"Hey, those are for the customers," I smack Liam's hand away, curving my arms protectively around the basket of Easter eggs.
"I'm on my break," He counters, reaching for them again. "I'm a customer just like anyone else for the next half hour."
"Fine, then I have to check your bag before you leave," I snag his shoulder strap and yank it off onto the floor with a smirk. "Silly boy, that's what you get for having it hanging over one of your shoulders. It's bad for your back."
"Hey, hey," He kneels down, trying to pry the bag out of my hands as I unzip it. "Be careful with my baby, she's been with me since early high school you could have tore the straps right off."
I pour my hands through his bag and tut when I see the bottom of his bag is a big pile of easter eggs he'd obviously taken from the last person who'd been manning the self-checkouts.
"Maria is weak," I shake my head, zipping up his bag in disgust. I give it an affectionate pat "Here, have your precious. I'm sorry for not respecting her."
"Thank you," He says and side glances my egg basket. I straighten and hold it above my head, furrowing my eyebrows.
Liam laughs at me and easily palms some eggs due to his superior height, sticking his tongue out and dancing out of the way of my hand.
"Hey, you punk! This isn't over," I warn and find myself being tapped on the shoulder. I pull my most neutral look and turn on my heel only to find it's only Emily with a tired face, gesturing with a shaking arm behind her back.
"Pumpkin seeds," She murmurs.
"Pumpkin seeds," Emily insists.
"Um, what about pumpkin seeds?" I ask, raising my eyebrows at her and following her gesturing but not seeing anything from where I'm standing.
"The pumpkin seeds, they're everywhere. Someone got one of the big packs and apparently had a hole in it, there are so many... everywhere down aisle two and halfway down three where they eventually sat the packet on a cereal shelf obviously noticing the leakage," She brings her hands over her eyes. "I just had to deal with a really rude customer who just ranted on and on about a product we're not stocking anymore. Like it was me who did it, me who personally took it off the shelves. I just I..."
She threads her fingers through her blonde, pulled back hair and tears at it in frustration.
"Okay, it'll be okay," I pat her shoulder and give it a comforting rub. "You just stay here, man the self-checkouts and I'll deal with the evil pumpkin seeds, mmkay?"
"You're a goddess."
"I'm okay, I guess," I give her shoulder one last pat, smiling amusedly at her and she goes and leans on the side of a self-checkout, eyes half-opened as she points her fingers in gun formation at me.
"You're too kind."
"Yeah?" I pause midstep, about to go and deal with The Pumpkin Seeds. Emily looks at me pensively, her mouth agape as she hesitates to say whatever is swirling around in her brain. "Come on, spit it out girl; otherwise the evil pumpkin seeds will begin to infiltrate other areas of the supermarket, spreading via foot."
"Do you and Liam want free movie ticket, token things? There's nothing out right now I want to watch and I figured you two could go."
"Oh uh, thanks, that's so nice of you," I smile.
"Cool. You guys are so cute."
"Um, Emily, we're not..." I fumble for words and she just smiles sweetly at me and waves me off, looking to see someone struggling with their purchases on the self-checkout. I turn to go and get the brush and shovel to pick up the pumpkin seeds, biting my lip all the way.
Did we really seem like that... couple-y?
"We should return them, she gave them to us under false pretences," I swallow, a nervous feeling fluttering around in my stomach. I wrap my arms around myself as I look up at the movie posters lining the windows of the doors, procrastinating going in.
"She gave us tickets so that we could go out on a date, so let's go on a date." He rolls his eyes, looping his arm through mine and beginning to drag me up to the doors, opening it before me and lowering his head in a bow to let me in in front of him like the gentleman that he isn't. "Besides, we're already at the movie theatre. Does your guilt have to pop up at the most inconvenient of times?"
"We're going on an actual date, then?"
"I guess so. So does this mean I now have to pay for the snacks?"
"I'm offended. I always pay half," I protest, swatting at him again and he imprisons my hands in his and looks around, scanning the movie titles. "Do you know what you want to watch?
"Maybe the Jake Gyllenhaal movie? Enemy? The one by the guy who directed Prisoners?" He suggests and I nod. He looks back at me and smirks. "Only because you think Jake Gyllenhaal's pretty, right?"
"Hey, no, I like his movies and I think he's pretty. Also because it looks so romantic, you know, for our metaphorical date," I joke although I have no idea what the movie's about, it doesn't really look super romantic by the poster. Jake's super serious face could be misleading, though.
"Mmm, I'm sure it'll be all rainbows and hearts and... spiders," He notes the spider dangling over Jake's head which has transformed into a city, tall buildings extending out of it.
"Why can't your head be like that?"
"And they say people have high expectations for women," Liam pouts and draws the hood over his head mock self-consciously.
"Well fine, I guess your hair is pretty for, you know, hair," I glance up at his swooping black hair he's tucked behind his ears, it's full and kind of wavy. I happen to know it's very soft, too. I look away when he quirks an eyebrow at me."It's no cityscape, though."
I sigh in dismay at his failings and then hold back a snort as I realise we've wandered and are standing right in front of the register. The ticket girl is staring at us blankly, tapping her maroon nails on the counter.
"So uh, Enemy for two, right? Any concession?"
"Um, yeah, I have movie coupons," I fumble in my jeans pockets, pulling out a empty packet of chips and a couple of coins. "Oh um, they're in my other pocket. Sorry."
I lay them down on the counter with enthusiasm.
"Thanks for that," She smiles bemusedly as she taps at her keyboard and prints out our tickets. " It's not that romantic, though."
"Oh, uh, you heard that," I laugh nervously. "Yeah, um, we – we yeah, will. You too. I mean, not you too, you uh..."
"Just take the tickets, honey," She snorts and I do.
"Listen now," Liam whispers in my ear as he turns me around and starts shoving me towards the snack bar. "Important tasks such as 'speaking' are now delegated to me, you can't be trusted."
"You mean in general or?"
