Sixteen: Still Joking Around

Andrea yawned into her free hand as she typed another line of personal prognosis onto the bare bones of the Word document blaring out from her laptop. There was something odd about her logic of naturally waking up at seven o’clock, but she had not been able to put her mind to rest when there was so much to be done. The text from Alexia still lay dormant on her phone:

Sorry I didn’t get to work yesterday. Urg, flu. Can you type up Mrs. Taunton’s post-med report? Need soon.

Andrea stretched her hands out in front of her body. She was helping Alexia, just as she had promised. Still, it didn’t make Andrea feel better that she had to be sat behind a screen for her morning off. Painting would have been a nice distraction.

“Silly lark,” she scolded of her chronotype.

The clatter of keys distracted her from the light groan of a door opening somewhere above her in the house. Andrea was no technophobe, be she repeatedly affirmed that her negation didn’t mean she had to like using computers. They were necessary for work, but Andrea could think of more self-friendly things to do with her eyes and the use of her brain. She shook her head in mock disbelief. What a world.

“Talk to yourself much?” came a voice from the stairs. Today, fresh from sleep, Lucas’ voice was round and full of his caramel accent.

“As if I’ve never heard you babble about fish and crumbs and missing things,” she replied, not looking up.

“Umm...not relevant. Only because I forgot to buy the breaded fish for dinner last week,” he argued.

The stairs nearby creaked and suddenly a hand was playing with her hair, kisses swooping down every other minute.

“Lucas! That tickles! I’m trying to work.”

“Relax a little.” He moved beyond where her line of sight would have been, were she looking up, and set about clattering around in the kitchen. By the very sounds, he had fetched both cereal and bread for toast, and worked about multi-tasking the two into her breakfast. A multi-tasking man, how odd! More so that when she herself had tried to do the same, Andrea had failed in all respects of the tasks.

She continued typing until nine o’ clock, when Lucas had finished, too. They moved simultaneously: she, lowering her laptop to the floor with the snap of its lid, he prancing into the living room to help lift her from the sofa unnecessarily.

In her bewildering ascent, Andrea caught sight of what Lucas was wearing.

“You look vividly dashing in pink this morning,” she remarked of his shirt.

“Don’t I always?” he teased, catching her by the hand and bringing her into a pirouette.

“And musical!” She laughed. “I love you.”

“Yes, I know,” Lucas cheered with his own grin. He was probably thinking of the amount of times that Andrea reiterated her sentiment. She didn’t intend to, but the same jolt of lightning hit her whenever he was in her presence.

“Speaking of which….” she began, before doubling back on her own thoughts and biting her tongue.

Lucas said nothing in response; in the best of options, he had not even heard her slip of the tongue. She tugged his hands, guiding Lucas down to the sofa. When they kissed, his lips and tongue tingled with mint.

They folded together into the sofa, Lucas moving an arm to surround her shoulder.

“I’m sorry for everything that’s been happening,” he said. “I just want a day when we can just be ourselves, together.”

“It’s okay.” She leant over and gave his hand a comforting squeeze.

He shrugged, applying pressure back. “How’s the painting going?”

“Well, thank you; I’ve finished two landscapes now. I just hope I can work out the site blog to sell them.”

“I’m sure you will. Your art is lovely.”

“You wouldn't say that if you were chained to it.”

“You tease me. Stop your quirting!” he exclaimed.

“Quirting? Who, me? Wait, what?” Andrea couldn’t speak for giggling.

“Don’t you know?” he asked, putting on his obvious pokerface. “It’s hitting one with a quirt, a riding whip. That is: joking around.”

“What? Where do you get these things?”

“LansdaleUniversity, of course,” giggled he.

Andrea’s smile broadened as she heard that delightful sound of Lucas’ unique chuckle. He was her angel.

“Oh, hold on,” muttered Lucas with a funny tone.

Standing up, the man sneezed into a pocket handkerchief he had pulled from nowhere. He rubbed at his eyes and she noticed them to be slightly more red than normal.

“You okay, honey?”

“Yeah, extended hay-fever,” he said, with another darling laugh. “I get it around this time every year.”

“You become more mysterious the further I learn about you, Lucas.”

“Indeed that is true,” said he, with a bow.

Saying no more, he wandered into the kitchen, accompanied, as always, by the sounds of rustling. Andrea was too phased out to bother to follow him in there. Instead, when he returned with a glass of water, she asked:

“Where did you go?”

He slurped at the water. “Just to take a tablet. With extended hay-fever, it’s usually mild, but it can be worst. I’m fine, though.” He ducked his head, body language set to display every thought of thanks that radiated from him at her concern.

He set the glass down onto the table, smoothing both as if in thought. Then he looked up at Andrea.

“Shall we put on some music?” The question was, inevitably, rhetoric.

Lucas knelt down beside the cabinet of CDs, whistling something choral and upbeat as he browsed through his collection augmented slightly by hers (though Andrea had never owned many CDs in her youth anyway). Lucas’ mumbling grew. At first alarmed, Andrea’s fears dimmed when he drew out a whole handful of CDs and plonked them down onto the coffee table beside her.

Naturally, Andrea couldn’t help her eyes and her interest be drawn to the titles that he passed to her as he continued to search. One, in particular, was out of place from the schema of the Lucas she knew.

