call me on Sunday? Not a video chat, just a voice call. A video chat might make me want to misbehave. I would really like to hear your voice.
Love you, Rose
Sent: Tues Oct 31, 2017 7:15 AM
To: Rose [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Just a quick note as we’re taking a break between takes. I’m going to hurt like hell tomorrow. It’s hard work fighting someone that’s bigger than me. Imagine that! I’m sending you a couple photos, but it is strictly against the rules so I’m placing a lot of trust in you. It’s a big hint, but I don’t think it’s anything that will spoil the outcome for you.
I’ll call you Sunday morning (your morning, my afternoon). I miss you, too.
“Rory, you okay?”
Sandor Clegane dropped six inches to his feet when the Franken-Mountain let go of him. Rory tried to catch his breath, but the wind was knocked out of him. His lungs felt like old leather bags as air finally leaked into them, burning on the way in. Bent at the waist, he gasped and spat.
Fuck I’m going to have some bloody bruises tomorrow, he cursed internally. After another wheezing breath, he was able to stand straight again.
Rory turned and faced his on-screen nemesis. “For such a big man you’re awfully gentle,” he told Hafþór. Rory bent over and took another breath letting loose an audible gasp that reminded him of a little girl.
Someone brought him his water bottle and he took a long drink. The burning in his throat subsided, but the frustration didn’t. Rory wanted this to be over. He wanted to crawl into bed and sleep. He wanted to soak in a hot tub to ease the aching and tension in every single muscle in his body. Rory wanted Rose to be there with him. He wanted to hold her and smell her and let her soothe his aches and pains.
He needed to focus and to get her out of his head so that he could get through the next four days of shooting. There was too much at stake. Rory couldn’t afford to be daydreaming. Not this late in the game.
Use it, he told himself. Rory felt the rumble of frustration working up to a full blown roar. In Iceland, he had put the migraines to use, had worked himself into Sandor Clegane’s state of anger and bitterness. He could do that now.
“Can we have another go?” Rory asked.
Murmurs from the crew pretty much indicated what they were all thinking – that Rory McCann was either overly dedicated to his craft or just plain crazy. David Benioff squeezed between the other crew members on the narrow stairs climbing the few steps toward Rory and Hafþór.
“We’ve got good takes already, but we have time for one more. You want to do this?” David asked in disbelief. Rory glanced at Hafþór then back at David and nodded. He took a deep breath and got himself ready to face the pain.
Turning and giving Hafþór a friendly smack on the shoulder, he joked, “You wanna put some muscle into it this time?”
“Hey, Handsome!” Rose purred.
Rose wondered how it was that at her age, a man could still make her giggle and blush the way she did when she was sixteen years old, in high school, and about as graceful as an ostrich in high heels.
“How are you?” Rose asked.
Rory groaned. “I feel like an old man. I haven’t had stiff muscles like this in my life. Even my hair hurts if you can believe that’s possible.”
“Don’t you have stunt men for the hard stuff?”
Rory hemmed for a moment. “Yes, but for what Hafþór and I were doing stunt men really weren’t necessary. It was just really physical. A lot of pushing and shoving, swinging a sword around all day. Hafþór had to lift me up and slam me against the wall, but the camera was right in front of me, so it had to be my face.”
“He seems like a pretty big guy from the photo you sent.”
“The man is only 3 inches taller than me but he outweighs me by almost 200 pounds. And that’s solid muscle, I might add.” Rory shifted the pillows on his bed to try and make himself more comfortable, but everything ached. If Rose was here lying next to him it probably wouldn’t hurt this much. Either that or he just wouldn’t notice.
“Is there anything you want to talk about?” Rory asked Rose.
“Nothing pressing. I miss you and I wanted to hear your voice. I guess I’ve gotten spoiled that way.”
“I suppose we’re both spoiled, then. I kept thinking about you when I should have been concentrating on work. Forgot my lines a couple of times. But I suppose I ought to thank you, because you helped me get through the fight scene.”
“How did I help with that?”
“Frustration. Because we can’t be together sooner. Because Sally won’t let up on me. Whatever I’m feeling, I try to use it on set. I had to take a lot of abuse from Hafþór, but it was worth it.”
Rose shifted uncomfortably on the couch. Rory’s frustrations were making her nervous. She’d never thought that she could interfere with his ability to do his job properly. The idea had never occurred to her.
“Rory, am I too much of a distraction for you?” she finally asked. “Be honest.”
“No, Rose. You’re not a distraction. If you were part of the crew standing there watching me work, then you would be a distraction.” Rory thought of something else and it made him chuckle. “I’d probably be picturing you naked,” he admitted.
Rose gasped. “I thought you wanted us to behave ourselves?” She felt a warm rush over her skin. Suddenly it was too warm and Rose wanted to start removing layers of clothing, but she didn’t trust herself.
“A man’s got to have some fun.” Rory wiggled down the bed a little. “So tell me, what are you wearing?”
Rose’s concern deepened. “I am a distraction, Rory. Maybe this call wasn’t such a good idea. You’ve still got work to do. You’ve already said I’m making you forget your lines. And I –”
“Rose! You’re not a distraction. If I thought you were, I wouldn’t have agreed to call. I wanted to hear your voice just as much as you wanted to hear mine. I was teasing a little, that’s all. I only have three more weeks of filming and I’m done. For good.”
“You mean … the end of work on Game of Thrones?”
“The end,” Rory confirmed. “Then I’m off through the holidays. And that’s one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you. I have a question to ask.”
“Okay.” Rose chewed on her fingernail.
“Would you like me to come see you the last week in November?”
The answer came to her right away, but it got stuck in Rose’s throat. Of course she wanted to see him. She didn’t want to wait until April any more than he did. So why couldn’t she just say yes?
Rose felt a shiver crawl over her. Because it was still too soon, that’s why. They had agreed to wait until April. Rose would be divorced six months by then. An appropriate amount of time, Rory had called it.
Then there was Sally. And Rory’s mum. Rose wished there was some way she could get in their good graces before she met Rory. Rose never wanted to be the little tart that bewitched a son and a brother away from two women who, by Rory’s account of them, seemed to be quite strong-willed and opinionated.
And it would be almost a year without Holly. Not that she would ever forget Holly or shove her memories aside to chase love, but there had to be an acceptable mourning period. In April, Rose would have known Rory for more than a year and a half. Not actually met him, of course, but Holly had, and Holly had fallen head over heels for him – in teenager-y crush sort of way, but nonetheless ...
“Rose? You still with me?” Rory asked.
“Yeah.” Rose felt her breath whistle between her teeth. “Rory, I want to see you more than you could possibly know. But I was thinking about what we discussed and I still think it’s better to wait until April. I have some really good reasons and if you want I’ll explain it, but I think November is still too soon.”
“What if I asked you to come for Christmas?”
Rose could hear the subtle note of pleading in Rory’s voice. He was trying to hide it, attempted to make his voice flat and toneless, but Rose had heard it. Rory could never beat her at poker, but they’d make great euchre partners.
“I’m sure that would go over really well with Sally and your mum,” Rose suggested with a hint of sarcasm. Rory was quiet for a long time.
“Are you disappointed in me?” Rose asked.
“No, of course not. It’s just difficult to want something so much. To want you so much. I have so many emotions bottled up, Rose, and I want to express them, but I need you for that.”
“I know, Rory. I want it, too. I’m not saying it’s easier for you, but there’s so much out there about you. I hope you believe me when I say that I don’t go looking for news about you on the internet, but sometimes photos or news articles pop up. And I see you on TV, of course. And then there are all the advertisements and I’m constantly reminded of you and I want to be there with you. I see your face everywhere and I have those same emotions and I feel them every time I see your face.” Rose sighed heavily. She wanted desperately to lose this argument. She wanted Rory to convince her why she was wrong and talk her into seeing him before next year.
She sucked a deep breath and asked Rory to give her the reason she needed to change her mind. “If you can get Sally and your mum to come around …” Rose hesitated hoping Rory would finish for her, but he stayed silent. “I won’t be the one to come between you and your family, Rory.”
“I’ve been trying, Rose. Believe me I’ve been trying.”
“That’s another reason for us to wait, then. I don’t want to make life hard for you by making you choose between me and your family. If Sally and your mum are dead set against me, you’d feel like you were being forced to choose and I won’t do that to you. I would walk away before I came between you and your family.” Rose suddenly had an epiphany.
“Remember when Holly and I were in London and I went off on you for not calling her in time? We talked and you told me that if one of us had to concede, that’s what you would do. Well, I’m telling you the same thing. You refused to break up my marriage. I’m refusing to break up your family. The difference here is that your family doesn’t have to break up if they’re willing to include one more. But if that doesn’t happen –”
“Are you saying you want to be part of my family?” Rory asked suddenly sitting up straight on his bed. His body screamed at him and he winced, squeezing his eyes shut. “Rose?”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it that way. I just meant that –”
“Rose,” Rory interrupted. “We’re going to wait until April. Sometime this coming week, Sally’s going to call you. With your permission, I’m going to forward a few of our emails to her. Would that be alright with you?”
“Thank-you, Rory. I would really like that.”
Chapter 28: International Relations
Rose sat back heavily in her desk chair with her mouth hanging open. Looking briefly at her phone screen, she swiped left to clear her screen. She glazed blankly at the dual monitors that framed the back of her desktop. No work would be getting done on her book today.
Setting her phone face down on her desk, Rose pushed the keyboard away and sat in stunned silence. She looked at her watch. It was almost 10:30. The call had come only a few minutes after nine. That phone call, she realized, was going to cost someone a fortune, but every moment had been worth it.
“May I speak to Rose McClelland?” the woman had asked. The Scottish accent had been unmistakable.
“This is Rose. Is this Sally?”
At first, Sally had been very reserved, judgmental, and somewhat indifferent. Toward the end of the call, the two women had been giggling and discussing Rory’s bad habits and a few embarrassing childhood adventures. Rose didn’t know anything about Rory’s habits, but she did know Rory wasn’t keen on spiders. Rose knew about Fred and she was more than happy to share that with Sally.
“You know he screams like a little girl?” Sally had offered. “He was trapped in the bathroom for almost an hour once because there was a spider hanging in the doorway. That was when we were kids, of course, but he was still a lot bigger than me and I had to come rescue him.”
Apparently, Rory also snored and talked in his sleep.
“What does he say?” Rose asked, intrigued.
“Well … sometimes he recites his ABC’s and … back at Christmas in 2015, he spent a couple of nights here over the holidays. He fell asleep on the couch and that’s how I found out that Sandor Clegane was coming back to life in season 6.”
Rose couldn’t keep the grin off her face as she listened to Sally share a few more of Rory’s secrets. The conversation hadn’t started out that way. To say there had been tension slicing at the phone line would have been putting it mildly.
“I’m sorry,” Sally began rather unapologetically, “but I don’t see how two people can claim to have such strong feelings when you haven’t even met. Rory knows nothing about you except what you’ve told him. You could be anybody. How do I know that you’re not just some scam artist who’s got him wrapped up in something that will destroy him?”
“Rory may not have met me, but we’ve talked on the phone, we’ve written each other for more than a year and he has met my daughter. Holly gave Rory a photo of me, the one that happens to be on the back of my book. I don’t know what else to say to you to assure you that I am who I say I am and that I do care about Rory. I’m not just some Hound groupie who’s out for a social media hit here.”
There was a long pause as both Sally and Rose considered what to say next. It was Rose who finally broke the awkward silence.
“Sally, Rory told me he was going to send you some of our emails. I don’t know which ones he forwarded to you, but I’ll be happy to send you some if it would ease your mind. There were two times when I was ready to end the correspondence between us. I didn’t seek him out. Rather he was the one who chose to continue our friendship. I made it quite clear that I had a family and that I didn’t want anything from him.” Rose sighed deeply realizing that Sally most likely knew of the emotional confusion that had gone on between her and Rory.
“I know there were times when both of us might have gotten a little mixed up with our feelings, and I can’t speak for him, but I had a lot going on. It was very confusing times for me and I had no one else to talk to. If Rory hadn’t been there in that capacity, I –”
“Rose?” Sally interrupted. “Rory is a very sensitive man. His feelings run deep. They always have. The few relationships Rory has been in for any notable length of time always seemed to get pretty intense, and he always got hurt in the end. That’s why he tends to shy away from relationships. So when he admitted that he was somewhat involved with someone, I was really very surprised.” Rose could hear a rustling at the other end of the line.
“Rory sent me three of your emails. They were all the ones you just mentioned … about thanking him for his friendship and assuming that’s where it was going to end. He’s told me, and I can see from these emails, that you have, in fact, been open and honest with him. For his sake, I hope this relationship is everything you’re making it appear to be. However …” Sally’s voice grew rigid and detached. “If you ever do anything to hurt him, I will make you regret it.”
There were no mixed messages in Sally’s words. The implication was clear and direct.
“If your intentions are anything less that honourable, or if you have any doubt in your mind, now would be the time to back away,” Sally warned.
Rose didn’t answer immediately. To do so would have solidified the reservations that Sally held against her. Rose chose her next words very carefully.
“Sally, I can assure you that the feelings I have for Rory have nothing to do with who he is to the rest of the world. My feelings are solely based on who he is to me. I realize that his fame and notoriety won’t make this relationship easy. Relationships are already hard enough. I know that from personal experience and I’m prepared to face that challenge. I also realize that Rory may be famous now, but he wasn’t always and there may come a day when no one remembers who he is. So much about life is fleeting, including life itself, that all we can really count on is each other. That’s what I want from Rory – someone that I can count on and someone who can depend on me to be there. I want him to be able to depend on the fact that I …”
Rose hesitated debating whether she was about to say the right thing. If it was the wrong thing, the entire conversation up to this point would have been a waste and Sally’s opinion of her would be set right back at zero.
Rose cleared her throat before continuing. “Okay, so I’m going to use the word ‘love’ here, but Rory and I are both aware that we can’t be sure of anything until we actually meet each other in person, so just bear with me. I want Rory to be able to depend on the fact that I love him no matter the circumstances. If we can’t have that, then there’s really no point in continuing. But we won’t know that until April.”
Sally seemed to be considering all her words very carefully. When she spoke next, Rose was caught off guard by her sudden change in demeanor.
“Well, all right then! Tell me about yourself, Rose.”
The conversation had gone straight up from that point on.
Toward the end of the conversation, the Christmas invitation had been re-issued, but Rose again declined for the same reasons she’d given Rory. Sally understood and respected her for her decision.
“I’ll keep in touch,” Sally promised. “Rory has given me your email address so I may drop you a note once in a while but other than that, I’m staying out of it. I promise. If there’s ever anything you need, let me know.”
“Actually, the only thing I need, is to know how your mum is going to take this. Is she going to be put out by the fact that you’ve switched sides and gone in league with the enemy?” Rose let out a small chuckle to let Sally know that she meant it strictly in good fun.
“Oh, don’t you worry about her. She’ll probably chase me around the kitchen and smack me with her slipper, but she’ll get over it.” Sally groaned or sighed, Rose wasn’t sure. Maybe it was a combination of both. “I wish we could talk longer, Rose, but I’ve got to call Rory. He’s probably chewed his fingernails down to the knuckle waiting to find out how this all went.”
