I walked into the Inn, the scent of delicious foods of all sorts strong in the air. I looked around at the tables, which were messy, to say the least, and the chairs stacked on the side of the room. Jake, the owner of the Inn, was at the service counter while his wife and daughter, Colleen and Maya, cleaned the tables. Behind the bar, in the small kitchen, Yolanda was barking orders at Chase, her apprentice, of sorts. He heard the door close and looked up at me, smiled, and went back to his work. I clutched the small canvas in my hands a little tighter, my intestines tying themselves in knots.
"Hello Angela," Colleen said with a polite smile. "Can I get you anything?"
"No, thank you, I'm fine," I replied with a slight bow. "I won't be long." I smiled at her and she resumed collecting dishes. I nodded salutations to Jake and waved at Maya, who waved back enthusiastically with a large, overdone smile that didn't touch her eyes. She skipped over to me childishly.
"Are you here to try Chase's cooking?" She asked, but before I could answer she continued. "He's a great cook! I love his food! What about you? I-"
"Maya," Jake called, before I could answer her. "Get back to work. You can chit-chat after the lunch mess is cleaned up." She nodded and went back to work.
A few minutes later, Chase walked out of the kitchen, wiping his hands on a dish towel, which he shoved in his apron pocket. He smiled at me, which just made the knots in my gut grow tighter.
"Hey," he said. "Been busy?"
"You could say that," I replied with a smile. "I have something for you…" I lifted the canvas awkwardly, then stood next to Chase to show it to him. On it was a painting that I'd worked diligently on of him cooking in the spot where he had been only moments before, Yolanda standing beside him, watching, with her arms crossed over her chest, with the bar cutting off half of their bodies. Chase laughed cheerfully.
"You got her scowl just right!" He said, trying to replicate the face. We both laughed.
"I heard that," a voice said from my other elbow. I almost jumped and turned to see that Yolanda, a stout, often-times grouchy woman, had appeared there, and was looking at my painting. She was known for being incredibly hard to please, especially when it came to cooking. I shifted on my feet, wondering if the same was true for everything else. To my surprise, she chuckled. "Yes, I suppose that's true." She studied the painting some more, and I blushed, being quite modest about my work. "If only he could be so precise in his art." She looked up at Chase, who promptly looked away, rubbing the back of his neck nervously. "Speaking of which, would you join me in the kitchen to finish your lesson?" Chase nodded and she left. He took another look at the painting.
"I don't want to bring it in the kitchen…" he started.
"No worries, I'll bring it to your house for you," I said.
"Thanks," he said, smiling.
"It's the least I can do. After all it is your birthday." He beamed at me.
"Ah, so you did remember!"
"No, I give you presents for no reason." I rolled my eyes.
"You have before." He raised an eybrow at me skeptically.
"So?" I sighed dramatically. "Here." I pulled out a jar of marmalade, one of his favorites. He smiled again.
"Oh, you shouldn't have!" He said in a girly voice. He took it and said, "I knew there was a reason I kept you around." He looked at me quite seriously for a moment. "I have to go now, so don't get yourself into too much trouble, ok?" I blinked at him.
"Yeah…" I said. "What would I do without you?" He beamed arrogantly. "See you later." I turned to walk away, but he grabbed my arm, turned me back around and hugged me. I felt my face blush harshly.
"Oh, you know I like it," he said. "The painting, that is. Thanks." I smiled and left.
Phantom, my large black horse waited for me outside. I dropped his stirrups so that I could mount, which would take some effort, seeing as he was at least six inches taller than I was. I prepared to haul myself onto his back-
"Hey!" shouted Luke's familiar voice before I could even make the attempt. I turned to face him as he ran toward me from the Maple Lake District, smiling. "Hiya, Angie. I haven't seen you in a while!"
"Yeah, I've been kind of busy…" I said uneasily, smiling back. We chatted idly for over half an hour in the same friendly manner we always had, though my uneasiness didn't fade.
"You should come by to say hello more often. Bo and Pa aren't the greatest company." He laughed, drawing the conversation to a close. "Promise?"
"Alright…" I said with an uncertain smile.
"Cool! See you later, then!" He raced off the way he came, toward the center of the island. I sighed and leaned on Phantom's shoulder, and watched him go. Phantom turned his head around and nuzzled me. I frowned, remembering some good times I'd spent with Luke. He and I had been good friends since I moved here over a year ago. I used to work part-time at the carpentry, which was owned by Luke's father Dale, but ever since Chase moved here, I found myself working at the Inn instead. I'd gone to the Firefly Festival, which was supposed to be for couples, with Luke, though we never officially started seeing each other in a romantic sense. Even if everybody thought so. Including him. That is, until Chase had come around. It seemed that boy had turned my life upsidedown. Everyone had thought that Luke and I were sure to get married, seeing as we were always near eachother, playing, working, eating, whatever. Attached at the hip, as they liked to say. Perhaps I would have married Luke, I thought, feeling color spread across my face, if Chase hadn't shown up. It was like love at first sight for me.
My thoughts were broken when Phantom lifted his head and perked his ears toward Maple Lake. I looked up and saw Luke running back at me again. He reached me panting slightly.
"I almost forgot," he breathed, blushing. "I have something for you!" I pushed off of Phantom, and he straightened up, head level with mine, his right ear on me and his left on Luke. He stomped a white-feathered foot impatiently, thinking he'd already stood around while we talked for long enough. Luke paid little attention as he rummaged through his bag and pulled something out. It was a gold pendent set with a ruby on a gold chain, and engraved in the ruby was almost a perfect replica of Phantom. It was beautiful.
"Oh, Luke!" I cried, happy and exasperated at the same time. "It must've cost a fortune!"
"Nah," he said, smiling. "Don't worry about it. Do you like it?"
"I do," I said, blushing at the awkwardness of my words.
"Here, let me put it on for you." I turned around and he put it on, his calloused hands brushing on my neck unnecessarily. He clasped it with little difficulty, and I turned back around, smiling despite myself. I was slightly frustrated. I had to get this over with.
"Luke, I…" I felt tears well up in my eyes. I fought them hard. "Thank you." I hugged him. I, once again, had failed to tell him I didn't feel the same. He liked me. A lot. But he was my best friend and I didn't want to hurt him. And so, I didn't. Even though I felt that I should.
"Um…" He said, after I released him. "You want help mounting?"
"Yeah, sure," I replied. He helped me up onto my horse and bid me farewell. I sighed and looked back at the inn. Chase looked at me through the window, quirking an eyebrow. He grinned and wiggled them at me. He, too, thought Luke and I were an item. I'd been trying to get people to see that we weren't for over a season now, but the rumors spread, and I had only myself to blame. I'd have to break it to Luke if it was going to stop. And then I could make my move on Chase.
I scowled and headed to Chase's house, lost in my thoughts.
Author's Note: Yeah... so that's my first Fanfic. Ever. I think it sounds a bit corny at the moment, but hopefully the plot will develop as I go on. Review's appreciated, and I could use a little advice. Thanks in advance. XD