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framing of the exhausted pigeon

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The true disbenefit of being known as an easy-going person who gets on with everybody – or at least tries to – is the fact that people rely on her letting certain things slide aside.

And more often than not, she does.

No one will catch her whinging when the same co-worker runs late thrice in the same week. Not even when the postman delivers their post to that old hag on the fourth floor for the sixth time in a month. And she needs to go and retrieve it because she doesn't want to expose Mary to that besom's Opinions about Homosexualism and its correlation with Immigration.

She's inured to that sort of a thing at this point, she understands this is how life sometimes is. And hers, except those few instances, is rather grand.

Still, they are days when everything piles up on her. And there are shitty things happening seriatim or just One Particularly Shitty Thing that effaces all the other shitty things – hence the honour of capitalized letters.

When that happens, she spends her breaks in a toilet with her headphones on, listening to the benumbing voice of Kate Winslet declaiming Matilda to her ears. On those days her only remaining ambition is to luxuriate in a long bath and lots of sweets.

Today has been of these days and the only thing that can bring her solace is a jar of Nutella, so once she's done with work, she rushes off to her capacious flat. She briefly contemplates Tom Cruising through the crowd but she's not been endowed with that kind of a stamina to run all the way from Notting Hill to Bloomsbury, so she precautiously chooses the tube.

The entire ride home she fills her time ideating the endless possibilities of devouring the aforementioned yummy goodness. There might be some drooling involved, but she's beyond caring. The People of The Tube has seen her doing worse than that.

So attempt to envision the blow she feels when she gets home and the very first thing she notices, lying on the couch – goading her – is nothing else, but her hazelnut chocolate spread.

She knows the identity of the perpetrator who put their little voracious hands on her most prized possession (not counting her Power Rangers Action Figures), and she's got every intention to put an end to it, and today capitulating is not an option. No more lenient Lily, she's had enough.

At least that's what she tells herself, waiting in the dark kitchen for the culprit to return from work.

Almost as sore muscles from sitting, begin reminding her to shift her position, the sound of unlocking the door comes from the entry. A low, dim light from the corridor reflects the silhouette of Mary's petite figure and Lily braces herself for what she's spent the whole afternoon in preparation for.

She's got The Plan, which relays mostly on her ability to guilt trip or intimidate Mary into admitting what she's done while simultaneously diverting her from asking Lily questions why she's required Nutella in the first place.

"You're home late, Mary", she says snapping on the light.

The girl startles, dropping her bag on the floor. "Evans! What the fuck!?" she yells. "Why on earth are you lurking around in the bloody dark?!"

Lily smirks, silently basking in the glow of her, so far, excellent execution of The Plan. "Please take a sit," she answers, pointing at the chair across from her.

Mary, still rooted to the same spot, eyes her wearily. "Alright," she drawls. "Why?"

Lily replies, channelling her inner Don Corleone, "We have to talk."

Mary merely looks back at the chair and raises her eyebrow, "And I need to sit for it?"

Lily sighs, a little exasperated. "Yes, please. Humour me."

She tentatively takes her seat, and Lily not wasting any time, pulls out the Murder Victim she's discovered earlier on, and an awkward silence follows shortly after.

"Well? You've got anything to say?" she asks the question like a haughty babysitter who just caught a kid with their hand in a biscuit jar. Or Nutella jar, in this case.

Mary winces, clearly succumbing to guilt, "I hoped you wouldn't find out."

"So you've decided to leave it on the couch. Brilliant tactic. Bonaparte's got nothing on you. Beware Russia, here comes Ms Macdonald."

She narrows her eyes in threat, that they both know is unlikely to ever come true, "If one day you wake up dead because someone strangled you in your sleep with a pillow, don't be too surprised."

"I will definitely be surprised if I ever wake up dead. Be sure of that."

Mary chuckles beguiled, and asks "Can we take a break from this intervention? I'd want to take my coat off. It's drizzling outside and my boots are all mucky."

