Chapter 10 : September 7th.
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“He thought it was bloody hilarious.” I replied flatly.
“So you’re in touch with him?” Cherry said with a mischievous grin that suited her a little too well for my liking.
“No, I just, you know, imagined that he’d find it very funny.”
“Imagined?” Cherry asked. Of course I was lying. He’d laughed down the phone about it for twenty minutes, and insisted that I repeatedly read it to him and then, at our dinner – which had incidentally been the same day the article was published, he kept quoting different section at me till even the word Snogalicious, which had initially been a source of amusement, now made me grimace and start making me want to pull my hair out.
All that aside, the point was Cherry didn’t have to know for two reasons... one, she would jump to her own false conclusion that would be very false (because there’s not a chance in hell that I’d go near James Potter romantically) and two, because she might mention it in front of/too Max, which would make me look like a very bad person. Then I’d lost my job.
“I always said you should have been in Slytherin,” I stated, raising an eyebrow at her.
“So, you’re in touch with him?”
“We went out for dinner once.”
“And then he didn’t call me or contact me at all.” Not that I minded. At all...
Except, really, it was a bit impolite to give me the silent treatment after we’d formed a, dare I say it friendship. Maybe this friendship had only spanned across an interview, a few phone conversations, coffee and dinner... but I’d still, wrongly apparently, thought that at some point in the near future we’d arrange to continue ‘catching up.’
I mean, hell, for someone like me who’s social record as a little... well, let’s say abnormal, three meetings and four phone calls was practically equivalent to evenings spent bonding over camp fires and ‘bffl’ necklaces.
I didn’t help that I’d forgotten what it was like to have a social life, and now it appeared he’d caught up with enough and I’d probably never talk to him again in my whole life.
“Well,” She said looking a tad awkward.
“It doesn’t particularly matter,” I said, “But considering you were so interested in the whole thing...”
“Did you sleep with him?” She asked.
I looked up at her sharply. “I’m in a relationship,” I said slowly. She flushed slightly, and I found myself feeling irritated. Must everyone assume I hadn’t changed in the past ten years? Admittedly the idea of cheating on someone didn’t usually exactly bother me, but Max...
It had been what? Three months?
For me, that was practically marriage. It wasn’t very serious yet though, still in there ‘let’s go out for a meal, talk for a long time, and then come back to yours and have sex’ sort of stage – not that I was complaining. I could just about manage that stage successfully without screwing it up, and given we’d been there awhile I had become accustomed to it.
It actually helped that it was my boss, because I was always very aware that if I did something overly stupid then my job might be in difficulty too, and... Shockingly I loved my job.
It had never happened to me before; it was a bit weird actually. I assumed that jobs were designed to be annoying pesky things that paid for you to live – that putting up with your job was the price you paid for being alive, and that those strange people who said they loved their jobs were merely deluding themselves into positive thinking and to convincing themselves that they were ‘happy’ but...
I really did love my job.
Some days I didn’t do anything, and other days I’d be covering various people’s posts – although thankfully not the snogalicious column, whist Max set me little tasks and stuff to ‘improve my writing skills’ that I usually really enjoyed doing. Several times I’d stayed up late because I was mid flow writing a character profile or whatever fancy words he decided to throw at me, and better than all of the above – I was genuinely good at it.
“Grace?” Cherry questioned. “We’re having a muggle games evening tonight, if you want to come?” My face betrayed my dislike of the idea a little, but... think of all the ways I could embarrass myself playing muggle games? “Well, think about it. It’ll be at seven.” Cherry said.
“All right,” I conceded, before offering her my best attempt at a smile and leaving her office.
“What have you got today?” Jill asked me as I sat back down.
“Nothing,” I replied lazing back on my chair and examining the ceiling. “What about you?”
“Oh, you know,” Jill said. “A dozen or so layouts, an actual job. And you get the same pay as me – I’d protest,” She said. “But I enjoy your company too much, anyway I like this department – it has comfy chairs.”
“That it does,” I agreed, letting my eyes flutter shut for a pre-lunch time nap.