"Well I did mean just to customer service people but actually, yeah, no speaking for you any more. I will speak for you always."
"Thank you, the responsibility was much. I so relieved."
"That's the spirit, girl."
"Way to eat all the popcorn before the movie starts," Liam snorts. "You also chucked your not empty drink container into the 3D glasses bag the guy had. He's going to have to clean those now."
"It wasn't a 3D movie, I don't know why he was even in there with that bag," I shrug feeling very guilty over the situation but kind of defensive; I mean come on, a cinema person standing near the exit with a garbage bag lookalike in his hands? What was he thinking? "Do you remember the advertisement at the start?"
"Trying to dodge your guilt? But yes, I'm not sure if they were advertising tambourine classes or that was a new movie coming out. The local adverts had finished, though," Liam holds up his hands in puzzlement. "He was so enthralled, like he was in his own little tambourine world."
"Whatever it is, I want to see it," I shake my head in bewilderment. "The part where he rolled around in a beautiful green field, clutching it to his chest? Tears were coming to my eyes."
"I didn't know the tambourine was such a moving instrument," Liam sighs '
"Maybe you should take it up, you could serenade me."
"Oh my gosh, that would make our fake dates so much more romantic," He gushes, grabbing my shoulder and shaking me.
"It would," I laugh and shake him back before opening the theatre doors and we step into the harsh light of the outside world, bringing our hands over our eyes.
"It is always so jarring when you leave a cinema in the daytime."
"Word," I mutter, flipping my sunglasses over my eyes and wrapping my arms around myself. "Want to go have a coffee or something?"
Liam flicks out his phone and checks the time, grinning.
"Forget about coffee, it's nearly six o clock; we can have our first classic 'dinner and a movie' date," He suggests and I groan. "Oh come on, tell me you're not dying for some Italian food afer those adverts. Food porn should come with a warning, I got all flustered..."
"Maybe I should leave you and pasta alone. I don't want to be a third wheel."
"It's okay, we don't mind people watching," He winks and I shake my head at him in disapproval. "Okay, okay. I'll stop. But for real, dinner yes? Dinner is good? Yummy pasta?"
"Yummy pasta," I nod and he cheers, doing a little dance. I smile at him, he's so cute. "I really want to smoosh your cheeks right now, just give each of them a real big pinch."
"Maybe after tea if you're good," He concedes.
"So how many Easter eggs did you manage to scavenge before days end?" I want to know, as the bowl had been mysteriously empty at the end of the day despite many people declining the chocolate on my watch. "I don't understand your fascination with it, anyway. It's not like it's cadbury brand eggs, they're exceedingly mediocre."
Liam holds a hand over his pocket and holds a finger to his lips.
"I have a couple in my pocket, don't say that in front of them," He chastises and I roll my eyes. "Besides, all chocolate is good chocolate."
"That's what you say now, wait until I buy you a bunch of carob for your Easter present," I threaten, poking him in the side.
"I happen to like carob, so go ahead."
"You're a freak of nature, you are," I mutter in bewilderment and he winks at me, grabbing me by the wrist and pulling me into the Italian restaurant. He rushes through the restaurant, causing me to jog after him as he looks around, inspecting everybody's meals as he goes.
"Oh my god, they look even better in person," He whispers in adulation. "I love food so much. Oh, and you, girl."
He pats me on the wrist and sits down at a table for two.
"Oh, I'm really feeling it," I hold hand to my heart before sliding into the opposing seat from him as he scoops up the menu, cradling it like something precious.
"So uh, how is your date going so far? I mean, you're going to have to report back to Emily," He says, still looking down at the menu.
"Movie was great, company is, you know, alright," I shrug and he glances up at me, his dark brown eyes narrowed. "Want to play job interview?"
Job interview is one of the many games we play so that we can ensure that our future will remain bright and shiny, improving our interview impressions so that we may one day get our dream jobs, you know, if we ever figure out what those are.
"Okay, not hiring you already," I groan in disgust.
"Your t-shirt is way too low cut for an interview," I inform him and he looks down at his maroon v-neck before covering his chest and looking insulted.
"Hey, I work out. I have big pecs. It's not my problem that my shirt looks different on my body than it would on somebody else," He raises his chin up defiantly, "Besides, you can talk."
"Hey if you've got it, flaunt it." I pull my t-shirt down, winking at him. "Oh, I'm so bare. Look at that collar bone."
He laughs and then stops, eyebrows going up.
"Is that a hickey?"
"What?" I look down past my collar bone where I've continued to drag my t-shirt as far as it'll let me. "Oh, no, that's just a birth mark. Haven't you seen it before?"
"Oh," He exhales and looks away. I let go of my shirt and it snaps into my skin while I watch him rearrange the sugar packets in the container, aligning them in rows of upside down sugar packets and right side up sugar packets. "So you're not getting any action on the side?"
"Oh, of course. Just no hickeys, yuck," I joke and he tips the container over, sending stray sugar granules flying everywhere.
"How may I help you this evening?"
A waitress inquires frostily, not looking very patient as she taps on her notepad; eyes on the tipped over container which Liam quickly starts fixing up, sweeping the sugar granules into his palm and dropping them onto his bread plate.
"Um, can I have the prawn and chorizo linguine?" He asks nervously, righting the container and setting it next to the salt and pepper shakers without looking at her.
"Sure," She writes it down, a small grin forming as he continues to avoid eye contact. She looks to me, brushing her bangs out of her eyes..
"Can I have the bolognese?"
"Bolognese," She writes it down and then flicks her eyes towards Liam again, who is absorbed in shifting the sugar granules on his plate. "Any drinks, sir?"
"Just water, for me..."
"Water is good," I nod, kicking him under the table to try and wake him out of his sudden bout of shyness. The waitress clips her pen back to her notepad and nods, lingering around the table a while longer in amusement, clearly enjoying how uncomfortable she's making Liam.
"Isn't bolognese like the vanilla of Italian food?" He sighs after she leaves.
