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Due North

By Katya Kolmakov All Rights Reserved ©

Humor / Romance

Two Invitations

36-37 18 is indeed Farmer Thorne’s shirt size, and he looks delish in it. The shirt is white; the waistcoat is mustard, with an elegant pattern; and the tie is appropriately wide and silky. If they wanted something à la 1930s, he couldn’t look better. Wiping her suddenly clammy palms to her jeans, Etta has to say, he couldn’t look better, period.

Since it’s a daytime Summer wedding, Etta chooses for herself a white sheath dress, sequined and beaded, down to the floor, timeless and perfect for her lolly stick figure. As any smart woman she’d packed a pair of fancy shoes; and hers are T-strap silver sandals with a medium heel - and just what she needs with a dress like that.

While Farmer Thorne appraises his full ensemble in a large mirror in the center of the shop, Etta’s cowardly hiding in her fitting room. She isn’t sure she’s ready to stand near him, and to notice how good they look together - damn the hackneyed height difference, and her ginger locks and his dark waves, and all the banalities that their pairing is just screaming about!

“Miss Ryan, would we please come out?” Does he have to always sound like he’s 100% done with this rubbish?

Etta sticks her head from around the curtain. The view presented to her is giving her palpitations. Relatives, relatives, relatives, she repeats to herself that they are blood - bloody - relatives. In about one millionth time in the last half an hour. As a good plus one, she picked and chose, and helped to match. She’s no fashion expert, but she watches Downton Abbey religiously, and David Suchet is her favourite Poirot.

She needs air now. Farmer Thorne out of his baggy plaid and bushy facial hair - with the cursed waistcoat making his body look like a Canadian equivalent of Chris Evans’ Captain America, enlarged to 6’4’’ height and with extra couple stones of bulging muscles - is just a bit too much!

“I’d say all this is ace.” Etta gestures around him trying not to stare. “You should buy it. And could we have some of that salty and sweet coffee of yours now?” Etta whines, and his eyebrows - thick, and genre appropriately glossy - jump up. “You know… All coffee here tastes the same, and it’s not sour or bitter, and sort of bland, but you always want more?” Etta attempts to explain. One of the eyebrows wins the race, and hikes up sardonically.

“You mean Tim’s?”

“Who’s Tim?” Etta asks again in confusion. Farmer Thorne sighs and disappears in his fitting room.

Etta shrugs and goes back to hers - to Google. Wiki enlightens her that “Tim Hortons Inc., colloquially known as Tim’s, is a Canadian multinational fast food restaurant, known for its coffee and doughnuts. It is also Canada’s largest quick service restaurant chain; as of December 31, 2015, it has a total of 4,413 restaurants (24 company-owned and 4,389 franchised), including 3,660 restaurants in Canada, 650 in the United States, and 113 in the Middle East. It was founded in 1964 in Hamilton, Ontario, by Canadian hockey player Tim Horton and Jim Charade, and presently commands 76% of the Canadian market for baked goods (based on the number of customers served) and holds 62% of the Canadian coffee market (compared to Starbucks, in the number two position, at 7%).”

Etta gets back into her denim and her tee with the picture of Dr Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy and ironic words ‘Trust me, I’m the Doctor.’ Etta gets the joke. She’s been a Whovian since Chris Eccleston said his toothy 'Fantastic!' for the first time.

When she creeps out into the shop to pay, Farmer Thorne is already waiting for her with a bored expression on his face, and an array of cheery shopping bags in his hands. Bugger, does the man have to look like a picture from a hipster fashion magazine?! The rolled up sleeves of his button-up - which are not supposed to be sexy, but always are in harlequin novels - make matters five time worse. The stylish denim hugging his narrow hips and muscular thighs adds another 300%. Etta’s feeling hot.

“I’ll treat you to Tim’s,” the farmer grumbles.

Etta pays, and prepares to endure the torture of having a cuppa with Farmer Totty.

