Jo’s nervous declaration of love still echoed around the kitchen, keeping Steve rooted to the spot. He knew he needed to say something, the way she was peering at him, expectantly, then bashfully, the silence drawing out to the point of almost too long. Shit. This wasn’t part of the plan. She wasn’t supposed to love him back. He was in love with her, he’d known it for a while, but Kensy was safe; she didn’t believe in love or happily ever after, and while he knew it would hurt when he left, it would be easier if it was one sided. He would love her and move on and always think of her fondly, but she wasn’t supposed to love him back. That wasn’t in the plan.
Steve liked plans. He liked knowing what was ahead of him, liked setting a goal, working it out and making it happen. Love and relationships just complicated things, he’d learnt that the hard way when Bec up and left him after four years. In hindsight, it was more his ego that was hurt, and watching his plans go up in smoke. He liked plans. But mum & Ange had been right, they’d never liked her, even if they were subtle in their campaigning against her, and Steve pretended to ignore the knowledge of it. Then she was gone and he decided that grand romance and true love was a thing for other people. It’s not like he had a lot of choice, anyway. Single girls were pretty thin on the ground in small country towns, and even thinner once he headed north to work as a jackaroo in the Territory. Late one night, a couple of rums the wrong side of maudlin, he & Jonno’s sister were lamenting their mutual singledom and lack of options, and a plan was born. Reassessed in the cold sober light of day, it still made sense. A young girl working to take over the family farm, Sarah had even less options than Steve did. They kept it between themselves, it’s not like there was anything to tell, really. They weren’t together, together. It was an arrangement, a loose one, based on lots of ifs and buts and one days. Still, it was a plan. Steve liked plans.
He left. They kept in touch, because beyond any plans they’d made together, they were first and foremost best mates. He called her once a week, but the calls dropped off at the same time Kensy’s name started coming up in conversation more regularly. It was a fling, he told her. Nothing serious. He was head over heels, that was true, but it’s not like anything would come of it. And it wasn’t part of the plan. The plan was to have some fun, see the world, then go home, get married and run the farms together. The day Steve introduced Jo to the family, he called Sarah first, to tell her before Ange could. Their arrangement might still be uncertain, but there were a lot less ifs, these days, and he felt he owed it to her, even if this thing with Jo was nothing serious. They’d talked about what would happen when he got home. The likelihood of meeting someone half-way round the world who would be willing to become a farmer’s wife in the arse-end of Outback Queensland was non-existent, or so they thought. And for all that he would protest it meant little for Jo to meet the family, back home, they all knew the truth. Steve introduced no-one to the family. They very rarely even heard the names of girls he was involved with. In Steve’s world, family & girls did not mix. But he wanted them to know Jo, know what she meant to him, so that when he came home, they would understand. That Sarah would understand. And she did. She knew there was always a chance that this would happen, that until he was home and they publicly declared themselves a couple and his ring was on her finger nothing was certain.
And now Jo loved him back, and the hope of something beyond a fling before going home to get married flickered to life, as he pulled her close, and whispered the words he never thought he would have the chance to. Plans be damned. Together they could make new ones.
This little piece of Steve’s story is one that sort of came about early on, when I first needed a back-up escape plan for him up my sleeve. The framework of this particular vignette came to mind on my way home from camp last weekend, and by the time I pulled into the shed, it was all but written in my head. This week’s Visual Dare was the kick start I needed to actually get it down, because “all the things I’ve never told you” is so apt for this couple, who are absolutely terrible at using their words. I do also have a entry for VisDare that relates directly to the prompt that I hope to share later this coming week. The character of Jo doesn’t belong to me but her creator has kindly allowed me to use the framework of our existing character interactions to expand on Steve’s POV.