(Note from the author: Without giving too much away this chapter does not contain any 'sexy' material. If you have been following the story then you will know why. This chapter is pretty much damage control. That said hope you like and lots of cool stuff to follow. H xo)
Two weeks and two days, sixteen days, just over a fortnight. It didn’t matter how she put it, at that moment it was the same amount of time since the evening she spent with Jesse and until the day she would be going home for the Christmas break. The past few weeks had been difficult and it made Mia wish for a simple existence.
Her contact with Jesse since that night was null and void. Mia went to great lengths to avoid him altogether; the first start was by ignoring his calls. He left several of them, but she refused to hear him out assuming that he would only make her want to resume where they had left off. It wasn’t a viable option for Mia, not with his girlfriend in the picture. She had prided herself in the past for her ethics. After being the shoulder to cry on whenever her friends were on the receiving end of an unfaithful partner, she wondered what kind of young woman she was turning into.
The following week, she hid in her bedroom when an RA was due to come round and assess the leak in the kitchen sink. She was relieved when she heard Mark – Jesse’s roommate – come in and arrange for a handy man. Despite the fact that she wasn’t speaking to him, she couldn’t stop herself from listening in when Kristopher asked Mark about Jesse’s absence. Mark mentioned that Jesse had gone home for the weekend to see his girlfriend. At that moment Mia realised that she probably never had a chance of being with him.
Her bond with Norah slowly started to deteriorate too. Norah got back from her bicycle tour on the following Sunday evening to find a clearly distressed Mia sniffling in front of the TV. Female intuition knew that it wasn’t an old episode of Dawson’s Creek
that was causing the tears. Norah sat on the couch with her and let Mia vent.
Expecting the problem to be nothing more than the usual issue of being homesick, Norah was less than thrilled to find out that Mia had spent the night with Jesse. It made her feel like her previous advice to Mia was wasted. It was difficult for Norah to work out what feelings were causing her unease; hurt, resentment or jealousy. The revelation was too much for her to deal with and she certainly couldn’t be in the same space with Mia at that moment either.
Mia’s memory of the following conversation still made her slightly sick every time she thought about it. The image of Norah’s stern face as she chastised Mia for her poor decision still haunted her; it spoke volumes and even though Norah didn’t verbalise it, Mia read is as betrayal. It only added to the self-loathing she already had for herself.
“I just thought you were better than that...” was the closing sentence of Norah’s lecture.
There was very little in the exchange of words after that night. There were only brief spells of small talk and their relationship changed from best buddies to acquaintances. It made the mood in the shared apartment an uncomfortable one and affected the boys they lived with too.
Even though they didn’t know the source of the conflict between the girls, Kristopher and Patrice were more than aware of the sour atmosphere. Both would coax the girls individually for resolutions but it was often failed attempts. Patrice even arranged a fun night in for the four of them with pizza, beer and card games. Norah made an excuse to turn in early and retired to her bed after the pizza was gone.
In the last few weeks Mia couldn’t have felt more alone. Daily emails from her best friend Frankie was the only thing getting her through each day. Frankie had also gotten the rest of their friends in Glasgow to send emails and leave messages on Facebook for Mia.
Mia didn’t know if they made her feel better or worse. She felt better when they would all tell her some of the antics that they got up to but felt worse that she wasn’t there with them.
So with the Christmas break growing closer Mia thought the best plan of action was keep out of Norah’s way and keep up with her studies. She spent a bulk of her time hiding out in the library and even thought Frankie commented on how she was wasting her experience abroad, Mia thought that having perfect grades was the happy ending she was looking for that semester.
Mia sat on her bed patiently waiting for to be connected to Frankie again. Although they were sending each other emails every day, they never seemed to get the chance to Skype one another often enough. With Norah out for the night, Mia was able to talk freely to Frankie without the fear of being listened to.
Seconds later Frankie’s angular face and twinkly eyes appeared on screen and Mia’s cheeks ached from her first proper smile in weeks.
“Mia!” squealed Frankie.
“Hey beautiful,” Mia called back gleefully. “Looking awesome as usual I see,” she compliment taking in her glowing appearance.
Frankie looked super cute as if she was in the middle of getting ready for a night out. Her short hair was up in rollers and all her make-up was done perfectly. It was slight difference from the sweat pants and hoodie combination which set the super-casual look that Mia was wearing.
“You too, Hun! Where’s Norah tonight?”
“On a date I think. I think she mentioned something to Kris about it.”
“Still not talking to her then?”