Lily looks down and notices a trail of mud on the floor panels. She considers for a brief second because Mary undoubtedly doesn't merit for a right to be comfortable at this moment, but also this week is Lily's turn to mop up the floor, so she says coolly, "I s'ppose."

"How propitious of you," she responds, bowing with mock courtesy, and leaves the kitchen, shrugging off her coat.

"You're not the only one with pillows, Macdonald! " Lily calls after her.

When Mary's laughter subsides some, she notes, "You know, you still haven't told me why you needed it in the first place."

"And you still haven't apologised. Where does this leave us?" she counters.

Mary, back in the kitchen in her pom-pom ballerina slippers, nods at her, "Here, with you squirming in that seat."

"I'm not squirming, I'm just waiting in anticipation for whatever impious defence you're going to present."

"Do you really care?"

"No, I'm just curious how you ate an entire jar and haven't died."

"Oh, that's easy. I've been dead since 2011 when the first Fifty Shades of Grey got published."

"Wow, that's like seven years. How's it been?"

"Brilliant, I never had to read the other two or see Dakota Johnson with that God awful fringe."

"Lucky you."

"You're such a nut."

"I suggest you work harder on that apologies."

They spend a moment of silence, glaring at each other. At least Lily glares, Mary just sits there, highly amused, failing to recognise the severity of the issue.

Lily crosses her arms across her chest and raises her eyebrow expectantly "I'm waiting."

"I'm sorry," she says but there's no heart in it. "I was beyond famished when I came back from the pub. You know, that pub you said you're ' too knackered ' for last night, so I had to take Roger – thanks for that by the way. I was a bit tipsy and your Nutella was the only remotely comestible thing in this flat. It was standing over there," she points at the countertop by the fridge," and mocking me, so I hadn't had any other option."

"Oh, so it was a matter of honour. I see, my mistake then."

"I knew you'd see my way," she smiles sweetly, standing up to put the kettle on. "Are you feeling all right?" she asks, glancing at her over her shoulder. "You're not usually this testy, love. Did someone sneeze at you at the chemist's?"

"People always sneeze at me at the chemist's, it's part of the job."

"Then what is it, love? " she repeats with more concern.

"You ate my Nutella."

"Fuck your Nutella. It was almost empty anyway."

"No, it wasn't. They don't sell half-empty products at TESCO," she states with lofty authority.

"What they sell in TESCO is barely a product." Mary murmurs in a dry tone.

Lily's got an unhealthy – according to some people – obsession with TESCO. It was the only store she recognised when she's first moved to England, so for her, TESCO is home.

She gaps outraged, "You take that back right now, or say farewells to your High School Musical DVD collection."

"You wouldn't do that," Mary narrows her eyes. "Besides we share custody on that collection."

"I'm willing to make a sacrifice."

"Maniac."

She grins satisfied that her threat has been conveyed, and moves to recover her phone from the microwave, where she put it in a flash of anger and then slides it over to Mary, enunciating in overly cheery voice, "Guess who called?"

Mary, who has been watching her with a curious brow, glances at the screen and rolls her eyes, "This guy is more attached to you than Michael Bay to his Transformers."

"Luckily with fewer explosions. Although, the sex was pretty intense."

"Too bad you weren't the only one he kept up all night." She pauses, studying her face, "Is that why you're so miffed? Because he called?"

"I might have picked up the phone." Lily bites her lip, preparing for the objurgation.

Mary stares at her for what feels like an eternity and then suddenly, throwing her hands up in the air, she pushes Lily out of the kitchen into the lounge.

"You. Are. Hopeless," she jabs her in the chest with each word.

Lily's painfully aware – not only because of the pokes ( although ouch! ) – that Mary's got a point. They've had this conversation countless times before, there were tears and proclamations, and nonetheless Lily would be lying if she said she hadn't thought about him once or twice since then. She cannot throw away three years of her life. No matter how unpleasantly things between them ended.

