So Fiona and I are out of sync with the days today, and in our error in forgetting that yesterday was Thursday and today was Friday, Fiona hadn’t managed to prepare her blog, so I’m stepping in with the next chapter of the New Year’s Dip. Hope you enjoy!
After wandering around a little Anatoly found one of their favourite fish and chip shops had opened a stall, and so he ordered two small fish suppers as the locals called them. He and Darrell ate them out of the newspaper, their fingers warm but greasy.
“Mmm, that was lovely Toly, thank you,” Darrell said shyly when she had finished. She looked up at him from under her long lashes and stood on tiptoe to press a kiss to his lips, tasting his own salt and vinegariness.
Anatoly had finished his supper first, and had disposed of the wrapper after wiping his fingers on it as best he could. He held Darrell’s face in his hands as he kissed her back, feeling her slip her arms around his waist.
Darrell smiled as he held her face close for the kiss. She pulled him closer by the waist and sighed happily. She wanted to tell him that she was falling in love with him, but she knew it was too soon. She laughed, looking up from their kiss as somewhere in the fair the bagpipes started playing.
Anatoly smiled a little as Darrell’s attention was drawn away and he kissed her cheek. “As nice as it would be to stand here and kiss you all night we have only ten minutes until we are to meet the others. Is there anything you can think of that you want to do in that time?”
Darrell looked up at him and then around her. “Teach me how to shoot?” she suggested with a smile.
Anatoly grinned at Darrell and led her back to the shooting range. The man looked mutinous as he approached again, but accepted the money when it became clear Darrell was going to be the one shooting.
Darrell took the gun gingerly and looked at Anatoly, clearly asking for help. She wasn’t sure what had made her suggest this, but here she was, ready to be taught how to shoot.
Anatoly laughed as Darrell held the gun like it might go off in her hands despite the fact it was unloaded. He got her to kneel in front of the range and knelt behind her, showing her how to load the gun, and then how to hold it, his hands over hers. “Now, unlike what you see in films, you do not close one eye to aim,” he told her, “you need to be looking with both eyes to judge the distance and position of your target.”
Darrell did as he told her, and kept both her eyes open. She bit her lip and looked up at him, her lips millimetres from his. “Now what?”
Anatoly couldn’t help but kiss her then, quickly. “Now you aim,” he said, letting her look down the barrel of the rifle and point it at one of the targets. He was at the wrong angle to help her really, so he just hoped for the best. “And then you squeeze the trigger.”
Darrell swallowed and did as she was told. She pulled the trigger and held her breath. She looked up once she had pulled the trigger and the bullet pinged off the target. “How did I do?” she asked him.
Anatoly grinned, “not bad at all,” he said, “do you want to have another go without me holding the gun?”
“Ok,” Darrell said awkwardly. She looked at him with wide eyes and then kissed him quickly. “Lets hope I’m not a disappointment.”
“I am sure you will not be,” he said, letting her hold the gun on her own, his hands finding their way to her waist. “Just breathe,” he said, “take your time aiming, and then fire again,” he said softly.
Darrell nodded and did as he asked. She took a deep breath and took aim again. She pulled the trigger and heard it ping the target. She kept on until she had hit all the targets. “How did I do?”
“Eto devushka moya*,” Anatoly said, a little bit disbelieving and awed. She hadn’t hit the centre of the targets, but she’d hit them all, even the outer edge of the awkward one in the back corner.
Darrell had no idea what he had said, but kissed him, handing the man his gun back. She stood up and smiled at Anatoly. She hugged him as they walked away. “I’ll never be as good as you I’m sure.”
“I do not know, you could be pretty damn good with a bit of practice. Of course that was not a real gun, it was lighter and easier to fire,” he added, “but still, you could make a very good markswoman.”
“Maybe you’ll have to teach me then,” Darrell slipped her arm around his waist and laughed. “Shall we get a drink before we meet the others?”
“I would,” he said, “but people tend to be very funny about you firing guns at random in the middle of town. What do you fancy? Something to warm you up? Some cocoa maybe?”
“Couldn’t we go somewhere out of the way to practice?” she asked, resting her head against him for a moment.”And how about a hot toddy, or some mulled wine?”
“I suppose so,” he said with a smile, “would have to be careful though, I am really only licensed to use my guns in emergencies, and I am really not supposed to let anyone else fire them. But yes, there is plenty of shooting goes on around the woods and farms. I could take you out there and let you shoot at some tins or something though. And whatever you want to drink is fine by me,” he added.
