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Chapter 2 : London Calling
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Lily shifted one of her grocery bags from one hand to the other, pulled the handle on the glass door, and lifted one tennis shoe clad foot to keep it open as she attempted to shuffle into her building. She desperately wished she could have done magic, but she didn't think that would go over very well in the extremely muggle neighborhood in which she lived. She planted her shoulder on the door and pushed her way in. Having successfully entered, she turned and started toward the stairs but she was prevented from that path because she caught sight of her post box across the room. She let out a long suffering sigh and lowered her grocery bags to the ground.
Though she and James had been living together for a year now, he still didn't quite understand that the muggle way of sending and receiving letters involved a postman and a stamp rather than an owl. James simply couldn't be counted on to check the post box with any frequency; he just didn't remember to do it. Sometimes she wondered why she even kept one. Her family did occasionally send her notes and such, but there were wizarding address rooms for such things. Lily hadn't really had time to research it, but Peter had told her something about an address that multiple people gave out as their own, where the letter or letters were passed to an owl for delivery. The service was a little bit on the pricy side though. And there was always the factor of having the muggle mail box for free, so she kept it. It was just simpler that way.
Lily fumbled in her purse for a moment, withdrawing a key ring and flicking through the first two until she came to one with a purple beaded keychain hanging next to it. She quickly fit it into the lock and braced herself for an inevitable deluge of envelopes. She turned the key and opened the little door. Only five pieces of mail in the entire box. Not too shabby for not having checked it in a week.
She reached in and flicked through the first few. Unsuprisingly, Aunt Catherine had transposed hers and Petunia's birthdays again. The next few were advertizing flyers and she was starting to lose interest when she accidentally jostled her hand and out of the stack fell a significantly smaller bright purple envelope with that familiar sloppy handwritting in that familiar navy blue ink. Lily stooped to pick it up immediately. She looked around a bit furtively and then, deciding that no one could see her, she quickly shrank her grocery bags to fit in her pocket and hurried to climb the stairs. Two flights and a hallway later, she'd arrived at hers and James's flat. This time she selected the largest key on the ring and fitted it into the lock.
Her entrance was akin to a whirlwind; she swept across the floor, pulling out groceries and putting them away with precision that she had never quite managed before. Then, she seized the letter that she had placed on the entry table for safe keeping and made a dash for the master bedroom, closing the door behind her. Lily plopped herself belly down on the bed and lifted her legs at the knee, crossing them at the ankle - the perfect reading stance, in her opinion - and she tore into the envelope with reckless abandon. The stationary within matched the outside perfectly.
I know I haven't written you in a very long time and I could give you a very long list of explanations as to why that might be the case, but they would only really be excuses. And that is not fair to you. Suffice it to say that I am, actually, quite sorry that I haven't been in touch. It turns out that my life is slightly more complicated than I previously suspected it could ever be.
I have good news and bad news. Shall I guess which one you're going to pick? Okay, don't peek now, fold the bottom of the page up so you can't see my guess. Did you do it?
Lily sighed, rolled her eyes, and complied. I'm going to take the bad news first, she thought, and then she unfolded the paper.
Bad news it is then. Always the pragmatic one, aren't you, Tigerlily? Well, the bad news is that I ran away from home and I can't really give you a forwarding address to where I'm going (mainly because I don't know what it is yet). I know, you're probably having kittens right now, but hang in there for a second. I did have good news, remember?
By the time you get this, I will have been in England for about three days, which is about what I figure I'll need to get over the jet-lag. I hear it's absolutely horrendous. I'm going to be staying with my uncle, Nick Finch, the one who owns that bookshop. And as you know, my uncle lives in London. Which, if I'm not much mistaken, is also where you live. So, maybe when you get this, you can look me up? I'm not really sure how to do that in England, or I'd be all over it like white on rice. So, you've got to handle the finding me part. And I will handle the kidnapping you and taking you away from that fiance of yours so that we can have a few proper adventures before you become all stuffy and married.
