Moving On

Ariel Miller lost both the love of her life and their child in a horrific crash in 2010. 3 years have passed since then, and she moves from her one room apartment in Sydney - the city that holds too many memories - to a condo on Dublin Street, Edinburgh. Now at 24 years old, she finds herself falling deeper and deeper into the pain of remembering those she lost that day... She also finds herself having a dangerous attraction to the handsome man that lives across the hall.

At 28 years old Hugh Evans (AKA Hunter) finds himself tired of dating women who only want his money. He soon finds himself enchanted by the polite graces of the new woman across the hall. He is astounded by her beauty and modesty, but also her ability to ignore his advances towards her. Always up for the challenge he decides to break down the barriers she has set up and really try to get to know her.

A story of healing, forgiving and learning how to love again...

Warning: Mature Audiences (Ages 16+)

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7. Edna's Return

Another week had flown by, before I realized Edna hadn't returned from her trip to visit her grandchildren. I'd noticed it one morning, walking past her front door from the elevator. Suddenly stopping, I stood there. Eyes locked in a stare at the closed door. It wasn't as if I had forgotten about Edna... Who could forget such a woman? But, I had forgotten when she was expecting to come back. My brow furrowed, suddenly hoping nothing had gone wrong. As if God had been reading my thoughts, the front door of the complex burst open, and I spun around to see Edna rushing inside, her hand clasped around that of a small figure's own hand.

"Goodness, are you okay?" I asked, suddenly realizing it was pelting rain outside. Being inside most of the time, had seemed to have made me blind to the weather outside. Edna's withered face lifted, and she cast me a familiar smile. My heart dropped. Behind her a little boy, probably around 7 years old peeping from behind her skirts.

"Ariel, this is my grandson Johnny. Johnny meet my neighbor Miss..." Edna said, before pausing, as she looked up at me. My eyes were locked on the boy, taking in the details. His eyes red, and puffy, his face pale, and his left arm bearing bandages. Had I seen him in any other circumstance I'd probably assume he'd fallen from a tree, but what had captured my notice the most was the look in his eyes. The same look I'd seen for years, in the mirror image of my own.

"Miller. But you can call me Ariel." I filled in, casting the boy a small, reassuring smile at the sudden tugging of my heart strings as he looked up at me with tears brimming in his eyes.

"It's nice to meet you Johnny." I said, I murmured gently. A tone that sounded strangely familiar, yet for some reason I couldn't place who I had spoken to that way before.

 

Waiting as she unlocked her door, and ordered the young child to go sleep on the couch. I watched, Edna's face as she turned to face me. The sudden flash of pain, and sadness that suddenly dulled her eyes had my heart breaking purely from realizing I recognized this look all too well. She beckoned me down the hall, further away from the door that was slightly ajar.

"I'm so sorry for coming back late. My..." she said, before choking up. Unable to continue. Knowing the emotions were still raw, as was the pain - I rested a hand gently on her forearm.

"It's okay, I don't know why you're even apologizing..." I said, giving a gentle smile, as she looked up into my eyes.

"You understand?" she breathed, as if momentarily stunned. I nodded gently, before glancing over her shoulder at the door, a pair of wide, brown eyes staring back at me from the door.

"Why don't you take a few days to settle in with Johnny? It must be a big adjustment traveling here from Ohio."  I suggested. She nodded, seeming numb.

"We can catch up later, I'll return your key - thanks for lending it to me - and in thanks, I will shout you, and Johnny lunch at a cafe I've come accustomed to visiting." I announced.

"'Shout'?" she asked, confused. I froze for a moment, before throwing her a small smile.

"Um... It's Australian slang. It means... Pay. I think. If I say: 'you shout me' that means, 'you pay for me'. But, if I say: 'I'll shout you' that means, 'I'll pay for you.'" I explained. She smiled, nodding gently though it didn't quite reach her eyes.

"That would be nice..." she said slowly, her eyes glazing over slightly as if another thought had stolen her from the moment. I let my hand drop from her arm, and turning away cast a small wave at Johnny who hurried away from the door.