"Are you accusing me of being boring?" I want to know and he shrugs. "You look like a kicked puppy, are you going to survive?"
"She hates me, I'm a nuisance. I spilled sugar everywhere," He mutters forlornly,
"It's okay, you were sorry enough about it that you won her favour, it seems," I reach over the table and pat his hand consolingly.
"You still have your sunglasses on," He comments and pushes them back and smooths his fingers down my hair he'd messed up in the process.
"All the better to not see you with."
"I know, you're only with me for my personality," He sighs and I snort. "You don't have to remind me of how ugly I am all the time.
"You're truly hideous," I assure him kind of resentfully.
"If I'm so hideous why are you checking me out?"
"Um," I laugh nervously and his eyes widen... because that had been a joke, of course it'd been. I pick up my menu and hold it over my burning face, pretending to be real interested. "You know, water is kind of the vanilla of drinks, too. Do you want something else? A coke?"
"Oh, no, too outlandish," He laughs.
"You're so right, it'd also be too much to ask for lemonade, right?"
"Do you even need to ask?"
"No, sorry, of course not," I put the menu down and try to look as meek as I possibly can, doodling a finger over my place mat. "So uh, how is this date going for you?"
"Best night of my life," He smiles. "No one I'd rather go on a fake date with."
"Aww, you sweet talker, you," I coo, clasping my cheeks dramatically.
Liam laughs and smiles at me, looking like he wants to say something. I feel a nervous feeling in my stomach and clutch the sides of my seat, smiling hesitantly back at him. He opens his mouth and I hold up the desserts menu, grinning.
"So uh, speaking of sweets?"
"Uh, okay," He raises an eyebrow at me and I relax, slumping down on my chair. "Going to pick something interesting this time?"
"I'll try, I'll try."
Liam walks me to the door and it's eerily quiet, like the silence is deafening. I feel like it's so quiet that he can certainly hear my heart pounding, and it's embarrassingly loud. I'm not sure whether it's more out of fear or like the happy, head rush kind of pounding, which is confusing. We were talking all through dinner and in the car but when we got here our conversation has gone quiet, like an anticipatory sort of quiet.
I stop in front of the front step and slip my arm out, holding my arms around myself and not looking at him.
"So," He clears his throat, acknowledging the awkwardness.
"Haha yeah, so, uh, had a good time. Thank you for the date, pal," I punch him in the elbow and he smiles, biting his lip.
"Julia... I had a really good time," He turns to me and his eyes are crinkled at the edges, his smile sweet and his hands kind of hovering in the air, as if they're itching to reach out for me. I stare at them with wide eyes, frozen, not really knowing what to do.
"I um, yeah, me too," I pat his outstretched hands and then quickly go inside, not looking back and heading straight for the kitchen, hearing movement. My sister's movement. I move swiftly down the hall, my arms stiff at my sides and dread filling me for being so cowardly. How could I leave him outside like that? Did I just pat his hands?
This is Liam. Liam. Liam who is probably standing outside, wondering what just happened. He's my Liam, one of my best and closest friends and he went out on a limb out there and I just bolted. I hold my hands over my face in shame and jog into the kitchen, peeking through my fingers and rushing up to my sister, burying my head into the back of her neck.
"Oi, trying to pour boiling water here," She sets the kettle down and reaches a hand up to my hair, giving it a tug. "This doesn't seem to be a nuzzle of affection, what is this nuzzle in aid of? Do you need some chamomile tea?"
I moan in dismay and she gives my hair a rough pat, sighing.
"I'll get you some chamomile tea," She decides and awkwardly reaches the handbags despite being restricted by my arms around her shoulders. "What even happened? I thought you were going to the movies with Liam. Did you do something embarrassing?"
"I want to crawl into your hair and never come out," I say into it miserably.
"You want to be a giant nit?" She pours boiling water into my cup and I moan again, it's a black and white cow cup with pink udders underneath... and more importantly, Liam gave it to me. "Are you going to use your people words any time soon?"
I suck in a deep breath and step away from her, hugging my arms around myself and trying to come up with a way to explain what just happened without being completely awkward about it. In my handbag, my phone starts to buzz and I drop it in shock, wanting to kick it to the other side of the kitchen. It sits on the floor in front of me, buzzing and flashing and making me nervous.
"Are you going to answer that?"
"Can you turn my phone off? Please? I-I can't hear it right now," I criss cross my hands in front of me and she picks up my handbag slowly, as if she moves too fast she'll upset me or something. She reaches in and checks the display.
"Just turn it off!"
Grace presses the power button and switches my phone off, her face carefully neutral. I still feel tense, though, it doesn't completely erase my anxiety because I know he's still calling and I know that the fact that I've turned my phone off is going to be making him freak out even more. But I don't know what else to do, I don't know what to say!
My phone is put back into my bag and Grace grabs our mugs, nodding for me to follow her into the lounge room. I shuffle after her numbly and sink into the soft baby blue couch, allowing her to settle a blanket over us and handing me my mug.
"What happened?" She says slowly.
"Do you know, um, Emily?"
"Emily from work? Ate all the peanuts at the Christmas work breakup Emily?" Grace smiles at the memory before remembering the gravity of the situation. "What about her?"
"She thought Liam and I were dating so she gave us these tickets to go to the movies together and so we did, anyway, and it got kind of weird," I shift my feet and she blinks.
"Didn't you get over your crush on him?"
"I wouldn't really define that as a crush," I grimace "I thought he was uh, hot, when I first started working there but we were friends. We are friends."
"You said he was delicious and you would do terrible things to the sound of his voice, 'cause it's so deep and sexy hot ooh baby," She waggles her eyebrows.
"I have such a way with words, always," I sigh. "But anyway, so we went on a date that wasn't a date but he jokingly acted like it was and then he caught me checking him out, only because he mentioned how ugly he was which is completely untrue, and then I changed the subject only... only I think he totally knew, and just then, like at the door, he said he had a really good time and he... he looked like he was going to kiss me."