"He was calling rather insistently, so I thought that maybe something has happened. We did agree that he can still call if there's an emergency. We decided we wouldn't let what happened between us keep us from being friends."

"That's a load of tush and you know it. For fuck's sake, you haven't even seen him since they cancelled Pitch."

Lily glances to her side confused, "I... don't see how's that related?"

"It's not, but the show got dropped the next day after your rendezvous, so I hold him responsible."

"Got it." She adds, "Also that's rich coming from someone who frequently sends e-mails to her ex."

"Those are not 'Hey, how's it going' e-mails you numpty. I'm sending her viruses masked as cat pictures. And she always opens them because that daft cow can't resist herself."

Lily's mouth drop open, agape in disbelief, and she gapes at her in shocked silence, "Wow. T-that's...I-I... don't know what to say. Where are you getting them from?"

"Cats?"

"The viruses."

"Oh, I don't do that myself. Obviously. We both remember the Coffee Bean Grinder Incident. Emma's been doing it for me. I just hit send."

Lily keeps nodding her head, awestricken, "I'm frightened."

"You should be. You've really taken the biscuit with answering that call. What were you thinking? Where is your self-respect?"

"I left my self-respect in the chicken factory when I was stuffing their product in boxes."

"Don't be dramatic you talk to a girl who works in a flower shop."

Lily raises her eyebrow, "You own that flower shop, and you love that place."

"Yeah, that was a bad example. But you're still not exculpated about the whole Gavin thing," she puts her hands on her hips – a very imposing gesture for someone who stands barely an inch over five feet. "How can you stand here and look her in the face?" Mary deplores.

Lily follows her gaze over to the wall where a picture of the one and only Dua Lipa has been sellotaped several months ago. This wall was previously occupied by Taylor Swift, but eight weeks before Dua Lipa arrived, Mary had moved her to the bathroom. Lily is not sure whether it was a punishment or not, and she's too scared to ask.

"Don't you have anything to say to her?" Mary crosses her arms over her chest expectantly.

"Seriously?" she chortles. But Mary just purses her lips and leans against their couch, waiting.

Lily clears her throat and moves closer to the wall. "Ms Lipa," she begins, bowing her head, "I sincerely apologise for picking up that phone, but I did genuinely believe he might in danger. For all his faults, he's still a dear friend to me." She can hear Mary scoff at her. "Gavin was there for me when no one else was. And I wish I could, but I can't disregard that so easily. Maybe next time you will grant me more strength and common sense." There is a pause and she turns to Mary, "Amen?"

Mary cringes. "I'm not sure that's appropriate, and I can't believe I almost brought you doughnuts."

"You ate doughnuts without me?" Lily pouts.

"Yes, and they were scrummy."

"I hate you."

"As you should."

Lily sticks out her tongue in retaliation and heads toward the kitchen to take care of the kettle that's been whistling through their charade. She massages her neck, feeling the tension of the day finally alleviating.

"What are you doing?"

"Tea, that you clearly forgot you wanted," Lily answers to Mary, nonplussed by her question.

"Oh no, we're going out," Mary states firmly.

"We are?"

"Absolutely." She nods her head with a conviction that some politicians would kill for. "That new pub nearby our beauty salon offers a broad and multifarious array of drinks choices. So much better than lousy tea from TESCO. And we haven't got properly smashed since last autumn."

"Um, Bertram's do on New Year's?"

"That's a tradition. It doesn't count."

Lily opens her mouth in the attempt to say something, but Mary beats her to it, "I don't know what is coming out of your mouth next, but I suggest this would be a good time to think about how much you need that drink."

It's truly frustrating to live with someone who knows you through and through. "Fine. Let me just put something better on. Or is there dark enough for me to wear this? "she asks, pointing at her ratty Andy Pandy pj's.

Mary – the ultimate bellwether of fashion in their little household– scrunches her nose, "I don't think there is a dark enough space in the world for you to wear that in public places. So, please don't." She adds, "Also grab my brolly when you'll be passing by my room because we need to find the cash machine. I spent all my change for the doughnuts."

