The next day I shuffled down to the canteen, need food, need to feel better! The dreaded hangover finally got me. Taking my tray I surveyed the room for a spare table, great none. There are a few spare places so I guess I gotta shack up with some people. There’s a table, go, come on legs work.
I kinda try to ask them but they look in the same state as me, a few unintelligible grunts between the three of us and they welcome me to their table. See not that hard, new people good, keep it up. My minds gone all Mum on me as she isn’t here to tell me what to do.
“So hi, I’m Vez, I live on second floor,” I sort of send a small ish wave as they smile.
“Hey, I’m Alex and this shmuck is Lewis, I’m sure he would talk, but we kinda had a heavy night.” I smile a little and Lewis tries to wave but just drops his hand. We were all a little rough so finishing breakfast, I had places to be. I made my good byes and left.
A few weeks later I got a message from Rachel asking me if I wanted to join her for a night out with some people. By now I had made a few mates on my course. In particular a guy named Phil; he was kind of a ‘mature’ student. He wasn’t old, just older than me is all. He’s been around the block a few times and knows his stuff. A real down to earth guy with a similar sense of humour to mine.
We decided that we both felt like drinking that evening and what better excuse to meet up with Rachel again?
Later that evening I met up with Phil in the Indian arms, “Hey hey Phil, how’s it going?” He grins and sups on his pint. She should be here soon and can introduce her friends so we don’t look like complete losers.
Sure enough in she soon turned up with her friends in tow, my eyes lit up when I saw her. If the last time we were out was anything to go by tonight was going to be awesome. Her friends soon followed behind.
“Guys, this is Vez. Vez this is Lewis and Alex, you’ve met apparently?”
Her face held a look of pure surprise. Odd though, if I lived in the same building I was soon to meet them at some point one would surmise. Ah screw it, there’s beer to be drunk and women to be had, enough with the thinking thing, it’s only ever got you in to trouble.
I waved enthusiastically to them all before introducing them to Phil. And that’s when it all went down hill through no fault of his or my own. But Rachel was dumbstruck, her face shone as she talked to him the entire time. I had to keep telling myself to calm down; I didn’t think I was saying out loud until Alex thought I was talking to her.
“Huh? Oh no, sorry, mumbling to myself. Got to remember to do something later. No big.” I just smiled at her. She smiled back satisfied, and grinned a little when I winked.
“So when are we moving on Rachel this place is getting kinda boring fast.” Lewis was impatient, in a funny kid like way.
“Aww, Lewis just wants to party!” Alex ruffled his hair as he grinned like a little boy, in a kind of funny way. Something I hoped I’d get to see again, he and Alex were cool people and at least they replied when I talked to them, always a bonus.
“Like your style man, let’s get to the V bar! Pound a shot?” I held my hand out for a high five, he just jumped up and down holding onto the hand instead, I couldn’t help but laugh. This could be more fun than I thought.
“Yeah come on guys! Vez says go!” They all just rolled their eyes and finished their drinks and in no time we were flashing our ID at the doorstep of the V bar.
It’s not the best place to drink in Portsmouth, but a quid a shot it was quick and cheap to get hammered. And as the good role setting students we were we wasted no time.
Returning to the table I carried six shots of what they lovingly dubbed, ‘lethal weapon’ and oh God it is! Whiskey, brandy and something else I wasn’t sure. Three for me three for Lewis. Over the music we stared each other down, shot one, shot two, shot three, and breathe, and suppress the sudden urge to vomit. Oh yeah, I’d be doing this again some time I was sure of it. But right now the thought of it was enough to turn even my hardened stomach and make my liver cry for mercy.
Alex and Rachel watched us in pure amusement. I guess on some primary level both Lewis and me were trying to impress them. I’m not sure about Lewis, he’s not all over Alex but he’s damn close. Maybe there’s something and then again maybe there’s nothing. But we both grinned like a couple of school kids at the two women. But I lost my smile when the DJ changed the track.
“Oh my God, I love this song come on!”
