The week was over before I had time to blink. Most lessons passed in a semi-comatose stupor and when I (infrequently) happened to find myself engaged I voraciously devoured anything Abe said. I wasn’t learning anything interesting elsewhere anyway. Additionally the quality of the company was something I had missed a lot more than I had realised, Elena particularly. David was handsome and sweet and everything and I loved him but Elena was just different. Her sense of humour was unique and she picked the most unexpected things to say sometimes that made perfect sense if you only thought about it. Her perspective was so refreshing and conversation was always effortless. She was just a joy to be around. Not that David wasn’t, it was just that he happened to be a guy, and being a guy there were things he just couldn’t understand in the way Elena did. That and Elena understood me inside and out. I couldn’t have hidden something from her even if I had wanted to.
Consequently there had been no point not telling her that I was meeting David on Saturday even though I’d promised to have a girl’s day out with her. She’d hit me with her “shame on you” look and I’d eventually managed to negotiate her onto Sunday. She’d eyed me down disapprovingly and relented while I’d smiled innocently and told her I was eternally grateful for her gratitude. She’d forgive me eventually.
So here I was. Saturday morning and not remotely ready for going out anywhere.
“Suki! Come help your sister with her homework! I’m too busy right now,” Mum called. I put down my hairbrush and, scowling, went out of my room to find Annabel and my mother. They were in the kitchen. Mum was on the phone speaking rapidly and aggressively. I could tell she was talking to a subordinate of hers at work. Someone she thought was incompetent or somehow inadequate. It was exactly the same way she spoke to me.
“No, you listen here, you have to get those documents sorted and filed by lunch and- well I don’t care if you’re busy, you’ve got a job to do. No, you shut up and listen to me, you will get the documents done or you will find your job taken by someone less incapable of such a simple task, do you understand?” My mother’s voice dropped into the same threatening tone she’d used with me earlier in the week. She over pronounced every syllable extra slowly with venom. Whoever was on the other end of the phone was wishing they had a different boss. They could count themselves lucky they didn’t live with her. Mum jabbed her mobile to cut the call.
“Useless man. I told him we needed the statements filed by Friday, he’s already a day late and is asking for more time.” She shook her head and took off her glasses to rub her eyes. After a pause she looked up at me.
“Suki, help Annabel with her homework, it should be very simple for you.”
“Actually Mum, you remember you said I could go out today?”
“Well, you’re not going anywhere in your dressing gown are you so you can help Annabel.”
“I’m in my dressing gown ‘cause I’d just gotten out of the shower when you interrupted me,” I snapped back at her.
She fixed me with a look that offered no argument.
“Stop answering me back. Help Annabel, I’ve got things to do.”
“Well why shouldn’t I answer you back when what you’re saying is not fair?” I demanded.
“It is perfectly reasonable. Now stop arguing, I am your mother.”
“You say that every time! What does being my mother have to do with anything? What gives you the right to be so obnoxious because you’re my mother?”
“You are the child. I have authority.” She said it as if it was the most obvious fact in the world.
“No! You’re the parent, you should be looking after your children, not ordering me around like a slave!” I was losing it, my voice rose in pitch towards a shriek of almost pleading.
“Don’t you dare ever say that to me again. Who buys your food and water? Who pays the rent to keep you sheltered? Who pays the bills and works everyday of her life to support you? How dare you suggest that I do not ‘look after’ you.” Her furious eyes scorched me as her words cut me. It wasn’t fair though. Money is no substitute for affection. You’re a stupid, useless mother. You do not love me. I was screaming in my head, the words burning a fissure in my skull. A crushing pressure between my eyebrows and around my temples. I didn’t say a word aloud though. I just glared into my Mum’s eyes, hot, bitter tears raging down my cheeks. She turned away from me.
“I’m going food shopping,” she said in a calmer tone. “Look after the house for me until I get back. Make sure Christopher has his breakfast and if you have helped Annabel finish her homework before I’m home I might let you go out.” Then she left without another word. I stood in the kitchen my fists clenched and trembling, shaking as the sobbing took me.
