"Louise?" Scott asked, looking worried as I passed his and Janet's table. "Are you okay? That song was great you should be really pr-"
"I'm sorry Scott I just need some air," I said, grabbing my zip-up as I passed the table. "I'll be back in a little bit."
"Are you sure Lou?" Janet asked, putting her irritation with Scott aside long enough to look concerned. "Do you want me to come with you?"
"No, thank you, though. I really am fine. I'll be back in a little bit. I have my phone, so no worries."
"Okay, if that's what you want," Janet said, shrugging her shoulders at Scott, who looked just as confused and concerned.
I was steadily walking towards the lake, which sat about a fifty yards away from the pavilion. It was far enough that the cool air found me as it came off the water, a nice change from the heat of the pavilion.
I wanted to scream at myself for my behavior. I was not the type of girl who became speechless and stupid at the sight of a guy, especially one I did not even know. I was more irritated at Liam because…well…he just seemed to be…that guy. The guy that everyone likes, the guy that can smooth talk his way out of anything. Ugh, and that smile! I mean really? Who genuinely has a smile like that? So big, and white and…gorgeous. It really was gorgeous wasn't it?
Shut up! Stop! He's one of those guys that will hurt you. Just let it go. It was just the heat of the pavilion. It's totally fine. Totally fine.
Well, at least that's what I told myself, over and over again, in hopes that it would sooth the rhythm of my heart and cool the heat in my cheeks. It did work for a little bit, until the sound of footsteps dragged me out of my internal battle. I looked around and guess who I saw? I think you know. Liam
I rolled my eyes in feigned irritation. Okay so I'm a stereotypical girl who pretends she doesn't like a boy when she does. It's my method okay. Don't hate.
"What are you doing out here? Do I have a sign that is asking to be stalked? I think not." I turned back toward the lake, crossing my arms and doing my best to ignore him.
"Slow down there, I don't even know your name, officially. I mean if I was going to stalk someone I'd at least do the research, you know?" He smiled, that annoying smile that he has.
"Oh ha ha so clever. I think you know who I am. Jim seemed to make that very clear."
"Yes, he did point you out to me."
"And?" I asked, wondering what else was to come.
"Well he said that your name is Louise Herity, well Kathryn actually but that everyone calls you Louise or Lou. He said you're from the city and moved here a couple of years ago. He said your sister and I went to school together."
"What the hell. How does he know all this? I just found all this out this morning!"
"Oh, well, some girl named Janet told him, or was it Jane?" He said, looking a little confused.
"No, it was Janet. She's my assistant. Or she was before I just decided to fire her and her big mouth…" I was going to kill her! I would expect that from Tonny, but Janet? What is this day turning into?
"Don't be mad at her. I'm very glad she and her big mouth talked to Jim. Very glad." He said, staring at me with his crooked grin.
"Oh yeah? Well are you going to tell me who you are?"
"I'm pretty sure you know who I am, but I'll play along. I'm Liam. Liam O'Hara. I went to school with your sister. I am new to League Creek, if you didn't know," he said, cocking his head as he played along, "and I am here to take over my Uncle's hardware store. He passed away the same time I was due to re-up in the airforce, so I decided not to re-up and take over his hardware shop. He loved it and I had good memories of it, so I couldn't abandon it."
Damn. Not only was he civic-minded, but he actually loved his family. Why am I such an ass? Can someone please explain that to me because I'm at a loss.
"Wow, that is actually really awesome of you."
"That hurt didn't it?" He said, matter of factly.
"Yes, yes it did." I said sitting down.
He stood for a while then sat down next to me.
"Well hello," I said. "Don't you wanna go back to the party? I mean there were all those girls ready to start their own wet t-shirt contest for you."
"Oh, you mean those girls at the front? Yeah whatever, they'll forget about me after a couple more beers." Then his smile came back. "Besides, I'd rather get to know you, League Creek Louise."
I didn't know why I was so angry at this. Maybe I was just, confused, or scared, or, I don't know, just crazy. That's probably the most accurate. Whatever it was I stood up quickly and went to walk away. Instead he grabbed my hand and said "Wait Louise, please."
"I'm sorry I can't. You don't want to get to know me. I'm cranky and crazy awkward. You can do better."
"Let me be the judge of that," he said, grabbing me back.
As he did he spun me around, grabbed me and planted a huge kiss on my lips. I tried to fight but my knees went limp and I couldn't do anything but kiss back. Right as I was starting to let go we were interrupted.
"Louise!" Janet's voice yelled. "What the hell! I have been worried sick and here you are making out with G. I. Joe.!"
Janet's surprise visit set me into panic mode and I instinctly pushed Liam away. Unfortunately, we were very close to the water and he begin to fall off the little grassy ledge. Eve more unfortunately, his panic mode involved grabbing onto me. However, when someone heavier grabs you as they are falling, you will fall with them, and not one second later, I was in the water, on top of him.
