Chapter X: Unexpected Visitors

After the events of the unsuccessful party crash Harwood laid of the drinks for a while. He struggled with finishing the sketch of the colorful bedroom he started weeks ago. It seemed whatever mood he was in the day he took the first strokes had long deserted him but he also didn’t want to abandon it, he rarely gave up his projects. Inspiration would come, it always found him in the end… It was more troubling however that he had barely bothered to dress lately, spending most of his days in his underwear.

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That was when he decided it was time for socialization again. This time however he planned a quiet dinner at home, just for the guys. He invited Juan and Phoenix, his newest friend, the teacher. He got the recipe for autumn salad from Holly Greenwood, and he bought fresh vegetables from the local grocery store, helped by her husband Oliver and he was excited for his first cooking experience.

Juan was the first to arrive, like usually he wasn’t dressed appropriately for the occasion, or the weather. He had a sleeveless shirt and shorts on but he was in his usual good spirit, and he hardly mentioned his late wife, and didn’t get paranoid for no reason. However he was against going into the house, claiming he wanted to enjoy the fresh, air. Harwood was a little worried because it was quite chilly outside, with the wind occasionally blowing from the river making Harwood chill to the very bones but Juan insisted and Harwood didn’t want to enrage him for no reason, not at very start of the evening.

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They were chatting about Cinammon, Juan’s little dog, the one subject that got Juan the most excited, and in a good way too, when Harwood noticed a car driving towards them. It was red and expensive looking, and to his great surprise it pulled right in his driveway. Both Harwood and Juan froze and looked as a woman came out of it. Harwood’s heart clenched and then started beating rather fast as he realized who it was. Pattina. The last real conversation they had ended with them agreeing to say goodbye after he told him she wasn’t looking for an affair, and was apparently not interested in leaving her husband and now here she was again. At his home.

She stopped and looked at Harwood smiling slightly as she went over to them. Harwood was no longer listening to Juan, all his focus was on the blond coming closer and closer…

“Hello Harwood.” She said when she was close to the two of them. “Good day Juan.”

“Pattina. This is a surprise.” Harwood said feeling a smile creep to his lips despite everything that happened, and the pain and disapointment he had felt when they last spoke.

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“I wanted to talk.” She said and Harwood was anxious to hear what she had to say. Juan however was not.

“Just go away.” He said before Harwood had a chance to speak his grey eyes narrowing towards Pattina. “You weren’t invited to dinner, it is just us boys.” Pattina turned to him in surprise, it was obvious to Harwood she did not expect this. He was about to step in but Juan wasn’t done. “You hurt him you know, you being married and all…”

“I see.” Pattina said. Her voice was cold and her words cut Harwood sharply. She turned to leave and Harwood went after her.

“Wait.” He said and she stopped and turned her head, her eyebrows arched upwards in surprise. “Say what you wanted to say…”

“No need.” She said and Harwood couldn’t help but catch a tinge of sadness in her voice. “Maybe another time.” Harwood sighed.

“She is trouble.” Juan spoke behind him. “Maybe you don’t see it but Lace does…” Harwood didn’t say anything. What could he say to counter Juan’s dead wife? Juan came closer and placed one hand on his shoulder. “Something better would come along.” Harwood nodded sadly.

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Nothing Juan said could cheer him up, or pull his thoughts away from Pattina, of the sad look in her eyes, the thought of what could have been if Juan hadn’t been here… Not until Phoenix arrived with yet another uninvited guest in tow. Harwood hoped this young lady won’t trouble Juan though.

The sky had already darkened when the two of them arrived. Phoenix had an apologetic look as his eyes met Harwood’s but Harwood only smiled.

“I really couldn’t find a babysitter for Pansy… And I can’t leave her with Parker, he is a god kid but…”  Harwood dismissed him with a wave of a hand and focused his eyes on the sweet little girl in his arms. “If it is a problem we can go back…”

“Nonsense.” Harwood said.”Hello love.” He said smiling widely to the baby girl. “How are you today?” The little girl giggled and Phoenix looked relieved. “May I?” Harwood asked and Phoenix readily placed his daughter in Harwood’s arms. The toddler cast a worried look to her father but pretty soon she relaxed in Harwood’s arms.

“There are beers in the fridge, Juan’s already inside, help yourselves. I’ll be in soon to start dinner.” He said and walked behind him carrying the little girl. He pretended to attach her with a vicious claw which made her laugh so he had to do it five more times. He didn’t mind. He loved children and Parker’s little girl was adorable.

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They left Pansy in the living room and Harwood turned on some cartoons for her, it was the first use Harwood’s TV got since he moved in. Phoenix helped himself to the beers while Harwood cut the vegetables in the kitchen. Yet another first for him here.

Phoenix told him about his work at the school, apparently there was some accident there last week, some boy  and they barely saved him. Juan on the other hand went to take a nap in Harwood’s room and didn’t appear until dinner was ready. He also didn’t really want to try Harwood’s salad, an instead asked Harwood to fix him a bread and jam sandwich. Phoenix however seemed to find the salad okay, and even gave a bite to his daughter. Harwood was pleased, he didn’t top Holly Greenwood but for a first meal it wasn’t that bad. And with everything that happened he managed to get Pattina’s strange visit out of his head, even if it was only for a night…

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