Tim’s coffee shop is a mixture of a McDonald’s that Etta sadly has to visit with her nieces, and an American film style diner, sort of something one would see in American Graffiti. The coffee is just as she expected; and it’s in paper cups; but the pastries are amazing, and Etta’s is happily chewing on something called a Timbit - a round piece of fried chocolate dough, of which Farmer Thorne bought twenty in a neat cardboard box. He’s drinking his mysterious cuppa called Double Double - and of course, an XXL sized cup looks small in his large, long-fingered hands.

“So, what do you want?” he suddenly asks, and Etta freezes with yet another Timbit between her teeth - this time ‘salted caramel’ flavoured - and stares at him. “Here, in Canada. From me. What do you want?”

Seriously, never more than five words in a sentence! Etta swallows, and follows up the nauseatingly sweet but orgasmic treat with no less sweet coffee.

“Will you believe me if I tell you that all this is an astonishing coincidence, and when I contacted you about Officer Thorne I had no bloody idea we're related?” Etta blabbers out on one breath.


Well, that was concise. He takes another sip. Olivia Dane is right in her books, soft male lips closing over a rim of a cup - underneath black whiskers of moustache - is pretty much porn.

“And yet, it’s true. I swear to you, I had no idea! I was as shocked as you to see Gran Etty in that photo! I just needed some old papers, and letters, and I assure you, more relatives is the last thing I need! I have fourteen Irish cousins. Why would I want another?”

He’s studying her. Etta is starting to get used to his silence, and his scrutiny. She takes another sip, and ogles the other eighteen bits in the box. Farmer Thorne pushes it closer to her, and she sinks her teeth into ‘birthday cake’ one, humming in approval.

“We are not. Relatives that is. My grandfather was Officer Thorne’s son, but not Linnet’s. He was an illegitimate child that she accepted,” Farmer Thorne announces in a dull tone, and goes back to drinking his coffee.

With all honesty, he's lucky Etta was chewing and not drinking at that moment, otherwise he’d take a shower in a fan spit of coffee with one sugar and two creams.

Relief. Overwhelming, long sigh inducing, sincere, and burning relief is what Etta is feeling at the moment. She was feeling horrible - for ogling his arse, and for those dreams she had last night; and now she can fantasize about him as much as she wants!

The next feeling is confusion. Why didn’t Officer Thorne say anything? Didn’t he know - does he know? - will he know? The time travel and timelines suddenly make no sense, cocking up Etta’s poor grey cells, and she groans.

Farmer Thorne is still watching her with the same unreadable face.

“Well, it sort of… doesn’t matter, right?” Etta mutters, trying to clear out her noggin. “I mean, I just need the letters. I really don’t need anything else from you.” She decides to reassure him again.

“And yet, your great grandmother is in my family photos, and you’ve just invited yourself to go to a wedding with me. After getting rid of my plus one.”

“I did not!” Her secrets aside, this accusation is complete poppycock! “Alycia was just having cold feet, but I’m sure Liam is worth it, and she needs to give it a chance!” Etta announces decisively, and then an event takes place that is as astonishing and as inconceivable as the discovery of the Higgs boson.

Farmer Thorne gives out a velvet hearty laugh. It laughs! Warmly and rumbly in the chest! Rassilon help her, it might even qualify as a guffaw. And they aren’t related! Etta’s toast.

“Where are you staying?”

Etta’s hungrily eyeing another happy Timbit, and looks up at Farmer Thorne. She’s very proud of herself; she hasn’t misinterpreted his question even for a wee bit. He’s clearly asking in terms of transportation to the wedding the day after tomorrow, and not hinting at christening the ‘deliciously comfortable luxurious Queen size bed’ that the hotel’s brochure was advertising so industriously.