He of course, was laughing hysterically, while I, flustered and embarrassed by my friend finding us tried everything to get out of the muddy water with my dignity. That attempt was futile as I fell right back into the muddy water thanks to the slippery bank. On my second attempt Liam put his hand on my butt and gave me a shove up.
"Woah, there soldier," I said grabbing my butt once I had gotten back on land. "Let's keep the hands to yourself."
With one leap Liam was back on land and still laughing said "Whatever you say. By Janet," he said, grinning as he smacked my butt as he past me.
"Heyy!" I yelled.
He didn't respond, but instead held his hands up in the air like what, they're right here so it couldn't have been me. He chuckled all the way back to the pavilion where his new buddies greeted him with laughter.
"I can't believe I was just kissing that tool. I am so…ugh…I just…" I couldn't finish my sentence.
"Lucky. You are lucky. That man is hot. Mmm." She said, cocking her head to check him out.
"Oh whatever. I'm going home. I'm over this day. Tell Scott I said goodbye."
"Okay, whatever you want."
And with that, and sopping wet, I walked home even more irritated and more flustered than I had been in a long time.
The next morning I found it even harder than the day before to get out of bed. The shame of the events of last night were weighing me down and if I didn't have appointment after appointment I probably would have called Janet and told her I wasn't coming in. And okay, so maybe I am overreacting, but I just felt so embarrassed. Not only did I break my rule of never actually interacting with someone my mother tried to set me up with, but I kissed him, in front of Janet no less, and followed up with an excellent fall into the lake. This is what I would call an oober fail. Fail sauce. Lame sauce. Utter…humiliation. This is not an embarrass yourself and never see the guy again kind of situation either. His business is literally, across the street.
Oh whatever! I'm getting out of bed. I'm going to be a big girl about it. Liam will probably be too busy getting the shop back in order to even worry about last night or to have time to stop by. It will be fine, totally fine. Right?
An hour later, after a hot shower and a quick breakfast I made it to the store. Janet was already there, jumping around to music as she unpacked new merchandise. At the sound of the bell on the door she turned.
"Well hello slore. How are we doing today?" She said, putting down a pair of gloves she had been holding.
As much as I wanted to comment on the fact that she called me a slore, slut-whore, I decided to ignore that comment and respond to the second half.
"I'm doing well, Janet. Thank you. How are you doing today?" Maybe if I pretend like nothing happened she will not bring it up.
"I'm good, but I bet you are better. Especially considering you made out with Liam 'the hottie' O'Hara. Heelllo. Yum," she said, raising her eyebrows up and down.
"I…well…actually…I don't…I don't know what you mean." Well at least now I know shame won't even kill my awkwardness.
"Psh, okay. Look I know you are probably ashamed because of your not so graceful exit, but whatever. Liam seems to be perfection. You should just go for it."
What was the hesitation? I was tired of being alone right? So why when someone who manages to aggravate and make me blush at the same time comes along (which is really what all girls are looking for), can I not just deal with it like a normal person? Oh that's right. Because I'm emotionally stunted and more awkward than a one-legged chicken.
"Look, Janet. I think I just got swept away with the music and the heat and the food ad the lights…and…well…it was a mistake and it's not going to happen again. He's probably a serial killer or something. I mean he practically stalked me out to the lake right?" I think I was trying to convince myself more than Janet.
"Sure. He's a big stalker. He had to ask where you went because he didn't see where you went, so clearly he's a quality stalker. Sure. That's totally logical." Janet's rolling eyes enhanced her sarcasm.
"Whatever. It totally makes sense…sort of. Whatever!" I said, storming to the back of the store to distract myself with inventory.
After a few minutes of silence on both ends, Janet spoke up.
"Hey, Louise?" she called from the front where she was finishing up stocking the shelves.
"What's up Janet?" I asked, stopping all the rustling around I was doing so I could hear.
"Okay so I'm just curious, what would you saw Liam? What would you say?" She asked, seemingly hypothetically.
"Why? Janet, I don't know I guess I would…" I said this as I walked to the front of the store. Right as I got there though someone's face was at the door, getting ready to walk in. And guess who it was? Yeah. Liam.
I yelped and dove down behind the counter like the mature adult I am.
"Lou what the?" Janet started, trying not to laugh.
"Shut. Up." I whispered harshly. I motioned the rest of my message to her silently. I wanted her to keep me my hiding place a secret. It was only a matter of seconds before Liam was practically to the counter.
"Hey Janet," he said, sounding cuter than I remembered, if that's possible.
"Oh.. Liam. What are you up to?" Janet is a terrible actress.
"Oh well, I was just looking for Louise. I was hoping to buy her breakfast, but I don't see her. It's funny because I swear I saw her a second ago…" He sounded on to the fact that I was hiding behind the counter, but he seemed to be playing along.
"Oh…uh…well yeah she left something at her house and she left through the back way. You know…the…back way." Really Janet? Really?
