“Pippa, I don’t—” Jensen stopped when I turned, walking over to a small window of the shed to peer inside. Just as Niall had predicted, it was full of gardening supplies, buckets, tarps, and coiled hoses.
“Well. That’s decidedly uninteresting,” I said, turning back to him. “Sadly, Niall was right.”
Jensen took a deep breath, staring at me with an unreadable expression.
He laughed without humor. “You can’t just—” He stopped, digging a hand into his hair. “You can’t just run off into a dark vineyard.”
“Then why on earth did you follow me?”
He blinked, surprised. “I mean . . .” He seemed to find something suddenly ridiculous in his answer but gave it to me anyway: “I couldn’t let you run off into a dark vineyard alone.”
This made me laugh. “Jensen. I’m barely a city block away from the restaurant.”
We both looked back at the group of restaurantgoers still mingling on the sloping patio, still waiting to be allowed back inside, and still entirely unconcerned about what we were doing.
I turned and looked at his profile in the dim light from the distant winery. I wondered if he was thinking back to our conversation at the table, about the conundrum of not trusting yourself and not understanding others.
“I’m sorry about Becky,” I said, and he startled a little, looking down at me. “I’m sure loads of people said that in the beginning, when it was most raw. But I bet hardly anyone says anything about it anymore.”
He turned to face me fully but didn’t respond except to give a cautious “No . . .”
“I remember when my grandmum died.” I looked away, out at the rows and rows of grapevines. “It was years ago; she was relatively young. I was eleven, and she was . . . well, let’s see . . . she would have been in her late seventies.”
I smiled up at him. “Thank you. The thing is, everyone was quite sad for us at first. Naturally. But over time, it seemed harder that she was gone, for Lele, at least. All these big and small moments Grandmum was missing. It didn’t really get easier, per se. Our sadness just got quieter. We just didn’t talk about it anymore, but I know every tiny heartbreak and victory that Lele couldn’t share with her mum weighed on her.” I looked back up at him. “So what I’m saying is, yes, it’s six—six years since Becky?”
“Six years later, and I’m sorry that she’s not in your life anymore.”
He nodded, opening his mouth and then seeming to try to strangle down the words. Jensen clearly didn’t like to talk about himself when it came to relationships. At all.
“Thank you,” he said quietly again, but I knew that wasn’t what he’d originally had on the tip of his tongue.
“Say it,” I said, holding my arms out. I spun in a slow circle, arms outstretched. “Vent it to me, and to the grapes, and the vines, and the tiny gardening tools in the shed.”
Jensen laughed at this, glancing up to where our friends stood talking as they looked out at us in the middle of the vineyard. “Pippa, you’re—” He stopped abruptly as a quiet hissing noise came from our right, and then our left.
He groaned, reaching for my arm. “Fuck! Come on!”
We started to run, but in only a few seconds, we were inundated with the heavy spray of sprinklers from every direction. Water poured on us, drenching us, from delicate pipes of water strung across the vine lattice, from the sides, and from below, delivered by quickly rotating sprinkler heads near our feet.
We took several more slippery steps in the dirt, but then I nearly fell onto my back; Jensen barely caught me.
Running was futile. We were soaked.
“Forget it,” I yelled to him over the deafening sound of the sprinkler system. It was as if we were caught in a downpour. “Jensen,” I said, grabbing his sleeve as he made to return to the winery. I turned him to face me.
He stared at me, eyes wild. It wasn’t just that we’d had a bottle of wine after a day of drinking small tastes over and over and over. It wasn’t just that our meal had been interrupted, or that we were presently soaked outside, in October, in a small Long Island winery.
From the savage flash in his eyes, it was as if something had been shaken loose in him.
“I know we don’t know each other at all,” I shouted, blinking the water out of my eyes. “And I know this sounds crazy, but I think you need to yell.”
He laughed, spluttering under the spray of the sprinklers. “I need to yell?”
He shook his head, not understanding.
“Say it!” I cried over the roar. “Say whatever it is that’s in your head this second. Whether it’s work, or life, or Becky, or me. Like this!” I sucked in a gulp of freezing air as words nearly burst from me. “I want to hate Mark, but I don’t! I hate that I fell so easily into a relationship that was just a pit stop for him, one that I saw as a possible forever! It never was, and I feel like a fool that I didn’t see it earlier!”
He stared at me for several breaths, water running down his face.
“I hate my job!” I yelled, fists at my sides. “I hate my flat, and my routine, and that it could go on like this forever and I might not have the courage to do anything about it! I hate that I’ve worked so hard but when I look around—compare my life to everyone else’s—it feels like such a small drop in such a massive bucket!”