"I swear she's a hermit."
"How do you know it's a 'she'?"
"I have a feeling," Calum answered Ashton, wriggling his fingers by his head to indicate the "feeling" he was experiencing.
The two of them were standing at the window, staring at the house that had sprung up next to ours while we were on tour. Ever since we got back a week ago, this neighbor searching had become a daily thing.
"Ash, I bet you a twenty that it's a girl." Ashton's reply was interrupted by Michael entering the room in all his red-haired glory.
"Ooh, never bet against Calum. I lost fifty bloody dollars to that prick over a fucking football game." Calum chuckled. I watched as Michael shot him a half-joking glare and flung himself down on the couch, laying his head in my lap. He instantly pulled out his phone and got onto Twitter. I craned my neck to look at the two by the window without moving Michael too much. Cal had the curtain drawn back again with his left hand and both were peering over the fence that separated this yard from the next.
Ash spoke up. "Maybe they sleep during the day," he said. "They could have a night shift somewhere."
"No she doesn't work a night shift," Calum said back.
Ashton looked at him.
"The feeling," Calum nodded in agreement, his fingers wiggling.
Eventually they decided to save their energy for tomorrow's neighbor hunt and left the room. I looked down to see a sleeping Michael, so I grabbed the remote and watched old reruns of 'How I Met Your Mother'. I completely forgot about the person living across the fence.
It was maybe seven in the morning when loud barking went off right below my window, jolting me out of my dream. The dogs next door were completely unlike their silent, hidden owner; they barked at everything; their favorite subject was air. It went on and on, and on, until finally a lazy sounding whistle rang across the yard and a few moments later the sound of a door shutting could be heard. With the comforting silence, it was easy for me to roll over and fall back asleep.
The next time I woke up, it was about two hours later and sunlight was streaming through the window. Too awake to go back to sleep but too tired to function like a normal human being, I got up with the only motivation I could offer myself at the moment: coffee.
Getting up, I just grabbed a shirt off the floor and pulled it on. Jeans, a jacket, shoes, and a beanie later, I was heading out the door while pocketing my wallet.
Sunlight reflected off car windows as I passed. Even though it was sunny you could literally feel the cold slipping into your bones and making itself comfortable there. A set of chills ran down my spine after only a few minutes of walking, and I was thankful that the coffee shop wasn't far. Another minute and I'd be inside; thirty seconds; twenty; ten; three, two, one... and a wave of heat and noise swept over me. The bell went off as the door clicked shut, but no one noticed; the place was packed. This shop is technically a book store, but the Starbucks here is the only thing I've ever really visited. People here kept their heads down, mostly into the books they were looking at, so I only got noticed by one pair of girls. But, they quickly ducked into the next isle when I made eye contact, so I was safe for the time being.
Nearer to the back, the smell of coffee and creamer filled the air. The line was surprisingly small compared to the number of people in the front of the building. Not until I got to the front of the line did I really start to pay attention to details about the place. Details like the fact that there was a child sobbing nearby and a frantic mother trying to calm her down, telling her that the duck in the book wasn't real and they hadn't really died in a swimming accident. Details like: the pen holder at the counter actually held markers, the man in front of me was ordering plain caffeine shots, the hot cashier was worried for this man's health and was contemplating not serving him anymore coffee, there was soft snoring coming from the closest corner of the building, and the radio that was gently playing overhead was beginning its second One Republic song.
The cashier ended up not serving the man, and he stormed out angrily. My eyebrows raised up as his sweaty, red face marched past mine on his way to the door. I took a step towards the register and tried to keep my awkwardness from showing when the girl behind it threw out her best flirting lines. By the end of the very short process, my blushing had caused my whole face to go as red as the last man's, and the chorus to 'A Sky Full of Stars' was beginning. She told me a waiter would get me my coffee and handed me a receipt with her number scrawled across the back in purple marker. I pocketed the receipt while thanking her and stepped sideways to let the next costumer take my spot.