An awkward silence happened for about twenty seconds before Liam spoke.
"Okay well I'm pretty sure she's behind the counter and doesn't want to talk to me. I know in movies that usually works but I was at the door when she decided to do a tuck and roll."
Crap. Crap. Crapity crap. I hate movies. They are just lies. Lies on top of lies. There was nothing I could do but stand up.
"Oh! There it is. I found it Janet…Oh hey..lo Liam. Funny seeing you here. What are you doing…um up to?" Smooth. Like butter right? Ugh gag me with a spoon.
"Oh you know, just thought I'd stop by. Is there a reason you were hiding behind the counter?" He asked, raising one eyebrow.
"I wasn't hiding behind the…" I looked at Janet who shook her head in defeat. "Okay I was hiding behind the counter."
"Oh I knew that, I just was wondering why," he asked, fighting hard to keep his feigned serious face from slipping into that goofy smile.
Why couldn't he just walk away and let me be awkward? That's how I envisioned it in the nano-second it took me to decide to dive behind the counter. Why could that clearly well thought out plan go into effect?
"I…well it seemed like a good idea at the time."
"What? Why?" He said, this time breaking into his smile.
"Okay look Liam." It's time for the game face. "I was not comfortable, am not comfortable with what happened last night. I just don't think it was appropriate and it shouldn't happen again. That is all." Yeah, that was strong right? Yeah, game-faced it baby!
Liam squished his eyes for a second in thought before answering. Gosh he was cute. Dammit!
"I think I'm confused."
"About what," I asked, actually confused.
"Well are you married?" He asked.
"Celibate and or going into a nunnery."
"Okay so why was last night inappropriate? Because I'm pretty sure you are single and I am single and we are both clearly attractive," he stopped to wink.
"Psh, and cocky," I added, rolling my eyes.
"Regardless, it was completely appropriate and it needs to happen again," he said, resting on the counter so his face was inches from mine. "Well okay, maybe a little inappropriate, but that's what made if fun right?"
Oh please? Was this kid for real? Worst lines ever. And no I'm not blushing. It's hot in here…
"Fun or not, it does not need to happen again. What needs to happen is you leaving. I have customers coming any minute and I don't need you hanging around. It will only add to their gossip. So if you will just…"
I started walking around the counter in an attempt to usher him out. I unfortunately made the mistake of touching his bag and left my arms wide opened to be grabbed and pulled into him.
"See, now isn't this better," he said, once again inches from my face.
"I have cu…customers…" I tried to fight back but it was pretty much useless. I hadn't noticed how good he smelled last night, but he did. He does. He smells delicious.
"I don't see any, besides, you don't want to leave me alone for breakfast," he said, still inches from my face. His eyes were reading my face like a book and I couldn't do anything but melt. "Especially when I'm so new in town." There was that goofy smile.
Our bubble was burst by the sound of the bell from the door. Both of our heads whipped towards its direction. I was able to scoot away at the same time Scott came into my line of vision. Of all the people that did not need to see me clutching some strange man, it was Scott.
"What the hell is this?" He said, to my surprise, convincingly. "Is this guy bothering you, Louise?"
"What, I…no, well…" Was he? In crazy girl world he was annoying me, but in that same place I was loving it. "No. He was just leaving. It's fine."
"Are you sure?" He asked, scowling at Liam.
"I, I guess I am." This time Liam was not smiling. He looked genuinely upset. I guess he wasn't as cocky as I thought he was. He seemed uncomfortable at the thought of upsetting Scott. "I didn't mean anything by it, really. I'm sorry Scott is it? I…" And then something dawned on him. "Oh. I didn't…I didn't realize. I'm sorry man. I'm sorry honestly." Wow, he was quick, too. It took me forever to realize Scott liked me as more than a friend, and he got it in less than a minute.
"You didn't realize what?" Scott started, immediately blushing we he realized what he was talking about. "Don't worry about it. No harm, no foul."
Liam looked like he wanted to stay as he looked at me, but looking at Scott knew it would be better to leave.
"I will uh…I'll see you guys later. Have a good day, both of you. And again, I'm sorry." With that he left, walking back to his shop with his hands on his heads in self-frustration.
After a few awkward minutes Scott finally spoke.
"So um…I…well I just came over to see if you wanted to go to Annie's. I…I'm sorry…I just…"
"I know Scott, but Liam was just…you can't just…" All I could do was sigh and grab my wallet. "Whatever let's just go. All that awkwardness made me super hungry.
"I know I can't. It's just…"
"Don't worry about it, seriously. Let's just go. Come on, you can buy something for Janet you know she won't like."
With that he smiled, knowing we were okay.
"Sweet. I hear Annie made bran muffins," he couldn't help but look mischievous as he raised his eyebrows up and down.
I didn't respond verbally, I just smiled and lead the way out of the shop. I didn't know what was happening here in League Creek, but things seemed to be heating up quickly, even for summer.