"And then I said 'uh, yeah, I had a good time too' patted his hands and ran inside," I inform her and her lips twitch. "It's not funny!"
"Okay, it could have been better."
"I don't know, I don't know what to do," I shake my head vigorously. "I just wasn't ready for that."
"You shouldn't be leading him on with all that hand patting, then."
"Grace, you are not helping."
"Okay, okay. I'm sorry, but you're too funny sometimes," She giggles wickedly into a hand and I roll my eyes back into my head in anguish. "So, you made an ass of yourself, okay, and I'm sorry I keep emphasising that part, but what are you going to do? What do you want to do?"
"I don't know. I don't know. I adore him, he's Liam, he's a babe, yada yada but I did not expect I'd have to deal with this," I sink into the covers, holding my cup up to my face, inhaling the steam and trying to sooth myself. "He's not meant to like me. I figured I'd hang out with him all bestie-like, silently admiring his swoopy hair and sexy voice but never having to do anything about it!"
She eyes me with a wrinkled nose, contemplating.
I let out an exasperated noise.
"So what should I do?"
"Maybe you just tell him you don't know?" She suggests.
"But like, isn't that awful? Like leading him on? Shouldn't I just tell him outright either no or yes and get it over with?" I agonise.
"Well, it's the truth, isn't it? So long as you're honest isn't it okay? I mean you can only be as real with people as you can and they'll take it how they take it. I think telling him that you're not sure, when you do know how you really feel in order to spare his feelings, that wouldn't be a good idea. But you just don't know. What if you change your mind and you'd said no, like full on no. Wouldn't that be confusing and misleading too? Just lay your cards down on the table, whatever they are, and let him deal with how he feels about them himself."
I slump and bite my lip, feeling conflicted.
"Well, that does make sense," I concede.
"I know," She sounds vaguely self-congratulatory. "Maybe I should be a counsellor, help other lost souls through their struggles. I'm pretty great, I can help other people be great; one day, their insides can be as beautiful as mine."
I stare at her and she pats my shoulder.
"One day," She promises.
"You just ruined this sisterly bonding moment."
"Can't be getting too sentimental here, yuck."
"Yeah, yuck," I roll my eyes and take a deep breath, trying to mentally prepare myself for the dealing.
"You're perfectly desirable, you smell really good and you have shiny, perfectly coiffed eyebrows. You'll be fine, no matter what happens."
A laugh escapes me at 'perfectly coiffed eyebrows' and she winks at me.
"Shiny eyebrows though? Are they actually shiny? Because I can't imagine that that's a good thing," I inquire but she shrugs with a cheeky smirk and doesn't answer me, pressing play and continuing the Parks and Recreation marathon she was having without me.
I touch my eyebrows and run over them self-consciously and then laugh at myself, shaking my head... she's just messing with me, surely.
My computer screen flashes to life and it's on my browser, my facebook page specifically, and I can see there's a message from Liam. Along with the many he left on my phone.
Trying to be brave, I click it.
Hey, Jules. That was awkward. Please ignore the twenty missed calls on your phone and the four frantic, long text messages. Don't even bother reading them. In fact, after sending you this I'll send you a big text of gibberish so you don't even have to see them in the periphery of our next exchange if it'll make you feel better. Please don't treat me awkwardly, please be you. I didn't mean to make things weird. I love talking to you and being your friend and I don't want to sacrifice that for anything. I hope we're still okay.
He forgot to mention the 10 short texts and a couple of shame faced snapchats he left me.
I feel a little relieved now that I've faced his reaction (well, kind of, faced his reaction to the events of this evening thus far) but still a bit stressed. He's waiting for a response, he's seen that I've seen it with facebook's silly notification. I don't know how our friendship is going to move forward from here, with this floating between us.
Liam, I'm so sorry I left you like that. I just didn't know what to do or how I really felt, still kind of don't. I hope you're okay with that for now but yes, yes, yes I want to talk to you. I want to be your friend. Always.
I send him many apologetic love heart emoticons, he sends one back.
A well of happy feelings and appreciation rises in me for him and I brush my finger affectionately in front of his display picture. I'm so completely uncertain of how any of this is going to pan out, but I know it in my heart that we'll always be okay.
Liam's pushing a trolley full of products to place on the shelves when I duck under his outstretched arms, wrapping my arms around his middle.
"Hey," I say to his shoulder.
"Hey," Liam says softly, hugging me to him. I can tell he needed it, this reassurance of normalcy between us. I mean, things weren't completely normal but I don't want him to feel like he has to be too careful around me. "Missed you, girl."
"I know what you mean," I missed him terribly.
He pulls away and pats me on the hands pointedly with a bit of a smirk.
"Oh my god, please forget that ever happened," I bring my hands over my face and he laughs.
"Exactly, what happened?" He zips his lips shut with a wink. "Besides, I'd honestly prefer not to remember that too, it was kind of mortifying."
"I'm so sorry -
He waves his hands dismissively.
"Nope, nope, do not want to hear it," He laughs nervously. "Got a lot of groceries to stack, you're talking to me on company time and frankly it's irresponsible. Away with you, slacker."
"Okay, okay," I hold up my hands. "Please don't report me to the manager, I'm awaying."
I try not to look back at him as I walk off, I mean I know we're okay. He said we're okay, I said we're okay – so by all rights, we should be okay. But we didn't really talk about it, he said his thing which was pretty much just apologising and mine was all oh, oh no we're still okay but I don't know what I want. I hope he heard that last part though, the lack of certainty.
"So how was your date last night? Enjoy the movies?"
"Oh, uh," I freeze, caught off guard and feeling increasingly alienated by Emily's beaming face, ready and waiting for positive results. Um, about that... Emily, you know how you were all 'you guys are so cute'?"
"We're not – we're not a thing, actually, and I'm really sorry about pretending like we were. I just didn't want to confuse you even more, after the whole seed situation. I should have given the tickets back, I didn't, I'm sorry," I clasp my hands together and my smile is all teeth and guilt. "We went on the date anyway, though, as friends... it was um, nice. I'm not sure if that makes my omission any better."
