He was in love.
That was the first thing that Nathaniel knew when he saw Zara lift Amy and place her on a chair so that she could stand right next to her near the sink.
The child was so pretty his chest ached just looking at her. To think that she had been neglected by her own mother was terrible.
From his position on the couch, he watched as Zara washed the plate and then carefully handed it over to Amy. The girl had a look of intense concentration on her face, her eyebrows scrunched up with the effort. She held the plate with both her small palms and gripped it hard, slowly placing it facing upward at the side.
The soft sound on his right made him turn.
Susan was running her hand over Matt’s shoulder who looked like he was going to cry any second.
She saw him staring and gestured with her head toward Zara.
Nathaniel swallowed, unsure of how Zara would take it if he did that.
When his grandmother had asked him if he was in love with Zara, he hadn’t been sure.
But in the past two months, he had his answer. He was deeply in love with her.
He didn’t know why or how. But he was sure of his feelings.
It was hard to stay away from her after that. It was pure torture to watch her everyday, and not be able to touch her. To confess to her just how he felt.
She didn’t sit next to him in class anymore. He hardly saw her anywhere else other than their evenings that the four of them spent together. He still remembered the day Susan had cornered him in the cafeteria and asked him point blank if he had feelings for Zara. It had been after a particularly hectic day. He had been defenseless and tired and had been staring at Zara throughout class and lunch. He hadn’t even known it till Susan had pointed it out.
Nathaniel didn’t think he was capable of blushing to the roots of his hair till then.
She had first smirked at him and had then clapped her hands like a child, making Matt roll his eyes and kiss her.
But earning Zara’s forgiveness was going to be difficult.
He had hurt her too bad.
Placing his fork on his empty plate, he picked up the bag holding the empty cartons of food and went to the sink where the girl he loved stood.
“Hey.“, he said softly, a smile on his lips as he looked first at Zara and then at Amy.
He saw the wariness enter her grey eyes and almost regretted causing it.
“Hi, Nathiel.“, Amy beamed at him.
Zara laughed at the appellation bestowed on him as she turned back to rinse another plate.
His breath caught at the sound. He’d heard it after so long.
Ruffling the mass of curls on Amy’s head, he smiled down at her.
“Can I help?”
“I dunno.“, she crossed her arms across her chest, not caring that they left wet smudges on the blue material.
Then she turned to Zara, her eyes popping open in surprise.
“I don’t know your name.“, she said softly, her hands dropping to her sides, a hint of regret in her voice.
Zara paused midway of reaching for another plate and glanced at Nathaniel.
His heart hammered in his chest. She seldom looked at him. He cherished the few times that she did.
Bending low, she flashed an apologetic smile at Amy.
“I don’t know yours either.”
Then she wiped her hand on the dishtowel and extended it to Amy.
“I’m Zara. What’s your name?”
Amy straightened herself and smiled wide, showing off her teeth in a dimpled smile.
“My name is Amy. I like your hair.”
This earned her another laugh from Zara who took her small hand in hers and squeezed it lightly making Amy giggle.
“I like your dress Amy.“, she said with a huge smile.
Amy looked down at her dress and looked back at Zara.
“You can have it but I don’t think it will fit you.“, she said worriedly, her brown eyes roaming over Zara’s body.
Zara stifled a smile and then shrugged.
“That’s okay. I’ll get it adjusted if that’s not a problem.”
Amy beamed. “Yeah okay, I’ll give it to you as soon as I wear another dress.”
Nathaniel saw Zara’s smile falter before she quickly looked away.
Amy didn’t notice it as she took the plate Zara offered and handed it over to Nathaniel who wiped it with the towel.
They continued like this till the chore was done.
After that Zara went back to the couch, Amy following her like a tail and seated herself at one end. Without hesitation, Amy plonked down next to her, her eyes following Zara’s every move.
Nathaniel sat at the other end, his eyes fixed on Zara who reached into her bag that lay on the table and took out a eyeliner pencil.
Amy clapped her hands together making all of them laugh.
“I’m getting a drawing too!“, she exclaimed, her eyes lighting up.
Matt looked at Susan and pulled her close, smiling profusely.
Nathaniel hadn’t seen Amy this happy since last night when Matt brought her to the dorm.
Zara lifted her tiny legs onto her lap, her eyes laughing.
Nathaniel hadn’t seen that smile for so long that the minute it appeared he couldn’t tear his gaze away from her. Would she ever love him?
Zara took off the shoes that Amy wore and placed them on the floor.
Then she began drawing the Viking symbol on the little girl’s chubby ankle.
He remembered their conversation when he had asked her about that very tattoo and the joy on her face when he said that it looked beautiful. He wanted that smile again. He wanted Zara to want him.
Amy was giggling and squirming no doubt liking the feel of the thin tip against her fair skin.
Zara was openly laughing now, the small c-shaped curves at the corners of her mouth pronounced even more in the moment.
He wanted to kiss her neck and then lick those corners that were proof of just how much she had laughed in her life. God, she was so beautiful. Even now, sitting there in shorts and a worn out tshirt, she looked every bit like the way she did in his deepest and most craved fantasies. Beautiful, lovely and sexy as sin. He raked his eyes over the shape of her hips and legs that showed through the shorts. Her knees were darker than the rest of her skin, her ankles slim. Her legs didn’t go on for miles but he wanted them wrapped around his hips and also thrown over his shoulders when he tasted her. He could see the roll of her stomach when she bent to draw the tattoo on Amy’s skin. He swallowed and tried to keep his mind out of the gutter.
She had become healthier in the past months and because he observed her so closely, he had noticed the change. He wanted to rub his stubble against the softness of her belly and rest his head against it.
Amy clapped her hands again when Zara had finished drawing.
She put the cap of the eyeliner back on and kept it away.
Amy grabbed her own ankle and bent over staring at it and comparing it with the tattoo that was on Zara’s.
“It’s the same.“, she said on a whispered breath, her brown eyes wide with happiness.
Zara smiled. “Do you like it?”
“I love it!“, Amy shouted, beaming like she’d just been given a whole box of candies.
Then without a warning, she jumped up and dove into Zara’s lap, hugging her tight.
Matt and Susan laughed.
But only Nathaniel saw the tears gather in Zara’s eyes before she quickly bent her head and hugged Amy back.