I tapped my pen, yes pen – I refuse to use Quills, and they’re impractical, stupid and belong in Merlin’s time, against the side of my parchment. I know that’s illogical, using pen and parchment, but I don’t have any paper in my shithole (aka – flat) and the parchment in question was the back of a letter my mum sent me last week demanding to know whether I was still alive. Recycle, that’s my motto, because it’s cheaper and involves less effort on my behalf.
Write about two character’s first meeting using meta-narrative.
That was today’s task, and I didn’t have to have it done till next week but... well, I had no life and thus nothing else to do. Unless I decided socialising with Cherry, Dave and her other really cool mates looked like fun and, if I was honest, the likelihood of that happening was about on par with me deciding to go to Hogwarts reunion or me getting married to James Potter as in – not in a million bloody years. So... back to my homework.
Two characters... that was the hard bit, springing two characters up from my imagination and getting them to interact together like they were real people, when really the existed solely in my head...
How this was going to help me write articles about Quidditch I don’t know, but I wasn’t going to question him.
The phone rang. I walked over slowly and picked it up on the forth ring, like every good respectable woman should do – especially when it’s likely that the person calling is previously mentioned respectable woman’s mother. Or great aunt or something.
“Hey,” Max’s voice came from the other end of the phone. “Are you free Wednesday night?”
“Let me just check,” I said before mentally imagining going through my nonexistent social diary to ensure that I was indeed free. Obviously I was, but that wasn’t the point. I stayed silent for another few seconds for added effect before saying “What time?” as if that had any effect on whether I was free or not.
“Around se -” He began, and then he stopped suddenly. “I’ve got to...” then I was met with the dial tone. Fantastic.
It was nearly two minutes later when the phone rang again. Either Max ringing back or my mother trying to organise fun mother-daughter things we could do together, like ten years of absence wasn’t enough for her realise that I didn’t actually care about having a mother-daughter bond.
“Hello,” I said, pulling a cigarette from my pocket along with my lighter, I then lit the thing whilst waiting for the person on the other of the phone line to speak. They didn’t. “Hello?” I repeated. I took a deep breath in. “You know, it’s customary to speak when on the telephone,” And when I still received no reply I put the phone down again.
“Right,” I muttered. “Time for a bit of meta-narrative.” Then I realised that I’d pretty much just talked to myself, and so shut my lips tightly, reached for my pen and curled up on the sofa.
Then the phone rang again. I picked it up. No one spoke. “Look,” I said, “If you’re not going to say anything then don’t bother calling, and if you think it’s funny to have me running around like a headless gnome then to be quite frank, your just a sick person.”
“Err... hello?” A voice asked. Male. Interesting. “You know, Gracie, usually the other person speaks first.”
“What? Oh, James. Right.”
“Many people,” I said. “I’m in high demand.”
“Yeah, all these people ringing and not saying anything,” He suggested. “Anyway, point is, I’m cooking dinner on Wednesday – interested?”
“Tradition – I always make my own attempt at a Hogwarts style banquet round the first of September to remind myself how good House elves cooking is,”
“That’s not what I meant. Anyway, Wednesday is the ninth, surely that’s a bit late...”
“Well, I’ve been away,” James said flippantly.
“Touring, we had a ‘friendly’ match against Portugal, and then we went over to America for some press stuff – none of it half as exciting as it promised on the tin.”
“Oh,” I said – was that why he hadn’t called? “When did you get back?”
“About ten minutes ago, anyway are you interested? If not I’ll have to invite my family instead, and then I’ll be a right looser.”
“Sevenish,” He replied. Same time as Max’s thing.
“Well, we can’t have you looking like a looser now can we?” I answered without really thinking.
“So you’re coming?”
“Yes, wait... no,” I said. “I... I don’t know.”
“I’m supposed to doing this other thing,”
“Well, what time? I’m easy.”
“I’m not really sure,” I said, “It never got finalised.”
“So fuck that and try my cooking, I’m not bad you know – no one’s died, yet.”
“Well...” I began, stopping again. Why was I considering this? I couldn’t! I mean... it was perfectly within my rights to cancel on Max, especially considering he’d hung up on me, but everything would feel slightly tainted if I cancelled on Max because of James. “No, I don’t think I can,” I said, leaning on the wrong side of my kitchen counter and suddenly feeling terrible, my positivity just draining away.
“The other thing is supposed to be with my erm...” I took a deep breath. “With my boyfriend.”
