Chapter 4 : Waves in troubles water
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It bugs me more than it should that don’t know what exactly is going on between Lily and me. What was last weekend about? I hate not having a way of contacting her. I’ve been looking with doubled intensity but I can’t find her on any of the social media I have. It’s making my uncomfortable, like she doesn’t actually exist. Joel doesn’t help, joking about her nonexistence.
This means that since I almost kissed her, I have not seen Lily or heard from her and it’s driving me loopy.
She went home, so did I and that seems to be the end of it. I don’t want that to be the end of it. But what can I do? I’ve never been in such a situation before. I have very little experience with girls that are not related to me. I’ve only had one girlfriend, when I was fifteen, and all we ever did was holding hands and share butterfly kisses. We were very innocent.
Taking all of this into consideration, it’s not a miracle I’m not in a great mood during the week. I’ve been moping most of the days, complaining about life, then universe and everything else to Joel, who fled our flat yesterday to hide at Sofia’s place. Now it’s Thursday and Thursdays are the worst, even worse than Mondays.
On Thursdays I have practical training. I had been looking forward to that until I found out that, as first year medical students, being a trainee in the hospital means you have to follow the doctors around, taking notes, while they treat the patients. You cannot talk to the patients or touch them or even smile at them and sometimes, if they don’t want you there, you have to leave and wait in the hallways. It’s extremely boring and with all the homework I have to do and tests I have to learn for it’s not a good way of spending my time.
Put together with anxiety over a girl will guarantee you a crappy day. I’m not kidding, my day was horrible!
With a loud bang I kick the door of my locker in the changing room open. Another useless day of watching doctor Patricks treat patients and trailing around the hallways. The most exciting moment of the day was a little girl with the flu, who sneezed so hard the nose started bleeding.
“This is useless!” I rant, while I’m taking off my white coat to put it in my locker.
“What is?” Joel asks. Joel is also a trainee of doctor Patricks. He and I are teamed up for most of the projects because our surnames are so close together in the alphabet. So obviously we became buddies in the first week and shortly after decided to rent a flat together, it’s only natural.
“This whole trainee thing. It’s not like we don’t have anything better to do than follow a doctor around a hospital and bringing him coffee.” I kick my hospital shoes out stepping grumpily into my own.
“Yeah, I know,” Joel answers, shaking his brown curls from his eyes, “It’s a bit lame, but I bet it will get more exciting next semester.”
“Oh sure. I can’t wait till they allow us to hand out the tissues and blow noses. That’ll be fun.” I’m in a bad mood, I’m not going to be reasonable today.
“Geez, Neil, that girl really did get your boxers in a twist, did she?” Joel teases, a grin twitching at the corners of his mouth.
“Oh shut it!” I grimace. Stupid Lily couldn’t just be a normal person with a normal live and a freaking mobile phone. That would make my life so much easier. “Just… you know, girls are really difficult sometimes!”
“Maybe you should try to let it go, please? Let the chips fall as they may,” Joel says. In look doubtfully back. “You know, when I first started seeing Sophia she was playing ‘really hard to get’, as she called it. She had this philosophy that if I really liked her I wouldn’t mind. Now that I have ‘won’ her she’s almost clingy. I don’t know, girls are weird.”
Oh Sophia, I had a crush on her the first time I met her. She’s an incredibly nice girl, really pretty too. She’s got these big, blue eyes and long dark hair. She could be a model if she wanted, I’m sure she could. Instead she wants to be a teacher. She says she likes working with children, educating is her passion.
When she’s not studying she dedicates her time to this little charity shop and from what I understand from Joel she loves to paint. I guess some people just have to be perfect, just to make you feel guilty for not making as much of your life. How Joel keeps up with it is beyond me, maybe it helps that he’s so much more laid back than me. I’m still a little intimidated when she’s around. She’s just so perfect.
Maybe that’s just my time, I mean, look who I’m fancying now. Not exactly the image of imperfection, is she?
“She doesn’t have a mobile phone,” I tell Joel. “What good, self-respecting, 21-century girl does not have a mobile phone? How do I contact her?” Ugh, it’s so frustrating!
“Good, old fashioned letter writing?” Joel suggests. I shrug, my hand writing is terrible, one of the things that will make me a perfect doctor someday. But it won’t impress a girl.
“You want to go for a beer?” Joel claps his hand on my shoulder and pushes me out of the locker room.
“Yeah!” That may help, beer always helps.
