Chapter 4 : Liar, Liar, Table on Fire
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To say the evening at the Connor’s had gone well would have been like saying You-Know-Who had just been throwing a temper tantrum when he tried to take over the world *. To say that it had gone alright would be extremely generous. “Disaster” was a much more accurate description of what had happened at dinner in Frankie’s mind.
“Overreacting?” Frankie resisted the urge to storm around like a stropping child. “Which part of the evening do you think I’m overreacting about? The part where I poured a whole pitcher of pumpkin juice on your mum? Or is it when your sister goaded us into kissing each other? Or maybe, you think I’m blowing the moment I accidentally lit the table on FIRE completely out of proportion!”
Lettie and Clemence, clearly having heard her arrival and the following explosion, both peeked around the doorway curiously.
“You lit the table on fire?” Lettie exclaimed at the same time Clemence said, “You’re lucky Mum is out. That was loud enough to wake the whole of Diagon Alley.”
Frankie threw up her hands and made a sound of frustration.
David snickered slightly at her hysteria but tried to turn it to a cough when he saw the look on Frankie’s face. “I don’t know why you’re acting like that about a silly kiss. Don’t be such a girl. Take it like a man. Rub some dirt in it or something.” He laughed at his own joke and she could see the amusement still dancing in his almond eyes. “It’s not like it meant anything.”
Picking up a pillow from the sofa, she began hitting David with it. “You enormous jackass, that was my first — “ Frankie froze and swallowed her next word as the intense mortification set in.
She was twenty-three and had only just now had her first kiss. It was completely pathetic, she knew that, but when would she have even had the chance? She’d never had much to do with boys at school, romantically at least, and ever since she had finished Hogwarts, Frankie had been too busy trying to help her mum support the family to have a life of her own. Her only relationship had been with her puppy-love boyfriend, but that hardly counted since they were both under the age of nine at the time. What had his name been? Scott. Scott… Something. Frankie mentally shook her head to clear it. Now was not the right moment for a trip down memory lane.
David, to his credit, chose not to mock her, only saying, “Don’t worry. It was my first kiss too. With another man anyway.”
He grinned as if that was supposed to help while Clemence made a muffled sound of amusement and Frankie glared back at him, thinking that now that she had met his family, it was obvious that he came by his attitude honestly.
David’s mother had been just as kind as she had appeared in the supermarket, though the hollow laugh David had let out when she had said his mother was nice had made Frankie slightly uneasy. His father had been a bit of a surprise, when compared to his mum. He was a Muggle, as easygoing as any businessman could be, and Frankie had liked him instantly. Thankfully, it seemed that he had liked her too and so she hadn’t felt quite so stranded at sea.
His older sister, Jocelyn, was the spitting image of her mum, minus twenty-some years, and the closer Frankie looked at her, the more apparent it became that even though she was unbelievably pretty, she was also sharper than a bouquet of knarl quills. Obviously, she had caught on that something was off and it was a testament to how ridiculous Frankie’s situation was that she had spent the evening wondering exactly which secret Jocelyn had caught a whiff of: that her brother David wasn’t actually gay, that he had hired a fake boyfriend, or that that fake boyfriend was actually a woman.
“So what happened? Did they figure the whole thing out, or what?” Lettie asked, eyes wide with curiosity.
She and David looked at each other, both remember the evening’s events. “It was fine.”
“Completely fine,” David echoed and then smirked again. “Except for the pyrotechnics.”
At that moment, Frankie decided that she really hated him quite a lot.
“Oh, this came for you while you were out.” Clemence held out a letter towards her. “It’s from the cafe.”
Frankie took it, noticing that at first glance it might have looked like a Howler, but if it had been it would have already exploded right now. No, the envelope she tore open was most definitely a lurid pink. A pink slip. She scanned the note quickly:
… absence during your assigned shift this evening has indicated that you no longer wish to work at Prince’s Coffee. I am writing to inform you that I am terminating your employment effective immedia —
“Anything wrong?” David asked, sounding concerned as he watched her read.
Frankie hastily folded the sheet of parchment and shoved it into her pocket. “Nothing I didn’t already expect.”
His eyes widened as he seemed to remember what she had said before they left. “They fired you? For missing one lousy shift?”
“Look, I knew what I was in for when I decided to go with you. So can you just… go?”
“I’m sure you can talk to him, Frankie,” Clemence said, obviously having one of her rare compassionate moments. “You know how Bert is …”
“No, I don’t think that will work this time.” She looked at David, who was still standing in the middle of the living room, eyes full of apology. “I said it was fine. It’s not your problem.”
“I still owe you the other half of out agreement. Let me at least — “ He reached into his pocket for his money pouch.
