Chapter XV: Presents

Harwood knew it was completely foolish and irrational but on days he really felt Twinbrook hated him. Of course a city cannot hate, or have any feelings whatsoever, Harwood knew that. Yet he just felt there was something there in the city of Twinbrook, perpetually turned against him. On days he thought he should just move, pack his bags and go, somewhere where it was warm and sunny and just paint and sculpt into oblivion.

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But Harwood was not a quitter, or at least he was trying not to be. And besides he had things in Twinbrook that made it worth staying. There was Juan, his best friend whom he had already abandoned once, there was Rookie his little puppy, and with every day a bigger friend and companion, and there was Dilly. His girlfriend. They hadn’t talked about it but he assumed they were a couple now, they were seeing each other for a while now, in fact he was speeding through town on his bike right now to get her something from the bookstore, it was six months from their first date and they were having dinner later that night.

She had gotten him a hat as an early present and he had taken to wearing it at all occasions. At first he was worried it would make him look like an old man but Dilly had assured him it was not the case, and that he looked hip and stylish. And so Harwood drove through Twinbrook’s main street waving  greetings to anyone passing him by. He already felt like a part of the community, so why then did he feel Twinbrook was against him?

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The answer was simple, and to anyone familiar with Harwood’s inner thoughts in the past few months pretty obvious. It was Pattina of course. The woman whom he had only gone on one real date had clawed her way under his skin so deep he had been unable to get her out of his head for months now. He was sure he had moved on until one day he heard she and her husband were getting a divorce, to make matters worse she had called him a while before that and he had not taken the call.

Ever since it was hard not to think about it, he tried to assure himself that the divorce happened because their marriage had obviously not been a happy one and that he was just a synptom, not the cause. He had Dilly and he was happy, but still the what-ifs threatened to pull him down… If only he had waited a bit more before calling Dilly out, if only he had answered Patiina’s call and heard what she had to say, if, if, if…

 

He hoped he would find peace and solace in the bookstore but he was wrong in that as well. There were so many books on the shelves, but he knew Dilly had read almost each and every one of them. His girlfriend preferred old classics and he could hardly find any that she  hadn’t read or owned. He was about to completely lose it when a nice young woman approached him cautiously. “You look like you need a hand mister.” He turned to her and try to respond to her smile with a smile of his own but his whole face seemed to be stuck in a grimace of despair.

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“I am looking for a gift, for my girlfriend.” He said.

“Oh okay, I can help with that.” The girl had said offering him a comforting smile. “What kind of books does she like?”

“All of them.” Harwood said and smiled weakly. “But she prefers the classics.” The woman nodded. She scratched her head absently and looked around. Then she finally turned back to Harwood.

“I have just the thing! Wait here!” And so he did. After a few very long minutes the girl had came book with a book in hand.

“Here it is. Murder in Pleasantview. The world’s most renowned detective story.” She said handing him the book. Harwood knew of it, it was the first book featuring the world’s most famous literary detective. He allowed himself to smile broadly.

“I love it.” He said taking the book in his hand. It was a brand new edition of the old book and he was sure Dilly would know to appreciate it. “Thank you so much miss.” He added and the woman flashed him another of her smiles.

“It had been my pleasure, I hope your girlfriend would like it.”

 

Harwood left the bookstore filled with relief. He had the perfect present, and now he could hardly wait for dinner tonight. He stopped by the Red for lunch and a quick drink to celebrate his success.

“Long time no see.” Betty the barmaid had said grinning widely.

“Hello Betty, I have been busy a bit lately.” The woman nodded putting on a pretend insulted face.

“I bet. You have a new girl and now have completely forgotten about me.”

“Oh come on Betty, you just know that is not true, no one could ever replace you.” Betty smiled putting down her hands on the bar.

“Well that is just what a girl wants to hear, isn’t it?” She added. “And this girl has a surprise for you.” Harwood lifted his eyebrows curiously and Betty got out from behind the bar. “Come on, follow me.” And so Harwood did. Betty led him upstairs. In all his nights in the Red he had never been on the second floor, as far as he had known those rooms had been empty.

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“Wow.” He said when he beheld what was now on the second floor. The large open space was filled with tables and chairs, identical to the ones downstairs, but it was a stage built next to the far wall with four instruments scattered around that caught Harwood’s eye.

“You like it huh?” Betty asked behind him. “We thought we could have some local bands perform here a few nights a week, for starters, some out of towns later. You are always welcome to perform as well love, everyone here loves your music.” Harwood smiled as the compliment.

“Perhaps one night.” He replied politely.

Harwood ate lunch and had a quick drink before heading home to spend some time with his puppy. Rookie was happy as ever when he saw him and Harwood couldn’t wait for the little menace to grow up a bit so he wouldn’t have to leave him here at home alone, when he gets bigger Harwood planned to take him everywhere he went.

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He couldn’t take him to dinner though, he was taking Dilly to the Bistro in town, the fanciest restaurant in all of Twinbrook. Dilly showed up in a long colorful coat, her hair tied up in a braid and covered with a red bandanna. She didn’t smile until Harwood approached her and took her hand. “Hello beautiful.” He said as a greeting before taking her hand in his and leading her inside.

The place looked even prettier inside and he understood why the Bistro had been a favorite place for romantic dinners, anniversaries, and business meetings of Twinbrook’s residents. The food was good and Dilly loved the book Harwood had gotten her but he didn’t fail to notice something was clearly wrong. Maybe wrong was a wrong word to use but something felt off about Dilly, as if her mind was somewhere else that night.

Harwood however tried to be patient, he wanted Dilly to have her space and privacy so he didn’t say a thing. Yet it made him a bit nervous and his heart was beating like crazy when halfway through dessert she lowered her fork and she focused her bright blue eyes on his. He quickly swallowed the bite he already had in his mouth. The music was still playing, and people were talking around them but he saw nor heard anything but Dilly.

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“There is something I have to tell you Harwood.” She started and Harwood tensed. “I am pregnant.” Dilly said next making Harwood’s whole world spin.

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