It was a very stormy afternoon, and the inventor and the strawberry girl were on the window seat watching raindrops slip and slide down the glass window panes. Every time lightning streaked across the sky, the strawberry girl would squint her eyes and burrow even more closely to the inventor’s side.
“Are you scared of thunderstorms, my strawberry?” He asked, biting her shoulder gently. He smiled as she wrinkled her nose at him and shook her head.
“No,” she said, tracing a raindrop’s path on the glass. “I like how rumbly the thunder sounds. I like how pretty the lightning is.”
He nodded. “But that also means we won’t get to go out much today. We’ll have to wait until tomorrow because of this weather.”
She frowned a little, then brightened again as an idea took shape. “Or we could still go out. I’ll wear my new raincoat and rain boots and use my new umbrella!”
The inventor laughed, messing up her hair like he usually did. He grinned at her. “Well, I guess if you don’t mind then we can go.”
She got up and pulled him towards the bedroom. “Okay, let’s go!”
Fifteen minutes later, the inventor was waiting in the hallway, jingling his car keys. He had a black leather jacket over his ACDC t-shirt. “Strawberry?” he called. “Almost done?”
“Coming,” she replied. There was a patter of running feet, and she appeared at the foot of the stairs. She was clad in a black raincoat, black rain boots, and a red scarf around her neck. She was carrying a black umbrella with bat ears. “I’m ready!”
“There’s my little witch.” The inventor grabbed her in a hug and hoisted her over his shoulder despite her protests. “We need to run fast to the car.” They stepped out of the house, and the girl opened her umbrella to shield them both. The rain was still falling steadily, and there was a little river of running water between the porch and the standalone garage.
She smirked at him, then raised the umbrella. “Chaaaarge!”
They ran laughing to the garage, reaching it in record time. Despite the umbrella, they still got considerably drenched. “There are raindrops clinging to your eyelashes,” he told her, bending down and kissing her eyelids. “Do you want to borrow my jacket?”
“No,” she answered, patting off the excess water droplets clinging to her raincoat. “I don’t want you to feel chilly.”
“Well, I don’t want YOU to catch cold.”
“People catch cold because of viruses,” she said, getting inside the car and buckling down. “Come on. To the grocery store we go!”
He walked over to her side and put his head through the window. “I need motivation,” he said.
She kissed him on the nose. “What kind of motivation?”
“I’ll leave that to you,” he answered, smiling.
She put her hands on his cheek and looked into his eyes, a small smile on her lips. “Boyfriend,” she said. “My pumpkin. My sweetheart. Love of my life.”
“Girlfriend,” he answered. “My strawberry. My honey bunny. My daisy, my love, my princess.”
“My prince!” She kissed him again, this time on his cheek.
He groaned. “Just kiss me properly already,” he grumbled.
“Grumpy, grumpy boyfriend.” She said, pulling him closer and nipping his lower lip. “So impatient.”
“I really love you, you know,” he said between kisses. “Sometimes I think of you and then I get this feeling in the pit of my stomach. Sort of like the feeling you get when you’re scared, but entirely different. I just realize all over again how much I love you, and then I’ll end up with a huge smile on my face.” He blushed. “Sometimes I’m a bit nervous because I say “I love you” in my mind, and for all I know I could be saying it out loud around other people.”
She laughed. “In your mind?”
He nodded. “Don’t you do the same thing?”
The strawberry girl looked thoughtful. “Nope,” she answered. “I don’t have a voice in my head.” She looked at him worriedly. “Am I supposed to have one?”
He squeezed her hand. “Don’t worry about it.”
“Mmkay. Besides, if I get that kind of feeling, I’ll say it out loud.” She became cheerful again. Then she looked at the sky. “I think we need to leave now,” she said. “The rain is slowing down.”
He glanced at the sky as well. “I think so, too.”
“Grocery store, here we come!”
Five minutes into grocery shopping and the strawberry girl was already missing. The inventor pushed the cart through the maze of aisles and displays, keeping both eyes peeled for a tiny girl in all-black clothes and a bright red scarf. He already checked the frozen foods section, but she wasn’t there. She usually loved sitting inside the big freezers to bask in the cold air.
The next section he looked at was the cereal aisle, because the strawberry girl had a tendency to stand mesmerized in front of all those bright cereal boxes, choosing which particular brand of super-sweet, artificially flavored breakfast cereal she wanted to try out for the week. But she wasn’t there, either.
The inventor pulled out his phone, speed-dialing her number and stopping when he felt her phone vibrating from inside his leather jacket. He sighed, pocketing his own mobile phone and beginning to search for her again. “I wish she wouldn’t run off like that,” he mused, turning to the fruit aisle. His line of vision suddenly caught a flash of black and red, and he sped up, trying to catch a glimpse again.
“Boyfriend! Hey! Over here.”
He whipped around, trying to figure out where the voice came from. He spotted her by the candy aisle, standing in front of the cotton candy machine. “Stay there,” he instructed, in case she planned to run away again. “I’m coming over.”
“Boyfriend!” She called again. People were starting to look at her, and he shook his head smilingly. “I – love – you!“
He laughed, abandoning the shopping cart and lifting her in a hug. She laughed with him, putting her arms around his neck and hugging him back. “Now what was that very public announcement for?” He asked teasingly, poking her cheek.
She shrugged cheerfully. “I just felt that thing you were describing,” she said. “And I thought I should tell you.”
The people watching them smiled and started whispering among themselves until the strawberry girl dismissed them by smiling brightly and saying “Hey everyone. We’re not going to make out right now, nothing to see here.”
“Oh, God.” The inventor grabbed her hand and pulled her away. “Do you want to go home?”
She giggled at his embarrassment. “Wait…the cart.”
He blinked. “Oh, right. Now where did that cart go?”
“It’s right here!” She pulled a cart from behind the cotton candy stand and started pushing it towards the checkout lanes. “Hurry up, pumpkin.”
He squinted at the cart and its contents. “Strawberry…”
She looked up at him innocently. “Yes?”
“That’s not our cart.”
“What do you mean it’s not our cart? There’s my candy…there’s my cereal…there’s my melon-flavored milk…”
He crossed his arms over his chest, a stern expression on his face. “Where did you hide the cart?”
She stayed silent. His frown deepened. She finally gave up. “It’s behind the banana bins,” she answered in a defeated tone. He pulled her close and started petting her head, steering her towards their abandoned shopping cart. “Don’t worry, we’ll get your candy and cereal and melon milk too.”
“Did I tell you that you’re the best ever?” she asked, while they were stowing away the grocery bags inside the car. She was eating bubblegum ice cream and feeding him spoonfuls of it.
“You did,” he said. “I’m the best, am I not?”
She stuck her tongue out at him. The bubblegum ice cream had colored it with splotches of pink, blue and purple. “So humble, too.”
“But you still love me,” he teased.
“Nah,” she pretended to look at him in disgust. “I’d trade you for a double Lushen account on Summoner’s War any day.”
“No you wouldn’t.” He shook his head in amusement, closing the back of the car firmly. “Now we’re done! Where to?”
The strawberry girl frowned at her empty ice cream cup. She hopped down from the hood of the car. “More ice cream?”
“What about dinner?”
“Ice cream! By the boardwalk!”
He clasped her hand in his and squeezed it. She squeezed it back, and they turned to look at each other.
“Ice cream,” he echoed. “Got it.”