Wednesday 19 May
~ Charlie ~
I gave Daisy my most beseeching smile, playing to the audience, hamming it up. She looked confused, almost frightened as she crept another step closer.
“We need to talk about this.” She hissed at me, her cheeks bright pink, the cute dimples flashing at me. I grabbed her left hand.
“Do we? Do we need to talk?” I kept my voice deliberately low. Behind her, everyone leaned forward to hear our exchange.
“Yes.” She hissed again.
“What was that? I didn’t hear you.”
“Yes.” Too late, Daisy realised what she’d said.
Leaping to my feet, I rammed the pink plastic ring onto her wedding finger. It caught on her knuckle, I pushed harder and it shot into place. A tight fit. Before she had the chance to object, as I was sure she would, I scooped her off the floor into my arms and snogged her. A growing ripple of applause greeted us.
I raised my head, beamed at everyone and glanced across at Jock. “Thank you everyone. My new fiancée and I have some urgent business to attend to. Thank you, and goodnight.”
I swept her out of the room, the faithful Jock following with my guitar and case. Daisy was rendered speechless but I was sure it wouldn’t last long. With my guitar safely stowed on the back seat, I drove off, beeping and waving at the crowd clustering at Steph’s gate.
Daisy stared at me, her mouth slightly open. I clamped my lips together, waited until we’d navigated a few streets, and then pulled onto a car park. Finally, I let rip, bending over, creased with laughter.
“Bloody hell, Daisy, that was fucking hilarious. When I said I was a busker…” I had to wipe my eyes.
So did Daisy. She appeared to be crying too, but not with laughter. Uh oh…
~ Daisy ~
I buried my face in my hands and tried to cover the fact I was crying. Charlie went quiet. I think it finally sank in that I hadn’t found his prank quite as ‘fucking hilarious’.
Something inside me snapped. Heedless of the tears cascading down my cheeks I lifted my head to face him. “Why, Charlie? Why did you just do that?”
He opened his mouth to speak. I carried on. “That was my family. You humiliated me and made fun of them. What gives you the right to do that?”
“But it was -”
“It was horrible. Not funny. My parents love me, and they want me to be happy. My dad chased away the last two boyfriends I took home. One just walked out. Poof, gone. Never saw him again. The second dumped me the week after he met Dad. Some flimsy excuse. But it’s just because he loves me. Jock and Paul are fine now, they just gritted their teeth and got on with it. But you have to take the piss out of him. It wasn’t nice, Charlie.” I stopped for breath. “You hurt me.” I paused. “Again.” I whispered the last word.
I looked down at my hands, tugged at the plastic ring. The damn thing wouldn’t budge. It felt as though it was welded onto my finger.
He shifted in his seat, took my hands and tried to pull the ring off. It was stuck fast.
“Ohhh…” I couldn’t stay in the car with him. One click released my seatbelt, another opened the door and I scrambled out onto the pavement taking off at a run. God knew where I was heading, just away from Charlie.
“Daisy.” I heard him shout, and footsteps pelting behind me. His strong arms hauled me to an undignified stop, and turned me to face him, holding me close. I sobbed freely, punctuating my weeping with little thumps on his chest.
“Why did you do that? Why is everything a joke to you? Is that all I am? Just another joke?”
“Daisy, baby.” He smoothed my hair, dropped a series of little kisses across the top of my head and rocked me in his arms. “I’m sorry. I’m really sorry, okay. You warned me and I went ahead and ignored you.” He sighed, held me tighter. “Okay, I shouldn’t have done that. I was just having a bit of fun, I thought it would make you laugh.”
I raised my snotty, tear stained face to his. “Pretending to propose to me, in front of my entire family. In what way could that possibly make me laugh?”
I saw realization dawning in his eyes. His eyebrows shot up, his eyes widened and he stared down at me, his lips tugging upward. “You want me to do it for real, don’t you?”
Oh God, what new level of humiliation was he going to push me to. “No.” He stared some more, I was mesmerized by the tiny gold flecks in his irises. “Maybe.”
As I stared, trying very hard not to sniff, his eyebrows knitted together and he frowned down at me. I could see he was thinking hard, his eyes narrowed slightly and then opened wide again. A triumphant smile broke free. “Okay then. Let’s do it.”
Rubbing my eyes on the back of my hand, I glared at him. “Do what?”
He shrugged casually with one shoulder. “Get hitched.”
“What?” I must have misheard him. I shook my head briefly. “That’s not funny.”
He took hold of my left hand and examined the pink ring. Tried to move it a little, but it was stuck fast. “I’ve given you a ring. I don’t see you taking it off. We’re engaged, babe.
I tried to pummel his chest again but he slipped his arms around me, dropping his warm, beer-scented lips to mine. “So are we getting married then? One time offer, babe. I’ve never proposed to anyone before.”
Oh how I wanted to believe him. I pulled back, slightly dizzy from the intensity of the kiss. “Why?”
“Why what?” He nuzzled at my lips again, but I hadn’t finished.
“Why are you doing this? It’s not funny.”