“I’ve tried, Frankie. She’s still not talking to me. I’d love to just have it out with her but you know how much I enjoy conflict...”
“Yeah, I know,” Frankie rolled her eyes remembering how she often wished Mia vocalised her honest opinions in times of debate. “Anyway I wouldn’t beat yourself up about it; I’m sure you feel bad enough without her being all high and mighty about it. It’s not as if you cheated on her or anything.”
“I kinda wondered if she felt like I betrayed her for what happened between us – but she never spoke about her feelings. Am I reading too much into it?”
“Did you guys ever speak about what happened?” Frankie asked in reference in to time Mia slept with Norah.
“Not really. I brought it up ages ago – but not long after it happened – she just put it down to the booze and then just carried on as usual. I told her she could speak to me about it but she said she just wanted to forget it. What do you reckon?”
“I’m not sure Mia. Maybe she’s confused or in denial. I get the impression there is more to it.”
“What do you mean? You think she’s unsure about her sexuality?”
“Maybe. It’s hard to say, I don’t know her like you do. It would explain it if she did feel betrayed by you because maybe she does have feelings for you. But then I dunno how she thinks giving you the silent treatment will help with things. If she had feelings for you then she could have just been honest. It’s not like you are unapproachable.”
“I suppose – but this is all in theory. Neither of us actually knows how she feels. You think I should try and speak to her?”
“It’s up to you Mia. I think you should maybe give it a shot. Plus I think you deserve some explanation for the way she’s freezing you out. I admit it might have not been one of your best decisions but everyone makes mistakes – myself included – and she shouldn’t be the one punishing you for it. What happened was between you and He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named.”
Mia laughed at the nick-name Frankie gave Jesse, even if it was stolen from J.K. Rowling.
“Thank God for that!” Frankie exclaimed, “It’s about time I saw you laugh. I thought you would permanently remain a misery guts until you got home. Have you finally stopped beating yourself up about it?”
“Hmmm, I still feel like shit for it, but I guess I can’t keep hating myself. It’s done now and I can’t take it back,” Mia sighed.
“Woop woop!! We have made an improvement,” Frankie cheered with her hands in the air. “Come on, Mexican wave with me!” Mia joined in the celebration and felt some of the weight being lifted off her shoulders from the past few weeks.
It was great being able to chat to Frankie properly and she was glad that it wouldn’t be too long until she would see her in the flesh. The thought was enough to keep a smile plastered on her face for the remainder of their conversation.
“By the way, I got us tickets to see Drake in January at the O2 Academy - don’t roll your fucking eyes at me!” Frankie commanded as Mia did just that. “I went to that Doctor Who
exhibition with you, so its payback.”
Mia nodded reluctantly remembering how she managed to drag Frankie along with her to Kelvingrove Art Gallery amongst all the hyperactive kids running around with Cybermen
“I suppose I could see some hyped up rapper who loves himself – if it makes you happy,” Mia agreed. “Plus it will be nice getting all dolled up to go dancing with you.”
Truth be told Mia couldn’t think of anything better. A night out in Glasgow, her home town, was another thing to look forward to. She had already begun to plan out the festivities in her head.
“So what’s it like sharing a flat with two boys?” Mia asked changing the subject.
“It has its moments. Actually I can’t really complain; my brother is hardly here with work and that daft girlfriend of his. And Kevin...” she trailed off hesitantly.
“Yes...? Fuck, what have you done Frankie?” Mia questioned slightly shocked.
Kevin wasn’t exactly Frankie’s usual type; he was a really nice guy if a little shy, but not the usual big-headed idiots like her usual selection.
“Chill out – I’ve not done anything. My brother says I have him well trained. I come back from uni and he makes me a cup of tea and sticks the dinner on and we just chill and watch shit TV. It’s nice... sometimes we cuddle.”
Mia raised her eyebrows in suspicion; it’s not like Frankie to just cuddle. “Are you dating him?”
“Christ no! It’s not like that – we’re just mates; flatmates more specifically.” Frankie looked away as if she wanted to change the topic of conversation. It wasn’t like her to get uncomfortable talking about boys.
“Okay... I can tell from that blush on your face you don’t want to speak anymore about it. I’ll find out when I get home though.”
“Moving on from my uncomfortable topic of conversation; did you ever call You-Know-Who back?”
Realising that Frankie meant Jesse, Mia already started to build her defences, “Why would I call him back? What would that achieve? Anyway, what does it matter now?”