"You guys aren't together?" Emily breathes.
"Um, yeah, just uh... good friends," I bite my lip, looking over at him unpacking the boxes, flipping some of the items onto the shelves and spinning them in his hands kind of irresponsibly. I don't feel like I have any right telling him how to shelve, however, sometimes I play around in the shopping trolleys before returning them to their homes. One time on of our manager's came out and I nearly ran one into someone's car.
I shudder at the memory, much more responsible with my irresponsibility these days.
"Are you like, sure?"
"Um," I guess telling her I was 'sure' of anything would be a lie. "So you're not mad at me for taking the tickets under false pretences?"
"Oh, I would have given them to you guys anyway. I'm kind of sad that the cute date scenario I envisioned didn't actually happen," She frowns. "But I can forgive the deceit, you did help me out in a time of need and who am I to hold anything against a girl who I know will be there for me in a seed tragedy."
Emily chum punches me in the shoulder and then walks back off to her register, leaving me to it. Someone's self-checkout screws up because the item they've taken is too light for the machine to register it and my life goes on like every other day.
Only... only I don't know whether or not I want it to be.
Walking over to the self-checkout, I can't help but look over my shoulder, hand outstretched towards his swoopy hair. I ball my hand into a fist and sigh, smiling a sympathetic smile at the brown, curly headed lady who's picking the nurofen up and down, throwing it against the counter and trying to get it to work. She looks at me, pained.
"Every time," She whispers. "Every time."
"It's okay," I take out my card and wink at her. "I'll save you."
My phone buzzes and I scrounge to find it in the pile of blankets, confused to see a message from Grace. Who is in the kitchen, not far away. Could actually speak words to me, but isn't.
Has sooommeebody resolved their feelings? ;) ;) ;)
I lean further away from Liam self-consciously and see Grace sticking her head through the door, her eyes prying. She keeps popping in and out evaluating the situation under the guise of bringing us popcorn (which she mostly ate, she's worse than me and is most of the reason I am so quick with eating my popcorn, got to get some before she's devoured it all) or getting something from the room which was really weak because at one point she took a figurine off the shelf and was like "I uh, need it for uh, a thing".
"Your sister is being weird, like weird for her," Liam raises his eyebrows at her and she brings out a cloth, pretending to wipe something off of the sliding door.
"You think so?" I try to sound casual, turning my head back to the movie which I haven't been paying attention to at all. Liam keeps making references to what's happening and it's really embarrassing because I have to be like 'oh yeah' and 'of course' and say other vague things, pretending I know what he's talking about.
But Liam's hand is right near mine, straying in that middle area between us. My own hand feels tense, as though if I don't pay enough attention it will develop free will and leap at his, and so instead my nails are pressing into my palm. I don't know whether I'm feeling this way because I want to do anything or because he's put me in this mental place where I know he's thought about doing things with me and so I'm anticipating them happening, but they're not.
"Did you tell her about the other night?"
"No," I laugh very loudly, swatting his shoulder and not looking him in the eye. "Of course not, I wouldn't do that."
"You totally did that," He continues to stare at Grace wiping the same spot on the door and she kneels down, pretending there's more spots and shaking her head in mock dismay.
"Can't get these doors clean, always spilling things all over them," She calls out, her laugh reminiscent of mine, kind of like a goose honk. I have no idea how Grace thinks she's so cool and smooth all the time, how am I taking her life advice? At least I know I'm bad with it, she seems so chill all the time and in my moment of need she's failing me.
"Seriously, you guys are the worst," He laughs half-humiliated, half-amused. "Like it wasn't bad enough it happened in the first place, you two are just not very good at playing it down like it's ridiculous it'd be more funny if it weren't happening to me."
"Oh my god, what do you mean? I haven't been playing it cool?"
"You keep looking at me and looking away at Safe Way and like hugging me, like at first it was nice and reassuring but you're hugging me so much now it's kind of insulting. Like you think you ruined me or something. I will survive, you know," He shoves me playfully in the shoulder and I want to sink through the couch in shame, averting my gaze even more though he keeps trying to duck into my eye line.
I am such a loser, oh my god.
"I-I-I," I begin, highly mortified I wasn't balancing the right level of 'I'm chill, hugs and friendship no matter what, friend' and 'please don't leave me, please feel comfortable with me because clearly look, like I'm comfortable oh god actually hugging you is kind of nice, real nice, oh...' etc. etc. Throwing my blanket over me to hide my shame face, I murmur numerous apologies. "That wasn't what I intended. I don't think I've broken you, you're way cooler than me and this probably isn't that big of a deal at all, but I just – I just wanted to make 100% certain you knew that it was cool and overcompensating didn't seem as bad as leaving you feeling uncertain."
"Hey it's okay, come out of your blankets. I can barely hear you, you're kind of muffled. Just for the record, I got it, okay?" He gently pries the blanket from over me and slips his arm around me, hugging me to his side. "We're friends."
"Uh," I murmur, placing my hands primly on my lap which is kind of uncomfortable, my elbow kind of digging into his side.
"And way cooler than you?"
"Yeah, way cooler," I smile.
"That's not what you say most of the time," He snorts. "Is this another 'I feel bad' perk?"
I look at him in indignation and am surprised by how close his face is to mine, his brown eyes crinkled at the corners, laughing at me.
"Because usually you say I'm a total dorkosaurus," He taps me on the nose.
"Liam," I laugh, kind of pained. Just like watching the TV earlier, I'm having a hard time paying attention to what he's saying. All I can see is his pink, smirking lips.
"What's cooler about me? Is it like temperature wise because my hands can be really cold or is it because of my beauty spot, like right here? I'm like Marilyn Monroe," He points to above his lips, the cute little brown mole. I hold my blanket tight, trying to compose myself – as if I need any more encouragement to look at his lips right now, what am I doing? Ugh.
