Everything Changed That Spring

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11 Years Ago

“And the winner, our Miss Inter-Town Beauty goes to, Natalie Wilson of Spring Fields.”

Confetti burst from the ceiling, and Fergie’s song Glamorous played over the speakers as Natalie stepped forward to accept her sash, crown and flowers.

Scott tried not to laugh as he saw it all take place, but the moment she met his gaze he lost it. A big fake smile was plastered across her face, her eyes shined with fake happy tears and her expression was surprised, as if she couldn’t believe that out of everyone she’d won. She accepted her title with a gracious smile, and did a victory lap across the stage, waving out at the crowd, thanking them for their support.

Scott was still laughing when the girls were eventually ushered off-stage, catching the attention of a serious pageant mom who shot him a glare telling him to leave if he couldn’t take it seriously. Scott couldn’t understand how anyone could take this seriously. The whole thing was ridiculous, all the girls did was prance around the stage. They changed outfits, hairstyles and makeup sure, but then they’d walk on stage, strut their stuff and leave, every single time. The question and answer part of the show was even more ridiculous, asking each girl their opinions on the four towns and all the ways they could help boost economical, social and community success.

Still chuckling he walked through the doors to the backstage area, where makeup, costumes, shoes and a whole host of products Scott didn’t understand were strewn across the space. Not a single spot was free, things thrown everywhere during the chaos that ensured when the girls changed for their different categories.

Inside he saw Natalie’s mom, Elena, clearing up her space while Natalie, flowers still in hand, spoke to one of the judges, laughing at something she was saying. Her eyes didn’t light up the way they did when she actually found something funny, and Scott saw that much like her expressions throughout the pageant, this one was just as fake, polite, there only because it was expected rather than because she meant it.

She caught his eye and nodded briefly to acknowledge him before turning back to the lady and making a quick but polite goodbye. Then a smile lit up her face, the first real one Scott had seen that day, as she made her way over to him. He felt touched by it, incredibly humble that he was the one to elicit the genuine reaction.

“Miss Inter-Town Beauty.” He greeted. She immediately rolled her eyes, groaning at the reminder.

“I sound like a transvestite.” She complained, making him laugh. “So, did you enjoy the show?”

“I enjoyed the swimsuit part.” She slapped him playfully, trying to glare at him but instead she laughed. It only made him smile more, and overcome with the urge to touch her he reached up and grabbed a lock of her hair. “You look weird.” He commented, tugging on the strand.

“Its fake.” She said. “Extensions that took about two hours to get in. My eyelashes are fake too, and my tan, and I have this whitening crap all over my teeth. But at least I’m pretty.” She said it sarcastically, rolling her eyes at the hypocrisy of it all, making him laugh all over again. She really did look ridiculous, with her frilly white dress, massive hair, satin sash draped across her chest and the sparkly crown atop her head. Yet here she was, doing all of this because her mother wanted her to, trying her hardest to take it seriously when all she wanted to do was join the line of hecklers at the back and mock the outdated practise along with them.

She was beautiful, and not because she was decked in a tonne of makeup, hair extensions and a pretty dress. She was just the most interesting, kind, honest person he’d ever known. She was open to anything, curious about everything, and she looked at him with a tenderness that made his chest ache in a way that scared the hell out of him.

Before he had the chance to second guess himself he kissed her. She gasped, surprised by the kiss, before settling into it, moving her lips against his. They were softer then he remembered, and this time she tasted like peppermint and bleach, no doubt due to all the whitening stuff she’d used. Despite the weird taste, the kiss was better than it had been the first time, something Scott didn’t think was possible.

Her arms wrapped around his neck, drawing him closer. He went willingly, wrapping her in a tight embrace as he pressed himself firmly against her. His hand came up, cupping her chin and tilting her face further toward his to give himself better access. He’d kissed plenty of girls before, but none had felt like this, no one else had set his whole body on fire with a simple touch, with a simple brush of the lips. Only with Natalie. He wanted to strip her naked and cherish her all at once. Rush this until he got the release he always needed when he was within five inches of her, but also take his time, explore every part of her body, commit it to memory, enjoy it, because he was pretty sure she was as close to perfect as any girl could get.

“Natalie.” A stern voice hissed, close to Scott’s ear. “People are watching.”

Reluctantly he pulled away, smiling when he saw the disappointment in Natalie’s eyes. They both turned to the intruder, and Natalie’s mom, Elena, arms full of dresses and bags of makeup, glaring at them. She pushed the dresses and bags at Natalie, shoving Scott firmly away from her daughter.

“Go put those in the car.” She commanded before stalking away. She quickly spotted one of her friends and suddenly her whole demeanour changed. She was smiling again, talking animatedly with the other woman and beaming proudly at Natalie as if she hadn’t just caught her daughter making out with the riff-raff.

“Carry my dresses?” Natalie asked Scott, holding out the garment bag for him.

“Fine.” He said taking them from her. “But I want to be clear, I have every intention of shoving your puffy little arse into that car and continuing right where we left off.”

“Scott Garrison.” She exclaimed, pretending to be horrified. “I am a sweet, innocent beauty queen, and sweet, innocent beauty queens don’t make out with boys in the back of a car. You’re going to have to take me somewhere much, much more private.”

She smiled wickedly at him, her eyes daring him to take the challenge. He smiled back, equally as wicked, and she trembled for a brief second as the intensity of his gaze washed over her.

“I know just the place.” He said, taking her hand, lacing his fingers through hers as he began to lead her away. If she wanted private he’d give her private. Oh boy would he give her private.

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