Cam startled at the sudden sneezing sound behind him, turning from his position by the riverbank. At the edge of the road stood Lillian, her face nestled in the crook of her elbow. When she looked up, she seemed to notice his presence and Cam felt his heart lurch at the sight of the adorably embarrassed look on her face. She seemed to compose herself and started walking towards him.
“Hi Cam!” Lillian called, hopping easily over the small ledge separating the road from the riverbank. “You’re off today, right?”
Cam gave a small smile and stood up, brushing the stray dirt off his pants before turning to address the farmer. “Yeah. I take off from the shop on Fridays to take stock and tend to the flowers. Uh, in preparation for the weekend.”
“Cam, you don’t need to try to justify taking time off. Everyone needs a break now and then!” Lillian bounced on the balls of her feet, her idle movement infinitely endearing to Cam, especially when comparing her small stature with his bodily height. Goddess, she was cute.
“Yeah, thanks,” Cam mumbled, tugging at his hat. “I just… you know the shop doesn’t always do well with sales, and I sometimes feel bad about taking the time off…”
Lillian shook her head, her light brown hair swinging with the movement. “Cam, you know you’re talking to a farmer. Taking care of living, growing things is hard. Sometimes the best thing you can do is wait or take some time for yourself.”
Cam smiled, allowing his shoulders to relax as he tucked a hand into his pocket. “Yeah, you’re right. I shouldn’t feel bad about it. I’m taking time off to take care of other things that are just as important as sales.”
“Even more important!” she grinned, lifting a hand to press a finger to his chest, surprising him. “Because you’re taking care of you!”
Cam let out a laugh just as Lillian turned her head away to sneeze into her arm again, her hand quickly withdrawing back towards her.
“Are you okay?” Cam asked, his brow furrowing in concern. “It’s getting kind of chilly out these days.”
Lillian waved a hand dismissively, sniffling. “Don’t worry, I’m fine! Just getting over a bit of a cold. Dr. Ayame said that farmer stamina was doing me well but to take it easy.”
“That’s good,” Cam said, his voice involuntarily taking on a rare teasing tone. “Wouldn’t want you discrediting yourself after that speech about the importance of taking care of yourself.”
“Hey!” Lillian laughed, gently swatting him on the arm. “I’m taking a break now, aren’t I?”
“Are you?” Cam smiled, nervousness creeping into his chest the same way it always did when he spent time alone with Lillian. “Uh… would you like to take a walk with me?”
Lillian’s face glowed with excitement. “I thought you’d never ask!”
Relief swept through him at her acceptance. This wasn’t the first, or second, or even the third time Cam had asked her to spend some time with him, but it still made his heart gallop every time he did. He definitely liked Lillian and enjoyed these moments with her, but there was always that little worry that she would reject his invite.
Though in the back of his mind, he knew he didn’t need to worry so much, if the rose on her cheeks and the sunshine of her smile were any indication of how she felt.
The pair decided to stay in the area and take a walk along the river. The season was well into fall and it was quite a sight to walk amongst the trees as their leaves changed colors and by the river as the crisp wind gently rippled the waters’ surface.
Had it already been nearly three seasons since he first met her? Cam smiled at the memory of when he first met the farmer when she moved to Bluebell in the spring. How far they had come…
A breeze blew past them and Lillian shivered. Cam glanced down at his companion and noticed her more casual state of dress. “You know, I don’t know if I’ve seen you in anything other than your work clothes.”
“Oh, you noticed!” Lillian perked up, stopping to do a little twirl, causing her periwinkle skirt to flutter around her. “When I went to the doctor’s the other day, I stopped by Nori’s and got this outfit! It… doesn’t look weird, does it?”
Cam stepped back and looked her up and down, his eyes lingering on her face and the way she worried her lip. She looked up at him, her cheeks reminding him of the color of just-bloomed nadeshikos, and he felt heat rise to his own cheeks.
“Goddess, you’re cute.”
Cam realized that he had said that out loud instead of keeping the words in his head (where they were safer) like he usually did.
Lillian stared up him with her wide grey eyes, her cheeks even darker now and his probably just as red to match. Cam lifted his hand to pull awkwardly at his hat, but in his panic, accidentally knocked the cap clean off his head.
Feeling even more flustered, Cam bent down quickly to pick it up and surely fumble even worse over his impending words to cover up his embarrassment. He didn’t notice that Lillian had also bent down to pick up his hat, and as he grabbed his hat and straightened his back to stand up, he knocked right into her. Cam watched in horror as Lillian stumbled back, lost her footing, and fell sideways into the river.
“Lillian!” Cam shouted, his long legs quickly closing the distance between them.
Lillian sat in the shallow water, mostly drenched, and let out a laugh. “Cam! You’re too fast for your own good, you surprised me!”
“Not fast enough, apparently,” Cam apologized, reaching down a long arm to grasp her hand and pull her back up. “I’m so sorry, Lillian. I-I didn’t mean to knock you over…”
“I know, Cam. It was an accident. That’s the second surprise I’ve gotten from you todayyyA-CHOO!” Lillian ended her sentence with a loud sneeze. She sniffled and rubbed at her nose with a wet hand.