"That you didn't share."

"Already a thing of the past, Evans. I'm going to use the toilet. You better be dressed and ready by the time I'm done."

-

If there's anything in her life that Lily's got no doubts about, it's the fact that she loves Mary. But then again, everyone does. You either love her or you don't really know her. The fact that naissance of their friendship fell on one of the worst days of Lily's life only heartens the feelings.

Lily was finishing her last year of Pharmacy School and was about to look for a community pharmacy to start her training in when she got kicked out of her flat. Well, 'kicked out' seems somewhat like a harsh way to describe what really happened.

She left. Willingly.

There was no longer any space in her bed for her to sleep in. The only bed in the flat was already occupied by her boyfriend and some blonde girl with a lightning tattoo on her back. But don't hate on Gavin, he's a sweet lad. He really is. He studies medicine – wants to be a paediatrician, volunteers in an animal shelter, loves to listen to Taylor Swift and Kelly Clarkson. Never forgot her birthday or their anniversary. Phenomenal in the sack – the things this boy could do. On top of it all, horribly romantic – he did say that no matter whom he was sleeping with, he was always thinking about her, and only her. True romantic that one. And that's the top quality in a man, innit?

After hastily packing up her suitcase, and praying Gavin won't sue her for chucking a Nutella jar at his head, she left the building, having no idea where she was heading. However several hours later, she stumbled her way into the small coffee shop she usually dismissed as being too artsy for her liking. She ordered some fancy hybrid of coffee and tea and sat in one of the booths in the corner. When her order came in, she realised that she had just spent £5 on something that will keep her warm for maximum an hour and she had nowhere to sleep that night, her phone was uncharged and she didn't remember any her mates' numbers. She was thoroughly fucked. Crying seemed like a sound, albeit temporary, solution in which she promptly indulged herself in.

Thar's when she came in.

Mary.

She appeared like an angel, in her all effulgence, slowly descending the stairs that were leading to the lower level of the coffee shop. All soft angles and smiles, big bright eyes; in a yellow skirt that was making her already deep skin tone look even darker.

She really saved her that day.

She had joined her in the booth, offering to share her scone with her (what an angel), and just talked to her. About her studies, her lousy job – she was working in the second-hand bookshop at that time; about how her girlfriend had left four weeks prior, claiming that Mary was too much of a vexation for her, and she will have more luck with Pandas in Australia. Mary said it's alright, she should have expected this from someone named Dorcas.

By the end of that night, Lily had a place to stay, plans for the summer and a friend for life.

So yeah, she loves Mary, she genuinely does, but sometimes she feels Mary's good intentions are going to get someone killed. And it's most likely going to be her.

-

The pub is crowded when they get there, so Mary decides to wangle her way into the seat, choosing some poor freshmen as her victims, by the time when Lily comes back with their pints, seats are free, containing only a beaming Mary.

"You're awfully chuffed. Any particular reason?" Lily asks, sitting down.

"I've got a plethora of reasons, love. Let me think." She pauses for effect, and to her credit, she tries very hard not to grin. "It's Friday night, It's properly snowing outside – goodbye dreadful mud, you won't be missed. I'm about to guzzle this ambrosian drink, and there was a fit bloke gawping at you in the queue. You must have made quite an impression on him because he spilt his drink from his mouth when he saw you."

"Gross."

"Adorable."

"Maybe if he was three years old."

"He certainly wasn't." She stops, observing Lily for a moment. "But I'll have you know, that I'm not going to push," Mary states and leans back into her seat.

Lily arches her brow in disbelief, looking up from the napkin she's been trying to unsuccessfully fold into some intricate shape "Really?"

"Indeed. I'm a new woman this year. It's my New Year's resolution."

"It's March."

"Yes, of a New Year," she points out while sipping on her drink.

After an hour filled with some good-old badinage and consumption of a substantial amount of alcohol, they are joined by some of Mary's mates from her research group. Including Emma – a Techno Wizard who knows where computer viruses are coming from and has got no vacillation in using them, therefore, needs to be respected. So Lily budges over, allowing her to sit next to her.

