Chapter 4 : iv.
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It had been a week since the party and Seamus still hadn’t managed to get Hazel out of his head. He didn’t know what it was about her that captivated him. Her tenacity to get a refund. Her charged personality. Or maybe it was the wide-eyed, disconcerted look she’d given him when he’d walked up to her. That maybe more than anything else had intrigued him. That fleeting vulnerability she’d shown him, it didn’t make sense with the rest of her personality. Hazel seemed like the kind of woman that ate vulnerability for breakfast.
“Oy! Finnigan, stop day-dreaming and get back to work!” George shouted down from somewhere in the upper level of the shop. Seamus shook his head and went back to stocking the shelves with the new-and-improved Puking Pastels. George insisted they would be revolutionary, and he was going to revitalize the whole line. Give them a new look, and make them even more affective. Seamus was just trying to stay out of the line of fire – and the testing area.
The new girl, poor unsuspecting Marietta, had been drawn in by George with the promise of sweets and a pay raise. She’d gotten the sweets, and a bit more than she’d bargained for. Last Seamus had heard, she had gotten the pay raise and a little bit more for her trouble. He was sure she’d deserved it.
Seamus was just finishing up stocking the shelf when he heard a familiar voice and tried to pretend that he didn’t grin the moment he recognized it. It was odd, he didn’t really have a reason to smile. She didn’t like him, he certainly didn’t like her, but the idea of interacting with her made his pulse race. He’d never felt that way around someone before, normally he felt shaky and stuttered a lot around women. Seamus shuddered at the thought. There was a reason he hadn’t had a date in a while, and he didn’t like to think about the last disaster.
From the responses, it sounded as though James was dealing with her. He wasn’t on register, but he didn’t think James would mind if he took over for a moment. Seamus brushed his hands off and shook his head. He knew he was just asking for trouble, but there was something about her that made him want to. No one had ever called Seamus cautious, but he’d never been especially reckless either. This decision though, well, he would definitely put it in the reckless category.
He didn’t know how, but he recognized the set of Hazel’s shoulders and knew that James was about to receive a lashing with words the likes of which he had never seen before. Seamus would have laughed if he didn’t feel so sorry for the bloke. He increased his stride and put a hand on her shoulder before she got a chance to begin. James expression changed from pained fear to relief the minute he saw his backup.
“I’ll take it from here mate, if ya don’t mind.” Seamus ignored the way Hazel was doing her best to burn a hole through his hand with her gaze.
“If you insist,” James said but didn’t give Seamus a chance to back out. He took his hand off Hazel’s shoulder and walked around the counter so that he was put in a relative position of power. He knew who held the real power though, and it wasn’t him. Her cheeks were flushed, and hers eyes were the calm before the storm. So quiet they were terrifying. Seamus suddenly didn’t blame James a bit for running.
“So what’s the problem, ma’am?” Seamus propped his chin up on his hands and tried to look as helpful as possible. He might have imagined it, but he thought he saw the flicker of a smile on her face before the deep frown returned. Unease pooled in his stomach, mixed with something he could only name as excitement. It was the oddest combination of feelings he’d ever had, but somehow he knew the more time he spent around Hazel, the more common they would become.
Hazel wrinkled her nose and tried to count backwards from ten. She didn’t want to be there, and she certainly didn’t want to be having this conversation again with Finnigan. She’d had somewhat of a chance with the previous employee but that small chance had been shot to hell when he’d volunteered to deal with her. He wouldn’t understand. All he bloody cared about was the packaging – not that she was going to get kicked out of her flat if she didn’t get the bloody refund because her mother was too stubborn to pay her back for the fireworks that weren’t used because her son had soaked them in water. It certainly wasn’t Hazel’s fault that he was four and couldn’t read the warning label and her mother hadn’t kept them out his reach, but that fact didn’t especially seem to matter.
She took a deep breath and tried to avoid making direct eye contact with Finnigan. She knew that the minute she did it would be all over. Hazel didn’t know what had gotten into her since the party, but she’d been on edge, her palms had been getting sweaty when she thought about him, and he’d been on her mind a lot. She had no idea what had gotten into her. Well, she did, but she was in absolute and diligent denial of it. She simply would not allow herself to have feelings for, or be affected by him. Just telling herself that didn’t seem to be helping though.