“I’m really glad we had the chance to talk. It would have been sooner if it was up to me, but Rory didn’t want that. I’m glad he changed his mind,” Rose said.
“Me, too, Rose. At first I thought he was insane, but then it occurred to me that if you had anything to hide, you wouldn’t have wanted to talk to me at all. Well … I’ve really got to go. We’ll talk again, Rose.”
Rose picked up her cell phone again and debated calling Rory. It would be nearing four in the afternoon his time and so he was probably still working. Rose knew that his filming days right now were long and intense, often continuing late into the night. By the time he got back to his hotel, ate, and showered, he would probably fall into bed and be gone in seconds.
She could always send an email, but Rory might not see it for at least a few days. Rose finally decided a text message was the best option. He’d likely see it right away, but it gave Rory the option to respond at his convenience.
Sally called. She totally hates me! Have
declared war. Please state your loyalty at
your earliest convenience. (Choose me and I’ll
make it worth your while!!!)
Rose rolled herself up off the couch as she aimed the remote at the TV. It was time for bed. She usually climbed into bed at 10:30 and read a book until she started feeling sleepy. Tonight, however, she’d been wired and unable to settle.
Rose had practically bounded out of bed, thrown on an old t-shirt, and curled up on the couch to watch a movie on Netflix. After perusing a string of unacceptable options (there was always something good available, she just wasn’t in the mood for anything), Rose debated turning the TV off and taking her chances with the sandman.
When she first heard the muffled bells, Rose had no idea what the noise was or where it was coming from. She discovered that her phone had gotten pushed down into the couch cushions, and someone was calling, but not through her phone.
It was Rory video calling. Rose sat up and swiped at the phone.
“Rory! What are you doing video calling? And at this time of night.” Suddenly realizing she must have looked a fright, Rose haphazardly smoothed out her hair even though Rory was watching her do it. Rory had a perturbed look on his face.
“It’s just the start of the morning for me. I’m on my way to the set,” he explained. Rose then realized that the dark background was the inside of Rory’s limo. Despite the dim light of pre-dawn and lack of lighting in the car, Rose could see Rory’s face quite clearly. She gasped.
“Oh my God, Rory! Do you have a black eye?”
He arched an eyebrow and his frown deepened. “Aye. Accidentally got hit in the face yesterday. Nothing serious. Makeup will cover it.” Rory scruffed at his beard and scrunched his chin. “So … you gonna tell me what the bloody hell you two talked about for …” Rory looked down on the seat beside him. “… an hour and twenty-two minutes?!?!” A reluctant grin was starting to force its way onto his face. Rose couldn’t help but grin back. She shrugged sheepishly.
“I told her about Fred.”
Rory threw his head back and laughed. “And …?”
“And Sally told me how she found out that you were coming back in season 6.” Rose thought for a moment. “Oh, and she told me about the infamous potato incident.”
“Ahh, Christ,” Rory said burying his face in his hand and shaking his head. When he lifted his eyes, he peeked at her from between his fingers but he wasn’t doing a very good job of hiding the deep blush that covered his face. His expression abruptly changed as Rory cocked his head to the side apparently concentrating on whatever it was he was seeing.
“Rose, what are you wearing?” he asked with a wide smile. Rose looked down and gasped. She was only in a thin, white, worn-out t-shirt and she wasn’t wearing a bra. Now it was her turn to feel the flame in her cheeks.
“Hey! My eyes are up here, buster.”
Rory nodded slowly and appreciatively. “I’d say that view is definitely worth my loyalty!” Rory licked his lips suggestively. “Is that all you’re wearing?”
Rose leered back at him. “Tell me what’s under your kilt and I’ll tell you what’s under my t-shirt.” Rose slowly pulled the phone away from her giving Rory a larger view, then pulled the phone back in before the image went below her waist.
Rory laughed out loud. “Okay, okay. You know I’m not going to be able to get out of this car anytime soon, right?” Rory sighed heavily and settled himself.
“Sally really likes you. She told me she offered the Christmas invitation again. You still want to wait for April, eh?”
Rose nodded with a complacent smile. “It’s for the best, Rory. I want to do this right. I have to come over anyway and April will be the right time.” Rory saw a wisp of worry cross Rose’s face but by the time he recognized it, it was gone.
Rory’s car door started to open, but Rory reached beside him and pulled it closed again.
“Is everything okay, Rose?” he asked concerned and keeping a tight grip on the inside door handle. Rose smiled brightly.
“Everything is fine. Take care of yourself and be careful, please. I don’t want to see anymore black eyes … or worse.”
Rory’s face strained for a moment as he pulled the car door closed again.
“Aye. I’ve got to go or the driver’s going to come after me with the jaws of life.”
“Okay. I’m going to bed now.” Rose got a devilish grin. “Oh, and Rory? The t-shirt will be coming off.” Rose waved into the phone, waggled her shoulders and her eyebrows and ended the call. Rory groaned and pulled the car door shut again.
Every day with Rose is going to be an adventure, he realized not for the first time.
Chapter 29: The Countdown Begins
I really have no idea the name of Rory's mum.
Rose finished off November with a trip to Ann Arbor for a book signing and short speech during a writer’s seminar at the University of Michigan. During the first week of December, Rose had her first appearance in the Toronto Literary Society’s literacy awareness event. The two events opened Rose’s eyes to what would be expected of her as a successful published author. Over the next year, her agent anticipated multiple trips, the first of which would be the London Book Fair. Based on her success at that event, Rose’s agent would begin planning for the rest of her year.
The part that made Rose nervous was that she’d have to foot the bill for that first trip on her own. A little bit of money was starting to come in from the sale of her book, but it was only just the beginning. After London, things would be very different, but until then she’d have to scrimp and save a little.
All I have to do is get there somehow, Rose reminded herself.
She tried not to think about it (still four months away, she chanted internally), and went about life as usual. That included a few emails from Rory, and two phone calls. He elected to stay away from video calls for awhile lest Rose should become an irresistible temptress.
“Or I will be in the hallway in my boxers knocking on your door, but this time it will be at your flat,” he threatened in jest.
There had been one more conversation with Sally before Christmas. This time, Rose had opted for a video call. She wanted Sally to have no doubts in her mind that she was who she said she was. Even Rory’s mum had appeared on screen for a moment.
At first, she didn’t realize she was talking to Rose. She pointed at the screen, looked at Sally standing beside her and said, “Not a bad-looking lass, is she then?”
“Mum, she can hear you!”
Rose waved and Helen McCann gasped. “Oh, she can see me.”
Rose nodded and said “Hi, Helen!”
Sally and Rose talked for a while and Sally tried to get Rose to impart some vital statistics. “Rory wants to send you something for Christmas. He’s asked me to see if I can find out your sizes and such.”
But Rose shook her head. “I’m not a really big fan of gift-giving.” She explained that she actually loved giving gifts, but hated getting them. “People always ask me what I’d like or want, but there’s nothing I need. I’m far too practical to waste money. I’d rather do something special.”
The two women talked for a while longer then discussed the video call on Christmas Day. Rory would call Rose in the early afternoon GMT and late morning EST. Sally warned Rose she’d likely get a Christmas greeting from the whole family and then she’d have Rory all to herself for a while.
The day before Christmas Eve, Rose answered the buzzer to the FedEx guy. He had a package for her. Rose was thoroughly embarrassed, suspecting that Rory had sent her a gift even though she’d asked him not to.
But she really, really wanted it.
The thin white box wasn’t much larger than a manila envelope and was very light. Rose picked her brain wondering what it could be as she sprinted up three flights, bolted past the Cooper twins who were playing marbles in the stairwell again, nearly broke an ankle on a getaway aggie, and almost knocked the elderly Mrs. Davidson over on her dash down the hallway.
Safely back inside her apartment, Rose searched the outside of the box for a clue. The package had been sent c/o Emptage-Hallett – probably so that Rory wouldn’t have to send it with his name on the box. Rose almost didn’t want to open it. Not opening it would prolong the anticipation and the mystery.
Rose turned the box over in her hands. She couldn’t hold out any longer. With a little girl squeal, Rose ripped the perforated seam along one edge and tore back the flap. Her stomach tightened dramatically as she reached inside and felt another thinner package wrapped in plain brown paper. She slid that one out and carelessly tossed the FedEx box aside.
Prior to launching another attack, Rose examined the secondary parcel. There was no writing on it and nothing telling her that she couldn’t open until Christmas. She squeezed the soft, pliable package and decided that it was something made of fabric. Biting her lip, she excitedly ripped into that one, too.
Rose stared at the contents, mouth agape, barely breathing. Inside the brown paper was a large, freezer-sized Ziploc baggie containing a neatly folded t-shirt. A small white envelope was taped to the front of the plastic bag. Rose separated the two and sliced open the paper envelope. Inside that, was a short note and a photo of Rory wearing the t-shirt sealeded in the plastic baggie.
Happy Christmas! I know it’s not much, but I’m sure this will mean more to you than any gift I could buy for you. As you can see from the photo, I wore this shirt during our pre-filming when we were working out the movements and choreography. I nicked it so that you could have something no one else has (a little bit of me).
Love you, Rory
The shirt was dark teal with the mint green logo for the Season 8 Episode 5 props department. This wasn’t exactly something you could order off Amazon.
Rose sat down at her kitchen table holding the plastic bag across her lap. She briefly wondered why Rory had put it in plastic.
… a little bit of me …
Suddenly a slow smile spread across her face. Rose carefully opened a small corner of the bag and brought it to her nose. She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. She concentrated as she tried to identify the aromas her nose detected. Musk, leather, and a slightly burnt smell that reminded her of her grandfather’s cherry pipe tobacco.
Rose quickly sealed the bag again and clutched it to her chest. It was the most amazing gift she’d ever received. A little piece of Rory. Rose desperately wanted to take it out of the bag and wear it to bed, falling asleep in the closest thing to Rory’s arms without actually being in Rory’s arms, but she knew that if she did that, the smell of him wouldn’t last long.
She treated herself to another quick sniff, allowing her imagination to take her into the strong warmth of Rory’s embrace, arms wrapped around her as she pressed her head against his chest. Rose could almost hear his heartbeat and feel his chest rise and fall with each breath as the scent of him filled her lungs.
April couldn’t come fast enough.
“Happy Christmas, Rose!”
Five faces were all crowded together in front of Rory’s phone. Sally, Helen, Gavin and the boys all smiled and waved as they shouted their Christmas greeting as a group.
“Merry Christmas, everyone,” Rose said back.
In brief close-ups, Sally introduced Gavin and the boys. They then sent their warm wishes for the rest of the holidays and promised to get together in April. Sally pointed at the screen and told her, “I think someone else wants to talk to you.”
Rory turned the phone around, walked through the house and into a room where he closed the door behind him.
“Happy Christmas, Rose. Did you get a package from me?” Rory was smiling brightly.
“Oh, Rory. That was absolutely brilliant. Thank-you so much. I feel bad because I didn’t get anything for you.”
Rory’s smile softened as he shook his head. “The only thing I need is for you to get over here. So you like it then?”
Rose nodded enthusiastically. “I love it.” She looked down for a moment and when she brought her eyes up again there was a hint of sadness. “It makes me miss you even more now that I can smell you.” A blushed tinged her cheeks. “I wish I was there with you right now.”
Rory sighed deeply. “I know, Rose. I wish you were here, too. Only three more months.”
Only three more months, Rose reminded herself.
It would be three very long, cold months.
From: Rose [email@example.com]
Sent: Mon Jan 1, 2018 11:27 AM
Subject: Happy New Year!
How was New Years? Hope you didn’t drink too much! If you did, then let’s just say that one of those pints was for me.
Now is the time I wish you were here the most. It’s so cold. It would be nice if you were here to keep me warm. Already we have more than a foot of snow and I have a feeling it’s here to stay, so it will only get deeper. I suppose I should be glad that I no longer have a driveway to shovel.
I can’t believe it’s 2018! There will be a lot of changes this year. I’m looking forward to all of them, especially the ones involving you. When April finally arrives, I think it will be a special time for both of us. We certainly deserve it!
I have finally finished the second book. No permanent title yet, but calling it “The Meaning of Roses” for the moment.
Miss you! Three months and counting …
P.S. How is Fred?
Sent: Mon Jan 1, 2018 9:36 PM
To: Rose [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Subject: Re: Happy New Year!
Fred sends his love, but it turns out Fred is a girl. There is now a cozy little nest in that corner, so I’m currently planning my strategy for attack. I’ll let you know how it goes.
New Years was lonely without you. I have no problem admitting that now. I’m lonely for you. I try to keep myself busy and occupied, but I’m always thinking about you. Please make time go faster (until April, anyway).
Can I read your book? Would you mind emailing a copy to me? Maybe I can give you some suggestions for the location. At least I might be able to narrow down some ideas for you.
Finally have a date for the interview. I’ll be doing a live interview on Sunday, January 21 at 3:00pm GMT on SKY. Not sure if you will be able to see it, but even if you can’t I hope you’ll be praying for me that it all goes well.
I miss you, too.
Chapter 30: London In 5 … 4 … 3 …
“Hey, Handsome.” Rose leaned close to her phone so that Rory could only see her face. “Did I call too late?”
Rory leaned back in his berth admiring what he saw. Rose looked slightly disheveled, but just as beautiful with a healthy flush and breezy wisps of red hair framing her face. “Nae, I was just reading before bed. I read your book. It’s even better than the first one.” Rory snorted. “I didn’t realize that every colour of rose meant something different. The book gave me some good ideas for the location so I’ll send them in an email.”
“I watched your interview. I think it went really well. You handled yourself perfectly. The story is all over the internet now, so I’m guessing you haven’t heard back from that journalist who was trying to blackmail you?”
Rory shook his head. “Not a word.” He looked down almost embarrassed. “Rose, I want to thank you for talking me through that. It seems silly that I let it bother me that much now that it’s out there.”
“Rory,” Rose sighed, “When you’re going through things, it’s easy to go a little off balance. That’s what friends are for – to lean on when you can’t stand straight on your own. You did that for me a lot last year.”
“And I would do it again.” Rory thought for a moment then looked up at Rose. “Rose, have you booked your flight and hotel yet? You haven’t sent me any the details so I was wondering if –”
Rose suddenly looked away from the screen. Worry clouded her features.
“Rose, what’s wrong?”
Rose tried to shrug it off but Rory had started learning her poker tells and he could see that she was hiding something. “It’s nothing. I –”
“Rose …?” Rory made his voice low, but gentle. “Talk to me.”
She could keep denying, but Rory was always very persistent and Rose knew that it would be a wasted effort. She’d have to tell him at some point anyway, and he’d find out if she didn’t show up in London.
“I’m not sure if I’ll be able to make it,” she confessed. Rose scrunched up her face, but it didn’t prevent the watery glaze that pooled on her lower eyelids. “Things are a little … difficult for me right now.”
Rory didn’t try to hide his concern. “Are you talking about money? What happened? You sold the house, right?”
