I sat, exhausted, amongst piles of clothes, hoping that somehow they’d arrange themselves and all fit into the small suitcase that I’d borrowed off Molly. Apart from the fact that my suitcase was too small, I was so bloody indecisive that I had no idea what to pack. Under any other circumstance, I’d just pack the most comfortable things I owned and take them with me, but that wouldn’t do this time. I couldn’t let Teddy see me in my old and tattered clothes that I barely even let Molly see; I had to look presentable for every occasion he was going to throw my way so I’d return home leaving him impressed and longing to see me again. That was a lot of pressure to put me under.
“Are you not done yet?” Molly asked, popping her head around my door.
I shook my head. “Does it look like I’m done yet?” I retorted tiredly. “Can’t you pack for me?”
“This was your idea,” Molly said, slowly backing away from me. “Don’t you get me involved.”
Sighing, I decided I could afford a tea break and followed her into the kitchen. She’d already made me a cup of tea, as if already sensing that I’d given up with my packing efforts. Bringing the plate of biscuits with her, we dropped onto the sofa and dug in.
“Are you going to cope without me?” I asked her, hoping that she’d say she couldn’t live without me and beg me to stay with her.
“Of course,” she said confidently. “It’s not like you do much around here anyway.” She was so bloody rude.
“Thanks,” I said, pretending to be hurt by her comment. “But you know you’re going to miss me. I’m like a piece of furniture – you take it for granted that I’ll be there to sit on, but once I’m gone you discover that I was your favourite chair and your life will never be the same again.”
“Whatever,” Molly said with a laugh. “I think what will actually happen is I’ll be able to hear myself think in the peaceful silence of the flat. It’s going to be great.”
Sometimes she could at least pretend she loved me; I’d feel very unloved soon if she wasn’t careful. “I won’t send you a postcard then,” I responded smugly. She glared at me.
“Don’t be so childish,” she muttered, reaching for a biscuit. “I expect a souvenir as well, Rosie. There’s no point you going away if I don’t get anything out of it.”
“Of course,” I said with a roll of my eyes. “It’ll be the first thing I do when I get there.”
“It better not be cheese,” she warned. “Actually, a bottle of wine would do nicely.”
“Yes ma’am,” I said, saluting.
“Good,” she said with a nod. “Now go and finish your packing – you’re leaving tomorrow.” She whisked me away, shutting my bedroom door behind me. I wouldn’t be surprised if she locked me in there until I was done; she was awfully controlling when she wanted to be.
I couldn’t deny that my supposed ‘good’ idea was now giving me a few worries. I was undeniably nervous, mostly because I had no idea where I was going or what I was going to do for a whole week with Teddy and Victoire. This was how I’d ended up with a packing nightmare; I just couldn’t decide what I’d need. I figured that my coat would cover most sins, unless France turned out to be surprisingly warm for the end of March and I’d have to strip off (not all the way, obviously). Thus, I had to make sure I had nice enough clothes underneath. I groaned, my face buried in a clean sweater; I hated being female sometimes. There was far too much pressure on appearance.
In the end, I closed my eyes and picked stuff at random, which got me further than when I’d been trying to decide between jumpers. Teddy probably didn’t care whether I wore my snowman jumper or my stripy one.
Zipping up the suitcase, I declared my packing finished and marched out of the house. “I’ll be back later,” I called to Molly as I shrugged my coat on.
I trudged up the street, clasping a piece of parchment with Boris’ address on it in my palm. I was surprised he lived so close to me, which actually probably didn’t help with his wife’s suspicions all that much. I arrived after twenty minutes of walking and stood facing his blue front door with butterflies in my stomach. It would be terrible luck if his wife was in this afternoon; I intended never to meet her.
I rang the doorbell, my breathing uneven. As the door swung open, I half expected a glamourous model-type to answer; instead, it was just Boris in his dressing gown and hair curlers. “Come in,” he said with a smile. “We’ve just put the kettle on.”
He could have at least got dressed; he knew I was coming round this afternoon to discuss some work things before I left. It wasn’t like this was a massive surprise or anything; I would have appreciated the effort.
His house was actually tastefully decorated, which I had not been expecting. There were no tacky furnishings and the wallpaper was decidedly bland. Boris led me through into his living room, where a tray of tea was laid out. His wife, a dumpy-looking lady, sat primly in her armchair waiting for me. She took one look at me, let out a massive sigh of relief and smiled.
“You’re not what I expected at all,” she offered by way of explanation. It wasn’t much of a greeting. I tried not to get offended; I didn’t know what she’d been expecting, but it was clearly better than what I’d turned out to be. I sort of felt like I should apologise for being a disappointment even though I knew this was in no way my fault. It was hers for having high expectations.
