Louisa fist pumped her best friend and bowed to her parents. Then she blushed. "A show off that isn't very good at being in the spotlight," her gramps used to say. She just won her 25th race; her 20th first place. As the second place girl ran past the finishing line and she recovered with a smile on her face, Louisa fist pumped her too. She did so to the third and fourth place girl until she was called to one side to speak to a newspaper.
When she was eight, Louisa won her first school cross country race. She was rattled with nerves beforehand and then felt unbelievable calm after "Go!" was shouted. When she crossed the line to mark her win, Kian was standing there to congratulate her too. Her best friend; always there, waiting to watch her win. Whether that means first place or not.
Louisa: competitive but polite. Most importantly, known for being sincere. So when Louisa grinned as she was handed her medal after her 20th win, nobody begrudged her politeness as she clapped on her fellow racers. Nobody doubted her fist pumping of her competitors. She was here to win; she was here to smile.
Louisa stepped down from the podium and wrapped her arms round her best friend, Kian. "You freaking daydream, Lou!"
Louisa shook the funny feeling in her stomach off as "after show nerves" as her mum used to say when she felt a little off. Her mum would sit her down, calm her and give her some water until she was joking again.
"Thanks man!" Louisa grinned. "Hey, hold on."
Louisa jumped over a bag and approached Alison, the girl who came second. "Good race, Ali! Do you feel good?"
"Awesome. I feel good. But, hey, how are you feeling?"
"Pretty sweet." As she remembered her best friend waiting, she smiled and told her to have a good night.
As Louisa approached Kian she noticed a smile on his face. "And as Louisa Johnson - the one and only - approaches me after her 20th win, I can note with confidence that this is only the start." Kian laughs as he pretends to be a reporter.
"It was one time, Kee!"
"The first newspaper article is the start, my star."
The way he said "star" sent a reminder of butterflies into her stomach that said something along the lines of, "Lou, you're ignoring us and we're not going." As Louisa rolled her eyes at him, her parents approached them. "People are clearing out now guys," her mum said to her with a proud smile. Louisa had noticed before that the particular smile she noticed that it never really went.
"Are you all cooled down okay? Stretches done?" her dad asks.
"All good, captain."
"Brilliant. You guys ready to head back?"
After showering and changing into denim shorts and a baggy top, Louisa paused at the mirror. She let down her long, chestnut brown hair, and added a little mascara to her eyelashes. She walked slowly downstairs to find her parents and Kian sat around chatting on the sofas.
"Hello superstar," Kian grinned at Louisa.
"You're a loser," she responded quickly enough to hope the blush on her cheeks would be dismissed.
Ten minutes later Kian and Louisa headed out. "Where are we off to then?"
"Well, little Lou, that is no concern of yours."
Something had changed in Kian's voice and it made Louisa nervous. He sounded a little on edge. There was still his playful tone, still that glitter in his eye, the ease in the way he ran his hand through his milk chocolate brown floppy hair. But there was something different. He was her best friend and the only person that knew her better than her own family, but she couldn't pinpoint what was different if her life depended on it.
There was a quiet that fell between them. It wasn't like they hadn't met quiet before, but it made Louisa feel a little silly- and she thought, in a good way. It was early June and the sun was low in the sky, but still lighting the evening with a happy smile. This was the time of year that she felt such excitement for the upcoming summer. The weeks of her and Kian getting up to all sorts; being best friends in her favourite season. Only this was the summer before they headed off to university and this reason made summer seem a little off key.
But with her best friend by her side, on the evening of her 20th official win, Louisa encouraged the warmth.
Louisa had been subconsciously mirroring wherever Kian was leading them too, and she was suddenly aware they were in town. She turned to question Kian again, but felt her lips unable to produce any sounds as his eyes were fixed in a soft song. His face was calm, his skin browner from standing in the sun, supporting her earlier that day. As she turned back to face ahead, it suddenly struck her that Kian had never missed one race; never not celebrated or comforted her; never not made her feel incredibly special.
Louisa was very aware now. Still unaware of what she was aware of, she felt nerves enter her heart. But she didn't mind them.
Kian paused. Louisa paused.
She looked to him and noticed how he was suddenly aware of being different. He grinned at her and with charming eyes, he said, "Here we are."
Confused, Louisa tilted her head upwards. Aliandro's. It was a little independent Italian restaurant in their little town. A beautiful restaurant. "Here?" Louisa didn't know what else to say. She knew her heart was happy, but she knew her mind was confused.
Louisa was sure she saw Kian at a loss for words, but she doubted herself at his quick recovery. "I was wondering if you'd like to go for dinner with me, was all." His eyes teased her and she wasn't quite sure what he was saying.
Normally Louisa was as quick as him, as able to take a situation and make it Kian-and-Louisa, but she wasn't sure what was expected of her right now. She smiled nervously.
"You look beautiful, Lou."