"See you later, I'll let you know the day we can go for lunch," I said. My eyes took in Edna's slightly comforted expression as she glanced up, and gave a small smile, then a wave.

"Bye."

 

*          *          *          *          *

A knock at the door startled me, as I went online to reserve a table for the lunch. Running a hand through my unruly curls, I set off to open the door, annoyed at the forever updating site that had once again, found a way to make the booking a lot harder than necessary.

"Ariel, hey" Hunter smiled. Immediately becoming self-conscious, I began to pull on the short hem of the peach, spaghetti strap dress I had thrown on.

"Hey..." I said. Blinking, I stepped away from the door opening it wider.

"Come on in, sorry, I forgot my manners there for a second. I was just trying to figure out how to reserve a table at Giovanni's..." I said, as Hunter walked inside, his hands dug deep into his pockets as he walked casually over to the island-bench, where I'd been set up.

"You do realize they didn't update the booking section...?" he asked, letting his hands out of the pockets before he set them, either side of the laptop, as his eyes studied the screen.

"Really?" I asked, shutting the door. Heading over, I glanced over his shoulder as he clicked on the booking button. Up popped, a blank server page.

"That basically means, they've been booked out." he said, scrolling down the page to the bottom where in tiny letters it read: 'there are no more bookings available for this next month. Please call our contact number for more information.'

"Damn," I muttered. Looking up to see Hunter's amused expression, I blushed.

"Sorry, I just wanted to make a reservation so I could bring Edna, and her grandson there." I explained.

 

His smile widened, as if even more amused by my explanation.

"What is it?" I asked, feeling myself become ridiculously flustered for no good reason.

"What the hell does he find so amusing!?" my mind cried out. He exited the screen, and closed the laptop before turning around. Leaning against the bench, his eyes locked onto mine. Leaning against the opposite bench, I folded my arms. My eyes meeting his in silent challenge.

"I didn't ask you for an explanation, but since you've got a pretty good reason, I can get you a reservation. What day?" he asked. Stunned into silence, I felt my legs turn to jelly...

"Oh...!" I gasped, as Hunter caught me, his arms wrapping around my waist as he pulled me close. Gripping his shirt, I tried to stand unsuccessfully.

"Careful. Are you okay?" Hunter asked, lifting me up to sit on the bench. Feeling a little light headed, my hand went to my face, sweeping my hair back as I shut my eyes momentarily.

"I'm alright, just prone to fainting it seems. It must be the windows." I said, glancing at the end of the lounge room. Steadying me with his hands as I leaned back against the kitchen wall. Hunter took off down to the lounge room to open up one of the pair of french doors. The rush of a cool breeze, coming inside eased the aching, and I took a shaky breath.

"Thanks." I muttered, taking a few moments to collect myself before sliding off the bench to stand firmly, once more.

"So, I was thinking tomorrow...?" I said. Spotting a piece of scrap paper stuck on the bottom of my foot, I bent over to pick it up. Straightening back up, I turned, my breath instantly hitched in my throat as a pair of fingers caught a stray piece of hair that had fallen in front of my face, to gently kiss my cheek.

"That can be arranged... If you agree to go out for dinner with me." Hunter murmured, his breath warm against my cheek. I shivered, once again, for no good reason.

"I-I don't think..." I stuttered,

"When did I get so tongue-tied!?" my mind cried out, as he lifted my hair to tuck it behind one ear.

"You did say you'd go out with me another time... This is 'another time'." Hunter's winning smile nearly sent me over the edge.

 

Realizing how ridiculously close we were for two neighbours, I decided the safe path was to take a step back, and get some breathing air.

"You do not want to be falling all over again, now do you - Ariel?" I scolded myself silently as I stepped back purposefully glancing at the clock as I tried to regather my thoughts.

"Well, I guess so... When...?" I asked slowly only to turn, and see him pull out his mobile before he started casually scrolling through it.

"How about in two days... What is that, a Wednesday night? Or if you'd rather prefer it be on the weekend... We could make it a weekend thing, if you really want..." Hunter's voice seemed to shocked me out of my reverie.