“It’s nice to meet you, Mrs-” What was Boris’ surname again? I started to stammer as I tried and failed to remember his second name. “Mrs- Boris.” Well, that would have to do. I blushed, looking down at my feet.
“I’ve heard so much about you,” she said, nodding appreciatively at my effort. “It’s great to put a face to the name at last.”
The fact that she’d accused me of stealing her husband was left unsaid between us. Hopefully that meant she’d changed her mind and didn’t want to have it out with me. Even if she did, I had a means of escaping tomorrow anyway.
Boris poured the tea and I retrieved a list from my pocket. “Here,” I said, passing him the piece of parchment. “These are all the extra jobs I thought of that need to be done this week. You can split them between you and Matthew, I don’t mind who does what. The one thing that you can leave off if you don’t have time is polishing the books in Aisle G – nobody goes back there anyway.”
He nodded, making a note on the bottom of the list. “I hope you enjoy your week off,” he said. “Where is it you’re going again?”
“Bordeaux,” I replied. “My cousin works in the wine industry so she and her boyfriend moved out there earlier this year,” I explained to Mrs Boris.
“You’ll have a lovely time,” Mrs Boris said warmly. I smiled in response, feeling much more at ease. She didn’t seem like the dragon I’d imagined her to be. “From what Boris says, you’ve earned a break. He works you too hard.”
Peace seemed to have been made, which dissolved most of the worries that had been plaguing me recently. I couldn’t believe this woman had actually turfed her husband out over me. Actually, I really couldn’t imagine any woman turfing their husband out over little old me, but perhaps my influence was greater than I imagined. I should give myself more credit; maybe I had very strong feminine wiles or something.
After visiting Boris, I had other duties – next on the list were my parents. Honestly, the number of visits I had to do today made me feel like the Pope (or at least, I liked to think everyone cherished my visits in a similar way). People were worrying about me, that was the problem. Stoic Rose was leaving the nest for a week and it was a massive deal. For an entire week I wasn’t going to be around to be the dependable one. I liked to think everyone was a bit impressed with my sudden independence. Or, you know, they all thought I was completely incapable of looking after myself.
Dad answered the door pretty much as soon as I rang the doorbell. “Rosie! My little grown up girl! Come on in.”
I rolled my eyes. I’d been putting up with this ever since I told them I was going on holiday. Dad was either being really overprotective or just very patronising.
“Are you all packed?” he asked as we walked through the house.
“Yes, Dad,” I said dryly.
“Have you got your passport ready?” he nagged.
“Yes.” He didn’t look as though he believed me.
“You’ve got your euros?” Mum called from the kitchen
“Yes!” What was this, the Spanish Inquisition? I was only going to France, not the other side of the world. Bloody parents.
Dad asked me a bunch of other questions but I decided to tune out and just keep saying yes. It seemed to do the trick and he appeared satisfied that I was ready for such a momentous journey. I expected he would be visiting me in the morning to check again that I’d packed everything I needed.
“You’ll send us an owl when you arrive, won’t you?” Mum asked worriedly. “We’d like to know you got there safely.”
“Yes, I will,” I muttered, accepting another cup of tea. “I’m going to be fine, stop worrying.”
They shared a sceptical look between them, but I decided to drop it. I hoped that after I returned (safely) they’d accept that I was a proper adult and could look after myself. I didn’t know why they were making such a big deal about it; I was going to stay with family and would probably be on my own for about an hour maximum. I couldn’t wait to get away; they were driving me mental with their nagging and worrying.
I left as soon as I could, with Mum crying “have you packed enough clean underwear? I can send you some in the post if there’s an emergency!”
I didn’t dare ask what kind of emergency she was imagining was going to happen; but there was no way I’d stoop to asking Mum to send me knickers in the post. I bet the guys at customs would have a right laugh at that. They’d probably be confiscated in all likelihood.
Hugo popped his head around the living room door to wave at me. “Don’t do anything stupid,” he advised. “France might seem a long way from home, but your actions have a way of catching up with you.”
I felt this was unnecessarily wise coming from my brother, especially when he was normally so rude to me. I should go on holiday more often; it was giving all of my relatives personality transplants, and I rather liked it. After that, Hugo disappeared again, leaving me standing awkwardly with my parents as they rested their beady eyes on me.
When I got up to leave, Mum clung to me tightly, giving me a kiss on the forehead and whispering in my ear, “good luck”. I wondered how much she actually knew; I always thought I’d hidden my feelings well, but the way she was giving me a knowing look forced me to think otherwise. I smiled weakly, nodding but not managing to find any suitable words. Sometimes, I felt like the worst person in the world, lusting after my cousin’s boyfriend, but I couldn’t help that I loved him. That fact absolved me of all blame, I reasoned. But I knew, if anything were to happen, that it would only be me who felt the disgust in the family. I couldn’t betray them.