“Look, I need a bloody refund,” she began and tried to ignore the obvious tone of desperation that had crept into her voice. Her landlord had given her a day to come up with the money before he sent her packing and Hazel didn’t know where she’d go. She hadn’t really kept in contact with any friends from school. During the war it had been bad enough, but after… everything was still so shattered and people had scattered, trying to rebuild and start new lives. She could always go back home… but to admit defeat in front of her picture-perfect mother was something that upset Hazel’s stomach.
Finnigan sighed and rolled his eyes upward as he stood straight. He braced himself on the counter and leaned forward until there was less than a foot of space between their face. Hazel tried not to think about how easy it would be to learn forward just a few inches and kiss him. And how much her heart sped up at the thought.
“I’ve told ya, I can’t give ya one because it says on the bloody packaging that the fireworks aren’t impervious to water.” Either she was imagining things, or Hazel heard a slight hesitation in his voice. She couldn’t think of any reason why there would be, but she still heard it the tone. In a brief stroke of desperation, she decided to go for a different approach. Hard-balling it didn’t seem to be working, and this was the only other option she could think of.
“Finnigan… Seamus,” she began, thinking and choosing her words as carefully as possible. She figured it would be a good idea to start using his first name. Maybe it would help make him feel more sympathetic to her problem. “Look. I know you don’t want to give me the damn refund. I know I don’t deserve it, especially after everything I’ve said.” Hazel winced. It wasn’t her finest, or proudest, moment when she’d been so arrogant and rude. She wasn’t like that, but desperation made people ugly, she’d learned over the years. “But I need it,” she whispered. “More than you know.”
Hazel pushed her hair out of her face and looked anywhere but at Seamus. It was mortifying to have to admit that. But she’d lost her job, and her mother wasn’t willing to help her out even the slightest while she worked on getting back on her feet. Honesty was her last resort, and if even this didn’t work, well, Seamus was a lot more cold-hearted than she thought and she had officially run out of options.
There was something more to Hazel’s expression, more of that vulnerability that Seamus had caught a glimpse of before. It threw off his calculated demeanor and he sighed. “Alright, what’s going on with you?” he said, wondering if she would even bother to answer him.
And then, she did the most surprising thing. Hazel sniffed once, very loudly, before tears began streaming down her face. “M-my life is a m-me-mess,” she sniffed and buried her face in her hands. Seamus blinked slowly and glanced around for George. He always knew what to do in these sorts of situations. But Seamus was alone and Hazel was starting to hiccup so he mechanically patted her on the shoulder.
“There, there,” he said, wincing at the sound of his voice. He sounded like he had no idea what the hell he was doing - which was mostly true. He’d grown up an only child and his mum hadn’t been much of a crier, so he was in uncharted waters.
Hazel snorted. “You suck at this,” came out muffled from behind her hands and after a minute she sniffed loudly again before revealing her tear-streaked face. “Thanks anyway. Sorry I just,” she made a feeble gesture as if to explain the waterworks and ended up shrugging. “I don’t know what came over me.”
Realizing his hand was still patting her on the shoulder, Seamus pulled it back as if it’d been burned, (which it had, quite a few times before). “Right, well you aren’t the first woman who’s found herself in tears around me,” he replied dryly. That got another snort out of her and he smiled. If there was one thing Seamus had always been able to do, it was make people laugh, one way or another. “Now what do you say we go get a cup of tea in the back and you talk to me.”
“So all it takes to get a refund around here is a good cry?” Hazel shook her head. “No way, it can’t be that easy.”
“Who said anything about a refund?” Seamus said, clasping a hand to his chest as if horrified. “No, no, no, I’m just taking you back to my fireworks lair, from which you will never return.” He widened his eyes and raised his eyebrows, trying to look truly terrifying, like an old TV monster his da had shown him but all the expression did was elicit a round of giggling,
Catching her breath again when the giggling had subsided, Hazel nodded and gestured for him to move. “Well, lead the way then, mad scientist.”
A/N: It has been a very long time since I touched this story, but I'm so happy I've come back to it because I really missed Hazel and Seamus and I hope you have too. Or, if you're a newer reader, I hope you're coming to enjoy them! Thank you so much for reading.
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