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Starving Artists by peppersweet
Chapter 18: Scrabble Smackdown
Chapter Eighteen - Scrabble Smackdown
Lovely, lovely, lovely, it was all so lovely – the next three days passed in a near unbearable smog of loveliness, boring board games, boring museums and boring strolls along the boring promenade. I moped through it all like a drunk person trying to wade through the sea. Time passed so slowly that I was convinced Rose kept putting back the clocks just to spite me. Honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me if she was; Rose did a lot to spite me over those three days. Whether she did it on purpose or not wasn’t clear. But, certainly, Rose was blind to the intense amounts of awkward that existed between me and Scorpius.
Truthfully, the awkwardness upset me – but at the same time I was all too aware that I was perpetuating it. While I guessed that I should probably man up, accept that Rose and Scorpius were going out and then get on with my life, I also guessed that I’d be a fool to just let him go. So I avoided the two of them as much as possible. Long walks on the beach? I’d ramble off into the sand dunes, camera in hand, claiming I needed to take pictures. After three days, I hadn’t even used up half a roll of film. I just wandered about on the sand and moped, half-hoping each time that Scorpius would come chasing after me.
I couldn’t take my mind off of the photograph I’d found in Rose’s purse. Of course, it was entirely my fault that Rose had it. I’d left it behind the bed at Christmas, and I’d neglected to take it back off her when I’d found out she had it. The thought of it unsettled me – the thought of that meticulous, deliberate rip along the edge, the fact that she’d ripped me out but left the other two in – it all seemed rather odd. I concluded after a bit of thinking that Rose probably hated my guts as much as I hated hers. She probably hated me for being Scorpius’ friend when she was busy hating on him on the other side of London. She probably hated me for being the unwanted third wheel spoiling her holiday. I wondered whether she knew what had gone on in the days preceding the holiday, although I knew that Scorpius wouldn’t have told her. The more time I spent with her, the more time I noticed her lack of objection at me wandering off by myself all the time- I realised that she simply didn’t like me or want me there.
Which, of course, made me want to stay all the more. As awkward as it was, I was determined to stick it out to the very end. If Rose was going down, I wanted to be responsible for it.
So, after digging in Rose’s purse on that first day, I ripped Scorpius out of the photo and left her with a lovely portrait of Gwendolyn/Raven and Tarquin. Then, I replaced the photograph in her purse and the purse on the bed, taking extra care to make it look as if it hadn’t been touched, and then walked sedately back to my room and finished my unpacking, feeling very much that I’d won some small victory over her. And then I felt a bit awkward about having a torn photo of Scorpius about my person and hid it in the bottom of my suitcase, where he continued to blink up at the muddy sole of my trainer.
This small victory aside, I didn’t really feel like I’d made any headway over those three days. Instead, I put up with the boring board games and museum visits in grim silence – although, honestly, I thought that one more game of Scrabble would make me scream – and kept telling myself that things would be alright in the end, even if I didn’t really believe it.
And whenever Rose decided to give another public display of affection by holding Scorpius’ hand or looping her arm around his, I turned away and gritted my teeth and knew that, one day, vengeance would be mine.
Honestly, I was becoming so dramatic that I was surprised I didn’t just whip out my wand and volley a few Unforgivables at Rose every time this happened.
Day three brought the fifteenth game of Scrabble since our arrival. Outside, light rain pattered against the windows, the sky a dusky grey. Mordenton-on-Sea had fulfilled all expectations by being about as exciting and sunny as a three-week old dishcloth, only three times as limp. Rose loved it. Scorpius unusually showed no emotion. I sulked, stropped, pouted, moped and brooded along the grey cobbled streets and soggy grey beach, staring as many metaphorical daggers as I could at Rose’s back.
‘Quiz,’ Rose declared proudly, placing her letters on the board. ‘And I believe that Z falls on a triple word score…’
I glowered at her as she added her points to the score sheet. She was winning by miles. Me and my paltry vocabulary were suffering, as was Scorpius, who was frowning down at the tiles he had left.
It was my turn. I glared at my own tiles, shuffled a few around, then glared again.
AEOJIUH probably wasn’t a legitimate word, but I was so bored out of my mind that I hardly cared less and put it down on the board anyway, using a handy ‘M’ from one of my earlier attempts.
‘Mayeojaye-uh,’ I said, face twisting as I tried to pronounce the word I’d just invented. ‘That’s nineteen, plus a double word score…thirty-eight points, please.’
‘Lucy, that’s not a word,’ Rose said testily. ‘You just made that up.’
‘Did not!’ I exclaimed. ‘Mayeojayeuh is so a word.’
