Some clichés are true, Beatrice thinks.
She’s 25 today. The sunlight streams in, filling the bedroom with the warm glow of morning. There is nothing so simple, so comfortable as a lazy morning in bed with her boyfriend, naked skin on skin.
“Happy birthday, love,” Ben whispers, his voice blurry with sleep. She kisses him.
It doesn’t feel much different from the last few birthday mornings- same relationship, different apartment, less embarrassment, more normal, average, boring routine. It’s nice.
“Do you think you’re a different person than you used to be?” Bea asks, breaking the easy silence.
“Any year. Five years ago, I don’t know. Are you different?” She runs her hand along his chest, the soft hairs and smooth flesh there. She knows him like she knows herself, by now.
“Yeah, I reckon. I mean, I hope so,” Ben says, worry creasing his brow. “Why? Do you feel different? Does 25-?”
“No. I don’t know. I guess it makes me wonder- life is so different now than five years ago. What comes next?”
Ben makes a noise of confusion, shifting to face her in bed, his hand on the small of her back. He still likes to hold her close, to feel her and know she isn’t leaving. He’s still anxious. That hasn’t changed.
“What do you mean?” he asks.
“Well, our jobs might change, our families and friends, our living space. What we spend time and money and energy on. There’s a lot we’ve left behind.” Beatrice is angling towards something, the question on the tip of her tongue.
“There’s a lot we haven’t,” Ben counters, his fingers on her breast now, caressing and making her gasp, a welcome sensation.
“I think,” she sighs. “I think- You know how we never believed in destiny, or stupid things like that?”
“Yeah- true love is bullshit,” Ben says, kissing her neck. “Are you trying to tell me something, Beatrice?”
“Just… I think it’s real if you make it real,” she says, pulling back. “I don’t believe each person has one true love. But sometimes we don’t have time to find another one.”
“This is a defining-the-relationship talk,” Ben laughs, meeting her eyes. “That’s how you want to start your birthday? Wow.”
“Shut up,” she grumbles. “I’m trying to tell you I changed my mind. Remember, when we were 20, we were at your cousin’s wedding- stop laughing, dickface- we were at the wedding, but we skipped the reception. And on the ride home, I told you how I never wanted to get married, as long as I lived, and you said-”
“‘Fine by me’,” Ben supplies, grinning. “You changed your mind.”
Bea can feel herself blushing. She’s an adult woman enjoying a birthday lie-in with her boyfriend of nearly eight years, and feelings can still make her blush. Disgusting.
“I’m just saying, when I look at my future, when I picture the chain of birthdays up ahead, they all start just like this. I can’t see my life without you in it. And I still don’t fancy wearing rings, or planning parties, but I just… It’s not a hard ‘no’ anymore, okay?” Beatrice admits, and she can’t help smiling. “I want you to know that.”
“Thanks for telling me,” Ben says, grinning back. No pressure, no further discussion. “And just so you know, love- I feel the same. You’re my future, I know that for sure.”
“Well, if that’s settled,” Beatrice smirks, matter-of-fact, her hand sliding further down beneath the blankets as she moves closer. It’s Ben’s turn to feel his breath catch in his throat.
Benedick is her future, Beatrice knows, as she kisses him deeply, rolls on top of him, skin on skin, still wonderful.
And he’s her present, too.