Tink put a hand on my knee and squeezed it gently. "Look, my greasy Bacon Buttie, you have two choices: you trust him like he has asked, or you decide you don't like the secrets and make your mind up from there. Sorry to be brutal, Wil, but dems the breaks!"
I hit my head back against the head rest. "I know, I guess I'll have to trust him then, won't I? I don't want to give him up over something that may be nothing in the end, right?"
He nodded in agreement. "Right, and I don't blame you for keeping your claws into that hunk of prime cut beef... I'd like to carve me off a slice of that if he was eating on the same side of the table!"
I cracked a smile, and Tink tapped my thigh. "There you go, I hate to see you doubting what you have, sausage."
Tudor didn't come over that night. I received a brief text message to say he was staying at home – the first time apart in weeks. I had never been to his place; I knew it was in an affluent area near Aspen but I had never visited, and he had never invited me either. I had always put that down to wanting to keep our relationship secret from Boleyn, and that I understood, but I was beginning to wonder…was I being kept on the sidelines? I tried to not read too much into it and just went straight to bed, not sleeping, and trying not to obsess over the ever-growing mountain of secrets.
The next morning, I went about my usual Sunday routine, planning to stay at home and get the last of my pupils’ work marked before the Christmas break. I was halfway through a mammoth stack of essays on the causes of the Russian Revolution when I heard the doorbell. I headed to the door and opened it slowly to Tudor, who I noticed looked slightly, shall we say, stressed.
"Hey," I greeted, my brows pinched in concern at his sad demeanour and unkempt look. His clothes were heavily creased and his eyes looked tired and dull.
"Hey," he sounded morose.
I let him in and led him to the kitchen. "Coffee?"
He nodded, and I set to making it how he liked it – flavoured cream with sweetener, fact fans – and poured him a cup. For the first time in our ‘official relationship’, there was tension.
I took a seat next to him at the breakfast bar and turned down the volume on the small kitchen flat-screen so we could talk.
He looked down at his mug and played with the handle before lifting his head to meet my assessing gaze. "Tash, about yesterday, I-I shouldn't have just left like that."
I expected more of an explanation, but none came. I took a deep breath. "Is that it? No ‘I left because of this’ or ‘the person on the phone was...’? Nothing? All I'm getting is just 'I shouldn't have left'?"
He gritted his teeth at my response. "Yes, I shouldn't have left so abruptly, it wasn't right."
I tutted and went to pour more coffee from the pot – I was going to need it!
Tudor’s phone dinged, and he began pressing buttons, replying to someone’s text. When he put it back in his pocket I slammed my mug down on the breakfast bar. "And who was that?"
"No-one," he said, avoiding my eyes.
"Oh, so you're texting no-one? Really? Mr. Invisible sends you a message, and you reply back with a blank screen?"
He looked at me snarling. "Don't be sarcastic, Natasha."
Oh, I’m Natasha when I’m being reprimanded, but Sunshine when I’m in the sack and sucking his dick! Nice to know!
"I'll be anything I bloody want! Who do you keep calling? It's making me nervous, Tude. I hate to sound so stereotypical, but is it another girl?"
He recoiled back on the chair, hurt written all over his face. “What? Do you really think that?"
Deep down, I really didn’t, but what else was I supposed to think? I threw my hands in the air. "I don't know, okay?! You won't bloody let me in! You’ve been getting calls in the middle of the night, you never take me to your house, I don't even know exactly where you live, after a month of being together and you are evading every single question I have about your mystery caller. Your mother doesn’t know we are together, we never go out, and if we do, it is never out in public and you are acting so incredibly weird. What do you expect me to think?" I was getting irate.
"I expect you to trust me, especially now," he stated calmly.
"Yeah, trust. You want me to trust you but you won't trust me with what it is that’s bothering you. Bit of a double standard don't you think?"
He held out his hand, his face looking torn. I hated seeing him like this, but I had to know what was going on. I stared at his outstretched hand. "Tash, please. Come here."
I reluctantly moved over to Tudor, and he pressed me to his chest, kissing my hair and pulling me up on his lap. "Don't lose faith in me, Sunshine, please. Just trust me on this. It won’t be forever."
I drew back, taking hold of his face, searching his eyes for... something, anything, some kind of divine sign.
"Trust you with what?"
He glanced down, then up at me through damp lashes. "Protecting you."
"Protecting me? From what, babes? What should I be scared of?" I placed a hand on his cheek. It was cold and pale.
He shook his head, drawing my hand back down to kiss my palm. "Trust me,” he whispered, and pulled me back into his embrace, running a hand over my head like he was relishing any time we had left together.
We stayed like that for a long time, until I was abruptly thrust back to a standing position as Tudor jumped from his chair and ran over to turn up the volume on the TV. When I looked to the screen, there was a full-sized shot of me and Tudor from our walk a few weeks ago at Forget-Me-Not Ridge. I was on his back, and we were laughing. I smiled to myself; we looked very happy. However, my warm and fuzzy moment was interrupted when my oh-so-romantic boyfriend started screaming expletives and pacing from one side of the kitchen to the other while listening to the presenter, a ridiculously thin and bronzed anchorwoman who was enthusiastically sharing the details.