Chapter 2 : Taking Risks
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I think the crazy genes that are so prevalent in my family are finally catching up with me. Why? Because I’m currently sat in a cafe in muggle London, waiting to meet Cyrus Campbell for lunch. And I’m nervous about it.
I’m an absolute idiot.
But still, I have no idea why I’m nervous. I’ve been on dates before. My family might not believe me (in fact, a lot of people might not believe me), but I have been on dates. Not that this is a date. It’s not. I’m just meeting him for lunch. Felicity would call this a lunch date. But it’s not. Really.
I said no, of course, when he asked me to dinner two days ago. I am a professional Ministry worker, and professional Ministry workers don’t go on dates with dragon handlers that they’re interviewing about dragon training centres. For some reason, he looked even more disappointed when I said this, but he left the office and put on his happy face, signing autographs and even having a photo taken with Mona and Cynthia (I’m losing all hope that those women are ever going to behave professionally. Especially Cynthia. I have no idea how she got five Os in her NEWTs).
When I got home that night, there was an owl waiting for me, with a note from him, apologising if I felt he’d been inappropriate. I wrote back to him, telling him not to worry about it. After all, we weren’t really working together, so it wasn’t inappropriate. And I felt bad about rejecting him twice in one day. I got an owl back the next morning, saying if that was the case, would I like to meet him for lunch today?
I said yes, obviously.
For reasons I am still unsure of.
He suggested that we meet in a muggle cafe, because there’s much less chance of him being recognised in the muggle world. I agreed, because my family seem to pop up everywhere, and have developed the annoying habit of turning up whenever you don’t want to see them. I’d much rather that didn’t happen while I was having lunch with Cyrus Campbell. They would probably jump to the (wrong) conclusion that I was on a date with him. This is just lunch, not a date.
I wish I hadn’t arrived so early, though. The waiting is making me more nervous. I’m starting to understand why people prefer arriving late now. I think I’ll try that next time. If there is a next time, of course.
Finally, after what seems like ages of waiting, even though it’s only been ten minutes, Campbell arrives. He’s five minutes early, so he probably didn’t mean to keep me waiting. I was just earlier than him. It’s a good job that this isn’t a date, or I would look desperate.
He spots me straight away and walks over to the table, ignoring the stares of the (many) girls who cannot keep their eyes off him. He’s wearing a dragon skin jacket, a shirt and jeans and looks amazing. Just because I didn’t let his looks influence my decision about the training centre, doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate them now. And if I’m honest, there’s a lot to appreciate.
I can’t decide whether to stand up and greet him, or to stay sitting down, so I end up doing something in between, knocking the table and looking like an absolute idiot. Campbell laughs and kisses me on the cheek before sitting down opposite me. My cheeks are burning now, and I’m not sure if it’s because he kissed me or because I just embarrassed myself in front of the whole cafe. Thank goodness it’s a muggle cafe.
“Hey,” he says. It’s then that I realise I’m still hovering halfway between sitting and standing so I sit down quickly again before I embarrass myself even more.
“Hi,” I reply nervously. Why am I still nervous? As a matter of fact, why did I even agree to do this?
There’s an awkward pause, so I look down to the menu. I hate awkward pauses. Being somewhat socially awkward, I can never think of anything to say. If there was an OWL in small talk, I probably wouldn’t even get a T.
“So, how are you?” Campbell asks me.
“What, as opposed to yesterday morning, when you last heard from me?” is my typically waspish response, before I remember that I don’t know Campbell very well. My friends wouldn’t bat an eyelid if I answered like this, but it’s not usual to be so sarcastic on a date. Not that this is a date. Moving on.
I bite my lip as I look up to check his reaction, but luckily he’s grinning at me. It’s not the same, blinding smile as he used in the interview, but it’s still quite dazzling.
“Well, you never know, something earth-shattering could have happened in the last twenty-four hours. You might have landed yourself in St. Mungo’s, or got engaged, or…”
“You’re not very observant, are you? If I’d got engaged, I’d have a rock on my finger, and it’s highly unlikely that I’d be sitting here with you – no offence. And if I’d done something to end up in St. Mungo’s, I’d probably still be in hospital – unless I’d done something stupid like get a sprout stuck up my nose, because that only takes a few minutes.”
“That’s true – wait, how do you know how long it takes to get a sprout out of your nose?”
“My cousin did it one Christmas. Stupid thing to do, really. They missed pudding, and that’s the best part of Nana Weasley’s Christmas dinners.”
It had been Fred, naturally. Him and James had been having a competition, cheered on by Roxy and Lucy (of course) over who could eat the most sprouts. Apparently winning would prove that they were the manliest. It kind of failed when James made Fred laugh so much that he inhaled a sprout through his nose instead of his mouth. Unfortunately, this had only happened last year. Says a lot about my cousins’ maturity levels, doesn’t it?
“Your cousin got a sprout stuck in their nose at Christmas?” Campbell asks laughing. I nod and laugh with him, but then I realise that I’m already on the subject of my family, which is not really what I want to spend this time talking about.
“Are you ready to order?” a voice says. I look up, and a pretty waitress is stood next to our table, her eyes on Campbell. Blonde, tanned, and one of those giggly types that annoy me just by looking at me. Which, by the way, is perfectly rational.
“We’ll have some drinks, I think. I’ll have lemonade, please. Molly?”
“Two lemonades, please.” They don’t sell butterbeer here, more’s the pity.