“Hilton at the airport. They have wonderful sheets.” His eyebrows jump up, and Etta asks herself whether she’s just had a microstroke. How else can one explain her blurting this out? She has to admit, though, it’s probably just her usual unfortunate habit of blabbering what’s on her mind at any given moment. That’s the advantage of working in a library. No talking.

“I mean, the room is ace. Spacious shower. Soft towels.” Rassilon help her, it sounds more and more as if she’s inviting him to check the quality of the establishment himself.

To stop this horror and to chase away the image of Farmer Thorne - just out of that spacious shower, hair wet, wearing only a fluffy white towel, sitting dangerously low on his narrow hips - Etta grabs a Timbit and stuffs it into her mouth. She has little experience with naked male bodies, so she’s probably imagining it all wrong. On the other hand, she saw Jason Momoa on Pinterest. The overall proportions seem to be the same. And Mr. Aquaman or something of the sorts wasn’t leaving much to imagination.

“You should take a taxi. It’s in Millennium Centre, 389 Main. At 4.30,” Farmer Thorne informs her, seemingly completely unruffled by her behaviour. Etta nods spasmodically, chewing the pastry.

She expects him to rise and leave, but instead he’s sitting, twirling his obviously empty paper cup in his fingers. Sadly, Etta’s almost done with the sweet, and soon the pause will be awkward. To her that is, since he seems to be completely comfortable with pronouncing five words in half an hour. The farmer watches the cup; Etta is watching the fluffy black lashes and adorable crow’s feet in the corners of his eyes.

“When would be good time for me to come again, to look at the letters?” she squeaks, giving in.

“I’m taking my nephews to the zoo tomorrow,” he answers, and Etta frowns in confusion. Is she supposed to read his mind? Admittedly, she’s getting better at filling in the blanks - which is about 90% of verbal space for Farmer Thorne - but she’s lost at the moment. “The day after the wedding?”

“Oh, alright. What time should I come?”

“We’ll decide at the wedding.”

Well, that was definite. Or was it ominous? Promising? Is Etta reading too much into it? Of course, she does. The man says so little that one can interpret him in a hundred different ways; while he probably means exactly what he says, and nothing else: they will decide at the wedding.

Etta nods again.

“Would you like to come?” he suddenly asks; and that’s the first time there is any uncertainty to his tone. She meets his eyes, and he blinks couple times.

“To the wedding?” Etta’s properly confused now.

“To the zoo.”

Etta is sure everyone in the shop heard her jaw hitting the table.

“Why?!” She really needs to learn to control her gob.

Also, judging by the minuscule twitch of Farmer Thorne’s eyebrows he has no bloody idea himself why he invited her.

'There are polar bears' is his answer; and it’s Etta’s turn to rapidly blink. Indeed, according to Etta’s guide book, there are polar bears, and a glass tunnel under their pool, and one can observe them wander around a giant enclosure, and there are Etta’s favourite seals - but what?!

And then it dawns on her.

“Are you keeping an eye on me?! I already told you, I’m not interested in your inheritance! I honestly just need to figure out your ancestor’s biography!”

Farmer Thorne’s face is as expressive as that of an Easter Island dummy. Etta puffs air in irritation. What a prick!

“See you at the wedding, Mr. Thorne,” she hisses, grabs her handbag from the shockingly bright red seat near her, and jumps to her feet.

Farmer Thorne is upright, in all his impressive height, a millisecond later. Apparently, manners are delivered into the children’s bloodstream here with their first Timbits.

“I apologise for how I behaved,” he grumbles, his eyes dropped to his cup - that is still rocking on the table, by the way.

Etta isn’t a doormat! She isn’t going to immediately forgive his rudeness and melt into a puddle of adoration on the floor. She gives him an haughty look. It takes a significant mental effort, but she isn’t going to swoon over the first sign of humanity in him! She’s British! She has a backbone and a stiff upper lip!

“Mr. Toews’ visit was stressful. And you are suspicious,” he continues, and Etta’s ‘I understand’ gets stuck in her speech apparatus.

