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Our Secret Moments: Chapter 43

CONNOR/CAT - “JUST LIKE THAT.”

CONNOR

I CLOSE my eyes and start to focus on my breathing when she tugs my arm. “Why are you nervous? You’ve met before.”

As much as she’s trying to calm me and settle the rapid pulse in my body, her words are not helping. I grip harder onto the flowers in my hand, trying my best not to crush them as we walk through the hallway. “I know, but I just want to make a good impression.”

Cat snorts, swaying into me slightly. “Your first impression was adorable.”

The first time I met JoJo, I was around eight or nine and I was completely obsessed with her. I went through a phase where I would spend every waking minute at Cat’s house when she was visiting just so I could listen to her talk. I was fascinated by her accent and I loved the stories she would tell. She had a way of entrancing all of us and we could sit and listen to her for hours. She easily became one of the most interesting people I’d ever met in my life to the point where I wanted to move in with them.

“Besides,” Cat starts, “A lot has changed since then. She’s either forgotten you, or you’re one of the very few things she can remember in detail. Unfortunately for us, there’s never any in between.”

“Let’s hope for the latter, sweetheart,” I murmur, leaning down slightly to press a kiss to her temple. “I want her to know just how madly I’m in love with you.”

Even as Cat squirms away from me, rolling her eyes at my comment, I knew the second we walked into the communal room that I was one of the lucky ones.

JoJo is just as intriguing as the last time I saw her. She radiates this warm energy that feels like you’re being hugged without actually being in her arms. And when she sees me and her smile doubles, I know she remembers me.

“Ah, there’s my favourite white boy,” JoJo sings when we sit down across from her.

“So, we’re doing this today?” Cat mutters, leaning over to give her a hug. JoJo kisses her teeth, waving her off when she sits back down in her seat. “I’m guessing you remember Connor then.”

“Is this the boy you were having unconventional sex with?”

I choke on air, my face burning red. I’ve never met any of my girlfriend’s family before. Mostly because I’ve never had a serious relationship. But I’m sure their grandparents don’t usually know what goes on in their sexual lives. Especially the unconventional ones.

“You told her about that?” I mutter to Cat and she shrugs.

“She just knows these things, Con. I swear it’s her superpower,” she replies, shaking her head at her grandma. She hasn’t stopped smiling since we sat down and I get this warm feeling in my chest. The warm feeling.

“It is my superpower,” she confirms, nodding. Her gaze snags on the roses I’ve nervously been holding and I hold them out to her. Her hands shake as she picks them up, winking at me. “These are gorgeous, Conna. Thank you.” I nod and Cat rubs her hand on my thigh reassuringly. JoJo turns to her. “Why don’t you ask the reception for a vase and some water, Birdie. If they try to tell you no, just tell them I’m having a stroke.”

“I’m not going to say that.” Cat laughs a little, scooting out her chair. “I’ll be back in a minute.”

When she’s gone, I try to make small talk with JoJo. I mean, what are you supposed to say to an elderly lady who you’ve not seen in years, but the last time you did you were attached to her hip? She asks me about how college is going and when I ask how it is living here all she says is ‘it smells like dog shit.’ So, we’re off to a great start.

I don’t know what’s taking Cat so long, but the more time I spend with JoJo, the closer I feel to her. I see so much of her in Cat. They’re both smart, funny, and can make a casual innuendo without making a big deal over it. The one thing they both have in common the most? Confidence.

“You know, I might not have the best memory, right now, but my eyesight has never changed,” she whispers, glancing to the door and then back to me. My head tilts in curiosity. “I see the way you look at my songbird.”

“How do I look at her?”

“Like you’ve never seen anything like her. Like she put up every star in the galaxy.” She sighs, shaking her lightly with a laugh. Her words are true. Catherine is the brightest thing in my life. Sometimes she feels like the only thing in my life. “As sweet as it is, you’ve got to promise me you’re never going to break that girl’s heart. She’s suffered enough in the last few years, and I’m not letting all of her hard work to pull herself out of the darkness to be ruined.”

I swallow. Hard. “I’m never going to break her heart. I’d never do anything to hurt her. Ever.”

