A/N: This was a one-shot written from three writing prompts given to me by three friends. They gave me a maze, a fake relationship, and a summer music festival. My own criteria was no fantasy, SCI-FI, or supernatural, and I wanted to keep it below 5000 words. Every now and then I try to challenge myself by writing things I feel that I'm really bad at, and in this case it was keeping an entire story within only a few thousand words. Also, I've never really done writing prompts before, and so I thought I'd combine the two. This is the result.
"So, I guess you heard?" Miles asked raising his voice a little in order to be heard over the tones of the slow music from the stage. It was some country singer right now, and it wasn't exactly Miles' preferred musical genre. He had no idea who the singer was, and he also didn't care. He was only there to get wasted.
"I heard," Millie replied with a quick glance at him, before her eyes wandered off into the distance. Her dark blonde hair was in a fancy hairdo on top of her head today, and a few curls had fallen out of place. Miles had always thought that the hairdo made her look a little uptight, though he knew she wasn't. Strangers always thought she was, but she was really just shy. Even towards him.
"I guess I should buy my future bride a drink, then," he mumbled and continued a little louder, "what do you want?"
"We're not gonna get married!" Millie sighed and asked the bartender for a draught beer. "I don't care what they say. This is the 21st century."
"Try telling my parents that." Miles got a beer as well and paid for both of them, before he looked at Millie and took a swig. "Cheers."
"What did you tell them when they broke the news?" she asked as they walked downhill over the grass towards the stage.
"Nothing. I just left and slammed the door."
Millie gave a snort and adjusted her light yellow blouse. One of the straps was falling off her shoulder.
"Well, at least they told you."
"What? You mean, your parents didn't..."
"Nope. Eliza texted me. Her mum read it in the paper."
"Oh God, I'm sorry. They're even worse than my parents."
"Well, I don't know about that, but..." Miles trailed off.
An insect of some sort landed on Millie's naked shoulder, and he instinctively reached out to wave it off. She turned her face to see what he was doing, and then looked up at him. She looked so sad, and he had no idea what to do about it. He felt the same way.
"Oh God, here we go!" she exclaimed and made Miles turn around to see what was going on. Both sets of parents were coming towards them, his own mother with a very pleased expression on her face. Millie's mother looked much the same, and they were whispering to each other. Miles turned around to face Millie again.
"Could we..." No, it was stupid. They should just stand up to them.
"...Not deal with it right here and now?"
"Yeah. Could we just pretend? Just for today."
"Sure. I don't wanna fight with them. Not today." Her voice was calm, but there was an almost desperate look in her blue eyes.
"No, me neither."
"Romilly," Miles' mother said with a smile and took Millie's hands in hers, "it's so good to see you." Then she kissed both of her cheeks without even touching her. It made Miles cringe. She was so fake. All the way through.
"You too, Mrs. Remington," Millie replied with a polite smile. How did she manage to make it look so real, when it had to be fake?
"Miles," Millie's mother said with a courteous nod at him, and he put on a fake smile in return. Then Millie's father reached out his hand to him, and he could hardly turn it down.
"Congratulations, son!" he said, and Miles just stood there like an idiot, letting the man, who was supposed to be his future father-in-law, shake his hand.
"Uh..." he finally managed, but no thank you came over his lips. He just couldn't.
"Have you been to the maze, yet?" his mother asked the two of them and then smiled knowingly at Millie's mother.
"No, not yet," Millie replied with a small smile and took a grip of Miles' arm, "but we were just going to, weren't we, my dear?"
Miles did his best not to look too amused, when he put his hand on hers on his arm, and both of their mothers clearly bought it.
"We were," he replied and looked her in the eye with a smile a little longer than necessary. She returned the gaze, and though their parents probably didn't notice a thing, they were both close to breaking out laughing. "Let me take your cup."
She let him take her empty plastic cup, and he put it in a nearby waste bin.
