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Chapter 2 : It starts with rain
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So, where was I? Oh, yeah... It Friday I’ve just come home exhausted, like really, really badly tired. Last week was rough. We had lectures until five on Monday and Tuesday, then this big test that I hardly had time to learn for on Wednesday, practical training in the hospital most of yesterday and today and a nightshift to cover yesterday evening, but now it’s the weekend. I have two whole days of... of working my ass off in a damned lunchroom for a damned minimum wage. Good god, will I survive?
Frustrated I kick off my shoes and flop down on the couch. I can’t imagine how I’m going to survive this, if I have any more tests to learn or reports to write I will have no time to work, which means I won’t have money to buy food. I guess I could give up on sleep. Who needs more than six hours a night anyway?
How do other student do this? Oh yeah, they all have rich daddy’s and mommy’s with loads of money.
Okay, maybe that’s not fair. Joel doesn’t exactly have money by the bucketful. He works just as hard and somehow finds time to have a girlfriend. Thank god I don’t have that kind of time consuming obligation.
Although, there is one little light that will make everything better though... Lily. A grin is stretching across my face at the thought of her. I’ve been wanting to see her again, from the moment she closed her door behind me. I’ve purposefully taken the bus that drives though her street instead of the tube, just to get a glance of her. So far I’ve had no luck.
I’m not a stalker, honest!
I am, however, very hungry. As my stomach tries to tell me with a very loud, threatening rumble.
“Yeah yeah,” I mumble, patting my grumbling abdomen.
“Joel!” I call out. No reaction. Seriously, the guy is just never home, is he?
I fish around in my pocket, taking out my phone. There! I’ll find out where he’s hiding soon enough.
I groan as I get up from the couch and start roaming the kitchen for something to eat, I won’t starve myself waiting for his lazy ass. In the fridge I find half a bread, some juice in a carton (that I’m pretty sure I drank from) and half a jug of bad milk. So much for not starving myself. It’s no wonder Joel is never here, Sophia probably has a well filled fridge waiting for him to plunder.
The two cupboards are empty, too, save from a container with baked beans. This leaves me with two options, either go shopping (I hate shopping) or get some take-out food.
The last options seems way more appealing.
Okay there is also option number 3, beans on toast. But I’m a twenty year old male, I can’t live on beans and toast. That’s starvation right there and besides, what would I do for breakfast in the morning?
That means I find myself in this small Italian restaurant ten minutes later. Their pizzas are cheap but so good. Joel and I often get pizza here.
“Wouldn’t you rather be eating lasagne?” A voice behind me asks.
“Well, that depends...” I turn to look at the disembodied voice to give it a face and stop. Shocked. “Hey Lily” is all I can manage after that.
How very articulate. It comes out in a very high, unmanly voice too, smashing. I clear my throat. “That must be the lamest pick-up line I’ve ever heard.” I tried, but there is no saving me.
She giggles and shrugs. “Yeah, but you just squeaked like a girl, so,” Lily answer, grinning broadly.
“If you say so.” Even my defensive strategy is getting lamer. I top it off with a shrug of my shoulders, I must be the king of witty come backs. Can someone get me a crown and sceptre.
I do wonder what she’s doing all the way in this part of London. Her flat miles from here, closer to the centre. I’m sure they have Italian restaurants there. I open my mouth to ask her when Lily’s attention shifts to the man behind the counter, who offers her a white plastic bag, containing her food.
“Thank you. How much?” She says, taking out her wallet. I watch her search for the right amount of pounds, pushing aside some golden coins. They are strange looking, I’ve never seen that kind of money before. She’s a foreign princess, then?
Lily is frowning with concentration while she’s pushing around the contents of her wallet. With so many coins there must be some money to pay with.
“Damn,” she mutters “I’m all out of pounds.”
Her head turns to me, her expression pleading. “Can you lend me some, I’ll give it back tomorrow.” The appologetic smile she gives me is absolutely heart melting. Who can say no to such a smile?
“Yeah, sure,” I take out my wallet just when my own plastic bag appears on the counter. “I’m paying all of this.” I tell the guy with the moustache, who is dealing with the take away orders. He answers with an understanding grunt and gives me the total.
“If you want you can eat it at my place, it’s much closer than yours.” I offer, taking my pizza.
“I’d have loved too but I can’t, I’m meeting with Hugo today.” She apologises. “See you tomorrow.” With a wave and a smile she walks away.
Who is this Hugo guy? A friend, a boyfriend. I do vaguely recall her mentioning a Hugo when we last spoke. I knew I should have listened, this could be important.
