Leo had been expecting a monumentally boring night; two hundred nursing students at a private party meant no testosterone. And no testosterone meant that the most he could hope for was a bit of hair pulling or fall-down-drunkenness. Then Mels happened — completely out of the blue, tiny and ballsy and bloody gorgeous — what choice did he have but to give her the come-on?
Small as she surely was, she made up for it in enthusiasm: pressing her body up against his and snogging him full-on in front of his workmates… and his boss. But she was worth the ribbing he was going to get over it.
He was in. He had never been more sure about anything in his life as he watched her say goodbye to her, surprisingly drippy, mates. She sauntered back over to him and tackled him into another snog.
He wasn't sure where he should let his hands go, because he was fairly certain she'd clock him if he guessed wrong, so he kept them on her hips until he got a clearer signal. She released him after a minute of assaulting his mouth and sucking his tongue until it hurt and stood down onto the ground looking up at him.
She was game — she was definitely game — wasn't she?
"So, what now?" he asked, wondering why he was feeling slightly terrified of this pint-sized woman. He could see something going on behind her eyes, some sort of plotting or calculating. His heart was racing at the thought of what she might do to him. The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end and for the first time in his life he thought of taking the latter option of the fight-or-flight response.
"Now, Leo," she said, cocking her head to one side, "it's time to say goodnight."
"Can I have your number?" His voice sounded odd. Was he whingeing?
"No point," she replied and shrugged a half apology.
"Night-night," she said and hopped up to kiss him on the cheek, then turned and walked off.
He stood watching after her as she rounded the corner and consigned herself to becoming an exaggerated story he'd tell his mates later. He tried to parse it; had he said or done something wrong? And should he not be a bit relieved right now, considering how much trouble she would have been for him?
All of a sudden he was being clapped roughly on the shoulder and someone was slinging a lanky arm around him.
"Not to worry, eh?" the man said as Leo turned his head to see exactly how drunk someone needed to be to dream of taking him on — not at all it seemed.
"What the fuck do you think you're doing?"
"Rude! Not interfering is what I'm doing. What about you?"
"Trying to decide how long I'm going to give you to get your arm off me before I knock you into next week."
The man jumped away in fright and Leo took a good look at him. A fucking hipster — barely into his twenties and dressed like his granddad. Jesus wept.
The man glanced up the street behind him to where Mels had gone. "Plenty more fish in the sea. Though not quite like her, I'll wager. Can't win 'em all though," he said with a smug twattish grin.
"You'll keep walking if you know what's good for you," Leo said, puffing himself up to tower over the man, who cowered skittishly for a split-second before straightening himself out and looking Leo up and down.
"Authority figure," he said with something that resembled disgust. "Be a bit more obvious why don't you, River?"
"Have you escaped from some sort of facility? Because you're talking absolute bollocks."
The man looked like he was about to respond, but then spotted something over Leo's shoulder. "Whoops! Here comes the missus, best be off!"
Leo looked around and a curly-haired blonde woman was striding toward them with her sights firmly set on the hipster-twat. It was like watching a lioness making a break for the one injured antelope when you knew that, basically, the antelope was fucked.
The man ducked to try to evade his missus' grasp, but it was useless because she already had him by the arm. "What precisely do you think you're doing?"
The man tried to make himself taller as he said, "You told me not to interfere, so here I am, not interfering." It was obvious that he didn't even believe it himself, and whatever he was supposed to be not interfering with, Leo had no clue.
"What if you'd miscalculated and she'd seen you — or Mum had seen you, did you even think of that?" the woman said, prodding her fella in the chest.
"Of course I did, which is why I hid until they were all gone. I'm not that much of an idiot, thank you very much."
"You have to leave her alone to make her own mistakes and not let your stupid jealousy get the better of you," the woman said.
"Wait, what? Jealousy? Do you mean Mels?" Leo sputtered out and the man gave him a pitying look over his apparent stupidity.
"Can you stay out of this?" the woman said and Leo obligingly took a step back.
This bloke was jealous of him and Mels snogging; no matter how he tried, he couldn't picture Mels with him. But then why had he called the blonde 'the missus?'
"I did let her make her mistake," the man whined and then looked at Leo with the same disgust as before.
"What makes you think that was a mistake?" the woman asked, gesturing at Leo like he was a leg of lamb in a butcher's window. "The mistake would have been for her to go home with him. But she didn't. You idiot."
Leo tried to pretend that his feelings weren't hurt by that remark, but it wouldn't have mattered if he hadn't, because neither of them were paying him a blind bit of notice.
"I'm sorry, I got carried away. I know I shouldn't—" the man sighed, "I just want to make sure she's all right," The woman allowed him to stroke her face. "I know you do, Sweetie," she replied and kissed him.
So she was the missus after all, but Leo would never have put him with her either had he not been standing watching it. She was at least fifteen years older than him, classy looking and well put together. He, on the other hand, was a twit.
"You have to let her find her own way, she'll get there, you know she will," the woman continued.
Then Leo had a chilling thought. "Wait, you two aren't her foster parents, are you? Because I swear, she told me she was eighteen, showed me ID and everything." He put his two hands up and the couple turned their heads to look at him.
The man erupted in laughter. "He thinks he was cradle-snatching! Oh mate, you have no idea!"
The woman glared at him, rage bubbling inexplicably. She punched him on the shoulder. "Shut up! You're one to talk about cradle-snatching, aren't you old man?"
She glanced over to Leo and seemed to be taking pity on him, which was a relief because that last exchange nearly broke his final remaining thread of sanity. She stepped up to him and placed a soothing hand on his arm, which he then realised was trembling.
"We're not her foster parents — she's an adult."
"Are you related to her?"
"In a way."
"Okay," he said quietly, grateful for a straight-ish answer.
"Don't worry about her, it wasn't you. She was just at a bit of a crossroads in her life. Had you caught her a few months earlier you would have definitely been luckier."
The man grumbled from behind her and she shot him a look over her shoulder that shut him up.
"Okay." Leo just wanted them to go away so he could go and find somewhere to lie down for a little while.
"We're going to go now, but have a good life, won't you?"
She smiled gently at him and turned around to her fella, who took her hand and threw Leo one final self-satisfied smirk before heading back up the road. Leo could hear her giving him a ticking-off as they went.
"Do you have to be so rude? You got me, isn't that enough for you? And mark my words — that's the last time I'll tell you anything about anyone I snogged. You've proven you can't be trusted. Congratulations, Sweetie."
Leo decided to take the rest of the weekend off.