"Well, why don't we all go, then?" Millie's mother asked and earned a pleased smile from Miles' own mother. Oh, no. Not that. Then they would actually have to go, and Miles didn't really feel like walking around in a maze made of huge straw bales right now. He'd much rather get drunk and forget everything about their parents' plans.
"What a great idea, Beatrice," his mother said and looked from her best friend to her son. "Are you coming? Miles?"
Miles sighed and closed his eyes for a moment. It was either that or rolling his eyes at her, and he knew better than to choose the latter.
"Yes, mother," he replied and offered his arm to Millie again. They could as well have a little fun and put on a show. The disappointment and horror on his mother's face, when the hangover tomorrow would make him yell at her that it was never going to happen, would be worth it.
Millie took a grip of his arm again, and they followed their parents towards the maze at the bottom of the hill. Children were running in and out of it, and some were jumping around on top of the straw bales. Whoever had made the maze had put two bales on top of each other, so it was impossible to look over them. How the children had managed to crawl onto them, Miles had no idea. He wasn't even sure that he would've managed himself, even though he was rather tall and - if he were to say so himself - relatively fit.
"Why don't you run along?" Miles' mother said as they reached the entrance of the maze and made him almost roll his eyes at her again. They weren't children anymore, and considering their parents' plans for their future, they ought to know that. Nevertheless, Miles was happy to have an excuse to leave them behind, so he grabbed Millie's hand and pulled her with him through the maze, as far away from their parents as possible.
"Okay, I think we can stop now," Millie said a little short of breath, when they had turned a few corners. Miles let go of her hand and turned around to look at her. She was smiling a little, and he couldn't tell if she was amused or just shy. Or maybe both.
"How come you're still shy?" he asked bluntly and walked on making sure she followed next to him. A couple of children ran past them, and a boy jumped from one straw bale wall to the other in front of them. "I mean, we've known each other for nearly 20 years."
"I'm not...shy," Millie replied without looking him in the eye. Miles smiled a little to himself. Yeah. She was. "I'm just not as...outgoing as you are."
"It's got nothing to do with being outgoing," Miles replied and heard his mother's voice closing in on them. "Quick!" He took Millie's hand again and started running, and when they were a safe distance away and had turned around another few corners, he let go of it again.
"Then what is it?" Millie said and let her eyes down for a moment. Then she gave a small smile and looked up at him again. "You've always been the outgoing one of us. You always know how to talk to strangers. I don't."
"But I'm hardly a stranger."
"No, that's no what I meant," she replied with a roll of her eyes and then put a hand on his chest and gave him a gentle push. Huh? Was she flirting with him?
"There you are!" he heard Beatrice's voice and looked at Millie with a sigh. No. She hadn't been flirting. She had just been pretending, because they hadn't been able to shake off their parents afterall.
"Are you hiding from us on purpose, Miles?" his mother asked, and he played his part by taking Millie's hand again.
"Uh..." was all that came out of his mouth, and then Beatrice whispered something to his mum.
"Oh, of course," she replied with a knowing look at Millie's mother, and suddenly they seemed to be in a hurry to get away.
"That was strange," Miles said when he and Millie were alone again. "Sometimes I wonder if they're not quite well."
"Oh, please!" Millie exclaimed and didn't let go of Miles' hand. Was she trying to prove that she wasn't shy? "My mother's been mental for years. She's desperate to marry me off to someone before I turn 21."
"Really? So they didn't pick me because I'm a good catch?" Miles asked teasingly and let go of her hand. "They just want you married off to anybody who'll say yes?"
"Well, no..." She let her eyes down again. Her cheeks were a becoming pink when she looked up at him again. "I do believe you're their first choice, but if you said no..."
"If my parents said no..."
"...If your parents said no, they were going to ask Matthew's parents, and you know Matthew. He'd never say no."
"Matthew? Not Florence?"
"Yes, that Matthew."
"Oh God, no! You can't do that!" Matthew Florence was loaded, but he had no brains. If he were ever going to find a girl, it would be because of his money. Or his parents. Millie couldn't marry that. She would be bored to death within a week! Also, the thought was disgusting.
