Who: Stephen Cornfoot, Michael Corner
Where: The Salty Badger
When: 24 November 2001, evening
“I think I actually preferred him when we weren’t related. I swear Gavin never used to be such a prat.” Stephen shook his head, annoyed that he had even brought his cousin up in conversation. He just wanted there to be a lot less drama in his life, but things never seemed to stay quiet for long.
“Anyway,” he said, standing up, “it’s my round.” He gestured at Mike’s nearly-empty glass. “Same again? There’s something I want to pick your brain about.”
“Sounds great,” Michael said, settling into his chair a bit more. “I’ll stay here, hold the table up.”
He’d been holed up in his house for the past… what felt like forever, honestly, doing research for an old colleague from Salem, and as such he’d fallen a bit out of touch with the rest of the world, so he’d been glad to get out with Stephen tonight. Occasionally re-learning how to be a sociable creature was good for him.
A few minutes later and with a couple of drinks in his hand, Stephen returned to the table. He took his time putting the drinks down and retaking his seat, his features now settled into a look of thoughtfulness.
“So, I’ve been thinking a lot lately. Which I suppose isn’t all that unusual.” He took a sip of his red wine. “But I’ve been thinking a lot about one witch in particular, which definitely is strange.”
Michael grinned. “I’m flattered, Stephen, but I’m not that kind of girl.”
He took a long sip of his cider, then sent his friend a pointed look. “Are you going to tell me who this witch is? And why, specifically, you’ve been thinking about her so much? Or is that what you’re having trouble figuring out?”
Stephen chuckled, shaking his head. “If you were that sort of girl, I’d have made my move years ago,” he promised solemnly. “But, seriously, it’s… Mandy. I never used to think about her this much. Or in this way. Which is probably why it’s so perplexing.”
Although Stephen wasn’t quite sure when things had changed, he suspected that it had something to do with taking Mandy to the premiere of The Curl and The Flame. She’d looked stunning in a way that had made his mind go completely blank. Perhaps it was some sort of tabula rasa, his previous relationship with Mandy wiped clean away and replaced with this new one where he couldn’t stop the amorous thoughts towards his best friend.
Michael laughed — until he heard Stephen say a name he hadn’t been expecting. “Mandy?”
He frowned, taking another long drink and trying to process what he’d just heard. Obviously he could understand where Stephen was coming from, in an objective kind of way. Mandy was beautiful, and also pretty much the greatest. She had to be to be willing to put up with them as friends for so long. But this was new.
“I… why? Out of curiosity.”
“Wish I knew why.” Stephen had definitely been trying to figure it out. He was too Ravenclaw, too curious not to. So far, he’d come up blank. Mandy was the same Mandy she’d always been, but now she had somehow become more. “I guess she’s always been there, you know? In a good way, not a stalker way.”
Making a frustrated gesture with his hand, then sighed. “I can’t decide whether or not to act on this.”
Michael shrugged. “Well, frankly, whether you decide to act on it or not, you should probably do a little bit deeper searching on the ‘why’. But especially if you decide to act on it. Just in case, you know?” You never wanted a girl to ask you why you wanted to be with her and not have an answer.
“Hell, Stephen, I don’t have any better answer than you do.” He rubbed the back of his neck, thinking. “I guess it comes down to — is this important enough for you to speak up?”
Setting his glass on the table, Stephen steepled his fingers together as he thought. One drink in, he felt at a good, comfortable place for some serious introspection. Even so, he couldn’t help but flash Michael a smirk. “And here I was expecting you to have all the answers.”
Stephen knew that Michael was right. Was it important enough to say something to her? There was no going back if he did. Whether she returned his affection or not, things would be different after he expressed his feelings. “She’s important to me. I think I just didn’t realise quite how much of a rock she’d been for me until I started looking back over these last few months.”
“That was a fair expectation, as I usually do,” Michael tossed back. “But even I am a mere mortal sometimes, Stephen. Hold back your surprise, if you please.”
He finished off the drink and set his glass to the side.
“Hmm.” Stephen wondered if he should just ask Sylvie. She would probably give a definitive answer, whether it was ‘snog her’ or ‘don’t snog her’. Or something more suggestive. “I guess I’ll have to keep mulling this over.”
“I’m not the person to talk to about love life advice, but Mandy — she thinks you’re great, I do know that much. It may not hurt to say anything, you know?” Michael suggested. He felt bad about not being able to help more, but it wasn’t as though his own love life was a shining beacon of success.
“I think I might try it.” The thought made Stephen’s heart race just a little faster. “Besides, there’s always the Blue Moon Ball. Maybe one of us will get some of that fabled good luck.”