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Breakfast in Kensington, 1998
The bus hadn’t come. Its gray wheels and white and black body with red writing had never turned the corner. Edmond stood at the bus stop, waiting. He glanced at his wrist watch, 7:03. The bus always came at 6:39. He was sweating, something he did when things came as a surprise to him. He hated presents due to the endless salty river that flowed from his pores. Christmas was simply a nightmare.
“Eddie,” his newest neighbor, Leah was standing in her open doorway. She was a blond woman in her mid-twenties, perhaps two or three years younger than he was. Edmond didn’t know her exact age. It would have been rude of him to ask, especially with how little they were truly acquainted. She had only moved in a few weeks ago, for a teaching job so he heard, and she was unaccustomed to this part of England. “The bus is late, isn’t it? Why don’t you come inside and have some tea with me and I can drive you to work.”
Edmond shook his head and brushed his thickly rimmed, turtle shell brown, square glasses up so that they rested loosely against his brow. They fell down on a daily basis and even more so now. Leah made him nervous, but he did very much like how she called him Eddie.
“Please, Eddie, it’s silly for you to wait out like this. The bus isn’t coming,” Leah took a step toward him. “Come on inside, Eddie.”
Edmond looked at Leah and her blond hair and green eyes and strapless summer dress. He did like Leah very, very much. She reminded him of an elementary school teacher he once had. Edmond nodded his head just slightly, sending his glasses sliding down the bridge of his nose.
Leah smiled. “We’ll have tea and scones, okay? Do you like cinnamon scones?”
The house was a small, but cozy one. Rosy reds and warm browns and comforting creams covered the rooms in a way that was both soothing and exciting at the same time. It smelled like summer and fresh baking. The windows were cracked open and a soft breeze from outside ruffled the room Edmond sat in. It must have been what most people called a dining room, but it was connected to the kitchen through an open arch, so that he could see Leah gathering mugs and plates and scones and various types of tea.
“So where exactly do you work, Eddie?” She queried as she stood amidst an array of foods and drinks.
“Tobias & Tobias,” Edmond mumbled, lowering his gaze to the table in front of him. It was a solid table, brown and creased with dents from well-use.
“That’s interesting, what do you do?” Leah glanced back at him and then quickly resumed her rummaging.
“I m-manage the books,” Edmond stuttered.
“Ah, here we are,” she murmured, setting a silver tray down with warm cinnamon scones and fresh fruit and two mugs filled to the brim with steaming green tea, Edmond’s favorite.
Edmond watched her eat, sipping slowly at his tea and nibbling the edge of his scone like a mouse.
“Don’t you like it?” Leah frowned when she realized that Edmond had barely touched his meal.
Edmond nodded a bit too enthusiastically. The tea spilled, splashing both of them with hot liquid. Leah jumped up with an alarmed shout, startling Edmond more. He stood as well, nearly knocking the entire table over. The fruit and scones collided as they fell, slamming into each other and Leah and eventually the kitchen floor.
It was a disaster far worse than Edmond could have imagined. He helped Leah up. Her pretty dress was ruined entirely. Splotches of tea and fruit stains and crumbs covered it and her. She sighed and fished a sticky peach slice out of the top of her dress. Edmond blushed, ashamed of himself.
“I’m sorry,” he stammered. “I’ll help you clean up and go.”
“No, no, no,” Leah smiled encouragingly, letting a small giggle escape her perfect pink lips. “It was funny. I’d like you to stay, okay Eddie? Will you stay?”
Edmond looked at her curiously. “You are a strange girl.”
“Here, let me change and I’ll drive you to work and then I’ll come back and clean this up.”
“I-I can help,” Edmond stuttered again.
Leah looked up at him from her position on the chair. Her blond hair was awry and her green eyes were mischievous. “If I asked you to, Edmond, would you stay home with me for the day?”
Edmond bit his lip. First off, Leah had never spoken to him before this day. He did not understand her. Really though, he did not understand the female gender in general. Second, he had to get to work. Charlie would be worried about him without a doubt. He’d never missed work without a valid excuse sent in at 5:47 every morning, two minutes after he woke up. Third, he had to at least help Leah get this mess cleaned up. It was his fault entirely and unfair to make her clean it up alone. And fourth, how could he answer that question?! Of course he wanted to, he very, very, very much wanted to. Could he? No. Yes. Maybe?
Leah was still looking at him with those big, green eyes. She blinked. “Of course not,” she mumbled almost to herself. “You have work to do.”
“No,” Edmond decided. “I would like to stay home with you. That is, if you still want me to. I’ll simply have to call Charlie.”
“I know I make you nervous, Edmond. You don’t have to stay.” Leah stood and picked up a washing rag from in the sink and began to clean the floor, picking up scones and fruit pieces and tossing them into the disposal.
Edmond joined her and when their eyes met he smiled at her gently. He was comfortable at last.