“Oh no, I’m so sorry, let me just…” Cam stood with his hands awkwardly hovering in the air as he looked for something to dry her off with. Finding no other alternative, he quickly removed his vest and pressed it into her hands. “Use this to dry off with for now.”
Lillian’s face pinkened as she clutched his vest. “Cam, what—” Lillian’s question was cut off by another series of sneezes as chill wind blew past them. “You were right, it IS getting colder.”
Cam hated seeing Lillian in this state, especially knowing it was his fault. What if she got sick again? He hated the thought that she not only witnessed his slip-of-the-tongue moment but that he also caused her any sort of harm.
“Mmm your vest is warm though,” Lillian hummed, pressing the purple fabric to her face.
Cam blinked at the sight of her hugging his vest and a thought popped into his head. Cam suddenly grabbed Lillian’s hand. She gave a small sound of surprise at the contact but made no protest.
“Come on, let’s get you out of the wind,” Cam said, his large hand wrapped around her cold fingers. He started walking her towards the lone tree in the middle of the low river. He stopped them underneath the tree and looked around them to make sure there wasn’t anyone else around.
Before he could talk himself out of it, Cam started unbuttoning his shirt.
Lillian’s eyes widened. “Cam, what’re you—”
Cam bared his chest to Lillian, his face burning, and said, “You’re freezing. Let me warm you up.”
Lillian let out a single, awkward laugh, her face now the color of red gerberas. “Cam, are you sure—”
Cam let out a breath and walked towards her, enveloping her into his arms and tucking her cold body against his warm chest. She let out a squeak as she pressed against him, her shoulders tense.
“Sorry, Lillian,” Cam mumbled, trying his best to use the flaps of his shirt to pat dry the wet splotches on her back.
“You know…” Lillian smiled against his chest, her voice muffled. “I don’t live very far away. I could’ve just headed home to warm up.”
Cam’s back stiffened as he tried and failed to filter through his rash thought process. “I… I know… I just… panicked. I didn’t want you to get sick again and you said my vest was warm, so… I thought…”
Lillian turned her head to press a cold cheek against his upper abdomen, the chill seeping into his skin. “It’s okay. This is nice too. Though…” she propped her chin against his sternum, causing him to look down at her. “There are other ways to get me warmed up.”
“L-like what?” Cam asked, his heart speeding up at the mischievous look on her face.
“Like asking you just why you were so panicked in the first place after you called me cute?”
“Oh. Uh…” Cam looked away briefly, his hands itching to fidget with his hat.
No. Courage. Own up.
Cam gulped and looked back down at the woman in his arms, her face expectant and her body, thankfully, warmer now.
“Because I like you, Lillian.”
Lillian’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. He held her gaze and felt her skin heat up against him. She surely felt his heart racing beneath her hand, but Cam was surprised to realize he didn’t care. Let her know.
“H-how… do you feel?” Cam asked softly, bringing her attention back to him. “… Warmer?”
“Oh! Uh… yeah. Thank you. I… uh…” Lillian dropped her gaze and buried her face into his chest. “I like you too, Cam.”
At that muffled admittance, Cam’s hands moved to pull her away slightly. The look on her face was embarrassed, but happy. The way her face bloomed into happiness in his presence, the subtle scent of mint in her hair, the way her skin beneath his hands felt like the softest petals…
Goddess… she was beautiful.
“Lillian!” Cam exclaimed, his voice hitching slightly. “I would really like to…I mean, could I… uh… may—”
Cam’s sentence was cut off by the sudden press of Lillian’s lips against his. Cam’s brain finally caught up to the moment, but the kiss seemed to end as soon as it had happened.
“I thought you’d never ask!”
At that, the pleasant feeling of confidence bubbled up in Cam’s chest as he smiled softly at Lillian. He cradled her face in his hands and bent down to kiss her again, her lips smiling against his before reciprocating. He felt a surge of affection and tilted his head to angle their kiss, his tongue lightly brushing against her bottom lip. She let out a small sound of approval, adjusting to match his movements, her hands curling where they rested against his bare chest.
As Cam leaned in to deepen the kiss, a stray tendril of Lillian’s wet hair escaped her headband and fell against her forehead, brushing against his nose.
Cam jerked away and turned his head, a sudden sneeze escaping him. Lillian’s face held a mixed expression of daze and amusement at the unexpected moment. Cam composed himself, sniffling and taking in a steadying breath.
“You okay?” she asked, laughter rising in her throat as she started buttoning up his shirt. Cam gave her hands a squeeze before taking over the task.
“I’m blaming you if I get a cold.”
“Hey,” Lillian chuckled as she handed him back his vest. “It IS getting chilly these days. We should warm up back at my place, maybe over some hot herbal tea?”
Cam tugged his vest back on and offered her his arm, which to his delight, she immediately tucked her hand into. He started towards her farm. “Sounds like we both deserve a break, then.”