“You don’t mind if Sophia joins us, do you?” Joel asks when we enter a little pub near the hospital. I’m about to say I don’t think I can handle the presence of a girl that gorgeous right now when I spot her at the bar. She’s got three pints of beer in her hands, the image of perfection. Handing both of us a glass she takes a long gulp from the third one. Her blue eyes flash up at us when she puts her glass down. Joel takes this chance to lean down and kiss her. He must feel so lucky, being the one that is allowed to go and kiss Sophia Reynolds. I hope he realises he’s a lucky guy.
I take a swig of my own beer, looking around for a table. The pub is more crowded that one would expect on a Thursday afternoon.
In the back of the pub we find an empty booth that fits the three of us nicely.
Sophia takes Joel’s hand and squeezes in beside him on his bench, I can help feeling like the third wheel. Sophia starts telling Joel about her day, which was uneventful, since she had lectures today. Doesn’t sound interesting to me, but I don’t have to pay attention.
My thoughts start to wander, I’ve had very little excitement since last weekend and very little reason to laugh. It’s because of Lily, she’s constantly stirring up a fuss in my head.
Her smiling face dances into focus inside my brain. The thought of her lips so close to mine stirs up a whole different batch of thoughts. Let’s just say, they aren’t very clean thoughts.
“Neil, are you with us?” Sophia’s question me from my fantasies. My startled look causes a half worried, half amused smile to play on her lips.
“I’m fine, thanks.” I tell her, not altogether sure what she asked. She does not look convinced, so that was probably not what she was asking.
“Are you sure, you look troubled.” She says. “It’s a girl, right? Who is she?”
How does she do that? I only nod to confirm she’s right. I don’t feel like sharing the whole story. Sophia looks disappointed, so Joel (always trying to please her) tells her all about Lily. I’m surprised he knows that much, I was not aware of telling him all that.
Has he been spying on me?
No, those are things only I could have told him, weird.
Well, since I know the story already, I’ll just go get myself another beer.
I lean against the bar when the door of the pub opens, blowing in the cold December wind. With this gush of wind a girl gets blown in. Her bright red curls are exactly the same shade as Lily’s, her freckled face somehow reminds me of her too. It’s like her eyes have the same shape, though they seem darker.
Every girl around me appears to remind me of her Lily. I’m definitely in need of a beer now.
I want to turn to the bar again when a boy enters, him I recognise, it’s Hugo. He looks around nervously and follows the girl with the red curls to the bar.
“A beer please,” I say turning away to face the barman. “You know what, make that three.” I add, Joel and Sophia might want another beer if they’re going to make fun of me all evening.
The redheaded girl orders two coffee. I watch Hugo, who’s standing next to her looking at his shoes. The redhead puts her finger under his chin and pushes his head up.
“You know, Hugo, I can’t hear you when you mumble at your shoes,” She says bossily.
“I did not say anything, Rose.” Hugo answers quietly.
I’m a bit astounded by her directness, but by the looks of them they’re probably related, so I won’t meddle. Instead I take the beers, smiling to myself I turn to walks away.
At that exact moment the girl called Rose picks up the coffee she ordered and turns to look for a table. She does not look where she’s going and ends up slamming first her coffee and then herself straight into me.
Aaahh, hot coffee! Bloody hot coffee running down my front!
Ow ow, shit it’s soaking my shirt and my trousers.
Fuck that burns. Need to cool, need to cool!
I put what remains of the three beers against it. It helps, a little.
“Oh! Merlin, I’m so sorry!” The girls cries out. “Hugo don’t just stand there, ask for some ice.” She orders.
“No, not ice! That the worst thing you can put on burns. Water!” I tell the bartender, who heard her and hurried over with an icepack before Hugo had the time to go red.
He quickly returns with a few pints of water. I pour them down the front of my shirt. So much better!
The damage is manageable. I’m not really hurt, only a first degree burn, nothing to worry about.
No but seriously, my t-shirt and jumper are soaked and there’s a big stair on my trousers.
I put the spilled beers on the counter, carefully pulling on the fabric of my shirt to see if it’s safe to take off. It is, so shrug out of my soaking shirt, shivering when the door of the pub opens again. This time a far more familiar person walks in. Her red hair swooping around her head in the wind. Her eyes grow big when she sees me, half naked in the middle of the pub. A mischievous smile plays across her face. The twinkling in her eyes makes me nervous.
