All the small things.
I woke to the sound of early morning car keys quietly giving their owners’ permission to drive, and parents and school children talking in hushed tones on the street. No excitement. Just a normal school morning. The man next to me in bed, turned around, slowly waking from his own slumber, the sickly-sweet scent of jam on his breath. Last night his breath evoked herbs, and spices, just like the rest of his house, and no doubt sections of the street too. His long light brown hair was sectioned on his shoulders, back and on my throat too. Restricting yet comforting - all at the same time. His breathing had become deeper. His arms fell nicely on my waste. I snuggled in, purposely tangling our legs together, yet I knew it only a matter of minutes before I my day must begin too.
We drink coffee in bed. Cheap corner shop coffee, yet the caffeine hit me giving me an instant buzz and reminding me of the adrenaline I used to get when I used to play that game that I loved last year.
‘Candy crush saga … divine, sweet, delicious’ the male voice would croon, and in the back ground the addictive sound of candy crushing and jangling.
‘Have you got any plans for today?’ I asked, already feeling nervous about the answer.
‘Not really,’ he replies. Karl is coming around soon for a toke. We might go to the skateboard park, and practice on our boards. If we can get enough money together, we want to go surfing this year.’ A pause.
‘Oh, and Emma may come around this evening for a smoke.’
The moment I had dreaded. Emma was always there, even when I was not, her big beautiful eyes and confident demeanour. I know she had said she was not interested in Pete, yet my stomach still lurched every time her name was mentioned, as if it were the front of a passenger car, which had the potential to go off the rails at any moment.
I should go home, I thought. Start afresh, get myself together, and start living my life for good. Then I looked down at the scars on my arms, and then at his arms. His were deeper, imminent and more dangerous looking somehow. It made me remember why I wanted to be here. I leant across the bed grabbing for his empty cup. I missed and knocked over the ash tray. Nubs and pieces of ash hit across the tired brown carpet. There was an awkward silence in the room, similar to the hush before a tsunami. I wonder how birds had ever existed in that supernatural silence. Then a bang at the door.
It was cool out, the sun was shining, and the beautiful heads of daffodils had still made an appearance. Karl's dog reminded me of Scooby Doo, with her long comical face, and big wet black nose. She made me want to smile. The men were behaving like big kids, coming up to their thirties, yet still performing heel flips and grinds as if they were still teenagers. Blood rushed to my face as an elderly couple walked past. I decided to walk a few laps around the park, walking the dog.
I suddenly had a sense of being at the seaside. The breeze kissed my face and played with my hair. I smelt burgers cooking and hot dogs from a portable van nearby. In that moment, I felt that anything was possible. After work, I should go home, I thought.
When we got back, Pete was making a start with the cake mixture in the kitchen, and Karl was rolling the weed he had just picked up. In the background American sitcoms were playing on the TV and would more than likely run through to the early hours of the morning.
‘Oh shit, I have run out of sugar! Steph, did you use the last of the sugar?’
The question started off slow, and then the sentence became even slower, a bit like a roller-coaster ride that lurches and creaks before it accelerates rapidly downhill. My mind froze as if in protest, wanting to leap out of its cave.
‘I used the last bit of sugar for coffee this morning,’ I replied. My fingers were crossed behind my back for luck.
‘Why did you not think to tell me?’
Pete’s voice was rising. He was starting to sweat again. The real me knew I did not have to answer to anybody, and yet I blamed myself.
‘Well I will pick some up some now’, I replied. ‘I need to go to the shop anyway.’ Pete nodded his head.
‘I need to go too; hold on I will come with you.’
We stepped out of the house together, down the terrace street, and towards the corner shop. I reminded myself about how Pete used to be, before everything that had happened. I remembered the crazy back-flips he used to perform, and his Mick Jagger smiles. Unfortunate circumstances had brought us both back together after a brief romance over a decade ago. I kissed him tenderly on the cheek.
‘What the hell are you doing?’ he cried. I could not reply. My throat began to sting.
‘We are not an item. Just friends’, he continued with finality. ‘For God's sake. I have already told you that. What part of that don’t you get?’
The walk back to the house felt more of an uphill struggle than usual. When we finally arrived back, Emma was standing at the door with a pink polka dot umbrella in her hand, and a carrier bag full of what looked like snacks and treats for the evening.
‘Come out of the cold, Emma’, Pete cried. He rushed to the door to let her in. Emma looked at me slyly as if to say I told you so.
I suddenly got the impulsive desire to snip off Pete’s long hair and unravel it from my heart. It was just like poisonous Japanese knot-weed attached to a wall.
I think I should go home soon’ I thought.