V. Fifth call
The next day
“Hello?” James answered the phone, walking without a destination, enjoying his free day by popping by his uncle’s shop and buying a new broom care kit; the sun was shining brightly and he hadn’t been stopped once by fans.
All in all, a good day.
“The truth is, I’m scared shitless,” Elizabeth’s voice erupted, nervous “There, I said it. Are you happy?”
“Damn, aren’t we aggressive today. Did Vic flood the apartment again?”
“Stop being ironic. I want to stay mad at you and if you make me laugh, I can’t.”
“Mad at me? What did I ever do to you?”
“Nothing! That’s the point, see?”
“I don’t see points, lines nor circles. I’m wandering in total darkness without my wand, would you lend me yours? Or have you left it at home, again?”
“James, you’re… too much.”
“I swear I’m less than 165 pounds, 3 of which are brain material, so that doesn’t count.”
“Ugh, why do you make things so difficult?”
“Because I’m guessing you’re overthinking bullshit, and considering you don’t have a filter between brain and vocal cords, I’m trying to destroy it in its embryonic stage before it comes tumbling down.”
“Aren’t Gryffindors supposed to be gentlemen?” She whispered eventually, finding him funny nonetheless.
“Not when we’re talking about bullshit, darling, and I feel like you have too much of it in your mind, right now”
“Exactly,” she agreed, pouting again. “See? You’re on my side, too!”
James stayed silent, dubious.
“Ops, maybe those Rubin shots are still clouding my mind.”
“James, I want to be honest with you,” Elizabeth said, decisively. “We can’t meet: it’d be a tragedy waiting to happen, anyway, and I’m not in the best place to manage it at the moment.”
“What do you mean?” James complained, stopping in front of the Leaky Cauldron. “Can you draw me a flow chart? I’m completely lost.”
“Ok, I’ll make it short, so it’s less painful for both: I’m almost developing a crush for you only by talking to you on the phone, and I’m reasonably sure that if I were to meet you, it’d be only worse because you’re stunning – ok, I admit it, I own Quidditch magazines – and anyway your voice is so unsettling, vibrant, that if I were to close my eyes at any given moment I would be doomed. Unless you smell, but let’s be real, a refreshing charm would do the trick and anyway, I’m not even sure the smell could be enough to discourage me because when I hear your voice lowering, I start shivering like a damned violin string! And I, with my verbal diarrhea and my 130 pounds, with bitten nails and forgetfulness, I with my complete set of gaffes and dull, brown eyes, what would I would look like next to you? I already know how it’d end: you’d buy me coffee, with a fake smile on your face, thinking, Merlin, why did I ever agree to this?; we’d go in a coffee shop just to be able to put a table between us and I would have a terrible stroke of verbal diarrhea, narrating the life and times of dorky Elizabeth, going from preschool to summer vacations at grandma, while you’d get an accomplice to stand outside that, seeing how ugly I am, would call you pretending to be your dad telling you that your grandma has Hippogriff-pox. You’d say you have to run and that you’ll call me back, but I’ll never hear from or of you again, except when you’re playing the Harpies, my favourite team, of course. I’ll end up there alone, drinking that damned coffee, asking myself why my interactions with men always end so badly and knowing that Abby’s right. And you know what’s the worst thing? I fucking hate coffee!”
Elizabeth breathed in deeply, letting the tension dissipate in the appalled silence on the other end of the phone.
“Wow,” breathed out James, impressed. “And to think that that was the short version. Let me tell you, synthesis is not your thing.”
Elizabeth’s temper flared, feeling rightfully peeved.
“I’m sorry, did you hear anything of what I said?”
“A word out of three, but the point is clear: you’re afraid I won’t like you and you hate coffee. Hey, I think that’s the short version.”
“Well. Actually, when you say it that way, it’s really synthetic, but you’d lose a bunch of vital details.”
“Don’t worry, I got everything down by heart. I have to warn you, though, that Hippogriff-pox doesn’t exits – thank Merlin – and that I’m not really sure what colour is dull brown.”
“Anyway, do you get why I don’t want to meet you, now?”
“Frankly no, but I’m sure I’ll find out after the coffee.”
“Jamie, don’t do this,” Elizabeth whispered, her voice suddenly broken. “Don’t be so intriguing, or I’ll actually fall in love and become a psychopath like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. I still have to finish my internship at Gringotts, for Merlin’s sake…”
“Elizabeth, Elizabeth,” James sighed, vaguely amused. “You’re a tornado of adorable and useless questions, yet you digress and never ask the right one.”
“Are you kidding me?” She screeched, feigning panic. “I didn’t ask you anything: I still need to know your zodiac sign, your favourite colour, hobbies, readings, social security number… shit! Actually, we really don’t know each other! How am I starting to go all Glenn Close on a perfect stranger?”
“Darling, don’t panic,” James laughed, the epitome of relaxation. “The question I wanted you to ask me was another one.”
“Seeing as I’m so slow, why don’t you ask it yourself?” She muttered, offended.
“Fine,” he sighed patiently, taking a seat at Fortescue’s ice parlour. “James, where do you live?”