"Well, no, I guess between the two of you, you would be the obvious choice," she said with a teasing glance at him and walked on. "Do you have any idea how to get out of here again?"
"Why thank you!" Miles ignored the last part. He sure hoped he was a better catch than Matthew Florence, even if he would have to actually work to keep up the living-standard for Millie that she had been used to all of her life.
"But do you?"
"Do I what?"
"Know how to get out of here again?"
"I guess we just keep on walking."
"Yeah, I figured as much." She looked around as if she wasn't quite sure what to do about herself.
"What is it?"
"Our parents. Can't you hear them?"
Miles listened, and sure, he heard his mother's shrill voice again. How did they do it?
"Not again!" Miles exclaimed with a sigh. "How do we get rid of them?"
"Do you mean in here or more permanently?"
Miles looked at her in surprise and then noticed the teasing smile she sent him, before their parents came round the corner.
"I know how to get rid of them," he said and put a hand on Millie's waist to pull her close. The teasing smile was gone from her face when he bent down to kiss her, and when he let go of her a moment later, she looked away with a blush. Yeah, maybe that had been a little too much, but it worked. Their parents hurried away, and they probably wouldn't be searching for them again anytime soon.
"Was that..." Millie tried and cleared her throat. "Was that really necessary?"
"Well, it worked, didn't it?" Miles replied with a shrug and walked in the opposite direction of where their parents had gone off to. He needed some air. Even if they were outside in the open air, he suddenly felt far too hot. Millie had only been pretending, he knew that, and so had he, but somehow the kiss had felt...right. It wasn't supposed to. He had felt butterflies inside. And he hadn't for a very long time.
"Yeah, but..." she trailed off.
"Let's get out of here. I need a drink."
Quite a few beers later Miles and Millie were both lying on their backs on a blanket they had snatched from her parents and then taken to the place furthest away from them that they could find within the festival fence. Some sickeningly sweet pop singer was screaming her lungs out (well, it was probably sing-back) on the stage and shaking her booty in almost no clothes at all. None of them felt like watching. They both just wanted to get drunk and forget the future for a few hours. Miles had no idea what to do about it, anyway. He did not want to marry Millie, but he also did not want her to marry Matthew Florence. He wasn't only stupid, he was also a dick towards women. The many, many times he had been taken to the police station for a chat proved it all too well. Unfortunately, his dad always bailed him out and nothing further ever happened.
Miles sighed and turned around to look at Millie. She had put daisies in her hair a while ago, and they were already withering.
"What?" she asked and turned her face to look at him.
"You can't marry Matthew."
She looked away again.
"But you know I also can't marry you out of pity, right?"
"Pity?" She looked at him again. Maybe a little hurt.
"No, I didn't mean it like that." He reached over to squeeze her hand, and she stared up into the sky again. It wouldn't be long before the sun began to set. "I mean, I..." he trailed off.
"Maybe if we got married and then divorced?" she suggested, and Miles looked for a teasing smile, but none came.
"I guess Matthew's parents wouldn't want him to marry a divorced woman," he replied and turned around to lie on his back again, "but then all the other eligible gentlemen wouldn't want to marry you, either."
"Gentlemen?" she exclaimed and continued in a mumble, "If they don't want to marry me just because I've been married before, it's their loss."
"True," Miles replied and out of the corner of his eye he noticed her turning her face to look at him.
"Would you marry a divorced woman?"
"Why wouldn't I?" Miles looked at her again. "I'm not my parents. When I'm gonna get married, it's gonna be for love."
"You think they don't love each other?" She looked at him again, and he looked away.
"I think they do now. But 25 years ago? No, I don't think they did. Their parents arranged the marriage, just as ours are trying to arrange it for us."
"Have you ever thought about it?"
"About what?" He looked at her again, but she plucked a daisy and fiddled with it before she replied.
"25 years from now? You think we could..."
"Millie, we're not gonna get married!" Miles exclaimed and then lowered his voice a little. "Not unless we want to."
She looked at him again, and even when she looked serious and almost sad, she was extremely beautiful. He probably hadn't noticed enough in the past, but she was.
