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Chapter 3 : By the light of the stars
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I really think she does it on purpose. Pushing her hair behind her ear like that, only for it to tumble back into her face. And the way she walks... She’s wearing a short, blue skirt and dark green tights today. And, damn, she has nice legs. Not that I’m looking at them. I’m not!
There is something like a bounce in Lily’s step. Like she’s resisting to urge to skip. This makes her high ponytail bob up and down. It makes my insides jump up and down too.
She turn around suddenly and sees me staring. Awkward! I duck my head, picking up my notepad for something to do. She doesn’t need to know that I can’t take my eyes off of her, even though she probably knows. That’s why she does it. She’s evil.
Who the hell falls for girl they’ve known for a week. And surely a girl like her won’t return that feeling. God, I’m so screwed.
Wow, where did those thoughts come from. Since when have I fallen into anything? Did I decide on that? Did I really just think that? I’m not in love, am I. Surely I only fancy her, because she’s pretty.
But Lily just really fascinates me. It’s the little things, weird things she says, the mystified looks she can give random objects.
But for all I know she could have a boyfriend. I have not really asked her about that. What would she need me for, anyway. I can’t even cook. We are friends, though. She said so yesterday. I should ask her number, that’s something friends do, right?
I’ll ask her number when work is done. That will make a more professional impression. Since when am I worrying about that? There must be something terribly wrong with me.
I can hardly concentrate on my job for the rest of the day, a lot of orders get muddled up. Nothing too big, I promise, just little mistakes. I’m turning more into a stumbling idiot every minute.
The end of our shift drifts gradually closer. I’m not sure I can just ask her for her number anymore. I’ve been working up the question for hours and every single doom scenario has had the time to wiggle itself into my mind.
But really it’s just her number, just because we are friends and that’s what friends do, right? I’ve tried to find her online, but if she has any accounts on any social media she’s hidden it pretty damn well.
We are sitting at one of the freshly cleaned tables. Jack made us both a steaming mug of coffee, which Lily felt the need to cover with cream. I’m not complaining, I love cream.
I should really ask her for her number. It’s not a weird thing, I’d be able to call her some time, ask her out maybe.
- You’ll have to ask, then, come on open your mouth!- says this annoying voice in the back of my head. Why can’t reason be a nice voice?
“Lily?” She looks up, over her mug of coffee. There is a little cream on the tip of her nose. I feel a chuckle bubble over my lips while I wipe it away.
“Thanks!” She smiles. Laughing a little she takes another sip. Purposefully dipping her nose in the cream this time. I can’t help but laugh at her, looking all ridiculous. She’s acting all silly, a goofy smile playing on her face.
“Do I have cream on me?” She asks innocently. She sticks out her tongue to lick the creams off. She can’t reach it. I wipe it off with a napkin, smiling.
“Lily?” I try again. She looks up from her silly display, smiling too.
“Neil?” she says, a curious look on her face.
“I was wondering.... if maybe.... you know, I could have your number?” I duck my head a little. She looks back confused.
“What number?” She asks, her brow is furrowed and her head cocked to the side.
“The number of your mobile phone,” I reply, picking mine out of my pocket to demonstrate. “So I can call you.” I see understanding draw over her face slowly and then a blush spreads across it.
“Oh. But I- I don’t have... I mean, we weren’t raised with mobile phones.” She confesses. “I don’t have one.”
“Really? That’s very hard to believe,” I reply, it’s certainly not one of the scenarios I thought up, “I mean everybody has a mobile phone these days. How do you keep in contact with each other? How do you use the internet? How do you know where you are, if you don’t have a mobile phone?”
“The internet?” she looks sincerely confused. “Oh, that this web thingy on which you all place like information and stuff, right?” Is she serious? How does she not know what the internet is? This utterly absurd!
“So, can I have your phone number?” I try again.
“Yeah, I meant it when I said I don’t have a mobile phone. I really don’t!” She’s looking at me intently. “I’m sorry.”
“I don’t believe you,” I tell her, I mean that’s just absurd. People these days are born with a smartphone in their hands. “Literally everybody has one. They give them away for free, practically.” She shakes her head and looks me in the eye.
“You’ll have to believe me, I don’t. Look...” She says and grabs her bag. What’s she doing?
I watch as she unzips her bag and holds it upside down. Out tumbles her flowery wallet, a small bag of (what looks like) sweets, a pink and yellow handkerchief, a pencil, a candle (for some reason), something that looks like a photo album, a boll of yarn and some knitting needles, a small notebook and a long wooden stick. I look curiously at the contents of her bag. For such small girl she carries a lot of random things around. The strangest things, by far, are the candle and the wooden stick. I scan her bag’s contents, a mobile phone is conspicuously absent.