Elizabeth bit her lip, annoyed.
“Fuck, that’s a really good question,” she admitted unwillingly.
“Thank you,” James smiled, modestly. “Not as much as yours about my biggest fear, but I try.”
“Where do you live, James?”
Elizabeth’s vocal cords vibrated, hot.
“Oh. Me too.”
“I guessed, since you’re working at Gringotts.”
“Shit, I hadn’t even taken into account your ability to remember every single detail. I’d could never be an Auror.”
“I think you burned that bridge with your drunken elephant grace. Aren’t you thinking of any other questions related to where we live?”
“Er… do you live in a flat?”
“You can do better than that.”
“You live with a flatmate?”
“Be serious, c’mon.”
“Maybe we hang out in the same places…?”
“You’re getting there…”
Elizabeth’s breath stuck in her throat and she gulped loudly.
“James!” She cried out, outraged. “Do you live in Diagon Alley?”
“Eh, those old, adorable nicknames… I was almost missing them, y’know?”
“You… you… you know me?”
A loud, stark noise briefly interrupted the conversation.
“What happened?” James asked, sniggering. “Did you get hippogriff-pox?”
“I dropped my phone,” she mumbled with bad grace, “but I was going to say… BASTARD!”
James moved his phone away, suddenly deaf.
“C’mon, don’t get mad,” he smiled, considerate. “It was a most peculiar cas…”
“Tut, it’s not healthy to get so agitated, I wouldn’t want you to actually get hippogriff-pox…”
“You know me!! You know who I am… and you still acted oblivious?”
“First of all, I did not act oblivious: I understood who you were only after the last call, when I looked you up in my sister’s yearbook. And it’s not like we know each other intimately: we met a couple times at Cassandra’s. You were trailing after a tall guy that seemed to have a broom up his ass: I bumped into you about a month ago, but you couldn’t have recognized me. It was after a pretty bad loss and I didn’t want to deal with anyone, so I Polyjuiced myself into my cousin Fred. You had a white dress, blue shoes and your eyes seemed to sparkle. Even though I didn’t know that was you, I had noticed you...”
“Cassandra’s… Her house’s fucking enormous… Broom up the ass – that was probably Vic, honestly… was it after the game against the Tornados?”
“No, against the Harpies. Darling, I’d like to point out that I’ve never lost agains…”
“Do you even like Quidditch? It was the match in which Wood reached a thousand goals in her career.”
Heavy silence, like Elizabeth had disconnected the call.
“Uh… Betty, can you hear me?”
“Well, it’s more accurate than mineral or vegetal.”
“You stomped on my foot and didn’t even apologize! Besides, your cousin is a giant! You could have seriously injured me.”
“Another point in my favour, then. And I didn’t apologize cause I was a bit down, darling. But I noticed you… trust me.”
“Don’t say it like that, it sounds like you’re invoking Merlin…”
“Right, now I’m starting to think that the hippogriff-pox might be a real disease.”
“I… you! I had no idea… my babbling… blues shoes?!? If only… oh, shit.”
“I see the gift of synthesis is starting to enter in your DNA,” James laughed, delighted. “Even if a bit confusedly, actually.”
“I want to die,” murmured pitifully Elizabeth, sounding defeated. “I want to annul myself, I want to fade away, disappear, finally put a stop to this disaster show!”
“I ardently beg you not to do it,” James smiled, inspired, “at least, not before you’ve heard my proposition.”
Doubtful silence from Elizabeth, an eternity long. James’ heart was beating wildly in his chest and his palms started to sweat.
“Proposition?” She sighed eventually, shy like the first flower of spring. “Let’s hear it then.”
James let the air out, noticing in that moment that he had stopped breathing, and a slow, tentative smile appeared on his face; he felt an unusual and victorious warmth climb to his face.
“First of all, let me guess: you’re at the park.”
“Look at that, Sherlock,” she snorted, superior, “you know I babysit the pests on Sunday since the first call!”
“Why don’t you take the kids and start to walk to Fortescue?”
“James, I don’t…”
“Easy, I said to start. You’re still in time to change your mind at any time.”
A grave silence fell, so serious it didn’t even seem to belong to them.
“Fine,” James smiled with forced cheerfulness. “Let’s pretend you’re walking, ok? What do you think would happen?”
“I already told you my thorough vision of the facts,” she muttered. “From where I see it, I’m still sitting in front of that coffee. It’s probably cold by now.”
“I’ll tell you my vision, then. So, there’s this bloke standing in the middle of the street…”
“Could I suggest a sidewalk?”
“Don’t interrupt, Betty. So, the guy is standing…”
“What’s he wearing?”
“That's not relevant to the ending of the story.”
“Merlin. He’s wearing jeans and a white shirt.”
“Couldn’t be more banal, right?”
“If you want I can make him take off his shirt and force him to wrap it on his head like a turban, so they’ll take him for an Islamic terrorist and they’ll remove him from the fatidic middle of the street.”
“No… It’s ok.”
“Not even a bandana or a beanie to recognize him…?”
“’K, sorry, keep going.”
