"Order for table 2, Vernie!"
Vern heard Tilly's chipper cry, rolling his eyes, adjusting his apron to take two tall orders of beer in hand to deliver.
"Yes Miss Tilly. But it's Vern, or Vernon, Miss Tilly," complained in a pleading tone.
"Sure thing Vernie," she winked at him, the knowing smile growing as he turned with the beers, uttering "Yes Miss Tilly" without thinking.
It became one of the many constants since Vern's European excursion detoured for an extended period of time in a sleepy village somewhere in the U.K., with the main attraction for him being a feisty, confident, argumentatively compelling barista he mostly affectionately referred to as Miss Tilly. She insisted on being called that, like she insisted on a lot of things. It was already easy to insist on things since she ran the bar while her aunt took a vacation and left things in her niece's capable hands, including hiring some help every now and again. If the psychology field ever fell through for her, there was always a place for her running the bar. Combining the two made for a very interesting summer for Tilly, and even more for Vern.
The first time they met, after a somewhat competitive discussion about territorial English language, she argued how objectively better and proper British English was. Vern, the academic American-English major, took that as a direct challenge, and let her make a case for why she was right.
Somehow, through her misguided lecture, Tilly actually made a compelling case for why she was right. From their first talk, and all the way to his summer internship of helping out at the bar and receiving further lessons, Vern had been trying to gauge the substance of her arguments. The logic behind her conclusions was always impressive, but examining the details that led to those conclusions registered to his mind differently. They weren't complicated; in-fact, they bordered on simplicity itself. Questioning her felt like questioning 2 + 2, because even that could equal "Miss Tilly is right." And the harder he tried to go over all the words she spoke that should've amounted to something not simple, how she said it, the sexy accented cadence and sound of her voice was more important than the words. Whatever she said, Miss Tilly was right, and felt so good to hear her say it.
The two beers were handed to the patrons who smiled at Vern, happy to have a visitor spend time in their town that had very few reasons for tourists to stick around, and totally amused at how a yank was serving them, with drinks or with humor. They all vaguely knew about the talk Tilly had with Vern, and how he found himself linguistically converted. They enjoyed hearing about all the English differences between the two countries, but also when it came to asking which version was 'right,' Vern deferred to the establishment boss. Business had picked up a bit since Vern started waitering at Tilly's bar, a self-fulfilling issue since he became the attraction. No one ever seemed to question how Tilly did it; she was just that one special girl in town with the persuasive touch, and not just cause she distributed liquor to the community.
"So how's Miss Tilly been to work for? Not mistreatin' ya, is she?" The older gentlemen asked with a less-than-covert twinkle in their eyes.
"No, she's treating me fine, guys. Thanks for asking. As usual."
"Of course, things have been more interesting around here with you. Gotta make sure we've got a good hostess for visitors on our hands."
"I heard that Paul. You insinuating I'm not a good hostess?" Tilly asked behind the bar.
"Would never insinuate such a thing, what do you take me for?"
"A man with an open tab, for one thing."
Vern laughed along with most of the bar, leaving the men to their drinks, and making another run to the next table.
"Hey Vern, how's it going tonight?"
"Fine, Ashley. How about yourself?"
"Pretty good. Tilly still giving you those English lessons?"
"Yes, Miss Tilly is still helping me out with those. She's a great teacher."
"Is it true that you're a teacher yourself?"
"Heh, not really. Going to school right now. The plan is to be an English teacher someday. Hopefully I'll make it."
"I'm sure you will. Keep working, keep your ears and eyes open, you'll be done just like *snap* that."
Vern smiled at the patron's warm sentiment.
"I appreciate that, though sometimes it would be nice if it could all be over in a finger snap."
"A what now?"
Vern looked as confused as the older woman he just served.
"...a finger snap?"
Confusion persisted on her face.
"You know, *snap*."
"Oh, you mean clicking your fingers."
Ashley smiled silently herself while Vern was momentarily in his own space, having encountered another jargon difference. Ashley looked in Tilly's direction who caught her gaze. Ashley's eyes subtly shifted to Vern, and then winked at Tilly, who smiled and winked back. Tilly's silent reputation around the small town of being especially persuasive while attending university was pure speculation or just a clever attribute, depending on who you asked. Most were willing to think of it as a silly rumor, fits of wild fancy from the inebriated. Others, like Ashley, believed more that Tilly had quite a bit up her sleeve that she was learning, but very good at. The older woman felt privileged enough to see her use some of her conversational skills in playful ways, sometimes diffusing situations in her family's bar. She enjoyed seeing what Tilly could do, especially with someone like Vern, who seemed to be getting a special dose of Tilly's skills.
