Chapter 6 : Thunderstorm
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“... don’t know. I was really shocked. Even Al can take more Fire Whiskey than that. Maybe they have an unknown allergy for it. What do you think?”
“I don’t really know Lil, I never gave Fire Whiskey to a Muggle. Could be an allergy, could also just be a weak stomach.”
“Shh! Well, I don’t think it is. Anyway, are you home tonight? I want to talk to you face to face.”
“This is kind of face to face, don’t you think?”
“You know what I meant Ally, I have to check my on patient now. See you later?”
“Yeah, I’ll be home by five, want me to cook?”
“I’ve had enough bad cooking to last me a few days, thanks.”
I don’t really know what I’m hearing. I just woke up, maybe I image there are two girls in my kitchen, talking about something. The conversation is vague, it doesn’t make sense. Something about fire and allergies.
Why is my head pounding like I smashed it against a wall too many times? What did I do yesterday?
The memory of a terrible dinner comes to me. Lily was there. Is she still here? Why? What happened after dinner?
The pounding of my head makes it hard to think. My thoughts and memories come slowly, like they are covered in jelly. I try to get up but my limbs are feeling quite heavy. I lie on my back and watch the ceiling. I blink several times.
Okay that still works. I move my fingers, balling my hands to fists. Yeah that works too. I wiggle my toes. They are working.
In that case there is no excuse. I get all my concentration together on pushing myself to a sitting position. That’s not so hard. But I’m so tired. With a sigh I give up the attempt. What’s wrong?
“Mom? Hey mom, I have a question and I think you can help.” I hear Lily’s voice from the kitchen again.
“What’s it dear?” A second voice answers.
“Do you know anything about the affect of Fire Whiskey on Mug- on people that aren’t like us?” Lily’s voice sounds worried and a little embarrassed.
“What did you do, Lily?” The second voice asks.
Lily gives a description of our evening. So that’s what happened, I drank to much and fell and she stayed over. Sounds like a fun evening. A pity I only remember the awful dinner.
“- so what can I do? I believe he’s still out of it.” Lily concludes.
I have to get up and tell her I’m fine. She sounds so worried.
“I tried to wake him several times last night, to check on his concussion. He didn’t wake up. What if he got in one of those coma things. It’s been hours... I’m really worried mom.” Lily’s voice starts to sound a bit panicky. She sounded so composed earlier. Poor girl. I have to tell her I’m all right. With all my might I open my mouth, but no sound comes out.
“You can try to make a Power potion. If that does not help I would call a Healer.” The second voice said patiently. I hear Lily agree and say goodbye. Is she using a phone? It sounds like it.
There is a lot of ruckus in the kitchen and I hear the sound of a pan being put on the stove. Would Lily make me breakfast? I hope so. In the meantime I try to move again. I have enough energy to move my hands, that’s nice. I guess I should be more worried about this. I mean I can’t move. But I’m feeling very calm. I have never been the panicky kind of person.
Lily enters my room still wearing my t-shirt, with her tights underneath. The girl has legs to die for. She carries a mug in her hand and looks really relieved to see me awake.
“Good morning.” She whispers and sits down on the bed next to me. Slowly I turn my head to her. I open my mouth to answer, but no sound comes out. Stupid vocal chords. I just smile instead. Lily’s face screws up in worry again.
“I made this for you, it is supposed to help against the numbness. I didn’t know the effect of... well I’m sorry.” Lily says with a hoarse voice. She sits up and pours a clear liquid into my mouth. It’s tepid and tastes like pepper and salt mixed with something sweet. Not a very good combination.
“Feeling better?” Lily asks when she’s poured the entire mug down my throat. I manage a smile, a strange tinkling feeling is spreading through me. From my throat to my chest, to my numb arms and legs. It’s like something is tickling from the inside but it’s a nice feeling.
“What is this stuff?” I ask, my voice is hoarse and croaky. Sitting up I place myself against the headboard.
“Just a drink we make for people who... well I don’t know how to explain. But it helps against a lot of things. I thought it would help.” Lily answers. She’s looking quite uncomfortable.
“You mean your mom thought it would help.” I reply. Lily looks shocked. Her eyes grow wide and she wriggles her hands.
“Yeah, well... she might have brought it up.” She says, looking down.
I shake my head then try to look her in the eye. “I thought you said you don’t have a phone.”
“What?” Lily looks up confused.
“I heard you talking in the kitchen. Sounded to me like you were on the phone.” I tell her.
Lily looks more uncomfortable still. Her face is turning red and she’s swaying a little from side to side.
“Please Neil, you were still intoxicated.” She says. I don’t believe her.
In a huff I fold my arms over my chest and frown at her. Lily looks down at her toes, her cheeks still burning. Everything about her says ‘guilty’.
“Just saying what I heard.” I simply state. I hope she has a good excuse, because it’s making me rather angry that she would lie to me like this.
“It’s really not what you think. I don’t own a phone. It’s.... well you’re going to think this is absurd, you’ll probably not even believe me... I have a mirror. I can talk to people through it.” Lily says.
Yeah right, a mirror. Well she’s right, I don’t believe her. What is this crap? Does she really think I’m that slow.
“Don’t lie.” I tell her. Lily puts up her hands and makes a strange kind of noise before she rolls her eyes and puts on an innocent expression.
