“Dammit!” he slammed his pint down hard. Beer swirled over the edges onto the sturdy wooden table. He looked away to his left and bit his upper lip in frustration. “I just,” he started, avoiding the eyes of his two friends, “I can’t believe she fucking did this to me, man. She screwed me over big-time.” Bowie had spread out wide, taking up half the booth. Rosie and Jamie sat in silence on the other side, watching him. “I just don’t understand,” he said in disbelief, “how she thought she had been so clear on this? Like, what the hell? I’m all up for keeping things casual, man, but this was not…” his voice trailed off and he left the rest of his words unspoken. He grabbed his pint in his right hand and lifted it in the air. “Whatever, man. Fuck Bella. Tonight, we’re going to drink, we’re going to party, and we’re not going to think about fuckwits like her!” he raised his glass towards his friends. “Yeah, fuck her!” Rosie cheered. Their three glasses clinked in unison. “We are going to show you a great time,” Bowie pointed his beer at Jamie, “but first, the loo.” He put his drink down and moved swiftly away to the back of the bar, leaving Rosie and Jamie behind in their booth. Rosie clicked her tongue. “So…” she stared at her beer. “Yep,” Jamie replied. “It’s been rough, hasn’t it?” Jamie asked. Earlier that day Rosie had accompanied Bowie to the airport to pick up Jamie. After last night’s events, she didn’t trust him to go alone. In the six months they had been friends, she had never seen him like this before. “It’s good that you’re here. I think it’ll help him,” she said to Jamie. “Yeah,” he replied, “it was nice of you to keep an eye on him too. He’s mentioned you a lot, actually. You’re from around here?” This was a weird way of meeting someone new, Jamie thought. Bowie had talked of his friendship with Rosie for months and had been very keen for his two best friends to finally meet. Who could’ve known it would happen with Bowie in such a state? Jamie hadn’t even gotten the full story yet, but it looked bad. “Yeah, I grew up in Utrecht, but my parents and sister have moved to Amsterdam. I stayed behind because I’ll be studying here next year,” Rosie explained. “Ah, okay.” He paused and felt his awkwardness floating in the air. “You ehh… you sound really British,” he remarked. “Yep,” she was still staring at her beer, “my parents are British. Grew up bilingual.” She glanced at the back of the bar. “Right,” he replied stupidly, “so you speak both English and Dutch?” She raised her eyebrows. “Yeah, hence the bilingualism.” She looked him in the face. He was feeling stupider by the minute. “What do you do?” she asked. “Oh, I… I dropped out of uni earlier this year. Kind of figuring things out now,” he stammered. He felt heat rising up from his neck to his cheeks. He scratched his face with one hand to hide from the wave of self-consciousness overcoming him. “So, what are you going to study?” he continued the conversation. “English language and culture,” she answered. “Oh, that’s cool! I was actually…” They were interrupted by Bowie sliding back into the booth, his eyes filled with excitement and energy. “Let’s get drinking,” he started off with a cheeky smile.
