Sophie is so excited that she gets to the park long before Addie does. As soon as she had read his text, she had told Wesley to take Matt up to bed while she just stepped out for a bit to check up on Mrs Davies down the road.
The text reads: 'I've got your grand gesture. Meet me by the war memorial.'
She has been waiting by the memorial for five minutes when Addie finally arrives. He holds a red paper lantern in his hands. It has a Chinese character on it.
'It cost me a quid,' he admits, smiling.
Sophie laughs. Cheap as this particular gesture is, she does appreciate how unpredictable Addie seems to be.
'Did you bring a match?' Addie says.
Sophie pulls out a handful.
Addie laughs. 'Why didn't you just bring the whole box?'
'Can I be the one to light it?'
'Well it is for both of us.'
Addie holds the lantern open while Sophie lights the first match. It fizzles out but she expected this. She doesn't trust supermarket brands.
The breeze blows the touch paper closer to her face. It's right at the level of her eyes, square and black. A flattened box really. She strikes a successful match and covers it with her other hand. When she is sure that it will last, she lights a corner of the touch paper. She jumps back.
Addie watches her face in the glow of the flame. A glimmer of enthusiasm fills her tired gaze, accompanied by an unexpectedly girlish whoop. He wets the forefinger of his spare hand again and checks the direction of the wind. North. He throws the lantern upward and jumps back too.
The breeze catches the lantern and opens it out. It dithers midair for a bit so Addie steps forward. Sophie stops him with a hand on his stomach.
'Don't,' she says. 'It's picking up.'
The breeze blows more violently. They step back even further until their backs are pressed against the ivory on the park's outer wall. They move across to the nearest bench and sit down.
The lantern is well above their heads now and finally moving north. Addie keeps checking the wind and Sophie keeps smiling at him. She thinks: no-one is perfect.
Addie may be overcautious but he's not clumsy. There is little chance that he will ever let himself stumble into a trap, fall into a box. He is the one aspect of her life that doesn't do this, that isn't doomed to repeat the action. Matt, her five-year-old, fell into an actual box the other day; a cardboard one used for the widescreen television. It was easy to get him out. It wasn't so easy to draw Wesley, her thirteen-year-old, out of the faulty train boxcar he found himself trapped in only two months ago. The conductor had said he couldn't understand how it could have happened but Sophie could. It was one of those trains they keep reusing, the kind that was made in the 70's and supposedly built to last.
Roderick, her husband, has been in jail for the last two years. Solitary confinement. He was an easy target for the rest of the inmates so he voluntarily entered a cell all to himself. His own little box.
Sophie can't help but wonder what box she is destined for. A coffin? Not if she can help it, at least for a little while. Perhaps her own box was made by those around her. People call her poor Sophie, patient Sophie, smart Sophie, scared Sophie - all four corners closing in. Reactions to the clumsiness of her boys.
Addie is her new boy. He is sweet and careful. He bought her a Chinese lantern, drew her out of the box that her home had become. What is best about him is that he looks her in the eye. At this very moment he has turned to check that she's happy. They kiss and watch the lantern rise to the level of the war memorial.
Addie worries about the darkness, the distribution of light. If he can't see Sophie's eyes for even a moment, when he sees them again he won't be able to contain himself. He'll make a mess.
Even the slightest uncovering of another person's eyes these days unsettles him. He blames the porn he used to watch, the women in glasses who didn't really need them other than to remove them for sexy effect. He blames all the beautiful bespectacled women he knows in his life that have helped to carry across this fantasy to the real world to the point that a simple removal of shades by a stranger in the street would be just as arousing.
It isn't just women anymore, any person who happens to remove something from in front of their eyes is met with an inappropriate reaction from him and sometimes even climax. His mother removed her sleeping mask in front of him last week; he had to step outside. An old man was playing peek-a-boo with his granddaughter earlier today; it was just a good thing that Addie was sat down.
He realises that it must be very amusing for those who catch sight of this embarrassment, that his close friends must chuckle when they consider it outside of his company. The sudden spasms prevent him from laughing, his own accidental joy prevents him from seeing the joy other people might take from it.
He, of course, hasn't told Sophie. He wants to keep looking her in the eyes, those unashamed eyes with the bags and the crow's feet and the lack of make-up. She doesn't even wear contact lenses. She is just herself when she looks out at the world, she is the kind of woman who has seen so much that she doesn't particularly care what people see when they look back at her. He admires her but he doesn't love her and he often wonders if she knows this. He doesn't want to see those green eyes fill with tears, especially if wiping them away factors into his condition. He will stay with her for now, make a few more grand gestures like these and see what happens. See what changes.
Addie frowns as the lantern bounced off of the WWI soldier's helmet. The lantern is pulled away by a stiff gust which brings it level with a group of large trees on the second tier of the park. It keeps on, straight into a gap in the leaves.
'Shit,' Sophie says.
Addie runs down the slope and starts climbing the tree. Sophie catches up and offers to give him a boost. He manages to reach a low-hanging branch but it gives way in his hands and he falls back down. Sophie helps him up.
'I'm fine,' Addie insists. 'Use the branch.'
Sophie picks it up. It is long enough to reach the lantern but she has to stand on the tips of her toes. She only tears a hole in the paper with the first attempt but brings the whole thing down in the second. Addie stomps on the lantern as soon as it hits the path.
Sophie turns back to him. 'Are you okay?'
'Yeah,' Addie replies. 'Just a scratch.' He points to the mark on his cheek, just below his right eye.
Sophie grabs his head and brings it in close. She can't see the scratch well in the dark but Addie can certainly see her. The glimmer is almost gone in her eyes.
They pull away from one another, both glancing down at the crumpled lantern instead.
'The tree looks fine,' Sophie remarks.
'It's starting to rain too,' Addie adds. 'Look, I really should go. My mum won't sleep unless I'm home.'
Sophie nods. 'The same goes for my boys.'
With a final peck on the cheek, they both turn back to where they each came from. Sophie thinks about Addie going back to his house, his mother waiting to lock up. Addie thinks about Sophie's sons, if he has ever met them on the street by accident. They should have known, they should have expected this.
By the time they both get back, the lantern has all but disintegrated, it's unknown character fading into the concrete.