Lilly was the first to panic. Being cast into a suddenly darkness reminded her of the Great War, so she instinctively stood to head down to the building's cellar. Her chair's legs caught on the uneven floor, sticking with the front legs rising as she did. Lilly's torso pushed against the table, which caused it to begin rolling to its side. Stepping backwards, her heels caught on her dress.
"Lilly!" Aiden shouted, and his standing causing the table to topple further, the sound of cascading silver and glassware impacting against the wooden boards as the table fell crooked to the floor.
Both stumbled, though in opposite directions.
He caught her, but in the darkness, Aiden had stumbled and fallen beside her. Lilly's back was now pressed against the wall. "Are you okay?" he asked nervously.
"I'm f – " Her statement froze when she felt his warm hands on her cheek, but this was so he could try to look her in the eyes, his own processing only the foreboding blackness. Lilly could feel them shaking against her skin. "Aiden?"
Aiden's own lips pressed gently against hers. Even with her eyes open, Lilly saw nothing in the darkness before her, frozen in both fear and another feeling that she couldn't name. Anxious thoughts of him stealing her first kiss raged in her mind, her breath freezing in her lungs. "No, it wasn't supposed to happen like this."
If he could, Aiden would be glowing. His own first kiss felt like it was anything but sweet and innocent. Aiden's mind split in two, one part reprimanding him for such a risqué action while another portion of his mind applauded him for doing something he had wanted to do for about a year. "She's going to kill me."
Both were shaking.
Reluctant to pull back, Aiden did so, and four words fell from his lips, clearly ashamed and disappointed in himself – "I am so, sorry."
Upon the lights returning almost two minutes later, Lilly found the private dining room was in disarray; the food, the roses, and cutlery scattered everywhere. The dress had been spared in being dirtied, but she didn't care at the present time. Lilly shook as she stumbled to her side to stand up. Grasping for the door handle, she peered out over the patron's of the restaurant below, who were watching the windows streaked with heavy rain.
Aiden had disappeared.
She didn't sleep that night, mostly due to his actions. He didn't sleep that night, mostly due to his actions as well.
Aiden was restless and expected an early morning scolding from Lilly, something he welcomed. "I was out of line," he whispered into the discolored ceiling of his room. "I expect a slap in the face, too."
Lilly, meanwhile, tried in pushing what had happened away, treating it like a bad dream rather than a memory. Running her fingers over her lips, still feeling the sensation of her first kiss, Lilly wanted nothing more than to scream at him. "How gentlemanly," she mocked openly and loudly, which elicited an even louder response from Marie:
"Shut up, we're trying to sleep!"
The rain continued to fall through the night and into the morning. Even with the comfortable sound of rainfall, Lilly didn't close her eyes once.
Two days passed where she openly avoided him, almost like she was unable to move past it. And she wasn't.
"What on earth is wrong with you?" asked Miss Alynson, as she placed some hatboxes in the corner to fill the front window displays.
"It's nothing," Lilly insisted nonchalantly, following behind with more hatboxes. "Now where do you want these?" The woman sighed loudly and pointed to another window that faced away from the sea.
The shoppe wasn't that particularly busy, suffering from a midmorning lull, so Miss Alynson figured she could afford a small amount of chitchat. "Miss Prescott, what happened between you and Mr. Haverman that night?" Lilly became rigid, and Miss Alynson interpreted it differently than she had expected. "He proposed?" she whispered.
The young lady turned to her boss and almost shouted, "No!" Miss Alynson brought her fingers to her lips, no sound slipping out. "N-nothing happened," she insisted again.
"Really?" Miss Alynson asked. Lilly nodded. "Really?" Lilly nodded again. Her boss shrugged and replied nonchalantly, "All right, guess you'll have a pay deduction, since busi – "
"He kissed me," she squeaked.
Miss Alynson turned and looked at her young employee, surprised. The store was empty, the last customer having departed from the shoppe about ten minutes before. "Come to the back room." Lilly obliged, and followed her boss to the room filled to the brim with boxes packed with clothes and accessories. "He kissed you?" she asked, closing the curtains that separated the back room and the front. Lilly nodded, flushing slightly. "And…how do you feel about it?"
"My initial response is to scold him for doing it," she admitted.
"Miss Prescott, it is a slow day today." Miss Alynson gestured towards the Boardwalk, drawing back the curtain. "Go and scold him. I'll call you back if I need help."
"Ma'am, it's all right. I need t – "
Miss Alynson smiled. "Go scold him."
Lilly nodded and threw on her shawl. "I'll be back soon," she told her, and with that, she left. Miss Alynson smiled wearily and went to clean the countertops.