"Hi! Where's Roger?" Lily enquires in, what she hopes, is a casual tone.

"Mary hasn't told you? He car-parked so hard last night, we had to haul him across the pavement to get him into the taxi," Emma says fondly as if it was a one-time occurrence that happened decades ago, not something that happens every time they go out because Roger is a sweetheart who means well but also a total lightweight. "He's probably still sobering up."

"Poor thing."

"The things people do for love," she nods in Mary's direction who is already absorbed in conversation with Bertram. "Anyway, whose round is it?" she asks this time loudly enough for the whole group to hear.

"Mine!" exclaims some very eager girl whose name Lily can't recall. As she jumps out of their booth to order, Lily's phone rings.

"If it's him again, I'm throwing that phone all the way to the whatever-bloody-hellhole he lives in now," Mary's voice breaks through the noise.

"Who?" Lily can hear Emma's asking.

"Gavin," Mary sneers.

"He's been bothering you again?" Emma asks, and Lily feels that if she answers the question wrong the next phone she receives from him will be a funeral notice.

She glances at the screen. "It's not. It's just Liz from work. I have to take this. Sorry," she excuses herself to the others.

"Oh, if you're going to be outside, that's where The Fit Spill went a few minutes ago."

"Who?"

"The bloke who got a boner when he saw you. You know, from the bar," she shoots a pointed look in that direction.

"What happened with 'I'm not going to push'?"

"I'm not pushing, this is guiding. Huge difference and you're welcome."

Lily chuckles before heading towards the way out.

"He's freakishly tall and wears glasses! Great hair! You can spot him easily!" Mary yells quickly as Lily waves her off.

As she steps outside, she realises she's left her scarf on the table but it's already too late to come back, so she just tucks herself more securely in her own coat.

She already knows what this call is all about, and a part of her hesitates from picking up. Lily glances around. There is quite the crowd outside. Loads of people chatting and laughing; some couple appears to be stuck to the wall, all she can see is a guy's back and someone's hands running rather vigorously through his dark thick hair; a bit further there are two blokes throwing snowballs at each other and making all sorts of raucous. She gazes at them, warmed up by the feeling of faint envy stirring in her stomach. Lucky bastards. They probably don't have to answer calls from co-workers at 10 on Friday night.

She looks back at her phone and braces herself for what's to come.

"Hello?" her voice just an octave warmer than the air around her.

"Lily? Hi! It's Lizzie!" she shrills to her ear.

"Yeah I know, your number showed up on my screen. Technology is really advanced these days."

There is an awkward pause because Lizzie has no sense of humour, or decorum, or timing for that matter. "Right... Anyway. How are you?" she doesn't wait for her response because Lizzie is a woman on a mission and that mission is to ruin Lily's weekend. Again. "I have a huge favour to ask. I have to take my nan for a doctor's appointment tomorrow morning. I completely forgot when we were setting up our rota for this month. I'm so sorry. Could you perhaps cover for me? Just for a couple of hours."

If she says no, then next person Lizzie will call is Bree. And who calls a single mother of two rambunctious children on Friday night? Fucking Lizzie, that's who. Bree will say yes, and will probably tell Lizzie to take the rest of the day off too because Bree is a soft heart. However hard it is for her to admit, Lily is a bit of a soft heart too, just for the right people.

"Alright, but you'll owe me. Big time. And I intend to collect."

"You're such a dear. I knew you'd help me," Lizzie responds with false sweetness. Lily assumes it's false. Genuine compliments and Elisabeth Williams don't go together. "I've got to go. I have to get up early tomorrow, I'm sure you understand. Ta!" She quickly hangs up as if afraid Lily will change her mind.

Lizzie is not an inept cretin, she's actually a surprisingly capable employee; methodical, with a good memory, can easily spot errors. But personally? A nightmare. Not the kind of a person she'd want to spend her Friday nights with.