"Vernie, can you get the special order for me in the back?"
"Sure, Miss Tilly," Vern called back. He left a smiling Ashley to head back to the small storage closet somewhat hidden behind the bar. There were a few small supplies kept there, napkins, toothpicks, peanuts, common bar essentials that weren't liquor. He preferred retrieving the special orders from this closet instead of lugging liquor up from the basement. The special order Vern was used to was a chair facing a wall. Lighting the overhead light, he stared at the wall forward. Taped to the wall was a line of speech Tilly had lectured him on.
He read the Americanized words, spelled with a z, carefully, his eyes remaining open despite his posture sluggishly kept up only to continue reading the same words in their more British form.
He spoke each set of words three times, letting the zzz's whisk him further off into open-eyed sleep, and the sss's open him up to being a good, receptive student for Miss Tilly. He smiled as he imagined her musically mischievous voice reciting them along with him. The longer he imagined it, the more real it became, feeling the warm, familiar presence next to him. A soft arm draping over his shoulder, a roaming hand teasing a slowly breathing chest, soft lips speaking into his ear, the softness of the words remodeling academic thought structure like soft clay, to where it became Miss Tilly's schoolhouse. It was a place of learning, of growing into the role of dutiful pupil more and more. She loved teaching almost as much as he loved being instructed. She would always giggle when the effect of her lesson would visibly tent the apron in his lap, like a young, adult schoolboy crushing on his year older teacher. Cropped blonde hair, full figure, nice eyes, and an assertive intellect shaped the epitome of his wettest of dreams lately. Previous, practically prudish relationships taught Vern to suppress how hard some smart girls made him so hard so quickly. It felt heavenly for Miss Tilly to encourage those erections she gave him, connecting them to his submission, making them incrementally stronger every time.
"Ssssssubjgate," he would repeat three times, in sync with Miss Tilly's voice, programmed deep into his mind, the third, final time would wake him back to return to help Tilly maintaining the bar, believing the special order was already retrieved or completed for his hostess.
"So, what did Ashley say that confused you? You looked a little out of it."
"Not much really; just learned the common British word for snap."
"You mean click?"
"So you mean the proper English word for *Snap*?"
"Yes Miss Tilly, the proper British version of the word. I've never heard snap used that way. Is that common over the whole country?"
"Depends on the who and where you are. Some people will say snap, though that's a little harsher if used a certain way. Most people in this town say click for sure. It sounds better to me."
"I think it'll take time for me to get used to that."
Vern turned to see Tilly look at him strangely, with a smile, but obviously with other thoughts circulating.
"Oh I think it will take less time than you think. Wait here."
He watched as she moved to head up to the apartment upstairs. He wondered what was so important upstairs that needed to be gotten at that moment. Since coming under her employ, she would always make him go get something from upstairs and bring it back down.
He waited for a few minutes, looking towards the bar to make sure no new customers were coming in. Distraction seemed to set in easy though as a sound turned him back to the stairs. A particular sound emanating from a pair of black ankle boots against sturdy wooden stairs, purchased for Tilly on his originally day-off sightseeing trip to Edinburgh. As easy as it was easy to buy a ticket for her too, it was even easier to make the trip a shopping opportunity, to gift his new adoring acquaintance, no sight in the city more appealing than the barista modeling her new footwear, from blonde hair to the bottoms of her boots. Price was no issue for what she had her eyes on, and they both loved the solid clicking sound she made with every step. Neither knew they would come in handy for a future lesson though.
The small concern for his boss switching out of comfortable work flats to high heeled boots was lost the longer she descended the stairs, the sight and sound of her gait captivating him. Tilly smiled as his eyes never left the footwear until she spoke up.
"Would you call the noise my boots are making snaps?"
"No, those are clicks."
She snapped her fingers a few times next to his ear.
"Are you sure?"
Confidence evaded Vern's mind as Miss Tilly posed the question.
"What about these?"
Tilly snapped her fingers again, this time to the tune of her boots tapping the ground to produce more clicks.
"Were those so-called snaps, or definitely clicks?"
The distinction became harder and harder to make, loving both sounds.
"C'mon, Vernie. Answer Miss Tilly. Snaps?"
"Or...*Snap* *Click* clicks?"
Tilly, with a brightened expression, vigorously shook her head like the excited school teacher watching her struggling pupil on the verge of the right answer.
