The Starman

Shutterstock / Denis Belitsky ©

What was stopping him from reaching for the stars?

Staring at the cards on the table outside Liz’s flat, Tom’s heart froze.

He thought of the card in his rucksack, the card he’d planned to post, but in a fit of madness decided to deliver to Liz in person.

But he was too late. He’d been right.

Liz, leader of the walking group he’d joined, because he knew he had to reach out to people not just the universe.

They had made an instant connection, halfway round the first rain-drenched walk when, enthralled by the scenery, he’d slipped as he strayed from the path.

“Tom!” she said, rushing to his aid. “It’s important to stay on the track.”

“The view,” he said, pointing to beyond her head. “It looked so perfect, so beautiful. I’m sorry.”

She’d turned to look, turned back and smiled, and Tom couldn’t help but think Liz was perfect and beautiful, too.

“Stay up front, with me,” she said. “Till you’re more confident and sure-footed.”

His heart had soared, but he wondered if he’d ever be confident and sure-footed, around someone as wonderful as Liz.

Then she’d asked what he did.

“Astrophysics,” he said quickly, hoping she wouldn’t notice. Hoping she wouldn’t think he was geeky like everyone else always thought he was.

“The stars and the universe,” she said, smiling her wonderful smile. “Fascinating. Maybe we could organise a star walk?”

He’d never missed a walk after that. She’d even persuaded him to lead the star walks.

While she discovered his love of outer space, he’d discovered her love of animals, her efforts to support the fight to save the planet from the threats of climate change.

“You’re a star,” he said. “While I’m trying to reach the unreachable, you’re trying to save the world.”

She’d laughed.

“You’re a Starman!” she said. “That’s pretty special, too.”

He’d liked that.

Joining her on marches, made him feel brave – warrior-like.

He’d even spoken briefly to the press when an interviewer thrust a mike under his nose, but he’d never been brave enough to ask her out.

He remembered the last time he saw her, catching her from falling in a crowd of surging protesters on a Save The Climate March. How right she felt in his arms.

“Tom,” she whispered, when he’d lifted her, shouldering his way out of the throng.

Her eyes so soft, the scent of her so sweet, hair catching the light from the sun.

A braver man would have kissed her, but he just wanted her safe. Then he wanted to kiss her.

He’d found a quiet bench, where they’d sat.

“It was the heat,” Liz said, pulling off her jacket, letting it fall between them.

“You looked so pale,” said Tom, touching her cheek without thinking.

Her eyes closed, dark lashes casting the faintest shadow on her cheekbones. She’d leaned toward him. Her face only inches from his. Her breath on his skin, his lips almost meeting hers.

Then her phone buzzed between them, breaking the spell.

She’d checked the message. “Oh, Alfie,” she said.

He’d stared at the screen, just enough to give him a chance to read the message: You know how much Alfie loves you.

The light had gone out of the day. He’d guessed it was an ex. Someone who wanted her back. Someone she’d never mentioned in all their talks together.

Why would she? He was just some geeky guy with stars in his eyes.

“Alfie is…” she began.

“Let’s rejoin the march,” he said, standing up, not wanting to hear it.

She’d looked stung, but he just wanted to get through the day and go home.

He accepted the opportunity for a three-month transfer. Liz texted him several times, but he didn’t know what to say.

Then he heard she was moving. He panicked, afraid he may never see her again.

He thought he’d just arrive with a card to wish her well in her new home. Find out if she’d really given Alfie the chance he wanted.

The stack of cards to Liz and Alfie on the table told him she had.

He’d reached the downstairs hallway when she burst through the door.

She was in his arms before he could think, and within seconds they were both on the floor as a huge furry canine shared in the excitement by knocking them both off their feet!

“I’ve missed you, Tom,” she whispered. “What did I do?”

He felt her warmth, the sweet scent of her, saw the softness in her eyes.

“I’ve missed you, too – but Alfie…?”

“He’ll get used to you,” she said, patting the dog settling down beside them.

“Alfie’s a handful of a dog, but he’ll be better once I’m in the new place with the garden – emergency rehoming, and I just couldn’t say no.”

“Alfie’s a dog.” he said, marvelling at life. “And you’re here in my arms, and…”

“I like it here,” she said, smiling the smile that had stolen his heart.

He wasn’t sure who moved first, only that their lips met.

And for the first time in his life he realised that maybe some stars were reachable, and once you held them, you had better never let them go.

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