Is he actually apologizing for his yesterday’s behaviour?! And doesn’t he see anything wrong with today’s?! Etta admits, she is indeed suspicious. And he doesn’t know even the half of it! But he could surely at least pretend to be civilised.

On the other hand, his directness is… refreshing. Etta is an introvert, and isn’t fond of socializing. He’s quiet; and when he finally says anything, he says it how it is.

“Do they sell candy floss in your zoo?” she asks grumpily, and his eyes fly up to her. They are bright blue, widened in surprise, and that does it. Etta is the aforementioned puddle of - almost - adoration. He’s still a prick.

“They sell slurpees. We are the Slurpee Capital of the World.” Is that a hint of a glimpse of a shadow of a smile curling up a corner of his lips? And while we are on the topic, what’s wrong with Etta if even this little smile is enough for her to blush and giggle?

“What’s a slurpee?” she asks, and he points at her mobile on the table with his eyes. Etta shakes her head in amusement and Googles. By the way, they are still standing in the middle of a coffee shop.

Wikipedia informs Etta that “a slurpee is a slushy frozen carbonated beverage sold at 7-Eleven stores.” She skims through the short history of the slurpee machine, invented in 1950s, with its separate spout for each flavor at the front of a tumbler freezer; and then she makes a surprised snort like sound when it turns out that Canadians consume more than thirty million slurpees a year, while an average slurpee glass contains 22 oz of fizzy drink crushed ice that one is to drink through the patented slurpee straw slash spoon. To add to her shock, Wiki tells her that “7-Eleven stores across Winnipeg sell an average of 188,833 slurpee drinks per month. The rest of Canada sells an average of 179,700 per month, which makes Winnipeggers the world leader of slurpee sales.”

“There are 663,615 people in Winnipeg!” Etta exclaims and flails her hands in the air. “No way you drink 0.28 slurpee a month! That’s 6.3 oz of sugary pop! Not with the teeth like yours!”

Thankfully, Etta’s unintentional compliment to Farmer Thorne’s dental allure goes unnoticed, since he’s gawking at her as if she’d just shape-shifted in front of him revealing her true Zygon form.

And Etta remembers why she has been repeatedly suggested by well-wishers to keep her mouth shut.

“I have a photographic memory and an innate math ability consistent with 165 IQ,” she mutters in an apologetic tone, and pulls her head into her shoulders. He’ll, of course, think she’s showing off, and their little moment of bonding over slurpees will be over. “Sorry.”

Farmer Thorne’s answer is one word. It’s a low, raspily exhaled ‘wow,’ just as throaty and sexy as Keanu Reeves’ one; and Etta peeks. He doesn’t look annoyed or, as her nieces call it, ‘weirded out.’ He looks impressed and - Etta can hardly believe it - dazed.

“Wow...” he repeats, and then fishes out his mobile from the back pocket of his jeans and starts frantically Google and calculate. He can check as much as he wants, she is almost never wrong.

He’s staring at the screen that, of course, is showing exactly 6.3 oz of slurpee per Winnipegger per month.

“That’s awesome!” he exclaims and looks at her like a boy who just got a new exciting toy. “Can we do it again - you’ll count, I’ll check. Please?” His eyes are shining, and he had a tail, it would be wagging excitedly right now.

They sit down, and calculate the average monthly ration of Tim’s coffee and apple fritters for a Manitoban, and then how much soda a person drinks per one mile of flight from London to Winnipeg considering they give you one ickle can of fizz per leg of a travel. She’s right again, and his glee reaches the level Etta didn’t know was possible: he’s grinning, and endlessly proudly - as if their roles were reversed - shows her his mobile that indicates the same numbers she just pronounced.

“Wow… Just wow...” he mumbles, and start looking for stats on Subway sandwiches consumption in Canada.

Etta might be falling for him. Just a wee bit.

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