Chapter 6

A week rolled past without anyone really taking much notice of it. Things went okay, Tizzie supposed. It wasn't alright between her and Mrs. De Luca. They hadn't spoken a word to each other except a few occasional questions and answers which were usually followed by pauses or extremely awkward, long silences. This is why Tizzie took to haunting the roads of Hollowhill after finishing all her chores.

This was one of these days. Today, she had decided to walk all the way down to Lake Timberwing to really get her heart going. It was a lovely, scenic route, and absolutely quiet. Trees were the only thing that paved the path, and the temperature outside was perfectly amazing. You didn't even need a jacket to go traipsing about in the forest.

Lake Timberwing was named as such because it was known for its Bald Eagle roosts high up in the trees rimming the lake. If one got up early enough, they could watch the eagles skimming the lake with their talons for fish to catch. It happened at sporadic times, and it usually lasted only a few seconds, so paying attention was vital if you wanted to get a good glimpse of the USA's national bird.

It took Tizzie about an hour and twenty minutes to get down to Lake Timberwing, and when she got there she knew that her walk was all worth it (despite the fact that she had nearly been knocked out cold by a wayward, springy tree branch). About halfway through her hike, she had realized that she hadn't towed her camera along. The revelation had been accompanied by several colorful words. Oh, well, she thought, taking in the image of the lake's surface, which was littered with tiny little white lilies that bloomed during the day.

As she got closer to the edge of the lake, she noticed that there was someone sitting on a flat rock that slanted slightly downwards. When she squinted to get a better look at the person, she nearly swore in disbelief. Was fate hellbent on making them run into each other?! Her entire week had been Elliott-free, so what was different now?

Luckily, he hadn't noticed her, hard-hearing oaf that he was, so she turned stealthily on her heel and made a beeline for the path that led back to town.

But, as coincidence would have it, there was something there to stop her. Specifically, something that called out her name.

"Tizzie!"

The redhead in question turned slowly to see Mrs. Stein strolling down the path with her Newfoundland dog, Ally. The middle aged librarian was waving one of her hands in the air, smiling at the sight of Tizzie. She really couldn't do anything but smile and wave back. When she got into closer range, Ally jumped up and pushed her slightly with her front paws, and indication that she badly wanted to be petted.

"Hey, Mrs. Stein. How's it going?"

"Positively wonderful. We received a new shipment of books from Washington."

"That is wonderful," Tizzie agreed, hugging Ally's huge coppery head. "How's the drooling machine coming?"

"She's been restless. I thought a walk would do her good, you know, loosen those joints of hers," Mrs. Stein answered, burying her hand in her dog's thick coat. "Oh, and who's your friend?"

Tizzie's brow creased in confusion. "...My friend?"

Quite abruptly, Tizzie became aware of a presence to her left. No, no, please, no...

Since when were her prayers ever answered?

Never.

Elliott was smiling blindingly at Mrs. Stein. He proceeded to lean on Tizzie with one elbow on her shoulder. "You won't introduce me, then?"

Tizzie fought the colossal urge to grab his elbow and send him and his precious hair flying. She bit out in a less-than-polite voice, "Mrs. Stein, this is Elliott Price. Elliott Price, this is Eliza Stein, our Hollowhill librarian."

Elliott extended a hand and shook with Mrs. Stein. "How quaint."

If he opens that mouth of his, I'm gonna bash his skull in.

And she wasn't kidding, either.

Mrs. Stein looked extremely pleased. "Well, isn't this rare! A polite young gentleman is very hard to find these days. Tizzie hasn't had company of her age for quite some time."

Not her, too!

"Let's take a turn around the lake, shall we? I find it very refreshing."

Tizzie decided at that moment that she would bash his skull in regardless.

"Oh, yes, let's." Ally barked in her deep voice, making Elliott look down at her with a slightly arched eyebrow. This earned her a small tug on her leash. "Ally, be nice. Tizzie, would you mind taking Ally for a second? I'd like to know this Mr. Price a little better."

"Sure, Mrs. Stein," came the threatening mumble of Tizzie. She shot Elliott a look that screamed 'try anything and I'll demolish you,' which only earned her a wolfish grin. What the hell was he trying to pull? Tizzie felt Ally fall in pace beside her. When the two people (who were now walking arm-in-arm) in front strayed out of earshot, Tizzie turned to the dog, who met her with sympathetic black eyes.

"Do you like him?"

