I returned to my flat, exhausted, wet from rain and trying to fight back tears. Teddy had not left the Leakey Cauldron until my last half an hour of work. He’d left without speaking to me and I felt completely guilty. That’s what I hated most about fighting with Teddy; he always made it my fault, as if he could never have done wrong. Couldn’t he see that I just wasn’t ready for a relationship with him? I resented the fact that he didn’t respect my decision to be with Sam. I was trying to get my life back in order, but it was so hard when my best friend was doing his best to stop me.
I checked my watch and realised I only had an hour left until Sam arrived. He was going to cook dinner for me this evening as a treat… I wasn’t quite sure what I had done to deserve it, but it was a most welcome gesture. I didn’t even have to restock my rather empty fridge as Sam was taking care of everything. This was another advantage of having Sam as a boyfriend; he was organised.
As I stepped into the hot shower I realised what I had been doing… I had actually been comparing them. I needed to stop that right away. I closed my eyes, letting the water run over my aching body as I tried to stop thinking. Not an easy thing to do, let me assure you. I towel-dried my hair before shoving on the cleanest clothes I could find. Though I had known Sam for a long time, I felt the need to look presentable for him. We weren’t into the stage of the relationship where we felt comfortable with each others foibles. I liked it, it kept me on my toes.
Finally, I scrabbled in my coat pocket for my lipstick, and instead found the new one which Teddy had given me for Christmas. I stared at the packaging, trying not to cry. I put it back in my pocket and retrieved my usual one instead. It didn’t feel right to wear something he had given me, not now. I heard the doorbell ring, and I dashed to the front door, tousling my hair as I went. My tummy rumbled at the thought of Sam’s cooking.
He stood on the threshold, looking windswept, but reasonably dry as he was standing under an enormous navy umbrella. He was wrapped in a beige Mac (that was new, he hadn’t had it when we were together the first time). He smiled when he saw me and kissed me quickly before I let him in. I was excited that he was here, and my had that feeling… you know the one. The one which makes me feel my legs are about to collapse or that an elephant could sit on me and I wouldn’t notice. Sam did that to me.
He set his bags down in my small kitchen and banished me to the sitting room. It was a surprise, he told me, drawing his wand and locking the door. I giggled, being absolutely starving and a little light headed. I snuggled under the rug on the sofa and picked up the copy of Witch Weekly I had started reading earlier in the week. I felt completely at ease, and completely looked after. I could hear clattering coming from the kitchen, a sure sign Sam was hard at work. I hoped he was cooking me something good… maybe fish and chips, if I was lucky?
Yes, craving fish and chips on Boxing Day was very sad. But I didn’t really want a huge roast meal again after my grandma’s excellent cooking yesterday. She always gave me far too much food; not that I ever complained!
I flicked my wand from where I lazily lay on the sofa, and the fireplace burst into fire. Well, sort of burst. More like feebly flickered. Domestic magic wasn’t really my forte. At least it warmed the room slightly.
About half an hour later (and my rereading of Witch Weekly three times) Sam kicked the kitchen door open and present me with a tray with gusto. I casually threw the magazine aside and made room for him next to me. I looked at the beautifully presented food on my lap and smiled. It wasn’t fish and chips, but a steaming dish of mushroom ravioli. I thanked Sam and we dug in.
“Mmm,” I said appreciatively. His delicious food made a lovely change from my usual burnt toasties or crispy overdone pizza. “That’s gorgeous.”
Sam grinned shyly. “Thanks, Victoire. Can’t wait to see what you cook for me next time.”
I pretended to find that comment hugely amusing. The truth was, Sam had never really seen me cook; I’d either made my sister (an ace chef) make me up a dish in advance to reheat, or paid for the two of us to eat out. Honestly, I don’t understand how he didn’t realise it wasn’t me making the bouillabaisse or whatever it was Dominique prepared for. But I always had a great time reliving his reaction to ‘my’ wonderful cooking to Teddy. Ah well. I’d have to think of something. Or hope my wand liked to charm mouldy bits of cheese and biscuits into something edible.
“Just you wait,” I said lamely. A part of me knew I’d have to tell him I couldn’t cook sooner or later. But I prayed it would be much later. Like, never. We could live on his and Dominique’s cooking until then. I wondered if Witch Weekly would have a solution to this tricky problem. I doubted it, unless they did owl order.
“How was work today?” Sam asked, changing the subject with ease.
“Great,” I said with a grim smile. “My boss was unreasonable after too many drinks and I was exhausted after… after yesterday.”
“Oh, poor you,” Sam said with sympathy, placing our trays on the floor so he could cuddle up to me. “I would have come to see you, had I known you were going to have such a rotten day.”
I wouldn’t say rotten so much as bloody crap, but Sam rarely swore. Another of his good points; he had such a good temper. “Thanks,” I said, leaning into his chest. “But I was alright. I’m used to it, now.”
Sam laughed, his chest rising and falling, my head following. “You’re one tough cookie, that’s for sure.”
“Yes, I am,” I said indignantly.
“I know, I was only teasing,” Sam said with a wink.
“Oh, right.” I covered this awkward pause by leaning up to give him a kiss, which he mercifully returned. Though I loved Sam, he sometimes could be really hard work, especially as I was out of the relationship loop. Luckily he didn’t notice my awkwardness and got really in to our little moment there on the sofa.
And then the doorbell rang.
We both froze, and I pulled away from him, disentangling myself from his embrace and the rug.
“I’ll be one minute,” I said with a coy smile, readjusting my clothes and I stumbled to the front door.
I opened the door half heartedly, not registering who it was who was standing, soaking wet, on my doorstep at this time of night.
“Hi-,” I started, then looked gob smacked when I registered it was Teddy who was standing there, his clothes stuck to his skin. In his hands he held two brown parcels, and he smelled of fat and salt… but most of all, fish. Of course, I thought. Boxing Day fish and chips! How could I have forgotten such a tradition.
“What are you doing here?” I hissed angrily. I was desperate not to let Sam hear.
“I…” Teddy brushed his sopping dark hair out of his eyes with his arm. “I wanted to make up for… well, you know. I thought you’d be pleased.”
“Pleased?” I said through gritted teeth. “Why on Earth would I be pleased? I can’t believe you could be so insensitive; no, selfish. You knew Sam was coming here tonight, yet you still turned up at my door, offering peace in the form of fish and chips!” Anger poured out of my mouth and I dearly wanted to slam the door in his face.
“We always have fish and chips on Boxing Day,” Teddy said, looking completely lost.
“We used to, before… before you completely upped and confused my life.” I was shaking now, not just because I was cold but because my emotions were spiralling out of control. I was exhausted, and I didn’t have the energy to deal with my ex-best friend right now. Not when Sam was in my sitting room.
“Can’t we try and get over that?” Teddy said desperately. “It was one night, if you want it to be.”
“I wish it had never happened,” I said exasperatedly. “One night is one too many.”
Teddy recoiled, looking stung. He stared at me blankly for a few moments,
dumbstruck. “So you regret it?”
“What?” I said incredulously. What had I been saying? “Of course I bloody regret it! Look what’s happened now!”
“We can’t just forget it ever happened, don’t be so damn naïve.”
“I can fucking well try. And you’d do well to leave me alone from now on.” I started to close the door.
“It’s time you grew up, Victoire,” Teddy said with contempt, shoving the fish and chips through into my hands.
I did my best not to burst into tears, but when I heard Sam’s less than happy voice behind me I couldn’t help it. He had heard everything now, it was all out. If only Teddy would just leave me be to get on with my life I’d be just fine. If only I hadn’t been craving fish and chips all night; that’s what had got to me the most.