Scotland Street Edinburgh
I think I’d worn Gran out with my music and my yapping on and on about Ewan. Her eyes kept fluttering closed and popping open and she’d mutter, “Oh dear,” every once in a while. My boyfriend, the aforementioned Ewan, would be in Edinburgh soon to pick me up, so I saw no harm in waiting out on Gran’s front stoop and letting her take a much-needed nap.
When I kissed her papery cheek and said good-bye, Gran offered me a warm smile, her lids already drooping. Letting myself out of the large house, I hesitated a moment in the spacious hallway. Her house hadn’t seemed so big when Granddad was alive, but ever since he’d passed away three years ago, the house magically grew bigger and colder. Whenever I could, as I had done last night, I’d travel from my parents’ house in our small town to stay with Gran for the night, sometimes even the whole weekend. Since Gran’s house had always felt more like home than my parents’ did, I took any opportunity I could to stay with her.
However, I couldn’t stay the whole weekend because Ewan’s band was playing a gig tonight and he wanted me there. He was the band’s bassist. I was really excited to see him play, although I wasn’t much looking forward to girls trying to chat him up after the show, like my friend Caro warned me would probably happen.
Shutting Gran’s door, I turned and walked down a few steps to stand near the bottom of the stoop so Ewan could see me. He was seventeen, a few years older than me, and had just gotten his driver’s license. He liked any old excuse to drive his wee, banged-up Punto, so I didn’t feel bad about dragging his arse all the way to Edinburgh to come get me.
Digging through my bag for my phone and headphones so I could pass the time listening to music, I heard what sounded like a foot sliding along concrete behind me and I jerked around in surprise.
My eyes instantly collided with those of a boy.
He stood on the stoop of the house next door, a few steps farther up than me, and he was regarding me with something akin to shock. As I took him in, I felt my heart rate start to pick up.
His strawberry blond hair was slightly too long and disheveled, but he worked it because . . . I sucked in a breath, suddenly feeling a flutter of nerves in my stomach. The boy was utterly gorgeous. They didn’t grow them like him at my school. As he stepped slowly down the stoop, the startlingly light green color of his eyes became clearer. They were “wow” eyes that I felt like I could drown in, and it occurred to me that perhaps I just might. When our eye contact finally broke, it was only because he was distracted by my hair.
Self-conscious, I tucked a strand behind my ear. The boy’s eyes followed the movement. I’d been mocked for my hair for a long time when I was little, but as I got older I started to get compliments on it. This meant I was really unsure about other people’s reaction to my hair, but I refused to change it. I’d inherited my hair from my mum. It was like the one thing we had in common.
It hung down to just above my bottom in soft waves and natural ringlets. Not ginger, not strawberry blond. It was closer to auburn, but even then it was just a hint too red to be auburn. When the sun or artificial light hit my hair, Gran said it was like a halo of fire around my head.
The boy’s eyes returned to mine.
A really awkward length of time passed as we continued to stare at each other, and I could feel myself begin to squirm under the surprising tension that had sprung up between this stranger and me.
Searching for a way out, I dropped my gaze to his black T-shirt. It was a The Airborne Toxic Event shirt and I felt my lips curling into a pleased smile. TATE was one of my favorite bands. “Have you seen them live?” I asked more than a little enviously.
The boy glanced down at his shirt as though he’d forgotten what he was wearing. When he looked back at me, his mouth kicked up at the corner. “I wish.”
I felt a rush of excitement at the sound of his voice and unconsciously stepped a little closer to the wrought-iron fence that separated us from each other’s stoop. “I’d love to see them live.”
He moved closer and I tilted my head back. He was tall. I was a small five foot three and the boy was almost a foot taller than me. My gaze wandered, no longer under my control, taking in his broad shoulders, down his lean, muscular arms to the big hand he had wrapped around one of the wrought-iron spearheads that embellished the fence. I felt a flip in my belly at the thought of being touched by one of those hands. They were masculine but graceful and long-fingered.
I flushed, thinking about what Ewan had done to me last week, except suddenly imagining this boy in his place. Guiltily, I chewed on my lower lip as I looked back up at the boy.
He didn’t seem to notice that my thoughts had meandered into the indecent. “You’re a fan of TATE?”
I nodded, feeling suddenly shy of this person who had elicited such a strong reaction in me.
“They’re my favorite band.” He gave me a small grin and I instantly wanted to know what he looked like when he laughed.
“One of mine too.”
“Yeah?” He leaned in a little closer, his eyes searching my face as though I was the most interesting thing he’d ever seen. “What other bands do you like?”
The thrill of having his attention broke through the uncharacteristic shyness and I rattled off all the bands I could think of that I’d been listening to lately.
When I was done he rewarded me with a smile, and that smile winded me it was so good. There was something flirtatious there but at the same time boyish, charmingly boyish and utterly endearing. It was a great smile. A really, really great smile.