“You’ll have to empty your pockets too, if you want to convince me.” I say teasingly.
“I don’t have pockets on me, I’m wearing a skirt.” I shoots back. “If I had pockets I would not be carring this in my bag.” She picks up the wooden stick and puts it back before stowing the rest of her stuff in her bag as well. Standing up she takes off her apron she puts it in the bag too. A button on her blouse has opened, giving me a rather nice view of her cleavage. Oh my.
Okay I’m staring. Stop that!
Hastily I turn down my eyes, I don’t want her to catch me staring. I look up after a moment, uncertain. She’s still standing, her hand on the table, looking at me. Clearly unaware of the great view she’s showing me. Keep looking at her face, Neil. For god’s sake. Don’t. Look. Down! She looks a little worried. Her eyes are narrowed and her brows pulled together just a little.
“So, what do you we do now?” She suddenly asks, straightening up. She finishes her coffee in one gulp and wraps her scarf around her neck. Then she pulls the rubber band out of her hair, it falls around her face in the most spectacular array of ginger-coloured waves.
That worked like a charm. You’ve got my full attention miss, no doubt about it. She looks amazing with her hair down. I’m staring, I’m probably drooling too, I can’t help it. She gives her hair a tousle and a sweet scent wafers my way. Lily seems oblivious to my unhinged state of mind, fortunately and puts her coats on. Except it’s not really a coat, more like a midnight blue cloak that reaches down to her knees.
“Come on, get up.” She commands. I can’t help but do as I’m told. Putting on my own coat and finishing my coffee with one last gulp. It burns my tongue a little, well at least I’m thinking straight again.
Her brown eyes are twinkling when she looks up at me. “Are you ever going to ask me out or do I have to do it myself?”
There is no embarrassment in her eyes. She looks up at me confidently. What the... what?
“What... How ...?” My words are as comprehensible as my thoughts, I really don’t know what I want to say, didn’t I have a question formed somewhere? I would love to take her out on a date, but where would we go? I have not planned anything, I don’t have money, I can’t think straight. I look at her again. She looks a little disappointed at my reaction. Her confident starts slipping away.
“Oh, if you don’t want... I mean, I thought...” she mumbles. Then she looks up again. “You would like to go out with me, won’t you?” It sounds uncertain. Is she crazy? Of course I would. I give her my biggest smile.
“Sure, I would love to. I was going to asks you just now, really.” Wow I’m a master liar, seriously. I shrug my shoulders a little and smile at her again. She’s beaming back at me. Suddenly she grabs my hand and pulls me forward.
“Great! I know this place, I’ll show you, you’ll love it. It’s not very far from here. They make the best Italian food in the world. Even better than the Italians themselves.” Is that even possible? “And it’s really inexpensive.”
She pulls me along the street, her hand still in mine, prattling about Italy and pasta and I catch something about flamingos. From time to time she looks up at me, her eyes twinkling. They are a lovely shade of brown, her eyes.
Here I go again. I’m like a lovesick puppy.
I have to say it’s really nice to talk to Lily, she’s quite smart really. She far more than just looks. But there is something strange. I didn’t notice it before but it’s almost like she’s careful with what she says, even though she talks a mile a minute, there I a certain caution in her words. I’ve caught her a few times tonight stopping a sentence halfway, letting it hang unfinished.
It’s probably nothing. I think I do it too, she distracts me a lot while I’m talking. Her laugh is very pretty, all tingling like the sound of a waterfall. Tinkling and fun. I like making her laugh. Most of my jokes are lame, but she laughs at them as though she’s never heard anything funnier. Yes that does feel great, thank you.
“Shall I walk you home?” I ask her when I’ve paid for dinner. Lily is still frowning because I insisted on paying. If she wants me to ask her out then I’m the one who pays, that’s the rules. Even though she technically asked me, so the rules are already bend, but still.
Lily looks up, for a moment I fear she’ll turn me down, but she nods.
“We could make a detour through the park, night is gorgeous.” She offers me her hand, I nod and let her lead me. Her hand feels very small in mine, almost like a child’s hand. I softly brush my thumb against the top off her hand, her skin is smooth and I can feel her bones and sinews underneath it. One, two, three, four metacarpi. Why am I counting those? She softly squeezes my hand.
“The stars are lovely, aren’t they?” She says, pointing. I look up. The sight is a bit disappointing to be honest.
