The first time Lily Evans meets him is at the self-checkout service at Tesco Extra. He’s got these tall, gangly legs that look like they could go on forever and (from what she can tell from the back of him anyways) an unruly bed of jet black hair.
And, if first impressions were anything to go by then he was also an absolute fool. Clumsy and, to be honest, bordering on idiotic.
He’s furiously trying to scan a litre bottle of full fat whole milk and he makes it seem like it’s the hardest and most gruelling task one can take. His back is tense and he’s tapping his left foot against the tiles. She doesn’t know how long he’s been standing there already, but from the way he’s acting she can tell it’s been longer than he intended.
The store is silent apart from his incessant mumbling (she hears a lot of ‘bugger’s and ‘bloody’s amidst the groans of frustration and the sassy voice of the checkout machine). After his fifth try she’s ready to intervene right then and there. There’s a particular art to scanning; you have to be slow, patient. In short, the complete opposite of what that guy is trying to do.
The machine lets out a beep, successfully scanning the milk. Finally. She lets out a sigh of relief along with the guy.
“Unexpected item in bagging area,”
“I just scanned that you absolute -”
“Remove item before continuing.”
He grasps hold of the milk in a fit of anger and plonks it back down without delay. That seems to do it.
The last thing he picks up is a package of pasta from the deli counter, presumably his dinner Lily thinks with pity.
He’s either one of the unluckiest people she has ever met or he just simply cannot cope when it comes to the self-checkout service. Once again she finds herself fascinated and in complete awe by this strange boy and his seemingly never-ending supply of energy, because the next thing she knows his pasta has dropped out of his hands and it’s gone everywhere on the floor.
There’s an aggravated groan of frustration, followed by his large hands going up to his head.
It looks like he’s about to strangle himself for a second, his hands shoot up to his face and he pulls at his hair for a second before they fall limply at his sides. He stares at the splatter of pasta and lets out a deep breath of aggravation.
It’s now all too much for Lily. Instantly she covers her mouth with her hand, trying to stifle the laughter that’s threatening to bubble up her throat. Although this is one of the most hilarious things she’s witnessed, she thinks it’d be rude to laugh at his misfortune like that.
The poor sod.
He looks so lost and utterly helpless and she debates with herself about whether it would it be weird to go forward and help him?
She’s so tempted because watching him is almost unbearable. It’s late, the store is nearly empty, and no one deserves to get covered in pasta at ten o’clock in the evening. But then again, since it’s late she’s not really up for any social interaction; all she wants to do is buy her food, go home, go on Netflix and procrastinate all her uni work.
She doesn’t even say anything as she moves forward; she just kneels down next to him and joins in scooping up the pasta with her hands next to him.
And it’s then that she finally gets to see his face. A breath catches in her throat as their eyes meet. Hazel upon bright green, it’s as if life stops for a second (no matter how cliché she thinks it sounds).
His cheeks are red and flustered now that he knows he’s had an audience for god knows how long of him making a fool of himself. If anything the blush makes him look even more attractive and for a second she looks completely gormless because she can’t stop staring at that gorgeous face.
He looks shocked, like a deer caught in the headlights, but his eyes turn back to the floor in a flash. His cheeks are tinged pink as he continues to pick up the pasta with shaky fingers.
“Thanks for that,” He says once they’ve finished. He throws her a sheepish kind of grin that she can’t help but blush to in response. She would have hardly called it helping, but gives him instant brownie points for being polite.
She intends to whisper back a quick ‘no problem’, but her throat closes up, dry, and she ends up croaking out the words instead. Her hopes of being cool and suave are out of the window. She’s wearing old leggings and worn out trainers for goodness sake.
The boy says nothing. Instead he just stares at the mess of tomato sauce on the floor for a second before reaching into his pocket and pulling out a packet of superman pocket tissues.
Lily doesn’t know what to think.
This guy just pulled out a packet of superman tissues like they were his magic wand. He doesn’t even seem embarrassed by the fact he had them in his pockets, he just kneels to the floor again and starts wiping like a mad-man.
This is such a bizarre and unusual experience for her, and yet part of her feels like it’s completely normal. Watching this guy make a fool out himself and then clean up his mess with superman tissues.
His tongue lolls out the side of his mouth in concentration as he wipes and he doesn’t stop until it’s as clean as he can get it. He ends up using the whole packet before he gives the floor a satisfying nod.
She doesn’t realise he’s talking to her until he taps her shoulder with a new packet of tissues.
Her shoulders flinch, Henry Cavill’s face is pressed against her and she doesn’t know how she feels about that.
“Sorry, what?” Heart hammering against her chest, she tries to breathe as slowly and as calmly as possible.
For some reason this guy is making her feel like she’s got butterflies fluttering around the pit of her stomach and she doesn’t know what to make of that. Or about anything for the time being.
He grins, and repeats his question. “Do you want a tissue?”
The answer is pretty obvious; her hands are covered in the red sauce but she finds it commendable that he felt the need to ask her. She accepts one, refusing to let her shaky hands get the better of her. Deep breaths.