"No, Wednesday nights fine." I quickly put in. Waiting a few more moments, I leant against the bench. Taking in the sight of him in the kitchen. He seemed to be perfectly relaxed. Nice suit, nice kitchen, nice guy... Maybe I was a bit excited at the aspect of going to dinner with him. I pondered, as I bit my lower lip. Watching him still, Hunter pulled out a notebook from his trouser pocket, and a pen from his shirt pocket. Blinking at his efficiency, I began to wonder if 'asking me out' had been the reason for him dropping by all along... But with his dark features suddenly expressing the utmost concentration, his hand working the pen with the utmost capability, I wondered if I minded that reason at all...

"So tomorrow the lunch is set for a party of 3 at Giovanni's at 12:30pm, if that's fine with you?" he asked, glancing up from his writing. I nodded, blushing slightly from the intensity of his gaze. It was almost like I was in high school again, caught staring at Heath when I wasn't meant to... But Hunter was a lot different from Heath, and it had been a long time since those days.

"Uh, oh, yes! No. I mean..." I mumbled, stumbling over my words as I did so. He smiled, his dark, brown eyes glistening.

"That's perfect. Thank you." I murmured, glancing down at my bare feet.

"And dinner then on Wednesday night... Let's say, I'll come knocking at seven," his husky tone caught me off guard. He was so close. Barely an inch away from me as he slipped a piece of paper in my hand. Eyes glued to his shoes, and silently ordering myself not to look up I took it. Senses tingling as he backed away slowly.

"See you then." his voice seemed to echo through my mind, even as his footsteps resounded gently, as he left the condo. The front door shutting with a soft click.

 

*          *          *          *          *

"He sounds like a Casanova." Diana announced triumphantly, sounding very proud over the phone as I filled her in on the latest schedule change.

"Remind me, why do I keep calling you when all you do is talk about...?" I said, rolling my eyes. Rolling onto my back, I reveled in the lush feeling of the carpet. The heat from the lounge room keeping me nice, and toasty I stared at the ceiling.

"Does he have a big..." Diana interrupted.

"Diana!" I shrieked, blushing immediately.

"Condo. What the hell, do you think I was talking about?" Diana teased, instantly telling me I had hit the nail on where the conversation had been headed, prior to my interruption. I laughed, putting my hands over my eyes.

"Um..." I mumbled, trying to remember what the condo looked like. Apart from the pool I hadn't remembered much.

"It's about the same size as mine... His got dark colour walls, and more manly furniture. I'm not sure, to be honest I've only really noticed the pool." I said, conjuring memories of Hunter's lavish condo. That, and then his sinfully handsome face.

"The pool? Girl, please tell me: you have not been swimming in the pool before..." Diana piped up suddenly.

"He kind of gave me a spare key, I've been using it on, and off during the week." I confessed.

"No! No, no, no, no... No. That has to stop - okay? Guys, those messed up little buggers, some tend to think you might 'owe' them some kind of 'favor' in return for using his 'pool'. Okay?" she snapped.

"How come 'pool' sounds weird now... And what kind of 'favors' are you talking about?" I snapped back, sitting up suddenly. Defiantly a lot more nervous than I had been a few moments before.

"Doesn't matter. The point is that guy might think your just some kind of 'push over', that he can 'bribe' you - or whatever - with that pool of his. My advice? Tell him after dinner you won't be using the pool anymore, and hand back the key." Diana ordered me. I sat there stunned into silence.

"Do as I say, and you won't end up stuffed up like me." Diana said, her voice suddenly softer, a crack in the voice telling me this was one of her rare breaking points.

 

- 7th July 2011 -

Sitting in her apartment, Diana and I sipped out hot chocolates. Dressed head to toe in ridiculous amounts of flannel pajamas, our eyes red, and puffy after pouring our eyes out watching 'Titanic' for the 5th time in a row.

"Anything we're celebrating?" I asked, tiredly. Shutting my eyes, I let my head hang forward as I took another sip.

"My failed marriage." Diana reminded me for the fifth time. Having never met the infamous 'Charles' I only had a vivid image of a man who didn't know a good woman when he saw one.

