Sunday Serial: Poppy McJay #3
6Pm on the dot and Jacob Tenner was pressing the doorbell to Poppy McJay’s house. He could hear the scuffle of footsteps and a murmur of disagreement on the other side of the door and leaned slightly in to hear better as the door suddenly swung open.
“Jacob! Right on time.” Mrs McJay had high marks of blush on her cheeks and seemed just a little flustered. She opened her mouth to say something further but noticed that Jacob’s gaze had shifted toward the staircase, where Poppy was decending. She’d dressed lightly, keeping in mind the sudden return of Summer, and her blue dress floated against her knees making her seem wispy, her eyes lit up when she saw Jacob and her smile was a reward on top of a reward for his courage in actually setting up the meeting.
“Er, hi.” Jacob stammered, carefully smiling back at her, and began to step into the house. In a moment, Poppy was there and tugging him out the door, ignoring his surprised grunt and her mother’s laughter.
“Have fun!” Mrs McJay called as they strode down the pathway and onto the street.
Then it was awkward. Jacob wasn’t sure how to bring up a conversation with the seemingly content Poppy. He watched as her arms swayed with her quick walk and only looked up when she finally slowed down, one block from her house. Poppy looked at him and smiled a little, nervously nibbling on her bottom lip.
“Where’d you like to see first?” She blurted out, blushing at her awkwardness.
“Anywhere you’d like to show me, really.” Jacob grinned at her and noticed the way her hair was slung into a high ponytail that flicked sharply when she turned her head even a little. “Where do you go the most?”
“The library” Came the immediate response and suddenly they were on their way toward the middle of town.
When the reached the library it was locked, so they wandered up and down the steep steps leading from the path to the door. About halfway down the stairs a brick wall began and continued down along the stairs to curve down the street. Poppy’s eyes lit up as she danced onto the wall and began a stomping dance. She’d completely forgotten that Jacob was watching her – or rather, she had forgotten than she was trying to impress him, and rather chose to just have some fun.
Jacob gently took Poppy’s elbow as she balanced along the wall, happy to have some skin contact and also feeling good about how well the date was going so far. He listened to the shush of her ballet slip ons as she wriggled back and forth across the bricks, interspersed by her laughter and the gay retelling of a childhood story. At this moment she was so alive and full of movement that Jacob forgot they hadn’t known each other for the last five years, forgot that this was their first date. As Poppy moved to leap off the wall he reached out to take her hand and help settle her onto the pavement, and then onto the gutter as she crowed for the puddles.
“When I was a kid, all I did was leap into puddles. It didn’t matter how big they were or if my stockings got ruined, it was puddles all the way.” Just as she stepped off onto the street, a passing ute swerved around the corner and up past them, speeding through the puddle and causing a massive splash.
They stood for a moment in surprise as the ute continued on it’s way, completely unaware that he had drenched Poppy to the bone. Poppy recovered swiftly with a curse and shook her fist at the retreating driver, marking down the colour of the car to complain about later. Jacob on the other hand was mortified. He had been the one to hand her down onto the gutter and he’d only managed to move himself out of the spray and not her, despite having a grasp of her elbow. When he turned to Poppy, her mouth was open in a scowl and her blush ranged down to her throat.
“I’m so sorry” he began, “I should have got you out of the way. Your dress-” Her laughter stopped his bumbling apology and affronted him just a little bit.
“Whoa! That was a thorough drenching, right? That’ll teach me to be jumping in puddles.” Jacob just started at her, so she tried again. “Really, it’s okay. Whatever, it’s just water and this is just a dress.” She flapped at the wet material sticking to her knees.
“You’re remarkabe.” Jacob managed, mouth still gaping a little at how easily she took her ruined dress. He could see some of the colouring drip into the droplets of water falling from the hem, staining her shoes blue.
“There’s a masquerade thing at the end of the month.” Poppy tried not to look too eager as she suggested it. “I go every year anyway? But you know -”
“You’d go with me?” Jacob interrupted in surprise, while she was being a good sport about it, he still thought the date ruined like her dress.
“If you’d go with me!” She laughed and pushed her hair out of her face. “I know it’s a month away, but it should be fun?”
“Obv- I mean. Yeah, yeah of course.” Jacob couldn’t stop his broad grin and only made a bare effort at withholding his delight at being asked. “I- should I pick you up?”
“Oh no, no. We’ll meet there. Maybe. It’s a while away.” What Poppy really wanted to say was that she wanted a real entrance to the ball, and that would be wasted on a date standing right next to her.
Still grinning, Jacob dared to take her hand as they wandered back along the pathway, reminding himself over and over to ask this girl out again. Maybe next week, or in a couple days – hell, even tomorrow.