“I might have to take you up on that,” she said as she dragged him through the crowds to the same stand David had been at earlier. “What do you fancy? My treat,” she added firmly. “You’ve brought too much for me this evening!”
He pushed her purse away as she held it up. “Put that away dorogoy, I am treating you tonight. I think I will try a mulled wine though, I have never had one before. What about you?”
“No, you don’t Anatoly,” Darrell hissed at him, as she pulled his wallet from his fingers. “Please, let me treat you!” she whispered, making her eyes big and round and appealing. “You always seem to be treating me, and now it’s my turn!”
Anatoly managed not to snatch his wallet back, knowing there were one or two things in there nobody else ought to ever see, but he did take it back from her quickly. He shoved it in his pocket and looked at her. “That is what I am supposed to do, is it not? I-I thought boys were supposed to pay for their girls on dates.” He felt like a complete idiot now, wondering if he’d gotten it all wrong about how to behave with a girl, if he was embarrassing himself by assuming this was a date if it wasn’t.
Darrell looked up at him and almost cried. He looked so miserable. “It is darling,” she said softly, cupping his face in her hands. “And I adore being treated but am I not allowed to treat you occasionally?”
“Sorry,” Anatoly sighed. “I have honestly never felt so out of my depth until I met you. Sometimes I just have no idea how to be your boyfriend properly, I think I am doing it all wrong a lot of the time. If you want to treat me, then please do.”
“You’re not,” Darrell said softly, sighing as well. “You’re a wonderful boyfriend, and no one could have said that with less grace than you!” she teased, rolling her eyes. “Sometimes I wonder if you haven’t been out with anyone before Anatoly, or is it just that your customs are different to ours?”
Anatoly shrugged awkwardly, unable to really explain much without telling her all sorts of painful things about his past. “I had both Russian and English customs growing up, none of those I learned involved dating though. And I have,” he paused, settling on a suitably ambigious phrasing, “had relationships before. Short ones, but I never went on any proper dates. I never felt for them the way I feel about you. That is why it is important for me to get this right. I do not want to mess this up Darrell.”
She reached out to him and stroked his face. “You won’t, but don’t tell me you suddenly want me to be a docile little lady, Toly. I don’t see why we don’t have dates were we treat each other! Do you?”
He found himself smiling at that. “You, a docile lady? As if that would ever happen Miss Rivers,” he teased, “you are much too stubborn and hot-headed.”
Darrell smiled back at him and kissed him lightly again. “So we can treat each other?” she confirmed.
“See, what did I just say. Stubborn!” he laughed. “Yes, yes, I do not see I have a choice in the matter, you can treat me. I promise not to ask for the most expensive thing on the list. Just the second most.”
She grinned up at him, and pulled him down for a long passionate kiss, holding him close, enjoying the feel of his lips on hers. “You’re adorable,” she whispered, pulling back slightly after the kiss.
“Well, that is a new one on me,” he said, a little flushed from the way she’d kissed him. “I do not think anyone has ever called me adorable before.”
“They have now,” she whispered against his chest. She pulled back, her cheeks flushed. “What do you want to drink now Anatoly?” she asked with a smile, trying to get them to focus again.
“I, er, mulled wine, please?” he said, kissing her forehead.
Darrell ordered two mulled wines and handed over the money. She handed him the cup and smiled at him. “Cheers,” she said giving him a mock toast.
“Privetstviya,” he said, touching his cup to hers before taking a drink. “Not bad,” he said, “very warming too!”
“Are you going to say that you still you prefer vodka aren’t you?” Darrell teased.
“Maybe,” he said, giving her a crooked smile. “We should head along to the dodgems I think, the others will probably be waiting on us.”
Darrell nodded and slipped her arm through his and they headed towards the dodgems.
“Oy! You two, you’re late!” David called over the sound of the bumper cars loud music.
“Sorry,” Anatoly said. “Darrell was being stubborn.”
“I was not! He was!” Darrell objected. “Did Julian win you something Sally?” she asked her friend.
“He has,” Sally said proudly, holding out her collar to show them the pretty clover pin there.
“Very nice,” Darrell said grinning.
“Not bad Kirrin,” Anatoly said with a smile. “What stall did you win it from?”