It was with a heavy heart that I left my parents’ house, my Mum’s words ringing in my ears. What was I expecting to come out of this trip? Had I really conned myself into believing that Teddy liked me as more than a family friend? I didn’t know what to think anymore, and that was part of the reason I had to go to France; I had to know.
Finally getting home, I suddenly felt exhausted. Part of it was probably nerves, and then the stress of organising everything had worn me down day by day. I sort of wished I could take Molly with me for moral support, but from her earlier reaction I knew there would be no way she’d come with me. I’d have to hold her at wand point the entire time or else she’d break free and scarper back to safety like a little lost lamb (only she was more like mutton these days).
Dark fell far too early at this time of year, and as I made my way to bed I had to grope around in the dark to find my light switch. I nearly had a heart attack when I turned my bedroom light on.
“Fucking hell!” I yelled, pointing at the figure lying on my bed in disbelief. “What – why – how the hell did you get into my flat?”
Scorpius, lying across my bed in what he presumed was a seductive fashion, looked indignant. “Molly let me in,” he said crossly. “I said I had to talk to you.”
“I wasn’t in,” I growled.
“So I saw,” he muttered, pulling his legs together and sitting upright. “But I was happy to wait.”
My heart thudded painfully against my chest. “You nearly killed me,” I stuttered.
“I want to talk to you,” he said eagerly, patting the space on my bed beside him. I didn’t move from the doorway.
I held my hands up to my forehead. “You can’t wait for people in dark rooms,” I said miserably. “It’s not normal. Just tell me why you’re here and get out.”
Scorpius kicked my suitcase with his foot. “Where are you going?”
“It’s none of your business,” I said heavily. He looked at me with suspicious eyes. “I’m going to France,” I admitted grudgingly.
“Why don’t you stay here?” he offered. “I’ll forgive you for that thing the other day and we can go out again.”
I breathed deeply. “This is too weird. I don’t want to go out with you again – I don’t think we can even be friends anymore. Please just go.”
He looked affronted, as if I’d completely robbed him of what would have otherwise been a jolly nice Sunday evening. I didn’t really care; I was fed up with the sight of him and the sooner he left the better. If insulting him meant he left sooner then that was fine by me.
Eventually he sulked off without even saying goodbye. Sighing irritably, I was glad to see the back of him. This, more than anything else, proved that he was unhinged. Only Creeping Colins did stunts like that, not normal people. Bloody Molly; I bet this was her idea of a laugh to send me off with a bang. I couldn’t wait to get away from everything, to have a week free of normal stress and instead just have a different kind of stress.
As I tucked myself into bed, I heard footsteps pad along the hall as Molly crept into my room.
“Rosie?” she asked sheepishly.
I recognised that tone of voice from when we were teenagers sharing rooms at our grandmother’s, when she’d had a nightmare or been too cold. Wordlessly, I shuffled over in my bed and drew back the covers. She hopped in beside me, trying to get warm.
“I’m really sorry about Scorpius,” she whispered. “He seemed genuinely normal.”
I couldn’t find the energy to feel angry towards her. If anything, she’d done me a favour; my meeting with Scorpius just reaffirmed my unfavourable feelings towards him. “It’s okay,” I whispered back, brushing some of her hair from my face.
“I’m going to miss you,” she mumbled sleepily, yawning and curling up in a ball.
“It’s only a week,” I reassured her (and myself a bit too). “I’ll be back before you know it.”
“Mm,” she mumbled, drifting off to sleep.
I lay awake for a long time after she fell asleep, worrying about the week ahead. I’d jumped into it with no second thoughts, but now I couldn’t help but think that I’d made a mistake. A week was a long time when you had to spend that time trying to impress someone else. At least at home I could be me and not have to worry about everyone judging me.
Things had certainly picked up since Teddy left, but I couldn’t deny that I missed him. Family gatherings lacked a certain sparkle, life seemed a tiny bit more gloomy without him. The problem was, he’d never been mine in the first place and this week with him and Victoire was only going to reaffirm that. I was probably walking right into a depression trap.
I tossed and turned a bit more, debating whether to cancel the whole thing. In the end, I decided that this trip would be good for me; I could finally close the chapter of uncertainty in my life that had Teddy’s name stamped all over it. By the end of the week, I was going to force myself to tell him how I felt, sod the consequences. Then I could tie up the loose ends and finally get on with life, with or without him.
AN: I know I keep on saying it, and you must be bored of it by now, but thank you so much for the reviews :) I love each and every one and I'm so grateful for the support. So thank you and if you have time, I appreciate any more thoughts you have.