I woke up and immediately knew that this would be the first risky decision my brain would make today. My head was pounding like I was a million miles under the sea. Unnngh, stupid alcohol. On that thought a sudden wave of nausea caught hold of me and I barely made it to the bathroom in time.
Wait. I didn't have en en-suite room. In fact, this room was far to clean to be mine and I don't think it would have even fit in my flat. Which only meant this wasn't my room. My god, what had I done? My last memory was...
"Oh no..." I despaired. The awareness that I still had my clothes on made me relax slightly. So had he just brought me here and left me? Whose house even was this?
Harriet had told me to call her, but that was out of the question. Having to think would make my headache worse. I needed water.
Downstairs I began to recognise the layout a bit. I wondered why, but that was a thought for later.
I opened a door and knew why I recognised the house. Max was laid on the sofa, still with his shoes on. There were bags under his eyes as though he hadn't really slept. So had he rescued me? If so, I couldn't thank him enough. But how had he found me?
I crept past him in order to not wake him up. He both needed and deserved the little amount of sleep he'd probably get before Boss called on us. The light coming in from the kitchen window made me realise how dark it was inside the house. It also meant that it was at least past eight.
When I wondered back into the front room, Max was awake. "Briony," he said, his voice coarse, having just woken up. "What were you...? Why...?" And then he got up and hugged me. He actually hugged me. He had never done that before. I could hear my pulse in my head. "Are you all right?"
"You don't look fine."
"Well, you're looking dandy yourself."
"OK, all right. No arguing." He surrendered. "Not now." He led me to the settee and searched my face. "Briony, you... you've got no idea how worried I've been all night. What were you thinking?"
I averted my eyes to the floor. "I wasn't thinking."
He sighed. "Something must have been going on in your mind. You don't intoxicate yourself for nothing."
"I was..." What was I going to tell him? That's what happens when I want someone I can't have? "... depressed."
"But why?" He pressed, obviously concerned. "I don't understand."
My turn to sigh. "And I don't understand why you care, Max."
"I tend to care about my friends." He told me, although he paused before he said "my friends" as though he was about to say something else. Either way, I felt my cheeks warm.
"Well, you don't need to care," it was technically the truth, although not what I wanted him to do at all.
He groaned and ran a hand through his hair. "Obviously I do when certain friends get drunk and allow creepy guys with obvious intentions to bundle them into their cars."
"Listen, Max, it's not going to happen again. So you can stop worrying."
"Easier said than done."
My brain told me to change the subject. "Well, if you care about me that much, you'll probably have been wondering what I've been keeping from you."
He frowned. "I have, but that's not important right now."
"You'll change your mind," I took out the picture which I had been keeping in my bra. The one I had held back and hidden from Maximus, without telling him why. But right now I wasn't with Maximus, and Max deserved to know.
He unfolded the picture and frowned because he didn't understand. And then he seemed to realise why I'd kept it from him and looked up at me, begging with his eyes for me to not confirm his thoughts. I just nodded.
"We''ll talk about this later," he said, and handed me back the picture. I didn't take it. "Fine."
"Max, I'm s-"
"Later, I said. We'll talk about it all later. I need to think. You should go and get some rest. Boss has given us the day off, probably to catastrophic consequence. I'll wake you up if he calls."
I didn't know what to say. "Max, I really am-"
"Briony, I said later."
So I went back upstairs to sort out my thoughts. The guilt that washed over me was almost unbearable, and I found myself in tears. What the hell was I going to do?One stupid mistake was all it took to make me realise what a complete and utter selfish idiot I actually was.
I wished two things. I wished that I had never been partnered with Max in the first place, and I wished more than anything that I had realised I loved him before.