"Liam you don't... her's was higher, like on the corner of her cheek, but that's not the point, you - you don't get where I'm coming from at all, here, it's not pity. I don't pity you, I–"
"Or is it the way that I juggle the dolmio pasta sauce jars and how it kind of scares you yet impresses you at the same time? Maybe it's my long eyelashes, maybe I'm born with it, maybe it's maybelline -"
"Stop it," I nearly laugh again, trying to get serious and have a talk with him. I need to clear this up, he keeps saying 'we're friends' it's like he skipped over the part where I said I wasn't sure. I don't know how to go about doing that, though, so I may be allowing him to use his silliness to stall.
"They're real, actually, touch them," He juts out his chin and presents his face to me, dimples presenting themselves as he gives me a cheeky grin. "Unlike yours, you have to use your 'better than sex' – nice name, by the way – mascara."
I reach up and touch his cheek, brushing my fingertips over his bottom lashes and sitting up on my knees. Our noses bump and he inhales sharply.
"R-Real enough for you?"
Caught in a daze, I trail my finger down his face, tracing his jaw and looking down at that beauty spot again. He is now completely silent and his lips are parted in a perplexed 'o'; not looking him in the eyes again, I slip my hands into his black, wavy hair.
"Jules," He whispers and I stiffen, forgetting the fact that this is real and I am behaving in a very, very inappropriate manner with him right now. I scramble away, falling backwards onto the lounge room floor and not looking at him, my heart pounding.
"Jules, what are you – what was –"
I grit my teeth and crawl away, getting to my feet and dashing down the hallway and to the front door. I got to get out of here, I got to think. I needed more time, but then I.. whatever that was in there.
The image of him, looking down at me all wide-eyed and confused, hair dishevelled from all my running through it.I was supposed to talk to him about how I felt, which was confused. I mean, I think I'm confused...
"Where are you?"
"I'm at the park, in one of the plastic tubes on the playground."
"Okay, but really, why aren't you here?"
"I-I ran out."
"You ran out of your own house, without explaining yourself, leaving him in the lounge by himself?
"Has he left?"
"No he's sitting in front of me, made him some tea."
"Why are you calling me right in front of him?" I demand in horror, wanting to reach through the phone and shake her.
"Well, he hadn't finished his tea yet. It'd be rude."
"You could have gone into another room, oh my god."
"Well, we're both confused by your behaviour."
"I'm confused by my behaviour and what is this? You're my sister, you're not meant to put me on the spot like this."
"Oh, you're on speaker phone,"
"Just kidding, he's left already, you should hear yourself right now," Grace snorts, bursting into laughter as I listen in silence, miffed. "Okay, okay that was mean of me but you have to admit it was funny..."
"Well fine, but anyway, he finished his can of coke and left. What did you do to the guy?"
"...I stroked his face and played with his hair."
"Ah," She clears her throat. "That would explain the somewhat dazed expression on his face, you know that's kind of a confusing message to send."
"I know it is, I know," I groan, sliding lower down the curve of the tunnel, my feet on the roof of it. "That's why the running."
"That isn't entirely better."
"Not entirely, no," I agree, with kind of manic laughter, closing my eyes. "What am I going to do? I don't know what I'm doing."
"Just...just what is stopping you? Clearly you like him, what do you think you're doing by waiting? What are you afraid of?"
"I don't want to ruin anything."
"... Jules," She sighs and I chew on my lip, frustrated.
"I know," I say, but I don't really know. I mean, I feel like I'm going about this all the wrong way but I feel that way all the time about everything. I don't know what to do, what am I supposed to do? Just – just go for it? What if we completely screw up our friendship? I-I don't want to do anything, I want to be sure. I want to feel ready.
"I don't know what to say to that, just... be brave, okay? Avoiding him may not be very helpful either, you know."
I sigh and she sighs, "Love you," she whispers before hanging up. I stare up at the top of the slide, wrinkling my nose at the scribbled graffiti penis on top of the tunnel – guess I'm not the only adult who comes up here, what kind of person scribbles that on kid's equipment? Although, actually, come to think of it I guess it could have been a kid...
I spit on my hand and try to scrub it off, but it doesn't work.
I kick the top of the tunnel, frustrated. Nothing is going right and it's all my fault, well – well no, the graffiti kind of isn't my fault. But still, I feel the social responsibility to get rid of it and I can't do anything. Maybe I should come back here with some cleaning spray, would that work? Maybe some jiff? That's what we use to clean our sink sometimes.
Shaking my head, I laugh at myself... this isn't really the main problem in my life right now, it just seems so much easier to fix, though.
I slide further down and close my eyes, trying to calm down.
Liam hasn't even mentioned it, my running off on him the other day, stroking his hair... I came in to work on Monday and he's just like, "So, someone's spilled seeds again. I think it's sent Emily into a trauma response, the memories" all joking like, then continued to tell me about his weekend excluding the me related parts.
I just stood there, in silence, not really knowing how to react to his non-reaction.
"So, what do you think you could offer to our workplace?"
"Well, I can drink a lot of water and not need to pee. It would be useful in meeting situations," I offer, swirling the sugar and mixing it into my ice coffee.
"Oh well, that is very valuable indeed," He leans back in his chair, nodding his head and looking impressed. "You wouldn't believe the amount of times I've nearly peed myself in work situations, it's rather annoying."
"Oh nearly," I tease, trying to withold my giggles as someone walks past us, giving us a look.
"That was a pineapple juice spill, I was cleaning it up. I drink so much more water than that, anyway, my pee is clear," He defends the mess he didn't make, louder so the passerby hears.
"Why wasn't the pineapple in the juice aisle, huh?"
"It had fallen out of someone's trolley, okay? Leave me alone," He crosses his arms over his chest defensively before breaking into a gentle smile. "I've missed our games, you're a busy bee. What are you doing after work today?"
"Helping Grace," I say vaguely, continueing to swirl my coffee around way more than is necessary for proper sugar integration. We seemed to have developed a thing where I'm vague and he deliberately doesn't question it, so I've kind of gotten used to not having to give good responses. I feel so shitty about it though, like my responses are just begging for him to question them, it's so frustrating not being honest with him like I used to be and he just takes it.
