A couple of days later I was in my room after lectures. I put the phone down in silence; it was all too real for me, far too real. I heard her voice; I heard the pain that she was in. This wasn’t right, my mum’s invincible, she can’t be this sick. She said she’s due for an operation soon, but she can barely breathe now. I feel so selfish for coming here, for not being there to help her. Tears threaten at the corners of my eyes.
The phone ringing again jolts me out of my state. I guess it’s time for dinner; I grab a cap and make my way down to the café to meet up with the guys. I pull the peak down low to hide my eyes; I don’t want them to see that I could cry at any minute. I stand in the queue with them in silence.
“Bloody hell Vez, I didn’t know you were there! S’not like you to be quiet, what’s up?” I shake my head and continue to stare dead ahead, they went to ask again.
“Don’t push the subject Nick,”
I felt two hands on my shoulders as I saw her; she was crouching in front of me in an effort to see under my hat. Her eyebrows rose questioningly. I didn’t respond I just forced my hands in my pockets. She didn’t say a word and just took me in her arms again. Right there in the middle of the cafeteria, one day someone would catch on.
As we all sat I ate in silence, too afraid that I would snap at anyone. She sat opposite me stealing glances if I looked up high enough.
“You’re being quiet down there. So what’s wrong with you then?” She jumped in and saved me,
“We’re just hungry that’s all. Can’t talk and eat at the same time.” I turned back to my meal.
“Come on, turn that frown upside down,” Nick, the comic, the clown, really getting on my last nerve. I placed down my cutlery and turned to face him, I glared at him dead in the eye.
“Oh I know that look!” There she goes, trying to make me smile. I hate it when she does that. I just want her more.
He backed down and let me eat in peace. I finished my meal leaving a piece of cake on my tray. I really wasn’t in the mood for sweet things; in all honesty I hadn’t really wanted to eat. I kept my head low just waiting for them to finish. In my line of sight the cake was moving. Or more precisely, it was being moved. Alex, using her fork was pushing the small plate towards me. I looked up at her,
“Cake good,” She held up her own as proof. She wouldn’t stop pushing it around until I took a bite. She just flashed me a childlike grin and continued to finish hers.
The guys finished up soon after, we all clambered into the lifts. The large doors opened on the third floor.
“Oh thanks guys, don’t push the second button then.”
I walked out of the lift and headed for the stair doors but a hand on my arm stopped me.
“Hey, calm down. Come on, come and have a drink and tell me what’s going on with you.” I looked at her; those eyes basically threatened a beat down if I didn’t follow her. I sighed and gave in, it’s the last time I swear it.
“Maybe later.” I shrugged her arm off and returned to my room. Someday I will learn how to say no, I found myself knocking on her door about two hours later. Sitting down on her bed she promptly poured to hearty glasses of Baileys. My tongue involuntarily wet my lips as she handed me the glass.
“So are you going to tell me what’s up or am I just going to have to hug you some more?” I smiled a little which earned a poke in the ribs. She stood in front of her mirror trying to fix her already perfect hair. She said something like, if she straightened it now she wouldn’t have to in the morning. I never really cared; her long black curly hair had a kind of Latino thing to it.
I stared blankly at the floor, too scared of getting caught staring at her. She didn’t push me, she wants to know, but like in my own time. She’s so patient; I don’t know how she can do that. I wouldn’t have dropped the subject until someone struck out, I guess I’m a little thick headed like that.
“It’s…it’s my mum.” She stopped fixing her hair, “She’s kinda ill, and she’s not really getting any better.” She swore under her breath, “I can’t really afford to go home and see her either. She’s got an operation coming up, and I’m here.” I swallowed half the glass in one go, her eyes widened flashing with worry.
“Well you know, if its money you need, I can always lend you some to get home.” She had stopped with her hair completely, her entire attention on me. I shifted uncomfortable; I knew she was looking at me. I didn’t come here for pity, she wanted to know. I went to continue, but a loud knock on the door shook both of us out of our reverie.
Great, in he strolled pissed as a fart. Nick, beer in hand and friend behind him rolled into the room. His words were unintelligible but he was messing with Alex’s hair, I couldn’t sit here and watch him. I glared at him, but her glare at me cemented me to the spot. He joked and laughed at his own comedy. He tried to introduce his friend to me, but I really had no intention of even remembering his face let alone his name.
I sat in silence the entire time he was in the room. It took another knock ten minutes later to break my thoughts.
“Hey, hey people.” It was Rosanna from down the hall, finally someone who I could talk with.
“I wanna go get a kebab from down the road, anyone else?” I wasn’t hungry but I was sure up for the ride, anything to get away from the most uncomfortable evening yet.
“Nah, not hungry, but I’ll go with.” Rosanna smiled and nodded as I left the room with her.
We were gone for about half an hour. In the car I had told her everything about the phone call all the way up to prick and co, coming to interrupt me and Alex. Stupidly I was more annoyed that I didn’t get my hug more than anything else. Somehow I think my priorities are a little out of whack. She took it all in with little retort, not picking sides or backing one up over another.
It was when we came home my heart sank. As we walked into the room Alex just smiled up at me from her position of basically laying on Nick on her bed. They were still fully clothed, but the site repulsed me. He had stormed in here and took her from me; I was about ready to knock the little northern bastard out.