“I’ll just get those for you. Let me know when you’re ready to order some food, and I’ll be right back.” She says all this looking straight at Campbell, and completely ignoring me. I mean, I know he’s gorgeous, but does she have to stare quite so much? Luckily, he seems quite oblivious to the attention and she sashays away, swinging her hips so much I’m surprised she doesn’t fall over.
Merlin, listen to me. I sound like a jealous fan girl.
Wait a second. Jealous?
This is not good. If I feel jealous, that must mean that I like Campbell (even I realise that). And liking Campbell will not end well. I am well aware of his track record with women. Hayley has kept me up to date with it for nearly fifteen years.
“Any idea what you’d like to eat?” Campbell asks, interrupting my (very scary) thought process.
“No, not yet,” I reply. Thankfully my voice is at a normal pitch, with hopefully no indication of my sudden revelation. How pathetic would I sound if I admitted that the whole time I’ve been pretending to stare at the menu, I’ve actually been realising that I like him? Felicity is right; I really need to get out more.
“Well, they make great omelettes here. The chips are good, too.”
“Do you come here often, then?” I ask, hoping I sound like I usually do. As opposed to the crazy fan girl that liking Campbell could very easily turn me into.
He raises an eyebrow, smiling at me. “Not often, but a few times with my friends. Especially when I meet they guys from the band. It’s nice not to get recognised everywhere.”
“I kind of know what you mean,” I agree. No need to say any more. That would involve mentioning the family, and I’m sure he knows what I’m talking about without me saying anything else.
“Probably,” he nods. These pauses are becoming more awkward again. Or maybe that’s just me.
The waitress comes to our table with the drinks. She plonks my glass down next to me and then places Campbell’s down carefully, smiling at him and batting her eyelashes. Merlin, do people actually do that? Maybe it’s more common in the muggle world. Or this girl is just a stupid flirt.
I like the second option.
“Are you ready to order some food?” she asks.
“Yeah, I think so. What do you want, Molly?” Campbell replies, looking at me instead of her. The girl looks annoyed. Ha.
“I’ll have a mushroom omelette, please.” Merlin, what is happening to me? I sound like one of those girls who does whatever the guy suggests, which is not like me. But I do like omelettes.
“I’ll have a cheese omelette, please. And a bowl of chips, to share.” He glances at the waitress but looks away as soon as he’s finished ordering, and even the bimbo realises she’s been dismissed. This makes me feel very happy.
“So,” I say, only to realise he is saying the same thing. I stop, and he does too. This is getting more and more awkward. I need to revert back to my normal Molly state. At least then I had something to say. The problem is that I don’t like many people, so realising I like Campbell is kind of weird.
“You first,” I say. It means I don’t have to think of any conversation starters.
“I was just wondering why you agreed to come out from lunch with me today,” he tilts his head to the side slightly.
Not a helpful question.
“I’m still figuring that one out,” I tell him.
“Come on, you must have had a reason for saying yes,” he persists.
“Fine. I felt sorry for you,” I say. Merlin, Molly. Way to get a guy to like you.
He grins. Does this guy react normally to anything I say? “You felt sorry for me? Why?”
“Well, I said no to you twice in one day. You kind of seemed sad about the whole training centre thing, and afterwards I felt mean about saying no to dinner as well.”
“So you’re here today because you felt sorry for me?”
“Pretty much,” I agree. More like the normal Molly, even if it is kind of mean. Well, he’s not running to the waitress yet.
“Well, I’ve never been out with a girl who was there because she felt sorry for me before,” Campbell grins. He does a lot of that. Unfortunately, it’s quite distracting.
“Well, what is a valid reason for going out with someone, then?” I challenge. Merlin, I just said ‘going out’. He’ll be screaming for the bimbo waitress any second now. But he kind of said the same thing just before. “I mean, why did you ask me to go for dinner?”
“Because you’re different. I reckon the majority of the women in your office would have let me set up a training centre straight away, and just interviewed me for my autograph. You didn’t do that. You didn’t even seem fazed by me, like most people are.”
I’d never thought of that. It can’t have been every day that he met people who didn’t treat him like a rock star.
“Can I tell you something?” I say.
“Go for it.”
“Until I told Mona your name, I had no idea who you were. It’s only when she told me that you were in The Unspeakables that I realised.”
“Really? So you didn’t listen to our music then?” He’s laughing like a maniac. I’m glad he finds my lack of knowledge about popular culture so hilarious.
“If I’m honest, no. Some girls at school were crazy about you, but I wasn’t really into all of that celebrity stuff.”
“So that’s why you didn’t let me set up the training centre?”
“No. I didn’t let you set up the training centre because it’s a stupid idea,” I shoot back. I feel surprisingly calmer talking like this than during the awkward silences.
The bimbo brings our food, but we hardly notice because we’ve started now and we half-argue through the rest of the meal, which passes surprisingly quickly.
When we finish eating, Campbell insists on paying the bill, and then asks to take me somewhere.
“Where?” I ask suspiciously. Everything has been going so well that I don’t want him to ruin it now.
“It’s a surprise,” he says. I do not do surprises.
I tell him so.
“Come on, Molly. Be spontaneous.” I don’t do spontaneous, either.
I tell him this as well.
“Are you kidding me? You don’t ever do anything unplanned?” he looks incredulous. Great, now he thinks I’m weird.
“Not really,” I admit. “My sister says I’m boring, but I just like things to be planned out.”
“You’re not boring, Molly, you just need to learn to live a little. Come on, trust me.” He holds his hand out for me to take and looks so sweet that I can’t say no again. These side-effects to liking someone are not good for my health.
But he asked me to trust him, so for the first time in my life, I take the risk. I put my hand in his and let him disapparate with me into the darkness.
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