“Right. There’s the blandest dressed bloke in London, who is pretty ashamed by his super banal white shirt; he’s thinking of suicide for letting himself put on something so anonymous when finally, he gets distracted because someone rounds the corner…”
“Did he get away from the street? I wouldn’t want a car to hit him before the start of the story.”
“He’s on the sidewalk, I told you. And he’s also pretty tired of useless details, to be honest.”
“So, someone rounds the corner. People move away from his line of vision and he can finally see…”
“Two hell spawned kids that run up to him and kick his shins.”
“Her, behind them. She’s adorable. Her eyes are the brightest he’s ever seen and she has a smile that never wants to go away, always keeping the sun on her face.”
“She’s fat,” Elizabeth murmured after swallowing a couple of times. “The kids are asking themselves what that cute guy with the drawings on his skin sees in such a ball of fat.”
“She’s not a ball of fat: she’s soft. She has a killer body full of curves and trust me, he loves curves.”
“She has too many,” Elizabeth’s voice was hesitant, trembling.
“He finally gets to her and he says: ‘Hello, darling.’ He won’t buy her coffee. He won’t put anything between them, because he hates the idea of letting her get too far; he wants to watch her closely, as he’s been waiting to do for a long time, to see how those eyes light up and down following the conversation… He wants to smell her skin, because he already knows she has the sweetest scent.
He’ll turn off his phone to avoid that an exotic disease might get to his sprightly granny and ruin everything at the best moment and he’ll ask her to tell him everything she thinks, content to admire her living brightly. Eventually, he’ll ask her on a date, but he’ll never buy her coffee; also because frankly, he detests it.”
Elizabeth didn’t answer. She let a quiet and definitive silence hang in the air, connecting her to James with a fragile tread of hope. She listened to his breathing, waiting, deciding.
“Hang up,” she said finally, ending the call.
* * *
Kyle turned around the corner running, thinking hard about what flavours of sundae he could get; Sarah was half running, enough to keep up with him but not to leave aunt Lizzy behind.
A tall guy with dreadlocks was standing in the middle of the sidewalk, wearing a white shirt and jeans; he was smiling, reassuring and mischievous. Kyle wouldn’t learn the real meaning of that world until much later, on another street with another girl.
Sarah noticed that her aunt had slowed down and arched a brow in her direction, shaking her head at the colourful Indian shirt she was sporting, coupled with straw espadrilles and wild curls.
She looked funny and almost wild: Sarah liked her but honestly, aunt Lizzy was a fashion disaster.
The girl had two big, bright and vulnerable dark eyes. The same eyes turned to the guy.
He was a cute guy, Sarah thought, a pity for the tattoos. So trivial!
But the guy was looking at her aunt too: they were clearly waiting for each other.
Why was the guy still, then? No matter, Kyle had just barrelled into him.
The guy laughed and Kyle kicked his shin, making him finally jump away; he risked falling, but the girl was quick to take his hand and stop him.
When they touched, there were almost sparks.
“Ugh”, thought Sarah, before running to stop her brother. “Adults.”
The guy and the girl were still watching each other like they were the only ones in the world.
When Sarah was almost out of earshot, she vaguely heard his first words, said with emotional and cheerful tone.
So, let me start by saying that yes, I’m rightfully ashamed it took me months to post the LAST chapter but, in my defence, so does George R. Martin. Just saying.
Anyway! A couple of things: first, I don’t own Glenn Close or Fatal Attraction.
Second: let’s assume, for the sake of the story, that wizards have evolved after the war and there are now cars in Diagon Alley; let’s also assume that muggle-born numbers have shot up (I have this head canon, kind of like a way for magic to heal itself. For all we know, it might be true) which can then make the meeting at a random party without knowing each other credible. Let's finally assume that magic phones exists, developed either my the ministry or a private magical company, and that all wizarding numbers start with +413 (MAG) so even if someone gets the number wrong, he/she shall always call another wizard.
Also, I wanted to point out that of course Elizabeth has been lusting after Quidditch photos since the first call, so she knows exactly how he looks. She acts oblivious with the beanie question to try and act NOT LIKE A STALKER but in the end kind of nulls the efforts by citing his tattoos, which James NOTICES but doesn’t point out because is a smol angel and we love him.
Also, Elizabeth in this story is not fat – as he says, she’s soft. Of course, she’s also pretty insecure, but who isn’t?
And finally, I want to say thank you to all of you who leaved a review (I CRAVE RECOGNITION, OF COURSE) and I’m so so so sorry for how long it took me to finish. I could say I didn’t have time but it’s more about feeling like writing, and I didn’t. still don’t, actually, but I had to finish THIS.
Lots and lots of love also for the silent readers – I, for one, am part of this group most of the time: I know how much I can love something and still not bring myself to write, so I’m assuming all of you guys LOVED this. Also because when I DON’T like something, I usually take the time to be a little shit about it and say it!
So goodbye – we will see them in the future! the sequel is already up, 'Uncertain, future', as is the prequel, 'Right party'! also, my other story 'Cause and Effect' is basically a super-prequel about James and his ex-girlfriend Carla, but I'm a bit stuck on that one. enjoy!
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