Rose bounced her head from side to side, defenseless against the reality of the obstacles that always seemed to get in the way of life. “Yes, but Jason and I were a typical suburban family. We had a mortgage, credit card debt, a car payment … When we got divorced, we split the debt. I ended up with a little bit after selling the house, but then I had to buy a car, and divorce lawyers don’t exactly run cheap.”
Rory took it all in and mulled it over. “Rose, do you trust me?” he asked bluntly.
Rose nodded immediately. “Of course I do.”
“Tomorrow, I want you to book your flight. Put it on your credit card. You have a credit card, don’t you?”
Rose nodded. “Yes, Rory, but I can’t afford it.”
Rory gave her the look. Rose shut up and let him talk.
“Book your flight tomorrow and send me your itinerary. Matter of fact, I want you to book a first class fare.” Rose opened her mouth to protest, but Rory held up his hand to the phone screen. “Just trust me, Rose. Buy a first class ticket. After you send me your itinerary, I’ll make a room reservation for you. I know a good place that will be close to the Book Fair that’s really nice and clean but not too expensive. You’re just going to have to trust me on this. Everything will work out fine, I promise.”
They stared at each other for a few minutes. Rose gave in, smiled, and agreed. Rory tried to stifle a yawn, but Rose realized how late it was for him.
“It’s almost one o’clock for you. Past your bedtime.”
“Aye,” Rory agreed. “I suppose I should get some sleep.”
“Will you be able to sleep?” Rose was biting the corner of her lip to keep from smirking.
Rory narrowed his eyes with suspicion. “I think so. Why?” He turned his head to look at her out of the corner of his eye.
Rose let her smirk freely develop into a grin as she pulled the phone away from her. She was wearing the t-shirt Rory had sent her for Christmas. Only the t-shirt. She reached forward and set the phone down on something keeping it tilted upward as she stepped back and turned in a circle for him. The shirt accentuated her shapely hips and slim, muscular thighs. The bottom edge of the shirt stopped just above her knees. The heavy fabric forced him to use his imagination, but that’s just what Rory was doing and he was imagining it quite well.
“I think it fits me perfectly. What do you think?”
Rory buried his face in his hand and shook his head. From between his fingers, Rose could see that he was bright red.
“You’re going to kill me, Rose. I’m going to have a stroke right here in my bed and no one will find me for weeks.” He dared to look up and take in every inch of her. “God, you’re beautiful. Keep it up and I won’t make it two more months.”
Rose stepped back toward the phone, her grin just as wide as ever.
“You didn’t want me to get any sleep tonight, did you?” Rory asked. His face still glowed.
Rose acted all innocent. “What? Now what ever did I do?” She kneeled next to the phone. “Goodnight, Rory.”
The entire contents of Rose’s closet lay strewn across her bed, but the suitcase was still empty. She knew she would need something professional-looking but comfortable for the Book Fair. Rose would be sitting at a table all day, signing volumes. Occasionally, she might be up walking around talking to people – publishers, editors, hopeful writers – so a nice pair of comfy shoes would also be required. For her meetings, she could probably wear the same clothes, but with a nice conservative pair of pumps.
All she really had were funeral dresses and ancient, out-of-fashion interview clothes from another era. Rose decided, very reluctantly, that she might have to do some shopping. She still had lots of time, she was three weeks ahead of schedule, but this was the reason she had wanted to tackle the packing so early.
Rory said that everything would be fine, but Rose had almost coughed up a kidney when she’d booked her flight. Her first class, open-ended, non-stop ticket between Toronto and London was setting her back almost $3200. Then Rory had forwarded the room reservation details to her. After doing some online comparison shopping, she realized that the $132 per night room he found for her was actually quite reasonable, and it was within walking distance of the conference center where the Book Fair was being held.
Almost four thousand dollars later, her credit card company was probably celebrating with a kegger. And now she had to buy new clothes.
“Trust me. Everything will be fine,” Rose mimicked sarcastically. But really, she did believe Rory. If Rory said everything would be fine, she’d just have to bite the big one and go to the mall.
Rose wasn’t too concerned about what she would be wearing when she met Rory. She wanted to be herself, not put on some fake persona. He already knew what kind of person she was. Just like Rory, she was a jeans and t-shirt kind of woman, with maybe a nice sundress and a trendy blouse to change things up. Oh, and a sweater. And …
Rose made a list in her head, grabbed her purse, her car keys, and her very frightened credit card and headed for the city.
Rose was getting nervous. It was one thing to have a long distance friendship with someone, but in a few days, she would be flying back to the UK where she would finally meet her best friend and the man she was falling in love with. Rose prayed that the love would last and develop into something longer and deeper.
Suddenly Sally’s concerns were a little more valid in her mind. Sally’s concern was no longer about Rose, but whether the expectations would live up to reality. That was the real question. Both Rory and Rose wanted this. They had deep feelings for each other, but would those feelings be the same ones when they were standing only feet apart?
Rose wondered if Rory was feeling the same way right now. She didn’t have any doubts in her mind about going. There was only the reality of the fact that nothing was guaranteed. There was the possibility that Rose and Rory could meet only to discover that they were meant to be nothing more than best friends. If they both felt that way, they would continue to be friends and be happy. But if only one of them felt that way …
A full-body shiver worked down through Rose’s flesh. She was being ridiculous getting herself worked up this way. Rose picked up her phone and called Rory.
“Are you worried?” Rory asked her.
“No, just a little nervous.” It was the honest truth.
“About me or the Book Fair?”
“Both,” Rose admitted. “The Book Fair pretty much determines the fate of my writing career.”
“So why are you nervous about me?”
“Honestly? I don’t know, Rory. I just am. Aren’t you?”
“Aye, Luv, I am. I want things to work out the way we both want them to. I want you to be happy with me. I want us to be able to live up to each other’s expectations.”
“I’m already happy with you, Rory. And my expectations really aren’t that much more than what we have now. I guess what makes me nervous is that we won’t be limited by distance anymore – that our relationship will progress …” Rose thought hard to find the right words without saying something embarrassing. “… well … into new territory.”
Rory chuckled. “How is it that you have the ability to say something without actually saying it, and still make me blush?” He chuckled again. “Three days and that’s still too far away.”
“Eight days,” Rose reminded him.
“Eight days,” Rory said with a sigh.
Rory and Rose planned to meet not in London, but in Scotland. As soon as she arrived in London on Monday, Rose would be meeting with her new co-agent and preparing for the Book Fair. Later that afternoon, there were also meetings with an editor and two different publishers. The Book Fair was being held over the next three days. Friday would be spent traveling to Scotland.
It didn’t make any sense for Rory and Rose to try and meet at all that week. Besides, Rory was taking some time for appearances and events following the premiere event for the final season of Game of Thrones. The premiere was in New York City on April 3, but Rory wouldn’t be coming back until the 16th. That would give Rose a few days to try and relax as she made her way north. They agreed not to talk again until they finally saw each other.
“Now I understand the reason Xanax and Valium exist,” Rose mused feeling like a high-voltage power line. The next two weeks would pretty much determine the outcome for rest of her life … for business and pleasure.
Chapter 31: London
My sincerest apologies to Michael Caine. Also, a smidgen of fluff and fairytale romance.
So far, so good. The flight had not been delayed, cancelled, or re-routed. The plane didn’t fall out of the sky somewhere over the North Sea, and Rose’s luggage had arrived at the same time and in the same place that she did. All in all, everything was working out perfectly.
The flight had been surprisingly relaxing, and Rose understood why Rory had insisted she get a first class fare. The extended leg room alone had been worth it. Besides, she deserved it at after everything that she’d been through in the past year. Rose agreed that despite the hefty price tag, she had enjoyed the extra attention and pampering. First class had been quiet and comfortable and had allowed her to drift away in her thoughts. Most of those were about Rory, of course.
On the plane, Rose had taken a few moments to examine the after-London itinerary he’d set out for her. There were things he wanted her to see and do, and he’d made her promise that she would. Rory had made a train reservation with a series of transfers that would eventually take Rose to Edinburgh. From there, the last transfer would bring her to Stonehaven where she would be met by a car that would deliver Rose to her hotel near Stonehaven Harbour.
It was Rory’s idea that Rose see the quaint, seaside village in person. He thought it would give her the perfect setting for her book. The town wasn’t exactly a village in the sense of its size, but it wasn’t large enough to be considered a city and it had maintained small town charm over the centuries. The history and scenic views would be worthy of her way with words, he’d explained.
Rory wanted her to fly to save time, but Rose insisted on taking the train. It was a silly thing, but Rose had never actually been on a train. It was one of the things on her bucket list. Like so many items she’d crossed off in the past year, including crossing an ocean and visiting England, Rose wanted to cross train off her list as well. In addition, Rose thought that perhaps she might find the same inspiration that had struck J.K. Rowling on her fateful trip.
Once she arrived in Stonehaven, Rory had scheduled some activities for her with detailed instructions. Rose intended to follow them to the letter. In addition to a Sea Safari on Saturday morning followed by a pub night, Rory had scheduled a tour of Dunnottar Castle on Sunday.
“I’ll see you on Monday,” Rory had written at the bottom. “Love you.”
Shoulders squared with determination to face the onslaught that would be coming at her this week, Rose snapped out the long handle of her wheelie and headed for the cab stand just outside the airport exit.
“Excuse me, Miss McClelland?”
Rose turned to her left to find a jovial older man with a very distinctly cockney accent smiling widely at her. He had white hair and rosy cheeks and he reminded her of her grandfather. Instead of cherry tobacco, however, he smelled like Menthos. He was holding a white board with her name on it.
“Yes?” Rose was surprised. She wasn’t supposed to be met by anyone, at least not that she was aware.
“G’day, mum. You do looks like yer picture then, right?” Except that picture sounded more like pic-sha and Rose’s ears heard royt instead of right. The man had the whiteboard in one hand, but in the other was a copy of her novel with her photo on the back of the jacket.
Rose smiled not really knowing what to say.
“Royt then. Let’s get you to your ‘otel.” He made a grab for the handle of her wheelie, but Rose stepped back suspiciously. She didn’t want to have to admit to Rory that she was in the country all of two minutes just to have her luggage stolen by a two-bit scam artist.
“I’m sorry, Mister …” Rose scrunched up her face. “I didn’t catch your name.”
The driver quickly shoved the white board and the book under his arm and offered his hand. When Rose put hers out toward him, he latched onto her and started pumping it like an old-fashioned water spigot.
“Sorry, mum. Micklewhite’s the name. You can call me Maurice. Mr. McCann sent me after ya. Tol’ me to make sure I gives ya the celebrity service.”
For some reason that she couldn’t fathom, Rose blushed. She reluctantly handed over her wheelie and followed Maurice out to his waiting vehicle. As charming as his “celebrity service” was, the man never stopped to take a breath of air. Maurice left a stream of endless chatter flying behind them as he drove her to her hotel, an interminably excruciating 45 minutes away. She never got a chance to utter one word.
At the entrance to the hotel, Maurice gave over his duties to the concierge, but made a small request.
“Would ya mind signing me book, mum? The wife’s a big fan o’ yours and today’s ‘er birthday.” He held the book between them with hopeful anticipation.
Rose smiled at her driver as she took the book from him. She wrote a short happy birthday note to Barbara Ann on the inside and handed it back to the thoughtful husband. He thanked her politely. As Rose watched him drive away, she wondered what other surprises Rory would have in store.
Rose kicked off her shoes, hoisted her wheelie onto the baggage stand and opened the curtains. Rory couldn’t have picked a better room. The view was stunning, looking south toward the Thames. In the far distance, Rose could see the London Eye to the south-west. Only a few blocks away to the immediate west was London Bridge, and across the street was the Tower of London.
A moment of sadness crept in when Rose realized that the last time she was in London, was with Holly. Their hotel room had not been much different than this one, but that’s where the similarity ended.
Rose was here for business. She was meeting with men and women who would determine the future of her career as a writer. The Book Fair would be her chance to network, sell herself as an author, and promote her books. After that, she was going to Scotland to be with Rory.
Even if the business part of her trip turned out to be an utter failure, if Rose were to discover that she was one of the worst authors and had no future as a writer, none of it would matter. The next four days could simply up and disappear and she wouldn’t care. All she could think about was her trip north to finally meet the man she had fallen so deeply in love with. That’s all Rose really wanted. She would give up her career aspirations without blinking an eye if that’s what it would take to make a future with Rory.
Rose leaned her head against the cool smooth glass of the window. She wished Holly was here to experience this with her. It would have been the ultimate adventure for the two of them. Rose knew that Holly would be proud of her – for her courage and determination, and for allowing herself to move on and have a life beyond Holly. She would never forget Holly, of course, and yet Rose was almost ashamed at how easy it had been to move on.
The only explanation Rose could think of was that she and Holly had had the chance to say their good-byes. It might have been different if Holly’s death had been unexpected. If her daughter had suddenly been taken in a car accident or some other unforeseen tragedy, there would have been disbelief and denial and anger. Instead, they’d had the chance to make the most of what time Holy had left.
Rose intended to live every day of her life with that philosophy. She would make the most of every day, live life to its fullest, and she wanted to do that with her best friend, with no regrets.
At the sound of a knock on her door, Rose swiped away a few tears she hadn’t even realized she’d shed. She straightened herself out, smiled contentedly and went to answer the door. When she opened it, she was greeted by a hotel porter carrying a large paper-wrapped package – the sort of package in which flowers were delivered. The porter brought the heavy package into the room and set it on the dresser. Rose hastily gave him a tip and sent him on his way.
Rose gazed over the package with quiet disbelief. A nervous tingle crawled over her skin as she carefully ripped the paper where it was taped or stapled. Her breath came in short, rapid bursts as her trembling fingers worked at the wrappings.
As the paper finally fell away, Rose brought her hand to cover the gasp that escaped her. A lead crystal vase was filled with a dozen roses of coral and red.
In her new book, The Meaning of Roses, a shy florist from a small sleepy village teaches his life’s wisdom to those who enter his shop. Much of his wisdom is offered through the symbolism of flowers, their colours, and their meanings.
Coral roses express the desire to welcome someone new into your life and to get to know them better. Red roses represent love. Mixed bouquets are a like an exclamation point for the colour meanings within them.
Rory had read her book. He knew what the flowers meant and had selected them for exactly that reason.
Rose pushed the heel of her hand against her chest to try and steady her breathing and the swell inside her that threatened to break her ribs. Her heart seemed to fill her entire chest. She stepped back until her legs felt the edge of the bed behind her. Rose sat down hard and continued to gaze at the bouquet.
The card. There would be a card, Rose suddenly remembered.
Rose stood on unsteady legs and searched through the bouquet. She wiped at her eyes, but the happy tears only came harder and for some strange reason, it made her laugh. She found the small envelope that contained the card and opened it.
Thank-you for teaching me the meaning of roses. I can’t wait to see you and say those words to you in person.
With all my love, Rory
Rose wanted to call him. She desperately wanted to pick up the phone and hear his voice and thank him, but she couldn’t. She had promised not to. After the last time they spoke, Rose and Rory had agreed to no contact until they finally met in person. That was still a week away.
Rose fell back onto the bed and buried her face in her hands. She wept with sheer joy and utter happiness. How did she deserve a man like this? All she had done was to write a silly fan letter to thank an untouchable celebrity for inspiring her and somehow, because of it, she had ended up here.