"Oh okay, sounds like fun," He says even though it doesn't sound like anything. "I'll be [insert whatever]
"Oh, nice," I mutter and he moves the crumbs around on his plate with a fork.
I kind of feel like crying, our conversations keep reaching these awkward lulls lately because of all the stupid pretence to them. I'm just so angry with myself, for not following through with the 'we'll be okay' because it's me, it's me that's making it awkward he's been so sweet and considerate of my feelings.
"I got to go," I get up from my seat, feeling sick and verging on tears. I can't stand hanging around him any more with this, this thing between us. I got to do something. He doesn't say anything, doesn't call after me. I peek back at him and he just looks completely resigned, his fork dropping to his plate and his head resting in his hands.
Letting out a moan of dismay at this turn of events, I tug my hand through my ponytail and grit my teeth. So. Much. Self-loathing.
"Liam left this for you," Emily hands me a note, chewing on her lip. "Usually you guys hang out or talk before you go home but, he looked pretty... pretty unhappy all day today, he has been stacking the shelves and sweeping the floors you know, without dancing romantically around with the broom beforehand. He hasn't been quite himself."
"Uh, okay," I take the note, swallowing guilt.
Unfolding it my stomach lurches in anticipation and I clutch it with my free hand, trying to remain casual but feeling Emily's eyes on me.
Being your friend has been kind of hard lately and I know you said we were okay, but we aren't. I don't understand what's going on with you, you're so distant. I don't know what to do about it and I'm sick and tired of hanging out with you and feeling like you're not even really there, like there are moments when you are but your mind goes elsewhere and I hate faking it. I don't want to be your fake friend, we were real friends. Now I don't know what we are. What's happened, Julia? Can we fix it? Time machine, maybe?
I sit down on the bench by the coke machine and take a pen out of my handbag, my breathing shallow and my eyes tearing up. Emily watches me awkwardly for a little bit from her register before turning away, wrapping her arms around her middle and continuing her lip chewing.
I rip a page out of my own notebook, trailing my finger down the empty lines and taking a deep breath.
I like you. I do. I keep screwing around about it, like should I, or shouldn't I? I thought I needed time to think, but things keep going in circles in my head. I was scared of saying so, scared of doing anything about it. I'm sorry I let things get so messed up between us, I'm sorry for being so passive aggressive lately. I'm sorry for not making this okay. I'm sorry for saying sorry so many times, that's got to be annoying, too. Liam, when I said that I didn't know how I felt, I meant Ididn't know. You kept acting like I was pitying you, when it so wasn't the case, Liam. I can't think straight around you any more, you make me nervous, mostly in a very good way but a way I didn't know how to act on. I always kind of liked you, but like, theoretically. Like it was a nice idea, in my head, that I thought would never happen... and the reality of it confused me. Like, I didn't want anything to start because then I could ruin it. I could ruin us. I kept stalling. Only stalling doesn't help, like I can't be thinking all of these things in my head and pretend like I'm not when I'm around you, and avoiding you is hell. I knew what I wanted in my heart of hearts, I was just terrified to lose it once I got it.
We need to talk, one of those big, scary talks. I like you, Liam, I like us.
I hope we will be okay this time. xoxo
"Oh, you," I hover half-way out the door way, my stomach erupting with butterflies. I can feel my face growing warm under his gaze.
Liam is standing outside, looking tentatively happy, and he takes his hands of his pockets, straightening. I look at the piece of paper he's holding and my heart gives a nervous flutter. Grabbing hold of the door frame for support, I step outside and eye him warily. He follows my gaze and clears his throat.
"Nutella, mountain dew, and oh, shudder, smooth peanut butter - is this your shopping list? What a weird thing to send me in the mail."
"What?" I spit out in surprise, snatching it off him and finding myself looking down at both my letter and my shopping list I'd accidentally shoved in for the ride, too, when I posted it in his letter box on the way home. I begin to blush madly and don't look up at him, afraid to see the reaction on his face.
"Jokes... but hey, don't grip that so hard. I want to frame it, immortalise the... our beginning," He pries it gently from my hands and I wriggle my toes focusing on the chipped, sparkly purple polish left on them from months ago and trying not to hyperventilate. "It is uh, our beginning right?"
"Um, yeah," I murmur and want to die, why can't I just speak words? I look at his hands and the way he's cradling my letter like it's something precious.
"I thought you didn't like me like that," He says quietly. "I mean there was that one weird moment, but then you ran out and didn't really talk to me for a while, so... I just didn't know what to think."
I squeeze my hands together, wanting to apologise a million times.
"I'm so sorry Liam," I shrug, biting my lip. "I didn't feel ready, but it's kind of an unfixable, only know once you try it out thing."
"Want to try me out, then? Give me a whirl?" He laughs.
"Oh my god, this is embarrassing," I cover my face with my hands.
"Aww, it'll be okay, for reals," He cups my cheeks and steps forward, nuzzling my nose and trying to get my attention. "But Jules, could I, uh, at least get some mutual eye contact going over here? I'm starting to think I've gone kind of crazy and written that letter to myself, somehow developing pretty girl's handwriting," He holds up the letter, glancing at it and then frowns. "Actually scratch that, you have chicken scrawl."
"Hey, my handwriting is not that bad," I smack him in the chest and he snorts, raising his eyebrows.
"Oh believe me, it's awful," He grins. "It took me about five read throughs to understand what you were saying, I thought you were saying you wanted to lick me. 'I lick you, I lick us' it was very confusing for me."
"You – you're making that up," I go to grab my letter off of him again and he holds it above my reach. "I write a letter to you telling you how I feel and you only want to mock my handwriting? Give it back."
"Not only," He laughs, eyes crinkling at the corners as I jump to try and grab hold of it. "Hey, now; you're going to rip it if you keep that up!"