 

A thunderous knock at the door startled us out of our stupor. We exchanged glances, Diana's face paling within a second. My heart racing, I quickly put a hand gently to hers.

"Do you want me to open it or call the cops?" my voice was surprisingly calm... Unlike the nerves that had sprung into life inside.

"Open it." she said, her hand gripping mine. Her voice had been steady, her hand not-so much. Walking over to the door, I unlocked it, and pulled it open to a man in a dirty shirt, and filthy jeans. Almost instantly he shoved me out of the way before stalking over to Diana, as I screamed.

"What the hell did you tell her Dee? What? Did you tell her? How I was a drop-kick husband?" his voice rang out as his hand came slapping Diana across the face. Her head snapped to the left, the sickening sound of his fingers colliding with her cheek, almost as sickening as the sight of her gorgeous hair flying around her as she fell to the ground with a thud.

 

"Get away from her." I shouted, reaching for the phone. He spun around, eyes narrowed. In an instant, I froze. My hand inches from picking up the receiver.

"And who are you? Her new girlfriend? What, have you ended up a gay-freak now you can't have kids Dee?" he sneered. I looked at his face taking in the sweat beaded brow, and unshaven jaw. He'd probably once been considered handsome, and kind, yet the lines of anger, and the look of pure malice in his eyes sent any hope that he would be civil from my mind.

"What did I do to you, huh? Just because I can't have kids you left me you bastard, don't think you have a right to come, and tell me who I can be friends with...!" Diana's wavering voice sounded out from behind him. My eyes snapped to Diana as she struggled to get up, a large bruise already forming on her cheek. Her hand clasping the chair for support. He turned around.

"You think that was all? Do you know what it's like being married to 'Little Mrs Perfect', when your really just a snobby little sl..." he swore, kicking the leg of the chair sending Diana falling back to the ground.

 

Grabbing a boning knife we'd been using earlier to skin mangoes, I held it out. Hand shaking.

"Turn around, and get the hell out." I growled, my voice dangerously low. Charles turned around, his eyes locking with mine before they glanced at the knife.

"You don't have the guts girly. But if it's a fight you want..." he said, stepping towards me. Panic flooded my veins, and for a second I almost dropped the knife. Almost. Stepping an inch closer, I straightened my spine as my free hand came up to push my hair back, and tuck it behind my left-ear, giving him a good view at the scar that started at the edge of my hairline, and disappeared into my hair.

"Well, I've learned from the best..." I smiled slowly, eyes widening I almost thought myself mad for a moment too. No longer shaking, I watched his eyes fly from the knife, to my scar, then back to my eyes.

"One, two, thr..." I counted in my head.

"Your lucky your girlfriend here's a sicko Dee. Next time, you won't be so lucky." he growled, stalking out the door before slamming it closed.

 

Dropping the knife, I rushed over to Diana's side. Lifting her up, and cradling her head in my lap I gently put my fingers to her head, and quickly found the throbbing lump on her head.

"I'm so sorry Ariel..." she sobbed, tears sliding down her beautiful face as she grasped my arm. I shushed her gently, pushing back her sweat-soaked hair from her forehead.

"Shh... Everything's going to be okay Diana. I'm going to call the cops, and the ambulance. We're going to make sure Charles never does this again, okay?" I asked gently, tears sliding down my cheeks as I reached up to the table, and grabbed my cell dialing triple zero.

"No. Ariel, I'll be fine..." she tried to stop me, before her face twisted in an expression of pain as she lifted her hand gingerly to her throbbing temple.

"I know what I'm doing Diana. Do you trust me?" I asked gently, pausing as the operator picked up the call.

"I trust you." she whispered.

"Then let me take care of you." I replied, before continuing the call. That was the last time we ever saw Charles again.

 

*          *          *          *          *

 

"Diana..." I whispered,

"Trust me Ariel. I love you, and you deserve the best not a hot-headed asshole like 'you-know-who'. Now promise me." Diana said.

"I promise." I said, my lips spreading into a soft smile.

"Now. Tell me, what are you going to wear!?" she practically shrieked with excitement before I promptly burst out laughing.

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