The Freedom That Paper Gives

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I just want a straight answer

CW: Mentions of illness, hospitals, anxiety, allusions to PTSD. Please read with caution.

Percy’s face lit up and he began to hope if was who he thought it was.

“Marie?”

“No, Asha, your sister.” Joy answered with a raised eyebrow.

Percy’s heart sank, but rose again. Asha knew Kamila who knew Marie, maybe she knew something about the situation. After all it can’t hurt to try.

“Thanks Joy. Have a good weekend.” Percy parroted, impatiently making his way to the door.

“You too Percy, and don’t worry about Marie. She disappears sometimes but she’s fine. You need to get that crush under control.” Joy said.

Percy felt anger rising, or was it embarrassment.

“It’s not a crush, we’re just friends.” Percy replied, not sure who he was convincing.

“Whatever you say Percy.” Joy replied, clearly not convinced.

And with that Joy left and Percy headed into the cafe, intent on trying to get some answers out of Asha.

“Hey what took you so long?” Asha said, looking rather unimpressed.

Asha had clearly just come from her placement, she was sat at the counter on her phone. Looking sterner than usual in her formal business suit. Percy thought to himself that their mother must have asked her to pick him up.

“I was on my break.” Percy said shortly, “What can I get you?”

“Black coffee, large. God knows I need it.” Asha replied, not looking up from her phone.

She was smiling at her phone so she must have been messaging Lauren, Percy though to himself.

“Coming right up.” Percy replied as Asha handed him her money.

As he got to work making her drink Percy decided to ask her. He needed answers and at this point Asha was the only person who might be able to give him any.

“Hey Ash, you know Kamila right?” Percy asked, trying to sound casual.

“Yes and no I’m not setting you up with her. Or any of your friends.” Asha replied almost automatically.

Percy remembered that a lot of people only make friends with Kamila’s friends to get close to Kamila.

“I’m not interested in Kamila. But she’s Marie’s friend right?”, at this point Percy was struggling to sound casual.

“And housemate but yeah. What about it?” Asha is still not really paying attention.

“Do you know why Marie’s suddenly vanished?” Percy asked, building up courage, “I was supposed to meet her here today but no ones seen here in a few days and she’s not replying to any of my messages.”

Asha looked up from her phone and sighed when she saw Percy’s face.

“Yeah, Marie’s not going to be here for a while, and she’s not going to be answering any of your messages either so I would just give up on that.” Asha answered, a little bluntly for Percy’s liking.

That was not the answer Percy wanted to hear. The worry is mounting in his mind was causing him just as much pain as the physio. There was only one question he needed Asha to answer, and he needed a straight answer.

“Is she alright?”

Asha can’t bring herself to look Percy in the eye.

“She will be.” Asha took a more sympathetic tone, “Look don’t worry it’s not good for you. And you shouldn’t be standing up so much, that’s also not good for you. Especially after physio.”

At this point he was the last thing on his mind. Why did Asha baby him so much, he’s fine. What he really needed to know was about Marie. What he needed was a straight answer and for Asha to stop lying to him. Or at least tell him the whole truth.

“I’m fine, I need to know that Marie’s alright.” Percy said, getting slightly irritated.

Again Asha couldn’t bring herself to look Percy in the eye. But she was looking increasingly worried at Percy’s behaviour.

“She will be fine, eventually.” Asha was choosing her words now.

That’s not a straight answer Percy thought to himself. Why won’t she tell me what going on? It must be something serious, Marie must be in trouble. Maybe she’s in hospital, maybe she’s dying? Percy was racking his brain for any signs that Marie was ill. She had no allergies that he knew about, she took no medication that he knew about. Sometimes she would put a couple of drops of some liquid under her tongue when it was loud and busy. She didn’t look ill recently.

“Is it serious?” Percy asked, his tone demanding an answer.

Asha sighed again.

“It’s not my place to tell you. If she wanted you to know she would have told you. Now sit down, your shaking.” Asha replied, hoping this would end the conversation.

Percy looked to see both his leg and arms shaking and sat down on a stool next to Asha. He spoke before Asha would get the chance to.

“I’m shaking because your not giving me a straight answer.” Percy said, hoping Asha would believe it.

In reality the tiredness Percy had been putting off waiting for Marie was catching up with him. And his worrying was only making it worse. Tensions were rising between Asha and Percy, both equally stubborn forces. Asha promised Marie she wouldn’t tell anyone and she won’t but Percy wasn’t going to give up until he got the information he wanted. Information that Asha simple couldn’t give, but she could give him some advice. She could also only hope this would suffice until Marie could explain.

“Because its not my place to tell you. Look I’m sure Marie will be back here soon but for the moment just give her some space. She’s not in a place to be hounded by your messages.” Asha replied really hoping this will end the conversation.

Percy’s mind was racing still. If it’s not her thats ill than who, if it was any of her housemates or friends Asha would tell him. Perhaps it was her dad? Percy knew he had some health problems. His mind went back to the image of Marie sat by her dads bedside in hospital all alone. Or worse her alone in hospital, he knew that pain.

“Is it her dad? Is he ill? Is she ill?” Percy blurted out.

Asha had becoming increasingly worried about Percy, he’s working himself up. He shouldn’t be pushing himself this hard, she thought, and if he knew about Marie it might push him over the edge.

“I’m not telling you. Look lets just go home, you’ve not stopped shaking. Maybe we should call the doctor. When’s the last time you were looked at?”

Six months ago, Percy thought, when he was fitted for a new prosthetic. But Asha knew that. Percy knew what card Asha was playing, she always brought this up to guilt him into doing what she said. Because if he didn’t she would tell mum and she would call the doctor and worry herself. But not this time, this time Percy wasn’t going to back down to Asha.

“I know what your doing and you know I’m fine.” Percy replied.

Asha knew she’d lost. He’s not going anywhere this way, not even mum can force him to when he’s in this state. Asha always knew that Percy’s stubbornness would be his downfall. But Asha never thought the hill he would be prepared to die on would be about Marie. Sometimes when her brother acted like a child he needed to be treated like one she thought to herself.

“Ok there’s no need to act like that, I’m just worried about you. Look its dead in here, no one else is coming in. Just close up and go home and I won’t tell mum about your constant shaking.”

“It’s not constant.” Percy butted in.

Asha cut Percy of before he could continue, “When we get home I’ll message Kami for an update on Marie. How’s that?”

This only made Percy more mad. He knew what she was doing, she’s babying him again. She always has. But at least he could play to this. Percy knew Asha wouldn’t budge, but she might be able to compromise.

“Fine, I’ll go home. But on one condition, you drop me off at Marie’s house so I can check on her myself.” Percy replied smugly, leaning back on his stool.

That’s a terrible idea Asha thought to herself. But then another idea came to her head, Marie’s not going to answer the door, but Kamila might, or Byron, hopefully Oscar, that will scare Percy off. It seem the only option thats going to please Percy so Asha agreed.

“Fine, get in the car.”

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