Seven: Might Be Love

Andrea woke, conscious that she might be having a hangover.

“Urg.”

She was still on the sofa, dwelling in her numb head. Lucas had managed to slip himself away from out underneath her to sleep in his own bed, but he hadn’t thought to wake her to suggest she do the same.

Andrea let her thoughts slide into place, one at a time. She cradled her head, before the sting of truth came. One frantic glance at the steady mantelpiece clicked the final worry into place.

“Oh, gosh, work!

"Lucas!” she almost screamed, sprinting up to her bedroom, glancing in the bathroom mirror for a fraction of a second. Oh, god, she looked a mess; with frizzy hair like Andrea’s, there was no way she could leave the house without scraping a brush through it.

“You called, my lady?” Lucas remarked, peering out of his bedroom, own hairbrush in hand.

“Don’t try the jokes. Why didn’t you wake me? I’m late!”

“You looked so-”

“No, don’t give me that. I’ve got a headache and I have to be in the office in five minutes. I’m late!”

“Okay!” Lucas said, ducking back into his bedroom when he realised that she was shouting at him.

She couldn’t get her head together quickly enough. She couldn’t remember all she needed to do. Hair, makeup, clothing; nothing slipped together as it did when Andrea’s mind was clear. She sprinted back down the stairs, shoving a slice of bread into the toaster. Then it was back to the wardrobe until she heard the mechanic ping. Dressed in the best she could find in a matter of one minute, and with a hairbrush in her hands, Andrea fetched her toast, wiping it with marmalade before she shoved it aside. Breakfast was no priority; it went to the sideboard as Andrea struggled to juggle each mundane task. She screamed in pure frustration.

Andrea stormed out of the house in a fury. How could he not wake her? Andrea sulked as she pulled out of Lucas’ driveway. Her journey took an extra ten minutes than before, due to the distance that Lucas’ house made. However, it wasn't that which made Andrea disgruntled. Each tear-stained road, water in gullets down the middle, Andrea traced with her eyes, keeping a minute track of the route. Lucas’ home had one major difference to Keith’s: the former took no place in the centre of town; from that lay of the outskirts, Andrea had to devise a new way into work.

She had intended to scour the travel-ways for information- but, of course, that had not happened.

 

As Andrea travelled, she felt the pang of hunger emanate from the toast that she had shoved into one of Lucas’ plastic boxes, so well arranged in a left cupboard. Andrea hoped that she disarranged them so well to spite him.

It was the first thing she did to tear her teeth into the roughly-cooked bread. She growled- as if that would placate the stern feelings inside her- and clambered out of her car, slamming its door with the loudest grumph.

At the front entrance, she slammed the door open, trying not to leave a dent in the paintwork. Andrea fumed unreservedly. The patchwork tear in her jacket remained from a certain similar occasion. She tried to ignore why she kept hold of the night’s occurrences and the feeling: disappointment. Lucas had not met those expectations that Andrea had always pinned onto his suave exterior.

In addition, the mild headache didn’t help to calm Andrea. She grunted as she remembered the discarded paperwork in her car, running back to fetch it as her mood darkened. In another minute, she was back inside, striding her way to her desk.

Smack, the papers hit the desk with a roar of sound. Andrea winced. Why did a hangover have to be so loud? As Andrea rubbed her forehead and slid into her chair, a face came into focus at the divide of the room.

“Uh oh, what happened to you?”

“Alexis. Leave me, please.”

Andrea sunk her head into her hands, resisting the urge to sob in the confusion of her overwhelming love. She adoring him, but Lucas had shot her heart through. Half of Andrea wondered whether she was just overreacting due to the side-effects of the alcohol. This didn’t feel like joy anymore.

“We haven’t properly talked in what feels like days. Andry, what’s wrong?” Alexis melted to a softer side that Andrea rarely saw of her friend. As she raised her head to search Andrea from behind those beady glasses, Alexis must have spotted the concerned black bags under her eyes.

“You’ve overslept. You don’t oversleep, Andrea; you…who don’t drink either. And come on, you can’t deny a hangover to me.”

“You who drink profoundly,” Andrea mumbled with a sickened chuckle.

“Andrea?”

“I’d better tell you before Christine finds out and blabs to you herself about it. (You’re still working partway on her mother’s recovery, aren’t you?) Well, Keith and I have broken up.”

“What?” There was more interest in her voice than concern. “Is it anything to do with that Lucas?”

Andrea slammed down the pen that happened to be in her hand. Even that resonated through her brain like a wave of pounding steel.

“Leave me alone, Alexis!”

Of course, that had been the worst of reactions to give Alexis.

“It is, isn’t it?” she pried. “All right, I’ll go.”

 

File after file past before Andrea’s blearied eyes, but she could concentrate on nothing. She had no clients over this week- most had gone away for the Jubilee- but that left a convenient space for their paperwork to be tackled in, the only reason that the Lansdale Psychiatric Unit remained open at this time. Now, Andrea’s head swam with the remains of alcohol and pain. Emotions flooded physical aches, and physical aches rushed back so.