Her eyes narrow before they soften. She leans forward slightly, bringing her hands to mine that rest on my knees. “Good, because there is something I want to give you.” It feels exactly how it did as a kid. The way she speaks so softly, the way her words have a level of mystery and adventure in them. She twists a ring off her finger and slides it into my palm, closing my hand around it. “When you’re ready, I want you to marry her. This is her mother’s engagement ring and I wanted to be here to give it to whoever was lucky enough to want to spend the rest of their life with my grand-baby, and you, Conna, you’re it for her. I see it in your eyes, in your heart. And I see it in hers too.”

The tightening in my chest grips onto my heart. Not out of anxiety, but out of pure love and anticipation for the day I’ll be able to slip this ring on Catherine’s finger. I think part of me has been waiting to marry her since the day we first met and we ate melted Kit-Kat’s on the sidewalk.

I sigh heavily, a weight falling right off my chest just at the thought. “She’s just it for me, JoJo. There’s no one else I could ever imagine myself with. I want to grow old with her, not next to or beside her, but with her.”

JoJo’s eyes gloss over at my words. “Grow with her,” she repeats. “I like the sound of that.”

When Catherine emerges back in the room, a slightly confused and suspicious look on her face, her tightly curled hair framing her gorgeous face, I know she’s the one I want to marry. The one I want to spend the rest of my life with. The one I want to wake up next to and spend every spare minute with. The person I want to grow my family with and never let her feel like she’s alone again.


Sometimes I wonder how we’ve all managed to stay friends over the course of our lives. As kids, we were all forced to spend time together given how close our parents were, but when we got older, I thought that would fade. I thought we’d all eventually get sick of each other and wake up one day and realise that we’re no longer friends.

But that has never happened.

As much as Wes can get on my nerves and Archer can confuse the fuck out of me, moving in with these two has to be the best decision I’ve ever made. Archer might still be pretending he doesn’t enjoy our company, but he didn’t back down when I suggested going ice skating in the middle of April for the fun of it.

It’s the middle of the week and we’ve all got a day off from lectures and seminars, so I suggested we could do something fun together. After arguing in the groupchat back and forth for the most of the day, we finally managed to book a slot at the rink for the last hour it’s open.

“This is great family bonding,” Wes mumbles, gripping onto my arm for dear life as we skate around the rink. He’s a fucking mess on the ice, but I’m getting a kick out of watching the fear in his eyes whenever he thinks he’s going to fall. He leans over me to look at Cat. “How’s it feel? You’re going to officially be a football girlfriend next season, Cat. Are you ready for it?”

She squeezes my hand. “As I’ll ever be.”

“Wait, isn’t there a Taylor Swift song about a football player?” I ask and then I do the worst thing I could do, and start singing. “She wears short skirts and you wear T-shirts. She’s the cheer captain and I’m on the bleachers.” They both blink at me as if I’ve said the most ridiculous thing ever. I’m sure those lyrics are somewhat accurate. I bump my shoulder into Cat’s. “That’s going to be us, baby.”

She snorts, shaking her head. “That’s not what the song is about.”

“Really? I thought it was about football?” I ask.

“You’re going to have to educate him, Cat. Trust me, I’ve tried,” Nora shouts. I ignore her and let Catherine’s laugh soothe my annoyance. The Taylor Swift universe is too complex for me to understand right now.

“I’m enjoying this way more than I should,” Archer admits. His voice is low and quiet, but we all hear him.

Cat barks out another laugh beside me, trying to tug me forward, but Wes keeps pulling me back. She’s a fantastic skater. Of course she is.

We didn’t go to this rink much as kids because our parents thought it was too dangerous. Being the perfect child she is, she managed to convince her parents to do a summer of skating lessons since Elle was taking them. Nora was too caught up with theatre camp, so she’s also stumbling alongside Wes.

Elle speeds past us in the nearly empty rink, skating backwards. “Is Archer Elliot finally admitting that he can have fun?”

“I can have fun, Harper,” he murmurs. She smiles, shrugging as she spins away. Archer stares at her, completely taken away with her talent as she glides and turns on the ice. We’ve been to enough of her recitals over the years to know she’s a good dancer, but I swear we all almost lose our breath as we watch her. It’s fucking insane.

Wes bumps his shoulder into mine, but he’s the one who stumbles more than I do. “Did you see that?”

“See what?” I ask, letting Cat guide me so I can skate better. Wes turns around and I follow his gaze as Archer skates at the slowest pace known to man whilst Elle and Nora spin around. Well, Elle’s the one who can spin properly, Nora is just doing her own thing. “Oh, that.”

