This was a really important chapter for me because I needed to get it exactly right. I’m nervous sharing this! Please let me know what you thought. xx
She sat quietly and small on the sofa in the living room, a white mug grasped tightly in her hands. She had watched the daylight fade from the room as the time ticked away, and her mug grew cold and colder. She didn’t know how long it had been since she had last moved. She had meant to get up; to go to the bathroom, to eat, to stretch her legs – but she couldn’t do it. Her brain tried to tell her body, but the signal was blocked. The heels of her feet were pressed into the bottom of her buttocks, her legs tucked in close to her, like she often sat in this spot. The house was quiet. Jamie had gone straight to bed after coming home from Friday-night drinks and Bowie was out on a date with someone named Jo. Rosie remained in her spot, the house and she left undisturbed.
It had been two weeks since she had started dating again and she had been on three dates so far. They had all been found through apps. She had been so keen and excited at the start, but tonight as she had walked away after her date, she felt tired and worn. Out of the blue her mood had tilted, and an overwhelming feeling screamed she didn’t want to do this anymore. She had pictured herself a vibrant and exciting dating life. Instead, her dates had made no impression on her. Everything felt muted.
In a haze she had come home, said good night to Jamie, and taken her cup of tea on the sofa. She sat unstirred for hours. From the goosebumps on her arms, she sensed there was a chill, but she did not feel the cold inside. Her mouth felt dry and her head a helium-filled balloon. Her body was screaming at her to move and do things, but her brain was not taking action. From the hallway behind her, she heard the front door squeak. The muffled sound of Bowie’s careful late-night footsteps travelled through the wall. Upstairs, she heard floorboards give off a gentle creak.
Bowie entered the dark space of the living room, dropped his keys in a bowl of trinkets, stood still at the sight of Rosie and stared. She turned her head slowly and stared back. Out from the hallway, the carpeted stairs announced someone descending. Jamie walked in wrapped in a soft navy bathrobe, scratching the back of his head and yawning. As he wiped the sleep from his eyes, he muttered something about why they were standing in the dark and moved towards the fireplace to switch on a table lamp. In the warm yellow light, he observed the room. Something was off. “Are you alright?” uttered Bowie. He continued staring at Rosie as if he was watching a ghost. Rosie bit her underlip in pain and shook her head. Her eyes looked big and frightened. The room moved slightly as Bowie set himself down on the pouf. “Is this about Gijs?” he asked softly. Rosie’s face remained frozen in a Bambi-like glare. She shrugged her shoulders. Her brain said “I don’t know”, but her mouth produced nothing. A silence fell. Jamie, still standing by the fireplace, rubbed his chin while he leaned his right elbow on the mantel. “Hey Rosie,” his voice sounded hoarse, “what happened between you and Gijs?”. It was the second time he had asked. She had always been private about her love life, sharing very little. All they knew was one day she and Gijs were together, and the next they were not. “I haven’t been completely honest with you guys,” she let out in a husky voice. “I’ve been getting these… clouts of depression,” she looked down at her hands, thumbs digging deep into the white, cold surface of the mug. Her shoulders hunched as she finished her thought; “…and Gijs didn’t want to deal”.
Things moved in quick succession after that. Jamie had moved onto the sofa next to her within seconds, comforting her in a protective grip. Bowie had gotten up rapidly and determined that she needed to get out of the house, suspecting that she hadn’t moved at all for the last few hours. They helped her get up and put on her coat for a late-evening walk. The three of them had walked speechlessly, breathing in the fresh air of a quietened city at night. It wasn’t much later than eleven, and so they wound up at their local pub after a while, to warm up. They sat in their usual booth, Rosie on the outer edge with a lemonade, the guys with cokes. Then she started talking.
“If I asked if he could come over, he would say no,” she whispered. Her face was frozen and tense, but she spoke with no emotion. “I didn’t want to need him, and I don’t think he wanted… either,” she stuttered and swallowed, “I wanted to be independent and take care of myself and he wanted that too. He always had excuses to not be there for me.” In the past half hour, she had explained to her friends how Gijs had ducked and avoided her during the bad times. He had family film night, he had said. Or he had lots of studying to do. Or his mother needed him. “Most of them were about his mum,” she continued. “They were so close, I mean, they only ever had each other, so he was always very set on spending time with her. And I don’t know that, you know? I don’t have that bond with my family and so I didn’t want to intrude, I thought he should cherish it too. He had me right in a corner there.” She drank from her glass and scuffed. “She could be really mean, though. And racist.” She raised her eyebrows and remembered the things she had said. “She referred to anyone not-white as foreigner and talked about how they were stealing jobs and such, but then she would turn to me and say not you, of course,” she grinned, “as if I was excluded from it all as the one black person she knew.” The thought of it made her laugh, now. She no longer had to deal with it. She sighed. “I don’t know, I just wasn’t getting anything out of it, man. If I was down, I’d take care of myself, but if he was down, I took care of him, too. In the end I just couldn’t stop wondering anymore,” she played with her almost-empty glass in her hands and stared at it. “Wondering about what?” Bowie asked after a moment went by. So far, they had let her speak without intruding a word. She tapped her glass and smacked her lips, and finally looked up to her friends. “I kept wondering if it could be any other way, if there were people out there who would care and be there and not find it too much to ask, because no matter what I did, I couldn’t shake off that feeling that I needed it, and if I didn’t break up with him, I would never find out if it did exist,” she poured out. Her friends sat silent for seconds, taking in all that she had just said. They mulled it over in shock, wanting to say so much at once, but needing the right words. “Of course there is! Of course we care!” Bowie exclaimed, and he pulled her in sideways for a hug. “Don’t you ever let yourself tell otherwise,” he buried his chin in her hair. Jamie had moved from his side of the booth to Rosie’s right, her now sandwiched between the two guys. He put his arm around her, the three of them intertwined. “So, your boyfriend was a dick,” Jamie said. Rosie laughed and cried; nobody had put it into those words yet. She let her head rest on Bowie’s shoulder. As small tears fell from her eyelashes, Jamie gave her a little squeeze and hushed gently; “you’ve got us now.”
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