“How come every boy takes of his clothes in your presence, Rose?” Lily asks, shaking her head amusedly, “Hi Neil, nice to see you.”
But… hey! Wait… what? Her obvious comfort with the situation is kind of shocking, as if she walks in on half naked co-waiters in random pubs on a daily basis. I mean, what?
I’m feeling rather embarrassed, thank you very much. My mouth twitches nervously. Then again, I’m the one standing in the middle of a pub with no shirt on, surrounded by a steadily growing crowd of onlookers. I can feel the social anxiety kicking in.
“Neil, maybe you should put some clothes on...?” It’s Sophia. Beautiful, perfect Sophia who came over from our table, with my jacket!
She puts her warm hand on my arm. My bare arm, that is. Here fingers look really tan next to my ultra-white skin. “Come on, you’re distracting the entire pub.” She has a point, I’m probably blinding my audience like that Cullen kid from those books my mom read to Amy. I lose my colour easily, the curse of the naturally blond!
My cheeks are steadily growing hot. Nice, now I’m blushing too. Lily is watching Sophia there is a strange gleam in her eyes.
The bartender hands me a crew shirt to put on under my jacket and a rag to clean up the floor. The crowd of people is dissolving again. Cut and scene. Sophia turns to the bar to order some new drinks, Rose is ordering fresh coffee and I’m the one his knees on the floor, cleaning up a mess I did not even make. This must be my lucky night or something.
Out of nowhere a pair of delicate hands take the rag from mine and finish the job.
“Aren’t you going to introduce me to your friend?” Lily asks a bit hot, wiping the coffee spatters of my trainers.
“Who?” I ask. Does she mean Sophia? She can’t mean Sophia. I… Sophia and I aren’t really involved. Mostly because I’ve taken as much distance as possible, since she’s Joel’s girl. Oh yeah, Lily doesn’t know that, obviously. “Do you mean Sophia?”
She hands the dirty rag to the barkeeper and folds her arms over her chest. The look on her small face is kind of dangerous. She literally looks like she will bite my head off between now and like 20 seconds. She’s not in the mood to play games, that’s for sure.
“You want a beer?” I ask cautiously. She nods so I order her a beer before gesturing for her to follow me. She turns and waves at Rose, who follows us as well.
“Okay, this is my friend and roommate Joel and his girlfriend Sophia,” I point at the two of them, turning to the three redheads that followed me to our table I add, “Sophia, Joel, these are Lily, Hugo and… I believe your name is Rose, right?” The girl who threw her coffee at me nods.
Joel looks from me to Lily and back, then raises an eyebrow at me, an appreciative look in his eyes.
“I was only having a drink Rose and Hugo, but if you don’t mind us sitting with you...?” Lily says, shooting my a wink.
“Sure sure.” Joel answers casually, pulling a chair over to our table. We all sit down, beer gets passed around, Lily squeezes in beside me, lightly pushing her leg against mine under the table.
I’m comfortable, really! No tension here, how did you get that idea?
“So Hugo, how are you and Rena?” I ask to break the silence. Hugo goes form his pale, freckled colour to bright red in less than a second, ducking his head. He mumbles something that sounds like ‘We’re okay’. I laugh a little at his reaction. He’s a cute kid.
“He and Rena are going to move in together in January. Did you know that Lily? I just found out.” Rose chimes in, her face looks scandalized. She probably didn’t hear it first.
“No I did not know that. That’s amazing Hugo, congratulations. How come you didn’t tell me?” Lily replies, an equally scandalized look on her face.
I’m laughing at Hugo’s embarrassment when I suddenly feel a small hand on my knee. Lily looks at me and smiles. I’m turning as red as poor Hugo, gah! Such a lovely gathering of red-faced people we are!
Sometime, when I was not paying attention (in my defence Lily has been lightly stroking her thumb against my knee, which is extremely distracting), the conversation changed to birthdays.
“Did you know Neil’s birthday is tomorrow?” Joel says, the mention of my name immediately catches my attention.
“I didn’t know that!” Lily says indignant turning to face my. “When where you planning to tell me? How am I supposed to find a proper birthday present if all you give me is a day’s notice? How old are you going to be, anyway?” She looks at me with her eyes half closed. It’s an endearing kind of threatening that I do not take too serious. It’s like looking at an angry puppy.
“I’m turning 20 tomorrow, I did not know you wanted to know and you don’t have to get me anything.” I answer her stream of questions. She seems satisfied so I take my chance, “When is your birthday?”