“Your boyfriend?” He repeated.
“Yeah,” I said. “And I really shouldn’t, I mean... I should be there instead. I’m sorry for forcing you to socialise with your family though, honest.”
“Well, I’m not quite that sad, I’ll find someone else.”
“Okay then.” I said. “Well... I guess I’ll erm, see you soon?”
“Yeah, right,” James, sounding a little put out, on the other end said. “Bye Grace.” And then, yet again, me and the dial tone were reunited. I’d done the right thing.
So why did I feel so bad about it?
And now this meta-narrative definitely wasn’t going to be written given I’d just slaughtered all the inspiration I’d had. The walls of my shithole (flat) seemed to close in around me and I realised just how shit the place was. My tidying now looked like it had happened a decade or so ago...
I needed to get out.
Oh, sod it. I rummaged round until I found my phonebook, and then punched Dave’s number in.
“Hello,” Cherry said, sounding so annoyingly chirper I almost slammed the phone back down again.
“It’s Grace,” I muttered reluctantly. “I think I might join you for that, erm... muggle games night thing.”
Marriage to James Potter and Hogwarts reunion... here I come.
Monopoly is the longest most tedious most suicidal-making game in the whole bloody word. Honest to Merlin, its worst than Quidditch, worst than watching paint dry... worse than playing gobstones or chess – it’s dire. I’m positive that it speeds the aging process up and that by the time I’m allowed out of this stupidly nice house, I’ll be forty eight rather than twenty eight. Then I really will be suicidal.
“That’s Mayfair with a house on please, Grace.” One of Cherry’s friends, who I was sure had gone to Hogwarts years back, because they’d given me incredibly weird looks when I’d fallen out of the fire twenty minutes late (I’d tried to locate my wand – I still didn’t trust Cherry), said with a triumphant grin.
“How much?” I asked holding up my fistful of hundreds and five hundred pound notes. Unfortunately I appeared to be doing quite well at this game and no matter what I tried – I could not seem to lose. I dutifully handed over the cash, realising with joy that it had made a dent in the amount of money I had. Maybe the torture would soon be over!
“Oh no!” Cherry’s friend’s boyfriend exclaimed. “Oh, I’ve landed on yours Grace – Oxford Street with four houses!”
“Why don’t we play cluedo?”
“I’m just going to help Cherry, I think I’ll sit this one out,” I said with a false smile. Dave caught my eye and smirked at me, well sort of – it was more a slightly twisted smile, he wasn’t quite capable of smirking. I navigated my way through the different rooms – that’s right, Cherry and Dave lived in a place where there were more than three rooms, and the walls were painted in a nice creamy colour that was light and cheerful, rather than a grey that looked like the walls were covered in year’s worth of dirt. Although, knowing my place, they were.
Her kitchen was especially nice compared to my three counters, a cooker, a sink and a microwave affair. They had a nice tall fridge, rather than a little one that came up to my knees, and a washing machine.
“Hello, monopoly champion.” Cherry said. I grimaced at her. “What are they playing now?”
“Cluedo, whatever that is.”
She laughed. “Wine?” I shook my head. “So tell me, how come you changed your mind?”
“A grave misjudgement on my behalf,” I returned.
She smiled again. “Its tradition,” She supplied. “We do it every September, and it was my turn to host.”
“Why does everyone seem to have September traditions? I try and ignore the month completely,”
“Who else does?”
“James Potter,” I answered reluctantly.
“He called?” I shrugged. “So...?”
“So I told him that I couldn’t see him because I was going out with my boyfriend.”
“Ah,” She supplied. “And how did he take it?”
“It cut the conversation short.” I replied, leaning on one of her kitchen counters and glancing up at the ceiling. “It’s the right thing to do,”
“Maybe,” Cherry agreed. “Are you staying? It’s cards next,” I grimaced. “There’s the fire in the living room if you fancy facing them again, but I won’t be personally offended if you just apparated.” I sent her a relieved smile, and then spun slightly on the spot and apparated back into my flat.
On top of my kitchen cupboard...
So it had been a total of fourteen minutes, which I knew because I was reading off the clock on the top of the cooker. I was reading it from upside down. It told me that it was currently thirty two minutes past five, even though it wasn’t - but I was pretty certain it still worked on a sixty seconds to a minute basis, even if it had been wrong since I’d moved in.
