In Sickness and in Welsh: Chapter 5 – Love Thy Neighbour

Blair danced in the kitchen while she baked. Her favourite songs were playing loudly and she sang along terribly. Her voice could be sweet and melodious when she was concentrating on singing. Right now? She was concentrating on the dough she was kneading and thinking about the icing for the cake already in the oven. Her voice wasn’t quite a cat yowl but it was close. It was terrible enough for the cat to have decided anywhere else was a better place to be, even if it meant giving up fresh egg to eat.

Wiping a sleeve across her brow she set aside the dough in a bowl to rise. The dough would take a few hours before it was ready to go into the oven. She wiped her hands on the apron at her waist and noticed the irregular thumping. She turned off the music and the thumping continued. Following the sound she realised someone was knocking on the door. She wondered how long they’d been knocking as she rushed to open the door.

Pulling open the door, Blair looked up into a surprised set of eyes. It was the man from the walk. He’d found her first. How could she be kind and neighbourly when he’d beaten her to it. Invite him in, that’s neighbourly, her brain commented as she stood there.

“C-come in” she stepped aside and gestured for him to enter. Mentally she high fived herself for giving her house a clean the night before when she couldn’t sleep. He walked past her into the house not knowing where to stand or what to say.

“I’m Rh-”

“I’m Bl-”

They both started at the same time. He gestured at her to talk first.

“I’m Blair,” she said feeling self conscious, “This is my home,” she added lamely.

“I’m Rhys, I just moved here. I’m living in a cottage on the other side of the trees. They’re kind of my backyard but I don’t know where my yard ends and the trees begin. It’s all a bit strange out here…” he trailed off realising he was rambling.

She smiled. It was sunshine in a smile and he couldn’t help but smile back. Her whole face changed and she looked younger.

“You have flour on your face,” he said to her and pointed at his forehead.

Blair whipped up the apron and wiped at it. She smiled again as she lowered it. She was feeling completely off guard.

“Come, have a seat. I’ll put on some tea. What tea do you like and how do you take it?” she asked and walked to the dining table.

He sat in the seat that allowed him to see her in the kitchen.

“Uh, black tea is fine, Earl Grey if you have it, and no sugar, no milk,” he smiled at her as she nodded, “something smells amazing in here!” he sniffed the air and closed his eyes.

Blair was certain he wasn’t doing that to be sexy but she couldn’t be sure. His head was tilted back, his eyes closed, his hair dishevelled from the walk. She stared at him while he couldn’t see her doing it. She had an urge to go over and kiss him. That shocked her out of her staring.

“I’ve got a cake in the oven. If you don’t mind waiting a half hour, I can ice it. It was for you anyway,” she finished and he opened his eyes and looked at her.

“For me?” he asked.

“Yes. As a welcome to the neighbourhood cake” she shrugged and turned away while she put the pot on to the burner.

“That’s incredibly thoughtful. No one has ever made me a cake unless it’s my birthday!” he smiled again, disarming her.

“Well, that’s just changed,” she smiled and kept moving about the kitchen with a grace he hadn’t seen outside of the operating room. Blair looked completely comfortable in her kitchen, moving and pulling things from cupboards without needing to look. Hopefully he would get to that point in his house soon.

“What brought you to the town?” she called from the other side of the kitchen. He could see her back but not much else as she pottered around. The timer went off and he heard her lift the cake from the oven and put something else in.

“I’m a doctor,” he said, “I’ll be working as a Junior in surgery this year. I won a job here,” he shrugged. “I won’t see the big cases that you would in a major city hospital but I’m looking forward to all the little surgeries and all the operations I can do that can stop a person needing to be airlifted into the city,” he looked at her and nodded, “I’d like to stay a while but we’ll see how this weather treats me and whether people actually want me here,” he shrugged.

“I work from home, but I bet that in town itself you’ll be the hot topic for some time. You’ll see a lot of people coming in with ‘injuries’ just to check you out,” she laughed “and then after that, the young singles will be rolling in,” she picked up the tray and brought over the tea.

Sitting, she sorted out the mugs. When he’d seen the tray he’d expected cups and saucers and said as much. She just pulled a face saying that while she did love the small cups they just weren’t capable of holding a person-worth of tea.

They chatted for a while and both of them started to relax. He told her brief details about his job and fun stories he’d seen. She told him about writing to deadlines and how the deadlines always seemed so far away until they were on top of her.

“I should ice the cake,” she stood up.

“I could help?” he rose as well and she hesitated, “or I could clear the cups,” he started to collect the cups.

“I guess you could clear the cups and then come help,” she moved away into the kitchen.

He collected the cups and went to her sink washing the cups and placing them in the drying rack on the sink. He could hear her singing and turned to watch her slowly turning the cake forgetting he was there. Rhys didn’t know what to do. Interrupting would stop her singing and he was certain that wasn’t ideal. On the other hand, if he didn’t say anything she might feel self conscious about him seeing her like this. He turned away and grabbed one of the mugs, he placed it roughly onto the rack so that the noise was loud enough to startle her a little. The singing cut off abruptly.

“I’m finished here,” he turned to face her again. Blair was standing upright and licking her fingers looking at him.

“I’m finished here, too” she stopped licking her fingers and offered the bowl for him to put his finger in.

“This is good” he sucked the icing off his finger. They continued like that for a few minutes. The only sounds were each of them licking their fingers and the sound of the noises of enjoyment.

Both paused after and looked, a quiet lull in their day. They’d become comfortable with each other, almost too comfortable, too fast, anyway. He looked away and she noticed he had some icing on his upper lip.

“You’ve got some…” she gestured to her own lip.

He wiped at it and missed. She gestured again and he missed again. Finally, she raised up her hand and wiped it off. He grabbed her hand and held it. She looked up and locked eyes with him her green eyes locked with his blue eyes and she felt herself blushing. Without breaking the gaze he lifted her finger to his mouth and licked the icing from her finger quickly and released her hand. Both of them were a little breathless.

“I should package up this cake,” she turned and lifted the cake deftly placing it into a container.

“I should leave…” he moved to do something then realised there wasn’t anything for him to do. He dropped his arms and just stood there.

“Make sure you take this out of the container and cover it with just a towel if you must cover it at all. It won’t go stale straight away but you should avoid putting it in a container so it doesn’t go soggy” she finished and handed him the container. He hands brushed against his and she withdrew them so quickly she nearly knocked the cake from his hands.

They stood there lamely before he sighed, “I’d better head off,” he turned and walked from the kitchen. Blair untied the apron and placed it on the counter before following him.

She found him standing in the main area looking out at the beach front as the light lit up the room as the sun was descending.

“This is part of the reason I moved here,” she started to say, he didn’t turn around, “When I was looking for a house, this was the last house available. It was completely run-down. There were mice living in here. But then I saw the way the sunlight reflected in the window. The outside world lights up like it is only here to show itself to you and I knew I’d live here…” she laughed nervously as she finished. She didn’t know why she felt the need to tell him. Everything about this afternoon had just flowed. Even the way he’d come into the house. They’d been relaxed around each other and it was a relief and it unnerved her. She needed the space to analyse it and understand what was going on.

“I’d want to live here too,” he turned and looked at her, “thanks for the cake. I’ll return the container soon. If you want to drop by tomorrow, I have some cake we can share,” he smiled at her and she nodded at him. Couldn’t be disarmed further. Keep yourself together woman.

He turned and left, pulling the door gently shut behind him and looking around her garden before he walked down the path and around the house to walk back through the trees.

 

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