Her reverie gets interrupted by an approaching Mary who calls out to her, she's about to turn, when everything happens instantly. Something semi-hard and wet hits her squarely in the face, an echo of pain radiates through her – her cheek, her chin, and finally her tailbone, as she lands flatly on it, losing her balance.

"Oh my God! You killed Lily!" she discerns Mary's screaming – way too dramatically considering it's not her arse that just got broken. She appears in her line of vision that's slightly obscured by Lily's woollen hat that slid across her eyes when she's fallen. "Are you all right, honey?" she asks unmistakably concerned.

"I think so," Lily groans. "What was that?"

"Looked like a poorly aimed snowball." Mary turns around opening her mouth with the intention of giving a peace of mind to the assailant when she suddenly gasps and pushes Lily's head back on the ground. "Stay down, it's the Fit Spill," she hisses excited. "Pretend you're unconscious or something. Quickly!"

Before Lily manages to come up with a suitable response and shove Mary's smothering gloves off her mouth, she feels someone tagging her by her arms. Unfortunately, as she was unprepared for such a manoeuvre, instead of raising up, she loses her footing and jams her face into something.

First meetings are often quite stressful, especially when you don't know about them beforehand – sweaty palms, elevated heartbeat, childhood flashbacks to that time when she was six and peed herself in the middle of the playground – but those time can be also quite memorable, particularly when you hit your nose into someone's crotch before even seeing their face.

"Shite, I'm so sorry! Are you alright? Did you break anything? Do you want me to call an ambulance? How many fingers do you see? Can you move your legs?" he asks, all in one breath.

When her head stops spinning, and she finally succeeds in opening her eyes, the first thing she sees is a hand. A big hand, with long crooked fingers. Very nice hand; not that she's an expert, although to be honest, she wouldn't mind an opportunity to examine it for further diagnosis.

She shifts her head to look beyond it.

And damn.

The rest of him is nice as well. Very nice even. His hair seems to be everywhere where it's not supposed to be – like someone eviscerated a skunk and put it on his head. It looks charming on him though. She notices large eyes peering up at her with alert through full-rim glasses.

At this point, she's not sure what's more overwhelming, his questions or him. But it also could be a head injury.

Glancing at Mary, who is gleefully snickering to herself, she comes to the realisation that she's still not given an answer to him.

"Um...God, I can't remember," she mutters.

His eyes widen in shock. "You can't remember?" He sounds alarmed, "You can't remember if you can move your legs?!"

"No! " she quickly corrects. "I mean yes. I mean no. I can remember that. Obviously."

He smells delightful too. What is that fragrance? Make a Ginger Fluster: Forest Edition? Damn him. Safe distance is her only chance for maintaining some dignity so she springs to her feet and takes a step back.

"Your first question, I can't remember that."

"Oh, thank God, " he sounds relieved, and then he clears his throat and his hand that was seconds ago in his hair rubs the nape of his neck, "I s'ppose I was asking whether you're all right. Seems like something one could ask after decking a stranger."

She lets out a low laugh and looks up at him. She needs to cran her neck to properly see his face because this bloke is a freaking giant. And when she says a freaking giant she doesn't mean six-three of Ben Affleck's deliciousness, she's talking here more in lines of two-inches-away-from-that-stretched-kid-from-Willy-Wonka. Mike, is it?

"So are you?" his voice cuts through her thoughts.

She blinks rapidly. "Am I what?"

"All right? It looked like a nasty fall."

"It was more of a shock than anything," she responds. "My face hurts though, so thanks for that."

He flinches. "I swear I wasn't aiming at you, I was just having a bit fun with my mate," he turns to point at someone but there's no one there. "Who I see has already tactfully retreated to the pub," he mutters under his nose. "He made some, um, inappropriate comments about someone, that I did not appreciate." He looks somewhere past her shoulder, and she pretty sure that, at this point, he's got bleeding scratch marks on his neck, "So I decided the snow is not the worst, as far as weapons go, but then the git suddenly ducked and then, as you know, everything went pear-shaped."

