In which someone has to learn that bold acts of confidence can place you in very hot water afterwards but also yield unexpected rewards.
Nate sat on Adelie’s love seat and tried very hard to not get mesmerised by her beautiful face as she cleaned battle marks from his face. Long, curved lashes contrasted with translucent, rosy cheeks. Faint freckles sprinkled the tip of her nose. The plump pillows of her lips invited to bestow fervent kisses on them and not even the harsh sting of the disinfectant could mute the longing to do so. He wanted to take her sweet face between his hands and kiss her. Not that he actually could, his upper lip throbbed and filled his cheek with a dull pain. And even though Adelie naturally tried to be gentle and careful, every dab was as if she was poking a glowing knife into the wound. He involuntarily winced through clenched teeth, and she looked up.
“Sorry.” She cupped the unhurt half of his face with her soft, warm palm and a flicker of worry passed over her features.
“Don’t be. I’ve looked worse after rugby matches.”
“That’s not something to boast about.” Her kissable lips turned into a thin line, and her hand dropped away.
“I had slightly different plans for tonight.” She snapped the ointment bottle shut, stuffed it back into the first aid kit and zipped that close too. She got up, grabbed the bag and stomped into the bathroom, the skirts of her blue dress swishing. He heard the sharp clatter of a cupboard door smacked shut.
“I’m sorry that I ruined your evening,” he said as she returned. With a huff, she gathered her hair and tied it into a ponytail, offering him a prime view of her chest.
“It’s not even your fault. It’s that idiot Pat’s,” she answered as she walked into her closet sized kitchen. He got up and followed her, which was a blessing and a curse, as now she brushed against him with every move due to the restricted space. She filled the kettle with water and switched it on. He wanted to brush away her hair, put his arms around her and kiss her snowy nape to comfort her. Instead, he was sentenced to watch her rip open a new box of tea, fill the infuser and pour the boiling water over it. Finally, she rested against the counter and stared blindly out of the window into the summer night. In the distance, the white light of the aerodrome beacon blinked in the darkness, guiding smaller blinking dots to safety. Adelie sighed, and he couldn’t take it any longer. It only took a step to close the space between them anyway. He put his hands on her shoulders, his thumbs massaging her trapezoid muscle gently. To his immense relief, she moulded into his touch.
“What’s the matter? You’re like an angry lioness waiting to pounce.”
Abruptly she turned around, glaring at him. He bravely met her eyes while simultaneously trying to ignore the fact that their bodies were inappropriately close. Her index finger poked into his chest with every word she hurled at him. “I feel like a damn prize for boys to fight over, not like a person. I’m angry that Pat succeeded in pushing your buttons. And…” The finger wavered and then her hand fell to the side. Her look softened. “And I’m sorry that you got hurt on my behalf.”
He took her hands and laced his fingers through hers. “Lily, I play rugby. I get hurt all the time.” She huffed and looked at him with widened eyes. “Seriously, don’t feel bad about me. I’m fine. You cleaned me up so carefully. Our team doc isn’t so considerate.” This finally brought a reluctant smile to her face, and she freed her hands to pull the infuser out of the teapot.
“Do you want ice for your black eye and your lip?” She asked over her shoulder.
“That would be great, yes.”
Adelie pointed at the fridge behind him while taking two cups from the shelf next to her. “It’s in there, help yourself, will you?”
To his surprise, she sat down on the love seat with him, even leaning slightly against him. He put his arm around her shoulder and pulled her close, needing her proximity as well. Her touch seemed to soothe his soreness.
“Pat looked awful, I’m sure you broke his nose,” she said.
“He deserves it. Stupid asshole.”
“Nate!” She giggled and looked up at him with twinkling eyes. “You can’t just beat up everyone you deem an asshole.” She nestled closer, pulling up her legs on the seat too.
“Not every one, true. But all the ones who dare to insult you.” He squeezed her shoulder, and she giggled again.
“It was sweet of you, though,” she eventually said. “Stupid maybe, but sweet.” She looked up and smiled so warmly at him, he’d do it all over again. He slid his hand down over her arm to her waist, and she didn’t object. Instead, she reached up and gingerly brushed over his beaten up eyebrow. “Thank you.”
Peaceful silence settled between them. The ice dulled the pain in his face, and it took him a full five minutes to realise that Adelie was snuggled up to him, her head on his shoulder, her hand on his stomach and that he played absentmindedly with her silky ponytail. Quiet satisfaction had spread through him, a warm and happy feeling that now was frozen by an arctic blaze of shock.