There are several texts from Grayson flashing on my screen when I wake up. I grab my mobile and it slips out of my hands, landing on the floor with a hard thud. Please don’t say the screen is broken.
I groan and crawl out of bed to see how much damage has been done. I flip my phone over to find a few scratch marks on the screen, but nothing major. That was a close call.
I read Grayson’s message, squinting.
Grayson - Fancy coming over to my place? Since you’ve shown me your house, I think it’s only fair that I show you mine. It’ll be great for the project.
Okay, now I’m awake. He’s probably only suggesting we study at his place because he’s had enough of seeing my old floral wallpapers, cramped bathroom that you can barely fit one leg inside and my bare feet parading around. He most likely wants a change of scenery, in a much wider location.
Grayson - Hello?
In all honesty, the conversation I had with my mother yesterday ended up becoming the closure that we both needed. Hearing that my father was having the best of both worlds wasn’t pleasant, nor was it what any daughter wants to hear.
The secret is out. This is a new chapter. We can finally move on with our lives and we can do it together.
Grayson - It’s eleven in the morning. Are you seriously still sleeping? That’s so lazy.
This guy can’t even be civil for five seconds. I stretch out my arms and legs and bring up the keypad – not that he deserves a reply.
For your information, I was sleeping. Thanks for waking me up! (INSERT ANGRY FACE HERE)
The three little bubbles show that he’s in the middle of typing.
Grayson - So you’re a late bloomer? That’s going in the project.
Trust him to use the project against me.
And you’re a jerk in all categories of life. But let’s not go there.
Grayson - Are you coming over then?
Fine. :( :’( :L
Grayson - Wow. Emoji overload. Will you be riding that hideous bike of yours dare I ask?
How dare he call my bike hideous. I jab my fingers on the keypad.
1. It’s not hideous. 2. Yes I will be riding my bike.
Grayson - Wonderful: L
12 Crescent road, Lakeside.
We meet again.
Maybe there’s still time to turn around and tell Grayson I’ve come down with the flu. He won’t suspect anything.
“Hey Skye!” Grayson trots down the footpath, dressed to perfection. His blond hair has been gelled up into a quaff and he’s wearing an expensive cologne.
I’m modelling a rundown tracksuit that looks like it’s been slept in more than once and an old pair of white trainers that have lost their original colour.
My plans to escape have been terminated.
Grayson’s mouth curls up and he has a smug look on his face as he takes in my outfit. “Why are you looking at me like that?” I demand.
“Come on, you’ve never been one to keep your opinions to yourself.”
He sighs. “It’s just… where did you get that tracksuit from?”
I stare at him intensely. “I got it from the charity shop.”
“You wear other people’s clothes?” He asks, his voice rising up an octave.
“Yes, not everyone has enough money to buy things brand new Grayson.”
“But… don’t you think it’s weird, wearing somebody else’s stuff? You don’t know where it’s been.”
“Sorry I didn’t dress up specifically for the house tour. I didn’t get the memo. I’ll take my charity with me. Bye.”
I spin on my heel and walk away. Grayson runs after me. “Skye!” I turn around, losing patience fast. “I’m sorry.”
I can’t pretend that my feelings aren’t hurt. But then, Grayson has always been one to speak the truth, no matter how harsh it might sound. He doesn’t think of other people’s feelings. I should be used to this. It’s in his nature to judge.
“So, what do you think of the place? It’s impressive right?”
I cross my arms and scowl. “It’s alright I guess.”
I’m being modest. The house is freaking amazing. Grayson has probably heard this plenty of times though, so he doesn’t need to hear it from me. He’s fishing for compliments. He doesn’t need an ego boost.
“Leave your bike outside and take your shoes off when you get in,” he instructs, turning to walk back inside.
I stare after him, bewildered. “Seriously?”
“Yup. It’s my mother’s number one house rule,” he shouts over his shoulder. “She’s a neat freak. We do it for hygiene purposes. Also, the floor is marble, so we don’t want to scratch the tiles.”
I swallow down a bubble of laughter and follow him up the steps. We walk into the mouth of the home. Grayson is watching my reactions carefully and I’m making it obvious that I’m in love with the place, until their dog Ernie decides to leap down the stairs and charge at me.
I shriek and try to scramble away, as Ernie continues to jump on me full throttle. He’s a Labrador breed, so when he jumps, his paws are nearly reaching my neck.
“Ernie is harmless,” Grayson declares, patting his head.
“I don’t care what he is! Just get him off of me!”
Grayson grabs Ernie by the collar and leads him outside. The smell of lavender trails through the air and it’s almost as enticing as the house itself.
I remember that Grayson is waiting for me to take my muddy trainers off, so I quickly place them on the shoe rack and let him give me a tour of the house.
He shows me the conservatory, games room, kitchen, lounge area and every other room in the building. I’m in need of a glass of water, or maybe something stronger.
When we get to the study, Grayson lets me take the first step inside. My mouth drops when I see the large balcony and window overlooking the lawn. I press my head against the glass, taking in the views of the countryside. This is my dream writing spot. I would love to sit down by this window and write.
The study is decorated with simple décor compared to the other rooms in the house. It consists of a large white desk, a sofa, an Apple Mac computer, a single bookcase and a zebra print rug, which I’m not the biggest fan of personally.