Liam snickers and sticks the letter down his pants and I falter in my attempts to steal the letter back, blushing.
"Not going to go there?" He wraps his arms around my shoulders and rests his forehead on mine, snickering. I glare into his eyes, not even knowing how to respond to that.
"You going to sanatise that before you get it framed?"
"You think I'm dirty, Julia?"
"You're the worst."
"Oh?" I wrinkle my nose at him and he kisses it, then kissing my cheek right below it and kissing the corner of my lips. I am melting into a jiggly human heap in his arms, one of his hands slipping into my hair, pulling out my pony tail. "Still the worst?"
"A-Absolutely," I breathe, shaking my hair out of my face when Liam starts now kissing my neck. I step back into the front door, dragging him with me and slipping my hands under his jean jacket. "I t-truly despise you and w-what you're doing to me right now, it's h—h-heinous."
"Oh tell me how bad I am," He hisses in my ear and I laugh, feeling ridiculous.
"Transitioning from friends to this, really?" I brush a hand up his side, digging my nails in and bringing my other to his chin, tilting his head up. Liam shrugs, with an open mouthed grin, still reaching to place some kisses down my collar bone. I tilt his head back up again though and he eyes me curiously.
"You're not bad at all, you're a lamb," Stroking his jaw, I press a heartfelt kiss to his lips and he sighs, leaning into it.
"Maahh," He whispers softly, curling my hair around his fingertips and shuddering as I slip my fingertips underneath the back of his shirt. I enjoy making him melt, sliding my fingers up his spine as he shivers against me, lips pressing desperate kisses onto mine. I can feel him stop trying to impress me, mess with me etc. and I smile against his lips, so happy.
Liam slips his hands around my hips, picking me up and I slip my legs around him, flinging my arms around his neck.
"Oh Jules," He whispers, hands slipping into my jean pockets.
I cough, seeing one of my neighbour's come outside in the corner of my eye, watching them look over curiously, turn beet red, and pretend to be very annoyed with a weed in their yard, distracting themselves. Liam reluctantly pulls away, following my gaze.
"Why does Ann have to go and water her garden right now? Didn't it rain earlier today?"
"Like a few spits, not really," I sigh.
"So, girlfriend," He begins with a smile.
"I have been hearing your sister make happy squealing noises to herself in the background, anyway, which is kind of a turn off to be honest – want to go inside, let her happy all over us and quit disturbing the neighbours?" He suggests and appropriately, an excited noise can be heard from behind the door.
Liam lets me down and I reach for his hand, taking his hand off my hip, enveloping it in mine with a warm smile.
"I'd love to," he presses one more kiss to my lips and twists the door open, Grace bounding towards us and flinging her arms around us.
Later that week.
I pick up the broom, gritting my teeth about the situation outside. I don't know what that person ate, but it is now spread all over our floor, looking really gross. I hear the door creak behind me and a hand squeezes my hip.
"Oh, my, look at us... we're in the janitor's closet," Liam walks around me, leaning an elbow against the wall and waggling his eyebrows at me. I look between him and the broom. "And my girlfriend is torn between going and cleaning up the vomit in aisle 2 and having a cliché makeout session with me, go figure."
"Maybe on our break?" I offer.
"Oh, man," He brings his hand over his eyes with a disbelieving laugh, his shoulders shaking. "You are absolutely missing the point of the janitor's closet make out session, it's the spontaneity, the doing something we shouldn't be doing on company time, the wrongness of it all is the entire point, it's hot."
"Aw, but making out with you is hot enough," I poke his cheek and check my phone, we've been in here for nearly a whole minute now. "Now I really got to clean up that mess."
"You know, all this time we're spending talking about not making out? We could be making out," He crosses his arms.
"Is anyone getting the broom, I swear I saw somebody – oh, hey," Emily walk in, her expression delighted. "I thought you guys were happier, but you hadn't told me why you jerks. Don't mind me, I'll just take that."
Emily plucks the broom from my hand and winks at me, giving me a kissy face and closing the door most way behind her, giggling like an evil mastermind. I look at the empty space in my hand where the broom was in dismay, not knowing what to do now.
"See, Emily gets it, maybe I'll go make out in a closet with her," He raises his eyebrows in mock threat.
"That disposable, am I?"
"Oh, you know you aren't," He slips both of his hands around my hips, pressing a kiss to my lips and smiling sweetly. "I like you, Jules, even if you're proving, once again, how vanilla you are."
"How I wish I were out there, mopping up vomit," I comment dryly.
"Aw, didn't you hear the part where I said I like you still?"
"I could pretend your face was the mop. Hey wait, I could use your face as the mop."
Liam is pouting and I sigh, stepping up on my tip toes and giving him a kiss. I feel the pressure of my employee responsibility weighing down on me but Emily has connections with the manager and she's the one who left us in here, so really, I could get in trouble for not kissing him right now. I'll... I kiss him … just be in here... he untucks my work shirt and slips his hand up the back of my shirt... for a minute or two.
AUTHOR NOTE: Ha, so it's uh, been a while huh, you guys? Like a couple years. No big deal or anything...
I'M SO SORRY, FOR ANY OF YOU THAT ARE STILL EVEN WAITING ON ME, OH MY GOD! So sorry, love you to pieces. Miss writing like madness. I just got all weird about it, like I felt so not good enough and like I wasn't writing anything important or that great, so why bother? Every time I'd write I'd keep attacking everything, which with this story I tried not to question it to much. I'll be doing nanowrimo, a combination of updates of old stories and one shots. I will win, and I will try to get back into the habit of writing. I really love writing, it makes me so happy.
Anyway, I have like four hours before I have to be up for work at 5 something so, you know, responsible decisions. But I made a promise I'd have this up by the end of the weekend and although I'm running a little late, a lot late if you count the years of not uploading anything, better late than never, huh?
Sorry if this has any mistakes or doesn't make sense in parts, haven't had time to edit. Must sleep, must try not to be a crazy person – or more of a crazy person – at work.