She almost laughed but she double-took at the look he was giving her. "I only had a shower, Kee." She laughs, unsure of what to say.
He looks down, hands in his jean pockets. Louisa suddenly noticed that he had changed into black skinny jeans, brown shoes and a checked shirt. He looked... Well, he looked something good.
He nodded and opened the door, letting her in. He followed her in, and at the second door a waiter smiled, "How can I help?"
"I have a table reserved for two, under Adley."
Louisa felt a little shocked. Kian Adley reserved a table for him and her. She wanted to shake her head, but remained still. They're best friends; she had to tell herself to stop thinking into it too much- stop getting ahead of herself.
Kian held out Louisa's chair as they approached the table by the fairy-light lit window. "The most wanted table for you, Sir and Madam. As requested by Mr. Adley. He was very keen he get this table," Louisa couldn't look at Kian as the waiter said this.
They had passed this restaurant many times. This was the very window they would look into when they past, talking about the always happy reviews of Aliandro's.
Once the two of them sat down, everything resumed as normal. Louisa made herself ignore any confused thoughts and they spent the evening excitedly talking about the race, discussing Kian's gig he will be playing the next week. They joked and became more and more excited for each other. When Kian insisted he get the bill and Louisa failed to convince him she would like to pay for herself, she felt herself unable not to watch him.
He brought out the appropriate amount of notes and scattered a tip on top.
They walked down the high street, close together, but apart. They walked this high street countless times, but Louisa couldn't shake the feeling that this walk was different. It wasn't an early Sunday morning when no one was around and Louisa chased Kian jokingly; or a Friday night to have pizza with their friends. It wasn't a walk to a cinema trip to see their favourite superhero films, or the walk home from school or college.
"Oh, yeah, you don't notice, no?" Louisa teases.
"I don't! You're such a tease!"
"So Kian Adley - the Kian Adley - is oblivious to Sophie Richards and Hannah Lee and all the other Sophie Richards and Hannah Lees staring as he strums his guitar and sings that song.
Kian laughs back but seems a little tense. "It's not the Sophie Richards or the Hannah Lees I see."
"Well, I wouldn't let them know that," Louisa almost whispers.
She feels Kian stop and it takes her just a moment to stop too. It doesn't feel overly dramatic; but it doesn't feel normal. "You look beautiful tonight, Lou."
She doesn't want to laugh this time, but she turns with confusion. She notices how everything suddenly feels very "now"; very present tense. She wasn't regarding this as a normal best friend outing anymore. "I look like normal, Kee."
"I don't mean to be cliche, but... Exactly."
Louisa flashes back to the countless high street walks or runs, giggling; happy.
"You look beautiful tonight, Lou," he repeats.
Louisa bites her lip and looks down. Quietly she says, "Thank you."
She flashes back to the Sundays sat eating roast dinners with her parents and Kian, or Friday nights watching TV with his brother.
"I've got it wrong, haven't I?"
She flashes back to all the times they have been mistaken as a couple. The musician and the runner.
"Wrong... What do you mean, Kee?" A sudden confidence rises through her. A different confidence to the ease she normally would feel around her best friend.
She flashes back to when her gramps died and Kian was there; there for her all the way.
"I wanted to take you out, Lou. I always have. But today. I mean, today, I knew you were going to win. I booked the table a week ago."
She flashes back to him waiting at the finish line. Every time.
Louisa frowns a little, although she hopes she does so softly. "You booked it a week ago." She doesn't say it like a question. It's a statement. A statement of realisation.
Kian doesn't say anything and she realises she has never seen him this nervous. Not before all of the gigs he has performed and she has chilled with him up behind stage. Not... ever.
She knows what to say. "Thank you for being there today. At the race."
It was his turn to frown softly. "Of course, Lou."
"But thank you. You're always there, aren't you?"
"And you're always there."
"Thank you for dinner," she returns to a whisper.
Louisa flashes back to her happiness under his stare; her excitement to see him whenever she did; her happy embarrassment when people did mistake the two of them as a couple.
"We've walked this high street a lot, haven't we?" She says and then blushes, confused as to why she said it. But Kian doesn't look confused.
"This is the one I want to remember though. Really remember."
She doesn't feel embarrassed at his words anymore. She doesn't feel the best friend ease she feels; but she feels that excitement. She feels what she's secretly known she feels for a long time.
He closes the short distance between them and she faces the face she knows better than any other face. She likes it here. In the high street, with this as her view. "How long have-"
"Always," Kian breathes with such tension Louisa can't wait much longer.
"Always," she says in agreement. His smile tells her he understands.
He clumsily finds her hands and holds them in his. Louisa feels her heart tell her, this is it. This is what I was trying to tell you. Louisa smiles slowly and Kian's face is feeling like the feeling she feels as she crosses the line; only better.
Their lips finally meet and everything made sense. Their high street. Theirs.
A Beach & A High Street,
The Girl in the Moonlight.