A Romantic Walk?Mature

We continued to walk around. After that weird statue park, we took a stroll through the flower gardens.

"I'm glad they're not charging for this anymore," Deidre said.

"They used to charge?" I asked and she nodded.

"Haven't you been here before?"

"Nope. Never really had the desire to. It doesn't look like much," I added, looking around at the dead flowers.

She rolled her eyes. "Well, of course not. It's winter. During spring, though, it's absolutely gorgeous." She looked around and lowered her voice. "I used to sneak in here during the tours."

I smirked at her. "So you were a bit of a rebel, huh?"

She giggled. "Sometimes, yeah."

"Why did your parents divorce?" I asked.

She stopped walking and stared at me. "Why are you asking me so many questions?"

I shrugged, feeling uncomfortable. "I mean, I'm going to be marrying you. I might as well learn more about you, shouldn't I?"

She sighed and kicked at the snow. "Can we not talk about all that? Just for tonight? I'm having a good time."

I nodded quickly. "Yeah. Yeah of course."

She looked around. "So where do you want to go now?"

I looked around, too. My hair was damp from the snow and I pushed it back. My hands were cold and there was a hot chocolate stand on the corner.

"This way," I said and led her to the cart. The man looked up and beamed at us. "Can we get two hot chocolates, please?"

"Why, of course," he said. "Out for a romantic walk in the snow?"

I only smiled and handed him three dollars. He gave us pretty big Styrofoam cups and we walked through yet another park. This was the more scenic part of the city. At the largest park, they had little kids running around playing in the snow, while people set up the Christmas light displays.

"Ever been through one of those?" I asked, gesturing at it.

"No. They charge."

"Well, let's go now," I said.

"We can't," she said with a frown. "They're still setting it up."

I rolled my eyes and took her hand, dragging her to the entrance.

"Artemis!" she groaned and I turned. "You made me spill my hot chocolate, you turd!"

I couldn't help but laugh. "I'll buy you another one. Come one." She sighed and followed. The first man we approached I recognized from my dad's parties. "Hello, Mr. Chase."

Bart Chase turned and beamed at me. "Artemis Kilgore! It's good to see you again! How can I help you?"

"Well," I said and pulled Deidre over to me and put my arm around her, "this lovely lady has never been through one of these." She smiled shyly as Bart clicked his tongue. "Surely you wouldn't mind us taking a sneak peek."

"Of course not!" he said and I smiled. "But, I have one condition."

"I'll pay whatever you want."

He laughed and turned to pick up a camera. "No, you silly boy. I want a picture of you two together!"

I hesitated. "Um, okay."

We stood side by side but Bart rolled his eyes. "Oy! Mildred! Come here for a sec!"

Mildred, Bart's wife, jogged over, beaming when she saw me.

"What can I do for ya?"

"Help me get these two youngsters to actually make an effort," he said. "You young people and being all shy," he added.

Mildred giggled and looked at the two of us.

"Okay, dear," she said to Deidre. "Stand like this." She angled her so her body was facing me. "Turn your face to the camera. And you, Mr. Kilgore, stand here and put your hand here." I cleared my throat. Her left shoulder was pressing into my chest and Mildred put my hand on the small of her back. "Look at the camera."

I obeyed. She took the hot chocolate from my hand then put the hand on Deidre's hip. I could feel Deidre shaking a little as Mildred had her place her hand on my elbow. She stepped back to admire the effect.

"Perfect! Now rest your heads together."

"Um..." Deidre whispered.

"Just go with it," I muttered. "They won't leave us alone until we do."

She laughed a little and we did as Mildred said. Mildred made a simpering noise and I smiled for the picture.

"Don't look so nervous!" Bart said to Deidre.

"Just imagine we're watching that stupid blond hiding in the attic," I whispered and she laughed.

"Perfect!" Bart cried and snapped a few pictures. "Come look!"

Deidre quickly stepped out of my arms and looked over his shoulder. I joined her and rubbed the back of my neck. It really did look pretty romantic. Deidre's face shined as she and I laughed; it was very beautiful.

"Come look at our new-fangled contraption," Mildred said, pulling us to the computer they set up for timed lights. "Bring that camera here, sweetie."

Bart handed it over and Mildred plugged it into the computer. Deidre was rubbing her hands again and Bart gave us two large mugs of hot chocolate.

"Try not to drop this one," I joked and she nudged me playfully.

"All I have to do is plug it in like so," Mildred said, "press this weird looking icon here and.... Boom!"

I tried not to laugh. She was simply printing a picture. She handed us two copies to look at and then slipped them into a large envelope.

"I can't wait to do those when we open," she said excitedly.

"Now you two go enjoy the lights," Bart said. "We've kept you long enough."

We thanked them and walked back through the grass to the road.

"So people can drive through these?" Deidre asked.

"Yeah but it's usually people with really little kids."

"How can they see the lights with their headlights on?"

"Oh, they have to turn them off."

She nodded, looking around at all the light displays that were on. She giggled at a cheesy one of Santa and his reindeer. We went around a curve, neither of us really talking. It was comfortable. She was now holding the mug with just one hand and, nibbling my lip, I took her free hand. I could see her blush in the dim light but she held my hand back very lightly.

"This is my favorite part," I said as we reached the Christmas tree.

She stopped walking and her jaw dropped. "It's gorgeous," she whispered.

It was maybe 15 feet tall and made just out of lights. At the top, they had curled a bunch of golden lights into an intricate star. As she stared, I wondered when the last time she had a decent Christmas was.

With the lights shining on her face and her eyes shining, I had the strangest urge to kiss her. Before I could act on it, my phone rang. Reluctantly, I let go of her hand and saw it was my mom.

"Are you two done at the fountain yet?" she asked.

"We have been for a while," I frowned. "Wait. Are you guys still at the restaurant!?"

Deidre stared at me, her jaw dropped.

"Of course we are! We're not going to make you guys walk back in the snow!"

"Shit. We'll be back in ten minutes." I hung up and winced. "Our moms are still at the restaurant."

"Seriously?" she asked and I nodded. "I thought they would have left."

"I did, too."

We hurried to the sidewalk but Deidre stopped.

"Wait, their mugs," she said and took mine, running back.

She talked with Mildred for a few seconds but she handed her something then waved her off. When she got back, she had the envelope I left behind and both mugs. She was blushing and looked uncomfortable at being given things for free.

"She said we can keep the mugs. She also said we better put these pictures on... Facebook?"

"I'll show you," I said quickly.

She hid her face in embarrassment so I changed the subject.

"What do you want to do tomorrow?" I asked.

She pursed her lips in thought. Her very kissable lips....

"Well, it's my day off again. I'm fine with just sitting in the house and vegging out."

I laughed and draped my arm across her shoulders. "A woman after my own heart."

She laughed breathlessly. When we got back to the restaurant, our moms were outside, torn between amusement and frustration. Deidre was quick to show her mom the pictures and mugs we had been given. She handed the second copy of the picture to my mom who grinned at me. I just shoved my hands into my pockets and led the way to the car.

The End

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