The sun is shining and the breeze is nice in a summer afternoon. You’re relieved those extremely hot days have passed, you’re never feeling well above 80 °F… Now, you even enjoy the walk you take with one of your friends’ son, pushing him around in a stroller. The fresh air probably does him good, despite the fact that as an asleep 4-month-old, he doesn’t appreciate it accordingly. You haven’t seen your friend, the baby mommy, in almost a week and to tell the truth, you’re worried sick. You’ve heard there’s been some incident at Star Court…. You're quick to hush whatever thoughts are forming in your mind about her getting hurt. She’s probably fine! She just forgot to tell you where she went, or so you hope. You get yourself back to concentrating on your tasks and head towards the store to do some shopping. That’s when he approaches you.
‘Hi, Y/N! How are you?’ he waves from some meters away.
‘Aaah, Alexei!’ you recognise him. ‘Good, I’m good. You good too?’
‘I good! Wooow!’ he acts out a shocked face, pointing at the stroller. ‘You a mama?’ that wasn’t an act, he’s genuinely surprised, but gives you a thumbs up anyway. 'Woow!'
‘Ah noooo, no mama. Not my baby.’ you shake your head. ‘It’s my friend’s…. Friend?... Друг. Друг baby.’ you collect all the mastery of your Russian knowledge to say friend’s baby, and he understands. He looks kind of relieved, funny thing. 'Great, another person in Hawkins who takes me for a freakin teenager!' you curse in your mind, but decide to hide your disapproval. Instead, you ask 'where are you going?'
'Shop.' he gestures towards the supermarket.
'Good, I go shop too.' you nod, so you go inside together. It's after you've paid and packing your stuff that you realise you don't have enough hands to carry two big bags and push the stroller. You awkwardly try to hang the bags on the handle when he’s finished too and reaches for your bags. 'Noooo no no, I help, no you.'
You do not usually accept courtesies like this, but this is a situation where you don't see much of a choice. You reluctantly let go of the bags and mumble a "thank you”. You let him walk with you to your friend’s house and you’re almost there when you spot an old lady, the specific old lady who’s favourite activity is criticizing everything you do - how you dress, how you keep your hair, why you’re not at work right now, anything goes, really. You focus your gaze to the ground and try to signal Alexei to do the same, but it’s too late.
‘Good afternoon, young miss!’ you hope if you keep staring down she changes her mind and just goes away, but she doesn’t seem to do so.
‘Mrs. Steward, good afternoon!’ you lift your head, defeated. You wonder what today’s show will be about - stroller, big bags, foreign guy, you bet she’s already having the time of her life.
‘Looks like someone finally listened and got herself a decent lifestyle!’ she pats your shoulder, to your big surprise. ‘Why didn’t you tell me, love?’
… tell her what? She directs her attention to the baby, not seeing your shocked face, and you finally understand. Oh no. Oh noooo.
‘What a lovely baby and a handsome man! What’s your name, darling?’ she turns to Alexei. ‘I am Mrs. Steward, but you can call me Linda!’
Alexei gets it and answers the introduction quite well, before you could intervene and save him, telling his name and giving a handshake.
‘Not from here, huh?’ she reacts to his audible accent (his total lack of English vocabulary luckily not showing yet), and your blood runs cold about what she’s going to say next. She loves the dread on your face and takes her time as long as she can before going on. ‘That’s why I haven’t seen you two together until now! Good thing you finally moved here then!’
Alexei is amazingly good at smiling and nodding at strangers. You wonder where he learnt that... Anyway, your favourite old lady soon finishes her monologue about the two of you having a cute little baby, patting Alexei on the back as well, congratulating him doing his part - because sure, the child must have gotten his beauty after his dad, you figure in your head - and finally saying goodbye, to your great relief.
You take the remaining walk and stop in front of your friend’s house in dead silence. Alexei looks back, to make sure Mrs. Steward is out of hearing distance, then looks at you and tries to find the words to what just happened. You can practically hear his thoughts ‘did she just?????’, and imaginarily answer ‘yes’.
‘She just congratulated us.’ you state the obvious. ‘For the baby.’ You don’t have to gesture much for him to get it. He lets out a soft laugh about it, and another one, and before you know it, the both of you burst out laughing. Well, you always love giving people a taste of Hawkins culture, and this was just too perfect to be true. You’ll be telling this your grandkids, if you live as long and have enough sex to have them.
The next time you meet him is four days later. He's waving at you from another aisle at the supermarket. You can't quite decide if the shelves got lower or he's just taller than the average Hawkins person, anyways you're relieved to see him smiling and well.
'Hi Y/N!' he goes, making sure you notice him.
'Hi!' You smile back and go round the aisle to meet him. 'How are you?'
'Good. You good?'
'Yes, I'm good too.'
You proceed to shop together, casually helping him to find stuff or explain (or act out) what each product is like and what you recommend. You giggle as the cashier waves at him too and greets him by name, and Alexei proudly tells you the story of how they became friends the other day. You were kind of worried about him, so you're happy to see him get along. As you leave the shop, he offers to take your bags but you kindly refuse.
'No baby this time, I do it on my own!' you flash him your muscles, posing like some body builder guy.
'Good, good, okay.' he grins at you. You're just about to say goodbye when he stops you.
'Y/N!' he calls, probably more keenly than he intended. 'I… I want to ask date.'
You don't quite understand why he’d need it, but proceed to tell him the date, July 20th, showing the numbers on your hand, this way he probably understands. Nope. He's confused for some seconds, then gets it.
'Ah, no, no.’ blushing and shaking his head, ’Date... you and I... cinema? You like?'
You turn red from ear to ear as you realise the obvious mistake you make. 'Aaaah... date. Yes! I mean, sure, I'd like.' You didn't realise he saw you that way. 'Cinema?' You didn’t realise you saw him that way! He acts all cute and silly, but apart from him not speaking English and that resulting in all sorts of funny situations - like this one, you shamefully remind yourself -, he is a grown man, and kind of handsome actually. Yes, you’d like a date.
‘Good.’ he exhales, relieved. ‘Uhh, not todate, but…’ he gestures something like “next”.
‘Yes, tomorrow? шесть?’ showing you six fingers.
‘Шесть. Six. Okay. At cinema.’
‘Yes. Okay. Thank you.’ he giggles, embarrassed.
‘Okay. See you there!’ you grab your bags and nod goodbye. He nods back, and you can feel him still staring after you as you turn around and head home. You’ll need to look through your wardrobe, you note, as you’re already making up possible outfits in your mind. No time to waste, you’ve got a date tomorrow!