Bowie rubbed his cheeks and moved his hands up to cover his nose. “Nine months, man. Nine months!” he uttered. He was strolling along the water, the hangover from last night softly thumping in his head. It was a cold day for May, and he was wearing a light brown, ribbed jacket. Jamie shuffled slowly beside him, hands in pockets. His eyes looked red and baggy from their night out. He bobbed his head in understanding. “All hell broke loose, huh?” he asked. Bowie scoffed. “Damn right, it did. I was pissed, man. I’ve never been so pissed in my life. I just wanted to hit something, smash something.” The two of them moved forward at a gentle pace, careful not to induce their hangovers. “Do you want to talk about what happened?” Jamie looked at his friend. They had spent all night drinking and running away from Bowie’s misery. Now, in the late afternoon of this dreary Sunday, there was nowhere left to run. “I don’t know, man.” Bowie’s arms slung beside him and his hands felt weirdly heavy. “I don’t know how this happened. Turns out she’s been sleeping with others this entire time, these whole nine months. And she insists that she had been clear, and we were never exclusive. All this bullshit about how she’s a wild woman and she knows what she wants, and she can’t be pinned down, that she never said she wanted a relationship. Like I’m stupid.” He stuck his hands inside his jacket and shrugged his shoulders. “Like, I know all about casual, man. This was not it. We were hanging out all the time.” His voice sounded sullen and disappointed. They took a few steps in silence. “That really sucks, man,” Jamie then replied. Him and Bowie had been lifelong friends, but he had rarely seen him so bummed. At least not since they were kids. “She was kind of…” Bowie uttered, “she seemed pretty fantastic. I honestly thought she was my match, man. So keen and adventurous, like me. She kept me on my toes,” he finally said. During their year apart, Bowie and Jamie had kept regular contact, and Bowie had often shared stories about Bella. Jamie could tell he was really into her. “What really pisses me off the most,” Bowie raised his head and bit his lip again, “is that she’s trying to put this all on me. As if it’s my own fault. Like I was the one with my head in the clouds. But she was the one who was fucking around, you know? Like, if she’d just been honest… if she’d just been clear from the get-go, none of this would have happened. But instead, she just sailed on with the white lies. Like, I could’ve handled casual, but that was just not the understanding between us, you know? This wasn’t my fault in the very least,” he ranted. “It doesn’t sound like your fault.” Jamie stared at his feet and then redirected his gaze ahead. “She’s got nothing on you, man. Sounds like a bitch. Not worth your time,” Jamie concluded. He hoped any of this was helpful. Bowie scoffed again. “Yeah, well, it’s over now anyway. Never want to see her again. I’m done with this already.” He changed the topic. “So, how are you liking Utrecht?” he grinned, understanding well that this had been a weird introduction. “It’s good! Yeah, it’s pretty!” Jamie answered with laughter. “I know it’s not been the best time, man,” Bowie was still grinning, “but I really am enjoying myself here. It’s a nice place.” His face lightened up now. “Good. And Rosie seems nice,” Jamie replied. Bowie nodded. “She is! She’s been really good company. She’s starting uni next year, too.” Bowie himself had picked out an undergrad course at the Utrecht University before he had started his gap year. “Yeah, she told me,” Jamie replied. “What is she like?” he asked out of curiosity. “She’s cool. Nice to hang out with, funny. And she’s got this blissful innocence about her that cracks me up sometimes. She’s a really good friend,” Bowie paused and thought for a moment. “I think there’s something behind that, though,” he added. He was frowning a little bit. “Why’s that?” Jamie asked. “I don’t know, I get this feeling maybe her family has left her hanging. She’s always such good company and good to her friends, I think maybe that’s her whole world. She never really talks about them, man, and I’ve never seen them reach out to her,” he went on. “You know I’m on the phone with the fam every week, but with her I don’t get that. I don’t think they’re as involved,” he commented. So far, he had kept these observations to himself. “Oh, sounds rough,” Jamie replied. “Has she said anything about it?” He thought about the girl he had met just yesterday, sat in the booth, hugging a pint in her hands. She had a mixture of black and brown wavy hair down to her shoulders, and she was short and of a sweet nature. She had looked happy. “Nah, she seems pretty private about these things. Her parents do let her live in their city apartment though, so I guess that’s something,” Bowie answered. “Hmm,” Jamie sounded. He hadn’t really gotten to know her yet, so he had no observations to return. “Hey, and how have you been?” Bowie changed the topic again. “Tell me about that girl you’re seeing,” he added. Jamie nodded, picturing Macy’s sunny face in front of him. “She’s very sweet and cute,” he said. “But she’s also going away to Bristol at the end of summer, so I don’t see this going somewhere. I don’t know, we haven’t really talked about it,” he smacked his tongue. “Well, what are your plans?” asked Bowie. Jamie took in the air around him and tried to picture himself in Utrecht. It was a nice image. “Actually, I have been looking at this course on the Utrecht University website…” he started, taking in the spring blossoms around the water, “so that might be an option.” Bowie stopped suddenly. “YES!” he shouted, grabbing Jamie by the arm, “that is a FANTASTIC idea!” he spoke loudly with enthusiasm. “You can live with me!”
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