“Don’t worry about it. You can deposit it in our family vault. I trust you. Plus, I know where your mum lives, remember?” Smiling to show that she really wasn’t angry, Frankie gestured to the fireplace, using her wand to conjure a small fire in the grate. “Please go.”
For a moment David looked like he might refuse again, but he reached into the small pot on the mantle piece for a pinch of powder and threw it into the fire.
“It was nice to meet you both,” he said to Clemence and Lettie, and the blindingly charming smile he flashed made Frankie almost forget how irritated with him she had been.
“So,” Lettie said after David had stepped into the green flames and vanished. “You kissed him?”
She had a sudden flash of his hand cupping her cheek, the soft press of their mouths together, and shook her head violently. “It was nothing.”
“Ooooh, you did?” Lettie bounced in her seat eagerly. “What was it like? Was it good? I would think he would be a good kisser, since he’s so fit — ”
Frankie didn’t answer, busying herself with the newspaper as Lettie continued to chatter away in the background, and she heard Clemence say incredulously, “Oh god, you liked it, didn’t you? Because that’s going to turn out well.”
Then Lettie began giggling like the schoolgirl she was and Frankie had to shut her up with a couch cushion.
“So are you going to tell mum about the cafe?” Clemence asked and Frankie shook her head.
“No. I’ve got enough saved up to tie us over until I find another job. And to buy you guys stuff for school. It’s coming up soon! Aren’t you excited?”
Clemence, who had been appointed as the new Head Girl, showed a rare smile. She had always been good at school, something that she must have gotten from Frankie’s stepfather, because she certainly didn’t have any of it herself.
Clemence began quizzing her about seventh year curriculum and soon Frankie was thankfully distracted from the fact that she had become an arsonist and unemployed all in one go as she explained the unit on human applications in NEWT-level Transfiguration and that one time where Virginie LaClaire had accidentally been turned into a French poodle.
Lettie held up her hands as if to halt the conversation. “Okay, wait a second. How are we not still talking about the fact that he kissed you?”
“Well, it was more that he had to. Because his mother told him to.”
“His mum?” Clemence snorted at her. “You really get yourself into these things, you know?”
“I told you! It was nothing.”
“I don’t care how much nothing it was. I have to hear this story. How could I not hear this story. Clemence, you know you want to hear this too, back me up.” Clemence hummed disinterestedly, which coming from her, was like practically begging, and Lettie looked at her with pleading eyes. “Frankie, please?”
“…You’re going to keep nagging me until I tell you, aren’t you?”
“Probably. Feel like chancing it?”
“Not really.” Frankie sighed and felt Lettie cosy into the couch next to her in anticipation.
The introductions hadn’t gone so badly. Jocelyn had eyed her almost suspiciously as David guided her through the front door, the hand he pressed softly into the small of her back helping ease the tension in her shoulders just slightly, but the smile she gave Frankie had been friendly enough.
If she had really thought about it, Frankie would have realized that David was so good looking that there was a very small possibility that his sister wouldn’t be as well. Sure enough, Jocelyn was incredibly pretty, in an almost intimidating way, and Frankie could see her resemblance to David in the curve of her mouth and jaw.
Straightening his shoulders, David cleared his throat and started, “Jose, this is Frankie, my er — “
His resolve seemed to sputter out and his sister’s eyes had become suspicious again as he rubbed the back of his neck.
“ — my boyfriend.”
Frankie had rolled her eyes, trying to school her face into an endearingly amused expression, and reached out to shake Jocelyn’s hand. “He’s still not used to it since the whole thing is pretty new. It’s nice to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you as well. I’d say I’ve heard a lot about you, but to be honest, David’s never mentioned you to me before, so I would be telling tales.” Jocelyn had smiled almost apologetically, but there was something calculating in her eyes that had put Frankie on edge.
Frankie remembered her laugh had coming out a little unevenly as she said, “Well, we wouldn’t want to be telling each other lies. would we?. We’ve only just met!” and how she had wished that she could have hidden behind David’s enormous frame to escape Jocelyn’s eyes.
Of course, David had been about as useful as a dead fish throughout the whole exchange and as they headed down the hallway behind Jocelyn, Frankie had taken the opportunity to jab her elbow into his ribs. “If we’re going to pull this off, you need to get it together. Your family isn’t going to think this is real if you keep acting like I’m infected with the viral plague.”
“Sorry,” he muttered back, not sounding sorry at all. “It’s just… weird for me is all.”
She had snorted at him humorlessly. “Right. It’s weird for you. Of course”
David always gave off the feeling of money. It wasn’t that he looked ostentatious or gaudy, he simply looked… cared for, and he carried himself in a way that showed he that that was something he was used to. It was understandable then, that Frankie had sort of assumed that he came from a rich family.
