A touch of love has stolen all sense of reasoning and, Joe finds himself struggling to accept reality. Has the relationship born from a tentative touch of compassion really reached the end? Can Emily ever make the boy understand, or will Joe’s utterance of love change everything? A mere touch of love can evoke a sense of ease.
A Touch Of Love
by A I Moffat
It wasn’t a mistake, she told herself. Things happen for a reason; she was convinced of that. He had given her so much, more than just his affections. She couldn’t allow him to think it had just been a mistake; without him, she would never have found herself. No – there was something about the boy, something so special it hurt. She couldn’t allow herself to weaken – not now. If only he could understand that it was hopeless, that they had no choice. It would be a living hell for both of them, and that was the last thing she ever wanted.
Joe lifted his head, ‘You still love him, don’t you?’
‘You know I do,’ she replied sharply.
‘I mean – you want him back.’
‘Joe please – I want to be with you, but there isn’t any future for us, it just wouldn’t work.’
The boy turned and started to make his way back along the grass verge towards the small wooden bridge; they had crossed earlier.
Emily quickly jumped up and called after him, ‘Where are you going? – Joe!’
He continued carefully along the slippery bank. ‘What does she care?’ He hissed to himself, ‘and anyway good riddance.’
She continued to yell after him to wait, but the boy had created an image of her that closely resembled Medusa, and he was eager to make his escape. Now, he could only hear the sound of serpents repeatedly lashing at his heels; it just won’t work.
When he reached the small incline leading up to the bridge, the repetitive crow of a pheasant fleeing, suddenly caused the boy to stop. He hesitated, turned, and looked across the tenuous layer of mist floating a foot or so above the brook. He was almost certain he had heard her cry out, but not as before. Instinctively, the boy started to make his way back, and it was not long before he heard her cry out again.
Emily had slipped just where the brook turned into the clearing, and was now struggling to remove a bramble shoot stuck to the sleeve of her coat.
‘Now look! – What you’ve made me do.’ She moaned angrily at him.
‘It’s a good job you’ve got yer woolly hat on.’ He smiled.
‘Ouch! Whatever were you thinking, rushing off like that?’
That’ll teach yer he thought as he bent down and started to unhook the spines.
‘How am I ever going to explain – Ouch! – Careful – how I got a wet foot to me mum, when I’m supposed to be at work in a dry – bloody office?’
Quietly the boy went about assisting her up onto her feet, then began brushing off the bottom of her coat.
‘Just – leave it;’ she sighed heavily, ‘it’s my foot, I’m more concerned about. Come on, help me get over to the bridge.’
Slowly the boy slid up around her waist, until his shoulder was tucked firmly under her right arm. Finding it all a little amusing took a deep breath and asked after a small cough, if she was ready before taking the first step.
She felt absolutely ridiculous it wasn’t as if she’d broken her foot or anything, but Joe being Joe, was making it into something more than it actually was. She sighed heavily in defeat.
The boy insisted he would go first when they reached the small incline, his earlier amusement had gradually worn off, and now he looked upon her as a young maiden in desperate need of being saved.
Emily noticed a slight glint in his eyes when he reached out to her, ‘Well!’ She exclaimed, ‘you’ve certainly found this quite amusing, haven’t you?’
In a crease of a smile, he insisted, ‘No! – Here – quick take my hand.’
‘Joe Johnson, I swear one of these days . . . ’
‘There – you’re safe now,’ he interrupted with a touch of bravado about him.
Emily hopped straight over to the handrail and immediately went about taking her shoe off. She called over to him for some help, and the boy was quick to wave his hand out in front of him as he bowed before her.
She rolled her eyes as he knelt, then tapped his head with her shoe, ‘Now arise Sir – Joe of Brooksfield and ring out my precious, bloody sock.’
He looked up in a smile as he removed her sock; he laid it to one side and then gently began to rub some warmth back into her foot.
‘You weren’t a mistake, Joe.’ Emily wiggled her toes, ‘It was meant to happen, I’m sure of it. And – I’m only trying to protect you.’ She felt his firm but tender touch and thought of how attentive he was for a boy. ‘I’m sorry for being so horrid today, Joe.’
‘How is Charlotte going to know what you should do? He asked while twisting her sock into a long solid roll.
‘Well, she won’t – but she can help me sort things out, you know – with me mum,’ she paused a moment in thought, ‘I need to tell her I’m pregnant.’
Joe looked up with raised eyebrows, ‘Have you told Charlotte then?’
‘No – I need to tell her too.’
The boy smirked, ‘Well rather you than me,’ he drew a deep breath. ‘There, all done now hand me your shoe.’
‘You know I can’t tell them the child is someone else’s. They need to know the truth.’
Joe looked up in dismay, ‘Push – then.’
‘Oh Joe, it’s hopeless they’ll never let us alone, ever.’
She steadied herself by placing one hand on his head and then continued, ‘They’ll know it’s your brothers,’ she insisted, ‘so – where does that leave us?’
‘But you said . . . ’
‘I know!’ she was quick to stop him, ‘but – I just wasn’t thinking straight.’ Joe, I can’t risk losing my best friend, especially not now; don’t you see?’ She winced, ‘they’ll all blame me for making Steve run off with that tart,’ her tone sharpened at the notion, ‘Oh yes, he’ll love every minute of it. And what about me mum – Joe, I’m having a baby for Christ sake! I need her more now than ever before.’ Emily shook her head, ‘and what about you, he’s your brother – they’re going to go mental, especially now. Don’t you see it’s hopeless?’ She turned slightly as the boy rose to his feet, ‘I can’t let you go through all that Joe, not now.’
‘Emily – please!’ he pleaded. ‘Not now? – What do you mean? – Not now?’
‘He’s finished with her, that’s what.’ She replied in a huff, then quietly added, ‘Steve phoned me last night — he wants me back.’
Joe suddenly grabbed her by the shoulders, ‘What – What did you say? Steve . . . phoned you?
‘Yes, but I didn’t speak to him. I was with you.’ She could see the fire in his eyes, ‘Me’ mum took the call,’ her eyes faded from him. ‘She told me this morning. Joe, you’re hurting me . . . ’ A few moments lapsed then in a more desperate tone she shouted, ‘Joe ! . . . You’re hurting me!’
Almost instantly, the boy recoiled, turning away from her, his head shaking in disbelief.
Emily, moved up behind him and wrapped her arms around the boy, ‘Oh, Joe . . . I’m so sorry.’ She allowed the weight of her to rest against his back, ‘you poor, poor fool.’
‘Emily . . . what’s happening to me?’
‘Nothing, darling . . . nothing.’ Her eyes slowly closed against his trembling frame.
After a few moments, the boy gradually turned to face her, ‘I’m so sorry – Emily.’
Tentatively she looked up at him, ‘Oh Joe, what are we going to do?’
It crazed him; he looked at her now wanting. She seemed different, fragile, delicate almost. It felt as though she were giving herself to him. No . . . No . . . he found himself repeating, he didn’t want this; he wanted the warmth of her, the woman. Then softly, she kissed him on the lips.
Emily, was tired of the boy’s constant drain of affection, but now caught sight of his inner strength she so desperately craved. She watched his scrutiny fluctuate across his brow, her eyes flinching with every ripple begging almost in anticipation.
Joe again looked down at her, but this time he did not search for the woman; instead, he pulled her close and strangely, did not search for her love.
My greatest appreciation to ArtTower for the first mystical image of a beautiful girl.