“I know exactly what you’re thinking,’ said Guy in response to Lucy’s expression. ‘You thought it was great up until I did the jazz hands.”
“OK, you just thought it was great, then,” said Guy with a grin.
‘The jazz hands make no difference,” said Lucy, folding a bright orange jumper and placing it onto the pile of jumble beside her. “No amount of singing ‘you’re never fully dressed without a smile,’ or jazz hands can save that outfit.”
“What’s wrong with it?” asked Guy, staring down at his clothing in mock horror. “You don’t think I can carry off this Pink Panther jumper and feather boa?”
“Oh I think the jumper and boa are ok,” grinned Lucy, “It’s the floppy green hat that’s the problem.”
Guy removed the hat and inspected it “But I look great in hats,” he said with pretend misery. Lucy pursed her lips in amusement, remembering the ridiculous red bobble hat Guy had been wearing the first time she’d ever seen him. “Regardless,” said Lucy inspecting a pair of trousers for holes, “The more you parade around in the jumble, the less work we’re getting done. The doors open in ten minutes.”
The school hall was buzzing with activity. People were hanging bunting in one corner, while in others, people stacked pyramids of homemade chutneys and jams on their stalls or taped raffle tickets to cans of marrowfat peas for the tombola. Lucy spied Jack in another corner of the hall, having a sneaky dry run of the hoopla which he was manning with a friend and another parent on the PTA.
The annual school fete was a big deal and Lucy had agreed to pitch in and take care of the jumble. The only problem was that there was a lot of jumble to sort through and price up. Abandoning his sausage duties on the BBQ out in the field, Guy had agreed to help her out with the mountain of clothes. He was more intent, however, on clowning around in daft jumble outfits to amuse the children and, yes, she’d had to admit it, herself too.
Since Jack’s return from hospital and the surprise garden picnic that Guy had organised for them, Lucy and Guy had settled into an easy friendship with one another. She was glad of it too. Previously, she had wound herself up so tightly that something romantic had been developing between them, that it had left no space for them to actually become friends. Now that they had, she had reconciled her feelings of guilt and no longer felt disloyal to Ben’s memory.
“Isn’t this cosy?” came a voice from behind Guy. It belonged to Lilia Baintree, the mother of one of the other boys in Jack’s class. “You look absolutely delightful in that hat,” said Lilia, resting her hand on Guys forearm. Lucy could have sworn she even batted her eyelids at him.
“Thanks,” said Guy, giving Lucy a smug ‘see-somebody-likes-it’ look.
“All set for the silent auction?” asked Guy, nodding at Lilia’s clipboard. She waggled it in response.
“Silent auction?” asked Lucy, all too aware that Lilia was doing her utmost to ignore her and freeze her out of the conversation.
“Yep,” said Guy proudly. “I’m up for sale.”
“I have to say we already have quite a few bids for you, Mr Evans. I can’t tell you who from, of course,” said Lilia referring to her clipboard, “Let’s just say you’re quite the one in demand.”
Lucy strongly suspected who would have put in the highest bid so far, and being that she also happened to be coordinating the whole thing, it was obvious who would come out victorious too. Lucy had feelings about that, but she couldn’t quite place them.
“Oh God,” groaned Guy theatrically. “That means I’ll end up as Aunt Irene’s slave for the day, pruning her begonias or some such.”
Lilia giggled coquettishly, “or perhaps you’ll end up being take out to dinner at La Table instead. You never know…” She raised her eyebrows and winked. Guy grinned and shrugged. “One can only hope!” he said.
Lilia clearly took this to mean that Guy hoped to go out with her too. She blushed fiercely, said she’d be sure to see him later and sashayed across to the other side of the hall where a male teacher was hefting a bunch of coconuts towards the door. He watched Lilia coming towards him, clearly appreciating her good looks as she approached.
“I didn’t know about this auction,” said Lucy, unloading another box of jumble onto the table.
“No? I was sure I told you,” said Guy, “Are you going to put a bid in, then?”
“Yep. Definitely,” nodded Lucy.
Guy’s eyes widened. “Seriously? Lucy, I didn’t know you cared!” he said jubilantly.
“Not for you,” said Lucy playfully, whipping the boa in his direction.
“Who for then?” asked Guy as he caught and grabbed the end of the boa. Lucy held tight to the other end of it.
Their eyes met and a moment passed between them in which Lucy lost track of what he had asked and what her reply would be. Guy continued to look at her intently. Her stomach squiggled and swooped and he tugged on the end of the feather boa, pulling her closer to him.
“Who for,” he prompted quietly, inches from her.
One part of Lucy was intently aware of Lilia Baintree’s eyes taking in this scene from the other side of the hall. She could practically feel them boring into her. The other part of her wondered if Guy was about to kiss her, but surely, no. Not here, not in the school hall! Not when Jack could see. And besides, they were just friends.
“I was hoping to bid for a window cleaner,” she replied quietly. The intended humour of her riposte didn’t really work and the spell was immediately broken.
Guy chuckled and dropped his end of the boa. The intimacy that had briefly passed between them was gone.
“Well,” said Guy, picking up his BBQ tongs and taking a deep breath “I’d better get back outside and fire up this barbecue, otherwise there’ll be no sausage for anyone.”
“Okie dokie,” said Lucy, acutely aware that the easy banter they’d shared just minutes ago had now become laden with awkwardness.
“Well, I’ll see you later,” said Guy airily, before he leaving her to her jumbled clothes and feelings.
There was an elephant in the room; that much was certain. As Guy made his way out of the school hall, under the close scrutiny of Lilia Baintree, Lucy thought that maybe it was high time to stop pretending it wasn’t there and begin to acknowledge it.