“I’m not lying.” She says. “But if you don’t believe me, I understand that. My world is not yours.”
What on earth is that supposed to mean? I look at Lily questioningly. She looks back with a determined expression. After a minute she turns, picks up her dress and disappears into my bathroom. A few moments later she comes out again with her hair up in a bun, her dress in place and an apologising smile on her face.
“I’ve got to go now. I’ll tell Jack you can’t work today, because of your concussion. I hope you feel better, can you stand without falling?” She comes over to help me out of bed.
I’m a little confused but I let her help me up nevertheless. Standing and walking is fine. I’m not really dizzy and the heaviness has left my body. All that remains is the fierce pounding of my head and a slight throbbing on my forehead.
And than there is the fact that Lily lied to me!
“Good, that’s good. Well I have to go now. Bye.” She’s gone before I can say anything. I glare after her as good as I can.
Slightly dazed I make my way over to the bathroom and examine my head. There is a huge bump on my head with a scabbed wound on it. I push it softly, it looks worst than it feels, but it still feels quite bad.
Carefully I splash some water in my face. I find a toothbrush and start brushing the horrible taste out of my mouth. I feel quite a bit pissed off by Lily. Friends don’t lie to each other. Who does she think she is? And who says I can’t go to work today. I’ll show her.
I look at my reflection in the mirror. He’s looking back at me with a mad expression on his face, toothbrush sticking out of the corner of his mouth.
I spit out a mouthful of toothpaste and rinse my mouth.
I’m not going to sit at home and do nothing all day. I can’t work tomorrow, because of my birthday. I’ll just go and try to work today. Who’s going to stop me?
Well, a concussion can stop you quite effectively, I find out. The effort of riding a bus to the Beanstalk is enough to make me dizzy. I enter the little lunchroom staggering on my feet, I have to grip the doorpost to steady myself.
“Waoh Neil, what are you doing here?” Jack asks when he sees me. “I thought you were supposed to have a concussion.”
“He does,” says Lily, coming up behind our boss. “Go home Neil, you’re not well.”
I frown at her but ignore her words. “I’m fine, nothing wrong with me. What can I do?” I say.
“Ugh, don’t be so stubborn!”Lily says, than turns away form me when I make a face at her. “Come on Jack, he’s had a hit in the head, he can’t work.”
“No really I’m fine.” I say, taking out my apron and notepad to do my job.
“Fine.” Lily says, looking mad. She turns on her heels and walks away, the bun on the back of her head bobbing up and down.
Jack turns to me, “Your not fine now, are you?” he asks. His look is so stern I can’t lie, defeated I shake my head but stop immediately, it’s making me dizzy.
“Go home,” Jack says, clapping a hand on my shoulder.
“I can’t.” I say. Honestly, if I go home now Lily has won.
“Why not? I thought you were leaving early today to take a train to your parents. What’s happened to that plan?” Jack asks. He’s managed to walk me over to the bar and pushes me down on a chair.
“Yeah, I’m still doing that. I just mean... I don’t. Well, I don’t want Lily to...” I can’t tell him I don’t want her to win. That will sound really childish.
“You don’t want Lily to do all the work on her own?” Jack asks. “That’s very gentlemanly of you, but don’t worry, she’ll manage.”
That’s not the reason, but it sounds much better than my explanation. It doesn’t make me sound so childish, so I nod in response and receive an approving look from Jack.
“Here, I’ll make you a strong cup of tea on the house and then you go home and take a rest.” Jack says, picking out a big mug to pour me some black tea. “Here you go.”
I sip the hot liquid carefully, I don’t want to burn my tongue on top of everything else. The tea does make me feel less dizzy. I look at Lily while she’s bringing around food and drinks. She somehow managed to change her outfit since she left my flat. Her dark jeans and light blouse flatter her figure. I suddenly wonder what really happened last night. It’s all a vague black area in my memory. I don’t remember much after dinner.
“You’re still here?” Lily asks when she swoops by. “You should be in bed, you know.”
“Yeah, I know.” I admit, it’s becoming clear to me that I can’t win. “But first tell me what happened last night. I don’t remember.” The moment I say it I regret it. Lily simply smiles and winks before she continues her job. I really wish I knew what did happen. Should I be worried? I frown hard, trying to remember. We watched a movie and drank something, things get really fussy after that.
“Oh don’t look like that, nothing happened.” Lily says walking past. “ You fell asleep, as soon as your head hit the pillow.” She ruffles my hair when she says this. Her warm touch makes my insides squirm. “ Now, for the last time, go home.”
“You should really go home, Neil, you look awful.” Jack interferes. “Take an early train, rest some and I’ll see you next week.”
I guess I am defeated. It’s two against one, and the one has a concussion. Not a fair game. I shrug and drink the last bit of my tea. Lily watches me as I get up, she extents her hand to help me. I’m about to take it when I remember I’m supposed to be mad at her. I quickly drop my hand an frown. Lily somehow seems to understand what this is about. She looks at me and whispers, “I’m sorry Neil, I’ll explain some day. Just not today, okay?”. I simply shrug and turn to the door. That’s a worry for later. Right now I just really want to see my family.
A/N: Thank you JK Rowling for giving my Neil a Lily to crush over. If you read this chapter and thought that the lunchroom-owner had a big part and you liked it, you're welcome! (that was a very criptic thank you to my most devoted reader/reviewer, thanks Jack!)