Spending Time with Rosie
Iver propped his elbow on his knee and leaned his aching head against his hand. Behind him, two women had passed from the subject of the weather to their various aches and pains. They had managed to stretch out the former subject for over twenty minutes by the station clock and the latter as much again. The conversation, conducted in the overloud tones of the slightly deaf was grating on his frayed nerves. If he hadn't promised Galia that he'd be in this particular spot, he would have moved long ago.
"Iver?" He looked up wearily and the last scrap of hope that he had been clinging to flickered and died. Hazel eyes, not vibrant green, looked down at him.
"Rosie." The young woman seated herself beside him.
"I have a message," she began. He could hear the distress in her voice and pushed aside his own low spirits to make it easier on her. It wasn't her fault after all.
"It's all right, Rosie. It's fairly obvious that she isn't coming." Rosie bit her lip,
"I'm sorry, Iver," she murmured, her obvious compassion easing some of his dejection.
Not for the first time he wondered how two sisters could be so different. Galia had the height, the slender elegance and the beauty, leaving Rosie, the younger of the two, with an average stature and features that could, at best, be called engaging. The summer sun had encouraged a whole new smattering of freckles to burst into being across her cheeks and over the bridge of her small nose. Their effect was charming, but when compared to Galia's creamy complexion, poor Rosie would always come up short.
"Iver? Are you all right?" The anxious question broke through his reverie.
"Yes, sorry, Rosie." She was holding out a slip of paper: Galia's train ticket. His purpose in being at the station was abruptly called back to his mind.
"Maybe you could get a refund," she suggested tentatively.
"I think that it might be a little too late," he replied evenly, though his heart was sinking. It had taken him a great deal of courage to ask Galia for her support today. She disliked dealing with other people's feelings and he should have known better than to let his hopes be raised by her grudging acceptance, but he had let them be lifted nonetheless.
He rubbed at his aching temples and tried to find a diplomatic way to ask his next question. For all Galia's faults, Rosie was fiercely loyal to her older sister and he would have to phrase his query carefully if he wasn't to hurt her feelings.
"Did she forget?" Rosie chewed on her lip and finally, as the silence threatened to stretch uncomfortably, shook her head.
"She mentioned it this morning and then said," Rosie paused, "then told me that she was going to the beach with Carrick." His competition for Galia's questionable affections.
"Did she ask you to bring the ticket down?" She shook her head again,
"I found the ticket. I," she hesitated a moment and then added in a rush, "I didn't like to think of you waiting for her." He gave her a small smile,
"You've a kind heart, Rosie," he murmured and earned himself a blush for his faint praise. Galia, he reflected, would have found the words unsatisfactory in the extreme. She was a woman who demanded, and usually received, eloquent flattery. You would take Galia to a dinner and bask in the reflected glory, but if you wanted someone to talk to, someone who would really listen, then you chose Rosie. An idea sparked in his mind,
"Rosie, would you like to come with me?" Her eyebrows shot up and he found himself smiling at her transparent surprise.
"Me? To the city?"
"Yes. Please. You could do a little shopping while I keep my doctor's appointment and then we could meet up for lunch somewhere. My treat," he added, not wanting to examine his motives for offering this last too closely. It felt too much like a bribe so that he wouldn't have to do this alone. Her smile lit up her entire face, affording him as much pleasure as his offer seemed to give her.
"Oh, I'd like that very much," she accepted shyly.
The train journey passed in relative silence, though Iver found himself unable to fully take his eyes from the woman sitting opposite him. There were no demands for amusement; no need for constant and empty chatter to fill the silence as had been his experience with Galia. Instead, Rosie sat quietly; content to watch the scenery racing by, making only an occasional remark when something caught her eye. Iver felt himself beginning to relax in her comfortable companionship and his earlier headache faded.
When they arrived, he suggested a popular restaurant where they might meet for lunch. Rosie frowned,
"I'd be quite happy to go with you to the doctor's, Iver." His heart leapt at the thought of having her support, but he shook his head.
"There's no need. You'd just be bored having to wait around." She smiled,
"I don't bore easily," she replied, "unless you don't want me there?"
"No, I do. I'd..." The reassurance that he would manage fine on his own was somehow replaced by, "I'd appreciate the company."
"There, all settled, then." She gave him a lovely smile, robbing the moment of any awkwardness he might have felt. He was aware of an easing to an unnamed tightness inside him at her gentle tact.