Oh, I really hope he’s not her boyfriend.
It might surprise you, but Lily kept her promise and she paid me back the next morning before our shift started. I’m really grateful for the quick payback, but did she really need to give me a long description of her dinner with Hugo?
She’s still talking about him when she’s setting up the coffee machine. Hugo this and Hugo that. I think they get along quite well. It’s sounds like they had a lot of fun together, really nice. Yes bloody fantastic that they’ve known each other since forever. It is clear she cares for him. Wish I could meet him, to see what he’s like. I bet you he’s a git. And stupid, he’s probably very stupid.
To my great astonishment I get my wish, that very afternoon. It’s almost three o’clock when the door of the lunchroom opens to let in a boy with hair as red as Lily’s. He’s got his head down and gives the immediate impression of a shy person. He spots Lily he raises his hand, a shy smile playing around his lips. Lily practically runs toward him and envelops him in a bear hug. He pets her back awkwardly. Smooth buddy.
“Great to see you Hugo!” She exclaims when she’s let go of him. Another shy smile forms on his lips and he answers in a soft voice.
“Yeah, it’s been sooo long!”
Do I detect sarcasm there? I like his style. Dammit, no I don’t, he’s a git who is stupid.
They are a strange combination, anyway. I have come to know that Lily is very outgoing. It’s weird she would want a guy that shy. And they look so much alike, they could have been siblings. With the same red hair and slender build, though he’s a head longer than her. Even their eyes are shaped the same.
“So you made it home safely last night?” Lily asks.
So he did not stay over, that’s feels like a relief, somehow. I don’t know why it’s any of my business, really.
“Yeah, t’was alright. Mum sends her thanks, for letting me use your fi...” He looks at me and goes bright red muttering: “Never mind”.
What is that all about?
“What are you doing here, apart from visiting me?” Lily asks, it’s kind of obviously she’s trying to cover up what Hugo had almost slipped out. This must be is my cue to leave, it’s none of my business anyway. I’m hopeless with gits and their gittyness anyway.
“So, are you and Hugo dating?” Hugo has found a table in the corner of the lunch room. I have to know though, I don’t really know why it’s important, it just is. I’m just curious, for my friend. I’m a good friend, who shows interest in their friend’s life. That sounds like a valid reason.
“Hugo? Ew no!” Lily says, her nose wrinkles. That’s strange and a rather harsh thing to say. She looked like, really happy to see him. If she’d run at me like that I would have thought she was into me for sure. I hope he knows how she feels about him. I’m a bit worried for the shy redhead in the corner now..
“Well, why not? He seems nice.” Yeah, he wishes.
“Yeah well, didn’t I tell you? Hugo’s my cousin.” That explains a lot! “And I would not do that to Rena, either. His girlfriend, of two years.” She explains when I raise my eyebrows. I suddenly like the awkward redhead in the corner of the lunch room much better. He’s not a git after all, just shy.
“She must be a lucky girl then, he seems really nice.” This time I mean it. Lily nods and smiles.
“They are great together.”
Hugo is sitting quietly in his corner with his big mug of hot chocolate in front of him. He just looks so out of place. His posture the picture of discomfort. He’s fiddling with his hands, looking down at the table. I might just offer him the lunch menu, just to give him something else to look at. I start walking in his direction when a girl walks in. Her coat reaches her knees and her big, dark red scarf is wrapped around her neck several times. Her hands are hiding deep in her pockets as she looks around awkwardly. Her face turns to the corner Hugo is sitting in and the anxious expression melts away. With a few quick steps she’s reached the corner.
So this must be Rena. She’s quite pretty, I suppose. Her long brown hair is pulled up in a messy bun. Her round face glows with delight as Hugo helps her out of her coat, stealing a kiss so secretly I almost missed it. Very gentlemanly of you mister Hugo.
I pick up another menu and make my way over.
“Good afternoon and welcome to The Beanstalk. Here are your menu’s. What would you like to drink?” Handing them both a menu I look at Rena. She looks at Hugo’s mug and smiles.
“The same as him, please.” She does not look at me, her eyes are cast at her hands. Her voice, like Hugo’s, is soft and shy.
Mental note to self; ask Lily how on earth those two got together. It seems unlikely either of them would ever make the first move. I’m sure I have a smirk on my face as they pick out their lunch. I think I like Lily’s family, they are quite fascinating.
