I didn’t go back to the kitchen after I left. Instead I shut myself in my room and sat in silence for a while. I wasn’t sure if I liked the way Owen was looking at me, his eyes following my every move like he didn’t want to miss a single movement that I made. I’d seen that look before and I didn’t want to be hurt in the same way that the last person who had looked adoringly at me had done.
My phone buzzed from inside my bag, pulling me away from memories I wasn’t sure I wanted to remember. A smile broke out across my face when I saw Pippa’s name flash up on the screen.
Hey Ness! How’s uni going? xxx The short text made me smile even more. Alex may have more friends than I could possibly count and may forget about me from time to time, but Pippa was always there. We might have only been friends for just over a year, but I already loved her in the same way I loved Alex, my childhood best friend.
Things are going OK, I texted back. Met some really nice people. You must come visit soon! xxx
“You alright?” Aislinn asked as she entered the room, shutting the door behind her, a signal to everyone else that we weren’t to be disturbed.
“Fine,” I replied, putting my phone down. “Why shouldn’t I be?”
“You seemed a little off when you left,” Aislinn said, perceiving the awkwardness I had wanted to hide. “I thought someone had said something to offend you and wanted to make sure you weren’t upset.”
“No, nothing like that.”
“But there is something wrong,” Aislinn insisted. “You know you can talk to me, Nessie.”
“It’s trivial,” I replied, “you’ll think I’m stupid.”
“I could never think that.” Aislinn sat on her bed opposite me, leaning over so a necklace fell out of her top.
“What’s that?” I asked, pointing to the rings that were looped onto the chain around Aislinn’s neck. “They look like wedding rings.”
“Oh,” Aislinn said, surprised as she looked down and saw the rings hanging there. “Yes, they were my mother’s. When she died my father gave them to me to remember her by. I just wish I had actually known her.”
“I’m sorry,” I said as Aislinn held the rings lovingly in her hand. “I didn’t mean to pry.”
“It’s fine,” Aislinn said, a strange smile on her face, almost like she was remembering something. “I usually wear them on my fingers but since they are clearly an engagement and wedding ring I didn’t want people to get the wrong idea.”
“I’m sure we wouldn’t judge you if you did decide to wear them as rings. We’d all know the truth behind it.”
“Thanks for the sentiment but I’m not sure I could reveal that just yet. Besides, we were talking about you. Why would I think you are stupid?”
“It’s nothing. Owen just reminded me of something I’d rather forget.”
“Tell me about it,” Aislinn said. “It helps to get things out in the open instead of keeping them all bottled up and waiting to explode.
“I used to have this boyfriend,” I said, this story being told a little too often for my liking. “His name was Luke and I thought the world of him and he loved me. To cut a long story short, we broke up and I’m still in love with him. The way Owen was looking at me scared me because he was looking at me just like Luke used to and I’m not ready for that.”
“It was probably your mind playing tricks on you,” Aislinn said. “And if not, I’m sure Owen will understand.”
“I hope he does,” I mumbled to myself. “At least before it’s too late.”
“So this Luke,” Aislinn asked, refusing to let the subject drop. “Are you still friends with him?”
“I suppose so,” I replied, turning to look at the pictures on my wall, Luke’s face appearing from most of them. “I suppose that I want to be with him no matter what, even if it is just as a friend.”
“Does he know this?”
“I don’t know. He must know how much I care about him or he wouldn’t still want to be friends, he even said that if we feel the same way after university and neither of us has found anyone else then we might be able to get back together. But three years is a long time.”
“It’s a very long time,” Aislinn agreed. “Would you want to wait that long for him?”
“It would depend on if he wanted to wait for me,” I said, focusing on the strange patterns in the carpet. “But I assume because he broke up with me he’s expecting to move on. I love him, but I don’t want to be his back up in case something goes wrong or he realises that he made a mistake.”
“But those are two very different things. What if Luke turned up here tomorrow and told you that he loved you and he wanted you back? Would you forgive him?”
“I suppose so, yes.”
“So you are willing for him to admit that he made a mistake?”
“If he turned up tomorrow then yes. But in three years? Five years? Ten years? I can’t put my life on hold in the hope that he’ll change his mind and realise we were perfect together.”
“I agree, you can only wait so long. But sometimes the people you love are worth waiting for.” Aislinn’s hands were playing with her ring finger again; twisting the imaginary ring that she thought was there. She was clearly very used to wearing her mother’s rings on her finger.
“Well, we’ll just have to see then, won’t we?” I said, more to myself than to Aislinn, allowing my mind to wander off as the conversation died.