Waiting impatiently somewhere nearby,
Right next to her name, as was her old custom, Wendy had drawn a lily for friend. It had become larger and more detailed as the years had gone on. While she'd taken art in high school, it took on the characteristics of the period that they were studying. Lily thought that she still had the cubist one somewhere, struck between the pages of an old book. She laid the letter down on the old bedspread and smoothed it out with her hands. As she did so, she admired the engagement ring on her left hand. It's weight was begining to be familiar to her, like a good, broken in pair of shoes. And the ring itself was lovely and understated. She loved most that James hadn't asked his parents for money. He'd been saving for this ring as long as he'd liked her, which happened to be a pretty long time.
It was just after that that she heard the front door unlocking. And James's customary, "Lily, I'm home!" Ever since she'd shown him that first I Love Lucy episode, he had to mimic it every time. Like so much about him, it was annoying and endearing at the same time.
"I'm in here!" Lily called, pulling the phone off the hook, wrapping its long black cord around her arm and starting to reach for the phonebook, which was tucked between her nightstand and the wall. After a day of working hard, she wouldn't characterize herself as lazy, but she definitely didn't want to get off the bed to grab it.
James opened the door a crack, smiling when he found her there, holding one of those purple letters. She'd had a purple letter tucked crookedly into her school bag's outer pocket when she'd asked him out that first time in seventh year. He wondered what the crazy American had to say this time.
"A letter? I thought she hadn't been responding. Didn't you write her several notes?" he asked, nudging the door open with his shoulder, so he didn't jar the the flowers in his left hand. It was courtesy of Wendy that he knew that his fiancee's favorite flower was not as her name suggested but was actually the daisy. Lily hadn't turned around yet; she instead swished and flicked her wand and levitated the heavy phonebook toward her.
"I did. And she just sent this one out of the blue. Or the purple as the case may be?"
"What does it say?" he questioned, watching her wiggle with what he assumed was excitement.
"She's here, James. She's in England!" Lily answered, rolling over to look at him, her eyes sparkling with happiness. She looked straight past the bouquet, or so he thought. A moment latter she had launched herself from the bed and wrapped her herself around him, carefully avoiding crushing the flowers. She gave him a peck on the cheek, murmuring her thanks, then she seized the bouquet and scampered across the entry hall into the kitchen. She stood on her tiptoes to reach the vase on top if the refrigerator.
"Well, are you going to go see her?" James queried, leaning up against the doorjamb in the hall.
Lily nodded emphatically, turning on the tap and clipping the bottoms of the stems, "But first I have to find her. She did say with whom she'd be staying, but she didn't know or care to find out where he lived before came. "
"Wendy isn't much of a planner, then? Did she even give the bloke notice?"
"She didn't say," Lily returned, beginning to stick the flowers into the vase in an order that James really couldn't make heads or tails of. It did seem to matter a great deal to her, though, he thought, given the amount of time it was taking. "But it's her uncle, so I imagine she's more than welcome."
"What's his name?" Jame asked, crossing to sit down on one of the barstools at the counter. "Accio phonebook!"
"I think it was Nick Finch, so that'd be Nicolas, right?" Lily picked up the various petals and leaves that had shaken loose as she put her present on display. "There, now. What was the occasion anyway?" She nodded toward the vase that she'd placed in the little nook on the countertop.
"I just felt like getting them," James dodged, flipping through the heavy pages of the book, looking for the 'F's. "There might be something like two hundred Finches in here, maybe more than that even."
"There might only be one named Nicolas." Lily pointed out, smoothing down the material of his business robes. "You only get me flowers when you're apologising in advance."
He opened his mouth, shut it and opened it again, "They want me to go up to Scotland for the summer training this weekend. I know it's short notice, but I wanted you to have something pretty to look at while I'm gone."
"Because I can't gaze on your gorgeousness? You are still so conceited, James," she teased, reaching out to ruffle his hair affectionately. He chuckled self-deprecatingly.
"Do I really only bring flowers home when I'm leaving?" He raked his hands through his hair, managing it back into the slight amount of order he could get out of it. It seemed that years of constantly rumpling it had trained it to never lie flat.