"Thank you, Rosie." She said nothing, but treated him to her lovely smile again. He had never before noticed how pretty that simple gesture made her and tucked the memory of it away in his mind.
He left her in the waiting room, perusing through the ancient magazines that always seemed to gather in such places. The room was empty when he returned, for which he was grateful. He felt rather dazed and it must have shown on his face, for Rosie hurriedly jumped up and crossed the room to his side when she saw him.
"Iver?" Her hand touched his arm, anxiety creasing her face, "Iver, was it..."
"Good news," he managed, still not entirely sure that he believed it himself, "my results were clear." He had seen his father, his grandfather and an uncle die of the disease that seemed to plague the men in his family and had convinced himself that he too, would one day succumb. It wasn't until the doctor had declared him not just clear, but also immune and a non-carrier of the disease that he realised that deep down he had believed that, despite his efforts at positive thinking, he would die, and soon.
"Oh, that's wonderful!" Rosie's startled him out of his abstraction by giving him an elated hug. She pulled back almost immediately, but her unmistakable joy for his positive result warmed him. For the briefest of moments he wondered what Galia would have done, before pushing the thought away with the knowledge that she hadn't thought it worth her coming with him at all.
"I'm so pleased for you." Iver felt the last of his worries melt away at Rosie's exuberant happiness and smiled down at her.
"Thank you," he replied sincerely. "I believe I offered lunch?"
The rest of that afternoon held one revelation after another for Iver, especially, he told himself ruefully, where Rosie was concerned.
Freed of the need to watch his partner flirt with every male in the restaurant, he relaxed enough over lunch to tease Rosie with atrocious puns and jokes and, to his delight, she responded in kind.
He discovered that Rosie had very definite ideas about the type of clothes that she liked and, unlike Galia, would only try something on that she really liked and was considering buying. This meant that they passed more rapidly through the boutique district than Iver could ever have imagined possible when in the company of a woman.
They spent an hour in the largest bookstore the city had to offer; though Iver found himself watching Rosie's unguarded pleasure in being surrounded by so many books, rather than browsing amongst the shelves for himself.
He took her to site of the old vegetable market, now converted into tiny craft shops and cafés, and shared her laughter at the antics of some street musicians as they tried to bribe, guilt and blackmail money out of their audience. Like so many of the other people, he found himself buying a copy of their music, but was rewarded for his generosity by a wide smile from Rosie, which turned quickly to shy blushes when he gifted her with the disk.
They finished the afternoon with an ice cream in the park. Perhaps it was a very ordinary end to the day, but Iver enjoyed it much more than trying to find an espresso bar that matched Galia's expectations. As he watched Rosie try to lick her ice cream before it melted over the cone and onto her fingers, he considered the day he had just spent in her company. He came to the conclusion that he hadn't enjoyed himself so much in ages.
Pensively turning this thought over in his mind, he sized his companion up again while her attention was distracted by a cheeky squirrel. She may not have her older sister's elegant poise, but her sweet charm was very appealing and spending time with Rosie was certainly more pleasurable. He could relax and be himself, finding enormous gratification in her joy of small things. Like ice cream in the park and the antics of a squirrel.
As if aware of his gaze on her, Rosie turned to him, her eyes alight with laughter.
"Did you see that? He pinched that piece of biscuit from right under the dog's nose." Iver smiled and made a suitable comment, even as he noticed how pretty her smile made her. In time, Galia's good looks would fade, but Rosie would always have this inner loveliness. There was an indefinable beauty contained in a kind heart and tender nature, which Rosie had in abundance.
It dawned on him that he had spent the day making comparisons between Rosie and Galia and finding not only that the latter was coming up short, but that Rosie was the woman he wanted to be with. He had been chasing after the wrong sister.
"Rosie?" She turned to him, a slight smile still curving her lips. "I want to thank you for coming with me today. I've really appreciated your support." Her smile widened,
"I'm glad that it was good news, Iver."
"Yes. I've really enjoyed your company and I was wondering," he paused, suddenly worried that she might refuse, "whether you might like to go with me to the cinema tomorrow evening?" She hesitated,
"What about Galia?" she asked quietly.
"I think," he replied, surprised at how little he cared for what Galia's reaction would be, "that she and Carrick make a lovely couple." Laughter lit in Rosie's eyes.
"I would have to agree," she replied lightly, "and I would very much like to go to the cinema with you." He grinned,
"Good." For the first time in weeks, all thoughts and worries of Galia were gone from his mind. He would be spending time with Rosie.
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