For some reason that she still couldn’t quite understand, Rory McCann had fallen in love with her. Rose hoped she could live up to his expectations. Rory had already far surpassed hers.
Chapter 32: Stonehaven
A little bit of fluff and a lot of intense anticipation. **All place names, streets, and businesses mentioned in this chapter are real (although the interior of Troupers is not the way I described it). If you like, enjoy a virtual tour of Stonehaven and Dunnottar Castle.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Rose gazed out the window at the passing countryside. Although her train had departed from Charring Cross Station instead of King’s Cross, in her own mind, she imagined that she was on the Hogwart’s Express, being whisked away to magical future. It wasn’t at all magical of course, unless you considered love to be magical. That’s precisely how Rose thought of it.
This was the beginning of an adventure that she would remember for the rest of her life. It was scary, mysterious, uncertain, and exciting. Part of it was a consequence of the Book Fair and Rose wondered if this was how J.K. Rowling felt after someone had finally read her manuscript. Rose had a new publisher that would put her on the world market. She had a not one, but two agents working as a team on her behalf. At the Book Fair, they’d run out of copies of her book and had made a long list of readers willing to pre-order for a book that wasn’t even finished yet.
Rose longed to tell Rory everything that had happened, but she knew that her London business was the last thing they’d talk about when they saw each other for the first time.
What would they say to each other? What would be their first words? What else did Rory have planned?
Rose leaned down to her satchel and retrieved her writer’s journal. She unlatched the clasp that held it tightly closed. Inside the front cover and between two pieces of wax paper, were two of the blossoms from her bouquet. One coral rose and one red rose with their stems entwined. Pressed together … forever, she hoped.
If things worked out the way that Rose prayed they would, there would still be a lot of questions to be answered and details to be discussed. At long last on her way to Scotland, it was only now that those questions had come to mind. She worried that the answers would change everything.
What would happen when her time abroad came to an end? Would she stay in Scotland or would she go back to Canada? If Rory and Rose decided to stay together, would they live together? Where would they live?
Rose shook her head and admonished herself for thinking so far ahead. She hadn’t even met the man yet and she was practically house-hunting for them. All that, whatever that turned out to be, would fall into place when the time came.
Still, the nip of worry was taking little bites of her. Rose and Rory both had careers that would take them around the world, often in different directions. Rose might have book tours and speaking engagements taking her across North America, perhaps even to Europe. Rory would have to travel wherever his work brought him and depending on the work, that could be anywhere.
“We will figure it out,” Rose whispered to herself. She closed her eyes and said another prayer.
The Mill Inn was on a narrow little back street only a few blocks from the waterfront. It was in a quiet area off the main street away from tourists and traffic. The inn would provide just the right amount of seclusion Rose would need to try and relax and perhaps write some notes on what she’d seen on her way here.
Rose’s entire body was abuzz with a nervous quiver that became more pronounced with each day that she came closer to seeing Rory. She tried to shake it off, tried to think about something else, but no matter what she concentrated on, Rory was always there in the background of her thoughts.
The room at the inn was actually several rooms. Not a hotel room as Rose expected, but a small apartment with a tiny kitchen, a living room and a large bedroom with an ensuite bathroom. It was modern and convenient, but at the same time cozy and quaint.
Rose put her suitcase away in the bedroom and changed into leggings and a long comfortable sweater. She curled up on the couch with her take away container sitting beside her. Rose nibbled on the fish and chips her driver had called ahead for as she reviewed the itinerary set out for her by Rory. He had given her detailed instructions for each day of her weekend.
900 Breakfast – Shamrock and Thistle (try some haggis, I think you’ll like it) – from the inn, turn left to go to Bridgefield. Left on Bridgefield to Arbuthnott Pl. then turn right. Arbuthnott #6.
1100 Sea Safari – go to High St. and walk toward the waterfront. Walk along the Cowie to the Harbour Office. This takes about 10-15 minutes. Your tour starts at 1130.
1430 – 1900 Relax! I’m sure you’ll want to do some writing, but take your time walking back and enjoy the scenery. Get something to eat – you’ll need it for later! Tolbooth by the pier has good seafood. The Carron on Bridgefield #1 has good burgers.
2100 – Trouper’s Pub – go back down Bridgefield and cross the bridge. At Cameron St. turn left. Turn right on Barclay #10.
Rose was still looking over the schedule when her phone pinged. She crinkled her forehead wondering who it could possibly be. Rory had promised not to contact her for another three days. However, when Rose swiped at the screen, she realized it wasn’t a message, but a reminder. She checked her watch which she’d set to local time. It was almost 9pm.
Game of Thrones. The first episode of season eight was about to begin.
Following Rory’s directions, Rose found the harbor office easily. She walked briskly with a spring in her step, infected by the excitement of the fresh new season. The uncharacteristically warm air filled her lungs as Rose turned her face up to the bright sunshine. She was filled with the hope that springtime brings – the promise of new beginnings and renewed life.
In everything, Rose could see big things coming. There was overwhelming anticipation for all aspects of her life. Whether it was from the first season eight episode of GOT that she had watched last night, the direction her life was taking, or the countdown to Rory, Rose could only look forward. The past was behind her and Rose was starting her journey with optimism and eagerness.
By the time Rose got to the pier, the tour boat was being loaded with the last few passengers. She wondered if maybe there was another boat she was supposed to be on. The boat had seats for twelve and this one appeared to be full, but Rose approached the tour guide and gave her his name.
“I’m sorry, Miss but we only book twelve at a time and all passengers are accounted for. What’s your name again?” The guide checked his list, but Rose wasn’t on it.
She pulled Rory’s itinerary from her pocket and reviewed it again even though every detail had been memorized a long time ago. Yes, according to this she was supposed to be here, today, at precisely 11:30.
“I do have a tour booked for this time,” Rose confirmed. “It’s already been paid for. A friend booked it for me.”
The tour guide shook his head and shrugged his shoulders. He didn’t know what to tell her. Rose McClelland was not on his list and all the seats were full.
Rose and the tour guide, apparently his name was Jerry, turned and looked back down the pier. A man in his early thirties was jogging toward them waving his hand in the air. After running the entire length of the pier, he wasn’t breathing any harder than if he’d just gotten off the couch and Rose envied him of that.
“I’ve got a private tour at 11:30 today, Jerry. Do you know if she’s arrived yet?”
Jerry gestured with his clipboard toward Rose. “I’m guessing that might be this young lady,” he said with a smug grin.
Tom Hunter introduced himself to Rose as Jerry took underway with his tour. After suiting her up in a waterproof jumpsuit, Tom led her to a smaller boat on the other side of the pier.
“You’ll be getting quite the tour today, Miss. Mr. McCann told me to make sure you got the grand package so if there’s anything special you’d like to see up close, let me know. We’ve got all afternoon so don’t worry about the time.”
“Do you know Rory?” Rose asked.
Tom nodded. “Yes, Miss. He comes here a lot. Stonehaven is a quiet place with an exciting and beautiful coastline. Lots of solitude and peace in a place like this.”
“Well, then, I’m ready!” Rose stated excitedly.
“If you don’t mind my saying, Rose – do you mind if I call you Rose?” Rose shrugged and tossed her head.
“Rory told me you’ve been having a difficult time getting over the loss of your daughter. Oh … uh, my condolences. He told me that’s why he booked this for you. He must be a really good friend.”
Rose nodded enthusiastically. “He’s an amazing friend.” But inside she was hoping he was much, much more than that.
The Sea Safari was like nothing Rose had ever experienced before. In the high-powered motorboat, Tom cruised along the coastline pointing out the more fascinating aspects of the area. The view from the water alone was worth whatever Rory had paid for the trip. There were pirate caves and hidden beaches that were only accessible from the sea. The sheer cliffs displayed a unique texture that had been carved by the harsh ocean waves over thousands of years. Some locals however, spoke of the legend that the shoreline had been chiseled by the hammer of Thor when his Viking horde had attempted to invade the area in the ancient past.
“That’s Dunnottar Castle up on the bluff,” Tom pointed out. Rose was excited for her visit there tomorrow, but she was glad she’d had the chance to see it from the water. From this angle, with the sun gleaming through the ruins, even the desolate abandonment of it made it a thing of beauty.
As Tom steered toward Thornyhive Bay, the home of a beach that was inaccessible from land, a pod of dolphins challenged them to a race. The dolphins breached beside them so close that Rose could almost lean over the boat and touch a dorsal fin as it broke the surface of the water. More sea life could be viewed on the beach where sea lions were sunning themselves. The sand was crowded with their fat wet bodies as they lolled in the warmth of the sun.
As Tom whipped the boat around a sharp bend in the coastline, the sea spray soaked Rose’s face and hair. She laughed with the exhilaration it made her feel. She understood now just what the words of Sea Dreams had meant to Rory. To be adrift, or sailing purposefully in any direction, held within it a sense of freedom you could never know on land. Both the sky and the depths of the ocean below it held countless mysteries, while the surface offered peaceful solitude.
When they arrived back at the pier almost four hours later, Rose was exhausted and exhilarated. She decided a nap was probably in her best interest since Rory had hinted in the itinerary that something special might be waiting for her this evening. The fresh air of the ocean breezes, the spray of the water on her face and the heat of the early spring sun had totally wiped her out.
From the inn, Rose decided on the Carron for dinner. It would be on her way to the Troupers where Rory had scheduled her pub night. As she walked along Bridgefield, she stretched and yawned, still waking from her nap. Rose didn’t remember ever sleeping that deeply in the middle of the afternoon. She had wanted to make notes in her journal, but Rose hadn’t been able to keep her eyes open long enough for the ramblings of her mind to make sense. She hoped that what she had managed to jot down in her notes would actually be legible when she went back at it tomorrow.
Troupers was just what Rose might have pictured in her mind if someone had said “British pub.” The interior was dim with a long bar down one side. They had two taps dedicated to Guinness, but offered numerous other bottles and brews. At the far end of the pub was an entertainment area where Rose presumed live bands probably performed. Near the front side of the pub were billiards and beyond that the rest of the pub was crowded with tables and chairs, most of which were filled with patrons drinking stout.
Rose licked her lips and ordered a pint. In Canada, it was often hard to find a restaurant or bar that offered Guinness on tap and served enough of it that it didn’t become stale and bitter. And Rose loved the stuff. She was invited to take a seat at a table of jovial men and women who quickly became interested in the Canadian tourist. She joined in lively conversation with them as she drank her thick dark brew.
A little after nine, the house lights darkened slightly and the manager took to the stage at the end of the pub. He turned on his microphone and tapped it. Feedback screeched making all the patrons wince and grumble.
“Good evening ladies and gents and welcome to karaoke night.”
Rose had to cover her nose and lips to keep from spraying a mouthful of beer. She finally managed to swallow and laughed out loud. She should have known that Rory would have thought of this. Even though Rory wouldn’t be here to enjoy this, Rose was not about to disappoint him. The liquid courage helped, of course. Rose took another long drink from her pint and ran through her mental list of what she might like to sing. Thank God he wouldn’t be here to hear her caterwauling!
Three or four patrons braved the stage. Most of them did a half-assed job getting through the song they’d chosen. Rose only considered one of them to be bad enough to make her ears cringe, but the woman had been so brave and entertaining that everyone applauded her with enthusiasm.
“And next we have …” The pub manager squinted his eyes to read the name on his list. He looked up and scanned the crowd. “Ahh … Rose will be singing To Sir With Love.”
Rose sat bolt upright with the edges of her ears on fire. Her skin burst with instant perspiration. She was squeezing her pint glass so hard she was afraid it might shatter between her fingers. The manager looked out over the patrons searching for whoever Rose might be.
“Didn’t you say your name was Rose?” The woman beside her gave her a nudge. Rose nodded feeling the intense burn in her cheeks. “Well, go on then, luv,” the woman said pulling up gently on her arm.
Rose took a deep breath in through her nose and puffed it out between pursed lips before standing up on quivering legs and shyly stepping toward the microphone.
Her first few notes were a little off but during the first available pause, Rose pulled the microphone away from her and cleared her throat. The rest of the song came out of her without a hitch and, to her ears, was one of her better performances. The crowd seemed to think better than that, because they all stood up and applauded.
When Rose resumed her seat at the same table, the others around praised her performance and begged her to do another.
“Wish we could get more people with pipes like that in for karaoke night,” one of the men encouraged her. “That lot couldn’t hit a single note even if their arses were on fire.” He jerked his thumb over his shoulder in the vague direction of the rest of the pub.
“Aye, ya steamin’ jobby. Likes as though you might get your fat arse up there an’ have a go. Shut yer friggin’ hole,” one of the women scolded him. Rose couldn’t help but giggle at the sound of the words in her thick Scottish brogue.
“Aye but I know a Canadian Rose that has the voice of an angel,” he retorted winking at Rose. “Go on and show that lot what a real song sounds like. Get on with ya,” he said jerking his head toward the microphone.
Feeling courageous, Rose agreed to do one more. After several others had had a turn, Rose worked her way back to the stage to sing A Million Dreams. The song symbolized the way she felt about everything in her life right now. It was a brand new song representing her brand new life and all the possibilities to come.
“Before I start I’d like to dedicate this to a very special man who made a lot of my dreams possible. I wish he was here tonight so I could tell him that I want to share those dreams with him.” Everyone applauded before Rose had even begun. She sang with her heart and all the love she felt within it, leaving the pub crowd in awe.
Rory stepped back into a darkened corner and watched Rose perform. His mouth hung slack as he listened, stunned at what he’d heard. The breath had been knocked right out of him by Rose’s flawless performance, amazing voice, and the natural beauty of her. He was infected by her sheer happiness and it hurt his heart because his chest wasn’t large enough to contain all the love her felt for her at that moment.
He set his unfinished pint down on the end of the bar and sneaked out before Rose could see him. He hoped he would be able to make it through the night without her.
A Million Dreams: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sr3X0DCXI-M
Chapter 33: So Much More Than Expectations
Rose had again chosen the Shamrock and Thistle for breakfast. Surprisingly, she did, in fact, like haggis although she couldn’t wrap her head around the fact that it was considered a pudding. To Rose, it was just a big fat sausage sliced and fried. There was nothing “pudding” about it, but it was tasty and filling.
As she finished sipping her coffee, Rose looked at her schedule for the day.
700 – 730 Up and get ready for breakfast. Hope you slept well. Did you enjoy the Sea Safari? Today will be even better!
900 I have arranged for a driver to take you to Dunnottar Castle. Spend as long as you like. Bring your journal! I’m sure you will get lots of creative inspiration. That’s it for today.
During the short ten-minute drive to the castle, the little car bounced along the narrow country lane. Rose gazed out the window at the scenic beauty of the shoreline, this time from a completely different perspective as she looked out toward the sparkling ocean.
Just like yesterday, it was a perfect spring day filled with bright sunshine and balmy breezes that smelled of salt and sea. To the right, the land rolled slowly upward toward low hills covered in lush green. On the shore side, the cliffs dropped steeply into the sea. The road twisted and turned paralleling the jagged coastline until the driver slowed in front of a stately brick home from the Victorian era.