His parents house, while not overly extravagant, was definitely nice. Comfortable, the plush chairs and carpet and pretty, colorful art on the walls.
David’s mum was chattering away at Jocelyn from the kitchen in some foreign language and Frankie’s confusion must have shown on her face, because David said quietly, “Don’t worry. Mum only uses Korean when she’s scolding us. Or when she’s gossiping with my aunt.”
“And do you…?”
“She made sure Jocelyn and I learned when we were younger, but I usually only ever use it here at home. Like I said, don’t worry about it. She’s not going to expect you to know it or anything.”
She breathed a sigh of relief. The last thing she wanted was to already have done something that his parents wouldn’t like. For some reason, even though the whole thing was fake — or maybe because of it — Frankie desperately wanted David’s family to like her.
They were kinder, more lively and open than she would have thought, talking and laughing as they sat around the dinner table.
Jocelyn watched Frankie reach for her drink curiously. “This might be rude, but you have kind of small hands for a man.”
Frankie snatched her hand away from her glass self-consciously and stuttered, “That — that is because uh… dwarfism runs in my family!”
David choked on his drink, coughing like he had tried to inhaled the whole glass of pumpkin juice, and Jocelyn’s eyes had become very wide.“You’re related to dwarves?”
“No!” Frankie had waved her hands in front of her before remembering the topic of conversation. Instead, she had dropped them back into her lap quickly and cleared her throat. “No, I mean being small. And erm… I never ate my vegetables growing up. And I drank lots of coffee. Lots and lots. Couldn’t get enough of the stuff! It must have stunted my growth…”
Realizing that she sounded a bit too enthusiastic, Frankie avoided the eyes of everyone around the table and continued awkwardly, “Yeah. So that’s why my hands are small. It’s nothing weird.”
One of these days Frankie hoped she might gain control of her babbling reflex. It always had the effect of making her want to hide underneath the table.
“Well, whatever it is, David doesn’t seem to mind. He’s so tall, you might be a perfect match for each other.”
Smirking, Jocelyn said something to David in Korean that went by too fast for Frankie to even pretend to comprehend, and he had flushed. “Jose, I couldn’t possibly in front of Umma — “
“Oh come now, David. Don’t be such a prude,” Mrs. Connors said a little fastidiously, as though she was offended that David thought she might not approve of… whatever it was that Jocelyn had said to him. “We might as well all get used to it. And you’re father doesn’t mind, do you Andrew?”
Frankie had looked between them all, utterly confused. Up until that point, she hadn’t even realized that David could speak Korean and now she was obviously missing something important because if it. Whatever it was, he had clearly been embarrassed by whatever his sister had said, which didn’t bode well.
“Hardly. Nothing I haven’t seen before anyway. I was gay once. For a while.” Everyone except David’s mum stared at him and Mr. Connors had shrugged. “What? I went to uni just like anyone else.”
David looked thoroughly disturbed, and Frankie had begun to get an inkling of where this was headed. It didn’t seem to be anywhere good, that was for sure. Jocelyn and Mrs. Connors had been looking at her with unfathomable expressions that made her feel uneasy.
“Umma~a” David had whined quietly, like a petulant child, but she quieted him with a glare.
“Well go on, David,” Jocelyn had goaded, still smirking at them both and before Frankie could try to understand what she was talking about, David touched her cheek stiffly to turn her face to the side, and very reluctantly touched his lips to hers.
Her brain had frozen. He was kissing her. David was giving her her first kiss.
In retrospect, it hadn’t been so much a kiss as it was a press of mouths, at least in definition. As far as Frankie had been able to tell, David’s lips were shut as tighter than a bank vault and they were motionless, at least at first. It certainly wasn’t comfortable, with David leaning awkwardly over the arms of both their chairs, and he had caught her off-guard, mouth slightly open to draw in a breath.
After a motionless moment of shock, Frankie had tried quickly to close her lips against David’s, not wanting to give him the wrong impression. A second too late, Frankie realized that that very motion had done exactly that and made it seem like she was kissing him back, but before she had a chance to be completely mortified, everything had seemed to change.
She didn’t know if it had been because David’s hand clasped rather than touched her face, or the way the tightness of his mouth had begun to smooth into something else, but Frankie suddenly felt a tingly, fizzy sort of feeling at the base of her spine, as if she had been drinking soda, and her hands had tightened on her wand, needing something, anything to anchor herself as she felt David’s lips actually push softly against her own.
Frankie felt herself lean towards him, wanting to investigate the strange smoothing thing his lips had done again, and David’s fingers had touched the hair that curled at her temple, flattening it as he changed the angle of his lips against her mouth to be able to press a little more. He smelled good, she realized, in a sort of freshly-minted, soapy way that made her want to bury her face in his shoulder and just breathe in the scent deeply.