‘No it isn’t,’ Scorpius said, sounding tired. ‘You could have put something else down with those letters like…ham.’
‘But why would I put down ham when I could put down mayeojayeuh?’
‘Because maye-whatever doesn’t exist!’ Rose fumed. Much to her chagrin, Scorpius suppressed a laugh.
‘It does exist!’
‘Really?’ Well, define it!’
‘Mayeojayeuh,’ I said, doing my best to look deep. ‘It’s…uh…a noun for…’ I looked to Scorpius for help and saw that he was leaning backwards in his chair, teetering on the verge of total backwards collapse. Inspiration struck. ‘…the feeling you get when you’re leaning back in your chair, and, uh, you think you’re going to fall back but then sort yourself out at the last minute, and then your heart starts pounding even though you’re okay and stuff and…yeah, that’s Mayeojayeuh.’
Rose snatched up the dictionary. ‘Fine,’ she said. ‘If you’re so confident-’
‘Oh, you won’t find it in there,’ I pointed at the rather slim dictionary that the holiday home had provided. ‘It’s a rather obscure word, you need, like, a massive dictionary if you want to find Mayeojayeuh.’
Scorpius let a giggle break free, and, as Rose spun around to give him a filthy look, lost his balance and had to grab onto the table, the front legs of his chair slamming back to the floor with an almighty thunk.
‘See,’ I said, casually as I could. ‘That’s Mayeojayeuh for you.’
Rose, fuming, but evidently sensing she’d lost the battle, duly added thirty eight points to my running total. It didn’t make much difference; I was still very much in last place. I’d still won, though, in my own way – not only had Rose left my epic new addition to the English vernacular on the game board, but Scorpius had laughed at one of my jokes.
A moment later, however, he was back in serious Scorpius mode as he frowned at his tiles again.
‘Sorry, this is the best I can do,’ he laid two tiles on the board to make the word ‘red’.
I considered it ironic that the wordsmith amongst us really wasn’t that good at scrabble. I mean, he was better than me, but, as a poet, by all accounts he should have been owning Rose at the game. Instead, Rose was owning us by…oh, about three hundred points.
Ten minutes later, the game was over, and Rose had steamrollered the two of us. Even with my grand addition of thirty eight for Mayeojayeuh, I still hadn’t got my points over the sixty mark. Scorpius came in second with a paltry eighty. Rose was…Rose was in another dimension, scrabble-wise.
‘That was fun,’ Rose snapped, as she packed away the game (i.e she sat and flicked her wand imperiously at the table). ‘Lots of fun.’
‘It was lovely,’ I nodded. ‘Very lovely.’
Scorpius looked between the two of us as if wondering who to disagree with first.
‘Um…I’ll make some tea, shall I?’ he said, shooting up out of his chair. Rose shooed him away and then slammed the lid back onto the box. Her eyes looked as if they could start shooting out Cruciatus curses across the room.
‘What’s the plan for tomorrow?’ I said, trying not to sound as nervous as I felt.
‘Not much, maybe we’ll just relax, go to the beach,’ she said, although she sounded so furious she might just as well have said die, Lucy, die.
I sat and twiddled my thumbs, at a total loss for words.
‘Do you know how Albus is getting along?’ Rose asked.
‘Nope, haven’t heard a word.’
An awkward silence prevailed. Rose got up and left the room on the pretext of helping Scorpius to make tea. A minute later they both returned, Rose as crabby and Scorpius as awkward and mopey as ever.
‘So. Beach tomorrow,’ I said conversationally. Rose ignored me and flicked on the wireless, tuning in instantly to some deeply dull documentary about the manufacture of self-inking quills in Essex. After frowning at the radio for a full minute, she perched demurely on the edge of the sofa and then picked up her book, immersing herself in it completely. In this time, Scorpius had stepped forward, stubbed his toe, hopped about in pain for a bit, flopped onto the sofa and then nearly upset the three mugs of tea before him.
Well, I suppose that, if anything, the two of them fulfilled that age-old adage that opposites attract.
‘So, self-inking quills,’ I said. ‘How fascinating.’
Rose turned up the volume on the radio without even looking up. Scorpius looked between us, helpless, and then turned his gaze on his shoes.
This went on for about an hour before I decided I couldn’t take anymore and stood up.
‘I’m going to bed,’ I called to nobody in particular, already halfway to the door before Rose even looked up from her book/Scorpius even looked up from his mopey staring contest with his shoes.
‘Goodnight,’ Rose called. I refused to acknowledge her, fuming as I turned out of the sitting room and into the corridor. Over an hour of near silence (apart from an introduction to the many wonders of quill manufacture in Essex) had made my anger and frustration build and build until I was certain I could easily have gone back into ninja-mode and karate-chopped the coffee table into little pieces. That said, I did honestly mean to go to bed next. No, really, I did.
