The Freedom That Paper Gives

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How does she still have a good posture?

And he did, it was no different to spending the time at the cafe apart from the fact that Percy wouldn’t get called away. He could direct all his attention to reading and later to talking about it with Marie.

They both spent the afternoon led out on Marie’s bed reading in silence, with only an occasional noise coming from outside the open window. This was what they both liked the most about their friendship, how comfortable they could be in silence. Percy was sat at the head of the bed leaning against the wall, legs crossed and the tray balancing on his lap, he was so engrossed he barely moved apart from the occasion involuntary jump when something surprised him or to move his leg to stop it going numb.

Marie on the other hand couldn’t sit still while she was reading, something that had surprised Percy. She started sitting opposite to him, cross-legged with the book on her lap leaning over it, then she moved to lean against the wall under the window taking up the width of the bed, then she led on her front along the length of her bed swinging her legs in the air becoming dangerously close to kicking Percy a couple of times, not that he noticed, then she led on her back holding the book above her head, dropping it on her face on two occasions. Like Percy she was engrossed in reading and she didn’t notice how much she was moving, it was clearer she was more comfortable here than in the cafe. As Percy was reading the last page Marie had moved to sit next to him, leaning her back against the wall and balancing the book on her knees, she was almost hunched into a ball which Percy guessed meant she was getting to a part she enjoyed. How does she have such a good posture if she reads like that, Percy thought.

Percy had gotten to the final paragraph now, the plot had been wrapped up and this was the part where Marie was leaving her final impressions to the reader. And they were powerful, it was a message that you could change the world if you wanted to, just like the characters had done. Percy liked how it ended, there was no cliffhanger but it left the book open enough for a sequel, something he thought Marie should pursue. Now Percy had finished he didn’t know what to do, should he get her attention or leave her to it. He didn’t need to think for long as Marie had received a text and her attention was drawn away from her book. Although it seemed reluctant.

“That’s Oscar,” Marie explained, “he’s letting me know he’s not going to be in tonight. He has a date. About time, him and Charles have been skirting around each other for months. Watch the group chat blow up.”

The group chat in question was a chaotic mess of people having conversations or arguments that really should have been direct messaged to the person in question. It was mostly used to see who was free at a certain point or what everyone’s plans were. Either that or writing or art memes. Percy loved the pure chaos of it as everyone messaged over each other and sent paragraph after paragraph. He was sure the entire night was going to be spent with everyone asking Oscar how his date was going and how it went and if Charles was nice. And she was right, nearly as soon as she finished saying it both Marie and Percy’s phones started vibrating, the first message was from Byron announcing to everyone that Oscar and Charles were going on a date, then Georgiana who was mad that they hadn’t had a chance to set them up, then Blake wishing Oscar luck, then Kami who said it was about time, finally both he and Marie sent separate messages wishing Oscar luck.

Percy knew the Charles in question, he was a biology student in his second year who used to be his flatmate in their first year. Or at least for the three months Percy lived in student accomodation. Whenever they had seen or mentioned Charles, Oscar had blushed and gone quiet, it was a terribly hidden crush but Percy guessed it payed off. While Percy was scrolling through the flurry of messages that had appeared Marie continued.

“I guess that means its just us tonight. Byron and Kamila are working late on a group art project and are ordering pizza. Unless of course you need to go home.”

A more perfect moment couldn’t have arrived, Percy felt like the main character in a romance novel. He would have the entire evening to spend with Marie and talk about her book.

“No I can stay. It works out actually because I’ve just finished your book.” Percy replied.

Just as Percy had finished speaking Marie had flung her arms around him, nearly knocking him off balance. Percy still wasn’t used to the ferocity of Marie’s hugs and while they were nice they often took him by surprise. But he had been warned she did that by Kami and Percy really didn’t mind at all.

“Why didn’t you tell me you had finished? What did you think? Was the ending alright? Did I write the character arcs well? Should it have ended in action like it began?” Marie asked.

Marie started to blush, but Percy found it funny. She did the same thing as him when she was excited.

