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Chapter 6 : Frost and rain make slippery ways
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“... don’t know. I was really shocked. Even Al can take more Firewhiskey than that. Maybe they have an unknown allergy for it, maybe it was the combo of wine and beer and everything. What do you think?”
“Could be an allergy, could also just be a weak stomach. I don’t really know Lil, I never gave Firewhiskey to a Muggle.”
“Shh! Well, I don’t think it is. I’m really worried, I want to talk to my mom. 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 call mom and check my on patient. 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 can’t really process what I’m hearing. I just woke up, maybe I’m just imagining the 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 one 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 in my head makes it hard to think. My thoughts and memories come slow, sluggish, like they are covered in jelly. I try to get up but my limbs are feeling heavy. I lie on my back and watch the ceiling. I blink several times, the ceiling gets into focus, that’s nice.
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 and lie back down. What’s wrong? What happened?
“Mom? Hey mom, I have a few questions and I think you can help.” I hear Lily’s voice from the kitchen again.
“What’s it dear?” A second voice answers, as clear as though some woman has just materialized in my kitchen.
“Are you allowed to go to sleep with a concussion? What happens if you do and do you know anything about the effect of Firewhiskey on Mug- on people that aren’t like us?” Lily’s voice sounds worried and a little embarrassed.
“What did you do, Lily?” There’s a stern edge in the voice that answers.
Lily gives a description of our evening. That’s one way to find out what happened, I drank too much and fell, I hit my head apparently. I put my hand to my head, it still feels sore. 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, her voice has risen half and octave in worry.
I have to get up and tell her I’m fine. She sounds so worried, it’s not fair to let her fret.
“He fell asleep before I could do something, 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 alright. With all my might I open my mouth, but no sound comes out.
“You can try to make a Power potion, a pepper-up might work too, but it’s more complex. If neither works I would call a Healer,” is the patient answer. I hear Lily agree and say goodbye. Is she using a phone? It sounds like it, though her phone must have some super-improved speakers, to sound that clear.
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, I’m starving.
Not the right moment to be thinking about breakfast, I have to let her know I’m still alive.
Meanwhile I’m still not really able to move though. Okay, I’ll try again. I have enough energy to move my hands, that’s nice. I guess I should be more worried about this. But I’m feeling very calm. I have never been the panicky kind of person, anyway, but this is kind of strange. Is it the concussion?
Lily enters my room still wearing my t-shirt, with her tights underneath. The girl has legs to die for, I swear!
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 you wake up, maybe it will help with your head. I didn’t know the effect of... well I’m sorry.” Lily says with a hoarse voice.
Slowly she 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. I wrinkle my nose a little. I burns in my mouth for a few seconds before I swallow.
“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 me from the inside, it’s a nice feeling.
“What is this stuff?” I ask, my voice is hoarse and croaky. I carefully push myself up against the headboard. Wheeeee goes the room. I grab my head to make it stop.
“Just a drink we make for people who... well I don’t know how to explain it. 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, but stop because that hurts, 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 giving me a weak smile. I don’t believe her.
In a huff I cross 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 annoyed that she would lie to me over something this small. What’s wrong with her?
“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. 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 an unwavering expression. After a minute she turns, picks up her dress and disappears into my bathroom. I’m watching the closed door, contemplating the concept of getting up to follow her. I could, but my pillows are comfortable and she’s lying through her teeth to me. What’s this all about?
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?” Her words tumble from her mouth with such a speed I almost don’t catch any of them.
I’m still very confused but I let her help me up nevertheless. Standing and walking is fine. I’m not really dizzy anymore 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 then there is the fact that Lily lied to me! I don’t know why it annoys me so much, but it does.
“Good, that’s good. Well I have to go now. I’m so sorry, I shouldn’t have... well anyway, bye.” She’s gone before I can say anything.
Slightly dazed I enter the bathroom and examine my head. There is a huge bump on my head with a plaster. I peel it off to reveal a scabbed wound. I push it softly, it looks worse than it feels, but it still feels quite bad. Maybe it won’t look so bad if I wash of the dried blood.
Carefully I splash some water in my face. Shit, now it’s bleeding again. Where are those plasters, I suppose they must be somewhere close.
I find one, and also a toothbrush, I need to brush the horrible taste out of my mouth.
As I’m brushing my teeth experience the result of my feelings towards Lily. I’m quite a bit pissed at her. 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 brush so furiously I might have made my gums bleed.
I look at my reflection. The bloke in the mirror is 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’ll just go and try to work today. Who’s going to stop me?
A concussion can stop you quite effectively, I find out. The effort of riding a tube 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.
“Woah 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, pointing at the plaster on my forehead. “Go home Neil, you’re not well.”
I frown at her but ignore her words. “I’m fine, nothing’s wrong with me. What can I do?” I say.
“Ugh, don’t be so stubborn!” Lily says, she turns away from me when I make a face at her. “Come on Jack, he’s had a hit on 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, “You’re 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 again.
“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’d have thought you could use a brake, come and try again tomorrow.” Jack says with a jovial smile. He’s managed to walk me over to the bar and pushes me down on a stool.
“Yeah, well, I 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 like a total tool, 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, adding milk and sugar to real English recipe. “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’m still wondering what happened last night. It’s all a vague black area in my memory. I don’t remember much after dinner. Maybe a day off to collect my thoughts is what I need.
“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 anything.” The moment I say it I regret it. Lily simply smiles and winks before she continues her job. I really wish I knew what happened. Should I be worried?
I frown hard, trying to remember. We watched a movie and drank something, things are just so 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. Had me up I hysterics all night because you wouldn’t wake up and I thought you’d slipped into a coma.” 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 night, rest some and I’ll see you tomorrow if you feel better.”
I guess I am overruled. It’s two against one, one with a concussion no less. 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 and 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 think I want to lie on the couch and eat ice cream, or something more masculine but equally enjoyable.
A/N: Thank you JK Rowling for giving my Neil a Lily to fancy. 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 a devoted reader/reviewer, thanks Jack!)
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