“Do you...Love me?”  Suzie asked, pulling the sleeves of her cashmere jumper over her hands.  She sat on the edge of the sofa, her head and body leaning slightly forward causing her long hair to mask the side of her face that was most exposed to him.  She felt about 16.

“You complete wanker!”  Joey gesticulated at his 60” HD television as Torres missed a sitting duck for Chelsea.   He opened another bottle of Newcie Brown, his biceps flexing at the sleeve edge of his tight, white t shirt.  He leaned back on the couch and ran his fingers through his floppy, dark hair.  He turned to look at her.  She stared back in anticipation.

“Any chance of a sandwich, babe?  I’m starving.  Ham, cheese, pickle..?”  He grinned as he leaned over and patted her thigh in an ‘off you go, pet’  kind of way.   

Was he just ignoring her or had he not heard what she just said?  Did he ever hear what she said?  Once upon a time he had hung from her every word, but that was back in the day when things were fresh and there was intrigue and exploration ahead.  Like most relationships, they eventually suffered from reality.  

“ Joey.. I just asked you a question.”  She persisted, a little firmer than earlier, “Do you love me?”  She ran the edges of her jumper sleeves over her mouth as she waited for an answer, feeling the soft wool tickle her lips and create an uncomfortable tingling that was on par with her insecurity. 

Really?  Now?”  Joey raised his hands and shrugged looking from her to the TV as if she was seriously dumb enough to ask this question in the middle of a premiership game.

“I’ll love you more if you get me a sandwich.”  He winked and stared back at the telly, raising the beer to his mouth.  

Suzie stood up and pulled the sleeves up to her elbow.  She wandered past him slowly, he didn’t react to it’s deliberateness but stayed transfixed to the teamwork on the field. 

She took the ham and cheese from the fridge and began to prepare the sandwich.   Joey’s gym kit was still on the floor and his silk tie from yesterday’s work day was hanging on the kitchen chair where he’d discarded it. Car keys and loose change were chucked on the kitchen table next to his wallet.  Evidence of the fact he lived here was scattered all around but Suzie felt disconnected from him.  From them. 

Back in  the living room, Joey was now arguing with the ref about some half cocked decision as she handed over his platter. He took the dish and brought the thick, granary sandwich to his mouth, taking a huge bite.  His eyes never left the screen.  

Suzie wondered how her life had become this exciting. How had she gone from number one to simply one.   How had the years erased the evergreen she had thought it would be.  Her naivety had betrayed her.

Joey looked over at the sound of her sigh which she did without thinking.  Or because she was thinking.  It was a physical response to her ennui. She had noticed it a lot of late.
He raised his half munched sarnie up at her like a toast “ You’re a top bird, Suze.  Course I love you.  You just need to chill out a bit, find something to do. “ 

Find something to do.  Her phone made the pinging sound that indicated an incoming message:

Paul -“So, how about that drink then?”

She stared at it for about a minute.  This was the second time since last Friday he had sent her a message.  The first had just been a “Hello - great to bump into you again after all these years, must have a drink together soon.” text and she’d replied with the usual pleasantries.  Suzie had been on a night out with one of her girlfriends to a pub, just for a girly catch up and had bumped into Paul and his friends. He had been a boyfriend of hers many years back but they’d parted ways when they both went off to different Universities, like you do.  Life moves forward and distance doesn’t sate the soul. 
 The night had been a repair job, fun and laughter and recalled stories.  They’d exchanged numbers just because. Because what?  She didn’t really know why but it’s what you do. Collecting contacts like a digital database of possibilities.

“GOAL!!”  Joey broke her reverie by leaping from the settee and roaring at the TV.  The dark brown bottles clinked together as he knocked the table with his knee. Collecting the empty’s and his plate full of crumbs, she wandered back through to the kitchen. 

“Do you believe in forever?” Suzie texted back.

As soon as she sent it she knew she shouldn’t have.  It was just a simple question but it was loaded.

She turned her phone to quiet and put it on the counter top.  It vibrated and moved like it was alive seconds after doing so, willing her to pick it up again.

Paul -” I believe in now and forever. Will you meet me?  Please...”

The ticks from the old kitchen clock seemed incredibly loud.  Time ebbing away with each tock. Her fingers hovered over the keys. The sprout of new, green life piercing through the deadwood inside. 


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