He ruffled my hair like I was his pet dog
'So we haven't put you off yet?'
I turned around to see Hailey entering the kitchen balancing some plates in her hands. The lunch had been amazing and now we were just helping clear up.
'Not yet no. That's a good party trick.' I nodded towards the mountain of plates in her arms.
'I used to be a waitress so I'm very used to having to have good hand eye coordination. Also, I'm glad you're sticking around.' She bumped me on the shoulder softly and smiled as I started to help take the plates off her.
'So how did you and Harrison meet?'
'Well he was actually one of the first people I met here.'
I started rinsing some dishes in the sink and adding them to the dishwasher.
'It was my first day at school and I was lost trying to find one of my classes. I accidentally mowed him down when I wasn't paying attention but thankfully that didn't put him off helping me find my class. Now we play on the soccer team together. Oh, and we have an art slash photography project together.'
'Wow you spend a lot of time together then and have a lot in common.'
'Yeah I guess we do.'
I'd never thought about it that much but we do pretty much see each other every day.
'And you haven't killed him yet which I give you credit for.'
'Yet being the operative word. He annoys the hell out of me sometimes but.....I don't know. I guess you're right, we just have a lot in common.' I shrugged my shoulders and wiped my hands on a tea towel.
She didn't say anything but gave me a bright smile as she got back to cleaning up.
'So, you and Carson are getting married?'
'Yes, we are! And before you ask no I'm not pregnant.'
'I wasn't but that's also good to know.' I glanced at Hailey's flat stomach wondering how anyone could think this girl was pregnant.
'I think because we're still both young people assume it's a shotgun wedding. Not that we're in love with our soul mates or anything.'
I was sensing that Hailey had probably had a few conversations on this topic that hadn't gone so smoothly. I wondered who could possibly be so against her and Carson getting married. I couldn't imagine it would be Erin and Michael.
'I personally think it doesn't matter what age you are. Whether that's 23 or 83. If you know then you know.' I shrugged my shoulders hoping my response was enough to put her at ease. Thankfully it was.
'How long have you two been together?'
Hailey put down the plate she was holding and stared out of the kitchen window.
'Since we were 16, we were in the same year at school. I actually didn't like him at first. I'd always put him down as one of the stuck-up popular kids that thought they were so much better than everyone else. Me being me didn't even give him a chance to begin with. He got on my nerves so much but I guess he wore me down. Now he's the love of my life.'
Her eyes had glazed over like she'd completely forgotten where she was. The look on her face reminded me of my parents. They had often worn the content in love look when they were around each other. I'd always wondered if as some point I'd find love like they did.
'When's the wedding?'
'It's in April. Oh Evie if you're around you have to come!'
'Wow my family really are booking you up aren't they.' Harrison said before I could reply. He walked into the kitchen carrying some more dishes and the stood next to me.
'What can I say? I'm a popular person, you have to book my time in far in advance.'
'I'll make a note of that.'
'It's either I invite her or she's someone's plus one?' Hailey winked at Harrison before leaving us alone in the kitchen.
'What did she mean by that?' I asked and looked up at him.
'Who knows. Half the time I don't understand what she's getting at.'
I couldn't help but notice his cheeks had gone a little red.
'Hey follow me, I want to show you something.'
He took my hand and led me down a set of stairs to what I thought would be the basement but was actually another floor of rooms. We walked down a hallway and through an ajar door. It was then that I realised this must be his bedroom.
The room was large with french doors leading onto the garden. A double bed was in the centre with a desk off to the side. Another door was at the opposite end of the room that I assumed led to an en-suite. His room was a lot tidier than I thought it would be. I mean it wasn't spotless, there were trophies cluttering a shelf above his desk and there were school books on the floor but his bed was made which was more than I would expect.
'Sit.' He ordered and motioned towards the office chair in front of a large desk top computer.
I did as I was told, sinking straight into the chair. I felt the warmth of his body behind me as he lent forward and wiggled the mouse bringing the desktop to life.
I inhaled sharply when I realised what was on the screen in front of me.
'These are the photos from beach?'
'They are indeed.' He confirmed. 'If you press the arrow button you can flick through them.'
