‘Insulting me probably isn’t what you want to do right now,’ she mutters belligerently.
Her eyes jerk to mine angrily and I lift a hand to calm her, press it lightly to her arm. ‘I know that, regardless of that, hearing you sing is still one of the things that makes me the happiest man in the world.’
Her eyes scrunch closed and I recognise the anguish on her features.
‘Yellow tulips are your favourite flower and you love New York. I know that the first words I spoke to you were a pop bloody song, and I remember everything about you from that night—what you were wearing, what we talked about—everything. Because that was the night that changed my life.’
She makes a strangled noise of pain...or recognition. Something I take as encouragement.
‘I know that you’re a homebody, and that I’m asking you to sacrifice that to be with me—because I’m going to want you with me all the time.’
Her brows draw together and I rush on.
‘But I’ll do anything to make you happy—which means cutting back on my commitments.’
Her eyes widen with surprise.
‘I know every single thing about your body—your birthmarks, your freckles, and the ways I can touch you that drive you wild. I know that you’ve been hurt and that you’re scared out of your mind by what you feel for me.’
She drops her eyes to the ground, and in that moment I am so angry at what that bastard did to her.
But she doesn’t deny it now. Her shoulders slump as she accepts everything I’m saying. It’s a silent admission and it means everything to me. I begin to breathe again.
I speak more quietly, like I’m taming a skittish horse. ‘I know you’re worried that I’m on the rebound, and that I’m going to wake up one morning and realise I’m still in love with my ex. And I know that I’m not. I know this because I know everything about you and I still want to know more. I know this because I was asleep my whole life until meeting you. I love you—I love you in the way that all those songs have been written about. I love you in the I-want-to-get-married-and-have-babies-and-be-with-you-for-ever-and-ever kind of way.’
I can’t read her face. I don’t know what she’s thinking. All I know is that I hurt her and I have to fix it. I have to make her understand that I’m not Jeremy and that Sienna’s not a problem for us.
I’m afraid again—afraid that she’s going to reject me and that this really will be it. I can’t keep forcing her to face up to what we are. If she doesn’t want this then I have to let her go.
The future looks unimaginably odd without Ally in it. I can’t even contemplate that I might fail here.
I try again, with desperation and need, and I lean closer, my lips almost buzzing hers.
‘I write songs about love and I still can’t find the right way to say this. To do this. Because it matters too much. There’s no euphemism or comparison I can make that does justice to how you make me feel. You give all my songs meaning.’
Still she looks at me without giving anything away, so I move closer and link my fingers with hers, squeezing them.
‘I spent six years with Sienna and I never knew her like I know you. Time doesn’t matter. Nothing really does except the way we feel. I know this is it. The real deal. The thing you wait for and hope you’re going to be lucky enough to find. I love you.’
She sobs and shakes her head, and her eyes look at me accusingly.
‘How dare you?’
It’s not what I expect. Panic surges through me. But then she lifts up on tiptoe and mashes her lips against mine, anger in every movement of her mouth.
‘How dare you come here and be so perfect when all I want is to forget about you?’
‘Don’t forget about me.’
‘I can’t,’ she says.
‘Because you love me.’
I know it, but more than I’ve ever needed anything I need to hear her say it.
She lifts her hands and pushes at my chest. I think she’s going to shout at me, or push me away, but then she runs at me and takes me with her, back to the wall. She is kissing me and pushing at my jacket so that I laugh into her mouth.
I want this. I want to fuck her.