"Are you sure?"
His mind didn't miss the tone of satisfaction, belying the need for a question. He knew what to say, but something still stopped her logic from solidifying completely.
"Yes Miss Tilly?"
How he could still question it impressed Tilly. She'd figured she'd used enough hypnosis techniques by now to be past that, but some of that arrogant surety in his mind persisted, which made her smirk.
"They really did a number on you in those American schools, didn't they? No worries though Vernie, Miss Tilly is here to help. In fact..."
She looked toward the bar she was supposed to be running.
"I think several people might be willing to help with this lesson. Maybe we should poll them on what *Snap* *Click* is."
Tilly leaned into Vern's ear to whisper more suggestive words for the polling to come. Vern became more aware again, slipping out of the dreamy veneer and into one of slightly annoyed, reserved, humble, trying not to smile at how yet again, Tilly convinced him something correctly learned in America turned out not so correct because of Miss Tilly's logic. He still tried thinking around it, but still came up short for any counter-reasoning. After a full minute of trying, he looked at his teacher with a dash of indignation on his face. She grinned at that, nodding her head toward the bar, urging both of them to get back to work.
The sound of Tilly's clicking boots seemed to drown out other sounds as they returned, his face not showing how good made him feel on the inside. He sighed the moment he got back to the bar, nearly forgetting that he bet incorrectly on his logic beating Tilly's.
"Everyone, next rounds are on me!" They all were less concerned with his noticeable attempt at their accent and more happy for their next drinks to come.
"With a small condition, want to poll you all about a word choice all you fine folk and yanks like me might use differently. Be patient as we deliver drinks and poll you."
"What happened Tilly, did the lad lose a bet?" Someone addressed the caretaker, who simply winked back at the man.
The blonde winked at Vern too as she started filling glasses, making him roll his eyes as adjusted his apron to get ready to serve. He was happy to see her not only getting the drinks ready, but grabbing a service tray to help out herself. As they moved to the first table together to replenish drinks, he found it easier to focus on service, the noise the patrons made shut out against the deliberate clicks of Tilly's boots. His mind measured it like a ticking second hand of a watch, remembering how she combined the sounds of clicking heels and clicking fingers...snapping? Internally he questioned which was the right word.
"Thank you for participating in our international polling," Tilly regarded the table with Vern at her side. "Our American friend here seems to think this *Click* is called a snap, even around here. What say you, good peoples?"
"Who calls it a snap?"
Tilly smiled looking to Vern.
"The American survey says..." she spoke with anticipation, deliberately rubbing her thumb and middle finger together in mischievous circles, before loudly clicking, the sound isolated like boot clicks. He noticed others at the table were clicking, trying to get him to answer, but only Tilly's rung of any importance.
"Click," Vern spoke with a higher concentration of assurance over confusion.
"That sounds like a proper American survey for once," someone joked, registered at the end of Vern's awareness as chuckled at the joke lightly made at his expense, smiling along with them.
The working pair moved back to the bar to get the next set of drinks, male ears continuously enamored by the clicking boots, female eyes twinkling at the reactions beneath his surface he was having.
Suddenly he heard fingers click in his direction. A stern, grinning Tilly regarded him. "Daydreaming, are we? Focus Vernie, plenty of orders to get to."
"Yes, Miss Tilly."
"Daydreaming practically is focusing," was the internal argument while moving dutifully, honing in on the boot clicks, wondering if he should do something to prompt another finger click.
It was a moderate speed to deliver all the drinks, slowed only by the deliberate enjoyment of the sound of boots, prepping Vern for surveys at each table. Always the same responses, always with Miss Tilly turning to Vern with a "the American survey says..." his eyes watching those clicking fingers circling each other, surprising him once they produced that click that made him admit to what that sound's proper referral every time.
Vern's reciting the sound joined the chorus of boots and fingers, utterly convinced there was no better descriptive word for it. With nearly every table finished, Tilly decided to lay it on just a little thicker on their way to the back of the bar, feet and fingers working in tandem.
"Don't you just love it?"
"Educated again? Converted again? Corrected again?"
"Knowing Miss Tilly has taught you well again?"
The programmed humbled look was slipping away, face softening, wanting to react like his insides were.
"Yes Miss Tilly."
"Just one more table, and I think you never have to be surveyed on this issue again. But wake up Vernie, one last table to serve."
"Yes Miss Tilly."
The young servers approached Ashley's table, both noticing her knowing smirk.