The driver pulled into the parking lane and turned off the car. Rose was confused. She was expecting something far different than this. The home was mildly impressive, but certainly nothing Rose would call a castle. She’d seen larger homes than this on her suburban street back in Canada.
“This is it?” Rose asked.
“Oh no, Miss, the castle’s down that path,” he said pointing toward a wrought iron gate beside the home. “This is just the gate house where the property manager lives.”
Rose thanked him, gathered her tote bag and climbed out of the car. She turned back to ask him a question, but he driver had already turned about and was merging back onto the road.
“Wait!” Rose shouted as she chased him into the street. She was dumbfounded. The driver had just abandoned her. She couldn’t imagine that the driver hadn’t seen her chasing him, but he’d left anyway.
Standing in the middle of the street, Rose snorted. “Oh well,” she sighed. “It can’t be too much more than a half hour walk back to town.” She turned to look at the small car park to the right of the house. There were only two cars lined up in an area that could have fit at least thirty vehicles. If it wasn’t such beautiful weather, Rose supposed that she could always ask someone for a ride, but the walk would probably do her some good and give her a chance to relax and think about tomorrow – the day she would finally meet up with Rory.
The pea gravel crunched under Rose’s feet as she strolled the long path that would take her to the castle ruins near the water’s edge. The path bordered a meadow filled with vibrant varieties of wildflowers and the fat cows that were munching on them. She began a long descent on a set of narrow stone steps with wide treads. The stairway sloped down to the left then did a switch back to the right where Rose finally found herself at the base of a natural rock tower. She paused to look up at the next narrow set of steps that had been carved into the castle mount and was thankful that she’d worn a comfortable pair of running shoes.
The steps brought Rose through a tunnel and into the castle proper. She hadn’t really thought of what the word castle meant until now. It was nothing like the Red Keep, that was for sure. Narrow cobbled walkways lined with fieldstone walls zigzagged left and right leading to the ancient stone buildings forming the bulk of the castle.
Through a doorway to her right, Rose entered what might have at one time been a guardhouse. The ceiling had long crumbled, but Rose looked up through the tall stone tower to a small patch of clear blue sky.
In all the structures that were left, Rose could see the massive undertaking of constructing something like this. Even after a thousand years, the stone blocks were solid and unmarred by the ravages of time.
From the guard tower, Rose exited onto an immense expanse of grassy lawn around which the castle buildings were spread out. She could finally hear the roar of the ocean waves beyond the cliff and headed in that direction.
In the middle of what had once been the living quarters, Rose turned in a wide circle taking in the high stones walls, the remnants of the chapel, the officer’s quarters, and a gigantic well. The well was so big that a set of stairs led down into it.
Rory had been right that the scene surrounding her would be filled with inspiration. She had lots of free time to make notes. With a sarcastic snort, Rose dropped down to the lush grass and pulled out her journal. “It’s not like I have a driver waiting for me,” she muttered.
After a half hour of pondering and writing, Rose got back on her feet to continue her exploration of the castle grounds. She headed forward to a railing that looked over the edge of the cliff. The beauty surrounding her was breathtaking, but it wasn’t quite the atmosphere she was looking for. She doubled back to the living quarters and entered the largest building on the north east corner. At the far end of the huge room was a tall window that looked out over the sea.
It was exactly the view that Rose wanted from this desolate, ruined place above the loneliness of the ocean. Placing her hands on the stone window sill, she imagined a long ago woman standing here looking out over the water and awaiting the return of a husband, a son, or a lover who had been away on the sea.
“I must go down to the seas again, to the endless ocean tide,
And all I ask is a sturdy yacht and the stars to steer her by.”
The soft words that came to her ears were low and throaty. Unexpectedly frozen at the sound of the voice behind her, Rose tried to breathe, but her lungs wouldn’t work. Nothing would work. Sudden intense heat flowed up through her body, along the back of her neck and behind her ears. Rose was rigid, unable to move as cold gooseflesh crept over her skin. She opened her mouth but couldn’t get the air to move through her.
“As the waves kick and the winds blow and the main sail’s shaking,
A ghostly mist arises, as the grey of dawn is breaking.”
Rose closed her eyes and struggled with every muscle as she felt the warmth of a body approach close behind her. She was able to at least turn her eyes to see a hand appear beside hers on the window ledge, then on the other side of her. Rory had silently come up from behind and trapped her between his arms.
Rose was terrified, excited, and quite literally stunned. Every motor function had immediately failed her. Rory leaned down close beside her ear and whispered, his voice quiet and soothing. She could feel his words on her neck, feel his heat, heard the sound of his breath as he inhaled deeply.
“I must go down to the seas again, for the breath of the endless tide
Whispers my name, it calls me, it cannot be denied.”
Taking back control of her body, Rose swallowed turning her eyes toward the window ledge. With an uncontrollable quiver, Rose moved her hand on top of Rory’s. He turned his hand palm up and admired the delicateness of her fingers. He gently placed her hand back on the smooth stone sill and tucked his arm around her waist. He pulled Rose close against him. She felt soft weight on the top of her head where Rory rested his chin.
Rose was finally able to breathe with the warmth radiating from Rory against her back. She gasped taking a deep breath and angled her head back against him. Rory brushed his fingertips up along her arms and placing his hands on her shoulders, he urged her to turn.
Lightheaded, Rose gulped and tried to make her feet work. She looked down to ensure that she wouldn’t stumble and fall. Her very first view of Rory was of his feet and legs. Her entire body trembled. Rory put his fingers under her chin and guided her head up so that he could look into her eyes.
Rose wouldn’t have believed that her breath could be taken away from her again, but she found her lungs empty as she finally looked upon Rory’s face. A light smile played around the corners of his lips as he, too, struggled to breathe.
“Rose,” he said in amazement. Rory was having a hard time believing that Rose was here, in front of him, that he was touching her, smelling her, seeing her with his own eyes.
Rose blinked away tears as she looked up at Rory. He was even more handsome in person. His soft brown eyes were wide and deep and Rose felt herself being pulled into them. Rory smiled a little wider. The soft brown of his beard framed rosy cheeks and full red lips and Rose had to tear her eyes away before more tears came.
Stepping into him, Rose took a deep breath as she wrapped her arms around Rory and hugged him tightly. She pressed her face against his chest and recognized the aroma of musk, leather and tobacco. Rose could feel the thunder of his heartbeat, the rise and fall of each breath as he wrapped his arms around her and embraced her tightly. Rory leaned his head down and kissed the top of Rose’s head.
After a long moment that seemed like it couldn’t last long enough, Rory took Rose’s head in his hands and tilted her face up to his. His smile lit up his face and he chuckled lightly.
Rose couldn’t help but grin and laugh with him. “Hello, Rory. Nice to meet you.”
Rory took Rose by the hand and led her through a hidden doorway on the far side of the open-air room. Outside was a grassy area only about twenty feet wide edged by a railing to keep visitors from coming too near to the edge of the cliff face. In a nook against the ancient stone wall was a park bench where Rory brought Rose to sit. It was a quiet, secluded area hidden from view. There were very few visitors to the castle today, but Rory wanted them to be away from anyone else. Very few ever realized that the doorway was there leading to this secret resting spot.
Emboldened by her overwhelming emotions, Rose sat pressed against Rory. He put his arm around her shoulders and pulled her even closer. They sat for a while, not saying a word, but simply enjoying the presence of each other. No words needed to be said and yet they both felt as though they were having a quiet, unspoken conversation. Rory leaned his head on top of Rose’s occasionally shifting his nose closer to smell her. He couldn’t get enough of her scent. She smelled like oranges and something that reminded him of the beach on a hot day.
Rose leaned her head against his chest and placed her hand on Rory’s knee. It was finally Rose that spoke. She had so many things to say but no idea where to begin.
“Thank-you, Rory. Thank-you for … for everything. The roses were beautiful and so thoughtful. There were just so many surprises. I don’t know what to say.”
Rory lifted her chin to look at him. “I think you already have, luv.” His smiled quirked to the side as he looked down at her with so much love that Rose could physically feel it. “I want to share our dreams together, too.”
Rose sat upright away from Rory, her cheeks aflame, and stared at him in disbelief. Rory blushed and nodded.
“I saw you sing last night,” he admitted. “You were beautiful and amazing. Your voice was incredible.”
“But … Rory … why didn’t you tell me you were there?”
“I didn’t want to spoil the moment. You looked so beautiful and so natural. I just wanted to watch you being yourself, being happy. If you knew I was there, I was afraid you might become self-conscious or get flustered.”
“You could have come to me after I sang.” Rose twisted on the bench to face him.
Rory shook his head and smiled. “I wanted to surprise you today.” Rory shifted so that they were almost face to face.
Rose lowered her head feeling the blush return. “You did. More than just today,” she admitted. “I wish I could have done something like this for you.” Rory lifted her chin.
“You did, Rose. I heard what you said before you sang. I was there, you did tell me, and I do want to share your dreams. And I want to share my dreams with you as well.”
Rose reached forward and did something she’d been longing to do since the first time she’d ever laid eyes on Rory. She placed her hand at Rory’s cheek and drew her thumb over his warm skin, over the edge of his beard to the shorter patch on the right side of his jaw. The bald spot there was filling in nicely now that he was no longer required to shave it. His hair was both soft and bristly against her fingertips.
Rory took her by the wrist and turned his head to kiss the palm of her hand. Then he brought the back of her hand to his lips and kissed it. His lips were soft and tender and Rose wanted the feel of them on more than just her hand. She drew in a breath between tight lips.
“Rory?” she asked. He lowered her hand holding it between both of his where it disappeared from view. “Am I what you expected?”
Rory tossed his head in disbelief that she could ask such a question.
“Oh, Rose. You’re so much more than that.”
Chapter 34: Do We Or Don't We?
For the rest of the morning, Rose and Rory sat together on the bench, not saying much. They simply savored the fact that they were together, finally able to wrap their arms around each other and experience the realness of the emotions within them.
They had been so overwhelmed by each other that there was no need say anything and no awkwardness about it. But as their feet touched the ground again, conversation came as easily as it always did for them.
“Tell me what happened in New York,” Rose said. Her head was comfortably resting in the crook of Rory’s shoulder. His arm was draped around her back with his hand on her waist. Rose could feel Rory shrug under her.
“Not much to tell. Exactly what you probably saw on the telly. Lots of media before we went in. A few presentations, then they showed the episode. Lots of media when we came out again.” There was a hitch in Rory’s breath before he continued. “There was a party after.” Rose felt him shrug again as he attempted to dismiss any concern of it. The thing that Rory was waiting for was Rose’s reaction, asking him who was there, who he talked to, drawing him into a discussion about other women. It was what Rory was used to from most women – the jealousy and suspicion – but that never came from Rose. He had always suspected that Rose was better than that, and he was relieved that he’d been right about her.
“After that, there were some interviews and talk show bits. We did a taping for Conan O’Brien.” He shrugged again. “Then I came here to see you.” Rory turned his head down to look at Rose as she turned her face up to look at him. He caressed her cheek with his thumb and she smiled.
“You always planned to come back before the 16th, didn’t you?”
“I was back on the 14th,” he confessed. “I made it here just in time to see you perform at the pub.”
Rory pushed Rose up off of him and twisted her around on the bench lifting her easily so that her legs were lying across his lap. He kept one arm around her shoulders. Rory reached out to take her hand caressing her fingertips with his.
“Tell me about London. How did the Book Fair go?”
Rose opened her mouth to speak, but the words got caught up inside her as she struggled to express the enormity of it all.
“I have a new publisher,” she finally told him. “Harper Collins.” Rose widened her eyes to convey just how huge of a deal that was, but Rory already knew. Harper Collins was one of the largest publishing houses in the world.
“We ran out of books. And now we have a list of emails from people who are interested in pre-ordering the second book.”
Rory got a goofy grin on his face. “The Meaning of Roses,” he said.
Rose felt her face heat up again. “Rory, that was the most amazing surprise I’ve ever had. I loved the roses. You put a lot of thought into that.”
Rory nodded. “Your book really made an impression on me.” He opened his mouth to say something else, but Rose spoke before he had a chance.
“So tell me, Rory, is Maurice a personal friend of yours?” Rose blinked animatedly and grinned. Rory chuckled and scruffed at his beard.
“The thing about Maurice is that although he might have a lot to say, he never forces you into small talk. I’m not one for making conversation about the weather or sports, and I can’t stand being hounded – pun intended – with questions about Game of Thrones, so I always request Maurice. He just jabbers away and leaves you alone.” Rory put his palm against Rose’s face and let his hand slide down to the base of her neck. His skin felt hot on hers and the heat spread like a virus over her body. Rory felt it, too.
Rory’s face turned serious. “Rose, what do you think of me?”
The question had thrown rose completely off her guard. The longer she thought about the way Rory had phrased the question, the more she was unsure just what it was that he was asking.
“I think you’re handsome, intelligent, funny, sensitive, thoughtful … I could go on and say all kinds of things that might embarrass you …” Rose bit her lip and looked down between them. “If you’re asking how I feel about you …” Rose turned her face up, shy and timid. “I thought you knew. I told you a long time ago how –”
“Rose,” Rory interrupted. He didn’t like what he was doing to her just now. Rory realized he was trying to force Rose to say the things that he wanted to say to her. They were the same things he needed to hear, but he didn’t want to back her into a corner. He closed his eyes and pressed his lips together.
It was the first awkward moment he’d felt with Rose. It wasn’t anything she had said or done, it was his own shyness and insecurity coming back from his childhood days to taunt him.
Rose placed a hand on the side of his neck. She rubbed her thumb along the ridge of his jawline where his beard with the thickest. The small hairs on his neck were softer and finer and tickled her wrist. Rose tried to take a deep breath but her chest felt constricted. The nervousness she felt was making her skin tingle.
“Rory, when I first came here, I was afraid that when we finally met, that I wouldn’t feel the same way – that my feelings would somehow be different when I actually saw you. I was afraid of being disappointed.” Rose lowered her head slightly to try and look directly into Rory’s downturned eyes. “Not by you. I know I could never be disappointed with you. I was afraid of being disappointed by the way I felt. Because maybe the way I felt before we met was just me getting carried away with my emotions.” Rose tried to clarify. “You know, the fantasy versus the reality.”
This time it was Rose’s turn to lift Rory’s chin so that he would look at her.
“Now that we’re sitting here together, I know I have nothing to be afraid of. What I feel for you now is more than I ever felt before.” Rose said she wasn’t afraid, but in truth, she was terrified.
Rose watched as the corners of Rory’s mouth pulled down. A tremor ran through him. Rose could feel it in his arms, his hands, even his legs beneath her. When the tremor was gone, it was replaced by a serene calm that Rory hadn’t felt in years. It was comfort and security and confidence.
“I know the meaning of roses.” Rory pulled her closer across his lap. He leaned his forehead to touch hers. “I want you in my life and I want to get to know you better.” He lifted his head away from Rose and looked deep into her eyes. Rose could feel it before he said it.
“I love you, Rose.” Rory took a deep breath, swallowed and said it again. “I love you.”
Rory didn’t wait for Rose to answer. He brought her face toward him and pressed his lips to hers. Her skin felt hot against his and the heat seared through his body and pooled in his groin. Rose must have felt it too because she moaned softly as she pressed against him.