“Alright, no need to get all huffy about it. I’ve just been thinking, I mean sure it wasn’t right of him – or the pair of you – to do what you did. But, it’s often the case that ‘the other woman’ gets ditched straight after the infidelity. He never ditched you; you just cut of all contact with him. Plus, he kept trying to call you – don’t you think you could have heard him out. He might have got rid of that plain bird of his and wanted to be with you.”
“Even if that was the case it still doesn’t make what we did right.”
“Your right, Mia, it doesn’t, but you don’t actually know what was going on with them. And, I’m not defending him, but it’s not like they were married. He told you that he was having a hard time with her. You forget that we’re still young and we have to mess some things up before we know we’re doing the right thing.”
“Wow, listen to Oprah Winfrey there. When did you become the voice of reason?”
“Sometimes it takes an outsider to give you perspective. I won’t say anymore about it. I just thought I would play devil’s advocate for a second.”
Mia fell silent for a few seconds, soaking in Frankie’s advice.
Trust Frankie to open up a whole new can of worms.
“I’m sorry to have to do this, but I need to go, Hun. I said I would go to dinner with my project group tonight.”
“No problem. It won’t be long until I’m back there anyway,” Mia replied with a huge grin.
“I can’t wait; two friggin’ weeks until I have you back.”
“I know! I’m so excited...” Mia thought she saw a twinkle in Frankie’s eye and it made her all the more enthused about going home. “You have a good time tonight. I miss you loads!”
“Me too, love you Mia.”
“Love you Frankie.”
For the rest of the evening Mia couldn’t fail to notice the spring in her step. Everyone was out for the night but even though she was alone, the anticipation of going home was enough to ignore any feelings of isolation that she had. She spent the rest of her night finishing her final assignments and creating a shopping list of all the gifts she wanted to bring home. Mia fell asleep feeling the most content she had ever been in the last two weeks.
The bedroom was dark and a glimmer of light was coming from under the door. Mia realised that Norah or the boys must be home by now. It was late and when she looked at the alarm clock on her end cabinet, she saw the red LEDs flash 3.36 am. She could hear a murmur of voices coming from downstairs, an excited squeal gave away that it was Norah, but it was clear that she wasn’t alone.
It didn’t take Mia long to work out that the voice belonged to someone she had met before – it was James, the arrogant PhD student that Norah was dating on and off. James wasn’t Mia’s idea of a perfect gentleman; far from it, and she had made it known to Norah what she thought of him when they were still speaking.
Mia rolled over in her bed trying to get back to sleep, but as soon as she closed her eyes again she thought that she could hear the voices grow louder. There was no mistaking it; the footsteps up the stairs were a clear indication that they were heading for the bedroom. She better not bring him in here,
Mia thought to herself nervously.
The latch on the door unhooked and the pair stumbled into Mia and Norah’s shared bedroom.
“Babe, it looks like we have company,” said the male voice.
Mia tensed up in her bed and hoped that since they had noticed her, they would just go somewhere else.
“We just need to be quiet then,” was Norah’s response.
Mia couldn’t believe her ears. It was obvious from the smell that Norah had been drinking and but no amount of alcohol in the past had made her breech Mia’s privacy. What the fuck do I do now? If I pretend I’m sleeping they will just continue; but it will look just as weird if I get up. Why should I leave anyway? I was here first.
Mia inhaled a quick breath through her nose in the hope that one of them would take notice of her presence. It didn’t work; the noise of the removal of clothes was the only thing that could be heard. The sounds then changed to some soft moans and kisses against skin.
It might have been a voyeur’s idea of fun to watch their roommate have sex on the bed next to them, but it a turn off for Mia; especially because of that arsehole James. From the moment that Norah introduced him to Mia she always thought there was something sleazy about him. Mia hated the way he seemed possessive with Norah and knew that her roommate could do so much better. The sounds of them kissing and touching only repulsed Mia even more.
“Norah, do you think your friend would like to join us?” the sleazeball asked suggestively.
“I dunno,” she panted an answer. “She’s bi, but I don’t think she’s been with a guy before.”
“Tonight could be her lucky night then,” he laughed.
Mia could feel her blood boil but she couldn’t find the words to sound off exactly what she thought of her roommate at that moment. She was sensitive about what people knew about her sexuality and for Norah to make fun of it only infuriated her. Her only opinion at that moment was that she didn’t want to be anywhere near Norah right now. She got up as quickly as she could from her bed and made for the door.
“Aww Honey, don’t leave. We were just getting started,” called out James mockingly.