His kiss suddenly turned up the heat. I felt scorched from the blast. I clung to him as though I was adrift in the ocean, my legs weak with desire. If his arms weren’t holding me up, I’d have fallen to the pavement. “Why not? We’re good together. Don’t you want me, Daisy?”
My mind tried to process his reply, even as my body turned to mush. “Well?” He breathed against my ear. “Do you want me?”
He was everything I ever wanted. What else could I say? “Yes, God, yes.”
It still hadn’t sunk in. I’d crushed on Charlie for years, then fallen irrevocably in love when we actually met. This engagement was more than a dream come true, it was my wildest fantasy coming to life and I wanted to pinch myself repeatedly to see if I’d wake up.
Charlie insisted he was fine to drive back to Rhosneigr. “For pity’s sake, Daisy, I’ve only had two beers.” I guess he was right, he normally drank far more than that, and still managed to appear relatively sober. We chatted about anything and everything, apart from our engagement, that is. Or our wedding.
He grinned at me and squeezed my hand briefly. “And I’ve got a job now, thanks to your brother-in-law. I’ve never been offered a job before, d’you think I should take it?”
“Did he really do that?”
“Oh yeah. Your dad had a word with him, turned some thumbscrews, and hey presto. The layabout is suddenly employable.” Most guys when meeting a girl’s parents, would be on their best behaviour. Charlie had pretended to be an unemployed busker.
I glared at him. “That’s my dad you’re dissing. Lay off him, Charlie.”
He just laughed, unperturbed. “AJ is going to wet himself when I tell him. Honestly, babe, it’s the funniest thing all year.” Glancing at me, he must have seen my stony expression and he relented. “Okay, if you let me have his number I’ll ring him. Tell him I can’t do it.”
I gave him a half smile, not sure if this was the end of the conversation. Apparently not.
“I’ll tell him I’ve got an audition for the X-Factor instead.”
I pretended to thump him but he just laughed and caught my hand, kissing the fingers. “Don’t be mad at me, Daisy, it’s been a crazy couple of days.”
I had to make do with that.
We arrived back at AJ’s just after eight in the evening to find the house empty. The cars were still there, so they hadn’t gone far, probably next door to their friends Kate and Jordan. Charlie shucked up behind me in the kitchen as I peered into the fridge. “Whatever we have for dinner, can I have you as dessert? That cake your mum made looked divine, but I didn’t get to sample it. Can you bake as well as that? Are you going to make me apple pies and stuff?”
His good humour was difficult to resist. “I can bake a little. You know, maybe we should go round to Kate’s, we can tell everyone at once.” He looked blank. “Duh? Our news?” I waved the plastic ring at him.
“Oh yeah.” He pulled me to his body, rubbing up against me while one hand trailed down my side to cup my bum. “Kate always has food. Let’s go.” He made no move, gazing deeply into my eyes and smiling his ultra-sexy smile, dropping a sweet kiss on my lips. “Then we have an early night.” His voice was husky. “I’ve never had a fiancée before, I’m looking forward to seeing how the sex is different.”
I kissed him back. “It’s pretty much the same.” He pulled back after a moment and wrinkled his nose as he stared at me.
“You’ve been engaged before?”
I tried to shrug in a nonchalant fashion. “Just the once, and it wasn’t for long.”
“About a week. I took him home, and Dad scared him off. He was a jerk anyway.”
I tried to kiss Charlie again, but he wanted to talk now. “Poor you, that sucks. Was that the guy in the picture? At the Arena?”
I rolled my eyes, tried to make a joke of it. “Yup, that was Dave. Like I said, he was a jerk.”
“And your dad gave him a hard time, and he was the one that ran off? Or was he the one that dumped you a week later?”
I felt surprised. He’d been listening to me after all. “He’s the one who ran off.”
“Sweetheart.” He held me close, murmuring over the top of my head. “It wasn’t another party was it?”
My stomach sank. I didn’t really want to re-live that particular humiliation again. I tried to keep it light. “It was our engagement party. I guess he changed his mind. Go figure.”
“What a bastard.”
“If he hadn’t dumped me, I wouldn’t have taken the nannying job in London. And I wouldn’t have got the job with AJ—and I would never have met you. So all in all, I’m kind of glad it happened the way it did.” It seemed to be enough for Charlie and to my relief, he dropped the subject.
Minutes later, we scrambled across the dividing stream that separated the two properties and knocked on Kate’s door. Squeals of delight greeted us, especially at our happy smiles. AJ and Sylvie were there, looking chilled out, and there seemed to be an impromptu party in progress. Was today party day or something?
Charlie loved being the centre of attention. I slipped my hand in his and smiled at him, and he took my cue. Picking up a bottle of wine and a knife, he jangled for some attention. Everyone quieted and stared at him expectantly.
“What can I say? I guess it’s good to have you all here at once for this. I, ah, proposed to Daisy today.” He grinned down at me. “And for some reason, I haven’t quite figured it out myself yet, she said yes. So we’re, uh, engaged.” A devilish grin flitted across his face. “Show ‘em your ring, babe. No expense spared.”
