by Lady H
“If it's for the greater good I suppose I'd have to sacrifice my morals..."
His Kiss - Part Two
Instead of getting all her work done, Saturday morning brings an unlikely first day of October burst of sunshine, and Henry finds herself being dropped off outside the zoo by Emma's mum in her family people carrier along with Emma and their siblings.
As Henry unstraps Zoe from her bumper seat and struggles to get the fidgeting two-year-old into the pushchair, she spies Emma having a similar battle with her own little sister. “Catherine can you give me a hand?” She asks her seven-year-old sister, but Catherine just rolls her eyes and pretends to receive a message on her phone.
Emma laughs triumphantly as Henry hears the satisfying click of straps fastening. It takes a few more seconds for her to hear her own click.
“My treat girls! Seems as Sarah has packed a no-doubt delicious picnic.” Emma's mum calls from the driver’s seat, as she waves money at Emma.
Henry hears Daniel, Emma’s eight-year-old brother, groan. “And you of course Sweetie.” Emma's mum adds hastily. No doubt it had taken some persuasion to get Daniel to spend the whole day with five girls.
“Thank you, Jane, that's so kind of you!” Henry says to her, smiling. She nudges Catherine who mumbles her own thanks, eyes still glued to her screen.
“Have fun then! I'll pick you up about five, if that's alright?”
“Yeah that's fine mum, see you at five.” Emma replies, waving goodbye as her mum drives off. When the car is out of sight, the group wanders over to join the queue for tickets.
Emma Mills moved to Henry's school in September and they'd quickly become friends after realising they shared two A-Level classes, and both had younger siblings in the same class at primary, and younger sisters that went to the local preschool. To the annoyance of Henry's best friend, Darcy, Henry began spending more and more time with Emma and her family. Emma's casual humour and laid-back attitude in the classroom attracted Henry straight away, and when they realised they had so much in common, she knew she wanted this girl as her best friend. Luckily, Emma had felt the same way.
Once they'd bought the day tickets, Henry handed the maps they'd been given by the admissions lady around. “So where do you guys want to go first then?”
“Pandas!” Rose, Emma's sister, beams up at Henry from her buggy.
“I want to see the tigers, they're over there” Daniel says pointing off to the right without looking up, studying the map intently while pushing his glasses further up his nose.
“Well I want to visit the dolphins” Catherine, joins in, phone now nowhere in sight.
“Pants!” Zoe cries, throwing her arms up in the air.
“Okay, looks like we've got a full day ahead of us then!” Emma exclaims, and they laugh together as they move off to no doubt circle around the zoo at least ten times.
At midday, they stop for food; Henry's mum had packed them up a tasty lunch, clearly going to a lot of effort. The food budget in the Morgan household was tight – all budgets were really – but Henry’s mum never wanted her children to feel uncomfortable around their friends. Henry thought it was silly – she didn’t want her mum splashing out just so that her children could fit in, but that argument was getting old and her mum hadn’t budged from her position. Today they had fresh home-made loaves with British sliced ham and mature cheese to cut up and divide as they wished. They also had strawberries, crunchy apples and a mixture of red and green grapes to snack on, and a range of decorated cupcakes for afters.
Catherine runs over to an empty picnic bench perfectly positioned in the sun and beckons them all over.
“I’ll open the cupcakes!” She announces, grabbing the box from underneath the pram as Henry parks it up next to her.
“Not until you’ve eaten your sandwich.” Henry chides, feeling like a mother. She takes the lid off of a pot of cut grapes and puts them onto the tray she's fixed to the front of Zoe’s push chair.
“Daniel, what did Henry just say?!” Emma squeals, and Henry looks up just in time to see Daniel reaching for a chocolate cupcake. Emma fills his open hand with a ham and cheese sandwich instead.
Emma rolls her eyes at Henry, and the two both share a knowing smile. They love spending time with their siblings, but sometimes it was hard work keeping control. These Morgan/Mills clan outings were becoming more frequent, but all six of them got along well, and Henry and Emma didn’t really mind as it gave them a chance to catch up outside of school.
The food tasted just as good as it looked, and while they ate the children kept up a steady stream of conversation about their favourite animals so far and what they wanted to go and visit next. As predicted, they couldn't follow the standard route to ensure they visited everything in a sensible order, the excited children had dragged Henry and Emma this way and that, zigzagging around the exhibits, determined not to miss anything but not open to reasonable sign-following.
