“Drive all the way round.” These would’ve been the words ringing across the car right about now. Even though she was right, he never listened and just to annoy her took the turning off the road up the drive anyway. Her face when he missed the opening and had to reverse and adjust before trying again was one of pure annoyance, and he loved it. Today, for the first time, he drove off the road into the drive in one swift move, a move that a professional motor racer would be proud of. How was that possible? Why today of all days? He parked the car, pulled up the handbrake and sighed. He looked towards the passenger seat. She would’ve been so proud of that, he thought. At least he now knew the reasoning behind the bad driving. It was the beautiful distraction from the passenger seat. Paul sighed. These past two weeks had been tough. The drives to work had been quiet. The drives from work even quieter. That time of day when they would usually debrief everything from work to home and even his behavior! The alone time they shared together where they could discuss anything in their own little bubble. He missed it, missed hearing the disapproving tone towards his actions, missed the fear in her voice worrying about the kids and above all missed the whispering “I love yous” she shared with him. The hotel wasn’t the same either. Lassiters felt lonely without her. Everywhere he turned she wasn’t there and he knew it was all because of him. He had been alone before, had been without her before, but this felt different. This was the first time they'd been apart since they got married, hopefully it will also be the last. He sat for a bit thinking. Luckily, he lived in a house full of drama, so he had been kept quite busy since she left. Ned and the Hive, Roxy and Shane and Harlow with her campaign were all things he had made himself busy with. If Terese leaving had given him anything it was time with them. He opened his phone, a picture of them popped up. He smiled. Just a week to go he thought, just one more week. He opened the car door, stepped out and headed towards the house.
“So, what’s the movie” Ned asked
“I’ve chosen Lion King and then Harlow wants to watch an oldie” Roxy answered
“Lion King, really?” Ned questioned raising his eyebrows
“Yes, a classic, and it has real-ish lions so it’s a win-win”
“Fine. What’s Harlow’s then?”
“She said either Birds or Cujo”
“Yep. I think she’s trying to take her mind off the election”
“Cujo will definitely do that. “
“Cujo will do what?” Paul asked as he closed the door and placed his keys and wallet on the table by the door.
Ned and Roxy looked at each other wide eyed before looking towards Paul.
“Hey, I thought you were having dinner with Jane and Clive tonight.” Roxy questioned
“Yeah, change of plans. Jane had last minute plans with Nicolette and Clive had an emergency at the hospital so.”
“So, you came home?”
“Umm yeah. I didn’t really fancy dinner for one. I thought I would make something for us” He paused for a minute and looked toward the kitchen “Unless you’ve already started”
“No” Ned answered “We’re actually having Pizza; it should be here any minute”
“Oh ok.” He looked around “So is it just you two?" he said pointing at them
“Me, Neddy here and Harls. The other half’s have plans so we are having a Movie night.” Roxy answered
“Oh right.” Paul said with a slight disappointed tone in his voice. “I’ll just cook myself something then and head out back. Give you three some space.”
Paul walked into the kitchen, placed his work bag on the bench and started ruffling around. He grabbed a glass, placed it on the counter and opened the fridge door. Roxy watched him; she couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. Paul told them that everything was all good, but that didn’t make it any easier for him, being left behind. Terese’s reasoning for leaving without him wasn’t a bad reason it just didn’t sit right with her. He looked lonely, missing that one person he loved more than anyone. The love they shared was unlike any that Roxy had seen before and it broke her heart seeing him looking so lost.
“Don’t you dare Rox” Ned whispered as he watched her watching Paul
“Look at him Ned. Meal for one and work? “
“And he’ll be fine, he loves work”
“Really! Could you be any more heartless?”
“I just need a break from him, just one night.”
“But didn’t you say that you had a good day with him yesterday”
Just before he could finish his sentence the doorbell rang. Coming down the stairs Harlow went to answer.
“Thank you” she said grabbing the pizza boxes and looking towards Ned. “Money?”
Before he had a chance to respond. Paul looked towards the door.
“My wallet’s there darling, take what you want”
Ned and Roxy turned to look at him.
“I told you, dinner was on me tonight” Paul said with a smile on his face
“And you’re joining us, right?” Roxy questioned
Ned turned to look at Roxy.
“You three don’t need me hanging around.” Paul answered
“No, we don’t.” Ned answered “But that’s never stopped you before, also I might need someone in my corner as the night goes on”
“Meal for one or Pizza for four? Your choice Paulie?” Roxy said imitating a scale with her hands
“When you put it like that. Meal for one sound perfect.” Paul said with a smirk on his face. The room fell silent. “I’m kidding. Pizza for four sounds good”
“Right you grab the drinks and we’ll get the movie on.” Harlow said walking towards the couch with two large pizzas.
“So, what’s the movie?” Paul questioned walking with two drinks towards the couch and signaling Ned to get the rest.
“My pick.” Roxy said proudly “Lion King”
“Perfect” Paul said placing his drink on coffee table and settling on the couch by the window. Roxy sat on the middle couch with Harlow. Ned joined from the kitchen with two more drinks and placed them on the table next to Harlow. He sat on the single chair opposite Paul, and looked at him.