I studied the photos whilst Harrison patiently waited behind me. I always knew that he was an incredible photographer but it was more apparent having actually been there that day and now seeing the final product. He'd really managed to capture the beauty of being there. I could practically hear the waves rolling over one another and smell the salty sea air.
If I was being honest, I had been dreading looking over these photos in case I looked like an awkward plank of drift wood ruining them. I couldn't have been more wrong though.
I looked relaxed, like I wasn't even aware photos were being taken, which I had to admit for the majority of them I didn't. It just highlighted how good of photographer he was because he even managed to make me look ok.
In the majority of the photos I was more of a silhouette with random rays of sunlight dispersed on parts of my body bringing out the colour of my skin.
My finger paused when I landed on one particular photo. My dark hair was blowing gently in the breeze with parts of red undertone highlighted by a golden beam of light. I was looking over my shoulder back at the camera man with a soft smile on my face. I've never had a photo taken of me like that before. I couldn't put my finger on what it was about that photo but it was my favourite.
'Wow.' Was all I could say.
'You like it?' If I wasn't mistaken, I thought he sounded a little nervous. He had been leaning on the back of the office chair pretending to be looking at the photos with me but I could tell he'd been distracted.
'Like it? Harrison these photos are incredible! You're so talented.' I turned around in the chair to meet his green eyes.
'Thanks, but I can't take all the credit. I just snap the shot. It's what's in the photo that's the real beauty.'
'No don't be modest. Anyone can just take a photo. You've managed to convey emotion and actually say something.'
'Thanks.' He said, rubbing the back of his neck as if he were uncomfortable with the attention.
'So, do you think this'll work for your art project?'
'Definitely, I already have some ideas.' And it was true. The whole time I'd been scrolling through the image's ideas were popping into my head. My fingers were already itching to get hold of some paint and start.
'Oh really? Do I get to know or do I have to wait?'
'You'll have to be patient. I had to wait to see the final product so you'll have to too. Could you send these to me?'
'Of course I can.'
A soft knock turned my attention over to the bedroom door.
'Hi you two. What are you up to?' Erika asked as she walked into the room and looked at the computer screen.
'Harrison was just showing me the photos he took on the beach the other day.'
'They're brilliant aren't they! Evie I must say you look like a model in them. So elegant and beautiful.'
'Thank you. I definitely didn't feel like that when they were being taken. I was worried I'd look really uncomfortable in them.' I said whilst trying not to blush. I wasn't use to so many compliments.
'You're welcome and you look like a natural.' She said as she lightly squeezed my shoulders.
'I've unfortunately drawn the short straw and have been told to tell you it's time to go.' She pouted like she didn't want to be the one to say the bad news.
I quickly looked over the rest of the photos and wrote down my email for Harrison to send the photos to.
The three of us then walked back up the stairs and into the hall where everyone else was gathered saying their goodbyes.
'I hope your flight home is ok.' I said as I gave Hailey a hug.
'Thank you Evie.' She hugged me back before pulling away and holding me at arms length.
'Don't be a stranger ok.' She winked before leaving me to say goodbye to her aunt and uncle.
I made the rounds with everyone else. I had to promise I'd see Hilary at thanksgiving and that I'd accompany the rest of the football team to Lisa and John's house for dinner one night.
'Bye Evie darling.' Erika wrapped me up in a big cosy bear hug.
'You know you're welcome here whenever you like. We're all in agreement that we'd like you being here to become a regular thing. Also, I won't forget that you promised to come round for dinner some time.'
'Don't worry, your amazing cooking means I'll say yes anytime I'm invited round and thank you again for lunch.'
'You're so welcome darling.' Her eyes sparkled at me as she let me go and watched her son walk over to me.
'So, I'll see you at school tomorrow London.'
'You will indeed yes.'
I didn't know what to do. Do I hug him? Everyone else had hugged but we weren't past that point yet were we?
If I thought of him as just a friend, I wouldn't have even been second guessing this but I didn't. So here I was. Lucky for me he made the executive decision for me.
He ruffled my hair like someone patting their pet dog.
'Right, ok Bye.' I said quickly before walking out the door and getting in the car. As if to rub salt into the wound Marley clambered on top of me like I was his doggy friend.
'Guess we're still a little while off from a kiss and a cuddle goodbye.' Nora laughed whilst ruffling my hair.
'Ha ha ha.'
Just fucking great.