“Sorry, when I get excited I can’t really control my anxiety, all the thoughts going through my head come out. I once spent a full minute apologising after kissing someone.” Marie carried on.

She went red again.

“See what I mean, I can’t stop talking. Please interrupt me.” Marie said as she averted her eyes from Percy’s.

Percy smiled at Marie, he found it endearing.

“It’s fine, you’ve seen how I get when I’m excited.” Percy said, hoping this would comfort her.

Percy felt comfortable enough around Marie that he gently put his hands on her arms causing her to look at him again, before he carried on speaking.

“Your book is brilliant, with some small tweaks you should be ready to send it off to publishers. Unless your planning on self-publishing.” Percy said.

Marie’s eyes were wide, Percy actually think my book is good, Marie thought to herself. She knew he didn’t hate it but she hadn’t expected such high praise. She had expected to write another couple of drafts before it was even close to being sent to beta readers let alone publishing. She couldn’t speak, she just sat there looking at Percy in disbelief. So Percy carried on.

“The ending was really strong and I think there is potential for a series if you wanted to go down that route, it also gives the reader a good message and some encouragement to make a change to a cause they feel passionate about. The character arcs were done really well, it felt like they naturally wanted to get better but just needed the other persons help to do it. But they still kept their base personalities, Dakota is still harsh but only when she needs to be and Zara is still a bit of a pushover but she is better at fighting her corner. I think if you were going to make this a series you should actually slow down on the character development and make it a gradual change. But its your book so you do what you want.” Percy said.

Marie still couldn’t believe what she was hearing, she had expected this to be standalone but Percy thought it would make a good series. That meant he wanted more. Marie already had ideas going around her head about the next adventures Dakota and Zara could go on, and new characters she could introduce. And she could definitely make those changes, she liked the idea of long term character development.

“You think I could make this a series?” Marie said quietly, “You really think so? People would want to buy more than one book?”

“Yeah, I definitely would.” Percy replied with a smile.

“I have so many other ideas.” Marie said, her excitement rising again.

Percy could tell Marie was excited because she could barely sit down. She had put her book down and was now sat on her knees, her eyes bright and smile wide.

“Don’t tell me, write them. I want to read them, if you will let me.” Percy said.

“Of course, I need your feedback.” Marie replied, fighting the urge to hug him again.

“But you did say you didn’t want me to hold back,” Percy warned, “apart from a couple of grammar mistakes there’s nothing big on that front. Nothing a proofreader won’t pick up. But I think people would want to know more about Dakota’s employer, perhaps how she got to be in this profession, especially if this is going to be series.”

Marie was so happy that Percy actually liked her book that his critiques didn’t affect her confidence and motivation at all.

“I can do that.” Marie replied. “But I get the sense you think something else is missing. I’ve been watching you read and the entire way through it felt like you were waiting for something to happen that didn’t. A sub-plot or twist or something?”

Percy was disappointed that Dakota and Zara didn’t end up together at then end, although, he could see that Marie was trying to avoid the cliche of the two main characters becoming a couple. But Percy had promised to be completely honest.

“You can call me cliche but I was kind of routing for Dakota and Zara to get together. They had opposite personalities and worked well together. They had loads of moments where they bonded, like when Zara comforted Dakota after Erin’s death. Or when Dakota told Zara all the things she thought made her strong. That and while you stated that Zara was bi, you didn’t really go into Dakota’s sexuality, not that you needed to as it wasn’t really plot relevant. It felt natural, not forced at all.” Percy explained.

Marie hadn’t even thought of that, she was so intent of writing action that the thought of a romance didn’t come to her. She agreed with Percy they would make a good couple.

“I hadn’t even thought of that. I hadn’t even thought about what Dakota’s sexuality is, it never really mattered to me. But I like that idea, they do go well together. Perhaps not in this book but in a later one they could.” Marie said, already planning it.

Percy faked looking disappointed.

“You can’t make me wait for my new ship, not when you’ve just told me its canon.” He whined.

