373. - Lucien
I'd be lying if I said if I was any good at reading people, but for a second there an expression crosses over Jesse's face that makes it very clear he has no interest in meeting me. Not that I'm jumping up and down to meet him, but still.
He looks exactly like you'd expect a maths teacher would look; dirty blonde hair that doesn't get enough love, thin-framed glasses and a tight-lipped smile. His entire endeavour just screams 'I enjoy sitting behind my desk more than I enjoy the outside world'. Nonetheless - or maybe because of that - I give him my most charming smile and offer my hand,trying not to get too hung up on the fact that Emma just almost called me 'Luce'. "Pleasure to meet you, Jesse."
He gives my hand a stiff shake, though his face has now morphed back to kind. "You, too. Lucien, you said?" Despite Emma having it said perfectly fine just seconds before, he manages it to butcher in that lovely British way. I feel my jaw twitch, but nod politely when someone tugs my pant leg. I look down on the little girl Emma introduced as Kate, the spitting image of her father but with livelier eyes. She holds up the aggressively pink box, containing a doll dressed in pink cameo clothes. "Look what my daddy got me!"
She's completely oblivious to what's going on just a metre above her head, and it makes me laugh. I kneel down and take the box from her, pretending to closely inspect it. "That's a very pretty doll. Does she have a name?"
"Laura!" The child beams. "She goes on all kinds of adventures aaaalll over the world! Catching snakes and fighting crocodiles! I want to be like her one day!"
"That... sounds dangerous." I chuckle, handing her back the box. It mostly sounds like a Dora the Explorer rip-off, but I don't tell her that.
"I'm very brave! I'll be Kate the adventurer!"
Just when I'm about to tell her she's going to be a great adventurer, Jesse clears his throat. "Can you let the grown-ups talk for a minute, sweetie?" He says to Kate, who barely even hears because all her attention is back on the box. I get back to my feet, looking between Jesse and Emma. Maybe it's the jealousy talking, but they don't seem to be a good fit. Judging by all of Emma's other exes, myself included, this man just seems... monotonous. But then what do I know?
"So Lucien," Do my eyes deceive me, or do I see Emma trying to hide a smile when Jesse butchers my name again. "What brings you to the shopping street on this gloomy afternoon?"
"Ah, just some last minute shopping." I shrug my shoulders. "I've got a concert in the Old Fruitmarket in Glasgow tomorrow, and I need to look some kind of presentable, so - you know."
"A concert on Sunday night?" He raises his brows, his smile not unkind or unpleasant. "That must be rough in the office on Monday, right?"
Excuse me? My eyes flicker to Emma's briefly, though they give nothing away. Her lips are pressed together in that 'please let this end soon'-kind of way. "I... don't really have a conventional office job. If anything, the concert is part of the job." I reply, trying not to sound too confused. "But even then, a good concert is worth a broken day, don't you think?" But I wave my comment away, falling back into my press-smile, as Eschieve has come to call it. "Doesn't matter. I'll leave you to your day together. It's been nice to finally meet you, Jesse, after hearing so much about you. Oh, by the way!" I turn to Emma. "Remember that bookstore at the corner? They got that new edition of Pride and Prejudice in early, the one with the pressed flowers on the cover."
Her eyes light up, and my heart does a little flip. Emma in a bookstore is easily one of my favourite images, and I can't count the times I dreamt of her in Edwardian era clothing, roaming endless shelves. "I'll go check it out, thanks. Tell Brie and Matthew I said hi? And Eschieve?"
"Of course. Do give her a call soon though, she's been obsessing over this new show that I ended up hating, and it's driving me nuts."
That makes her laugh and no matter how much I don't want to admit it, the sounds causes goosebumps to rise on my arms. Yeah, definitely time to go - especially with her boyfriend right next to her. There's a part of me tempted to go in for an embrace, but we keep it at a polite wave. It takes some convincing, but in the end Jesse gets Kate to say and wave goodbye too, and then we go our seperate ways. I dart into the first store that wouldn't be suspicious to escape their view and run both my hands over my face, feeling the tension drain from my body - while only now realising how much tension that little conversation actually caused. It was fine until Jesse joined... was it? I'm honestly not sure. Maybe I'm just in denial about things being okay between us, because I so desperately want them to be. I used to be so good at pretending, except... except around Emma. She always saw right through me.
To prevent my thoughts from spiralling I put in my headphones, blasting the music of the band I'm going to see tomorrow. They had invited me for some reason, which struck me as odd because I didn't think I'd ever heard of them before. Until I started listening to their music, because it turned out that quite a few of their songs had been turning up in the playlists Emma always put on. At first that almost prompted me to cancel the whole thing, but in the end that seemed like a stupid thing to do. I could hardly stop listening to all the things I'd listened to with Emma, or stop doing all the things I used to do with her. It quickly became easier to stop relating all the songs back to her.
But now, with her laugh fresh in my mind, one of the songs brings back a very vivid memory of our trip to Wales to visit Eschieve, where we stopped the car in the middle of the road to enjoy the sunset, and I play the song again and again and again.
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