“Sorry about your pasta, are you going to get another?”
They’re still crouched next to each other on the floor, their heads almost touching. The boy clears his throat and moves to get up, stretching all the while. His knees click as he stands and Lily scrambles up to follow his lead.
“Nah,” He shakes his head. “I think it’s best if I do nothing, before I end up doing something else stupid.”
She’s relieved to hear humour in his voice.
He says nothing as he places a tenner into the machine and waits for his change.
Honestly, she doesn’t know why she’s still standing there next to him. She feels drawn to him, like a magnetic pull is between them. The space between them is tingling so much that the hair on the back of her neck stands up on edge.
She can’t help but just stare and stare and stare at him. Her tongue clicks against her lips, watching his long fingers fiddle as he places his wallet back into his pocket.
She should say something…
Something witty so this meeting can be something like in the books or movies. A meet-cute.
He’ll realise that she’s gorgeous and amazing and that life is complete now that he’s found her. He can whisper sweet nothings in her ear as they walk out of the store never looking back-
Her daydream is interrupted by the checkout machine. It gives out a loud and dangerous whirring noise before countless amounts of coins sputter out and the two of them stare at the machine in horror.
In true self-check-out fashion The Handsome Boy gets the majority of his change in 20ps but at this rate it looks like he doesn’t even care anymore, he glares at the machine and it’s like the two of them are having some sort of stand off. When the machine is finally finished he grabs all of his change in one swift movement, hurriedly catching a 2p coin that manages to escape from his grasp before it decides to roll away under the counter, never to be seen again.
He’s not even bothered; he pours the coins into his pocket which is now so stuffy and bulky that she’s tempted to offer to carry some. But that would be weird… and she realises she’s been staring at his crotch area for longer than she had intended. She snaps her head forward and meets The Handsome Boy’s eyes.
He’s smirking at her and she tries her hardest not to blush. Her heart shivers, pounding against her chest as she watches him pick up his bag of shopping. The handles stretch against the weight and Lily holds her breath- waiting for it to snap and for his shopping to crash all over the floor.
Luckily, it doesn’t.
“Well,” The Handsome Boy lets out a deep breath, as if he had been expecting the same thing to happen, and gives her a firm nod. “You really helped me out there, so thanks. Hopefully my night is changing for good now.”
When he smiles his eyes shine like constellations and his face seems to brighten up the dimly lit store.
Sweaty hands. Dry mouth.
She must look like an idiot as he waits to see if she’ll say something.
“Cool, see ya.” She finally manages to choke out, all the while wanting to slap her face onto the counter. What kind of a response is that?
The Handsome Boy’s smile falters a little, hands tightening against his bag. His face is free from any emotion and Lily instantly regrets the words that slipped out of her lips in panic.
Then he’s turning around and she can’t help but breathe in a gasp, shocked at how much it hurts when it feels like there’s no air left in her tight, collapsible lungs.
Why can’t she say something? Her body is shaking, her fingers itching to just reach out and pull at his sleeve and bring him back to her.
She doesn’t even know his name. And she realises with a shock that he doesn’t know hers, either. She’ll forever be just that girl at the grocery store that helped to pick up his dirty pasta… she’ll fade away into his memory until one day he won’t even remember the moment that they shared together at all.
And then, just like that, he’s gone. The last bit of his body is hidden behind the aisles and shelves of the store and Lily has never hated herself more.
Someone coughs behind her. There’s a grumpy looking woman waiting rather impatiently with a basket full of food behind her and suddenly Lily remembers where she is and what she was doing here in the first place.
She scans her items with ease and no problems (honestly, how the heck did He make it look so difficult?!), trying not to think about the distinct smell of tomato pasta coming out of the bin nearby. Then she’s following in his footsteps, it’s as if he’s still next to her.
She can hear the thunderous downpour before she’s even left the building and quickly thanks God that she remembered to bring her umbrella with her (you can never trust the weather forecast these days).
It’s chucking it down outside, the rain hitting the pavement so heavily that puddles are already forming and the cars that are whooshing past spray the sidewalks even more. It’s as if the skies are tormenting her, the pathetic fallacy making her feel even more pathetic than she already feels. With a scowl her brolly goes up and she releases a deep breath before stepping out into the rain.
The sound is so harsh, like bricks falling from a great height and flattening anything in its path. She lets out a surprised shock as her feet tread into a puddle and her socks and shoes become an instant soggy wet mass against her feet.
Either her mind is playing a dirty, rotten trick on her or… the guy that had just suddenly turned her world around on its axis is standing underneath the store roof, frowning up towards the sky with his arms folded against his chest.
Dirty and soggy feet are not going to stop her getting her second chance and before she has time to think against it hurries towards him, a smile growing wider and wider on her lips. The giddy feeling in her gut is back and it’s like she’s walking on clouds to get to him.
As if he sensed her presence (or just heard her, but she prefers the former) he glances up in her direction and there it is again: his bright smile that just dazzles her beyond words.
