They’re in store number three and Senne feels like he’s going insane.
She doesn’t even look up. “Yeah?”
“You know I love you, but can we please just go to Ikea?”
Even without seeing her face, he knows she’s rolling her eyes. “There’s one more store I want to check out after this one. If we don’t find anything there, we’ll go to Ikea.”
Senne groans and wraps his arms around her from behind, burying his face in her hair. After he agreed to move in with Zoë, they quickly realised they needed an extra desk and some additional storage. So here they are, in a thrift store, looking at old crap.
Realistically, he knows it’s not crap – some of the furniture proves to be real craftmanship, and he loves the pieces that are in Zoë’s room already – but unlike her, he doesn’t see why one brown wouldn’t match the other, and his feet hurt, and he’s hungry.
Ikea would solve all of those problems, because Ikea furniture is white, and they have sofas all over the showroom, and the restaurant serves meatballs. If only he could convince Zoë.
“Senne,” she laughs softly, patting his hand where it’s wrapped around her hip. “We’ve been here for ten minutes.”
“We’ve been at the other stores for ten hours,” he mutters under his breath.
Zoë steps out of his hold and runs her hand over the grips of the desk she’s been looking at. “You know what?”
His heart jumps, and he hopes she’ll tell him this is the desk they’re buying. “Hm?”
“There’s that famous marshmallow experiment, where they give children a marshmallow, and if they wait to eat it, they get another one, right?” She leans against the desk, shooting him a smile. “You would’ve failed that test so bad. You’d eat the marshmallow before the researcher even left the room.”
He can’t help but laugh, because she’s probably right. “Are you implying that I have no patience?”
“That’s exactly what I’m implying.” She moves to the next desk – the last one, as far as he can see – and he prays that this one miraculously meets her criteria.
From the get-go, it was clear that Zoë would be in charge of the interior design. Though Senne has grown up surrounded by luxury and quality, he has no eye for design whatsoever. Quite frankly, he’s only here to play taxi and hum vaguely whenever Zoë mentions the aesthetics of her room.
“For a guy with no patience, I waited around for you long enough, didn’t I?” he teases, no bite to his words.
Zoë at least has the decency to blush, but she’s quick to retort. “You were just that desperate to get in my pants,” she whispers in his ear, her hand sliding down his chest.
He raises his eyebrows, a smile threatening to appear on his face. “Dammit, you caught me.” He pecks her lips. “Seriously though, can we go have lunch soon?”
Much to his relief, she nods.
He ends up following her through the store like a lost puppy for another ten minutes, but then they’re finally in the car. They still haven’t bought anything.
“Where do you want to go?” he asks as he starts the engine, carefully reversing out of the narrow parking spot.
“Doesn’t matter. Your choice.”
He glances sideways to see if she means it, and she doesn’t seem to be joking. Her notepad rests on her knees as she scribbles down some ideas – she’d seen some vases that she really liked, but even compared to regular prices, they were expensive. She’s hoping to find something similar in one of the other stores.
Zoë is so focused on her notes that she doesn’t realise where they are going until they are waiting in front of a traffic light, and Senne says: “Almost there.”
His grin widens when she stares at him in disbelief after seeing the enormous Ikea sign across the road.
“You said I could choose.”
She shakes her head with a smile. “Sometimes I forget how sneaky you can be when you want to get your way.”
“They’ve got vegan meatballs.” He wraps his arm around her shoulder as they walk inside. “And they sell plants. So you can’t say I didn’t think of you.”
“You’re so ridiculous,” she mutters, but it sounds an awful lot like “I love you”.
It’s past two already, so the restaurant is mostly empty, save for some elderly people enjoying afternoon coffee, and a few parents feeding their babies, so they easily find a place near the window to enjoy their meatballs.
Going completely plant-based is still a step too far for Senne, but he is trying to make an effort to eat vegetarian most days of the week. He knows Zoë doesn’t expect anything from him, but she also refuses to cook with animal products, so really, it’s just his laziness that has led to him being vegetarian nowadays. He enjoys her vegan dinners, but he’s too attached to his cheese sandwiches in the morning.
“Happy now?” Zoë asks between bites. She can act tough all she wants, but Senne knows she was at least as hungry as he was. She’s just better at ignoring a growling stomach.
“Very.” He hooks a foot around one of her ankles.
“Maybe I should drop you off at the ball pit so I can shop in peace.”
She’s got sauce in the corner of her mouth and he wipes it off with his thumb. “You need my expert advice.”
“Your expert advice was to buy a bright orange desk.”
“It was retro!” he defends himself. At least he thought it was – weren’t most orange items retro? Was that not the definition of retro?
“Babe,” she smiles. “It wasn’t retro. It was ugly.”
And he wants to say something back, wants to tell her how she’s wrong, but she called him babe and that still does funny things to his stomach. And she knows. She knows how pet names get to him and she uses it to her full advantage.
“Fine. Let’s go find something nice.”
They don’t find anything nice. Not furniture-wise, at least. Zoë makes Senne promise to drive to some more thrift stores the next day, and he puts up a fight just to keep up the pretence, but they both know he will. He can’t say no to things that make her happy.
Which is how they end up with a car full of plants, one of them poking him in the ear the entire way home. He’s not sure how they are all gonna fit in her room, but he knows better than to ask. He does veto the cacti on his nightstand – he’d rather not wake up with a hand full of needles.
Even without any of his own furniture, the room feels more like home than his previous one did, and it’s all because this girl holds his heart.