Rachel grabbed Alex and began to grind against her there and then. No one appeared to care so I held myself back, but I couldn’t help the pang of jealousy hit me. Biting it back I decided we move on to the next bar, after all if the dance floor is that crowded she has to dry hump her here I’d rather be somewhere else.
Somehow out of all of this I’d become a part of Alex and Lewis’ little group of buddies. There was Ed, a blonde indie – rock lover. Jamie, a health nut, but funny non the less. Rich, the 6 foot gentle giant- wants to be a copper some day. And least of all Rosanna, funny, loud but definitely unforgettable.
We all spent time hanging out, drinking out and crashing. Hopefully these were the kind of people I’d be with for a long time. They were fun, and we got on. I can’t remember how it happened. It just sort of did. And now, they’re the first people I see in the day, and the last I see at night. We’re a family, and to put it bluntly Alex is totally the parental role!!
She doesn’t have to be, but she’s there for people in a mess, stops fights and makes sure people are where they have to be. I tell you, it’s like our parents hired her to keep us all in line. And if I tell you a secret, I’d fancied her from the first day I saw her with everyone in the cafeteria. And now, we hung out. It wasn’t exactly what I wanted, but hell it was definitely a close second.
Walking home from the club should be a fairly uneventful and not particularly noteworthy occurrence. But more and more recently it was changing. Out of all of us, she decided to walk with me. I mean really, she walked with me; I had to bite my lip just to make sure it was real. Satisfied with the slight wince of pain I smiled inwardly even though we all shivered in the December winds.
“You ok Vez?” Alex turned to my blank expectant face, that look of concern on her face made me want to wrap my arms around her and promise that nothing could ever go wrong.
“Yeah, why do you ask?”
She just smiled and shrugged as we continued. And then something happened, something that broke all of my resolve. It was only the small sober percentage that stopped me. I felt it against my hand, it was hers. Her fingers intertwined with mine, a small squeeze brought me back from my inner monologue. Yeah this was real, and what’s more, no one blinked an eyelid. Maybe they just couldn’t see, after all the sleeves from my trench were pretty long.
Something so simple, and so ordinary and yet so beautiful. I thought that nothing could have spoiled the moment, but then I wasn’t always right. Another group of people were making their way up the same path. I could hear the sniggers and the jibes already. But something I heard them say just didn’t click. They thought I was a man; oh this was going to be interesting. If I just didn’t speak, maybe this would all blow over.
“Hey, hey sweet stuff,” The look of pure disgust on Alex’s face was undeniable, “What’s a good looking thing like you doing with a bunch of losers like those?” I felt the anger rise up in me.
“Watch it Matt, I think her little goth boy’s getting all pissy!”
A loud roaring laughter came from the drunken teens. I heard the guys behind me move forwards, and stop? Why had they stopped? I felt that squeeze on my hand again, so many things said in one action. I knew it was going to be ok, just as long as I kept cool. However, this didn’t appear as if it was going to last much longer.
The largest dolt lurched forwards until his face was centimetres from mine. I could smell the stink of beer and cigarettes just from the air that circulated. But oh God when he breathed on me I nearly retched.
“Don’t tell me out of all the fellas in this town you picked this one?” I slipped my hand from the comfort of hers; leaning back I brought my head down firmly on the bridge of his nose. He stumbled back yelling out and trying to catch the blood in his hands.
“That’s enough!” All faces turned to me,
“It’s a fucking girl! A pair of bloody dykes!” They all went to move forwards, but the fool with the broken nose fell back on them.
“Just push off and leave her alone.” My voice boomed with authority and Dutch courage.
I stepped forward shifting my weight from foot to foot in anxiety, I cracked the bones in my neck in preparation. I was ready for this fight. And then I felt it again, that warm comfort in my hand, the pressure of her body against mine. She was speaking I was sure of it, “Let’s just go ok, it’s really not worth it Vez. Please, let’s just go.”
