Matt held her as she cried, ugly snotty, sobbing, he just stood there and held her. As the tidal waves of tears began to subside he picked her up and carried her to her bed. He tucked her under her covers and laid down next to her, on top of the covers. He wrapped an arm around her and listened as her breath began to slow. She fell asleep and he slipped out. Closing the door softly as he left.
Matt poked around the kitchen, finding not much of anything in the way of groceries. A box of cereal, some peanut butter and some bread. He washed a couple of dishes that had accumlated in the sink, took out the trash. He put the gnome back in it's spot. He went out to pick up a few groceries. Some muffins, some juice, some cheerful flowers. He laid them out on the table. Went home, showereed and slept for a few hours.
He arrived back at Lara's house just as everyone was starting to stir. He let himself in through the back door he'd left unlocked last night and poked his head into Lara's bedroom. Lara was snuggled next to Connor, Sophie was snuggled on the other side of her and Clara was just rubbing her eyes at the foot of the bed.
Lara looked up as she heard Matt walk in "Hey" he said "Hi" said Lara a smile slowly spreading across her sleepy face. She got up and together she and Matt packed lunches, chased down shoes and got the children ready for school.
Walking home from school together Lara put her head on Matt's arm and he kissed her on the top of her head and took her small hand in his large strong one.
Lara stood in the kitchen, watching Matt clean up the morning mess in her kitchen. "Don't you have to go to work today?" she asked timidly. "I told Randy I'd be in late" he said casually. Matt smiled and his eyes crinkeld and twinkled. "Now you," he said, picking up Lara and plopping her down on her favorite spot on the sofa "you just let yourself be taken care of for a change." and he went to the kitchen to put a fresh pot of coffee on to brew. Matt sat down on the sofa next to Lara and gathered her into his arms. He kissed her on the top of her head, kissed her ear, his finger tips brushed against her collar bone. Lara looked at Matt, her eyes sad and and every so slightly panicked. "Matt, I can't -" she didn't know how to finish this sentance
"I know." said Matt before the words had any time to linger between them.
"I know." he said again softly, gently, as he hugged her tighter. He knew what it meant to grieve, he understod the up and down of it.
"It's just that - " Lara began and Matt interrupted her with a kiss.
He had hoped that their first true kiss would have been more romantic, but how long had he put this off just because the moment hadn't been perfect, now that it had happened there was no takng it back.
"I only have one question" he said looking into her eyes "why did you shut me out?" Lara looked down at her hands, she thought for a moment, "I guess I didn't want to burden you with my mess, and also I didn't want you to see me... like this." She hugged him tighter "but now I can see that I was wrong, and" her voice quieted almost to a whisper "and I'm sorry." she kissed him, and everything was right.
Matt poured a cup of coffee in one of her favorite mugs, he settled Lara at her desk with a list they had written together of what she needed to do, at the top of which was "call mom" at the bottom was "Dinner at Aunt Mae's".
Matt kissed her one more time and left for work, half wishing he didn't have to go, half happy for the escape. His brain understood taking things slow, his heart knew he was right, his body, however, disagreed.
Lara sat in the sunshine at her desk with a huge, stupid smile spread across her face. She tried for a second not to smile, but couldn't. She called her mom, thanked her for reaching out to Matt, assured her that everything was fine, apologized for causing her to worry, failed to mention everything about kissing Matt. She did not want to have that conversation with her mother. Not today. And she felt right back in her High School days. But in the best of ways.
She got through her work quickly so that she had plenty of time to walk leisurely to pick up the kids from school. Their first question when they saw her was "where's Matt?" she texted it to him. They had texed throughout the day like teenagers. He was waiting for them when they arrived back at the house. Connor launched himself at Matt, the girls hung on his arms. Lara just smiled. She wanted to fuss at Matt for creating unrealistc expectations, that he'd never be able to keep this up, she wasn't really sick, she didn't necessarily need help, but five minutes later as she attempted to wrangle kids out of school clothes and into their afternoon routine Laura found herself stressed out, overwhelmed and somewhere between screaming and sobbing, Lara found herself deeply appreciating the second pair of hands and a cheerful voice which Matt provided - brilliantly.
Showing up at Aunt Mae's farm together for the first time, Lara's thoughts were going in a million directions at once, but one look at Mae and Lara realized that she was fully aware of this situation, probably more fully aware of it than Lara herself. She hugged Lara a little bit longer and tighter but nothing else changed.
Lara forgot how much difference a good meal made to her soul. Ms Mae served fresh fish right off the grill, piles of kale & strawberry salad, and gooey peach cobbler with homemade ice cream with fresh raspberry & mint iced tea .
After dinner she shooed Matt out of the kitchen for some girl talk at the kitchen sink. Matt winked at Lara as he chased after Connor. "Lara, how are you?" asked Mae in her typical straitforward motherly manner. "So much better." said Lara "Sunday would have been my anniversary, and I thought it would be hard but I was completely unprepared for the bone-crushing weight of sadness I felt. I did get by but barely. But then Matt came, and I know it's cliche but he was like my knight in shining armor." "I remembr the first few years after Selah and Cooper died." replied Ms. Mae "Matt would just disappear for days at a time. He'd be walking around, working hard but he'd barely eat, hardly sleep, I could barely get a word out of him, it was a piece of him was missing, it felt like he was missing too. I'd try to snap him out of it, or I'd wait for it to pass. A piece of him came back when you came, like a piece of him that died with her came back to life for you. It just makes me happy to see him happy again, after all of this time. It just warms me up inside." Lara half expected the
"so don't break his heart speech" but Mae only said "Want to help me serve this cobbler?"
Matt, Lara and the kids spent Saturday at the ocean, the happiest day Lara could remember in a very long time. She brought her camera and took pictures of Matt and her children, the beautiful shells they found, the light on the waves, the birds against the setting sun, she took a photo with Matt as the sun set.
They pulled in late, Matt helped Lara carry the kids into the house, baths woud wait until the morning. Matt tiptoed out of Connnor's room, Lara met him in the hallway with a soft gentle kiss, "Can I get you anything?" she asked "No, I'd best be heading back to my place, it's getting late, but thank you, for the best day in forever." He kissed her again. Lara wanted to ask him to stay, wanted to wake up next to him, but she kissed him and let him go.