Thursday 20 May
~ Daisy ~
After a lazy morning the next day, I dragged Charlie out for a walk in the late spring sunshine. We strolled comfortably together to the bottom of AJ’s garden, over a tumbledown wall and up into the sand dune from where we could see the beach. Charlie held my hand as we scrambled down the far side, skidding on the dry, powdery sand. The sea was way out and sparkled invitingly in the far distance. I felt like dancing and playing but I settled for wrapping my arms around him and stealing a kiss.
“Charlie, do you remember the night we hooked up?”
“Oh yeah.” He held me a little tighter, nuzzled at my throat, his voice husky with desire. “AJ’s wedding party.”
“We went for a walk on the sand in the moonlight. In December.”
“And it was fuckin’ freezing.” His laughter reverberated against my skin, I giggled over his head.
Easing slightly out of his grip, I lifted his head to look into his eyes, gaze in delight at his handsome features, see the love and affection on his face. “I love you, Charlie.”
“You too, babe.”
We wandered along the sand, picking up the odd shell and pebble, with Charlie singing scraps of songs to me. My own private busker. “Did I interrupt something earlier? When you were talking to AJ?”
“No, not really. He sounded surprised. “We were just running through some ideas. AJ doesn’t sit still for long and Sylvie’s getting bored waiting for the baby.”
“I thought AJ was taking a year off? Has he changed his mind?”
“No, and I think Sylvie will make sure he keeps to that.” He grinned down at me, and offered a tiny pink shell he’d just found. “Hey, this one matches your ring.”
“It’s pretty.” I fingered it, feeling suddenly homesick. Stupid really, I hadn’t even left here yet and I was already getting homesick. “What are you going to do while the band rests? You said something about a solo project?”
“Yeah,” he hesitated, and my heart sank. “We probably need to talk about that.”
Shrugging, I squeezed his fingers and smiled at him. “Sure. What’s to talk about?”
We walked a few paces more. He found a second pink shell and presented that to me too. I waited. “You’ve heard of Nick Angel, the producer?” I nodded. “He wants to work with me on a couple of albums, ballads and soft stuff. All quite different to the band sound. And I said yes.”
I stopped and turned to face him, saw the excitement on his face, the gleam in his eyes. “Would it be your own material?”
“Yeah. And then I’d pick up with the band again afterwards. What do you think?”
I hugged him, squealed when he lifted me off the ground and swirled me round. “I think it’s brilliant, you’ll be fantastic. How soon does it all happen?”
“Ah well, that’s the thing.” He stopped whirling me, let me drop to the floor again, but still encircled in his arms. “It’ll be quite soon. He wants me to fly out in early June.”
It was already the twentieth of May. I stared at him, a sense of unease descending. “Fly out? Where to?”
He watched me carefully as I groped for something sensible to say. “And you were going to tell me, when?”
One hand lifted to scratch the back of his head. He tried a cute smile, but I wasn’t having it yet. “Soon, I guess.”
Something fell into place. “AJ and Sylvie, they know, don’t they? Sylvie was saying she’d miss me, wanted me to keep in touch. Like I was going away or something.”
He shrugged one shoulder; usually it looked casual, right now it looked awkward. “Well, yeah. I mean, I had to talk it through with AJ and the band. Make sure we were all okay with it. I didn’t want him thinking I was going to split.”
I took a quick breath and swallowed down my temper. “But you didn’t think I might want to know?”
“Aww, come on, babe.” He tried to pull me into his arms again. I moved back a step and his arms fell to his sides. “It all came together weeks ago. Before we – us – this.”
“We, us, this? You mean before we got engaged?”
“Yeah. We only did this yesterday, Daisy. It’s all kinda new.”
Keeping my anger in check, I blew out a noisy breath. “But we’ve been together for weeks. Months. You’ve muttered about a solo project, but you never said anything about New bloody York!”
He took a step forward, rested his arms on my shoulders and gazed directly at me. “Does it matter where it is? New York, London, friggin’ Rhosneigr… it’s just a place. As long as you’re there with me, that’s what matters. Doesn’t it?”
Put like that, I wanted desperately to believe him. It was a damned sight better than thinking he’d simply forgotten about me. “When do we leave?”
His smile crept back into place. “Nick wants me out there in a couple of weeks for some publicity, then full time from the end of June.” Okay, so it was more like six weeks away. I breathed deeply, trying to quell my rising anxiety.
“What am I going to do all day?” I hated the plaintive note in my voice. “I mean, I’ve got friends in London, I know people I can hang out with if you’re working. But I don’t know anybody over there.”
He kissed me quick and hard, satisfied perhaps that the fight was over. “You’ll make friends, and I’ll introduce you to loads of people. They have the most amazing clubs, Daisy. The nightlife in New York has to be seen to be believed, you’ll love it, babe. It makes London look like a backwater.”
Oh great, an amazing nightlife. Charlie working all day and partying all night.
Was this really what I wanted after all?
Part 5 coming next month…