No wonder the Lakesiders were moaning so much when they first came to Barnett. They are living life to the extreme over here. They don’t need to leave their houses because they have practically everything they could ever want right on their doorstep.
I cross the room to look at some of the poetry on Grayson’s desk. Before I can get a chance to look at them properly, Grayson is already stuffing the papers back into his desk drawer.
A shadow looms over his face. “They’re not finished yet.”
“You are such a perfectionist,” I mutter, turning to observe the abstract paintings on the wall. “I’m the same though. I won’t let anyone view my work unless I’m one hundred percent happy with it.”
He laughs, as if the very idea of us being similar is close to impossible. “I don’t like to fail.”
“Why is that?”
He heaves out a sigh. “My dad is a bit of a perfectionist, so I guess I’m just following in his footsteps.”
I nod in understanding. “Whenever I write something, I worry that it’s never going to be good enough,” I explain, “And I always worry that I’m going to fail or make too many mistakes.”
Grayson sits on the desk chair, hands behind his head. “I stress out about essays and assignments all the time, probably as much as you do.”
I never would have thought that Grayson got stressed out about anything. He’s always the first to hand his assignments in, claiming it was the easiest one yet. Obviously, he’s been telling us a few white lies and we’ve all been buying it.
I take my bobble out, shake my hair around and tie it back up again in a tight bun to keep it from my eyes. “One thing Ricky always tells me, is that I need to find my niche. I haven’t found my voice as a writer yet.”
Grayson nods slowly. “You’ll get there. But don’t let the fear stop you from being yourself. A great writer is willing to share experiences and tell a story that the reader can relate to. Why do you write in the first place?”
I stare out the window, deep in thought. “To release my emotions.”
“There you are then! You’ve got your muse. Use your own experiences to reach other people.”
Once again, Grayson has turned my writing dilemma into something positive. Hearing a different perspective is refreshing.
“This is my favourite spot in the house,” he says, after a few silent seconds. “I like the openness – It’s a good thinking space.”
I understand the obsession. This would be my favourite spot too. I can imagine sitting at the desk and gaining inspiration entirely on the surroundings alone. The sun is shining directly into the room, giving it a warm, gentle glow. I love everything about it.
Grayson gestures towards the small grey sofa and I assume he wants me to take a seat. So, I make my way over and sit with my legs crossed. From afar, the couch looked soft to touch, but now that my butt is resting on the thin fabric, it is far from comfortable. That’s what I’d call ‘false advertising.’
Grayson leans back swiftly in his chair, which is something I could never do because I would probably end up high-fiving the floor.
“So, now that we’ve established you live in a mansion that looks like it’s rolled straight out of a Beverly Hills movie and that I live in a building which is basically a dumping ground, I think we can both agree that our living situations are off the scale different.”
“Oh yeah, totally. I’m starting to understand why Ricky paired us together. I wasn’t very nice to you in the beginning, was I?”
“You were an absolute pig.”
Grayson’s mouth curls into an expectant smile. “I didn’t see you trying to make amends little Miss speak your mind.”
“You were acting like a spoiled little rich boy that’s why. Somebody had to put you in your place.”
He holds his hands up, feigning innocence. “I’ll admit I was a bit of a brat. I guess I was angry about the college flood and that we had to relocate, and I wanted to make that known.”
“Well, you succeeded. Congratulations.”
Considering Grayson is the best advice guru around, I decide to test him. “If you suddenly had a large sum of money credited to your account, what would you do with it?”
Grayson wrinkles his nose. “Um, this is just a guess, but I’m assuming I’d spend it.” I shoot him an unamused look and he understands me perfectly. “To be honest, I’d probably keep it away and save for something I might need in the future.”
“Well, let’s say that I didn’t have all of this. I suppose I’d save for a house or car. I would try and do something valuable with the money.”
“What if this money was dirty? Money that was given to you out of… guilt for example? Would you still want to keep it?”
Grayson’s expression says it all. He knows I’m talking about myself. “Skye, what is this really about? You’re doing that thing you always do.”
“The thing where you act like you’re not talking about you, when we both know that you are.”
“I’m not talking about me,” I defend.
“Skye, I’ve been working with you long enough to know when you’re lying.”
I tell him about my father not being around and he listens to my every word, never once interrupting. “Wow.”
“I know,” I manage.
“So, that money is from him – your dad?”
I stick my hand into my hair, pulling some strands out in the process. “Yeah. I can only start using it when I turn eighteen. And that’s why I’m torn about what I should do.”
“It’s kind of like deal or no deal isn’t it? Should you take the money or—” Grayson trails off, when I turn on a glare. He coughs. “Uh, but this is way more serious than deal or no deal obviously.”
“I thought you were good at giving advice? That was awful.”
He taps his jaw. “Alright, do you want to hear my honest opinion?” I nod. “Use the money for something you need. I know it might seem dirty to you, but it would be a shame for it to go to waste. Why don’t you save for a new house or redecorate the house you’re living in now? It would be a chance for you and your mum to start fresh. And it could help to bring you closer together.”
Some mother/daughter bonding time sounds like a good way to go.
“Okay, now that my words of advice are over, it’s time to get to work.”
“I was waiting for that,” I say, chuckling.