Neville and Florence walked hand in hand along the road, towards Catherine's bar, the sun beating down on them as they approached. Neville relished the feeling of having Florence's hand in his, not only the simple act itself but being able to do it in daylight, knowing that it didn't matter where they were or who saw them. He looked down at Florence, giving her hand a gentle squeeze.
Florence looked up at him, smiling coyly to herself, and squeezed back. Neville smiled to himself too, thinking about how Marlon had cried "I KNEW IT!" at Florence, when she'd told him about what had been going on. He wondered who else had known, who had seen them sneaking around in the late nights and early mornings, not that it mattered really. They didn't have to hide anymore. That's what mattered.
As they approached the bar, Catherine was delivering drinks to a table and was returning across the road.
"Hi, Catherine," Neville called out, as they slowed to a stop.
"Neville, Florence," she cooed, then saw they were holding hands and dropped her tray with an excited yelp. She hurried forward and flung her hands around Neville's neck.
"Catherine, this is nice but you're strangling me," he said, choking out a laugh.
"And you!" Catherine squealed, throwing her arms around Florence, and doing the same, kissing her on both cheeks twice. "This calls for a celebration," she announced, hurrying off, picking up her tray from the floor.
"We'll get a table," Neville called after her.
They wound their way through the tables on the veranda and sat at one next to the water. Neville pulled out the chair for Florence to sit on and then helped her tuck it in.
"What are you doing?" laughed Florence, as Neville sat down opposite her.
"Well now that I'm your boyfriend I need to make sure I'm treating you right," explained Neville, offering out his hand for her to take across the table.
"My boyfriend?" questioned Florence, a playful smile on her face. "I don't remember you asking me out."
Neville rolled his eyes and played along. "Florence Cassell, the most beautiful woman I've ever seen in my life, would you do me the greatest honour of being my girlfriend?" he asked.
Florence playfully thought about it for a second, teasing him for a split second before replying. "Okay," she laughed and took his hand in hers.
Catherine appeared at their table with two long elegant rum punches, with miniature umbrellas and curly straws.
"Now," she said, pulling up a chair from a nearby table and sitting down. "Tell me everything," she said to Florence who laughed nervously.
"Everything?" Florence asked, cocking an eyebrow at Neville, who began to blush.
"No," he mouthed.
"How did he tell you?" Catherine asked. "He had been wanting to tell you for so long."
"Well," said Florence. "He came to the door and told me that there was no way I could go out with anyone else because he was the guy for me."
Florence flashed Neville a knowing look. It was true, sort of, Neville thought. Florence had greeted him at the door, and he'd said something along those lines. Catherine didn't know when though. No, that exchange was just for the two of them, as it should be.
"Good for you, Neville," said Catherine, excitedly. She leaned over and punched Neville on the arm.
"Ow," he said, giving it a rub. "Careful, Catherine. I bruise like a peach." Catherine tutted and returned her attention to Florence. "And guess what," Neville interjected again. "Florence has got a promotion. She's going to be DI now as well."
Catherine threw her hands up and turned back to Florence. "More good news!?" she cried. "This calls for a bottle of rum, I think," she added and hurried back to the bar.
"We should get engaged next week," said Florence, watching Catherine go.
"Sorry?" asked Neville, shocked at her words.
"She might give us a crate – if she's going to give us free alcohol every time there's good news," mused Florence.
"Imagine what she'll do if we got married," wondered Neville, as Catherine darted behind the bar. They both looked at each other and cracked up laughing at the thought.
Neville and Florence walked along the water's edge, her arm around his waist and his around her shoulder. For the first time in a few days, Neville felt as calm and still as the water before him. Everything that had happened had gone by in a flash, a hazy whirlwind that had somehow got them here, into a better position than either of them could have imagined. If you'd asked Neville at the front door to Florence's villa all that time ago, he would never have guessed that this was where they'd end up.
Above them, the moon had risen, which sparkled on the surface of the water. He was so glad he didn't have to go back to Manchester. Neville couldn't believe that once upon a time he was raring to leave this island, leaving behind all its beauty and everyone who lived here. What a life he would have wasted had he gone. What an opportunity he would have wasted with Florence. He couldn't imagine life without her in his life now. Neville admired the moon, his thoughts ticking over him, then bent his neck to plant a kiss on Florence's head.
"I guess it all worked out then," he whispered into her hair.
"I guess so," she sighed contentedly, turning to him, and catching his lips in a kiss. "I was thinking when we were at Catherine's…"
"About our little life."
Neville smiled at her. "What about it?"
"When we couldn't see each other, all I kept thinking about was those things you said to me about what we would do, how things would be. I ached for it," she told him. "I wanted that life with you so desperately. Even more so because it felt like we could never have it."
"Tell me," Neville said, stopping and turning to her. He wound his arms around her waist and pulled her close. "Tell me about our little life," he whispered. "The one we can have together."
Neville knew the novelty of that sentiment would never wear off.
Florence's hands snaked up his arms and gently caressed his neck, feeling the fine hairs on his nape. "It's like you said," she began. "We would enjoy our time together, always laughing and joking, maybe dancing under the stars, maybe swimming in the sea, maybe laying in the hammock doing nothing. Cooking together, everything. We would lay in bed and talk until the early hours of the morning, and you'd read me passages from books you like. I hope we would go on dates and go for nice long walks."
"We could adopt a cat," said Neville, caught up in the moment.
"You're allergic to cats!" exclaimed Florence with a laugh.
"A hairless cat, then."
"And you'd probably call it Fluffy, thinking you were being funny."
"It would be funny," protested Neville, nuzzling her ear.
Florence arched her neck. "And we would be happy," she whispered, tenderly.
"And we would be happy," repeated Neville, after a beat, kissing her neck.
He melted into her embrace as he planted his pursed lips onto her soft skin. She moaned gently into his ear.
"And this is where it begins," she cooed.
Neville prised himself away from her and looked deep into her eyes. "It is, DI Cassell," he whispered, his forehead resting on hers. "It's where our little life begins."