When I turned though, my first thought was of throwing that receipt into the nearest trash bin as quickly as I could.
She wasn't hot like the cashier, she instead had that look of cuteness that made it hard to pick out exactly what was so cute about her. Long brown waves framed her face and fell into her eyes, shiny black earbuds were starting to twist themselves together near her collar bone, and she wore a Blink-182 tank top with skinny jeans even though it's freezing outside. She was biting her lip in concentration, but as soon as she let it go, she started lip syncing the words to her own music.
There was a coffee cup in her left hand and another sitting on the table. Next to the second cup lay a thick paperback book with a cover that curled slightly at one of the corners. It looked well used but loved. There was a small stack of paper behind the laptop, but I couldn't make out what it was, just that there was a red pen resting on top of it. Her nose scrunched up in frustration and her teeth caught her lip again.
I don't know how long I was standing there; it felt like seconds and years.
I don't know what raging courage came over me; something pulled me towards her like she was the force of gravity.
Each step brought me closer to something that I couldn't take my eyes off...until I hit something solid. Something solid being a flustered looking waiter. My chest smacked into his shoulder as he tried to weave in between customers, and somehow our feet got tangled together, making us both fall face first to the ground. My cheek smacked the hardwood, a gasp escaped my mouth. The waiter and I had landed side by side; our legs still tangled. There wasn't anything on his tray at the time, thank god. But, judging by the look he was throwing at me, it didn't make much of a difference. I had just made his bad day worse.
A couple of seconds later, we were untangled and back on our feet. The cashier had run out from behind her post and was brushing non-existent dirt off my back.
"Are you okay? Are you hurt?" She fussed. I shot a glance at her and the first thing to catch my eye was her name tag. 'Georgie', it read.
Georgie rounded on the the waiter, stepping between the two of us.
"Look where you're going next time James!" He stopped straightening his apron and looked up with a surprised face.
"What the hell did I do?!"
"I'm sorry James, I didn't see you there mate." I interrupted before the argument could continue and held out my hand to shake his. He obliged.
"Exscuse me," I said while turning away from Georgie.
I looked up to the girl at the table, and a wave of embarrassment washed over me. She was looking right back at me, and she was trying to hide her laughter behind her laptop.
Suddenly, there was a loud thump and I looked up to see James and another, slightly familiar looking, boy sprawled out on the floor. A laugh bubbled at my lips. I dropped my pen onto the table and reached up to pull out one of my earbuds. I watched as James shot the other boy a dirty look and climbed to his feet, not offering him help. Oh, but help came his way. Georgie practically jumped the counter and sprinted to the blonde's side, running her hand over his back like she was brushing off dirt.
"Are you okay? Are you hurt?" I heard her ask. The boy didn't have time to answer before she started screaming at James.
"Look where you're going next time James!"
I looked around at the other customers, missing the next part of the argument. An older couple was staring disapprovingly at them and there were a couple of tourists filming the fight, but the coffee nook of the building wasn't too terribly crowded.
I was still laughing when I looked back to see the blonde was talking to Georgie.
"Exscuse me." He looked up at me, his face flushed red, and he started walking over. I got a good look at him for the first time.
The first thing I noticed was that he was easily a foot taller than I was; his legs made up most of his body. His eyes were so blue that they looked like a summer's day sky had collected in them. And, I couldn't decide whether his gray beanie made him look dangerous or innocent. Not for the first time in the last few moments, I tries to remember what his name was.
"Hi. Uh... hey, I'm Luke." He pulled out a smile that made his lip ring flash. I smiled back.
That was the name. Luke, Luke Hemmings.
"Hey, I'm Emily." Laughter was still lightly spilling over my lips.
He gestured to the chair across from me.
"Can I sit?"
I stared at him for a few seconds, wearily.
He grabbed the chair and pulled it out, sliding onto it easily. I was sitting at a table with tall chairs and glancing down, I saw that he could easily touch the ground whereas my feet were stuck on the top rung because they couldn't reach any farther. He was still shly blushing when I looked back up.