I was wedged, very comfortably, between the top of the kitchen cupboard and the ceiling, which was great. No, seriously – where else would I rather be? There was nothing quite as comfortable as being hunched over, staring at the floor which looked a very long way down, on top of your coffee cupboard, that was probably going to collapse at any second... Into the sink, obviously, because that’s how good my life is.
The phone rang. Fabulous. The one day in my entire life it seems like I have a social life I get stuck on top of my kitchen cabinet, having to listen to it ring off the hook. It rang four times. It was like torture...
Wait! I had my wand. Somewhere... my pocket. I twisted my body round with difficulty and managed to ease it out of my pocket as it rang for the ninth time... “Accio phone!” I declared desperately, it flew haphazardly in the general upwards direction just after my awful answer phone message cut in “Hi this is Grace speaking, please leave a message...” I caught it, miraculously, just as the phone wire was stretched to its maximum. “Er, hi...” the voice on the other end of the phone began. “It’s -”
“James!” I finished, slightly breathless from the effort of not falling of the top of the kitchen counter and dying. “I am so glad it’s you,” I muttered. “Look, do you think you could help me?”
“It’s just, well, bit embarrassing really, but... I mean, I don’t normally use magic and then...”
“What have you done?” He asked sounding amused this time.
“No, no, it’s not that bad. I just... well, see, I’m stuck...”
“But you’re in your flat?”
“I’m stuck on top of my kitchen cupboard.” It was extremely obvious that he was doing his best not to laugh, and I couldn’t say I blamed him. I suppose it was funny, if it didn’t actually happen to you.
“Why don’t you jump?”
“Jump?” I exclaimed. “I’d probably die! It’s all right for you; you’re used to being a million miles above the floor staring death in the face. I get nervous looking out of second floor windows!”
“What do you want me to do?”
“Get over here and help me!” I exclaimed.
“All right, where do you live?”
“You don’t know?”
“No, I do know, but it’s not like I have to give my address out very regularly, oh shite, I’ve dropped my wand.” I muttered as it clattered to the floor. I fumbled with it, and the phone slipped from my hands, soaring towards the floor and clattering horribly. “I’VE DROPPED THE PHONE!” I yelled, hoping that my voice would carry. Then I leaned forwards and squinted at the post-it note which had my address on it, it was stuck on my fridge, and it was just... I could just about read it.
I yelled my address in the direction of the phone, then added a more pitiful ‘Please help me!’ before giving up completely.
James was a tosser and probably wouldn’t even try to help, which mean I was probably stuck here for the rest of my life. At least until my mum came round demanding to know why I’d been ignoring her, where she’d probably find a rotting corpse, or bits of skeleton dropping down from the top of the cupboard.
I straighten up a little bit more in the interest of not destroying my back anymore than necessary. Hmm... I manoeuvred my legs so that they were spread wide enough apart (classy) so that I could open the cupboard bellow. I opened it with one hand and felt around trying to locate something edible or alcoholic. I leaned over a little more... damn it; there was just a load of coffee... well at least if I got stuck here for too long I could just live off coffee beans.
Well... instant coffee granules.
Same difference, really it just meant that...
There was a loud crack, I screamed, overbalanced and found myself hurtling towards the floor in a rush of limbs that regrettably all belonged to me (remind me to diet, please).
James, who I assumed had somehow found out where I lived and apparated into my front room, darted forward in an attempt to catch me that could never end well...
Nope, I just sent him toppling over.
“Holy shit.”I muttered with my face squashed against the floor. I dragged myself upwards to find that I was incredibly dizzy.
“You were stuck up there?” James asked climbing to his feet and looking at the space between the top of my kitchen cupboards and the ceiling. “How did you fit?”
I turned around and glared at him for a long moment. The absolute prat. Maybe I wasn’t at my smallest, and I was probably several times bigger than his blonde Quidditch-loving bimbos, but that did not mean he could insult my weight. “No, I didn’t mean that,” He added quickly. “I mean, height ways.”
“I need a drink,” I muttered, still shaking. I rummaged through my cupboards wondering where the hell I kept the vodka in this place, but finding nothing but coffee and tins of some muggle crap that I was never going to eat. I was still shaking and felt more than a little uneasy.
