I sighed with relief as I got home. Today had been a very good day. No sign of Emily after the bus incident whatsoever. Phew.
A few minutes later, I was up in my room, my bag thrown carelessly on the floor, playing COD on my Xbox. I heard Charlotte, my little sister, going downstairs and a few words of her conversation with Mum floated upstairs.
"...stay here tonight? ... boiler's broken... no heating."
There was a pause while Mum answered.
"Thanks! I'll tell her to come round as soon as possible."
Oh wonderful. Charlotte was having a sleepover. I wouldn't mind if her friends weren't bouncy, loud, excitable girls. The y even seemed to have an odd fascination with me. Come on, guys are hardly a different species. But if I passed them while they were playing a game in Charlotte's room, they would pause and stare, and maybe even whisper a question about me to her - goodness knows what. I hoped that this was someone different, someone quieter and someone who realised that boys were just a little different from girls and that they were nothing to stare or whisper at.
It was someone different all right.
But it was someone I knew.
And someone who I would rather exchange for a dozen of Charlotte’s usual friends.
How did this stuff happen to me?!
During dinner, the doorbell rang.
“Oh, that’ll be Emily,” Charlotte said.
I froze, thinking of my ‘girlfriend’. But I relaxed. No, it couldn’t be. I mean, I’d mentioned Emily to Charlotte a couple of times in passing but they weren’t friends. I was paranoid: I should watch a DVD tonight to take my mind off the situation of my love-life.
But Charlotte bounded to the door and returned with, guess who?, Emily.
She smiled shyly at me.
I downed my glass of water and said “Mum, can I go upstairs?”
“Oh, sure, honey,” she replied. Phew, at least she thought that Emily was only Charlotte’s friend. I would die of embarrassment if she found out that I was going out with her.
Emily looked confused as I left the room and went upstairs.
I went straight to my room and closed the door, behind me, hoping that some magical force would keep Emily at bay.
The thought briefly crossed my mind that Emily wouldn’t be allowed to stay here if Mum knew we were ‘dating’ but, like I said, I was too embarrassed to say anything. I hoped she wouldn’t say anything either. Hopefully, her parents were like mine about the concept of relationships.
A few minutes later, there was the sound of someone coming upstairs.
I heard my sister say “That’s his room,” and a hurried thanks preceded Emily’s entrance into what, up till now, had been my private inner sanctum.
I looked across at her, pausing the level I was on.
“Why did you go?” she asked, breathlessly.
“So you and Charlotte could talk, or do something together. Don’t let me interfere with your sleepover.” I was trying to sound kind but inside, I was shouting ‘Go away! I don’t want you here!’
“You’re so silly - you’d never interfere.” She bounced over and kissed me on the cheek, sitting beside me on my bed.
“So, what’re you playing?”
“Call of Duty,” I murmured.
Her brow crinkled. “Is that a war game?”
“Oh... I don’t like war much. Even in videogames.”
“Perhaps you could do something with Charlotte then,” I suggested.
She looked confused. “Why would I want to do that? You’re my boyfriend.”
I sighed. “Alright then.” I stood up and walked over to turn the Xbox and then the TV off.
I returned to her side.
“So what do you want to do?” I asked.
She shrugged. “We could watch a film together, I guess. I’m not fazed as long as you’re there.”
“Well, there are some DVDs over there. Go pick one.” I waved a hand in the vague direction of the bookshelf.
As she wandered over, she gazed appraisingly around the room. I shook my head in disbelief before turning on my computer and signing into Facebook. I heard Emily turning the TV on and putting a DVD into the DVD player.
One Facebook notification cheered me up quite a lot.
Mark had sent me a message (I hadn’t added him as a friend yet) saying ‘Hey mate, can’t wait till Saturday’.
I jumped in shock. I hadn’t realised Emily was back beside me.
“Er, I’m just going round a friend’s house,” I replied.
Emily looked confused again. “Saturday? Didn’t you have a football match that day?”
“Did I?” I asked, wondering where she had got that impression.
She nodded. “Yeah, you told me that’s why I couldn’t come round.”
“Oh... Um... Well...”
She waited, looking expectant.
“Guess this means I’m not a very trustworthy person,” I said, seeing an opportunity to get her to dislike me and seizing it by the throat.
Her frown deepened.
“I mean, ... if I’ve been lying to you... Well... you don’t want me as a boyfriend.” I tried to look very serious as I said this but inside I was becoming excited at the prospect of ending the relationship for once and for all.
“So ... you lied to me?”
“Oh yeah. And I don’t really have prep to do in the evenings. At least, not as much as I claim to.”
Pain entered her face.
“But why?” she whispered.
Oh no. Don’t cry! Please don’t cry! Don’t ruin this perfect moment!
“It’s not your fault,” I said gently. “I’m just not a very ... sociable person.”
“I only do things from time to time.” I was grasping for straws here, desperate to find some valid reason for us not to be boyfriend and girlfriend anymore whilst also trying to say something that wouldn’t make her cry.
“I ... I don’t understand. I love you, Carter. And you love me too.”
“I’ve never said that,” I pointed out.
“But you kissed me... How can a kiss not mean love?”
“Look, Emily, don’t get upset here. Perhaps you should just ... let me go. You know ...” I paused, looking straight into wide, innocent eyes which evoked guilt from me. I swallowed, unexpectedly moved, but forced myself to say the next words. “Dump me.”