"Don't worry about Georgie and James arguing, the sexual tension between the two is killing them, and they have to have a way to let it out since neither will admit to liking the other." I winked. He laughed. There were a few seconds silence before he said anything.
"So, Emily, where are you from?" I laughed.
"The accent gives me away huh?"
"Yeah," he took a breath in through his teeth. "It's not very subtle." Our light chuckles mixed together.
"Oregon." I answered. Luke stared for a second.
"That's on the east coast right?" More chuckles escaped as I shook my head, a piece of hair sticking to my chapsticked-lips.
"West coast. Right above California." I reached up to pull the hair out of my face. The whole time, the color hadn't left his cheeks.
"And this is probably the reason I failed Geography in school." I just shook my head again, giving him a grin.
We talked like that until we had both finished off our drinks. While I was placing mine on the table next to the first cup, I picked the pen back up and glanced down at the stack of papers before me.
"What are you working on?" I flicked my eyes back up to his, setting my pen back down with a sigh.
"An English paper. I'm in my final year at the University in Sydney." His light eyes got wider for a second.
"My mum is going to kill me for asking a question like this..." and when I laughed, " I'm serious! She told me to never ask a girl this!" I kept laughing anyways. He rolled his eyes before continuing.
"But, if you don't mind my asking, how old are you?"
"18." He blinked, looking shocked.
"How are you in your final year when you're 18?"
"I did a lot of university credits during high school."
"Oh, okay. What's your major?" I thought it was cute the way he tilted his head to the side, like a little puppy. His hair was escaping his beanie in the front, pieces falling flat on his forehead. He brushed them to the side when he noticed me looking. I smiled.
"I'm training to be an early primary teacher." His smile matched mine, the kind of opened mouth smile that made it look like you were happy enough to laugh lightly.
"That's cool." He gestured to the stack of papers with his hand. "Am I distracting you?" I laughed, nodding my head.
"A needed distraction." I swear that smiles hadn't left out faces the entire time we've been talking, but I can tell you that his keeps getting wider and more sincere.
"Do you need to get back to it?" Again, he waved his hand at the paper. They looked like the kind of hands that don't do hard work. His palms were smooth, but his fingers were callused, probably from his guitar strings.
I shook my head as an answer to his question.
"Do you wanna go out and do something?" he asked. I ran through a mental list of my errands for the day. I didn't think he'd go for it, but I really needed to go to the grocery store.
"Only if you want to go grocery shopping with me. I need to get some dog food, puppies can go through a full bag surprisingly fast."
With no hesitation he said, "Sure!" I was so shocked that I actually jerked my head back in surprise.
"Really?" I asked, not sure if I'd heard him right. He nodded his head, making the swept over pieces of blonde hair fall back into his eyes.
"What kind of dogs do you have?" he blurted out. I cleared my throat.
"Two Alaskan Klee Kais. They're a miniature husky breed." He nodded, thinking.
"So they're pretty loud dogs?" A mischievous twinkle entered his eyes.
"Ha, yeah." My teeth caught my bottom lip.
"I know the feeling; my neighbor's dogs have woken me up for the past week!" I felt bad knowing that my dogs had probably don't the same thing; I didn't know how else to respond than to shake my head and grin. I looked back up at him.
"Ready to go?" He nodded once and went to throw away the the coffee cups while I grabbed all my things. All my things that were scattered across the table. With everything packed safely in my hands, I looked up to see Luke standing by the stairs that lead to the front of the building. With a smile I walked over to him, for the first time realising the incredible height difference between the two of us. Once he realised this too, he slowed his pace, matching one that was comfortable for me. I didn't thank him because I was used to keeping up with taller people, but I sent him a small smile, letting him know that his efforts were appreciated.
The last thing I saw as excited the building was the trash bin lid spinning around as Luke pushed a small, white slip of paper into it.