Sammy was holding a glass of Bucks Fizz, her favourite alcoholic drink - though, in all honesty, she hadn’t tasted a lot of different sorts of alcohol. She could feel it loosening her up - she was letting herself go in a way she had never once dreamed she would. Ray was beside her with a glass of white wine; they stood at a tree and watched everyone else dancing and having a good time.
“Am I doing alright?” Sammy asked.
Ray grinned. “You haven’t done anything yet. What would you like to try? Dancing or flirting?”
She had to giggle at that. “I’m an awful dancer and I don’t think I’ve ever tried to flirt.”
“You should,” Ray told her, making his tone serious. “I’m rather used to girls telling me they fancy me.”
Sammy laughed. “Show me how it’s done.”
Ray smiled. Dropping his voice, he leant close and whispered, “Did you know that your eyes sparkle like stars? Or that your voice is a dream to listen to? And how I’d love to run my fingers through your hair. If you’d let me, I’d tell you stories every night - stories about knights rescuing beauties from towers. I’d be your Prince Charming any day.”
Sammy giggled. “Do you say that to all the girls?”
“Not that specifically,” Ray answered casually. “It was rather a risk with you because you seem so down to earth, but... it’s not like you want me to be serious or anything.”
“I like romance,” Sammy told him. “Just 'cause I act mature, doesn’t mean I’m boring.”
Ray’s eyes seemed to twinkle.
“So you’d like it if a guy made up fairytales for you?”
“As long as they weren’t dirty,” Sammy answered.
Ray laughed loudly.
“I take it that means that yours would be,” Sammy said.
Ray shrugged. “Not if the girl didn’t like that kind of thing.”
Sammy raised an eyebrow sceptically.
“Yes,” Ray said in amused indignation.
“Guys really like dirty.”
“So do lots of girls,” Ray argued.
Sammy sighed. “Fair point.”
“Thank you. Now, it’s your turn to flirt with me.”
“Oo, pushy,” Sammy teased.
Ray folded his arms, looking amused.
“I’m teaching you how to have fun.”
“Okay. As long as you realise that it doesn’t mean anything.”
“Of course. Mine didn’t.”
Sammy felt an odd twinge at that but ignored it, studying Ray’s face and wondering what she could say about him.
“Your eyes are like horse chestnuts, glistening in their open shells,” she tried.
Ray put his hands up in an ‘Okay, okay’ gesture. “Why didn’t you just say conkers?”
“It doesn’t sound as romantic.”
“Neither does ‘horse chestnuts’.”
“Conkers is worse.”
“Not many things were worse than your flirting.”
“Oi,” Sammy said. “I don’t do this as much as you.”
Ray chuckled. “Try again then.”
Sammy sighed. It wasn’t very easy, this flirting. Her mind was trying to tell her to be poetic, to compare his hair to the black of space, or to a silent night - though that would probably sound unintentionally sexual.
She sipped at the Bucks Fizz, but that wasn’t going to help her.
“I’m waiting,” Ray said, with mock impatience.
“Oh, that’s okay,” Sammy said mildly. “After half an hour I can go find my friends.”
“Spoilsport,” Ray muttered.
“Fine. You’ve got a nice body - not too muscly or too fat - and your eyes are nice to drown in.”
“Better, but your tone was cringe-worthy. Don’t sound like it’s such a chore.”
Sammy looked at the ground.
“You’re a cool guy,” she said softly. “I wish I could be cool. I say that it’s fun to be mature but really, I’m missing out. If I were yours, you could show me how to make the most of being young. And if you were my Prince Charming, well then you’d protect me. And goodness knows I need protection. From all the people who know I’m not cool and are mean to me for it. Tell me you’ll be mine, Ray.”
It was like acting a part in a play. The words fell out as if she really meant them, and scarily some of them seemed to truly describe something she’d felt.
Ray was looking at her with a furrowed brow.
He hesitated. “Did you mean to sound so... sincere?”
Sammy shook her head unhappily. She should stop drinking now, she realised. She was getting dangerously close to being drunk.
Awkwardly Ray placed a hand on her shoulder.
“I didn’t mean it about wanting you, though,” Sammy said suddenly. Yes, some of the words had meant something but those were the words about being cool and wanting to be taught how.
“No, I guessed that,” he said gently. “You were trying to flirt and what came out was a mixture of flirt and feelings.” He smiled wryly. “If you really wanted me, I don’t think you’d be half as capable of telling me.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” she asked crossly, thinking he was flattering himself.
“Only that you don’t seem arrogant,” Ray replied calmly.
“No, it’s fine. I’m sorry for getting you to do that. I was just trying to help you let go. If you don’t want to do anything else, we’ll stop.”
“Thanks,” she said quietly.
He glanced at her glass of Bucks Fizz.
“Do you want me to go get you something non-alcoholic?”
Ray smiled. “Sure. Orange juice?”
“Wait here, then.”
Sammy waited. Ray was kind, she reflected. He could have laughed at her but he hadn’t. And it really was wonderful how he had tried to teach her how to have fun. She really had been missing out. In fact, she would have to thank her friends for signing her up for this Mysterious Partner thing - Ray would be a good friend to have if he always acted like this.
She wondered if he’d care so much about the half an hour time limit now. She certainly didn’t. It was surprising that a thing like this could happen. But she was glad it had.
Ray came back with her orange juice.
She thanked him as she took it. He took her Bucks Fizz for her, making her chuckle as he downed it before drinking some more of his wine. She sipped at her orange juice and then asked, “So what are we doing next?”
“Well, you talked about chatting earlier. That won’t do us any harm, I’m sure.”
“Yeah. Chatting would be nice.”