“What’s this?” Andrea teased, lifting the CD from the table, observing the four male figures that lounged about the cover. “‘All Time Low’?”

She knew it was exactly not his style of music to listen to. Basses and brat-pack bashing was not Bach. Indeed, Lucas jumped back when he saw what it was that her hands clutched.

“Oh, my sister gave that to me. I’m not quite sure if she was being serious. Typical Léarian humour. I will probably never listen to it. Hence why it lies in wait in my cabinet.”

Andrea draped herself back into the sofa. It was soft and sleek, more colourful than her old one or Keith’s paisley coat. It was Lucas’ sofa which she liked the most, and in which she spent a lot of her free time like today.

“I love your sister,” she declared to the air.

“Huh?” Lucas jerked away from the cabinet, fixing his eye on her.

“Sorry…that was a bit forward, wasn’t it? What I mean is that, from what I know, she seems a brilliant person, really full of life.”

“Yeah.” With a grin, Lucas moved from the floor and slid back into place on his sofa, wrapping an arm around her. “She’s my sister.”

However, he simply couldn't sit still today. He sneezed again, jumping up.

“I thought you were treating that,” said Andrea.

“Pills don’t work straight off, Andrea.”

“Touché,” she replied, watching him take his pocket handkerchief and march into the kitchen. This time, the rattling was more familiar: the sound of a set of mugs clanging together; the kettle running and Lucas fetched spoons. In a minute, on the other hand, he stormed back into the room.

“Milk? How did I forget to pick up some milk?” he grunted the words before: “That really irritates me.”

“Calm down, Lucas. I know; it’s okay. Just pop to the corner shop, I know they do milk just as well as any supermarket.” He stared at her, so Andrea stretched up, reaching her hands to his shoulders. “Don’t worry about leaving me here, silly.”

“All right. You have your way once more, Miss Ford. I’ll be back soon, sweetheart.”

“I know.”

As Lucas disappeared out the door, Andrea fingered the neat tower of objects on the coffee table. Absent-mindedly, she traced the faces of the four youths, and only came back into the possession of her mind when she had flipped open the case and popped out the CD itself. Andrea watched her finger in the centre of the CD as she twirled it. Interesting. And curiosity told her to give in to her inner questioning.

She crept to the player and inserted the disk, listening to the buzzing silence before a male voice filled the room, slow at first, but picking up ever so suddenly. An electric guitar twanged in Andrea’s head; sticks thrashed against drums – but none of it was unpleasant.

Then she really started listening. The lead singer was proclaiming of a girl who had left him: “police-tape, chalk-line.” It amused Andrea to hear a breakup being referred to in the same language as a crime-scene. That was probably the idea; she was no musician and would have to ask Lucas if lyrics made any big difference.

He returned in the middle of the third track, Andrea now lounging half-on, half-off the armchair, attempting to count the first beat of each bar or to strum an air-guitar to the music. She giggled at her own ridiculousness – and then at the expression Lucas shot her as he strode in, carrying the milk from his fingertips.

Eyebrows shot up as soft eyes roamed over her. He did that a lot.

“You’re listening to…that?”

“I like it, Lucas,” she responded. “It’s actually not as bad as you would think.”

“Hmm,” he replied. The edge of disagreement was sharp in his voice.

“It’s not the average rock, I’ll tell you that. This isn’t ‘radio garbage’; it actually contains some really intelligent lyrics and is musically quite nice. It’s what I would call clever.”

“What you would call.”

“Okay!” Andrea pounced upon him; “let’s agree to disagree.”

“I can concede to that.” Lucas nodded. He pushed past her and through into the kitchen, where Andrea just about heard the fridge opening and shutting. She rotated the dial on the CD player so that the music quietened.

After a moment, Lucas returned, clutching his drink. He nodded to the CD player with a discreet smile.

“Mmm, that reminds me: speaking of sisters, Léa will be back in England in a few days, though it’s amazing she managed to sort out the dispute in three days. When she sets her mind to something.... I was thinking that maybe we could all have a meal together to welcome her back. You know, treat her to something so that she won’t have to cook or eat hotel food before she travels back to Redshire.”

“I think that’s a good idea. So she’s really going home, then?”

“She can’t exactly stay – what with Keith in town,” pointed out Lucas.

“I guess so. I would have liked to have seen her more, though.”

“You will…one day.”

Andrea rubbed her hand along the back of the armchair, registering the smooth and rough alternation of the fabric. This aided her mind; concentrating on something so menial gave Andrea the chance to look busy to Lucas’ eyes whilst pondering immeasurable quantities of data.

“Hey,” she said, looking up at the man who had returned to his own seat. “Can I invite Alexia along? There are a couple of work things I need to sort out with her, but since she’s been ill and it’s my day off….”

“Sure,” Lucas replied. His warm smile hid none of Andrea’s secretive manner. He would have understood if he knew just how much she was trying to care for him. She would bring along Alexia just in case. It would be easier to split the bill with four, too, and it was this which Andrea hoped would, consciously or not, appeal to Lucas about inviting a non-member of the family.

She needed a second opinion, because, amongst all his joyful teasing, Andrea’s worry for her love was still growing. He had begun to despise talking to the psychiatrist and had rejected the sessions, though he had had only two for starters.

The End

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