“The coconut shy,” Julian said suddenly feeling awkward. “Not all of us can handle a gun as well as you , you know Toly,” he said as David gave him a reassuring smile.
Anatoly felt uncomfortable for a moment, wondering if he had shown off too much before. “I have had a lot of practice,” he said awkwardly.
“Certainly seems like it,” Julian said, trying to brush away his awkwardness. “Shall we have a go?” he asked nodding at the cars.
“I am up for it,” Anatoly said, privately wondering if it would be best if he didn’t drive a car in case the others thought he was showing off again. “Dorogoy, would you like to drive?” he asked Darrell.
“I’d be useless,” Darrell said with a smirk. “Why don’t you three boys go and have a go?”
“I do not know, you might drive as well as you shoot,” he teased her.
“Dreadfully then,” she laughed and gave him a push. “No you go.”
“You did well, honestly,” he said as he took a step away to keep his balance despite her push.
“Yes, why don’t the three of you have a go?” Sally agreed, squeezing Julian’s hands in reassurance. “Then maybe we could go on the waltzers afterwards?”
“Yes, I like the idea of the waltzers,” Julian agreed with her.
The boys all looked at each other and shrugged, heading for the booth by the dodgems to pay their fares, joining the small crowd of people waiting for a turn.
Sally slipped her arm through Darrell’s as they watched, “I hope they don’t get too competitive.”
“You know that is not going to happen,” Darrell said with a giggle. “Are you having fun dearest?”
“I am, it’s so nice to just spend time together without there being any uni work to worry about or any mysteries needing solved,” Sally replied. “I do feel a bit sorry for poor David now we’ve all paired off, he’s been a bit glum tonight.”
“I know,” Darrell said with a sigh as the boys got into their bumper cars. She shook her head. “I know I should be as good as you and including him, but when Toly’s around… he’s so…”
“Possessive?” Sally teased. “Dazzling? Enthralling?”
“All right, you can stop that,” Darrell said giving Sally a nudge. “Just when I’m with him, there could seriously be nothing else. I get overwhelmed with him, but at the same time, worried that if I blink he’ll disappear. I keep wondering what will happen to him next, if I’ll ever see him again. Everything has to be full on when I’m with him, because he has such a dangerous job Sally, surely you can see that?”
“I think I know what you mean darling, he does have a habit of disappearing unexpectedly. But he does come back,” she added. “I think he will always come back to you. It’s obvious that he’s fallen for you.”
“What do you mean?” Darrell asked, turning to Sally with wide eyes.
“Oh Darrell!” Sally said, “can you not tell yourself from the way he looks at you? He hasn’t moved from your side all night until you made him go off to the dodgems, every time I’ve seen you two he’s been touching you, kissing you, barely paying attention to anybody else!”
“I don’t dare think like that,” she whispered. “He’s so guarded, I don’t know what is going on in that funny, adorable head of his,” she said watching Anatoly on the dodgems as he, Julian and David laughed at each other and tried to ram one another. “What about you and Julian though? It’s clear he adores you. What was I telling you all term?”
“All right, you were right Darrell. But clearly it’s not always easy to see these things yourself,” Sally said, squeezing her arm, smiling as Julian deliberately crashed into David’s car, making the dark haired boy shake a playful fist at him. “Toly is guarded though, we’ve all put our feet in it asking him things he won’t answer,” she said, changing the subject away from her and Julian. “I suppose he has to be, with his job. Doesn’t he tell you anything, though? I mean what do you two talk about… or do you find other things to occupy yourselves when you disappear off together?”
“No, he doesn’t. Sometimes I think he wants to, but doesn’t dare because he’s not allowed,” Darrell said. “And why don’t you like me asking about you and Julian? You changed the subject quickly and sneakily there Sally,” she teased.
“Gosh, I hoped you wouldn’t notice. It’s just… I don’t know, I don’t want to tempt fate I suppose,” she said. “And you’re just as bad, you didn’t tell me what you two do when you’re not talking, though I think I have a pretty good idea already,” she teased.
Darrell blushed. “We kiss, we go for walks, argue,” she smiled. “I feel complete in a way I never knew I needed when I am with him. Why don’t you want to tempt fate Sally? Julian’s… well… enchanted by you. He never smiles at anyone else the way he smiles at you.”
