It was being to drizzle outside, but that didn't seem to dampen the mood of the festive party-goers. The laughter echoed down the street, and the students all giggled and clung on to each other. Not quite old enough to head away to university, nor quite old enough to have actually bought the drinks they'd managed to scrounge. The waitress in the café across the street smiling and bowing her head, she picked up the final plate from the table. She balanced the tray upon her hip, and returned the washing up to the kitchens. The boy doing the washing up had long since left, and now it was only her and the head chef remaining.
"Alright you?" He asked, shutting the fridge door with his hip, and turning to look at her. He raised an eyebrow at her, and winked as she paused under the sole piece of mistletoe allowed in the kitchen; under the door. She rolled her eyes at him, and pointedly stepped out from underneath it.
"Dylan, don't be an idiot all your life." She laughed. Dylan jokingly wrapped an arm around her waist, and squeezed her lightly.
"Ah, you know I'm only an idiot because I'm crazy about you." He winked at her yet again, and stole a kiss on her cheek. "And you love me really 'Low" He danced away from her before she could swat at him with the dish towel on the counter. Her mock-pout faded from her lips, and she laughed once more, a happy, merry laugh. Dylan grinned back at her, a toothy happy grin. He swiped the small plastic container into the freezer and stopped messing around, for possibly the first time in his life.
"Willow, why don't you head off home? I can finish up here." He offered, a kindness creeping into his voice. "Go on, since it's Christmas."
Willow shook her head, and reached for the next container, placing that into the freezer next to his. Dylan glanced over his shoulder at her, and noted the hollowness in her smile.
"Aren't you doing anything for Christmas?" He asked, shutting the fridge by stepping backwards. Willow shook her head, and shrugged.
"Nah, my brother's off up north and most of my mates are with their families, so I'm on my own for this one." She brushed off, half-heartedly. Dylan nodded sympathetically. The machinery hummed quietly in the background, the quiet between the two colleagues, a comfortable one. The kitchen had a gentle, low lighting, caused by the warmth of the streetlamps glow. It cast shadows across the face of the head chef, leading from him across to Willow, who sighed and placed her elbows on the counter. She looked out at the drizzling wet rain, the coolness of the counter seeping through her thin shirt, and raised the hairs on her arms.
Dylan glanced back at Willow, still staring out the window, and flicked off the lights in the kitchen. Willow barely even blinked, hypnotised by the gentle sound of the rain on the pavement. By the childlike giggles from outside. Her eyes followed a couple, dancing softly in the rain, hands held all the while, disregarding the rain that slowly drenched them. Willow smiled, and sighed, almost unperceptively. Somehow, Dylan caught it. He noticed her, almost longing look at the couple, and nudged her gently.
"I thought it was supposed to snow, not rain, at Christmas." He teased lightly, his voice low and soft. Willow smiled, and leant closer to him. Dylan traced her gaze and, holding his breath in, slid an arm around her waist. He'd done it a thousand times before, when teasing, or comforting, but this time it felt different. As if this time, he were holding starlight, and if he pressed too tightly, or placed his hand in the wrong place, Willow might shatter before him into a million pieces. Dylan let her step in front of him, and placed the other hand around her too, his hands meeting at her stomach.
"Seeing people so carefree, and happy, makes you just wish you had someone doesn't it?" He breathed. "Just getting the brief snapshot of their evening… it just makes the world seem less hopeless doesn't it?" Willow laughed, pulling away from Dylan.
"Well don't you just sound like the love interest of a terrible feel-good novel?" She teased, lightly pushing his chest. "I mean, you definitely have the look of one."
Dylan smiled back down at her, and brushed a stray strand of hair from her face.
"Are you hitting on me?" He teased. "At least buy me a drink first."
Willow winked at him, and curled her fingers into his shirt.
"Buying? No, I can't afford that, but I can serve you one." She offered, her face close to his now. Her breath tickled his lips. "Come home with me?"
Dylan grinned, and lightly kissed her, his lips pressed to hers. And then he pulled away, all too soon.
"That give you an answer?" He teased, gently tapping a finger to her nose.