* * *
Anna’s homework was deemed satisfactory. Late, stressed and tired I left the house. Then the bus passed me. I chased it down the road, my dark hair flying behind me, my shoes pounding the pavement. I caught up with it just as it slowed to reach the stop. I handed over the necessary change and found a seat near the back on the bottom deck. Finally I relaxed a little. I slouched into the seat on the mostly deserted bus and a heavy sigh escaped me. “I’m free,” I thought. I still had a persistent headache however, that tight squeezing feeling like someone grinding their knuckles into the side of my head. The pain flourished again as I ran through all that had happened this morning again. Everything Mum had said, her cold distance, her dispassionate gaze, the way she spoke to me just like the man on the phone, beneath contempt, incapable, not worth contemplating, not even- stop! My mind shouted me down. I couldn’t afford to break down again now. I’d done what I had to. Anna’s homework had been simple; she should have been able to handle it herself. Chris didn’t want breakfast so I hadn’t forced him. I’d done my bit. This is ‘me’ time I told myself. Stop worrying and enjoy yourself. I settled down and gazed indifferently out of the bus window, lost in my thoughts.
I saw David before the bus had stopped. As the doors opened I ran straight into his arms and buried my face in his shoulder. I breathed long and deep, his scent was familiar yet exotic. Neither expensive cologne nor cheap corner shop deodorant but somewhere pleasantly in between. He let go of me and I reluctantly followed suit. He looked at me with a mixture of happiness and concern.
“Better late than never I guess…?”
“I’m sorry,” I pleaded. “I was getting ready and stuff happened and then yeah… I’d rather not talk about it.”
“It’s ok,” he murmured gently “I didn’t mind waiting, I’m just glad you’re here now. Though we have sorts missed the start of the movie.”
“Ugh forget the movie, I don’t feel like a cinema trip today.”
“Well ok then,” he paused thoughtfully. “We could go to my place if you like?”
“Oh but your parents would be there and… ”
“Nah they’re out for the weekend, we’d have the place to ourselves. Come on, you haven’t been over in ages, you know you want to.”
I smiled at his attempt at the voice of temptation. He really couldn’t do accents or impressions. Even so, I did want to.
“Ok, I’ll come over. But I can’t stay too long, Mum will get suspicious.”
“Great! Shall we?” He beamed at me as we started walking. His house wasn’t too far from the town centre and I let him lead on. As we settled into our stride and began to chat about this and that the pressure on my forehead melted away and as easily as we were talking all thoughts of my turbulent family were lost in his silky voice.
We ended up putting a movie on anyway. We curled up next to each other on the sofa and chatted our way through a B-grade romcom. I was very content. He hadn’t changed a bit in all this time I hadn’t seen him. We talked about all the times we’d missed out on seeing each other, what he’d done over the summer, his exotic holidays abroad, the people he’d met, the things he’d seen and done, all the things I missed out on. We talked about the times we spent together and the things we’d have done if we had met up more often. It felt like we were catching up on everything that we’d been missing, it was like tasting wine after living only on water. Our conversation flew back in time, picking up on every little thing we’d done and reliving it, from our first kiss, our first date, even to when we first met. I tried not to get too soppy on him at the risk of sounding just like the clichéd movie, but truly I’d missed him almost too much to give a damn. Before I knew it the credits were rolling and we’d chronicled almost the entirety of our relationship.
David scooched a little closer to me and I snuggled further into his shoulder.
“Y’know, it’s been almost a year now since we started dating…”
“Yes..?” His hesitant pause left me curious. “What is it?”
He looked at me with his liquid chocolate eyes, a hunger burning in them I hadn’t seen before.
“Since it’s almost our anniversary and it’s the first time we’ve seen each other in a while I thought maybe we could…”
My thoughts jammed up and I stopped hearing anything else. No way. No. No way. He’s not suggesting… He doesn’t mean…I stopped trying to understand anything altogether as he kissed me, a fierce, almost violent kiss that sent a slightly frightened thrill through my body. I pulled him even closer and kissed him back hard, tasting lust on his lips, on his tongue. He pushed me down onto the sofa, his hands snaking over my body, his fingers tasting my flesh as he pulled off my shirt. We’d done things before, but he’d never been like this. It scared me, terrified me, thrilled me. He ran his hands down my legs and reached up my skirt. I gasped aloud as he touched me, my breath sharp and ragged. My body convulsed with pleasure and I moaned once, then again louder. He leaned in close again and our hot lips met in scorching fervour. He was pressing his body against mine, his hands on my breasts. I touched his chest, his stomach, then down. My mind was racing, my heart beating a furious rhythm in my ears. I undid his jeans and pulled off his boxers as we came together in a burning crescendo of passion.