We’re supposed to leave The Beanstalk now, but it’s raining. Not just normal rain. But marble sized pellets of water, crashing down from the clouds. I really wish I’d brought an umbrella, this rain will soak me before I can even say the word rain. This is what you call rain by the bucketful. We’re lingering on the threshold, under the overhang.
It is with great surprise that I watch Lily put a hand in her handbag and pulls out an umbrella big enough to fit the both of us. I knew lady bags can hold a lot! But who’d have thought an umbrella this big would fits inside it? I sure didn’t. That’s quite impressive!
“How did you...?” I begin to ask. Lily just smiles mischievous.
“It’s a very large bag. Now get under here, you’ll get soaked.” She’s giggling a little when she sees my bewildered expression. Well, she’s the one who pulled an umbrella from her purse. An entire umbrella, a big one.
Okay, I’ll let it go now.
She looks very pretty in the dim light from the streetlamps. And then she smiles that smile, the one that drives away all confusing thoughts of umbrella’s and handbags. What does it matter, anyway?
Lily has started a story about something she saw the other day, animatedly describing the scene. I’m not really paying attention to what she says. I know, it’s horrible. But I’m too distracted by how her lips move, how her nose wrinkles and how she rolls her eyes from time to time. Can you blame me?
“So what were you planning for dinner tonight? Pizza again?” She knows me well. I’m a bit started by the sudden question. It probably would not have been so sudden if I had paid any attention to what she was saying. I shrug. I’m not sure what I’m eating. I haven’t had time to go to the supermarket. Joel is hoe with his mum this weekend. In the meantime I’m doing a great job looking after myself.
“Don’t tell me you haven’t got food at home?” She says sternly. “Oh, my brother is just like you. I have to do his shopping half the time, he says he doesn’t know how it works. Honestly!” She rolls her eyes again. “I guess I have to find him a girlfriend. I never have this problem with Al.” She’s shaking her head. “Well, I’m taking you to the grocery store, would you like me to cook for you, too? ”
I chuckle, managing an amused: “Yes, please!” in my defence, she wouldn’t have taken any other answer anyway.
“Come on then.” She takes my hand and pulls me into a supermarket, making a big deal out of pushing a coin into a trolley.
Lily is pushing the trolley around, stuffing it with all kinds of vegetables and not a single tin cans. I’m trailing behind her, not knowing what to do. I don’t know how to prepare half those things. I can make eggs and boil water, but that’s as far as it goes with me. I confess my lack of cooking skills, Lily rolls her eyes at me… again.
“Tell you what,” She says seriously. “I’ll teach you some very basic, but nice recipes with these.” She points at the vegetables. “Then you can eat something healthy when I’m not around, you can keep them in a freezer box. You have one of those righ?” Again that mischievous smile. I nod.
“Okay.” I grin, I just can’t say no to her.
I still manage to sneak in some easy food, like baked beans, and we stow the contents of the shopping trolley into some plastic bags. My mum would be proud to see the amount of fresh veg in there. It costs a fortune though!
Okay, back to serious business, I am nervous to open the door to my flat. You know, I hadn’t really thought of anyone visiting me and it’s not really clean or tidy. Well... Okay, it’s a mess. There are dirty dishes in the sink, books and papers scattered over the living room floor and there’s some kind of crisis going on in the bin. I‘m not superman, okay.
Lily doesn’t pay any attention to it, which I consider a very impressive trade. She just sets to work on the bit of kitchen counter that is free of dirty tea mugs and empty milk jugs. It’s a tiny space, but she can handle it.
I actually learn some pretty awesome things from her. Things that you don’t have to be a chef for to make them tasty. How come my mother never taught me any of those things?
“Thank your, for everything!” I say when Lily leaves. She smiles, rolling her eyes and giving me a mocking bow.
“No problem. What are friends for?” She smirks, winking at me.
She walks out the door. I watch her walk down the hallway and then suddenly she’s gone. I look around. Where has she gone? Did I miss her going through the door? I must have.
With my eyes closed I lean against my door. On the inside of my eyes I can still see Lily. Her red hair is so bright it must have left an impression on my retina. Her smiling face, her mischievous twinkling eyes... Suddenly the image of me kissing her flickers through my brain. Where did that come from? Go away thought, you make me feel all guilty. But now I have this longing feeling, like a faint kicking from within. What would that be like, to kiss her?
But we’re friends, just friends. I can’t go around and kiss her, I barely know her. Do I fancy her?
Oh, this is just crazy!
A/N: I do not own Lily or Hugo or anything else you recognise.
Yeah, Neil is a muggle, if you were still wondering. Hope you enjoyed!
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