"Afraid so," Lily giggled, "But that's okay. They are very nice." She reached out and traced the out petal of the nearest daisy, enjoying the bright yellow. It reminded her so much of sunshine breaking through the clouds or something equally sappy. She'd never admit it, but sometimes her thoughts tended to sound a bit like bad poetry.
"Eureka! I found him," James exclaimed, slapping his hand down against the crisp page. Lily's brow furrowed at the non sequitor, but she quickly caught up, seizing the book and heading to the phone. She dialed and waited impatiently as it rang...
"Mmmph," Wendy griped; she was lying face down on a queen-sized bed, with the covers all kicked down by her ankles and her legs and arms sprawled out every which way. She wasn't conscious enough to actually consider the source of the noise. She assumed that it was a clock, lifted her right hand and slammed it down where her alarm would've been at home. Unfortunately, she wasn't at home and her hand banged straight into the corner of the table instead. And Lord, did it hurt.
Fully and begrudgingly awake now, Wendy rolled over, sat up and pulled down the completely oversized Ramones shirt she'd been using as a night gown. She shook out her now very sore hand, flexing it a little bit and cradling to her chest when that just made it feel worse.
Finally her brain caught up to the situation - it was a phone. That infernal ringing noise was coming from a phone! The only problem was that she didn't know where the phone was. It could be anywhere in this maze her Uncle Nick deigned to call a house. Maybe she could follow the sound of the ring.
She wondered if it was just her imagination, or if the ring was actually getting longer and more annoyed sounding. She shuffled down the hallway, trying to avoid looking directly at any of the lights in the general vicinity and burning up her retinas. She knew that her uncle had long since gone to work and was probably due home soon, but she really couldn't help sleeping so long. Truth be told, jet-lag was a vengeful harpy.
She scanned the next room for it, and the next, and the next and finally spotted it. There was the phone. It was hanging on the wall with its exceptionally long, black cord hanging in a low loop. Wendy stepped up and lifted the receiver.
She paused a moment, unsure of what to say; then, as if remotely controlled, her manners kicked in, and she inquired politely, "Finch Residence, may I ask who is calling?"
"Oh, of course," answered the young woman on the other line, as if she had heard something unexpected and it had thrown her off guard. Wendy wondered if her uncle had a girlfriend that he hadn't told her about until the person on the other end of the line spoke up again. "It's Lily. Lily Evans."
"Oh. My. God. LILY! I can't believe it! Actually, I should be able to, given I was the one who told you to call, but I didn't think that so soon - well, I guess I might've done the math on the letter arrival incorrectly, but -"
And the Lily did something very un-Lily-like or something that Wendy deemed to be un-Lily like, she cut her friend off, "Would you like to come over?"
"Of course I'd like to come over! What kind of question is that?! Um, I know that I've been writing you for a while at that address, but I'm not really sure where it is..." Wendy trailed off uncertainly. Perhaps she should've looked at a few maps of London, but she really hadn't had much time to think about it.
"Don't worry! I can give you directions," Lily assured, her tone very confident, and for that reason, Wendy saw no reason to contest it.
Exactly fourteen minutes later, fully dressed and prepared for anything, Wendy walked out the front door of her uncle's home and locked it behind her, using the spare key which she happened to know resided on the ledge of the window right above the door itself. Then she took a short walk, got on a train to Waterloo Station, and went into the Underground from there.
She managed suprisingly well, she thought, for being in a foreign country with funny money and accents that were rather difficult to understand. But then, she supposed that the ticket sellers were used to helpless American tourists - not that she was one. Her family was, after all, only one generation removed from this country.
Wendy hoped that her meeting with Lily would go well. It would be nice to know just one more person in England. Uncle Nick was nice and he even meant well, but he didn't know what to do with Wendy. She was incredibly talkative whereas he had lived the past fifteen years of his life in relative solitude. It was so bad that he couldn't hold his attention to a conversation for more than twelve minutes. She had all but given up on that front too, knowing that she could talk circles around him in the time it took him to formulate one sentence that he felt was worth mentioning aloud.
