Ella put the last of her bags in the car before giving the caravan a last check. Satisfied that she had everything she moved over to the large house and knocked on the door smiling as it swung open and Miles stood in front of her.
“Oh, hey,” he murmured.
“Checking out,” she held out the key to him, “I’ve stripped the beds and everything is clean.”
“Oh, er, yeah, you didn’t have to do that, but thanks. So have those kids persuaded you to stay in the Bay?”
Ella sighed, “No, not exactly.”
“Need a coffee?”
She smiled at his question and nodded as he stood to one side to allow her to walk into the house. Placing the caravan key on the table she glanced around the place. Not spotless but it was certainly cleaner than the last time she’d been there. No dirty dishes scattered about and the papers whilst still stacked up seemed to be in a much neater pile.
“I know,” he grinned over at her as he filled the kettle and put it on to boil.
“So what have the kids been saying?”
“Mike has been printing out maps that cover the route from here to his boarding school. Gabby asked me about uniform requirements for Summer Bay High and Toby has been lamenting on how he won’t make a surfing champion if you quote, ‘drag him home’.”
“I’m such a horrid terrible mother,” Ella shook her head.
“Don’t be silly, those are some incredible kids. All of them. “
“I don’t know how I can take them away from Roman again,” she said quietly, thinking of the last scene she’d had with the kids earlier. Without knowing it they’d tapped in to her hidden guilt. She could have made more effort to find Roman and tell him she was pregnant, but then there was no guarantee that he’d be there for her if she’d taken on Mike too. It had been a difficult pregnancy, not finding out she was carrying twins for most of it, Gabby always being the shy one even in the womb. Then after Jennie died within months of Mike’s birth had been a blow for everyone.
“But can you work here?”
She started at his question before finding a place to sit down.
“I can work anywhere, if I had to work.”
She looked over at him before half smiling, “I’m not short of money,” she confessed, “but that isn’t the point.”
“So what is stopping you from moving here? If money isn’t the problem?” Miles handed her a coffee, already knowing she took it black.
“Roman,” she admitted, “ he’s married and…”
“He’s separated,” Miles interrupted her, getting that mischievous twinkle in his warm brown eyes again.
“He’s married, he has Nicole and Lyndsay. We’re…” Ella shrugged.
“You still have a thing for him?”
“Considering I think I’m actually blushing like a teenager gives you your answer,” she said with another sigh, “I can’t get involved with him again.”
“Is he offering you …” Miles paused, “a relationship?”
“Not in so many words. I could have moved back to the van ages ago but it was… nice to be there. “
Ella gave Miles a glare before she nodded, “yeah. It felt good Miles, to wait for him to come home at the end of the day. To see him with the kids and then, well, yeah, spend time getting to know him again.”
“You mean he was talkative during this time? ‘Cause the Roman we know is pretty quiet.”
“Oh god, really? He doesn’t talk to you?”
“No, he keeps to himself, always has done. I..” Miles looked around and seemed to suck in a breath before he finished, “I met him after the Boxing Day Tsunami.”
“I’m sorry Miles,” Ella said immediately and placed her hand on top of his, “Who did you lose?”
“My wife, my…” he paused again, “daughter. Roman was part of the clean-up crew and relief effort.”
“Yeah,” Ella said quietly.
There was no point in her commiserating with him, no doubt he’d heard all the ‘im sorry’s’ to last him a lifetime, and she was sorry he’d gone through that, a lot of people had lost loved ones too soon in life and no matter how well meaning, an ‘I’m sorry’ wasn’t much consolation sometimes.
“So anyway, Roman, he’s a quiet S.O.B.”
“He really isn’t,” Ella said softly, “he’s quite passionate about some subjects. Cooking being one. He used to keep a diary back in the day and sometimes I’d be thinking he was writing about a bad day and instead he was inventing a new recipe.”
“Now that does sound like him.”
She found she was sharing a smile with Miles and felt more relaxed than she had done for a while, even in Roman’s company, often being too aware that the kids wanted her and Roman to be more than just ‘housemates’.
“Haven’t you noticed that little frown he gets when he’s in the middle of cooking a meal and you ask him a random question not even connected with food?”
“Oh yes, Leah has mentioned that Roman tends to get a bit grumpy in the kitchen when you disturb him,” Miles chuckled before adopting a serious expression, “I have two spare rooms here you know, if you wanted to have somewhere to stay in the Bay, close to but not too close.”
“Miles are you serious?”
“Yeah I am, about time I had some people around me,” he nodded, his over-long curly hair flopping on to his forehead and he had that puppy dog expression on his face that made it impossible for her to say no too.
“Can I see the rooms?”
“Come on,” he placed his cup on the table and led her from the room and up the stairs first into one bedroom and then into the next. There was a lack of furniture in them, a bed here and chest of drawers there.
The air in the rooms had a slight musty smell from lack of use but aside from that the rooms were clean and tidy, and spookily like they were waiting for her. She nodded even as she walked over to the window in the one that would be her room and peered out. There was a flowering vine growing up next to it and she gave a shudder. When you had plants like that it meant that you had insects and insects were usually accompanied by spiders. She wasn’t so fond of spiders.
“What are you thinking?”
“That you need a gardener,” the words bursting out of her making her blush as he looked at her in shock.
“The vine you mean?”
“Got to have lots of spiders in there…” she shuddered.
Miles looked at her and laughed. She knew she was blushing but even more heat travelled to her face and she flung her hands up to cover her hot cheeks.
“Does Roman make you blush like that?”
“Stop it!” Ella groaned shaking her head.
“So yes or no?”
“Yes, but I’m going to need to sort out furniture and this vine,” she gestured behind herself to the window. “Let’s have another coffee and sort out the details?”
Miles nodded and grinned before bounding down the stairs in front of her. Watching the way he’d cheered up in just the minute that it took her to decide that this was a good thing made her feel equally good inside. The kids would equally hate and love being here. Close enough to Roman so they wouldn’t nag her too much but well, not actually staying with him. Still, there was time enough to sort out the details of how she was going to drag them out of Roman’s place.