“There are hardly any stars visible in the city. It’s too light. You should come see them at my parents’ house. You can watch the entire milky way up there.” I point out. Lily lets out a small laugh, squeezing my hand again.
“I know, it was the same at my school in Scotland. I used to go out at night to watch them,” she smiles again, looking up at the stars, “I went to a boarding school, you see. The stars and the moon reminded me of home when I felt lonely. Not that I was lonely all that much. I had my brothers there. And Hugo was is the same year as me. To be honest the place was packed with cousins, it was like a Christmas reunion on a daily basis, but still.”
“A boarding school, really?”
She must be well educated then. As far as I know boarding schools are known for their high standards. I wonder how many cousins she has, Hugo and Dominique. The mention of Hugo pops another question in my head.
“Oh yeah, I wanted to ask you, how exactly did Hugo and Rena ever end up together?”
Lily lets out a tremendous laugh, shaking her entire body, she has to hold on to my arm to keep her up right. This must be a good story, then.
“Oh, that’s such a nice story. But it’s long. Very long.” She giggles and shakes her head. “I’ll tell you a very short version. I guess it started when they first met, as little eleven year old kids. Both shy and quiet they fitted together like two pieces of a puzzle and though they really barely talked they became the best friends imaginable.” She lets go of my hand to emphasize her story with her trademark grand gestures. “I think Hugo was about fourteen when he first showed signs that he fancied her. It was so cute, you should have seen him, I can still see him blush when he finally admitted it to his sister. She was badgering him about it all summer and well after that he kind of made a fool of himself, trying to keep it a secret. But since Rena is as shy as he is she never did anything to let him know how much she liked him, you know. She confessed to me that she was crazy about him, but he had this really bossy girlfriend at the time. She never mentioned it to Hugo. He thought she just wanted to be his friend, she thought he wasn’t interested. In the end they were both miserable and ignored each other. That’s when I came in, I just couldn’t stand it anymore. I had promised them separately to meet them in a pub, then I didn’t show up. A bit of hocus-pocus and a few shots of Firewhiskey spike Butterbeer later they were kissing. I’m still proud of them!” She looks up, grinning broadly.
“That is a cute story, but what on earth is butterbeer?” I have to know, it sounds dreadful.
“Only the best beer in the world, it makes you feel all warm and fuzzy but it doesn’t contain any alcohol, hence the need for whiskey,” She answers, “Maybe I’ll let you try it sometime.”
I’m rather hesitant to try something the combines butter and beer, and what’s the point if it doesn’t make you drunk?
Pretty soon we’ve reached the park close to Lily’s flat. It’s small but pretty, high trees softly wave in the light breeze, there’s a clattering fountain place slab in the middle of it. I like fountains, they make my think of the sea and of home. The water in the fountain bubbles and wrinkles. Little waves crash against the basin. It sounds like a very small version of the sea clips near my parent’s house.
I sit down on the basin and look around the park. Lily remains standing. She spreads her arms wide and twirls around, her head in her neck, watching the branches of the trees overhead. I laugh at her softly, she looks like a child, spinning round and round. It’s making me dizzy. Wait, if it makes me dizzy what will it do for her?
As if she hears my thoughts she stumbles and falls, giving a cry of shock.
Oh geez! I jump up immediately, offering my hand to help her back up. She’s looking up a bit embarrassed, then she takes my outstretched hand and in one swift movement she’s back on her feet, very close to me. Unnervingly close. Her body is only a few centimetres from mine. Her head is cocked to the side and she’s looking up at me with a daring expression on her face.
Should I kiss her? I have been thinking about doing just that. Isn’t that what you do after a date anyway? I’m not sure, it’s hard to think with a girl this close to me. And it’s not like I have a lot of experience in this field.
Slowly I lean in closer, looking into her mesmerising brown eyes.
She’s beautiful, she’s nice, she’s funny.
Why would I make things complicated?
Oh, just do it. Kiss the girl or I swear….!
But what if…?
I lean in but just as I’m about to close the gap between her lips and mine an owl hoots in a tree close by. Lily turns her head to the sound. She spins out of my arms looking up at the night sky.
“I should really go home now. I’ll see you at work next week.” Lily says, her face bright red, her eyes are bigger than ever. Her expression doesn’t make sense to me. She waves at me and all but runs from the park. I watch her go, disappointment building up inside me.
That’s what I call leaving someone hanging.
A/N: Don't own those things that are not mine.
Let me know what I can do better with this story, or those things that you like so far...
ps. If I you are interested I actually posted the story of how Hugo and Rena got together. (look for a story called: He's just Hugo).
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