On the Underground train, Wendy fiddled with the snaps of her leather jacket, opening and closing the ones around her wrist. She was nervous and she knew it. But there wasn't much she could do about that. She must've been writing to Lily for nearly seven years now. What if she didn't like her penpal or worse, what if Lily disapproved of her? What if, after all these years, they found out they weren't nearly as close as they thought?
She shook her head as if to clear it of all the thoughts swirling around in it, faster and faster. She sometimes wished that she could just pull a few of them out for a while and deal with all the other ones first. She reached into her pocket, withdrew a small notebook and a pen and began to scribble things down. Wendy knew that she might've looked crazy but she didn't care. She'd long since learned that if she didn't get the thoughts out somehow, she'd never have any peace. The very nice lady who made the automated announcements when they reached the various stops mentioned the one that Lily had told her was nearest her flat, she snapped her notebook shut, and shoved it back in her left pocket.
The man across from her, who looked like a pretty traditional fellow, glared at her as she stood up and shook her choppy bangs from her eyes. She'd been trying for a Joan Jett look, but she didn't really have the skills to pull it off - they turned out a little bit lopsided, but she wasn't really concerned about it. Hair always grows back. She rather thought that the man was more concerned that her hair was currently streaked with a vibrant shade of purple. He flinched back as she crossed the train's interior to get to the door before they had stopped moving completely. She just smiled at him and stared straight ahead, right out the window, watching their movement slow to a crawl.
She felt his nervous eyes searing into her as she stepped out onto the platform, "Mind(ing) the Gap," as instructed by the recording of a man's voice that blared over the loudspeaker. She flicked her bangs out of her eyes again and started off, following the masses who seemed to know where the exit was. She liked to think that she had some skill at acting like a local anywhere she was, but that was probably a result of her family's tendency to uproot itself every few years. And here she was, doing that again, only on her own this time.
Wendy followed Lily's directions to a tee, knowing that if she didn't she could end up in a whole mess of trouble that she wasn't prepared for. She wasn't positive, but she was pretty sure that she only had enough money in her pocket for a return trip to her uncle's house and nothing beyond that. She hoped against hope Lily didn't want to go anywhere or do anything today - she didn't want to let her new friend know that she was broke yet.
She stepped up to the stoop that Lily had described, unsure whether it would have a buzzer like the apartments in New York City or if London was too different for something like that. As if turned out, she didn't really need to be concerned for all that long. Lily, whom she recognized from the picture of her school's graduation, threw open the glass door and enveloped her in a huge, and very tight hug.
"Wendy! I can't believe you're actually here! It's so very to finally meet you!" her pen-pal babbled happily, her arms not loosening up in the slightest. She was beginning to find it difficult to breathe.
"Back at you," she wheezed, giving Lily a 'please, don't crush my lungs any longer' pat on the back. Evidently, it worked, because as suddenly as the hug started, if ended and Wendy glupped down a few deep breaths.
"Where are my manners? This is James Potter," Lily said, gesturing to a young man that Wendy hadn't noticed before that instant. He was of about average height, with messy, almost-spiked hair. She approved the look of him immediately - she just hoped for Lily's sake that he was a nice guy.
Lily was continuing her introduction, though, "James, this is Wendy Finch."
"Nice hair," James complimented, looking a little surprised. She would've put money on the idea that Lily had never mentioned it to him.
"I could say the same to you, but Lily says she's trying to get you to brush your hair after flying, so I really -" she stopped, ducking her head down sheepishly. "I wasn't supposed to tell him that, was I?"
James had caught Lily's eye, his expression clearly saying, "What the hell?"
"You know, when you go flying in that old top wing of yours?" Lily supplied, pointedly looking at the Muggle girl.
"Oh, yeah," James affirmed, not really having the foggiest idea what a top wing was and trying his best not to look surprised as it was mentioned.
"Would you like to come in, Wendy?"
"Sure," she answered, cracking a smile, "I'd love to."
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