“Are you all right Grace?”
“Mmmhmm.” I answered, bending to my knees and trying the floor cupboards. Ahha. I pulled out one of the bottle to find... empty.
Well then. I shut the cupboard before James could see what I’d been looking for and accuse me of being an alcoholic just like Cherry had done. “I’m never doing magic again,” I said, turning round using the counters to steady myself. “I swear to Merlin.”
“It’s a shithole, you don’t have to be nice – goodness knows you’ve never bothered before.”
“I take offence to that,” James replied. “Maybe I was a jerk when I was seventeen, but that was a long time ago Grace and maybe you should -”
“You were a jerk when you saw me in Diagon Alley.” I accused, still clutching hold of the counters tightly. “You were a complete arsehole.”
“Yes.” James admitted. “Okay, well, it wasn’t intentional. I always said if I saw you again that I wouldn’t act like such a...”
“Cold hearted arrogant bastard.”
“But you took me by surprise! You were just there, and I wanted to talk to you, and I did... and then it all just started flowing out. I felt like I was seventeen again, and I felt terrible afterwards, which is why I tried to be nice when I saw you the next day but...”
“Oh, whatever Potter.” I muttered, folding my arms over my chest and glaring at him. “Why should I trust a word you say?”
“Because that’s what people do – trust each other. And I came to help you out here, right?”
“No, you apparated so loudly that I fell and nearly killed myself.”
“It’s the thought that counts.” He tilted his head and examined my disgruntled expression. “Have you eaten yet?”
“Well, why don’t you come over to my place – I’ll get you a drink and cook you something to eat. You look a bit shaken up, and in the name of chivalry I wouldn’t feel right leaving you here on your own.”
I thought about it for a few seconds. Free food, free drink, free company...
“All right,” I said with a slight smile. “In the name of chivalry it is, Potter.”
“Grace,” Max said, hovering over me as he pulled on his shirt and began doing the buttons up. “I have to get back now.” I looked up at him and bit my lip, pulling the sheets around me so that my nakedness wasn’t too exposed. I screwed up my face at him slightly, annoyed by the very idea of him leaving again.
Especially when it had been such a wonderful, wonderful night. I’d suggested we do something different. I’d ordered in pizza, and we’d eaten in my flat – lazing about and talking openly. Then he’d kissed me, and the pizza lay forgot on the coffee table as we explored the merits of having a really cheap non-leather sofa.
“Why?” I asked, sitting up and pulling the blankets up with me. We were in the bed now. I glanced at the clock – it was just past two in the morning. He’d been here since eight but... I still didn’t feel like we’d spent enough time together.
He leaned over me and brushed a piece of my hair out of my face. “I just do,” He replied, smiling at me. He was honestly gorgeous.
“You don’t,” I returned, reaching up and kissing him. He paused, let his eyes flicker shut for a split second, then grabbed his tie off the floor. “You really, really don’t.”
“Grace,” He reasoned.
“Max,” I returned, fluttering my eyelashes at him childishly. He frowned. I pouted.
“I really must...” he said leaning forward to kiss me on the cheek. I wrapped my arms around his neck and pulled him towards me properly, thus resulting in the loss of the sheet that had been hiding the fact I was completely starkers. “Graacee,” He complained, kissing the spot just below my ear. “I have to go.”
“Stay,” I implored, somehow flipping the whole thing over so he was the one pinned to the bed. “Now you can’t leave me,”
“I don’t want to leave you,” Max returned, flipping the whole thing back over so that he was now on top. In the office he was strictly smart, and it was almost surreal to have him kneeling over me clad in only his boxers and a wrongly buttoned up shirt.
“Then bloody don’t,” I concluded, not moving this time, but just giving him my best persuasive look. “It’s one night, Max, you can stay.”
“Okay,” he said, surprising himself with his answer.
“Good answer,” I said, wrapping my legs around his waist and pulling his body back to the bed, where it belonged “I’ll make it worth your while,” I said running my fingers through his short dark hair and closing my eyes.
Max. Max was the priority. Max was my boyfriend.
I was not going to accept anymore more invitations from James Potter.
A/N - Reviews are glorious and wonderful things! Thanks for reading :)
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