I don’t know why I did what I did next. It was maybe the way that my shoes had been abandoned by the front door, all worn and exhausted and so misshaped that I could slip my feet right into them like slippers. It was maybe the way that I could see that it had stopped raining outside, and the sky had turned a deep, dusky blue dotted with stars. Or maybe it was because I’m a bit weird, the latter being the most likely explanation.
Within a minute, I’d jammed those tired shoes on my feet and burst through the front door, slamming it behind me with as much force as I could muster. Typically, though, the stiff hinges meant that it actually shut quietly, meaning I couldn’t get the whole ‘Lucy storms off in a rage’ thing I’d been aiming for.
It was when I turned from the door and saw the town in the distance, silent and lit only by streetlamps in a sickly shade of orange, that I realised what a mistake I’d made.
The air was just on the wrong side of mild; the slightest breeze sent shivers over my skin. So, great, I was cold, I had nothing to do, and, of course, I couldn’t just wander back in, I’d look like a total dolt.
So instead, I headed for the beach. I couldn’t go without getting something to keep me warm first, though, so my first action was to shimmy along the wall of the house, lean in through the kitchen window and summon a bottle of Firewhisky from the cupboard. It nearly smacked me in the face, and the ensuing ruckus was loud enough to make Rose run in from the sitting room in alarm. I crouched in the bushes and hugged the bottle to my chest, wanting nothing more than for her to just apparate back to London and leave me and Scorpius alone.
But that was never going to happen. So I stuck to my original plan and set off out of the back gate and down the cobbled lane to the beach, exhausted shoes slapping on the stones as I walked. Of course, it didn’t occur to me once that I could have summoned a sensible cardigan or jumper instead of straight alcohol for warmth purposes but, hey ho.
Once I’d had a bit to drink, the night didn’t seem as cold anymore. In fact, it was rather nice. Totally silent save for the distant rumbling of the motorway bypass, the smell of stunning flowerbeds on the breeze. The moon gleamed in the sky like a shiny silver Sickle, leaving a glimmering trail across the still sea. After about ten minutes or so of walking I reached the sand dunes and plonked myself down there, staring ahead, digging the half-empty bottle into the sand next to me.
But apart from the pretty moon and the nice drink and the mild air, it was a bloody miserable evening.
I hate to admit it, but I cried. Just a little bit.
I’m not weak, though. I’m not a wuss. I didn’t weep and wail and break things, and I certainly didn’t start shouting and sobbing spontaneously like I’d done a few days earlier. No, I just looked out at the sea and moped, fat little tears dripping silently off the end of my nose and onto my shirt. After about five minutes, I had a sort of necklace of teardrops on the collar of my top and realised that it was all probably useless. I balled my sleeve into my fist and wiped the tears away, reflecting that I probably needed more to drink, possibly also a poem.
Just when I was meditating on my internal angst and the idea of a broody poem, I heard footsteps behind me.
‘Er-’ a voice started, and from that I knew it was Scorpius; the boy practically had his own monosyllabic language of ums and ahs and ers. ‘Rose was wondering why you’d gone.’
The wittiest response I could come up with was ‘was she now?’ in a small, trembling, petulant voice.
‘Yes, well…you sort of just…ran off.’ Scorpius mumbled.
‘Did I now?’
‘Er…yeah,’ Scorpius dithered about in his usual dithery way. Then he sat beside me, drawing his knees up under his chin and staring out at the sea.
‘Rose went to bed. She asked if you’d been drinking.’
‘I haven’t,’ I said indignantly. Scorpius gave the bottle at my side a very pointed look.
‘She’s just concerned.’
‘Concerned? Don’t make me laugh.’
‘She…well…’ he dithered. ‘She wants you to have a good time.’
‘No, she wants me to piss off back to London ‘cause I’m a degenerate and a bad influence,’ I spat. ‘She’s a bitch.’
‘Well,’ he grimaced, running a hand through his hair. ‘You did just swear. And you have been drinking, you’re slurring your words.’
‘So?’ I demanded, almost poking Scorpius in the eye as I threw my hands up in exasperation. ‘You’ve done worse! You failed your Potions N.E.W.T because you got hammered the night before! You ended up upside down in a skip a couple of weeks ago because you drank so much! And the other night, you-’
‘Lucy, no,’ he winced.
‘I was going to say danced like a maniac and nearly knocked yourself out, but, yeah, whatever, you know what happened.’