My features softened as I let go of the breath I had no idea I has holding. She led the way around the group that were still trying in vain to stem the nose bleed. The guys behind took up the pace as we returned. I finally began to calm down until I could hear someone running towards us. I could feel a growl in my throat as I released her; I inhaled deeply as I span so fast my coat floated around my legs. My fists balled and ready, my eyes dead straight and emotionless.
The moron stopped in his tracks not sure whether to continue or run away with his tail between his legs. I held my posture, commanding and unafraid. Even when I felt her pull on my arm I wouldn’t move, not this time. They were asking for it, they had insulted her, they had baited me. And like the animalistic creature that I am I took it, win or lose they were going to know they had been in a fight tonight.
He readily made his decision and mirrored my pose in an attempt to intimidate me. She pulled on my arm again, this time I looked at her. My cold eyes met hers, the fear I saw hurt me. What was she scared of, this or me? No, it wasn’t fear, it was something but she wasn’t afraid. A smile spread across her lips, she wasn’t going to let me fight, but she’d let me keep my pride. She latched herself well and truly on me still in the gaze of the drunkard.
She tussled her hair and undid her coat a little to give a hint to the very little that she wore underneath. Her right hand at the back of my head stroking her nails through my short hair. My impression was failing, her left across my abdomen as she positioned herself under my left arm. I held her possessively still staring at the man who was now ogling her.
“You want some of this?” She implied herself to the obviously excited moron. He nodded panting like a dog in heat. She smiled and held onto me closer. “Well, you’re going to have to go through her,” His face shot up to mine again as the growl escaped my throat. I could have sworn I heard him yelp as he ran away.
The contact between us had become unbearable. I was going to have to let her go, else ravage her in the street. And as much as her display could mislead you, Alex did not play that game. But she was certainly playing this one, and very well. She kept a firm hold until we turned the corner to our apartment blocks. I let her go in silence, I winced at the loss; but it was for her own good. I heard her laughing with the guys and I’m pretty sure I heard a few jibes or commendations. Not sure what.
We entered the lifts, and pressed the buttons for our respective floors. I waved my good byes as I left the lift and made my way to my room. My inner musings blanked out the soft padding of footsteps behind me. But as I turned the key in my lock I saw her out of the corner of my eye, ignoring her I entered. Lo and behold she crept in as the door idled to a close. She thought she had done it, as she released her breath I turned on her.
“Don’t you have your own bed to go to?” I pinned her against the wall by my door. I was already riled; I didn’t need any more encouragement. She winced trying to predict my move. Bless her; she had only known me for two months. Enough to trust me as a friend, but not enough to second guess me. I held her wrists in my hands as my eyes questioned her.
“So is this what happens to all the girls that come to your room?” there was a little bit of spite in her jibe, the venom hit me and once more I crumbled. I let her go and moved away breathing deeply in an effort to calm my beating heart. Undoing my coat I tossed it into the corner, I unbuttoned my cuffs in silence as she stood leaning against my wall.
“Look Alex, I don’t wanna talk about it ok, when I get like this, I’m not really much fun to be around. I’m sorry if my antics ruined your evening.” I tried to add some closure to it, to make her leave even if that’s not what my body wanted.
“You know they’re wrong don’t you?” I raised my head to look at her, “About what they said.” I still was confused. She walked over to me and wrapped her arms around me.
“I don’t quite follow, if it’s about the gay jibe don’t worry I’ve heard them all before they don’t bother me.”
She went to say something but stopped, she just tightened her grip. I felt my arms move of their own accord to rest around the small of her back. She didn’t stop squeezing until she felt me loosen in her arms. But she didn’t let go, I rested my head against her shoulder as I let the anger go. How did she do that? How did she take everything and just make me drop it just like that? Oh who cares, she was here holding onto me, who knew if this was going to ever happen again.
“Do me a favour,” She looked up at me, “Go to bed and dream of good things.” She let me go without looking away once. She was waiting for something, a small smile played on my lips, she grinned back and left the room. As soon as the door closed it all came back. I wasn’t angry at her, or even the morons outside. I was angry at myself, how could I possibly be reading too much into this. She was just a friend, just looking out for me. Just making sure I was ok. That was all.