Abruptly, she became aware of the sultry laughter pouring in from across the corridor. Although Andrea was fully aware that Alexis had her own paperwork, there could be no mistaking the flirting giggle.

“Alexis?” Andrea stumbled out of her office-area. At least, a hangover meant the clarity of sound was at maximum, their voices as clear as glass.

The woman was standing at her own partition, eyes alight as they blazed over her superior, Mark. The two of them laughed together before Alexis floated her hand onto to his upper-arm warmly, in a move that she was probably considering to be one of friendship, despite the gentle affection that glittered out her artwork face. Mark’s own eyes floated over hers; he would certainly have disagreed.

Indeed, they would probably have remained boss and subordinate had Mark not leant in to peck Alexis on the cheek. She burned beat-red, but beamed in her pleasure.

As Andrea neared, she caught the last of speech:

“I’ll catch you after work, at the Great Lion.”

He walked away in his essence of a daze, leaving Alexis a shell-shocked, giddy beauty, as wild as her trying eyes now.

The woman jumped as Andrea approached, but, strangely, neither batted an eyelid at the other once they were staring each other in the face.

“I’m happy for you,” Andrea told her, “I really am. Alexis, you’re finally getting yourself settled, you know. Can I ask you something? How do you do it? How can you be so calm and collected, so suavely controlled in a relationship?”

Alexis looked at Andrea only once before replying.

“It’s not like that. It’s a lot harder than you’d think. You have to concentrate on hiding those feelings you’d like to reveal.

"I’m sorry about earlier. I’d better tell you, whilst your mobile was off, Lucas called the office, leaving a message with one of the temps. Oh dear you. Well, he’s sorry about not ‘being on the ball’.”

“Yeah,” Andrea remarked with a sigh.

“Andrea…you didn’t tell me…” Alexis could barely speak; Andrea guessed that the woman didn’t expect this of her. “Why didn’t you text me if you were going through a problem streak with Keith? What even happened…?” She readjusted her neat glasses.

“I…” Andrea didn’t know why. It had happened so swiftly that the forefront of danger had been over before she could comprehend texting Alexis. “So much was going on that it didn’t cross my mind.”

“But where are you living now? Not with Keith?”

“Not with Keith, no…” Andrea took a deep breath. “With this Lucas.”

Alexis’ pencilled eyebrows shot into her bouffant fringe.

“Now, you can’t tell me that’s as friends.”

Andrea almost burst into tears at her frustration.

“No, indeed. And now he’s gone and let me down.”

Alexis’ eyes searched hers.

“Of course he has. You can’t expect love- if that’s what this is- to be perfect. Just take Mark and me, for example. We can’t be perfect, but we still…well…”

“It might well be love!” cried Andrea, hands rising to her head, tearing at the mess of ripples.

“That’s what you said about Keith…”

“No, that’s what you said about Keith.”

Andrea sighed, all bitterness gone from her mind.

“Alexis…I can’t quite say what needs to be said. How can I explain what…thoughts are running through my mind? Those emotions raw. Not even Psychology can provide any adequate explanation. He’s hurt me.”

“What…did Lucas actually do?” she raised the question. “He didn’t do a Darren...?”

Andrea’s heart softened at the mention of Alexis’ ex-boyfriend. Yes, Andrea knew that she had been through many, but Darren had been her favourite, longest of whatever of the list she had. He had possessed the uncanny ability to think like the psychologist, and his enjoyment of partying mirrored hers. However, Darren had beentooakin to Alexis. Their messy break-up came from his extended infidelity. This had been before Alexis’ adamant success, but Andrea had watched her colleague crumble from a distance nonetheless.

“He didn’t…” Andrea shook. She suddenly, startled, remembered how suggestive Lucas had been.

“So?”

“It was just…” Then she realised. She had done it to Keith, and she was doing it to Lucas, too. “My, god, it was me.”

“You?”

“I’m blaming him for not waking me. But I drank the champagne. I let it consume me, and blamed him for my being hung-over.”

“That’s not unreasonable,” Alexis replied with a teasing smile.

Andrea allowed herself a tight imitation of Alexis’ expression, softer, too, before she turned and took back to her work.

“So?” Alexis asked, hovering by the partition.

“What? Don’t you actually have work today?”

“Analysis, yes. But I just wanted to make sure that you were okay…”

“You wanted to make sure that you had enough information to satisfy your curiosity, that’s what it is, ‘Lex.”

Andrea listened, her head still bent down over the multitude of prognoses and allowances from the doctors and other psychologists both in the clinic and external, as the heels snapped forward, only for Alexis to stop by Andrea’s shoulder. The latter had to look up, expectant.

“Are you gonna call him?” Alexis had Andrea’s mobile in her hand and a quiet twinkle in her eyes.

“No, not yet. I have work to do.”

The End

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