In which Adelie learns that there’s a thing called rosemary limeade and it’s delicious.
The next time she saw him was entirely by chance. Adelie entered the little diner near the airfield, and there he was, standing behind the counter, washing up some glasses. The Lemon Tree was a classic diner, with a black and white checkered floor, chrome accents around the table edges and red faux-leather benches. The wall behind the counter was covered with shelves filled with glasses and cups. Through large windows, sunlight poured in over the tables. Nate looked up as he heard the bell above the door and a broad smile appeared.
“What a lovely surprise. Hello there.” He put the glass on the rack and dried his hands with a towel that was tucked into the band of his apron.
She should have taken a seat somewhere in a corner, to not give him any ideas, but after a long and tiring afternoon in the simulator, she was in need of a little small talk. She slid on one of the bar stools in front of him, flashed him a smile and said: “Hi. How’re you doing?”
His level of handsomeness was ridiculous. Braced on the counter, his arms showed corded strands of muscles and honey-coloured tanned skin. Even the white apron tied around his waist couldn’t diminish his appeal. Blue sparkling eyes drenched with flirtatious mischief. “What can I bring you? Another lemonade?”
She forced her eyes up to the menu above the shelves. “Wow, you have quite a selection on offer. Which one’s your favourite?”
“Trudy takes great pride in making her own lemonade. The question is not what my favourite is, but what you need.”
“Okay then, what do I need, doc?” She couldn’t help but smile at him, and he smiled right back.
“You look thirsty and in dire need of a refreshment. So this naturally calls for something with citrus. But your call sign is Princess… so it can’t be any old boring lemonade then. It needs to be exquisite. Unusual!” He waggled his eyebrows at her, and she giggled. With a flourish, he opened the big red fridge behind him and fished out a bottle. “How about Trudy’s prized Rosemary Limeade?”
“Rosemary Limeade? This sounds indeed unusual.”
He laughed. “Trust me; it’s heaven in a bottle. It’s delicious.”
“Well… I think I trust your taste and have one then.”
He chuckled as he reached for a glass. “With or without ice?”
“With ice please.”
He placed a coaster in front of her and put her drink on it. Ice cubes clinked. Carefully she took a sip. A small firework of different flavours exploded in her mouth. The sour but fragrant zing of real lime, the sweetness of sugar and then the tangy note of rosemary. “This… this is delicious. I like it. Spot on selection.”
“I’m glad you like it. It’s even better in Gin Fizz.”
The ceiling fan above them filled the silent diner with its whooshing sound. She realised she was the only guest. “Not many customers today?”
He had returned to cleaning glasses. “It’s always slow between three and four. What you’ve been up to? You look like you had an exhausting day.”
She laughed. “Is that your polite way to say I’m looking tired?”
He flashed her a grin. “I worry about my guardian angel.”
“I’m not your guardian angel. And I just spent the better part of this beautiful sunny afternoon stuck in a Stingray simulator. I’m friends with on of the engineering students, and she wanted to test something. Sadly, it didn’t work as we both thought it would.”
“That sucks.” The bells over the door tinkled as two nurse cadets entered. “Good afternoon, ladies.” Nate dried his hands again and followed them to their table. “What can I offer you?”
They were all aflutter, and it took them quite a while to decide on their order, giving Adelie plenty of time to observe him. He was indeed charm personified but in a genuine way. She could see why Leslie’s fellow nurses fell for him head over heels without him having much to do. She pushed back a strand of hair and took her InstaComm out of her purse. There was a message from her cousin Cosima, with an attached picture of a sleeping blonde puppy. It said: “Look what I got! Isn’t he cute?” She typed a quick reply, as she heard Nate’s rumbly voice behind her.
“Got an amusing message?” She swivelled around on the bar stool, glaring at him, and he took a step back. “Uh, sorry – didn’t want to intrude on your privacy. You smiled at your screen.”
Adelie kicked herself, taking a deep breath. Leslie’s overly cautious nature was rubbing off on her. “I’m sorry. I didn’t hear you coming, and you startled me. My cousin got a cute puppy. She sent me a picture of it sleeping in its basket. That’s why I was smiling.”
“Can I see it?”
“Of course.” She pulled up the message and the picture again, and he stepped closer to be able to see. The warmth of his body radiated out to her and with it his unique blend of aftershave and personal fragrance. Also the faint scent of coffee and chocolate syrup. It tickled something deep inside of her.
“Awww, that’s adorable. No wonder you were smiling. What’s his name?”
“She hasn’t told me yet.”
“He looks like a Eustace to me.”
Adelie snorted. “I’m going to tell her that, right now.”
“No, no, no – that was a joke! The poor dog. How about Ajax?”
They spent a considerable amount of time thinking up silly names for the puppy until the diner slowly filled up and he had to serve customers.