“A Disney movie is Perfect?”
“I can resonate with it. Similarities, you know. A king, a queen, a pig, a busybody and a worrier.” He said looking at each of them in turn.
“Isn’t Beauty and the Beast more you?” Ned teased
“Ooh” Harlow and Roxy said in unison looking at Paul.
“Beast still gets the Palace and the Princess”
Ned looked at Paul speechless as Paul leaned forward with a smug smile and grabbed a slice of pizza. Ned turned his attention to Roxy.
“Well Neddy, balls in your court” Roxy mocked as he shook his head at her.
“Just press play.”
Ned, Roxy and Harlow sat in silence; their eyes fixated on the screen in front of them. The pizza boxes had been replaced by snack bowls and by this hour multiple bottles were sitting on the coffee table. Roxy reached forward and grabbed a handful of popcorn without taking her eyes off the screen. The music got intense; their eyes widened. And as the credit started rolling all three breathed a sigh of relief. Suddenly there was ringing and all three jumped in fright.
“Jeez Harlow!” Ned exclaimed
“Sorry, it was just Hendrix saying goodnight.”
“Well it wasn’t for the poor woman in the movie was it.” Roxy said with a disgusted tone
Ned and Harlow giggled. Ned looked over to the couch opposite and nodded.
“Well it’s been a good night for someone” he said as the girls turned to look in the same direction. Lying on the couch fast asleep was Paul. One arm resting on his chest as the other rested by his side. He had a little smile on his face, one Roxy had seen before when he was crashing on the couch, a peaceful smile.
“I haven’t seen him like this in weeks.” Harlow added
“Yeah, he’s been...” Ned joined in
“Annoying” Harlow finished the sentence
Ned and Roxy looked at her with a confused look on their faces.
“Guys you should see my school campaign, it like a general election for PM, and it’s only going to get worse. And what about all the hassle you’ve had with him at the Hive”
“Yeah maybe. But all I was going to say was he’s been missing Terese.”
“David and Aaron also left. It’s been tough on him.” Roxy added. “But I kinda like nights like tonight. Us and him.”
“He has been focusing a lot on us though.” Ned said “Getting involved with everything.”
“We’re the family he has left. Of course, he’s going to throw everything into your campaign.” Roxy said looking at Harlow. “And he’s got money and your future invested in the Hive so.”
“It hasn’t been all bad I guess.” Ned said
“And what about you?” Harlow questioned “Has he been on your case?”
“He was, when the whole Shane drama came out. He made sure I knew he was there for me.”
“Did you tell him about how violent it got?” Ned asked
“Are you kidding. An angry Paul in the middle of all that would’ve just made a bad situation even worse”
Ned scoffed and looked at Paul.
“So, when is Terese coming home?”
“Next week I think?” Harlow guessed
“It their Anniversary next week” Ned said
“Yep and I hope she’ll be home by then. Can you imagine his disappointment if she wasn’t.' Roxy added, before getting up on her feet. She walked towards the couch, grabbed the blanket that was thrown on the back and placed it over Paul. She looked at him and smiled. Just a second later Paul's phone rang. Harlow picked it up. It was a video call coming through, she looked at the ID and answered.
“Hey Harlow. How are you?”
“All good thanks. Ned and Roxy are here with me”
“What are you doing on your granddad’s phone? Is Paul there?”
Harlow turned the phone towards Paul. “He’s a bit busy at the moment”
Terese couldn’t help but smile as she saw him sleeping on the couch.
“What have you guys been up to?” she asked
Harlow took the phone to the kitchen table as Ned and Roxy followed her.
“Movie night Auntie T” Roxy said gleefully
“He needed the distraction.” Ned joined in
“Why did he need a distraction, has he been on your cases this week? Ned?”
Ned paused for a bit and looked at Roxy. She smiled at him.
“No, he’s just been keeping himself busy with everything, helping everyone.”
“So, what’s this everything and everyone then? What’s really going on with him?”
“See you guys soon. Bye.” Terese said before hanging up the phone. She placed it on her bed side table and sighed. She hadn’t seen the kids for a couple of weeks. She always talked to Paul face to face and caught up with them with messages here and there during the day. It was nice seeing them, seeing them looking after Paul. He looked settled as well, peaceful. The last couple of calls they had had been the same but a little bit different. There was something different about him, he seemed quieter and little distanced. A tad lost. It had been two weeks since they were in each other’s company and although she was having the best time with her girls, she couldn’t deny that when the night time came and everyone coupled up, she felt alone. That time of night when they would snuggle in bed, hashing out what had happened that day, planning the next and listening to him plan their future together. Those little moments they shared together, just the two of them. His smile, his warm hands and even his questionable actions, the ones he’d act first and then try to excuse later. She always knew he meant well, she just wished he’d occasionally learn from it. When she left, she was ready for a break, she wanted that time with her girls, some space. But this was the first time they'd been apart since they got married, and now she knew why. The days were filled with joy over here but in a room full of people she was lonely. All she wanted was that one person by her side who could make the whole world disappear. The one person that made the world feel brighter, louder and complete. She double tapped her phone screen. She smiled as a picture of her and Paul popped up. Just a week to go she thought, just one more week.