She watches him as his cheeks turn bright red, very flattering shade to the olive tones of his skin. His eyes wander around, almost as if he's hoping something disastrous would happen that could divert their attention to it. After his search emerges to be unfruitful, he locks his eyes on hers. Hazel, bright, with webs of faint wrinkles at the corners. Her grandma used to say that these are the eyes of an optimist, but now is not the time to be thinking about her nan because her ridiculously good-looking almost-murderer lets his gorgeous eyes slide slowly down to her suddenly dry lips before setting them on her cheek.

He clears his throat and his hand disappears into his hair. Again. Maybe he's got lice or something. "I'm James!" he suddenly speaks. "I don't think I've mentioned that."

James. That's a nice name. That's a really nice name. An old classic, always on the lists of Top Babies Names, which she regularly checks for Reasons.

"No, you haven't. Do you go by Jim? Jamie? Jocko?"

"Jocko?"

"I knew a guy once."

"I go by neither, but I will definitely reconsider Jocko now."

She grins at him; he ruffles his hair once more. "And you are?"

"Injured." She sneaks a peek at her watch, "And late. I've got to go."

"Got a hot date?"

"As a matter of fact, I do. As soon as I get home I intend to hop in bed with Andy Pandy."

"Andy Pandy? So you like senior citizens then," he jokes.

She bites her bottom lip, withholding a smile off her face. She's not eager on leaving but she fancies herself an Occasional Adult who takes her responsibilities seriously and she already made a commitment to Lizzie.

"Mary, could you call a–?" she looks to her right where Mary hasn't been standing for a while now. Not that she's noticed.

"Must be an epidemic, " James quips. "First Sirius, now Mary."

"Your mates' name is Sirius? Like the baby from the Planet of the Apes?"

"Exactly like that. He'd love that analogy."

They stand there staring at each other, and Lily wishes she could forget about the pharmacy and the line of customers who will wait for her from the early morning because it's flu season, and forget about her aching body, and that she really doesn't know this guy, and that no matter how fit he is, he still decked her.

"Can I?" he asks a bit sheepishly, pointing at her face.

"What for?"

"So I could memorise the swelling and torture myself with an image of it later."

"In that case don't let me stop you," she says as he steps forward, his fingers reaching to cup her cheeks gently when suddenly struck by an idea, she grabs his hands.

"Wait, actually, could you do something for me first?"

"Um, sure," he blinks up flabbergasted by her abrupt movement.

"It's pretty embarrassing though."

"It's alright," he smirks.

"If you say so, but don't say I didn't warn you."

"I won't."

"Promise?"

"Promise."

"Close your eyes."

"Why?" he asks suspiciously, as he should be.

"James."

He obeys, and biting her lips to stop laughter from escaping, she bends to gather up some of the snow from the ground and then - Thwack!

She shoves it with all her might straight into his face.

Bless her nan for telling her when she was little that when you want a man to remember you: give him something to remember you by. A photograph, an underwear – if you're the racy sort or a bruise on his left cheek for the one he gave you.

She can make out the susurrous murmur of voices around her, but she's too busy staring at his shocked face to worry what they say.

James' mind, still in disbelief of what just happened, doesn't seem to be able to formulate a proper response, so Lily takes the opportunity to explain her devious ruse.

"Now you don't need an image, you've got the real thing. Each time you look in the mirror, it'll be there."

Speach has failed James completely so he just stands and nods at her, as her smirk widens.

"James. It's been...," she pauses to find the word. " Memorable, but I really need to go find Mary. " Lily slowly heads toward the pub. Few more steps and she'll be back inside and all of this will be nothing more than a funny anecdote for both of them to share on their dates. With other people. And she's fine with that. Why wouldn't she be?

"Hey, Jocko!" She's embarrassingly close to fist bumping into the air when she hears him call out.

As calmly as she can manage, she glances over her shoulder, only to find him smirking at her. "Yes?"