I jabbed my finger at him threateningly at this point, but in my enthusiasm, I lost my balance on the unstable sand and had to throw my arms around his neck to stop myself from falling over. Remarkably, he barely batted an eyelid, probably quite used to my erratic behaviour by this point.
‘Sorry,’ I muttered, conscious of the terribly close proximity of our faces and the fact that he could probably feel my hammering heart against his shoulder. I pulled myself away.
‘You should probably go back,’ he said. ‘Rose wants-’
‘Screw what Rose wants!’ I thumped my fist on the sand for emphasis.
‘I’m – I’m just saying-’
‘Ever since we’ve got here you’ve been all Rose this, Rose that, running around taking orders from her like you’re her house elf or something – it’s awful! She’s a bully! You’re always letting people bully you!’
He stared tragically at his own feet. ‘Sorry.’
‘Shut up! That’s just it! You’re a doormat, Scorpius, a total doormat, you may as well just tattoo the word ‘welcome’ onto your forehead!’
He didn’t answer. Egged on by the drink and my internal fool, I continued.
‘Your dad bullies you, Rose bullies you, Tarquin and Raven sort of bully you and Al sort of bullies you too! You’ve got to stop doing what other people tell you to do and start taking control of your own life!’
‘Rose didn’t tell me to come after you, actually,’ he said, in a very small, very dejected voice. ‘She thinks I’m doing the washing up.’
The wind went out of my sails.
‘I’m your friend,’ he said, his voice even smaller and even more dejected. ‘Well, you’re my best friend.’
Undoubtedly, it was a nice gesture. But out of spite, I snapped.
‘This isn’t the way you treat your best friend.’
Scorpius didn’t say a word, but turned his head away. I felt my eyes burn again.
‘We should get back,’ he said eventually. ‘It’s late.’
‘It’s only ten,’ I said, sounding petulant once more. ‘I’m not moving anywhere. And we need to talk-’
‘Oh, come on-’
‘No!’ I said. ‘Can’t you just – why won’t you talk to me about anything that happened?’
Total silence; I may as well have asked the beach.
‘Things will never be right unless you tell me why – I mean, after all that before the party at the Potters’ place, I thought…I thought you liked me.’
‘I do…like you,’ he said quickly. ‘But…’
‘But?’ I repeated.
‘But…’ and his voice was smaller than ever. ‘It was dishonest.’
It felt like my stomach had plummeted through six feet of earth.
‘I mean…’ he went on. ‘Technically, I mean…I still…it was wrong to…do that when, technically…I’d never sorted things out with Rose. It was dishonest.’
‘It doesn’t matter!’ I hissed. ‘You hadn’t seen her for over a year!’
I put my head on my knees. ‘God, you’re infuriating.’
He cast his eyes to the sand again. ‘Sorry.’
‘But wasn’t it dishonest to me as well?’
Silence. Again. I couldn’t think of a single thing to say to him.
‘Lucy?’ he hazarded.
‘This is just effing unfair,’ I snapped. ‘I don’t even care anymore.’
Wasn’t the first time I’d lied to him.
‘I give up,’ Scorpius stood. ‘Come on, you have to come back. There’s only so long I can be washing up for before Rose gets suspicious.’
‘I’m not moving,’ I repeated. ‘And if you really were my best friend, you would stay.’
‘I can’t…’ he trailed off, somehow unable to finish his sentence.
‘Please,’ I felt a bit desperate. ‘Stay out. Live a little.’
‘I don’t…I don’t want to make things more awkward.’
‘How much more awkward can it get?’ I cried. ‘I’ve got to look at your face every day and pretend we didn’t, you know…’
‘Sorry,’ he said. ‘I’m going to go back-’
‘No, don’t,’ I stood too, snatching up my bottle. ‘Please-’
Scorpius looked tired, unwilling to continue. He held out a hand.
‘Come on,’ his voice was resigned. ‘We’ll just apparate back. Please.’
‘I don’t want to-’
But I took his hand anyway.
‘Okay?’ he said.
‘Yeah,’ I lied.
a/n: another short chapter...another angsty chapter...don't worry, this won't last for long. There's plenty to come, and, yes, the mood picks up after this! There's lots of awkwardness, fluff and cracky humour to come. Hope you enjoyed this mild diversion into angst (I did deliberate making this a longer chapter, but then thought - no, I like my cliffhangers and my spanners in works). I should probably also add that Scrabble is a registed trademark of Mattel and whatnot. Ooh, also, I made new chapter images (that are EVEN MORE mock-hipster) for every single chapter so far. Hope you like them. Finally, thanks to Helena, Gina & Gubby for proofreading and such.
p.s. helena - NOOT NOOT.