We're getting toward the end of what I currently have written on Kissing Fish. Also I'm headed home to America for Christmas for a month as of stupidly early tomorrow morning, so this may be the last post for a couple of days at least.
The intent is to devote some of this so-called holiday time to adding to Kissing Fish. Possibly I'll get a bit more written on 365 Days of Rain, too, if I'm feeling lucky. If I'm really in the mood I might even get around to updating the sci-fi story, since I think I've left Amy hanging for a couple of months now.
...we shall see. Stay tuned.
I woke up the next morning with a pounding headache, feeling disoriented. When I opened my eyes I was staring at an unfamiliar window set in a dreary white wall with no decorations, and it took me a minute to remember that I’d moved into my new flat in St Andrews the previous day.
It took me another minute to realise that I wasn’t alone in my bed.
There was an arm draped over my waist and I could feel someone’s breath warm against the back of my neck. I tentatively stretched out my leg and encountered a foot. A foot that was kind of bigger than my own.
I had a fierce internal debate about what to do. I mean, the last thing I remembered was Alex carrying me to bed and Faye asleep on the couch. So where had Alex gone to sleep? Somehow, I had a bad feeling he was lying right behind me.
Taking a deep breath, I carefully turned over so that I was on my back, and sure enough, Alex was asleep next to me. His blond hair curled over his ears, and I was tempted to tuck it back. And then his eyes flickered open.
He smiled slowly. “Good morning,” he said.
“Um,” I said intelligently. “Good morning. You’re in my bed.”
“Yeah,” he said, rolling over onto his back and stretching. He seemed not to have noticed that when he’d woken up he’d kind of been cuddling me. But that was okay with me, actually. The fact that he hadn’t noticed, I mean, not the fact that he’d been cuddling me. Because while that was warm and snuggly and lovely-feeling, it was wrong. Yes, brain, wrong. “Faye fell asleep on the couch and I didn’t want to move her.”
I sat up, holding the duvet to my chest, and then hooked my hands over my knees. “Oh.”
He frowned at me. “I hope that was okay. It’s not like we haven’t shared a bed before when everyone used to crash at Nate and mine after parties. Also there was that time in San Francisco when that bed and breakfast only gave us one bed.”
“I’d forgotten about that,” I said, keeping my eyes on his face and ignoring the fact that he clearly wasn’t wearing a shirt. For that matter… I was sure I’d been wearing a long-sleeved jumper the night before. And jeans. “Did you take off my clothes last night?” I asked, looking down at my tank top and trying to work out if I was wearing pyjama bottoms under the duvet.
“Oi,” he said. “Thank you, I don’t undress unconscious women. You’d already pulled your clothes off when I came back in. Besides — ” he grinned “ — nothing I haven’t seen before, Fish.”
“Twat,” I said.
He shrugged and threw off the duvet. He was, I was relieved to see, still wearing his jeans.
“I’ll go see if Faye is up and see about making some breakfast,” he said, pulling his t-shirt over his head. “What do you want? Cereal? Eggs? Toast?”
I flopped backwards onto my pillow and draped an arm over my eyes. “Whatever you feel like making,” I said. “Thanks.”
“Lazy git,” he said affectionately as he went out the door. A minute later I heard the murmur of voices in the living room.
What was wrong with me? I sat up again and stared across the room at the partially open door. Surely I should be able to sort out my life so that a) I didn’t fancy one of my best friends and b) didn’t feel so guilty every time we were together. I mean, this was starting to really make me worried.
“Oi,” Faye said, poking her head around the door frame, “come out and have breakfast. I have a surprise for you.”
I rolled out of bed and followed her out into the living room. Alex was banging pans around in the kitchen. “What’s this surprise, then? Does it involve food?”
“Are you kidding?” Faye said. “You know how bad my cooking is.”
I flopped down on the couch. “Okay, what then?”
She snuggled up next to me and opened her laptop. “I have signed you up for a dating website,” she said.
I choked. “I’m sorry?”
“St Andrews is titchy,” she said. “How the hell are you ever going to meet anyone here?” She shook her head. “No, you need to sell yourself.”