Ally scrunched up her nose and sniffed with aversion.

"Nah, me neither." Tizzie lifted her eyes to Elliott's face, which was currently smiling. She had to admit, the guy looked good when he smiled (and he knew it, damn him!), but the only chance of him giving her butterflies was if he smiled genuinely. And, the chances of this 'genuine smile' being directed at her were about...oh, nil?

Tizzie felt her blood boil. That insufferable boy! Who knows what he was saying to Mrs. Stein, what with that 'I'm such a good person can't you see' smile stuck on his face. She would just have to wait, that's all.

Wait.

It seemed that whenever he wanted some time alone he inevitably ended up bumping into people (or, one specific person) that he neither wanted to see nor wanted to spend time with. Cole dropping the bomb about staying here for four months was still working its aftermath on Elliott. Four months. FOUR MONTHS. Here. In this tiny town in the middle of the Pennsylvanian wilderness. In a cottage. With no TV. Where you woke up to a squirrel throwing acorns at your window (and sometimes, at your head, because the little pests deigned it hard enough to crack open their nuts).

Mrs. Stein was prattling on about some book shipment or another, and Elliott tried his hardest not to block her out, but his natural instinct about dealing with chatty people immediately took over, leaving him to nod and agree here and there, convincing Mrs. Stein that he was listening.

The way his solitude had been disrupted was quite unusual. He hadn't really seen much of Tizzie over the week (something he thanked God for), but his good luck was not to last, apparently, because as soon as he had heard Mrs. Stein's voice, he had seen her trying to sneak away. Not that he really blamed her. If she had sneaked away—and that would have made her avoid another meeting with him—that was fine! ...Although he did feel slightly affronted at the fact that she had wanted to creep away.

It had come a small shock to him that the scruffy creature of his acquaintance could look...dare he say it? Good. Yes, today, for some odd, alien reason, Tizzie looked almost attractive. 'Almost' being the keyword there.

He glanced out of the corner of his eye to find her a few feet back, walking with that beast of a dog leisurely. She was squeaking along in a pair of sneakers; she had donned a pair of white shorts and a startlingly yellow cotton tank top, and brushed her hair (more like that mane of doom) out of her face and into a tight bun. This exposed the fact that she actually did possess a neck and a pair of eyes, the latter of which was glaring at him in a not-so-concealed manner.

He tuned back into reality in time for Mrs. Stein's farewell.

"This has been a lovely talk, young man! I hope we have the time to do it again. I, unfortunately, have to return to my den to sort out the new books. It's Saturday, you know, and all the elementary schoolers just swarm in."

A place where the children actually read for pleasure? Something was definitely wrong with this town.

"Same here, Mrs. Stein."

The brown-haired librarian released his hand—thank you!—and shouted for her dog. "Ally! Come, girl, come!"

Tizzie let go of the leash and Ally bounded off, happy to return to her mistress. The redhead approached warily, coming to stand just a hand's reach away from Elliott as she gave a minuscule smile to the dog.

"Say goodbye to Elliott, Ally."

Elliott leaned down to pat the dog on the head, but the canine apparently had other ideas, because she snapped at him angrily and tugged her leash out of Mrs. Stein's hands and pelted forward, her large head making contact with Elliott's knees. This was the first time he had ever been head-butted by a dog—he wasn't so sure he had wanted it to happen; it was quite unnerving to watch this large animal try and bring you down.

A huzzah for Ally, for she succeeded in making Elliott tip backwards; his heel caught on a small, raised stone by the lakeside and he reached out to grab something else before he could complete his mission of plummeting into the water.

The sturdiest and by far the closest object was, very sadly, Tizzie the disagreeable female, who let out a squawk of disapproval when his hand tightened around her upper arm in an attempt to steady himself. She soon found herself being carried along with Elliott's weight, and realized that she was unavoidably going to follow him on his impromptu swim.

There was a horrendous splash.

Everything was green and blue for a moment—cold, extremely cold—and then he made his way to the top, shaking the excess water off of his soaked head and blinking in a disoriented manner. A rapid froth of bubbles boiled at the turquoise surface of the lake, heralding Tizzie's arrival.

She surfaced, spluttering and gasping. She looked around for a moment before her eyes caught Elliott's. A most frightening expression dominated her face, and she swum quickly in front of him, still out of breath.

A determined lily had lodged itself stem-first in the twist of her scrunchie. Vaguely, he noted that the delicate white flower became her dark, wet hair. This idea died when she opened her mouth and spoke—well, more like yelled.