“Well… I just… it’s hard to believe it’s real sometimes, that of all the girls on campus someone like him chose someone like me,” she tried to explain. “Sometimes I feel like I might wake up and find it’s all a dream.” She stared into space for a long moment, not really seeing anything before shaking her head. “Anyway, you and Toly are very good together,” she said. “Do you… no, sorry, I shouldn’t ask something like that.”
“Do you want me to pinch you?” Darrell teased slyly. Her friend nodded and held out her arm and closed her eyes. Darrell pinched her and Sally gave a shriek. “No you’re not dreaming Sally,” Darrell told her. “He’s real, you’re real and he wants you.” She smiled at her friend and then said; “No, what were you going to ask, Sally? You know you can ask me anything!”
“Well, just… I just wondered how you felt about him,” she said awkwardly. “I mean… you’ve been all over him tonight, not in a bad way,” she added hurriedly, “and you were so miserable when you thought he wasn’t going to make it. I just, well, I suppose I’m asking just how strong your feelings are for him.”
Darrell sighed and folded her arms, looking down at the floor. “I’m not sure how strong my feelings are allowed to be,” she said eventually. “Not given everything.”
“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said anything,” Sally said, kicking herself for bringing it up. “But feelings don’t care for rules do they?”
“No,” Darrell agreed. “They don’t, and in that vein, I ask you the same question; How strongly do you feel for Julian?” She kept her eye on the dodgems as the power began to run down. “I know it’s only been since we left, but I just wondered if you… well… feeling strongly for him.”
“I really like him Darrell. I’ve never felt like that about anyone before, but I’m not sure how to put it into words,” Sally said, blushing a little.
“I’m sure it will come to you, you lucky girl,” Darrell said as the boys clambered out of the dodgems and headed over. She pulled Sally into a tight hug and smiled softly. “Chin up, it’s going to be midnight soon.”
“Whatever Anatoly tells you,” David said as he approached, leaving Julian and Anatoly bickering. “You cannot, and he did not, win at dodgems. Can you?” he asked Sally and Darrell for a ruling vote.
“Pass,” Sally said, holding up her hands, “I’m absolutely not getting myself into an argument like that!”
“I’m with Sally on this one. I’m not getting involved!” Darrell told David as Julian and Anatoly kept bickering.
“Will you three stop it?” Darrell asked as David joined in the argument.
“Anyway, I thought we were going on waltzers now?” Sally asked with a grin, slipping her hand into Julian’s.
“Waltzers it is then,” Anatoly said cheerfully, finally giving up on winding up David and Julian. He offered Darrell his arm as he winked at her, David left spluttering a little, not sure if he’d won that argument or not.
David put his hands in his pockets when Julian gave him a shrug. “Leave it David,” Julian added as Sally came and slipped her arms through theirs.
“Come on,” she added. “Let me treat you two to the waltzers.”
“I don’t dance,” David joked quickly. Julian groaned.
They wandered over to the ride, watching as lots of students were spun around, shrieking with laughter over the music playing. When the ride stopped, they stood back to let them stagger off and then Sally and Darrell paid the man in charge, Anatoly letting her pay without a fuss this time.
They all squeezed into one waltzer, the boys looking awkward for a moment until Sally and Darrell sat down between them. Sally slipped her hand over Julian’s as the rail came down and linked her arm through David’s. “I do enjoy these!” she told them over the loud music.
Anatoly wrapped an arm around Darrell, holding her close to his side as the ride began to move, slowly at first and then getting faster.
Sally let out a shriek of joy as the ride got faster and faster and the man who owned the ride came and spun them around. Julian was laughing as was David as they enjoyed the motion of the waltzer spinning them around and around.
They were so tightly packed in they didn’t slide around their seats, but they all squashed each other terribly, laughing at each other the whole time until the ride was over. They all staggered off, the world suddenly seeming to spin, or was it them that was spinning, they weren’t sure.
“No-one is going to be sick, I hope,” Anatoly said as they all wobbled along Market Street.
“I don’t think I am,” Sally said with a smile as she wound her arm around Julian to support her. “I’ve found a post look,” she giggled.
“Pity he is no steadier than you!” Anatoly said with a laugh.
“I’m perfectly steady, thank you,” Julian retorted, tripping over a cobble he could have sworn jumped up from the road.
Sally fell into him, her hand coming to rest on his stomach. She blushed and giggled, meeting Darrell’s eye.
*That’s my girl