She didn’t look back; she slammed the bedroom door and walked downstairs. The giggles and moans coming from her bedroom grew louder and seemed to be radiating towards her. Mia’s head was pounding and her ears were ringing. Tonight was the last straw, living with Norah had become unbearable and she had to get as far away from her as possible. She slipped on her UGGs and put on her heavy winter jacket over her fleecy PJs, grabbed her keys and walked out into the cold.
It wasn’t until she got outside that Mia realised that she had left her phone up in her bedroom. There was no way she was going to go back for it. She guessed it must be getting nearer 4am; there was nowhere open and she couldn’t call Patrice or Kristopher. What would she say to them anyway – even though Norah had hurt her she didn’t want to reveal to the boys what had happened in the past between them. She would at least give Norah her privacy.
A few tears escaped from her eyes and the buzz from her contentment after speaking to Frankie had worn off. She walked around aimlessly through campus trying to keep warm against the chill in the air. She wondered how long she would have to stay outside before she was ready to go back to her apartment.
After an hour she couldn’t take the cold for much longer, she realised that she had already made a full walk around the perimeter of the campus and was back amongst the apartment complex. The buildings nearby were familiar. Mia realised that she must be near Jesse and Mark’s place. It was too early in the morning to drop in on him now. What was she going to say to him anyway? She walked on knowing that she was getting closer to their place and couldn’t resist looking up when she passed. The light in the kitchen is on; someone must still be awake.
With some hesitation she knocked on the main door.
God, it’s so cold. Maybe this wasn’t the best idea – I’ll just leave.
Mia made to turn away, but the door opened and Jesse stood transfixed in shock.
“Mia? What the hell...” He looked at her bloodshot eyes and the blotchy red patches on her face and knew instantly there was something wrong. “Oh God, are you alright? Come in.”
She shuffled past him slowly; the cold having an impact on her movements. The warmth of his apartment made her relax a little and she stood mutedly as Jesse rushed about her.
“Here, give me your coat. I’ll make you some cocoa – just sit there,” he commanded and pointed to the couch.
Mia sat down and she could hear the kettle boil in the background. Jesse disappeared into his room for a brief minute but when he came back he held a heavy blanket which he gave to Mia. She still hadn’t said a word to him and her catatonic state was beginning to make him worry. Once the kettle had boiled he brought her a steaming mug of hot chocolate which she held onto gratefully as it warmed her hands.
They sat in silence for a good ten minutes. Mia felt like she didn’t have the energy to speak and Jesse didn’t want to force her if she wasn’t ready to talk to him. After taking her final sips, she sat the mug on the floor and let out a slightly hoarse thank you.
“Are you okay?” Jesse asked concerned.
She nodded a yes but had to look away as tears began to roll down her face again. He got up and grabbed a few napkins from the kitchen counter so she could use them as a tissue. She considered giving him an explanation for showing up at his door in the early hours of the morning but whenever she thought back to leaving her apartment it just made her more upset.
“Don’t worry,” he said while rubbing her shoulder. “Look, you can stay here as long as you want and you don’t have to tell me anything.”
They could hear someone else get up from one of the bedrooms. Mark, Jesse’s flatmate was awake and was headed for the bathroom before he noticed the light for the kitchen was on.
“Hey Man, what are you still doing up?” he asked before noticing Mia was sat upon their couch.
Mark gave a look as if to ask what was going on. Jesse exchanged a glance that meant he would speak to him in a second.
“Hey, just stretch out here. Rest your eyes for a bit, I’ll just be back in a sec.”
Mia nodded and slumped into the couch, pulling the heavy blanket up to her chin. She closed her eyes and let herself get comfortable. She was completely exhausted. The day had taken its toll on her body and all she could do was hope that when she woke up it would all go away.
Jesse walked over to Mark who had now returned from the bathroom and was waiting in the hall.
“J, what’s going on? Is that the Mia chick from 4F? What’s she doing here?”
“I dunno. She just showed up at the door about a half hour ago. She looked terrible as if she had been crying for hours but she hasn’t said what’s up. I don’t think she’s in the mood for talking.”
“That Kris dude that she lives with, mentioned that there’s been a weird atmosphere in their place for the past few weeks. He thinks something’s gone down between her and the blonde chick.”
“Well whatever it is, she’s not saying anything just now. I suppose I’ll just wait until she is ready.”
“Have you told her yet?”
“Told her what?”
“That you broke up with Laura, duh.”
“No way. This is the first time I saw her since then, I’m not exactly going to walk up to her and be like: ‘Hey Mia, I know you are upset right now, but guess what? I’m single.’”