“What, like a hooker?” I demanded. “That’s just delightful.”
“Shut up and tell me what you think of your profile,” Faye said, logging into the site. She turned the computer towards me. “What do you think?”
She’d picked a picture of me from Nate’s sister’s wedding the previous November. Admittedly that was nothing to complain about — it had been taken early in the evening, before we’d all got shitfaced, so at least I didn’t look like an alkie. I read the description beneath the picture.
“‘Emily, 28’,” I said aloud. “‘Loves to laugh. Tired of being the responsible one. Likes a good time, sensitive men, and football. Just out of a serious relationship so looking to have some fun.’” I looked up at Faye. “Are you kidding me?”
“It gets better,” Alex called from the kitchen.
I turned back to my profile. “‘Excellent cook, gardener, and equestrian’ — Equestrian? I’ve never even been on a horse!”
“Keep going,” Faye said, an evil smile lurking at the corners of her mouth.
“‘Enjoys long walks on the beach’ — really, Faye? Could you get any more cliché?”
Alex came out of the kitchen with two plates. “I put that one in,” he said, handing me bacon, eggs, and toast. “It’s true.” He grinned at me.
“Oh, god, you’re in on this too?” I buried my face in my hands.
He sat down on the other side of me and snitched a piece of bacon from my plate. “Come on, Fish,” he said, tousling my messy hair. “You’ve got to start somewhere.”
“Yes, because a completely fabricated profile that I didn’t write myself is such an excellent place to start.”
“I’ll make you a deal,” Faye said. “If you can go out to the pub tonight and meet at least — oh, I don’t know, how many men should it be, Alex?”
“Three,” he said promptly. “If there aren’t at least three eligible people of the opposite sex immediately obvious then you’re in serious trouble.”
“Right,” Faye said. “So if you can meet at least three eligible men at the pub tonight, we’ll leave you alone. If you can’t, then you use the dating site. Deal?”
“I don’t like this deal,” I said. “You’re practically forcing me to start dating again.”
“You’ve been single for a couple of months now and you’re attractive,” Alex said, meeting my eyes and then looking away. “No need to sit alone in your flat every night.”
“I don’t know how to date!” I wailed. “The last time I went on a date was five years ago!”
Faye and Alex exchanged glances.
“It’s not that hard,” Faye said gently. “You chat with someone. You have something to eat. You decide if you like them or not, or if it’s worth seeing them again, and you tell them so. If things are working out, you go on more dates. If they’re not, you move on to the next candidate.”
I buried my face in my hands. “You guys suck.”
“We know,” Faye said cheerfully. “Does that mean you’ve given in?”
“Fine,” I said grumpily. I didn’t want to go out and date people. I wanted to wallow in self-pity and self-loathing. Wasn’t that what people usually did after breaking up with someone? Although to be fair, it had been a couple of months now, so I supposed my mourning period was probably over by now. “I’ll do it.”
“Yay!” Faye bounced off the couch and did a little happy dance. “Stop looking so depressed, silly. Dating is supposed to be fun!”
“Yes, because you clearly have so much fun with your man friends,” I said sourly.
“Right, okay then,” Alex said. He glanced at his watch. “Glad that’s settled. I’m afraid I must bugger off with the car — Sarah’s expecting me back in time for dinner. You need me for anything else before I go?”
“Nope,” I said. “Thanks for all your help. I hate to think of dragging all my shit up on the train.”
Alex snorted. “Yeah. Because I definitely would have let you do that.”
I wrapped my arms around his waist and squeezed. “Silly git,” I said.
He kissed the top of my head. “You have fun,” he said. “Let us know if you need us.” He pointed a stern finger at Faye. “As for you — don’t keep her out too late, and don’t foist any unpleasant men on her.”
Faye looked offended. “As though I would!” She flicked his cheek. “Get thee gone, scoundrel.”
Laughing, Alex bowed himself out of the flat, and a few minutes later we heard his car rattle off down the street.
“So,” Faye said, “what shall we do today, then?”