“Possibly canon.” Marie warned, “But if you want I could write you a couple of scenes of them together, cute fluffy stuff, or angst if thats more your thing. I draw the line at smut thought, I’ll leave that to your imagination.” Marie teased back.

“No spoilers! No I guess I’ll have to wait.” Percy replied.

“So you really liked my book?” Marie asked again, just to be sure.

Marie’s anxiety was rising. Percy could tell her he liked her book a thousand times but there would always be a thought in the back of her head that he was lying to spare her feelings. This feeling became stronger since they became friends. She didn’t know why she was asking, even if he said her book was good those thoughts wouldn’t go away.

“Your book is really good, English students honour.” Percy said smiling and putting his hand on his heart.

“That’s not even a real thing.” Marie said, feeling a bit better, she appreciated what Percy was trying to do.

“It is now.” Percy replied.

Marie couldn’t hold herself back anymore and she hugged Percy again, it wasn’t as sudden as last time and Percy had time to move her laptop to the floor before hugging her back. Marie was so grateful for Percy, for him reading her book, being her friend, he had seen her at a really low point and she told him some really heaving things but he was still there. Even when he didn’t know what was going on he still messaged her every day to say he was there for her, she had actually cried when she read through them. Percy had told her some heavy things as well and she was grateful she was seen as a good enough friend to tell her those things. She knew Percy was afraid that after telling her she would treat him differently, the same as she was, but now they had it had only strengthened their bond. They had both told each other that they were available to talk to any time for whatever reason, even if they were just bored.

Marie felt safe and comfortable in Percy’s arms and the feeling was mutual.

Percy was grateful for Marie as she had introduced him into her friend group and for the first time in a long time he had friends who understood him and were like him. Its not that his old friends didn’t understand him but they didn’t have that much in common apart from sharing a class or supporting the same football team. None of his old friends read as much as he did or had the same ideas as he did, but here they did. It was Marie who introduced him to that. It was Marie who introduced him to friends that had quickly become a second family.

Neither of them knew how long they had hugged for, it felt timeless. They were interrupted by Oscar knocking on the door and they reluctantly broke apart. Percy was still a bit afraid of Oscar finding them like that.

“Oscar you can come in, nothings happening.” Marie said as Oscar came in.

“I just wanted to be sure. I’m heading off now, there’s plenty of food in the fridge and Byron and Kami should be back at around nine. I shouldn’t be much later.” Oscar said.

“Your not going dressed like that. That’s what you’ve been wearing all day. Have you even showered?” Marie asked.

“Now who’s acting like a parent? I was just going to change my shirt.” Oscar replied.

“To which one?” Marie asked.

“The blue one.”

“That’s... acceptable, it would look better with grey trousers though.” Marie replied.

“What would I do without you?” Oscar asked mockingly.

“Look terrible for your dates. Have fun and good luck. Remember the rules though.” Marie said as Oscar left the room.

“What rules are those?” Percy asked.

“In this house we have a few rules when you go out on a date. One; text us when you get there, and where you are. Two; text us if anything doesn’t feel right. Three; halfway through the date text us an emoji heart- each colour represents a different thing. Four; text us when the date ends and if you are coming home or not. And five; if your going to have sex go back to their place out of consideration for Byron and I.” Marie explained

“That sounds like a fair system. You’ve never had to to text that something didn’t feel right though?” Percy asked, fear rising.

“I’m a woman so yeah. But I’m lucky that I’ve never been in danger or anything like that. I haven’t dated in ages though, in over a year actually.” Marie replied, reflecting on that fact.

Percy breathed a sigh of relief when Marie said she had never been in danger. He had heard horror stories from his friends and sister about things some people had been through at university.

“Same, I just haven’t met anyone interesting yet. No ones really caught my attention.” Percy replied, but that wasn’t strictly true.

“Well there’s more to life than relationships, like food for example. Are you hungry? It is getting late.” Marie asked.

“It depends, did Oscar cook it?” Percy asked.

“Yes.” Marie replied as if the answer were obvious, “I’ll tell Oscar you like his cooking.”

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