“You make a good point. I’m going back to bed. See you in the morning.”
Jesse walked back to the living room and noticed Mia was fast asleep and was glad that she was. At least she can’t cry when she’s sleeping.
The next morning Mia woke without the strain in her neck that she was expecting from sleeping on Jesse and Mark’s small couch. It was mostly due to the fact that she didn’t wake up on the couch; she opened her eyes and realised that she was in Jesse’s bed. Sitting up she had a look around the small bedroom and realised that she was alone. The sun had filtered under the gap in the window blinds indicating that it morning so feeling slightly disoriented she got up and went to have a look around.
Walking into the hall, she could hear music coming from the living room and saw Jesse and Mark sitting on the couch eating breakfast. Jesse had what looked like notes spread out over the coffee table and was attempting to take in the information that was written down. It was Mark who noticed Mia’s arrival in the living area.
“Sleeping beauty has risen,” he said nudging Jesse to look up.
“Hey, you sleep okay?” Jesse asked no longer paying attention to his reading material.
Mia nodded in reply, slightly unsure of her next move. It wasn’t the first time that she had stayed over at Jesse’s, but this time instead of being locked out she had walked out of her apartment and into his.
“Umm, thanks for letting me stay here. Do you mind if I use your bathroom before I leave?” she asked while nervously pulling the cuffs of her sleeves over her hands.
“Sure, do you remember where it is?”
“Yeah I remember,” she replied while walking meekly back out the room.
Both of the boys gave each a look wondering her reason to leave so soon.
“Hey Man, I’ll get out of your way in case she wants to speak to you,” Mark said as he put away his dishes in the sink then he grabbed his backpack and coat before he left the apartment.
“And Jess...Her accent: fucking awesome!” He gave Jesse a call me later signal as he walked past the window.
Jesse shook his head and thought to himself. Mark; sometimes I think you should have been a girl. Actually that’s a hideous thought.
Mia walked back into the living room to see that Mark was gone and Jesse was in the kitchen rinsing the dishes. He set the clean plates on the counter to dry before bringing Mia orange juice and toast so she didn’t rush off.
“Are you ready to talk?” he asked as he sat on the counter while she ate at the breakfast bench.
“Not really...” she trailed off trying to save her energy for the argument that was going to follow suit when she returned to her own apartment to face Norah.
Mia knew she owed Jesse some rationalisation for her appearance earlier that morning. However, she didn’t feel like bringing up all the messy details about what happened with her and Norah since the last time she stayed with him.
“Okay then. I guess I will just have to fill in the blanks based on the information I have. Let’s see... You showed up at 5am this morning in your PJs. You were upset so I guess there must have been some incident that woke you up and prompted you to leave. Am I right so far?”
She nodded so he continued theorising.
“Kris mentioned to Mark something about an atmosphere between you and Norah. Which makes me think that last night was maybe something to do with that?”
Mia swallowed a huge lump that was forming in the back of her throat and concentrated on not welling up again.
“It’s bad between you guys, huh? Shit...”
Mia moved away as he tried to stroke her face and sniffed so as avoid tears. She cleared her throat then decided to speak, “Jesse, how can I move apartment? I mean what would I need to do to request a switch?”
Without knowing any of the details, Jesse realised that there must have been a significant change in the relationship between her and her former best bud in Boston.
“Umm, you would need to go to the housing office and fill in some paper work. They would ask you the reason behind your request and then get back to you with a decision. But with only a few weeks left of this semester it’s not likely they’ll do it before the holidays.”
He let her digest his answer before talking again, “Mia if you really want to leave, you are more than welcome to stay here. I can bunk in with Mark and you could sleep in my room until school finishes.”
“Thanks Jesse but don’t worry, I couldn’t ask anyone to stay in Mark’s room even if my life depended on it.”
She smiled a little and caught his eye. He smiled back and was glad that she was still able to poke some fun at the situation.
“I’m going to leave. Thanks again for letting me stay. I’ll try not to get in your way again anytime soon.”
She stood up and went to get her coat from the rack behind the door. Knowing that she wasn’t going to tell him anything else, Jesse knew that he should let her be.
“Listen Mia; if you ever need to get out for a bit or need a change of scene then just call me.”
“Thanks Jesse, I’ll catch you later.” She walked out the door and braced herself for the next scene that was about to unfold. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Kristopher, Norah and Patrice sat silently in the living room waiting for the front door to open and for Mia to walk in. Norah had told the boys in the morning that Mia had walked out last night but didn’t mention why. The boys both knew that James had stayed over since he strolled past them when they were having breakfast. The situation over the last few weeks had made them uneasy but they didn’t imagine a walk out.