Rory’s lips were strong and firm, yet soft as he explored her mouth with his. Rose allowed her lips to part, her breath heavy and moist. Rory could taste the sweetness of her as his tongue caressed the soft skin around her mouth. The pounding of his heart almost ceased completely when Rose touched the tip of her tongue to his sending an overwhelming wave of desire through him.
Rose felt a hitch in her chest as she tried to breathe, but Rory took everything from her. He took her thoughts, her inhibitions, and her fears. She wrapped her arms more tightly around his neck and pulled him closer, felt the bristly hairs of his beard against her lips, felt his chest expand and his heart pound. The heat he radiated enveloped her and settled between her legs.
Large warm hands on Rose’s back pulled her closer still until their bodies were so tightly pressed together that they could feel the tremble of tension within each other. Rose scraped her teeth over Rory’s bottom lip as she pushed short hot gasps of air into his mouth. He kissed her harder, hungry for so much more of Rose than this. He grasped the belt loops on her jeans and tugged roughly moving her completely onto his lap.
Rose clutched at Rory pulling herself closer, grasping at him. She felt the swell in her breasts as she fought to breathe pushing her heaving chest against his. Rose let her fingertips slide down the side of his neck and down to the hollow at the base of his throat tickling the thick soft hair inside his collar. She moved her hand under the edge of his shirt wanting to explore further. Rose felt Rory’s fingers dig into her flesh as he curled his hands into fists.
With one hand opened against her back to support her, Rory moved his other hand under Rose’s arm to the front. He cupped a palm to her breast. When he came to his senses realizing how much more he wanted, Rory dropped his hand away from her.
Rory groaned as he broke their kiss. He cradled Rose’s head against his trembling shoulder as he fought for control. He gasped for air as his heart began to slow. Keeping his eyes closed, he breathed deeply through his nose. He leaned his face against Rose’s hair and stroked her back in long smooth caresses as her breathing slowed to match his.
When he felt it was safe for him to do so, Rory pulled back, opened his eyes and gazed down at Rose’s upturned face. Her lips were red and swollen in the same way that his felt, and slightly parted in a pout that made him want to kiss her again. But he knew that if he did, it wouldn’t end there.
“Are you ready to walk back to town?” he finally asked, his voice breathy and low.
Rose tried to control a grin but it came out sideways. “Are you?” she asked. Rory looked away and Rose could see that his face had flushed slightly.
“In a minute,” he uttered trying not to laugh. Rose suppressed a chuckle and took his hand in hers as she rose from the bench. She attempted to pull Rory up beside her, but he wouldn’t budge. After a few minutes, he took a deep breath and stood, but he was clearly still embarrassed.
They moved slowly through the castle ruins, cautious of any other sight-seers that might be around. Fortunately, there hadn’t been a crowd today. It was probably still too early in the season, but being a Sunday, Rory was surprised that there were only three or four other people at the castle. Rose and Rory avoided them easily as they made their way to the cliffside walking path that would take them back to Stonehaven.
The path was mostly a far distance from the road, closely hugging the twisting and turning topography of the shoreline. Rory took Rose’s hand in his as they walked. He took his hand away only once as they came upon an older local man who was out for a walk with his dog. As soon as they were out of sight of him, Rory again took Rose’s hand.
“Rose, would you mind if we kept things to ourselves? I don’t want you think that I’m ashamed of being seen with you or that I don’t want to acknowledge our relationship. I just want my private life to stay private.”
“I agree completely.” Rose looked over her shoulder in the direction the dog walker had disappeared over the hill behind them. She didn't want her name in the Daily Mirror. Rose cautiously explained her concerns, but Rory already felt the same way that she did. They both wanted their relationship to develop naturally without the added pressure of media interference.
Occasionally, Rose and Rory stopped to admire the landscape where the cliff dropped sharply down to the water at the Sea Stacks or the hidden beaches. They enjoyed the day, the view, and each other as strolled slowly back toward town.
“Rory, what are we to each other? I mean, as far as anyone else is concerned,” Rose asked.
“Let’s just keep it simple,” Rory told her. “I met Holly in Indianapolis, found out about her illness and decided to grant her a wish and as a result, you and I became friends.”
Rose nodded. “Tom, from the Sea Safari, he said something like that. You told him I was having a hard time with Holly’s death.”
“I'm sorry, Rose, I just didn’t want anyone getting too curious.”
Rose shrugged. Rory’s explanation had been fine with her. She squeezed his hand and felt her stomach give a little flip as she made a suggestion. “Are you hungry? I was thinking maybe we could grab some food and go back to the inn.”
Rory stopped walking and turned to face Rose taking both her hands in his. His brow was creased with concern. Rose dropped her head, away from Rory. Her face glowed with heat.
“Rose, you do realize what would happen, don’t you?”
Rose didn’t answer and was too embarrassed to look at him. She pulled her hands from his grasp and began to turn away. Rory reached for her shoulders and forced her to look at him. He could see the fear in her expression, perhaps because she was worried that he would say no or perhaps because it was difficult for Rose to admit to the intense sexual desire she was feeling.
“Rose, I love you. We have waited a long time for this and I don’t want to mess it up or ruin it by moving too fast.” Rory watched as the corners of her mouth pulled down. Rose tried to hide her disappointment, nodded and turned back to the path. Rory wouldn’t let her off that easily. He pulled her back and held her tightly by the upper arms.
“Rose, I do want you. You must know that.” He waited for her to respond.
Rose nodded again. “I understand,” she said in a thin, weak voice.
Rory moved his hands to the side of her head and tilted her head up so that they were face to face. “I want this to be more than just one night. I really want for this to be the beginning of a lifetime. But if we give in to temptation now, we’ll never talk about the things we need to in order to make that happen.”
A balmy breeze suddenly wafted up from the ocean just fifty feet below them. The warm salty air whipped Rose’s hair around her face, and she smelled Holly’s scent. The wind calmed and relaxed her. It was a sign, she decided. Everything was going to be okay.
Renewed in her confidence, Rose turned her attention back to Rory. “Rory, when Holly died, I realized I waited too long for too many things in my life. It was only when Holly got sick that we decided to do all the things she wanted to do while she had the time. If she wasn’t sick, we never would have gone to the comic con. I probably would have procrastinated about taking her shopping in Toronto.” Rose shifted her feet. Fists on her hips, she looked up at Rory determined to make him understand. “We never would have met,” she said moving her hand between them. “There are lots of other things I never would have gotten around to.” Rose waved her hand to indicate the world around them. “Because there’s always time to do it later. Until there isn’t.”
“Don’t you think there are things we need to discuss first?”
Rose bobbed her head. “Yes, there are things we’re going to need to figure out, but I don’t think it will be a problem. We’re both too smart and reasonable to let anything get in the way of what we want.” Rose scuffed a toe in the dirt. “Honestly, I think that if we don’t deal with this first,” she said again indicating the space between them, “we’ll drive ourselves crazy.”
Rory pursed his lips tightly and narrowed his eyes. “Rose,” he finally said. “How would you like to meet Fred?”
Chapter 35: Sea Dreams Do Come True
It was late in the afternoon when Rory and Rose arrived at the edge of town, and just at the right time by the look of it. The sky to the east had begun to darken to an eerie steely blue that looked heavy and foreboding. The wind picked up bringing with it a thick mist that chilled the air instantly.
Rose lifted her head and sniffed. “It’s going to rain,” she said but not necessarily to Rory. She followed him down the path that led to the marina and then along the S Pier where Rory pointed out his yacht, moored almost near the end. Before he stepped onto his boat, Rory turned and faced the horizon.
There was more than just rain coming. It looked to be a pretty good storm head building. The mist wasn’t just drifting in, it was rolling. Rory decided he’d bring Rose on the boat, but if the storm got rough, he’d send her back to the inn.
Rory held onto Rose’s hand as he helped her aboard. She stumbled slightly in her first few steps on deck. Rory had to grab her at the elbows to keep her from ending up on her knees.
“You don’t get seasick, do you?” he asked.
“No. I have a slight imbalance in my inner ear and it takes me a moment to adjust,” Rose explained. She took a few deep breaths in through her nose and waited until the wave of dizziness disappeared. Rose exhaled deeply and smiled. “All good now,” she said.
Rose looked around her at Rory’s boat. It wasn’t what she would call a yacht, but more a large sailboat. It was sleek and modern, but made to look like an older style wooden boat. The result was classic but upscale.
“Rory, this boat is beautiful. Is it new?”
“It’s not just my boat, it’s my home. I’ve had it two years now.” He beckoned her to follow into the cabin. “I have a flat in London and a little place in Iceland, but this is where I spend most of my time,” he explained. “I feel more at home on the sea than anywhere else.”
Rose gazed around the cabin. It was a lot larger than she expected it to be. Rose stood in the galley and leaned against the cupboards. A slow smile spread across her face as recognition set in. Rory tried to see what it was that caught her eye, but he only saw the banquette seat and there was nothing particularly special about it.
“What is it?” he asked as thunder grumbled overhead.
“I recognize this from our video chats.” Rose stepped forward to the berth and peeked inside. Rory stayed in the doorway. He didn’t want to be tempted to get into anything with Rose. Not right now, anyway. She looked around the room and gasped.
On the wall opposite the bed was a framed page of text securely screwed onto the wall. It was a copy of Sea Dreams. In the corner of the frame below the glass, Rory had placed the photos of Rose and Holly. Rose turned to Rory with a surprised smile, pointing to the frame.
Rory nodded. “It means a lot to me, Rose.”
The floor of the boat suddenly dipped and the sky growled again. With her sea legs fine tuned, Rose bent her knees to keep her balance as the boat lolled to the side. A sharp crack of thunder announced the lightning that followed and lit the sky in a brilliant flash of blue.
“I think you should be getting back to the inn, Rose,” Rory told her as he looked upwards. All he saw was the galley ceiling but he could feel the change in the barometer. Rose couldn’t hide her disappointment.
The boat dipped again, rolling first one way and then the other. Rose stumbled, caught herself on the edge of the banquette table and fell forward into Rory’s arms. The sky protested noisily. Rory kept hold of Rose but moved her away to arm’s length.
“You’d better go now,” Rory said. “It’s going to start raining soon.” He guided her to sit on the end of the banquette and moved to a tall thin cupboard. He removed a heavy raincoat similar to the sort fishermen wear and started to put it on Rose.
“What about you? You’re not staying here, are you?” Rose asked, concerned.
Rory nodded. “I have to. I need to make sure the boat doesn’t get damaged or that she doesn’t get loose of her moorings,” he explained.
“Are you sure you’ll be okay? Is there anything I can do to help?”
“Thanks, Rose, but I don’t want to have to worry about you as well if you’re here. I’ll feel better knowing you’re safe at the inn.” He began to urge her up the ladder to the deck.
Rose had to hold on tightly to keep from being tossed about as the boat swayed violently. It took three tries before Rory had her safely back on the pier and on solid ground. He climbed up beside her and held her by the shoulders as the storm wind raged around them. The sky was inky black causing the streetlamps to come on early.
“Rose, I’ll see you early tomorrow morning and we’ll spend the entire day together, I promise.” Rory pulled her in close and kissed her. As soon as his lips touched hers, every nerve ending erupted with yearning. He didn’t care if anyone saw them.
Rose wrapped her arms around him and didn’t want to let go, but Rory pulled her away from him and turned her toward the street at the end of the pier. He gave her a light push in that direction.
“Stay close to the shop fronts,” he told her. Rose leaned backwards into the wind to keep from being blown off her feet. As soon as she was back at the street, Rose turned to see Rory still watching her. Even in the confines of the harbor breakwall, the boat listed violently back and forth with the storm surge.
Rose waved as fat heavy raindrops began to pelt her.
Rose opened her wallet. The remainder of her pound notes were starting to get a little thin. Reluctantly, she pulled out a twenty and handed it to the clerk. The clerk handed over the plastic bag with her supper in it, and Rose headed back down the street to the inn.
Leaning forward, Rose fought against the wind and rain as she walked the last hundred yards to the inn. The thunder storm was one of the worst she’d ever seen. Rose had seen her fair share of thunderstorms living on the Great Lakes. The area where she lived was known for being the thunderstorm capital of Canada with more violent electrical storms per year than any other place in the country. But at the edge of the ocean, Rose imagined that the storms she was used to were nothing compared to this.
Rose was worried about Rory back on the boat. He was right, though, to send her away to the inn. She would only have gotten in the way and he’d probably have had to end up rescuing her when she got tossed overboard. Rose knew that Rory was a highly experienced seaman, so she tried not to fret. He’d probably been out on the ocean during storms even worse than this one.
Besides, there was something more pressing on her mind.
Rose was running out of money. She only had a few more pound notes in her wallet and her credit card was nearing the max. Whether or not she wanted to face it, Rose was going to have to go back to Canada soon. Rory would be disappointed, but hopefully he would understand.
Letting herself into her room at the inn, Rose shook off the rain and wondered why Rory had told her that everything would be just fine. It wasn’t fine. Rose had no idea how she was going to pay for all this when she got home. It was still going to take a while until money really started coming in from her book sales. What was she supposed to do until then? Rose had rent to pay and car financing.
Rose rolled her eyes. “I might need to eat, too,” she mumbled as she opened her fish and chips takeaway. She didn’t really feel like eating, but she was hungry and hadn’t had anything since breakfast.
As she nibbled, Rose eyeballed her laptop. She knew she should probably check her bank and credit card balances, but frankly, she was just too damn afraid. She trusted Rory. Rory had said it would be fine. But Rory also didn’t realize the position she was in.
What was she supposed to do? Should she say, “Oh, by the way, Rory, I’m having a little financial trouble here so please, tell me, where’s the fucking pot of gold?!”
Rose took a deep breath to control herself. No use getting herself in a snit about it. It wasn’t that bad. Not yet anyway. Rose reminded herself that she was a writer, a damned good one, too. She had a way with words. Surely, she could find the right ones to bring up the subject with Rory and let him know that she was getting worried.
Rose finished her fish and cleaned up the countertop. After staring at her laptop for a moment, she gave it a decidedly determined shove. She wasn’t going to look and send herself into a freakout. Not now.
“It’s going to be fine,” she muttered unconvinced. Then she reminded herself to never play poker ever again.
The storm must have knocked something loose on the roof. Or maybe it was a shutter banging somewhere. Rose sat up in bed and listened. Every so often, she heard a loud knocking sound. The storm had been bad, but the worst had passed and it was starting to settle again.
Rose looked at the digital clock on the nightstand. It was 1:15am. If the banging continued, she wouldn’t be getting anymore sleep tonight. Rose rolled over and pulled the covers over her head. As she lay there waiting for the next round of thumps, she realized that it was too rhythmic and the wind wasn’t that bad now. It was still raining heavily, but she couldn’t actually hear the wind.
Thump! Thump! Thump!
Rose sat up in bed again and listened closely.
Thump! Thump! Thump!
Throwing the covers back, Rose slowly tiptoed out to the living room.
Thump! Thump! Thump!