Dimly, the voice in the back of her mind had told her that this was going on far longer than it needed to and she pulled away. Frankie realized that at some point, her eyes had slipped closed, and her lips felt oddly cold. Lonely.
To put it simply, the whole kissing thing had not been what she had expected at all.
She had also not been prepared for the way David’s mouth tried to follow hers as it moved away or the small breath he released, almost like a sigh. And when the air brushed her lips and the skin of her face, the small hairs of her eyelashes, that fizzing feeling had become a white-hot spark, racing up her spine like an electric current. She had had to suppress a shudder.
“David,” Frankie heard someone say from the other side of the table. David. She had just kissed David. She had just kissed David as a man. David thought she was another man and he had kissed her. It had sounded like a bad idea no matter which way she thought about it.
“David!” David had snatched his hand off her face at the urgent tone and Frankie’s eyes had snapped open as Jocelyn yelled, “The table cloth is on fire!”
There were a few seconds of disbelief as her sentence sunk in.
Fire. The table was on fire!
The flames had begun to pillar on top of the material in front of her and Frankie realized that the electricity she had felt soaring around her body had gone straight through her wand, making it to shoot sparks.
And of course, the spark that had landed on the table cloth and caused it to burst into flame. Because that was how Frankie’s life was.
Frankie had jumped up out of her chair, wand clattering uselessly to the floor, and watched in horror as the fire began to spread across the table toward Mrs. Connors. She barely registered David leaping to his feet next to her with his wand in hand, ready to put out the fire. Instead, she grabbed the first thing she could reach and had thrown it at the flames.
Luckily, it had been a pitcher of pumpkin juice and not a potted plant or something equally as useless, and Frankie had breathed a sigh of relief has the fire died abruptly, the singed fabric and scorched wood of the table still smoking. Unluckily though, the juice had not only extinguished the fire, but had also flown over the top of it and hit Mrs. Connors in the face, completely soaking her.
David’s mum had sputtered wetly, blinking juice out of her eyes and the rest of the table had just stared in shock. Frankie had opened her mouth to apologize but had to snap it back closed again before the peel of hysterical laughter that had been brewing deep in her chest escaped.
A moment later, she heard a deep chuckle from the other end of the table and looked over to see Mr. Connors practically turning red with suppressed laughter.
“Haeji, you look — “ he got out, nearly doubling over into his dinner plate. “The look on your face — !”
And suddenly, they were all laughing, even Mrs. Connors as she caught sight of herself in a mirror on the opposite wall, and thank god that had happened because Frankie had almost been able to forget that just moments before David had been kissing her. And that maybe, a teeny, tiny part of her had liked it.
He certainly seemed to have forgotten it at least. Eyes still bright with laughter, David reached over and ruffled her hair as Mrs. Connors syphoned the juice off of herself with her wand, asking if anyone was in the mood for dessert.
“You okay?” he had asked and she tore her eyes away from the bright white of his smile, nodding.
She had almost sighed in relief that she hadn’t managed to ruin everything by lighting the table on fire, but somehow, as her eyes slid back to the smooth shape of David’s mouth, she wondered if she hadn’t gotten herself into something much more serious instead.
“Well, it could have been worse,” Lettie said after she had dragged the story out of Frankie.
“Worse? How on earth could it have been worse?”
She made a face as she hopped off the sofa, clearly bored now that Frankie’s story was finished. “He could be really ugly.”
“She always did have her priorities in order. It doesn’t matter if you like him if he’s at least fit.” Clemence laughed, probably at the look on Frankie’s face as Lettie bounded off to her room, and said, “It didn’t seem so bad. Honestly. And with the cafe thing, can you really afford to be weird about it?”
That was true. Frankie had almost forgotten that she didn’t have an actual job anymore. She pulled the pink slip out of her pocket again and read it over one more time. First kiss or not, David was the only source of employment she had now and in her position, she could hardly go around burning bridges.
Frankie just wished she had thought of that before she set the table on fire.
A/N: Yeah, so it's been ages, I know. I would appologize, but honestly, I'm just so bad at updating that there is really no point. Besides, we all knew Frankie was going to do something stupid, like light the table on fire. Anyway, it's good to be back and I have chapter 5 about 60% done already, so hopefully the wait won't be quite as long this time. I hope you all enjoyed it!
Thanksies go to all ma peeps, you know who you are! I love you (almost) as much as I love bacon!
Disclaimer: The wonderful world of Harry Potter belongs to J. K. Rowling and 'The First Shop of Coffee Prince' belongs entirely MBC Korea. I own nothing you recognize.
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