"Not unless we want to," she repeated in a mumble and looked at the daisy again. Why did that make him want to reach out and hold her? Had that kiss back at the maze really screwed with his head that much? To be honest, he had thought of it quite a few times the past hours. And the feeling inside when he did so...
"Where are you going?" Millie asked, when Miles got up from the blanket. He was a little dizzy because of the alcohol, but he managed to get up without falling and also to reach down a hand to help Millie get up as well.
"To get another beer. We're not drunk enough."
"For what?" she asked with a small laugh and let go of his hand a little later than he had expected, but she had had just as much to drink as he had, so it was only natural that she was a bit slow.
"This!" Miles exclaimed and beckoned all around with his arm. "Marriage. Parents. Terrible pop singers. Everything!"
Millie laughed and followed him when he set off towards the bar on the top of the small hill. They didn't bring the blanket. Millie's parents had others, and if they didn't, they could just buy new ones.
"It'll take a lot of alcohol to get drunk enough for all that," she said and almost stumbled trying to keep up with Miles' quick pace up the hill. He stopped to support her and didn't let go of her hand when they walked on.
"Yeah, well, I had plans to get wasted today, anyway," he replied and let go of her to ask the bartender for a cardboard carrier with five beers. When Millie asked another bartender for the same, Miles couldn't help smiling to himself. They would have to drink fast to empty them before they turned lukewarm and gross.
"Then let's get wasted," she said and headed downhill again. "Where are we going?"
"The maze?" Miles suggested and oddly enough his heart started beating a little faster at the thought. The last time they were in that maze...
"Alright. The maze it is."
They both emptied the first beer before they reached the maze. A couple of beers later, and they were so far into the maze that they met no more children. They did meet couples holding hands and kissing, and every time they did, Miles' thoughts returned to earlier that day.
"Do you have any idea where we are?" Millie asked at some point when they had walked for a while, and it began to darken around them. Was that a worried tone in her voice? Even if they couldn't find their way out again, they weren't gonna be lost forever. At some point the festival would close, and people would start taking down the straw bales
"Not anymore," Miles replied and didn't really mind. At least they were safe from their parents for the moment being.
"Please don't laugh at me, but I sort of don't like it anymore."
Miles stopped to look at Millie. She did look sort of worried, and the frown on her forehead made her look incredibly cute. Wait, what?
"I'm not laughing." Miles reached out to squeeze her hand, and she held on to his. "And I've got an idea."
"What? Like, we only turn left from now on, and eventually it'll get us out?"
Miles chuckled and put his beer carrier to the ground and took Millie's from her, putting that to the ground as well.
"No, like helping you climb those straw bales, so you can guide us out from here."
"What? You want me up there?" she exclaimed and widened her eyes. "Miles, I can't climb in this..." She looked down herself, and so did Miles. She was wearing a light blue jeans skirt. It wasn't that short - it reached just above her knees - but her flipflops probably weren't made for climbing.
"Which is why I'm gonna help you," he replied and grabbed her around the waist to lift her up.
"Alright, alright!" she exclaimed with a laugh and turned around to face the straw bales. "Just let me get ready."
Miles put his hands on her waist again and helped her up onto the first straw bale. She was a little heavier than he had imagined, but he managed.
"What do I do from here?" she asked and looked down at him.
"Use my shoulders. And climb."
"What? You want me to stand on your shoulders?"
She looked around as if searching for a way out, and then she let her flipflops drop to the ground.
"Alright," she said and stepped up onto Miles' shoulder with one foot. She was stepping backwards to still face the straw bales, so she was extremely careful not to trip. Miles held on to her naked leg to help her stand. He had had no idea that her skin would feel so soft and smooth. If he looked up now... Yeah... No. He'd better not even think about it.
From Miles' shoulders Millie was able to heave herself up onto the top straw bale, and for a moment she just stood there watching something or someone. Miles couldn't tell from rather far below her.
"What is it? Can you see the exit?" he asked and kept looking up at her. It was getting darker alright, and they probably should get out before it was too dark to see anything.