Suddenly she realized that someone was at the door. Who the hell would be banging on her door at this hour of the morning? Rose looked out the peephole and saw Rory standing sideways next to the door. She watched as he raised his fist to knock again. Rose quickly unlocked the door and opened it and almost got punched in the face.
Rose dodged the huge fist as Rory stumbled forward into the room.
“Christ, Rose! You scared the crap out of me.” Rory clasped a hand to his chest as he got his first look at her in the dim light.
“Wow!” he said. Rose blushed deeply and frantically tugged at the bottom hem of the t-shirt she’d worn to bed. “Good taste in music,” he said not really looking at the t-shirt, but instead admiring its contents. Rose was wearing an old Jimi Hendrix shirt. It was thin and light and comfortable for sleeping. And it outlined all her curves perfectly. All of them.
Rose stepped back to let Rory in so she could close the door. As he brushed by her, Rose realized he was soaking wet. He was wearing only a pullover sweatshirt and jeans and was soaked through. A noticeable shiver passed through him.
“Rory! You’re soaking wet. Why didn’t you wear a jacket?”
Rory pointed to the coat rack. Rose turned to see the raincoat Rory had put on her back at the boat. He smiled sheepishly and nodded.
“I think we should get you out of those wet clothes,” Rory told her with a devilish grin. Rose looked confused.
“I’m not wet, you are.”
Rory lunged toward her and hugged her tightly. He kissed her and Rose felt the rain soak into her t-shirt. His skin was frightfully cold and he shivered again.
“Rory, you’re freezing.” Rose pushed him away. “Have you had anything to eat yet?”
Rory shook his head. “No. I’m starving.” He waggled his eyebrows at her. “You look good enough to eat.” Rory tried to hug her again but Rose shrugged away, laughing.
“I picked up an extra order of fish and chips … just in case. Why don’t you go take a shower and get warmed up before you catch a cold. I’ll heat up the fish in the oven for you.”
Rory leaned down and kissed her. “Thank-you, luv.”
As Rory walked toward the bedroom, Rose said, “Hey, I thought I wasn’t going to see you until tomorrow.”
Rory pointed to the clock on the wall. “It is tomorrow,” he said with a grin.
When the water stopped, Rose took the baking sheet out of the oven and got a plate ready. The bathroom door opened, so Rose started to slide the fish and chips onto the plate. As the food slid down the baking sheet, Rose flicked her eyes up to see Rory walking toward her in a towel. His face was red, but he didn’t try to hide his embarrassment.
“Nice,” Rose murmured, not noticing that half the chips had missed the plate. A few dropped onto the floor as Rose set the baking sheet down and ogled Rory. He had impossibly wide shoulders and a strong chest that was covered in a soft brown matte of hair. In fact, most of him was covered in hair. It made Rose tingly in the panties as her eyes traveled down to where the towel was being tented below his waist.
Rory’s blush deepened as he tried to pull the towel down straight to hide his erection. Rose bit her lip to try and suppress her grin. She could feel her own facing lighting up to match his.
“That’s what you do to me,” he admitted beaming proudly. Rory opted to take a seat at the breakfast bar on the side opposite from Rose. She watched as he started to eat the chips. He was obviously very hungry but ate slowly.
“You want a beer?” she offered.
Rory nodded. “Please.” He pointed to the food. “I really appreciate this, Rose. Thank-you for thinking of it.” He took another bite of fish and washed it down with a mouthful of beer. “This is really good.”
“It should be. You’re eating the last of my Pounds Sterling,” she blurted immediately regretting it. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that.” Rose threw her face into her hands and pulled her fingers back through her hair. “I guess I’m just a little worried that –”
Rory stopped eating and brushed off his hands. “Rose, I’m sorry. I was going to wait and surprise you with it tomorrow.”
“With what?” Rose asked. Her stomach clenched uncomfortably.
“Can I use your laptop?” Rory pushed his plate away and pulled Rose’s computer toward him. Rose’s computer was still booted, so Rory opened a browser and tapped away at the keyboard. He got up from the stool and motioned Rose over.
“Come here, Rose.”
Rose came around the counter. Rory moved her in front of the screen and trapped her between his arms. The web page was opened to the Royal Bank of Scotland. Without trying to hide what he was typing, Rory entered a username and password into the login form. When the page refreshed to the account details, Rory clicked on “My Balance.” A screen came up showing a balance with a list of transactions – mostly deposits. Rory pointed to the account balance in the lower right-hand corner.
Rose stared at it. She wasn’t sure if she should be insulted, honoured that Rory had shared his bank balance with her, or worried that it was a hell of a lot smaller than she’d expect for someone like him, especially after almost a decade of Game of Thrones. She didn’t care about money, but if that’s all he had, what was he spending it on? Rose knew that Rory was notorious for being frugal, so this made no sense at all.
“Rory, why are you showing me this?”
“Look at the holders,” Rory said pointing a finger at the upper left corner. Two names were listed as the account holders. Rory McCann, with Rose McClelland appearing right beneath it. Rose swallowed hard.
“Are you telling me you opened a joint chequing account in both our names?” It just didn’t sound right even as she said it. Rose twisted her head to look up at Rory. “Rory, I don’t want your money.” Her expression turned slightly sour. “Are you giving me money because you feel sorry for me? What? I don’t understand.”
Rory chuckled and turned Rose by the shoulders to face him. “Rose, that’s not my money, it’s yours.”
Rose balked. “What are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about Sea Dreams.”
Rose stared at him blankly.
“The TV commercial, Rose.” Rory took a deep breath in exasperation. “Remember you told me that you gave the rights to me? Well, I put the rights in my name and another … to be named later since I didn’t know your full name at the time. By the time the cheques started coming I did know your name, but I couldn’t open a bank account for you without your birthdate and social insurance number.” Rory watched as Rose’s expression started to lighten.
“Since I had to open the account in my name, I created a trust fund.” Finally, Rose was getting it. Her mouth slowly started to drop as the realization hit her.
“Are you telling me that I have almost $250,000?” Rose gasped.
Rory shook his head. A huge grin spread across his face. “No, Rose. That’s Pounds Sterling.” Rory physically turned Rose around between his arms and went back to the laptop. He clicked on Banking Tools in the menu and opened a foreign exchange converter. He entered the bank balance and clicked on Canadian Dollars.
“OH. MY. GOD!!” Rose couldn’t believe her eyes. At $1.77 to the Pound, Rose had more than $435,000.
Chapter 36: The Undoing of Rory McCann
“You’ve got nothing to worry about, Rose.” Rory pulled Rose close to him and held her tightly in his arms.
“So that’s why you gave me the legal advice,” Rose surmised.
Rory nodded. “When it came time to split the assets, you didn’t have to deny something you didn’t know about. And technically it was in my name, so he couldn’t have touched it anyway, but I didn’t want it to cause problems for you either.”
Tons of weight had disappeared from Rose’s mind. She felt clear and free for the second time in her life. Rose also knew that the money would give her a lot more options, and time to think them through.
"October 14th," Rose said.
Rory tossed his head. "What's October 14th?" he asked.
"Why didn't you tell me before?" Rory asked with a scrunch of his chin.
Rose rolled her eyes. "Because the day you asked me was the day before my birthday." Rose shrugged. "We were kind of flirting then and I was afraid of what you might do. That's why I didn't want to tell you before. You'd already done so much for me and ..." Rose sighed looking up into Rory's eyes and smiled feeling her insides practically aglow.
“Rory, I don’t know what to say. How can I ever thank-you for all this? You’ve done so much for me and I -”
“There’s no need to thank me, Rose. It’s your money. It was never mine.” A sly grin spread across Rory’s face. “But if you really need to thank me …”
Rory lifted Rose to sit on the bar stool and moved closer between her knees. He wrapped his arms around her and kissed her. Rose could feel his arousal as he pressed forward against her. Rory leaned into her, hungry for more than just her lips. He tugged at the wide neck of her t-shirt as he trailed kisses down the side of her chin to her neck and across an exposed collar bone tickling her skin with the bristly hairs of his beard. Rose panted, her breath heavy and moist as wetness began to develop between her legs. Rose put her hands to the sides of Rory’s neck and let them trail down over his shoulders to his chest. She traced her fingers through his thick hair and began to feel a pulse in parts of her body other than her heart.
Rose closed her eyes for a moment and pushed Rory away. He looked flustered that he’d been interrupted.
“Rory, there’s something I want to tell you,” she said. Rose licked her lips and drew in a hesitant breath.
“I was really worried about money and how that might affect our relationship,” she confessed. “It just didn’t make sense for me to get too close to you if I knew I would end up having to go back to Canada right away. It’s difficult to think about starting a relationship when you’re worrying about money.”
“But you don’t have to worry about money anymore, Rose.”
Rose nodded and smiled. “I know. But that was the reason I decided to wait to tell you.”
“Tell me what, Rose?” Rory held his breath, waiting, as he caressed the length of her arms. He loved the feeling of Rose’s soft smooth skin under his fingertips. He gritted his teeth as he felt himself grow harder, but he smiled and focused on what Rose was saying.
“That I love you.” Rose’s face glowed as she smiled. Rory could see that she meant it. All he had to do was look in her eyes. His heart swelled in his chest.
Rose stood up on the rung of the stool bring herself closer to Rory’s height. Hands at the sides of his face, Rose caressed his cheeks with her thumbs, bringing them down over the soft edges of his beard.
“I love you, Rory.”
Rory cradled Rose’s head in his hands and brought her face close to his until their noses were almost touching. “I love you, Rose.” He kissed her then, pressing his lips firmly to hers, Rory felt the heat that passed between them. Rose parted her lips slightly giving Rory access to the sweetness of her breath, the taste of her mouth as his tongue explored her soft skin.
Rose moved her hands to Rory’s back and pulled him closer. She gasped lightly as Rory moved his mouth down over her neck. She felt the burning heat of his hands on the back of her thighs as he moved them up slowly edging under her t-shirt. Rory quickly slid one hand up along her bare back following the ridge of her spine while the other hand teased at the waist of her panties.
Lowering her hands to his hips, Rose clutched at him pushing his groin into hers. She could feel his erection hitting the sweet spot of her mound. Intense heat flowed down her legs making Rose gasp. She rose up on her toes grinding her hips forward as she dropped rubbing herself along the length of his swollen arousal. Rory groaned into her shoulder playfully biting as he rocked his hips against her.
“Rose,” he moaned. His voice was a deep and throaty rumble in his chest. Still supporting her back, Rory moved his other hand from the waistband and into the silky fabric. He drew his hand down to cup and squeeze the flesh of her firm, round ass. His fingers moved from behind, seeking the heat at her core. The pad of a fingertip caressed her and moved deeper to feel the wetness inside her.
Her legs trembled as Rose let out a guttural gasp breathing hot air into his ear.
With a grunt of pure lust, Rory picked her up and carried Rose into the bedroom. He was afraid he wouldn’t even make it that far. Her body in his arms radiated such heat that it made him grow frustratingly hard. Rose tickled her tongue against the edge of his ear sending shivers through his arms and legs so that he could barely walk. He wanted her naked, wanted to feel her skin against his, their entire bodies writhing and tangled.
When he finally set her down on the edge of the bed, Rory tugged up on the bottom of her shirt and pulled it off over Rose’s head. For a moment, he stood still and admired her beauty. Rose was slim and softly curved from her shoulders down to her waist and hips, and she had the perfect breasts. Even at her age, they were pert and full and round with delicate dark red nipples that were hard and begging him to taste them.
Dropping to his knees, Rory moved between Rose’s legs and looked up at her with such longing that Rose wanted to drag him right onto the bed. She wanted him now. She ran her fingers through his hair as he kissed the center of her chest. Huge, warm hands came up over her breasts, her taut nipples brushing his palms.
Rose’s breath came in hot gasps as she felt the tickle of his whiskers across her skin. Rory kissed the soft flesh of each breast, one then the other before moving to the hard tips. Rose leaned her head back, her breath desperate and panting as Rory took a nipple into his mouth and rolled it on his tongue. He pulled lightly with his teeth while his fingers stroked the other one, feeling it harden between his knuckles.
He switched sides causing Rose to moan. She wrapped her legs around him and squeezed pushing herself into him as her wetness increased. Her panties were soaked and she wanted them off. Rory was happy to oblige. As Rose lay back on the bed, Rory’s lips drew down across her taut stomach. He slipped the moistened silk down over her knees to the floor and tossed them aside.
The warmth of Rory’s hands on her knees made Rose tremble as he gently spread them. Rose closed her eyes and let herself get lost in the soft touches and gentle sensations as Rory moved between her legs. Flames burst through her nerve endings when Rory touched his tongue to her heat. Rose moaned loudly, her body jolting involuntarily. She couldn’t take it any longer. It had to be now. Rose sat up and pulled at his arms. Her heart threatened to beat right out of her chest as she urged him on top of her.
“Rory, now,” she gasped. Rory clambered onto the bed kneeling between her legs as Rose tore the towel away from him. He swept an arm under Rose’s back to drag her farther onto the bed. Settling between her legs, Rory looked down into the face of the most beautiful woman he had ever known. Rose looked back at him pleading, luscious lips pouting and panting. He kissed her hard, his erection pressing dangerously close to her entrance. He pushed himself up to look at her again. He wanted to see her face as he came into her.
Rory leaned to the side. He stroked his hand down over the smooth skin of her thigh, moved behind her knee and lifted it to spread her wide. He watched her expression as he grunted, thrusting hard as he entered her, spreading her tightness around him, filling her. Rose gasped, her expression a mixture of surprise and ecstasy.
Rocking his hips over hers, Rory pushed deeper as he lowered his chest to touch Rose’s. Rory kissed her open mouth, their breath mixing hot and fast. Rose pushed at his hips and Rory drew back moving out of her. Then he felt her fingernails dig into the flesh on his back urging him back in. He thrust hard moving in a slow rhythm. Rose drew her legs up to meet him, circling her hips to match his.
He couldn’t stop touching her. His hands were all over her as he kissed her, squeezed her breasts, scraped his fingernails over her thighs, pinched her nipples. Rose gasped, tightened her muscles, squeezing him, making him throb. He could feel himself swelling and growing.
Rory moved more urgently as Rose wrapped her legs around him pulling him deeper. When he moved his hand away, Rose brought it back to the nipple he’d been teasing and pinched. She moaned harshly in his ear, urging him to thrust faster.
“Harder,” she whispered. The word, with her hot breath, made him tighten inside her. The sound of their bodies meeting brought him to the brink. He wouldn’t be able to hold out much longer. He began to throb dangerously close.
“Rose, hurry,” he groaned.
Rose urged him to move faster, harder.
Rory lifted up and put his hand between them. He slipped a finger between them, into the juncture of her and massaged her. Rose bucked beneath him moaning loudly, rocking her hips violently. Her entire body shuddered, wracked with tremors as her orgasm swept over her. He felt the pulsing of her core around him as her muscles convulsed into a tight ring.
Rory lowered his weight onto her, making her small delicate body shake with each thrust. He growled with frustration, feeling himself begin to pulse. Rory roared as he finally erupted, spilling into her.