After they've eaten every last bit, the younger four went off to carry on their adventure in the play area across the picnic area, leaving Henry and Emma sitting together on the bench with the debris of the feeding frenzy.
“So you never actually told us, what were you doing with Mark at lunchtime yesterday?” Emma looks at Henry, who is packing away the leftovers back into the bottom of the pushchair.
Henry stops what she is doing and straightens up. “We were hiding up in the Science block, Mr Fletcher caught us and told us off. I mean, we weren't hiding together, we were just both up there at the same time...” Henry trails off when she catches Emma's withering look. She busies herself adjusting her signature ponytail, feeling herself blush.
“Yeah, sure.” Emma is not impressed.
“We were! Come on, why would I be up there with him? You know how much I hate him.”
“Hate is a strong word Henrietta Morgan. That was over five years ago from what I've heard, and I have brilliant sources. And besides Hen, Mark Roberts is really attractive.”
“Emma! He's an idiot.”
“But a hot one.”
“Em, all Mark Roberts cares about is himself. Think of all the heartbroken girls in our year, no, our whole school! He just plays with them Em. Plays with them and spits them out when he's had enough.” Henry sighs.
“I know, Henry.” Although Emma was quite new, she'd heard enough rumours about Mark to last a lifetime. “I'm just saying that I think a lot of that is put on. Yes, he's a show-off, but I think underneath there's actually something more.”
“Don't tell me you're falling in love, Emma Mills!” The tone was light, but Henry was suddenly worried about her friend.
“Of course not!” Emma laughs, and Henry instantly knew she was telling the truth.
“Good.” Henry joins in her friend's joyful laughter, going back to packing the food.
She'd had six years to form an opinion of Mark, and she wasn't about to change it because of some silly mishap in a Science cupboard.
“But I can see chemistry between you two.” Henry freezes.
“Emma, there really is nothing going on between us! I don't like him in that way.” She pulls a face. “I don't like him at all!”
“Yes but despite this façade you two put up in class, you’re constantly talking to each other. Even if it’s just arguing, you do seem to spend quite a lot of time together.”
Henry takes a moment to think about this. Currently, she does share quite a few classes with Mark. And she’s always aware he’s around, he’s on her radar. Even if they pass each other in the corridor they can’t pass silently, at least one jibe or sarcastic comment is always exchanged. “You’re right, but that’s completely different to actually liking someone, or even being friends with them.”
“Okay, okay.” Emma backs down, laughing. “I'm just saying - I can see you two together.” She says thoughtfully.
“Well, it's never going to happen.” Henry is firm.
“You can't say never.”
“I can if I want too!” Henry says indignantly.
“What if you go to the same University?”
“What if you end up working together?”
“It's not going to happen.”
“Well what if, when you're like thirty, he saves you from a burning building?” Emma now has a silly grin plastered on her face.
“Now you're just being unrealistic.” Henry shakes her head in an attempt to take the upper hand, but can't help smiling.
“You can't tell me that if you were the last two people on earth you wouldn't get with him to save the planet.”
“If it's for the greater good, I suppose I'd have to sacrifice my morals...” Henry bits her lip.
“I knew it!” Emma squeals, jumping up when Henry aims one of the uneaten grapes at her head.
“But that absolutely does not mean I have a crush on Roberts. He’s still an arrogant pig.”
“Alright, I give up.” Emma holds up her hands in surrender. When Henry has put down her ammunition, Emma adds “For today!” Henry just shakes her head.
“What we need,” Henry says a few minutes later, when the two had finished clearing away, “Is an entirely new group of men. At University, we'll be surrounded by intelligent, handsome men. We won't think twice about leaving these immature, useless idiots we have to put up with now!”
“Hear! Hear!” Emma agrees, as they walk over to join the children, giggling hysterically.
The next afternoon, while Henry is sitting at the kitchen table tackling a particularly hard quadratic equation from the 2011 past paper, she is interrupted by her mobile ringing.
“Henry! I called you yesterday, but your phone was off, so I rang your home your mum said you'd gone out?” Darcy's voice goes up at the end, clearly wanting to know what Henry had been up to.