The boys forced Norah to stay until Mia was home. It was time for an awkward house meeting that no one was ready for. Mia was less than a minute away from her front door; the urge to flee and turn back was strong but the reality that she was still in her pyjamas and hadn’t showered yet kept her on her path. She dug deep into her pocket and pulled out her keys, dreading what lay ahead.
Patrice could see her walk up the pavement from his view at the window and immediately got up and opened the door to let her in. When she walked into the flat, Mia was surprised but touched to see that the boys had noticed her disappearance. However, she was more surprised to see Norah waiting around too. She had almost expected her to have made an exit.
“Mon chaton, where have you been? We were worried about you.”
Patrice grabbed Mia in a tight embrace which took her slightly off guard. During the walk from Jesse’s to her own place she had been going over all the things she wanted to say in her head, practicing the lecture she was about to give Norah. Getting a bear hug from her other flatmate broke her train of thought.
“I’m fine thanks – I stayed at a friend’s place last night. I didn’t realise I had left my phone until I was out the door.”
She looked over to Norah who was sitting on one of the armchairs gazing vacantly at the floor. Her disinterest didn’t surprise Mia; she had become accustomed to it over the past few weeks.
“We thought that we should have a house meeting,” piped up Kristopher. “It’s umm... not exactly been the most fun time living here these days. Maybe it would be a good idea if we had a discussion about it. What do you think?” he asked nervously picking up on the tension.
“I think that would be a good idea,” Mia said as she and the boys took a seat on the couch.
She looked around at everyone; Kristopher, Patrice then Norah then braced herself for her next comment. “I’m just going to come out and say it. I’m considering moving apartment – I just think it would be best for everyone here if I left. Less awkward anyway...”
“No, why would you do that?” and, “Mia, you can’t...” were the protests that came from the boys. Mia also noticed that Norah had now taken interest.
“Can’t we just talk about this?” asked Patrice. “I know that you and Norah aren’t speaking right now but why does everyone have to suffer? We’re good, the four of us.”
“Yeah like ABBA or Fleetwood Mac,” jumped in Kris.
Mia smiled but stood her ground, “Even those four spit up in the end.”
“Yes, well maybe not the best examples but come on. At least just think about it a bit longer.”
“Look,” Mia began. “I haven’t officially decided yet. I just thought you should know how I felt. Don’t worry too much.” She cleared her throat and started again. “Before I make my mind up I’d like to speak to Norah, on her own. If you don’t mind?” she asked in Norah’s direction.
“Yeah, whatever,” was the response Norah gave her.
The boys looked from girl to girl and hoped for the best that it was all going to work out; whatever the problem was. They got up and headed towards the door. They mentioned that they were going to work on their studies and headed out to the library. With the boys gone the apartment was now silent again and Mia knew the best way to deal with it was just to say everything that she needed to say. She was cut off however by Norah’s opening question.
“Who did you stay with?”
Taken aback by the first piece of conversation that she had from Norah in weeks, Mia struggled to answer quickly. “Umm, not that it’s any of your business but I stayed at Jesse’s.”
“I thought as much...”
“Well you didn’t leave me with much choice.”
“You didn’t have to leave Mia.”
“Do you think I was going to stay while you and that wanker had sex in the same room as me?”
“You didn’t need to leave the flat. Nobody forced you to go.”
“Sticking around while you took the piss out of me wasn’t exactly my idea of fun.”
“But staying over at his again was?”
“Getting out of the same building as you was all I could think about. And let’s not let the fact that I stayed at Jesse’s be the issue here. I left for a reason. Since when did it become acceptable to have someone stay over when I was already in the room? You knew I was in bed last night. What were you trying to achieve?”
“I was drunk – I didn’t think...”
“What? You didn’t think I would mind?” Mia felt her voice grow louder and all the pent up anger that had been building was seeping out. “It’s my bedroom too Norah – of course I fucking mind! Especially when you go and tell that arsehole that I’m bisexual and haven’t slept with a guy before. How sick it that?!”
“I didn’t mean it...” Norah looked down, now fully aware of the enormity of last night’s indiscretion.
“Just like you haven’t meant to freeze me out the past few weeks? Make me feel like shit for a mistake I made with someone else. The whole time that you have been seeing James I thought he was worse to you than Jesse has ever been to me. I never set out to hurt your feelings Norah but you have made me feel awful since I told you what happened. I thought we were mates.”