I was basically ignoring the conversation between the three on the bed and passing up the lukewarm kebab meat proffered to me. It was only when he started making jokes at me I finally paid attention. But no one went to stop him, or even defend me. He lay on her bed and mocked me. I folded my arms across my chest and balled my fists out of sight. As he laughed out loud at his own jokes I saw Rosanna lean across to Alex and whisper something in her ear.
“Well guys, it’s getting late and Rosanna wants her bed. So good night guys.” She rose off the bed and hugged me and Alex, glared at Nick and left the room.
“Yeah I think I’m gonna do the same so, if you don’t mind people,” Alex stood up and made a shooing motion with her hands. I got the message, but I wasn’t leaving before he did. She had to stand there hands on hips forcing him out with her gaze to get him to move.
“Ok, ok. Good night” He threw his arms around her knocking them both off balance. I moved quickly to catch them and set them upright. I made no effort to hide the distain on my face; I followed close behind him to the door.
He stumbled out of the room and back towards his, suddenly I felt this gentle pull on my arm. Alex pulled me back into the room; she was looking me square in the eye. This isn’t right; I ripped my head out of her vision and tried so hard to look anywhere but at her. She pulled me into one of her many hugs but all too brief for my liking.
“Hey, you get bored, come back up ok? I’ll leave my door open.” I just nodded.
“What did Rosanna say to you? I know it was about me, I saw you look at me when she said it.” I didn’t force the question, merely implied curiosity.
“She just told me to separate you two, that’s all.” I shook my head and bid her good night once more.
There she was, looking out for me again. She knew I wanted to smack that little prick’s face, but she stopped it. God where was she all those years ago, she could have stopped me from making so many damn awful choices. The consequences then were petty, but now I had my entire future riding on this degree. And she knew it, but she cared. That’s what got me, or at least if she didn’t she was a scarily good actor. She had made me believe so much, that she was my friend, that she was concerned, that she cared. Sometimes I could believe she loved me, but then that’s just me being me and reading too much into nothing.
My laptop had just booted up as I threw my things down on my bed. I had been out in the town shopping for Christmas presents, and returned fruitless. I really had no plans for the evening other than maybe a movie and some sleep. It had been one of the guys birthday the night before and we were still reeling from that. But I had promised some people from my course that we would go to the union, even if it was only for a few drinks.
I didn’t really want to go up there on my own, but none of the guys were interested and Alex was at work all day. I sent her a few messages anyway to see if she was up for it. A couple of hours later she sent one back,
“Maybe, just for a few then I’m coming home.” Well she was gonna go, I suppose it’s better than nothing. Turns out that this evening was a “school disco” theme night, spot on!!!
Later in the evening by the time Alex returned from work I was about ready to go, a quick spritz of the smelly stuff and grabbed my coat and it was time. I had no idea what I was thinking while I headed to her room, something, maybe nothing. I shook it off as I knocked on the door.
“Yo yo!” I rolled my eyes and walked in,
“A simple come in would suffice, hey guys.” Rosanna, Alex and Matt were sat on her bed watching a film. Waves of greeting all round.
“Hey, looking spiffy there Vez, so what time are you guys heading out?” Rosanna asked.
“Well,” I looked over to Alex, “Soon.” She held up her hands in surrender,
“Ok, ok, I’m going!” Well at least she was smiling. I tried to hide a grin as she jumped into her bathroom with a few clothes.
Three minutes later and like stars in their eyes there she was. She walked out of the room, hair perfect; make up and oh my God just how good looking. This girl never ceased to amaze me, and she was coming out with just me this evening. Wow, that’s cool.
“Woah Alex!” Matt appeared to be picking up his jaw, I was trying to look every where else but at her. It would give everything away, of course that’s if she didn’t know already.
“What?” She shrugged her shoulders as she brushed that perfect hair.
“He’s just trying to say you look good is all.” She flashed the cutest smile at me, and I returned it. “Anyway, all set? You need a jacket or something cos you can have one of mine? It is kind of you know, damn cold being November and all.” Great babbling, smooth, velvety smooth.
“Nah, it’s cool. Thanks anyway, besides if it’s cold you need one too. I got my jacket. So let’s go?” I opened the door and Alex, Rosanna and Matt left.
We were walking down the hall to the lifts when Peppa jumped out of her room at us, one moment for a brief introduction. Peppa is a girl who lives on the third floor with all the guys, I have no idea what her real name is and she’s kinda cool. That over with.
“Hey guys, help me out.” I turned to Alex as she turned to me, we both shrugged in unison.
“Sure what’s up Peppa?” I was scratching my head, she looked ready to go, what did she need help with?
“It’s just I don’t know what bra to wear,” My eyebrows shot up as Alex tried her best not to gut laugh. “I mean, what’s better for the school girl look you know, white or black under a white shirt?”
“Well,” I began, “You got the black one on now?” She nodded, I lifted my hand, “Let the certified expert have a look here,” I was blatantly staring at her chest, “Yeah black’s good. There you go sorted. See you there?” She nodded running back inside.
The two of us continued down the hall way, just as we got to the lifts Rosanna stepped out from the kitchen, “Peppa said she was looking for you two,”
“Yeah we just saw her,” Alex replied,
“Yep, best excuse I’ve ever had to stare at her tits.” With the best straight poker face you’ve ever seen, meanwhile Alex is trying to pick herself up off the floor for laughing. Rosanna just looked at me shocked.
“Oh man!” Alex just held up her hand for a high five, “Classic!” I returned the gesture as we walked into the lift laughing.