“Sorry Darcy, Emma and I took the kids to the zoo.” Henry tucks the mobile into the crook of her neck and picks up her pencil. She could feel Darcy's disapproval through the phone; this had been happening a lot lately. They’d become quick friends in year seven but since had grown into completely different girls; where Henry cared about books, her grades, and university prospects, Darcy cared about her status, boys, and the latest trends. But even though Darcy’s other friends clearly thought Henry was a bit annoying, Henry found herself still firmly entwined with Darcy’s social life.
“I see. Hope you had fun and all that.”
“Yes we did, we…” Henry swiftly gets cut off.
“I'm glad. Now, I have some news for you!” Darcy squeals, and Henry’s annoyance at being dismissed quickly disappears to be replaced with intrigue.
“Oh?” She enquires casually, doodling swirly flowers in the margin of the paper.
“I've got a new boyfriend!”
The pencil hits the table with a wooden clunk. “Oooh, when did that happen?” Darcy captures Henry’s complete attention with one simple sentence. This was big news.
“He moved in the house opposite about a month ago, he's from Brighton or somewhere. He's a total babe.”
“We talked for hours yesterday afternoon, we have a lot in common. I think he likes me for me, you know, not just for how I look. He's so sweet, Hen! You'd definitely approve!”
Henry laughs. “Why haven't you told me about him before?! When am I going to meet him?”
“I just wanted to keep him to myself for a while. All school relationships are so public..." Well she was right about that Henry thought, "And in answer to your second question, that's why I was ringing. You see, he's asked me out on a date, Thursday night. He says he wants to take it slowly and do everything properly because his last relationship didn't work out very well.”
“Oh dear, well that's good for you!” Henry says, truly meaning it. Darcy was one of the most popular girls at school; she could basically get any boy she wanted. Only, she seemed to go for the good looking ones who didn't have much personality and messed her around. Henry could tell already that this one sounded different from the rest.
“Yes, he's taking it slowly but I really like it. Anyway, he says we should turn it into a double date. He doesn't know anyone in this area yet, so said I should bring a friend.”
“Yes you, silly. Do you think you can rope in a boy to come as well?”
“Yeah, I'll find someone” Henry grins at her friend's choice of words.
“His treat, he says he'll pay for all four of us”
“Oh Darce, he does sound like a gentleman!” Henry exclaims.
“I know, Henry. I feel as if I know him completely already!” Darcy gushes.
“Ahhh, that's really sweet!”
“I just don't want to mess it up.” She sounds anxious. Darcy was always so confident with boys; Henry realises Darcy has already fallen hard for this guy.
“Darcy, it'll be fine! Just be yourself, you're amazing. He'd be an idiot not to fall in love with you.”
“Thanks, Henry. You’re such a sweetie.” Henry can hear the smile in Darcy's voice. She laughs. “Anyway, I've got to go now, Darren's shouting about something. I'll see you at school!”
“Okay! Don’t forget about the English mock paper due in Tuesday!” As she says it Henry spies her own paper, still unwritten, sticking out from underneath the Maths past paper.
“Jheeze Henry, don’t worry I’ll tell Mrs Derulo I was at my dad’s all weekend.” Henry decides not to argue and in truth isn’t paying complete attention; having picked up her own paper, she is now flicking through the pages and skim reading the questions.
“Bye Darcy, can't wait to hear more about him tomorrow!”
“Love you Henry!”
“Love you too!” Comes Henry's automatic reply. She waits for Darcy to hang up before she locks her mobile screen. This guy better be good to Darcy; her last boyfriend cheated on her with her friend, and Henry had been on her phone late into the night listening to Darcy sobbing and blaming herself. Although Darcy liked people to think she was Queen Bitch, on the inside she was just a normal seventeen-year-old girl with insecurities just like everyone else. She rarely showed this side to people, Henry being one of the only people that knew the true Darcy, and it was that girl that Henry liked best. Yes, Darcy could sometimes be a bit cold, but when it really mattered, Darcy had always been there for Henry, and that’s all she really cared about.
With a sigh she turns up the kitchen radio and grabs her pencil and calculator, deciding she will just finish this last question before getting started on her English homework.
Any feedback on whether you enjoyed the second chapter, if you think something is missing, if you spotted any typos, or how you felt about the progression of the story, would be very much appreciated, thank you!