“This has been one of the worst days ever!” He shouts over the intense downpour, his voice sounding so angelic and harmonic that it gives her goosebumps.
She can’t hear him properly against the harsh sound the rain makes against her umbrella, so she has to move forward towards him, not that she’s complaining.
“Huh?” Once again her words fail her, she’s never had a problem with eloquence before. Her throat just instantly dries up and she can’t help it.
She dives under the small ledge that’s covering him, their shoulders inches apart. He has a rain droplet running down his cheek and Lily gathers all of her inner strength to refrain herself from wiping it away with her fingers.
“I’m going to wait until the rain stops,” The Handsome Boy says, glaring at the sky again. Judging from the large dark grey clouds that cover the sky like a blanket it’s something that won’t happen any time soon.
“Because I just realised I forgot my umbrella and there’s no way I’m going to go out in that.” He shakes his head, another droplet falls on his face but he doesn’t seem to mind. He’s got this beautiful smile etched onto his lips, his eyes glowing as he mutters out, “Knowing me I’d probably fall on my arse into a puddle.”
Lily swears, it’s at this moment that she is one hundred percent certain that he has just stolen her heart.
The poor guy is drenched and yet it looks like he just walked out of a magazine shoot, clad in perfection but like he’s had a sexy dance in a waterfall or something. And when he lets out a little shiver and wraps his hands tighter against his chest she has already made up her mind.
“You can come under my umbrella,” She says as smoothly as she can, trying her very hardest not to copy Rihanna and go ‘ella, ella, ella’.
“You’re a lifesaver, you know that right?” He flashes her a grin and she feels light and giddy on her feet. His feet shuffle, avoiding the puddle and he ducks under her arm so he’s under her umbrella.
She catches a whiff of fresh lemons and lavender before she has to hold her breath.
Did he look like this before? Tousled black and wavy hair with hazel eyes as bright as a thousand star constellations… and a smile so soft she feels like he could break at any second.
He’s so much taller than her; he stares down as she stares up and he has to bend his legs slightly so he’s covered by the rain.
“Would you mind if I…” His voice trails off and he puts out his hand, asking silently if he can be the umbrella holder.
She hands it to him in an instant, words failing her anyways so there’s no point in even trying to speak, and gulps as their hands brush. His fingers are cold like ice but they feel… right? Soft and delicate, like she could hold them forever and never get bored of entwining hers against his.
“I’m James, by the way.”
She knows his name. It echoes inside her head and she can’t help but smile; the name fits him perfectly. Although ‘Handsome Boy’ does have a nice ring to it.
She insists that she walks him home and is relieved when they find out they live in the same student residence halls. It’s about a ten minute walk back.
What would have been a walk of silence and full of dull boredom becomes a walk full of laughter and joy.
James swears he’s not usually as clumsy as he was today, but does recall an incident where he twisted his left ankle after going down some stairs, thinking there was an extra step.
“My friend, Sirius, thought it was blinking hilarious. He wouldn’t let me live it down for the whole week… until he was swinging a computer chair in the library and it toppled over and he fell arse first on the floor.” James laughs, shaking his head at the memory.
The ten minutes have gone in a flash and they’re both standing by the entrance of the student village. James directs her to his halls, building E, floor 4, and she makes a little mental note of it (she’ll have to make a friend in the building and hopefully find him again and call it fate).
“You have definitely been like a knight in shining armour tonight, Lily.”
Her name on his lips causes her heart to swell and she smiles. Her chest still feels tight, her voice giddy and shaky still.
How does he have this kind of effect on her?
“The pleasure was all mine,” She says, hopefully not too eagerly. “I had fun.”
He puts a hand in his pocket and pulls out his key, handing her back the umbrella. “Maybe we’ll see more of each other.”
Ten minutes isn’t enough.
She wants their talks to be endless. Hours and hours of talks; the kind of conversations where your words trail off, yawns fill the empty spaces and silences and you fall asleep next to each other and wake up and smile because you can talk again.
Lily grips onto the umbrella tight, blinking hard.
There are hundreds of students in these halls, almost a thousand. Suddenly the words don’t seem to bring that much hope to her at all.
“Yeah, maybe.” She says regardless, wanting it more than ever.
It can’t end like this.
They’ve just had the most bizarre encounter; one that she can see telling her kids and grandkids ‘and that’s how Grandpa James and I met’. And yet here he is now, walking away from her.
James gives her a little wave and then he turns the key into the lock and the doors open.
He looks back and smiles and waves again and she feels like a hopeless idiot, standing there and watching him like a stalker as he goes inside the doors.
Maybe he’ll turn back, maybe he’ll be feeling the same way and not want it to end either.
But he doesn’t look back.
He climbs up the stairs and then he’s gone.
Lily stands there, dumbfounded.
The rain has stopped but still she stands there, watching the door of the E building with her umbrella up, no doubt looking like a wally. The handle is still warm from his touch and she can’t help but sigh.
God Lily, she thinks with a grumble. She finally turns her back to the door, takes a deep breath and walks down the small hill to her own building, P.
She’s never going to see him again. And he was perfect.