Their bodies pressed together, panting and hearts pounding, Rory lowered himself carefully on top of Rose. Every muscle trembled from exertion. He wiped a gentle hand across her brow as he smiled down into her relaxed and satisfied face. She smiled warmly at him. Rose adored the feeling of being swaddled between his thick, strong arms, feeling his chest hair on her breasts.
Rory’s lips were red and swollen, even more kissable in this post-orgasm state of calm and tranquility. She raised her lips to his and kissed him tenderly, briefly. All he could do is look down at her, astonished that this was the woman he’d waited so long for.
“You’re amazing, luv,” he whispered.
“No, we’re amazing,” Rose corrected. They had finally come together, as friends and lovers. It was difficult for Rose to believe that as a couple they had blended so perfectly. There was still a long way for them to go, still many things to figure out, but Rose didn’t see anything that they couldn’t overcome together.
Rory rolled to the side and pulled Rose against him, tucking her into the curve of his body. They fit together perfectly. He tenderly kissed the back of her shoulder, wondering if Rose was a dream, if he would wake up and be alone on his boat somewhere.
Everything about her was perfect. They belonged together. They were meant for each other, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Rory had never before met a woman that had so much to offer him. He had known women who were beautiful, and woman who were kind and caring, there had even been good sex, but never all of it in one perfect package. Not until he had known Rose.
Was there even such a thing as perfect, he wondered. Rory couldn’t foresee anything that would be so devastating that it would drive them apart. Whatever hardships they might face, Rory knew that they could handle. They had already been through so much together. Rory and Rose were both reasonable and intelligent people. They would figure out whatever obstacles presented themselves, though he couldn’t imagine there would be many of those.
Rory felt Rose settle as her body relaxed within his arms. He found his own eyelids grow heavy as his comfort overcame him, and he drifted into a pleasant sleep.
It was still dark out when Rose was awakened by a low rumble. As she shook the sleep away from her mind, Rose felt the heat of soft skin moving over the length of her thigh. Rory was murmuring softly into her ear. Their bodies were still curled together in the position they’d fallen asleep in.
Rose stretched languidly against him as Rory pulled her closer. He had become aroused again, pressing his hardness to the seam of her thighs.
“Rose,” he breathed, “You’re going to undo me.”
Rose smiled into her pillow lifting her leg slightly. Rory slipped his hand between her knees to spread her wider as he moved into her from behind. Rose gasped lightly as he slid inside her. Arm around her hips, he pulled her down, sinking himself deeper, moving slowly and gently, rocking their bodies together. Rory’s hand moved over her belly to fondle her breasts. He rolled her nipples between his thumb and finger as he groaned in time with his light, rhythmic thrusts.
Rose could feel herself spreading tightly around him each time he moved, sinking deeper and feeling the base of him press against her delicate folds. She felt the heat in her core, wet and electric, tingling with each of Rory’s grunts as he increased his rhythm.
Grabbing at the flesh of her thigh, Rory rocked harder feeling himself grow closer. His fingertips explored the curve of her hip, the hollow at the top of her thigh, the soft hairs of her mound, to the seam of her core. He explored deeper finding the wetness there, he caressed and massaged. Rose tensed dramatically, moaning as he teased the ultra sensitive skin.
With his free hand hooked around her shoulder, Rory pulled down driving himself deeper inside her. Rose began to pant hard, her body trembling. A high-pitched moan came from deep in her chest as her muscles tightened around him. Rory rode her orgasm, rocking into her, matching the pulsing of her quim along the length of him as he swelled and throbbed.
Her orgasm subsiding, Rory wrapped his arm around Rose’s hips, grunting with each hard thrust. He held his quivering body tightly against Rose as he finally came, spent and satisfied.
As sleep finally began to pull them down again, Rory wondered how he had ever survived the loneliness before Rose. He’d never wanted to admit it to himself before. But now, as he lay here beside her, he knew his heart was at long last, filled with more love than he’d ever known was possible.
Chapter 37: A Letter To A Friend
“That’s it?” Rose asked. She was bent at the waist, hands on her knees staring into a tiny little crevice next to the berth on Rory’s boat. She turned and gave him a look that made him feel ridiculous. It was the same look Sally often gave him.
Those two are going to get along just fine, he mused.
Keeping her eyes on the crevice, Rose stuck her hand out behind her. “Give me a Kleenex,” she told Rory.
Rory handed her a tissue. “What are you going to –”
“Uhh, that’s disgusting,” Rory complained.
“So long, Fred. It was nice knowing you.” Rose shook her head and smirked up at Rory, her eyebrow arched high.
“What?” He shrugged suddenly acting all innocent.
“That was not a spider,” Rose declared. “That was a poppyseed with legs.”
Rose came back out to the galley and sat on Rory’s knee at the banquette table. She wrapped her arms around his neck and smiled. Rose could feel Rory’s hands on her back, always caressing, always warm and protective.
“How is it that a man like you is afraid of spiders?” she asked. There was no teasing or sarcasm in her voice, only genuine interest.
“Aren’t you afraid of anything?” he asked softly.
Rose wanted to avoid answering the question and instead succumb to the arousal she was feeling. She wanted to drag him into the berth, not talk, not have deep discussions about their future, and not face the decisions they were going to have to make. Rose felt like a succubus, luring Rory to his demise, dismissing the maturity and responsibility that would bring their relationship to a place that would actually allow it to last.
Of course she was afraid of something. Rose was afraid of finding out that they each wanted something different. She was afraid of not finding a compromise to their schedules, always flying off in different directions and never being together. Rose was afraid that their career aspirations would get in the way of their feelings for each other.
“Rose?” Rory rubbed his hands up and down Rose’s arms. She couldn’t imagine that she might be cold, but she was shivering.
“I’m afraid of losing …” she eventually whispered.
“Losing you. Losing everything I’ve worked so hard for over the past year.”
Rory shook his head. “I don’t understand. Why do you think you would lose me?”
Rose stood up and sat across the table from Rory. He reached across and took Rose’s hands in his and held on tightly so that she couldn’t withdraw from him.
“Game of Thrones is over,” Rose said, looking down at the table. “You have to find your next job now. Where will that take you? And where will I be in the meantime? From what Cairn Group has indicated, I’m going to have a really busy year.”
Rose looked up into Rory’s eyes but all she saw there was understanding, concern, warmth and love. “I don’t want to have to choose between you and my writing career. I don't want you to feel like you have to choose between me and your career.”
Rose squeezed Rory’s hands tightly and cocked her head to the side. Guilt wracked through her. Rose felt as though she was putting Rory on some sort of pros and cons list. It wasn’t like that at all, but regret was chewing on her like a dog at a steak bone. She should have thought of all this before she got involved with Rory, before she’d allowed him to give himself up to her.
It would have been better if she’d pushed him away. Rory’s pain would have been a lot less if Rose had just kept her distance and not let him anywhere near her. But it was too late. Rory and Rose were part of each other now, claws deeply piercing each other’s hearts. If they let go, they would shred each other. Rose didn’t want that.
“Do you want to hear what I have to say, Rose?” Rory asked. His words were soothing with not so much as an iota of condescension. He didn’t wait for her to answer.
“I want to take some time off. I have no plans to look for my next project anytime soon.” He gave her hands a little shake to emphasize his words.
“I just finished spending almost a decade getting up at 3:30 of the morning, every morning, so that I could sit in a makeup chair for four hours while they glued plastic to my face. Then I sat in a hard saddle on a cranky horse named Bob for hours at a time. I wore forty pounds of leather and armour in 100 degree heat, fighting and swinging a sword around. I ruined my knee running across the fucking arctic with a man on my shoulder and ended up with a gut-full of fake snow paper and a block of ice on my forehead.”
Rory paused to let it all sink in. He watched Rose crinkle her forehead as she listened to what Rory had had to endure over the past nine years.
“And after all that, I got slammed into a wall about a hundred times by a man who is a hell of a lot bigger and stronger than me. That one scene was harder than everything else I’ve been through put together.”
Rose couldn’t help but smirk as a thought came to her. “You forgot the time that Gwen kicked you in the balls,” she said with a smug grin. Rory dropped his forehead to smack the tabletop between them. When he lifted his head, he grimaced.
“Thank-you for reminding me of that. I might have forgot otherwise,” he retorted sarcastically. He lifted Rose’s hands in his knitting their fingers together.
“My point is, this is your year. I just want to rest for awhile. I have no intention of working for at least a year. My body needs to heal.” Rory wrapped his fingers around Rose’s wrists and slid his hands up the length of her arms. Gripping her behind the elbows, he pulled her a little closer across the table.
“I think we should concentrate on you this year,” Rory told Rose. “The first year is always the hardest. I want to be there to support you through it. We’ll be together the whole time. Then things will start to settle down again, you’ll see. By that time we’ll be able to figure out what’s next and we’ll find our rhythm.”
Rory leaned his forehead against Rose’s. “But this year – this one is for you, and I’ll be with you the whole way. I promise.”
Rose shook her head. “No, Rory, I don’t want you to give up any opportunities because I –”
“Rose! I want to sleep. I want to sail. I finally got my beard back.” Rory let go of Rose’s hand and pulled her by the other bring her back to his side of the table. He turned her so that she was sitting on his lap, back to him and wrapped his arms around her. Rory nuzzled into her hair and kissed Rose on the neck.
“I need you to heal my wounds, Rose,” he said as he moved one hand up over her breasts and one between her thighs.
Rose shifted slightly to turn toward him. Her expression was doubtful and reluctant. Rose didn’t want to take anything away from Rory. She never wanted either of them to have to compromise their careers, and she told him so.
“Rose, I’m taking a year off with or without you. I would rather it was with you.” Dragging a finger up over the side of her cheek, Rory pulled Rose’s hair back and tucked it behind her ear. He put his lips close and whispered. “I love you, Rose.”
Rose broke away from Rory’s grip and turned around. She stood between his knees and looked into his deep brown eyes. For a moment, he looked like a little boy, innocent, happy and completely content. Even over the last few days together at the inn, Rose had seen a difference in him. Rory had gotten younger. His face had softened and relaxed, his whole body had relaxed - although Rose suspected she’d had something to do with that - and he’d been carefree and unconcerned about anything and everything.
Not only did he need a year off, he deserved it. Rory deserved as much time as he wanted. He wanted that time to be spent with Rose, and Rose wanted him, too.
So there really isn’t much to decide, is there? Rose concluded.
She opened her mouth to say something, but changed her mind. Rose stepped in between Rory’s knees and kissed him. Rory picked her up in his arms and carried her into the berth.
Let the healing begin …
“I’m sorry if I ever doubted you,” Sally told her holding her arms wide. Rose gave Rory’s sister a warm hug as they looked over each other closely.
“If I was in your position, I would have done the same thing,” Rose offered. They both knew how sensitive Rory was, how easy it might have been to hurt him. “Besides, I have to agree with you. What are the chances that two people could fall in love without ever actually meeting?”
Sally dragged Rose to the sofa holding on to her hands. They leaned close together like two schoolgirls tittering over a crush.
“So …” Sally hinted. “Are you going to keep me waiting or are you going to give me all the gory details?”
“Don’t you mean the Rory details?” Rose laughed. Suddenly both of them were quiet as they looked up to the side. Rory was watching them, relieved that his two best girls were getting along so well. If only his other best girl was there, too …
It was the first time Rory had thought of Holly without Rose mentioning her first. Funny how he missed her after having known her for such a brief time. If Holly was here, the world would be absolutely perfect. Rose would have everything she ever wanted, and that’s exactly what Rory wanted for her. That’s exactly what Rose gave to him. Rory couldn’t think of one thing – other than having Holly back – that he would ask for.
“Do you mind?” Sally threw an accusing glare at her older brother. “We have things to discuss.” Sally flapped a hand in his direction dismissing him as though he were a mere peasant. Rory swatted at her playfully and raised an eyebrow.
“I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know what you two will be talking about,” he declared as he stalked out of the room, confident that everything was right with the world.
“Hey there, Gorgeous.”
Rose looked up to a big toothy grin. Thick, strong arms wrapped around her. Rose tilted her cheek up where it was graced with a respectable peck.
Rose smiled back. “Hey, Dee. How’s it going?”
“Great. What are you doing here today?”
Rose set her notebook aside and sat up straight in the set chair. “Oh, I hope it’s okay that I’m here. I’m just taking some notes for research. If I’m in the way or … Oh! Am I distracting Rory?”
Dwayne shook his head. His bright toothy grin spread even wider. “Hell, no,” he told her waving away her concerns. “Rory’s doing great. I just wondered how the new book is coming. I read the last one.” He pointed both index fingers at her like guns. “Awesome!” he said.
“Thanks, Dee. Are you sure I’m not a distraction?” Dwayne leaned in close and waggled his eyebrows at her. Could it be possible that his grin got even wider?
“Oh you’re a distraction, all right,” he joked. Rose swatted at him playfully.
“Hey!” Rory bellowed. “Are you flirting with my girlfriend again?” Jurgen the Brutal came stomping across the set. He poked a finger in Dwayne’s chest. “How many times do I have to tell you …”
Rose started to giggle and pointed, laughing. “I’m sorry but I just can’t take you seriously with beard braids!” She continued to snicker as Rory chased her around the set. When he caught her, Rory kissed her and told her just what he intended to do with his braids.
Rose sighed as her giggles finally drifted away. “Okay, okay. I’m going back to the hotel and you need to get back to work.”
Rory kissed her again. “Alright, I’ll see you tonight, luv.”
Rose watched for a few more minutes as Rory found his mark and he and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson practiced their choreography.
Everything had worked out and fallen into a rhythm just as Rory had said it would. Rose was waiting in anticipation for the January release of Jumanji: The Next Level. After they finished filming in Atlanta, Rose and Rory would be heading west. They would be staying in California for awhile so that Rose could do a taping for The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and a few other interviews, and Rory could do his TV spots for Jumanji with Conan O’Brien. After that would be the premiere. Then, she and Rory had a meeting with another producer who wanted to put Call It Serendipity on the big screen. Rose had already gotten a call from Tom Hanks and he wanted Rory to star in it.
Whomever they chose, Rose would agree, but with two conditions: Rory had to get the starring role and Rose wanted nothing to do with the production. Movies were Rory’s business and writing was Rose’s. They kept their careers close, but separate. Wherever Rory went, Rose came along. It gave her the opportunity not only to be with him, but to see the world and find new inspiration with everywhere they went. As a result, Rose found that she was writing more than ever before. In fact, the ideas were coming faster than she could write them down.
If Rory wasn’t working and Rose had to travel, Rory went with her. On the odd occasion that they were both working and had to be away, it made their homecoming that much sweeter.
Rose typed the last line of her new book and hit the save button. She been working on this one secretly and decided to surprise Rory with it. If her intense emotions while writing it were any indication, it was going to be a bestseller. Even if it wasn’t, Rose would still consider it to be her best work yet.
Rose hit the print button and waited while the manuscript pages came grinding out one by one. When the entire novel was printed and stack neatly on the corner of her desk, she picked up her cell phone and called Rory.
“It’s done,” she told him.
Rory informed Rose that he would be home within the hour. He was excited to start reading her new book. Rory didn’t even know the title of it yet. But when he did finally finish reading, it Rory agreed that writing A Letter To A Friend was the best thing she’d ever done.