"Where have you been?"
Andrea stopped in mid-tred. The shag carpet was a bliss under her sore, over-danced feet. It wasn’t that she'd spent the entire night dancing, though. Not when Lucas' place offered the cosiness of wine and chatting right into the night. He even offered her a movie to watch (“and throw popcorn at!”), but she had declined, wanting to rest her throbbing head as soon as an occasion popped up. Of course, with Lucas, those occasions did not tend to show their faces very often.
It was still quite dark in the townhouse, even in the little early morning light that tried to seep through the half-drawn curtains. She had crept home at whatever hour this was (her mind was still a speeding blur on the dance-floor), leaving Lucas a note which went something along the lines of “thanks for the lovely evening. Sorry for leaving, but I had to get back home. Text me when you have more info about the Twelfth Night play. I’d love to come along. I miss that school.” She may have still been vaguely tipsy at the time of writing.
Her mind rocketed back to the townhouse and the TV that had quickly been switched off. Andrea watched Keith's expression. Then she matched it with one of her own. An unimpressed face.
"I was catching up with a friend I haven't seen for ages. She invited me out for drinks and I crashed on her sofa for the night. I was too tired. My phone decided to run out of battery. Anyway, I’m sorry I didn’t leave a note, it was all very sudden.”
Andrea surprised herself at how easy it was to lie to Keith. Her expression was just daring him to accuse her, but she knew that he wouldn't. The rules of their attempt at a relationship meant that they both had to trust each other.
And so, Keith silenced the words he might have said.
“Right. Fine. I’m going to bed.”
She watched him stomp up the stairs and heard his bedroom door close a minute later. Sighing, the lady flumped down on the worn sofa, watching as the morning sun started to burn brighter. Keith wouldn’t be asleep for long, but Andrea would rather have been alone, her thoughts her only companions. Her thoughts of the previous night…
Nothing happened! Andrea found the words swarming around inside her head. Like a young child caught in the act and denying the truth, Andrea felt guilty, although nothing had happened that would have threatened her relationship with Keith. Indeed, Lucas had, in his rather drunken state, attempted to kiss Andrea again (and here Andrea recalled her split second of temptation and desire), but she had managed to divert the trouble before it had happened. And, she told herself, it meant nothing, it was merely temptation and desire and the glasses of wine that she had guzzled in between quickstepping under a disco-ball and doing some strange mix of two dances that Lucas cheerfully announced as being called 'Ceroc', telling her proudly that he had learnt it at college.
As the day grew old, and Andrea alternated from reading in her sunlit bedroom, to drinking cups of coffee in the kitchen, to ignoring texts about her birthday from Alexis whilst she watched some birds attack the birdfeeder in the garden she had just refilled, she kept thinking of what she had done; it felt wrong, it felt right, and, yet, she had nothing to be ashamed of. It might have been the tiredness affecting her mind, making her more guilty…
Of course that’s it, she kept telling herself.
When Keith came home from work, looking as tired as he had done when she had opened the front door to find him dozing on the sofa, she was busy making dinner. He attempted a smile at her, and she could see that he was still hurt from her lack of communication. She garnished his fillet with an extra sprig of mint and a sprinkle of pepper, his favourites, in the hope that he would cheer up.
You see, she told herself, there are things that I know about my house-mate/boyfriend.
As she was setting the table, Keith wandered in, helping out, as usual, with the drinks, and said, as though suddenly:
"What was her name?"
Andrea looked up, startled.
"The lady you were staying with."
"Oh, her..." Andrea said, stalling. She racked her brain for an answer. "Her name was Lea."
It sounded rather like the feminine of 'Lucas', but Andrea hoped dearly that Keith wouldn't notice. Once again, the lie came too easily. Andrea didn't want to think that this was the person that she might be turning into.
“Okay.” And finally Keith smiled, “Let’s eat. Now, it’s your birthday soon, and you must have something planned…”
As she served up the food, Andrea cringed.
“Oh no, not you too. You’ve been speaking to Alexis.”
“I have, and she’s right…”
Thus the conversation continued through the evening, and, for once, Andrea felt like she was having a perfectly normal day. Minus the fact that everybody would not stop talking about her silly birthday!