The closer to the restaurant she got, the angrier Lilly became. She had no clue what she was going to say to him, or whether or not she was going to make a spectacle of herself. Lilly prepped herself for an improvised display.
Aiden tuned the piano on the restaurant's stage, his mind focused on that single minute cast in darkness. "I am a despicable human being," he mused, shaking his head when the piano sounded out of tune. Aiden sounded the tuning fork against the leg of the piano and tried to catch the note again. He played the note on the instrument, which was still off key.
Aiden jumped at the initial sound of the door slamming against the wall. Fear was instilled when he recognized Lilly's voice. "M-Miss Prescott," he spluttered, backing into the other instruments and causing them to topple from their stands.
"I want to talk to you," she continued, brows furrowed as she stepped towards him.
Now off the stage, Aiden just wanted some space between him and her. "M-Miss Prescott, I know what you want to talk about, but I know for a fact that I can't bring myself to talk about it. I'm so sorry."
Two tables separated the teenagers. "No, I want to know why you did it." Lilly leapt over a chair and closed the gap between him and her slightly.
One table separated them. "I don't know why I did it, okay?"
They were circling each other. "How long have you wanted to do it?"
Others from the restaurant began looking on at the two's dance of avoidance, including Miss Niygata. The context of the conversation wasn't available to them. "Since you started reading to me," he admitted.
"Why did you do it?"
"I don't know."
"Why did you do it?"
"I don't know!"
"Aiden, why did you kiss me?"
"I don't know!"
The conversation looped with her asking why and him repeating himself for another thirty seconds before a flustered and frustrated Aiden shouted his answer: "Because I'm in love with you! Okay?!"
Still a table separated the two teenagers. Distraught brown eyes looked to Lilly and continued, "Is that the answer you were looking for? I'm in love with you, Miss Prescott! And you're never going to feel the same way about me because of what I did to you! Look at me!" Aiden smeared his hand across his face, revealing his faint white punishment. "I was just terrible to you and I won't stop feeling like this because I know that I can never forgive myself for treating you like that!" He sat down in a nearby chair and sighed, his spectacle over.
His words hung in the air; no one dared to breathe, not even Lilly. The other workers of the restaurant watched with bated breath, wondering what she was going to do. It had become far too entertaining for them to just go back to work. They wanted to see a resolution.
"Aiden." He glanced up slowly and was promptly slapped. "That, was for kissing me without my consent." He nodded and glanced back down. Lilly scooted a chair over to him and sat down beside him. "You're in love with me?"
He nodded ashamedly.
Aiden glanced up and whispered, "What do you mean, 'why'? You're you. And there's no one like you that I know." He drew in air quickly before his eyes returned to the floor, feeling a stinging sensation from his cheeks.
"Aiden, you know I don't think of you that way," she told him bluntly.
He knew she meant it honestly, but Aiden's eyes still began tearing up slightly. "Yes, I know."
"Too much has happened in the past two years for me. It was assumed I had oxeparitis – " The restaurant staff quietly gasped. " – and my family fell into poverty from being upper middle class. My father is gone and probably dead and…I met you." She leaned forward. "It doesn't mean I don't care about you."
"But you don't care about me the way I care about you." The statement wasn't intended to sound like he was guilting her, but Aiden had an anxious thought that he was trying to. "S-sorry, that wasn't intended to blame you."
"No, I know," she whispered. "But I do care about you."
"But not the way I care about you," he repeated. Aiden looked at her and continued earnestly, "If this is a 'class' situation, please let me help. I can loan money from my parents."
Lilly shook her head quickly. "I'd feel like I'm using you."
"No, it's all right. Please, let me help."
A quiet, elongated "aw" sounded out from the second floor. Lilly and Aiden glanced up towards the alarming amount of restaurant workers, including Miss Niygata. The two became rigid and looked away only briefly. Their dialogue overlapped in their demands to their audience.
Miss Niygata slowly returned to her office, the staff following with the same amount of enthusiasm. The problem unresolved to them, they grudgingly left and returned to their respective work.
"I am so sorry for that," apologized Aiden while he scratched the back of his neck.
Lilly shrugged. "I had already planned on making a spectacle of myself before coming over. You made enough of one for both of us." He chuckled quietly, but eyes remained down. "Aiden, I'm not fond of you like that." He nodded in understanding. "And I have too much with my family that I need to think and consider."
"No, I understand." Aiden stood and began returning to the stage, wiping the stray tears from his eyes. "This went a lot better than I thought it would," he thought, which made him slightly happy.
"Would, you…like the chance to change that?"
He spun too quickly and knocked over a chair. "I-I'm s – what?"
"My suitors are gone, and I don't want to settle yet. But I like spending time with you." Lilly stood and brushed any loose dust from her dress. "Would you like to court me?"