"Enjoying the show Ashley?" Tilly greeted.
"Are you sure it's not a parade?" Ashley replied. "And you're sure you're not having too much fun, at his expense?"
"I'm ok," Vern spoke, surprising them both. "Learning experiences are usually fun for me. Maybe Miss Tilly will learn something someday."
The latent pride in his voice for using such wit was evident to both chuckling women.
"Oh I am, Vernie. Each lesson teaches me more and more how you long to be taught, shone the light, to speak proper." Tilly patted his shoulder as he chuckled sheepishly, lessening the veil hiding her control for someone who was more in the know than most townsfolk. As late as it was getting, the round courtesy of Vern was most of the patrons' last, so by the time they got to Ashley, the bar was nearly empty.
"Sounds like you're getting quite the education up there at university, dear," she told the junior college student.
"And fortunately, education doesn't stay at university. Otherwise, phrases like 'the smarter you are, the deeper you go' would never leave a campus, or just not appear in places like this."
Ashley nodded gently as she closed her eyes and took in a deep breath like she was basking in a cool, spring breeze. She opened her eyes, attentive, but a little less focused than before.
Vern's eyes nearly bugged out of the sockets, it never having occurred to him that Miss Tilly would be anyone else's instructor. He started to mumble something unintelligible, trying to get something coherent out of his mouth.
The sound of fingers isolated his hearing beyond even his own voice. The only thing prevalent was Miss Tilly's fingers and words.
"She looks brilliant, doesn't she? Contemplated and all the more calm, collected, and relaxed for it. Of all the people in town, Ashley has always been nice and curious about what my fancy education has been teaching me. She's all the smarter for it, knowing I do more than just basic psychology. She loves refreshers like this every time I'm back on holiday, and whenever her subconscious mind wants her to, she'll remind herself that the smarter she is, the deeper she'll go."
Being mentioned in the third person with her prompting still got Ashley to breathe deeply, eyes closed, and go pleasantly deeper into a soft trance.
"I'm sure her secret is safe with you, just like your secret is safe with us."
Vern barely heard the last customers say goodnight as she waved to them, before turning her attention back to her pupils.
"Ow," Tilly complained, hand reaching down to her feet before stopping.
"Vernie, do me a favor and slip off my boots for me, will you?"
A fresh click made the request that much easier to follow, slipping out of his chair to remove the stylish high-heeled boots. Placed neatly next to the chairs, he took the hint and started gently massaging the pain out of her feet.
"Nice to be reminded of why heels are a no-no on the job. I wish they didn't look, and sound, so good but hurt so bad. Might need another trip to Edinburgh to see about a better pair."
"Yes Miss Tilly," Vern said automatically, not realizing she was talking more to herself.
"Such a good boy. That secret might be slipping around here, but we'll never tell them how deep it goes for you. I know why you couldn't help but bring your American English here, why you still test it against proper English. You love to be corrected, put in your place, made right under Miss Tilly's tutelage."
"Yes Miss Tilly."
"Even deep-seeded words like snap have little to no connection to *Click*, because *Click* isn't a snap. *Click* *Click* is a..."
"Click," he mumbled happily, rubbing the busy night out of her dainty feet.
"Mmm, that's right. *Click* is click. The only snap here is when you snap back under my control, whenever you feel the urge to test it more silly American English. The only reason you love to do it is because you're always in awe of how easily you're snapped back, just like *Click* that."
Tilly looked over the faces of Vern and Ashley, flush with the rush of control she loved like nothing else.
"Maybe I should formally change my major to education; I seem to be so good at it," Tilly laughed to herself.
"Ok Ashley, time to wake up. It's late and we both need sleep."
Ashley blinked her eyes open, coming back to herself as she paid for her drinks and hugged Tilly on her way out, sleepy enough to miss Vern at her feet.
"Don't forget, 'the smarter you are, the deeper you go,'" Tilly gifted Ashley with one more deep breath before her walk home.
"Be safe out there,"
"Of course Tilly."
"As for you," Tilly sat back in her seat, feet back in Vern's hands. "Shall we put it to bed?"
Multiple clicks in his face blinded him to the world, whispering "click, click, click, click" to whomever would be pleased to hear it.
"Very good Vernie. I'll be upstairs," she hopped out of her chair, grabbing her heels to before heading upstairs.
"Clean up well like I've taught you, and don't forget to handle that...special order...before coming up yourself."
"Yes Miss Tilly."
Both teacher and instructor began preparing for their evening, completely satisfied in another successful lesson.