"If by any chance you found our little encounter enjoyable, I'll be in this pub every night of next week."

"Every night? Desperate much?"

"I hope I'm not too obvious."

This time she can't fight off a smile. "I'll see how I feel tomorrow. Sober and all."

Then without waiting for his response, she waves and goes inside.

She makes her way through the crowd glad that Mary didn't decide to change booths. "Hi," she says archly.

"Oh, hello! Are you two done?"

"Done with what?"

"Flirting," Mary looks at her like she's stating the obvious.

"There was no flirting," Lily laughs her off.

"Oh please, he totally hit on you."

"He hit me."

"Accidentally with a snow, not his fault you've got no balance. I'm talking about what happened after. I could feel the sexual tension oozing from both of you."

"I'm glad you could feel something because the only thing I felt is my throbbing cheek."

Mary clicks her tongue and coos at her. "Come to me you big baby, show me what that bad fit bloke's done to you."

If they were back in their flat Lily would freely chuck something at her head. Sadly, they're in public place so she needs to settle for glowering.

"Oh, it actually does look rather nasty. You should put some ice on it or something. Let me ask Tom if he's got something," Mary offers.

"Who's Tom? Never mind. I have to go home. Do you think a taxi or Tube will be faster?"

"Wait, home? We just got here."

"I have to go to work tomorrow to cover for Liz," Lily explains.

"Please tell me you're taking the Mickey. Fucking Liz. She always does this. Let me guess, her cat got sick."

"No, her grandma actually."

"Ha, wow. Haven't heard the one in a while, " Mary grumbles.

"Mary," she admonishes.

"Lily, " she mimics her. "You know she's skiving off. That girl is such a Scobberlotcher. She's probably sitting somewhere, having time of her life."

"I don't care what she does in her free time. All I know is that tomorrow at 9 I have to be at work, and I'm way too zonked right now to get pugnacious with you about it. So, if you excuse me. I need my goodbye hug and I'll go to wait for my taxi outside," she says spreading her arms wide open.

Mary launches herself at her, embracing her tightly. "Get some sleep," she mutters into her neck.

"I intend to." She leans back to look Mary in the eyes. "I need to look presentable in the morning. Who knows maybe tomorrow is the day I'll meet the love of my life." Mary always convinces her that working in the pharmacy all the way over at Notting Hill means that any day now Lily's own Hugh Grant will walk through the door and whisk her away.

"Ha! Knowing you, you'd probably sell him a syrup and send him back home."

"If he's sick it's the least I can do. I would give him a discount though, so he'd come back once he feels better."

"You saucy minx. Your flirtation skills are truly legendary."

"Bugger off," she simply says from a lack of a proper quip. That head injury must be really getting to her.

"Bye."

Lily smiles, placing a final kiss on her cheek. "Stay safe."

"Text me when you get home."

"Call me if you don't plan to."

"I will honey," she promises.

-

When she gets home it's already twenty-seven past eleven. All because some morons decided to get into a fist fight in the middle of the street. Wankers, the lot of them.

She's in the middle of shrugging off her jacket when a voice from behind her says, "You look like shite."

Lily lets out a piercing scream – which she's pretty sure if they had more caring neighbours would raise some suspicion but their neighbours consist mostly of students and old people. So people who are dying or are well on their way there.

"Could you stop that?" There's a pause in which she manages to locate and recognise the source of the voice.

All 5'10'' – or probably more in these shoes – with perfectly manicured nails, hair pulled into a neat and tight bun and nothing more than judgment and aversion on her face is sitting her sister.

The very same sister who swore to her than the next time she sees her, Lily will be lying dead in a casket.

All right, she didn't say that in those words. But Lily got the general message. The days of comity between the sisters are long gone.

"How the bloody hell did you get into my flat?" Lily demands, tightening her grip on the keys.

Petunia just smirks and settles in her seat, "First things first, be a dear and pour your sister a drink, will you? We need to chat."