Wes shakes his head. “The guy hardly says a word to us for two years, but whenever Elle’s around he’s suddenly Mr Popular. It’s fucking weird.”

I scoff. “Speak for yourself. Me and Archer can have a conversation.”

“You mean the two minute one you had on your birthday, six months ago?” he retorts, laughing at his own joke. I roll my eyes and Cat laughs beside me. The sound of her laugh is the only thing that stops me from pushing Wes into the wall. I finally shrug him off and he teeters slightly as he floats away. “Wait! You know I can’t skate well.” He’s shouting as if we’re not the only few people left on the rink. “Connor!”

“You’ll figure it out,” I shout back to him as she pulls me towards the exit of the rink.

He calls my name again and I ignore him, tightening my hand around Catherine’s gloved one. She looks up at me, her brown eyes shining as she laughs at Wes’s wailing. I love these moments with her. When she doesn’t have to say anything. Where I know exactly how she’s feeling without needing her to say the words.

CAT

“Where are you taking me?”

Connor’s shoelaces are not fully tied as he runs alongside me. I don’t even know what I’m doing. I’m high on the energy he radiates, drunk on the love that he shows me and completely captivated by just being in his presence.

The huge building is deserted as we run through the hallway. His hand clasps in mine as I loosen the scarf I haphazardly wrapped around my neck in an attempt to keep warm in the freezing temperature of the rink.

Our run slows as we get closer towards the end of the hallway, the automatic lights turn on. It feels like we’re in a moment captured in time. Everything about us feels infinite without even trying. A vending machine lights up and whirs at the end of the hallway when we get to it, panting.

“You know we don’t have to hide anymore, right?” Connor says, placing his hands on his hips as he takes a deep breath. “I mean, I love a good workout, but I don’t get what that was for.”

“I just wanted to know if you’d really follow me anywhere just because I told you so,” I say, shrugging as I lean down to type the pin in on the vending machine.

“Of course I would. I’d be a fool not to.”

“I’m starting to think you’re obsessed with me, Connor,” I whisper, turning to him as the machine works its magic.

“We are way beyond obsessed, sweetheart.” His voice is so deep and meaningful that I feel it low in my stomach. It sits there, waits, and erupts as I hold his stare. When I hear the soft packet of the chips falling in the machine, I reach down to grab them and hand them to him. He turns it over in his hands. “What’s this for?” he laughs.

“I was meant to get you celebratory chips that time and I didn’t get to,” I whisper, pointing at them. His eyebrows screw together. “What?” I ask. His curiosity is going to kill me. I try to do a nice thing for him and I can tell he just wants to mess with me.

“That was months ago, Cat. You’ve given me a lot better things than a bag of chips since then,” he says, his voice filled with humour.

“Yeah, and I’m giving you these now.”

“Why?” His signature smirk is etched onto his face.

I roll my eyes. “Why, what?”

“Why are you giving me these chips? Why now?”

“Because we’ve had a good week and I’m happy and I want to do something for you,” I mutter angrily. I prod him in the chest and he shakes his head at me. Is he really wanting me to spell it out to him?

“That still doesn’t explain anything, Catherine.”

I roll my head back, groaning. “Can’t you see? It doesn’t matter what we do, or where we go, or what happens, I want to celebrate the small things with you. Because every single moment we share means something to me. Even the small things. Especially the small things. When you hold my hand I just want to kiss you for it. When you offer to help me with my hair, I want to spend a whole day curled up in your lap. When you tell me I’m beautiful, or that I’m smart, or that you think I’m perfect in your eyes, I want to shower you with a million gifts and live inside your brain.”

His lips find mine so quickly I hardly get to register it. Our bodies fit together, our hearts beating, our fingers curled in each other’s hair. Our tongues meet and I instantly feel lightheaded. He holds onto my face like he doesn’t want to break me. He holds me so tight that I’m not afraid of falling. I’ll keep falling forever if it’s him who catches me.

I pull back. “Did you hear what I said?”

“Every word,” he whispers against my lips, smiling.

“And?”

“And I’m going to continue to prove to you over and over again that I’m exactly the kind of man that deserves someone like you.” He presses his forehead to mine, the chip packet crushed between us. My heartbeat refuses to settle as we bathe in this moment together. “I’m yours forever, Catherine.”

“Just like that?”

“Just like that.”


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