Norah sat in silence not wanting me meet Mia’s gaze. She hadn’t intentionally set out to hurt Mia but knew she had anyway. She couldn’t think of anything to say that would make up for it.
“Look, I’m going to sleep in the spare room until it’s time to go home. I probably should have moved in there weeks ago. I don’t want to worry the guys by leaving and I don’t see the University moving me somewhere else right now anyway. I’ll stay out of your way until I leave.”
With that Mia walked up the stairs to the bathroom and left Norah in the living room alone.
There was only two days until Mia was due to return home for the Christmas holidays and she literally couldn’t wait, she was almost bursting with excitement. Since campus had quietened down with the first semester exams over, she decided to go shopping and grab a few last minute gifts. The holidays were well and truly in full swing and her energy that day made her forget how many times she had heard the same Christmas songs on repeat.
With her hands full and her wallet almost empty she decided to take a break in a quaint little coffee shop and relax with her Kindle
. She picked a seat near the window so she could watch all the hustle and bustle pass her while she chilled out and read. The last month in Boston wasn’t exactly perfect, but the joy of going home for just short of three weeks seemed like bliss.
She had planned on spending Christmas with the whole extended family at her grandparents; the first time in years since that had happened. New Years was all about her friends and Frankie was staying in Glasgow for it. She even wanted to stay in Glasgow for Christmas because of the dysfunctional relationship with her father, but with some sage advice from Mia she changed her mind. In less than 48 hours I’ll be in the air and on the way home.
She refrained from letting out an excited yelp in case anyone in the coffee shop thought she was crazy. She sat back in her seat comfortably and let her imagination transport her back to Tudor England with the help of Philippa Gregory. She was so engrossed in the love affairs of Henry the eighth that she didn’t notice a familiar face walk into the cafe.
Jesse was about to order his espresso to go until he spotted Mia reading wistfully next to the window. He thought she looked extremely cute wearing a pair of skinny jeans, a baggy festive jumper and chunky black Doc Martins. It was also the first time he had saw her wearing glasses too and couldn’t help but think they actually looked sexy on her.
“Hello stranger,” he said as stood above her as he reached her table. She looked up startled but, also with a huge smile on her face.
“Jesse! How do you always appear whenever I’m least expecting it?” she joked. “Must be serendipity – here, sit down.”
“Wow, I’ve not seen you this cheery since... Well, ever really.”
“Thanks – must be something in the coffee,” she replied before taking the final sip of her drink.
“Hey I’ll get you another one. What are you drinking?”
“You don’t need to but I’ll take it since you offered. I’ll have a vanilla latte.”
He smiled at the memory, “I was right, you are vanilla!”
She rolled her eyes and he got up and went and ordered her another drink. While she waited she gave him a look over. The past month had given her perspective; she realised that while they shouldn’t have crossed the friend boundary she couldn’t continue to avoid him. She could at least let him know why she didn’t return his calls. Plus, having one more friend in a hostile environment couldn’t be a bad thing.
“One vanilla latte for one vanilla young lady,” he said placing the mug down on the little table. Jesse was pleased to notice that the smile still hadn’t left her pretty face.
“Thanks. Merry Christmas by the way, or happy holidays, whichever you prefer,” she chirped happily.
“You’re starting to freak me out now Mia. What’s with the energy?”
“I’m going home in two days! For nearly three weeks! I soooooooo excited!” Mia clapped her hands enthusiastically until she noticed she was gaining an audience. She had a giggle to herself and felt a blush creep across her face.
“I’d never have guessed,” he laughed. “So has everything worked out since...you know.”
“In a way, yes,” she interjected wanting to limit the time she spent talking about her living situation. “There’s still some tension but I’ve just been thinking about things that make me happy and tried to block it out.”
“Can I ask what happened?”
“I suppose it started after....” She trailed trying to think of how to phrase the night she ‘slept’ with him. “Ahem...after our sleepover.”
“Oh,” was his reply, thinking it could get awkward soon. “Mia, I’ve been trying to talk to you about that – I owe you an apology.”
“Shhhh,” she commanded hyperactively. “Let me finish – oh so where was I? Right so I told her that I stayed with you then she went off on one. Implied that I was a terrible person and then stopped talking to me for weeks. The night I came to yours was because she had proceeded to bring home a complete and utter arse-wipe and have sex with him while I was still in the bedroom. Classy – I know. So I left; just walked out. I think I had had enough after the past few weeks of her silent treatment so I just needed to get out.”
