|The snow fell outside in a thick curtain of white. The thickening dusk and the rising winds were not encouraging anyone to linger outside long. The crunch of boots on snow and the jingle of bells filled the air. Two dark shadows made their way through the thinning crowds. Pausing at a dully glowing frosted glass door, the taller silhouette paused, and grasping the handle, let his companion enter. She rushed in and stood nearby as he walked in and closed the door behind. She took off her hood, showing a pretty face with the rosiest cheeks and reddest nose one had yet to see. Her rosy mouth grinned.
“I didn’t think we could make it!” She giggled.
“I’m still not sure.” He said, tartly as he blew on his fingers. “Blasted gloves. I was certain they were in my pockets.”
“Aww, I’m sorry. I do wish mine would fit.” She said, taking one of his red chapped hands and rubbing it between hers.
“I’ll be lucky to get a thumb in one.” He agreed. “Don’t worry about it, Lizzie.”
“I can’t help it when I see you suffer.”
“I don’t. All of them are still there.” He grinned, waving his other hand and waggling the five fingers there. “See? No harm was done. But I could kill for a good meal.”
“That is what we are here for,” Lizzie answered, with mock primness. Then she giggled again. “And I can’t think of anywhere I would rather be to appease it that Red Fern Café. They got the best soups here!”
George grinned at her exuberance and followed her to a booth near the back. He wasn’t so sure about the soup, but he loved the fireplace right now. He was much colder than he let on and when they sat down, he sank next to the warmth with a grateful sigh that was impossible to repress. He felt her eyes on him but didn’t meet her gaze.
After a moment, she sighed and pulled off her gloves with a resigned air. He closed his eyes and rested for a moment. The murmur of patrons around them and the click of cutlery filled the air. A delightful aroma of sage and savory enlivened it, and nearer came the smell of wood smoke, the sound of a cheerful crackle of wood and flame.
He didn’t open them again until a pert, high voice asked “Good day, welcome to Red Fern Café. I’m your waiter for today. Do you know what you would like to drink?”
“I’ll like tea, please,” Lizzie said her voice more subdued than earlier.
He glanced at her in worry and was relieved to see she was distracted as she was looking over the menu. “And I’ll have a hot chocolate.” He added.
“We are out.” The waitress said, apologetically. “Sorry, with the snow, we were out almost an hour after we opened.
He frowned disappointed, then shrugged. “Coffee then, is that out?” he asked offhandedly.
“No, we usually keep too much, to be honest!”
“Well, that’s good to hear.” He said, not quite able to keep his voice free from the sarcasm he felt. He felt his companion’s hand touch his arm and bit his tongue. He didn’t want to make the waitresses’ life any more difficult. He felt rather than saw her leave. Then he glanced over at Lizzie. Her big blue eyes were on him, looking worried. He smiled at her. She smiled back.
“I’m glad we are here.” She said, giving his hand a tender squeeze.
He took hers in his own and nodded. Putting it to her lips, she gave it a soft kiss.
“Not so glad about any hot chocolate.” He sighed, pouting.
“Don’t think of it.” She answered, just as playful, as she slid out of her seat and taking a new one in his lap. “We just have to make you warmer in…other ways.”
He wrapped his arm around her as the young lovers stared dreamily into each other’s eyes. The snow fell outside in thick waves, as the wind picked up. Later, walking back would be impossibly difficult. But for now, there is no outside world, just the one they see in each other’s eyes. The fire filled the background with a cheerful crackle, and soft music drifted through the air like a tuneful fairy. Lizzie blushed and lowered her head on his strong shoulder. “Did you know you’re pretty when you’re embarrassed?” he teased.
She wrinkled up her nose at that, and laughed, her blush deepening. “Oh, you’re just a big flirt!” She teased back. “What will I do with you?”
“I have a few good ideas.”
“They are good ideas to you, maybe. But I’m going to behave myself, thank you just the same.”
“Ouch! You don’t even know what they are.”
Lizzie frowned. “Your right, I’m sorry.”
George shook his head and gave her another gentle squeeze. “I was only joking. Don’t get all shy on me.”
“I can’t tell sometimes.”
He opened his mouth to say something. Then his ears perked up. “Listen, a new song is playing.”
“Oh, I live this song!”
“Yeah, me too.” He paused for a moment, then asked hesitantly. “Wouldn’t it be great if it was our song?”
“What do you mean our song?” She asked wonderingly. “Why would it be our song?”
He silenced her by leaning over and kissing her. That was how the waitress found them, as she brought the drinks over. She saw two lovebirds sitting in one chair, kissing passionately, lost to the world outside.