"Yes!" he shouted too loudly. "W…why are you offering this to me?"
She shrugged. "I…I don't know, honestly." Lilly stepped closer to him and over the fallen chair. Now about a foot separated the two teenagers. "I'm not suggesting that I will end up falling in love with you, but…" Lilly swallowed and decided to take the risk. "…I want to give you the chance." Aiden's hands suddenly shot forward, but he felt awkward and brought them back down. She rolled her eyes and whispered, "You can hug me if you'd like."
He did so much quicker than she had anticipated. His arms wrapped around her shoulders rather than her neck or torso, Aiden's mouth resting on her clavicle. Aiden's breath felt warm against her clothed shoulder. Aiden liked holding her, even if it was as simple as holding her hands. But this feeling that bloomed in his chest when he felt how close she was to him made him feel warm and tingly all over.
Lilly wasn't sure what to do at the sudden embrace. At first, she held her hands up and ready to hit him again, but the need never came to it. She liked hugs, but this felt very different than just embracing her mother or any of her siblings. She could feel Aiden's heart racing, pounding against his chest and emanating from it a warmth that made her skin crawl.
She liked this warmth. It was the type of warmth that one could fall comfortably asleep in.
Lilly hugged him back.
Aiden reluctantly pushed away upon listening to the clean dishes rattle against each other as they were beginning to be placed on the tables. "Sorry," he whispered breathlessly. "I…think you should go back to work now."
Lilly nodded. "I…didn't think I'd be here for this long."
He cracked a smile. "I was actually anticipating you coming and scolding me for 'ungentlemanly behavior'." He quickly shrugged. "I mean, it was 'ungentlemanly behavior', but I expected a long-winded speech from you about it."
"I can do it another time if you'd like," Lilly replied without the smallest sense of deceit.
Aiden swallowed hard and glanced down. Smiling slightly, he asked, "W…will you tell me over a proper evening together?"
"I thought it was implied." He looked back to Lilly, who was smiling slightly. Eyes suddenly darting around the restaurant, which was still bare of most of its staff, she told him, "You are far too nervous."
Aiden nodded and bowed, taking and kissing her hand gently in the process. "Miss Prescott, I need you to go so I can finish tuning the piano."
Lilly withdrew her hand from his. "Mr. Haverman, you could ask me politely."
He smiled wearily. "Lilly," Aiden whispered, "I think we should return to our respective jobs. " He gestured back towards the stage. "And I need to tune the piano before we open or Miss Niygata will kill me."
"You still haven't asked politely," she noted.
He smiled. "Miss Prescott, I'm getting the inclination that you don't want to return to work?"
Lilly frowned, straightening her back. "What on heaven's name would make you say that?"
Aiden smiled and stepped closer to her. "Lilly," he whispered again, his hands grabbing hers, "as much as I love having you here, we both have jobs."
She frowned further. "You're being quite forward with your feelings, Mr. Haverman."
Aiden glanced around the restaurant, finding the restaurant almost deserted. He leaned forward and quickly placed a gentle, chaste kiss on her forehead. "We should both go back to work," he whispered, revealing his toothy grin.
Lilly nodded slowly. "I'll send a message for when you can take me on a walk, all right?" Aiden nodded, trying to suppress a grin on his face. "Stop being so happy."
"I c – " His words caught in his throat. "I can't help it."
Lilly, at first, just watched Aiden, the fortuitously excited teenager before her, which she still found charming. She nodded her head before proceeding towards the door. "Good day, Mr. Haverman."
"Good day, Miss Prescott."
Upon Lilly reaching the doorway back to the Boardwalk, she turned back to find Aiden back on the stage, tuning the piano. The scene was similar to before her arrival to the restaurant, but Aiden was smiling broadly. He didn't seem to mind the fact that he had to fix his fellow musician's instruments that he had knocked over in his "escaping" from Lilly.
Aiden's joy from being allowed to court Lilly was almost like watching a child open presents. Lilly observed him for only a moment longer before departing from the restaurant back to the dress shoppe, a thin smile spreading across her face as her eyes dropped to watch the wooden planks of the Boardwalk pass by her vision.
Antham's weather was clear, for at least the time being. The air fresh and blown from the ocean, an airship drifted lazily through the blue sky, chartered for its new destination.
Sorry for not posting anything recently, guys, but I wanted to make sure the ending worked well with the overall story arc. I'm mostly happy with how it turned out, but I think it's still a long way until I think it's perfect.
Once again, if you're enjoying what you've read so far, feel free to leave a review or comment saying what could make the story better; all feedback is greatly appreciated! If you want to follow/favorite it, feel free to do so! If you haven't read my other story yet, Dorky Green Eyes, feel free to wander over to my profile and find it. Thanks, guys, and have a great day!