Jesse sat and watched her as she thanked him again for letting her stay and not probing her for information when she was in that state. He had to pay attention carefully since she was talking faster and it was becoming difficult to understand. It was a drastic difference from the last time he had seen her. He was just glad that she was getting the break that she needed by going home.
“Did you get all of that?” she asked when she finished, noticing a slightly confused expression on his face.
“Most of it, you got a little rushed near then end and the accent got heavier.”
Mia laughed and so did Jesse.
“I’m sorry by the way,” she spoke again. “For ignoring all your messages. After your girlfriend called that morning I felt terrible and I just wanted to keep as far from you could.”
“You don’t need to apologise to me. I shouldn’t have made a move on you. It wasn’t right.”
“We all make mistakes... Are you still together... with your girlfriend?” she asked curiously not knowing how she would feel in any outcome.
“No...um, I went home a few weeks back and we broke up. I should have done it months ago. I don’t think we were right for each other. I convinced myself that it would work out but I was kidding myself. I guess I just grew comfortable with the situation since we knew each other since high school.” So he’s single now; why is this giving me a cardiac arrest?
Mia thought to herself. I really need to lay off the caffeine.
“I’m need to get back to campus for my shift later,” Jesse started. “Do you want a ride?” he offered.
Mia couldn’t help but giggle out loud at the double entendre that Jesse hadn’t noticed. Her brain was running on overtime because of the coffee and her festive spirit. He looked at her slightly confused wondering what was so funny.
“I’m sorry that was immature,” she laughed. “I’d love a ‘ride’ home; I’ll just grab my bags.”
They walked back to his car, a black Honda Civic, and she climbed into the passenger seat.
“Did you almost get into my side there?” he asked once he turned the engine over.
“You noticed? God, four months here and I still think I’m in the UK.” Jesse laughed and turned up the radio as he drove back.
Mia listened to the bass line and the half sung half rapped concoction that came through the speakers. “Hey, who is this?” she asked.
“That’s Drake. It’s good right? He’s from Toronto too, I tried to get tickets to one of his shows but they sold out.”
Mia nodded and smiled knowing that she and Frankie would be seeing Jesse’s idol in a few weeks time.
They chatted and laughed through the drive back, telling one another their plans for the holidays and the things they do with their families at Christmas. It felt like a nice end to the semester. Mia’s exam results were in and she passed with flying colours so she didn’t need to study over the holidays like her Scottish counterparts.
Jesse drove up to Mia’s apartment and turned off the engine. She didn’t make to leave straight away and he was glad since he wanted to tell her something that had been bothering him for some time.
“Mia, I kinda have to apologise for something else. That night you stayed with me – the first one – I kept something from you.”
Mia looked at Jesse but didn’t say anything; she waited for him to finish.
“I wasn’t entirely honest. You didn’t need to stay that night. I could have got you back into your apartment with the spare keys we keep for emergencies in the office. I don’t know why I’m telling you this now, but I thought that it was better that you got the full picture of the situation.”
“Why did you do it?” she asked calmly.
“I like you – I REALLY like you Mia. I know it was selfish and we probably wouldn’t have ‘slept’ together if I was honest with you from the start. I just wanted to spend some time with you. I didn’t expect it would have turned out that way. But I don’t regret it. Not a second of it.”
Mia raised her hand as if to strike him and he closed his eyes expecting it, but she placed it on his cheek and gave him a small kiss on the lips. He pulled his head back and gave her a puzzled look. She bit her bottom lip mischievously.
“I knew what you did,” she said still stroking his face. “I knew you there was probably a way for you to get the keys for me. When you just went along with letting me stay, I didn’t want to stop you. I REALLY didn’t expect to sleep in your bed though, or do all the things we did. I thought we would just hang out. Thanks for your honesty in the end.”
“I suppose we are just as bad as each other,” he added.
Mia leaned over and kissed him again, a little deeper this time, each of them tasting the coffee off their lips. Speechless, Jesse could only remain in the driver’s seat as Mia opened her door and grabbed her shopping bags.
“Have a nice shift tonight,” she said before she walked up the three steps to her door, “Oh and happy holidays.”
“Happy holidays, Mia. I guess I’ll see you in three weeks.” He drove off and Mia watched with a smile as his car drove round the corner. She walked back into her apartment with butterflies in her stomach. Second semester might not be so bad after all...
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<a href="https://www.lushstories.com/stories/novels/mia-chapter-6-unhappy-holidays.aspx">Mia - Chapter 6: (Un)Happy Holidays</a>