“In half a year.” She answers. “It’s the 8th of June,” She smiles, my insides squirm. Nothing new there. It’s always a little mischievous, her smile, as if there is something she doesn’t tell you. “Oh I know the perfect present for you!” She suddenly exclaims, rubbing her hands together in a way that suggests an evil plan. Is it bad that I’m scared?
Rose and Hugo leave after a few drinks. Hugo looks very relieved to be allowed to go home. He really doesn’t like meeting new people, that’s clear. He barely said two words all evening. I’m sorry for him, it must be hard to be that shy, especially in a family where everybody seems to be outgoing and loud.
No more than a couple minutes later Joel takes Sophia home. She’s giggling and looks a bit lightheaded. She’s only had three, but alcohol has a strong effect on her. She needs Joel to support her when she walks, or maybe that’s just show. She leans into him heavily, both of her arms wrapped around him. Joel puts an arm around her shoulder and smirks. He won’t be home tonight.
Lily looks at me, her eyebrows pulled together as though she’s thinking.
“This was a nice evening,” She says softly, “Such a coincidence to meet you here. I wish I could stay a little longer but Alice is home tonight and I don’t want her to be alone,” a deep sigh escapes her, “Can I come over tomorrow? For your birthday? Do you have plans?”
“Yeah sure! I don’t have plans. I was going to ask Joel to buy pizza, but…” Joel won’t mind me bailing. I prefer her company over his, he’ll understand.
Wouldn’t it be awesome to see her again tomorrow and then the day after that at work, too! This evening is turning out alright.
“Yeah, come at 7, I’ll make you dinner,” I’m a brave but foolish soul, bless me.
“You sure?” Yeah Lily sees the problem too. “You think you’ll manage to make dinner without setting fire to your flat?” she teases. Haha very funny. I shove her away indignantly, but smile in spite of myself. She does have a point.
“I’ll try. Seven o’clock sharp. And you bring the wine.” I say sternly. Lily gives me a mock salute and stands up.
We leave the pub together, I hope she has to go left too.
I offer to walk her home, being the gentleman that I am, but she says she’s fine on her own.
Our good bye is short and a bit awkward. I don’t want to blow it with a kiss goodbye, last time she ran from it. We stand swaying a little until I just pull her in a one-armed sort of hug. Lily smiles, waves and leaves.
It’s four o’clock in the morning when I hear my phone ring. Who in their right mind calls at this hour? Seriously, who? I am tempted to ignore the damn thing and just go back to sleep, but it gets louder and louder with every ring. Groaning loudly I reach over to pick it up. The bright light of the screen makes it impossible to see who is calling before I tap the screen to pick up.
“HAPPY BITHDAY TO YOU, HAPPY BIRHTDAY TO YOU!!!!!” Comes the very loud birthday song from my speakers. It’s so loud it takes me a few minutes to recognise the voices of my siblings. When my eyes got used to the light of my screen I can see their smiling faces.
“Happy 20th birthday Neil!” Yells Amy through the phone.
“Yeah and good morning!” Thunders Owen, his sixteen year old voice is breaking at ‘morning’.
I think he’s adorable, he thinks I’m annoying as hell. We get along quite well.
“Good morning to you too.” I sleepily rub my eyes. “What are you doing up at this time of the night?”
“Wishing you a happy birthday, big brother.” Amy pipes.
“Because we luuuuurv you!” Owen puts in, a wicked grin on his face.
“Thanks! You shouldn’t have!” I reply. “And I mean that!” I hear them laughing. That’s because they are annoying kids. But they are okay, as far as annoying siblings go.
“Hey Neil, we’re going to sleep now, will you come home this weekend? We’ve bought you a present.” Amy sweeps her long blond hair out of her eyes. It hits Owen in the face. He shoots daggers at her but doesn’t comment.
“Good night you guys. I hope you won’t be able to sleep anymore. I’ll call you in the morning.” I tell them, ignoring the question. They laugh and wish me one more happy birthday before hanging up. It’s a shame I’m not going home this weekend, but my schedule and bank account just won’t allow it. I can’t feel mad at them for calling, they miss me I get that. And besides, you know, it’s my birthday!
A/N: I kind of own Neil and Joel and Sophia, though they are a bit their own in a way, but Lily and all that is not mine.
Again I edited the lot of this, the next chpater has the most changes, keep an eye out for that update! Since Joel is now a roommate I kind of had to change things there....
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