12. It Ain't You

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Searching all the wideworld over; Is It you? - Squirrel Nut Zippers

9:32 p.m. Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Leaning against the door, Michele is angry with herself. Her behavior is inexcusable. It's the pressure of this damn town. Chagrined, she throws open the portal to find Harry taking a step onto the small front lawn, likely on his way back to the inn.

"I'm sorry," she calls. He pauses, pivoting slowly. She's relieved he's stopped at all. Considering how she spoke to him, it wouldn't surprise her to find him furious. Once facing her, he merely raises an eyebrow, a clear indication she should continue. She shuffles her feet, not wanting to admit what she knows she must.

"That was....um....childish and immature. Forgive me?" Her apology is sincere, and she hopes he can see that she feels badly about her choice.

"Only if you take that third option off the table. Other than Lee, you're the only adult around here that I would call a friend."

"Don't let Patrick hear you say that," she cautions. "He would be devastated."

They both lightly chuckle, and the tension is eased. Stuffing his hands in his pockets, Harry tilts his head to examine Michele. "That thing you said about dating people in town? It sounds kind of mean, you know? To go out with someone just so no one spreads rumors about you and me."

When he states it that way, it does seem rude. "What if you aren't dating them? I mean, you and I aren't dating. We're just hanging out, so maybe you could do that with other people?"

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9:39 p.m. Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Bollocks. She's right, of course. He's not dating Michele, and he does like meeting different people.

"Okay," he blows out a stream of air. "I guess I can handle that." While he understands her frustration about the town's scrutiny, her earlier comment had hurt quite a bit. He's going to forgive her, but only because that's his nature. Silence stretches between them, and Michele leans on the jamb of the open door, crossing one ankle over the other as she regards him. The t-shirt she'd worn to yoga had been Tony Bennett, but before dinner, she'd changed into skinny jeans and a black tee with a white logo that simply says "Squirrel Nut Zippers" with a zigzag across it and the words "smooth chewy candy full of peanuts".

It stretches across her chest, and he catches himself staring at the words. When she clears her throat, his eyes rush up to meet hers.

"Uh, it's not what you think. I was just trying to remember if I've ever had a Nut Zipper candy. It sounds kind of dirty."

A question appears on her face until she glances down at her shirt. "Oh! Yeah. They're a candy, but they're also a band."

"Really?" Harry's excitement bubbles up. He loves bands with weird names. "I would love to hear them."

Michele leans out of the door, looking up and down Main Street. With a gesture of her head, she indicates he should go inside. "Hurry up before someone sees you entering. If they see you out here and then you're not, they might assume you've gone across the street to the hotel, but you need to move quickly."

Shaking his head and not thinking too deeply about her invitation, Harry takes a running leap through her front door, appalled at the way he has to respond to some silly rumors. It's not like he's even thought about Michele as anything more than a friend. Not once has he considered what it might be like to kiss her lucious and soft lips with that tiny bow on the top. Or what her breasts might look like under her sweatshirt or that tight Nut Zipper t-shirt. Never crossed his mind. Nope. Never.

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