"You numb-skull! Blockhead! Insufferable man! What'd you do that for?!"

"It wasn't my fault! What the—you saw the dog!"

"You provoked her!" Tizzie protested, poking a finger into his chest, convinced of her ideas. "Ally never does things like that unless she's provoked! And you, sir, are a first class provoker!"

His fingers snaked around her wrist just as she was about to give him another poke. She didn't look deterred or even faintly surprised—had he touched the hand of one of the fans back home, the least they would have done was faint. "Whoa there, Bessie! You were the one giving me the evil eye all morning."

"Evil eye?! Why, I oughta—"

"Ehm. Children. I'll be going now."

Tizzie's head turned to the side like clockwork, nearly scaring Elliott with its movement. She waved at the lady with her free hand. "Bye, Mrs. Stein!"

The woman left the clearing, looking just a tiny bit disconcerted at the entire situation, Ally happily pacing at her side. When they were not visible any longer, Tizzie once more faced Elliott.

"Would you bother letting go now?"

He released her as if he'd been burned—seriously, who did she think she was? Talking to him like that...

Tizzie dragged herself up to the shore of the lake and shook off the excess water on her hands. She reached up and yanked the lily from her head, tossing it into the lake and proceeding to squeeze her hair into dryness. She looked Elliott over once, and then her face creased into an expression where it was obvious that she was trying to conceal her mirth.

"What's that stupid face for?"

"Never thought I'd see a famous singer with a frog on his head."

This caused Elliott to jerk a good amount; the action proved that he did, indeed, have an amphibian nestled in his amazingly amazing hair. The frog jumped off of his head with a discommoded croak, disappearing beneath the surface of the lake and swimming deep into the semi-murky water. Elliott grabbed the ledge which he was bobbing under and pulled himself onto land.

"She'll murder me," he heard Tizzie mumble under her breath. "Do you have any way of getting dry?"

"Go home."

"I live almost an hour from here."

Damn. And in this place, there were no cars. Norma-Jean did not count.

There was silence for a moment, in which the croaking of the frogs and the rustling of the trees made themselves obvious.

It was only about fifteen minutes away from the lake. Cole would never let him live this down—if he found out, that is.

"Come over."

The murmur was so low that Tizzie had to scrunch up her face and lean closer to hear. "What?"

"Come over. I have towels at my place."

Tizzie leaned back again. "Man, that just sounds wrong."

"Do you want to dry off or not?"

"Geez, no need to hiss at me, Ellie."

"...What did you just say?"

"Ellie. Cute nickname, no? Your fault for having such a feminine name."

"Elliott is not a feminine name!"

"Whatever you say, Ellie."

Maybe this wasn't a good idea after all.

God be praised, Cole was out at the moment when they returned. A sticky-note on the fridge indicated as such.

Out to do some exploring and shopping. Be good. :P

Tizzie liked the cottage. It was sort of warm, she decided, a true 'family home.' When they walked through the bedroom to the bathroom, she noticed that there was an innumerable amount of sheet music scattered about the place; most of the pieces of paper had notes scribbled over them and words on the back. An acoustic guitar had lain on one of the beds, belly-upwards, black luster shining in the morning light that was coming through the glass doors.

Tizzie herself loved listening to music (it helped a lot with photography), and could only strum chords on the guitar. She knew nothing of notes or how to read them. That avenue of pleasure had disappeared with Marco.

Abruptly, something white and fluffy was shoved in her face. It smelled vaguely of lemon.

"Ah. Fanks."

Her voice was muffled by the towel, which she grasped and pulled down, and then used to pad her hair down and wipe away the moisture still clinging to her hands. There was no answer to her lisped thanks, but it didn't really matter, she concluded. He had still given her a towel and brought her here. Better than standing on the shore of Lake Timberwing and freezing because she was dripping.

"Don't plan on staying too long."

"I won't."

Elliott sat down on the rim of the bathtub and rubbed his blue-black hair free of any water that was clinging to its strands.

Tizzie smiled slightly under the towel. Well, maybe he wasn't that bad after all.

A/n: Do I sense a change in you, Tizzie? Yes, I haven't kicked the bucket! And yes, I will be a brat in asking for just two reviews this time. :( I'd like some proof that you're reading, at least. Aside from that, thank you to all who read and alert and favorite! :D It really means a lot and I hope you're enjoying it so far. Till next time, amigos!