"Uh, no, not yet, but Miles?" she said and glanced at him.
"You should get up here."
"Just get up here!"
"Alright," he said with a sigh and picked up a beer carrier and reached it up to her. "Take these, please?"
She got down to lie on her stomach to be able to reach them both, when Miles handed them to her. Then she reached down her hand to support him, when he tried to climb the straw bales. He got up on the first one, and from there his head reached up above the second one. He didn't really need a hand from there, but Millie gave him one, anyway.
"Look!" she said when he was finally up there next to her. She was watching the sunset, and Miles got why she had wanted him to see it. It was breathtaking. As was she, even with straw in her hair.
"You're not even looking at it!" she exclaimed with a shy smile when he kept staring at her. Even after all these beers... She was still shy?
"Have another beer," Miles said and sat down letting his feet dangle in front of him. "All that climbing made me thirsty."
Millie sat down next to him a little closer than she usually would've. Okay, so the alcohol was working.
"But don't you think it's beautiful?" she asked and Miles was unable to take his eyes off the strand of hair that was stuck at the corner of her mouth.
"It's very beautiful," he replied and reached out to remove it. She clearly hadn't even noticed it, and when she turned her face to see what he was doing, he let his hand rest on her cheek for a moment.
"Miles..." she tried but didn't continue. She just took his hand and removed it from her cheek.
"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have..." Miles withdrew his hand and felt his cheeks turn pink from embarrassment. He had probably had a little too much to drink, and still he emptied half of his beer in one take. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Millie emptying her plastic cup entirely.
"Don't be sorry," she said and made him look at her again. That look in her eyes... Was she happy? When she should be miserable because of their situation?
"Well, then I also won't be sorry for this..." Miles said and reached out for her. The eagerness with which she let him pull her close surprised him, but when he put his lips on hers and closed his eyes, he wondered why they had never done this before. So many years of friendship, and not even once had they come close. All those years wasted. They had to make up for them now. Miles held Millie a little closer, and she willingly let him. The passion with which she kissed him back - it completely took his breath away. Was she just drunk, or...
"Is this why..." he broke away from the kiss and looked at the sunset reflected in her eyes. "Is this why you've been shy around me? Have I been a complete idiot all these years?"
Millie looked away for a moment, before she gave him a small smile.
"I think blind is a better word than idiot."
"You were always better with words than me," Miles chuckled and caressed her hair a little. "But I promise you, I won't be blind from now on. I may be an idiot, but I won't be blind."
"Well, 25 years from now, you might," she said with a teasing smile and leaned back to rest on her elbows and watch the sunset. Miles followed her example.
"25 years from now..." He glanced at her, before he looked at the sunset again. The sun was only a thin line on the horizon by now, but the sky was still all sorts of golden. "I'm not gonna get down on my knee just yet, but I'm also not gonna let your parents marry you off to Matthew Florence."
He reached over to place a soft kiss on her lips, and when he let go of her again, something was clearly on her mind.
"You know what I don't like about this?"
What was there to dislike? Except all the years they - he - had wasted being blind?
"I hope it's nothing too bad?"
"I hate that our parents will love it."
Miles gave a laugh and reached over to hold her again.
"Yeah, well, we can always make it a very long engagement."
"Or live together before we get married?"
"My mum would die of embarrassment!"
"It's settled, then, 'cause so would mine."
Miles got up again and reached his hand down to help Millie.
"Where are we going?" she asked when Miles jumped off the straw bales and back into the maze.
"Hand me the beers, please?"
Millie handed him the remaining beers in one of the carriers, and then she let him help her down as well. He didn't let go of her, when her feet reached the ground, but put his arms around her and kissed her again. 25 years from now he would still love being able to do that.
"So, where are we going?" she asked again when Miles let go of her to take her hand instead.
"As far into the maze as possible," he replied. "Let's get lost!"
Millie gave a laugh before she followed him blindly. Her laugh was so contagious and so real. It would still be 25 years from now.