They ate their second breakfast in the little cafe off Oxford Street; both of them having a cup of tea and a slice of toast each – Nicki's with strawberry jam and Tom's with raspberry, which, inevitably, lead to the argument over which was better.
"So explain to me why strawberry is better again?" Tom asked, one eyebrow raised as he hid his smirk behind the remainder of his toast. She was currently wearing strawberry jam as lip gloss whilst trying to give a reasoned argument to support her choice of spread.
"It just..." she started, pressing her lips together in deep thought, "Is."
He gave her a look of disbelief, sighing and shaking his head, "Well done Nicki, you've baffled me with logic once more."
"Do you want to eat that toast or wear it?" she threatened, although the menace was somewhat softened by the fact that she had specks of strawberry jam all over her face, mixed with crumbs of toast. She rested her elbows on the table, the sleeves of his grey hoodie rolled up to reveal her toned, vaguely tanned forearms. She wore one bracelet; a silver one on her right arm with many delicate charms hanging off it – only one of which he could identify. A silver four-leaved clover, with a tiny green crystal in the middle of it hung amongst the other intricate silver carvings – all of which, he assumed, had been given to her as gifts, and had their own special tale as a part of her life.
They looked at each other for a long moment, ruined slightly by a young waitress arriving to take their empty plates, the tinny sound of her music radiating from her cheap blue earphones. Tom dug out a £5 note and some change to cover the bill, placing it in her hand and telling her to keep the change. He picked his jacket up from the back of his armchair as Nicki stood up, stretching her long, toned arms out and yawning.
"Where do you want to go?" he asked, holding the heavy door open for her to pass through. She smiled and bowed her head at his gesture as if she was a teenager, crossing out onto the pavement of the street. She had a beautiful smile – white teeth which were very slightly uneven, full lips, and a sparkle in her eyes which he'd only seen but a few times.
"I don't know," she answered, thoughtfully, "What about you?" she questioned, turning her head, hair flying out behind her. She'd left it in its natural state – thick curls cascading down her back just as they had done last night when she'd come into his room in her thin grey vest top and pyjama bottoms, her lean body shivering from fear more than cold. It was a very odd image, though he hadn't thought of it at the time – someone so physically strong; mentally strong usually, so vulnerable and powerless in the face of thunder.
"Shall we just have a look around, then?"
She nodded, and they set off down the thronging street, taking in the scenes surrounding them. Nicki grasped Tom's arm to stop them from becoming separated in the crowds, and so they walked, arm in arm, along Oxford Street; not unusual to anyone but themselves. It was almost as if earlier had never happened, and they were back to flirting shamelessly. Of course, it wasn't true, but both of them were ignoring the situation and concentrating on the present – which involved them practically holding hands as they made their way through crowds.
They were sat in a restaurant near Harrods' in Knightsbridge, both silent and probably weighing up the options open to them should they be saddled with the bill alone. Remortgaging a house might just about cover it.
They drank wine, after arguing over which to order in the quietest way they could manage. They eventually came to a compromise on an expensive bottle of red; which the waiter had deemed the ideal choice to go with their meals – probably out of desperation.
"Tom, about earlier..." she started, gazing at the crisp white tablecloth as if it was the most interesting thing in the entire world, "Thank you."
He nearly choked on his wine at her words, gaining a few disapproving looks from other diners at his near-spluttering of expensive alcohol. He was stunned that she was still talking to him, never mind thanking him – he could tell that, as an exceptionally private and guarded person, she didn't like people to see her weaknesses, which she had inadvertently allowed him to do twice in the space of approximately eight hours.
She seemed to sense his surprise, and thus continued; "For not saying anything. I know you thought I looked vile, but..."
"Nicki, listen to me," he interrupted, "It's nothing to be ashamed of." He paused, internally debating what his next sentence should be, "You're beautiful."
Hell. Why did he have to say that? While she was, indeed, beautiful, he was pretty sure that he'd just sounded like an absolute fool telling her that. More to the point; she wouldn't believe him. And, predictably, she didn't – once more blushing a shade of red that he didn't know existed until this morning, and biting her lower lip as if she was trying to stop herself smiling.
"Thank you." she eventually said, after a long silence. Another pause followed, and the other diners seemed to fall silent, as if waiting for her next words, "You really think so?"
Now it was him blushing. Bloody Norah, he felt like a teenager on a date – it was awkward to say the least, telling her in the middle of a crowded restaurant how beautiful he thought she was. It was, perhaps, a topic best saved for when they were alone. Tonight, maybe.
He made some form of noise which signified a 'yes', as their meals arrived – and he was convinced that the waiter was glaring at him.
"Oh, you charmer, Tom Clarkson." she murmured, smiling beautifully to herself as she looked at him from beneath her thick, long eyelashes across the table.
He, too, smiled to himself. She looked down at the table, staring blankly at the vast array of cutlery in front of her, a frown beginning to form on her face as she seemed to try and choose between multiple knives and forks.
"I think," he announced, also surveying the cutlery on offer, "That us northerners may be more suited to McDonalds."
Having selected a set of cutlery which was probably completely inappropriate, Nicki now had half a mouthful of overpriced chicken, and proceeded to almost choke on it.
"Chicken nuggets would probably have been a better choice." She eventually concluded, having finally managed to swallow her food.
They caught each other's eyes across the table, and simultaneously saw the flickers of amusement in each other's faces. She bit her bottom lip as they both began to shake with silent laughter; Tom almost spluttering his wine everywhere as he tried to calm himself with a sip – a move which merely resulted in Nicki's complete hysteria.
"McDonalds it is, for lunch tomorrow."
"Is it a Manchester thing; not being able to do posh restaurants?" Nicki pondered out loud, her head tilted very slightly to one side as it always was when she was thinking.
"I think so. Anywhere north of Oxford and you've had it, really."
"Ah well," she responded, sipping her drink delicately, "Could be worse."
"We've just nearly got ourselves kicked out of the restaurant. How can it get much worse?"
"Well," she told him, as if it was the most obvious statement anyone could possibly have made, "We could have set it on fire."
Both of them were at this point blissfully unaware of the small crowd of teenagers gathering at the window opposite them; each one whispering and pointing at their teachers, making ridiculous assumptions and spinning themselves stories of Miss and Sir's romantic lunch in Knightsbridge.
And then, without realising the window was not as soundproof as she had thought, Scout gave a squeal as Tom and Nicki accidentally touched hands and remained in their position just a millisecond longer than they perhaps should have done.
"Oh my god, they're gonna kiss!"
"This is actually low-level porn."
At this precise moment, both Tom and Nicki looked over at the gaggle of students with their faces pressed flat against the glass window.
"Ah." They said in unison, both cringing as they realised that his hand was rested on top of hers.
Nicki bit her lip. Tom leaned over the small table and whispered in her ear in what looked like a scene from a cheesy romance film.
"Shall we pretend that we are, just to wind them up?"
"Abso-bloody-lutely." She smirked as their eyes met, making fully sure that each and every student saw her. And, predictably, they all stood there like goldfish, looking at each other as if aliens had just landed their spaceship on the roof of Harrods and were now making their way out of the store laden with shopping bags.
I'm not entirely happy with this, but then again, when am I? I'm sorry it's been so long; I've had writer's block and a lot of things went on. I'll try not to leave the next chapter for so long!
Please review – any ideas for the next chapter? I have such bad writer's block at the moment. P.S – when's Nicki back in Waterloo Road on telly?