I just want to be alone
I rubbed my eyes to ease the strain. I had managed to find a quiet seminar room to study for the day. I glancing at the corner of the screen. 6 ‘o’ clock, I had been engrossed in my screen the entire day. Losing most of my books at the station left me with my latest read and my notebook. I had managed to find some old editions on the library server but it wasn’t long before my attention drifted.
Fifteen years had passed and it felt like it was yesterday. The beeps of the machines growing further and further apart as he had drifted away. The hospital smell filled my nostrils. A smell of anticipation, hope, and crushing loss. The vibration of my phone in my pocket roused me from the memories. I opened the home screen and saw dads name flash across the top. I had little motivation to go home. I knew what was waiting.
Mom would be shut in her study, filled with hushed voices of her colleagues and the shifting of shadows as she paced the floor. My Dad would be watching a movie or baking in the kitchen to try and forget what today was. It had been that way for fifteen years. I was prey to the same ritual. I kept the same files of photographs on my computer. I didn’t have the heart to lose any memories of him, even those where he had begun to lose his hair. My eyes teared up as I rotated the same file. Ollie playing in the garden, Ollie smiling broadly holding a trophy, Ollie and I standing in our school uniforms. Where many siblings fought and argued we never did, at least never seriously. My head darted up when I heard the light turn on in the hallway.
The business department always shut at 5:30, usually no one was around. I strained to listen out for footsteps, and jumped when Lennox burst into the room.
“Found you!” She announced in triumph, her eyes gleaming in the dim room.
“Found me? What kind of freaky stalker are you?” I exclaimed standing from my chair. Lennox bounded across the room and dropped my textbooks onto the nearest table with a loud bang. She then sat next to my laptop on the desk, waving her legs back and forth.
“They looked important.” She stated, reaching back to pick one up. She held it sideways and read out the title with her head cocked to one side
“Busi…….ness and management……. An introduction? Huh, never thought you were a business type. But then I don’t even know your name do I?” She spoke the title slowly, as if she were translating the Rosetta stone. I crossed my arms nervously, I didn’t react well to having my personal space invaded.
“It doesn’t matter now does it? The books are returned. You can go now.” My eyes darted around the room for anything else to look at. The walls were covered in spider diagrams for various business ideas from the second year students. Lennox’s eye brows furrowed.
“I wanted to apologise. You seemed really shaken up. It took forever to figure out which station to get off at and get around the campus. Did you know there is a room in the science department filled with caged rats? The professors were not happy to see me there. Plus I didn’t know you’re name so I couldn’t ask around” She threw herself off the desk and held out a hand to shake.
“I wanted the chance to introduce myself again. Lennox, pleased to meet you.” I raised an eyebrow incredulously, what was going to take to get this bubbly girl away from me.
“This is the part where you hold my hand, move it up and down, and say your name” Lennox leaned forward and whispered.
“I know how to shake hands. Did I say I wanted too?” Lennox rolled her eyes and grasped the elbow of my jumper.
“Hello Lennox I’m………….” Lennox said in a low voice, shaking my elbow as if I were holding her hand. I remained frozen, this woman really needed a lesson in boundaries and consent. She paused and looked at me expectantly, I could have sworn her pupils had a slightly oval shape to them.
“Lovely to meet you! It’s getting late do you want to grab something to eat?” I was taken aback at how friendly she was. Usually shirking a hand is enough to get someone to leave me alone but Lennox was persistent.
“Sorry. I’m busy.”
“Oh come on you’re a university student! How busy could you be? This is a time to go out. Drink, dance and all the other stuff that comes with being young and free as a bird” Lennox insisted, turning on the spot. It was right for most students, but for me the prospect of trying to force down a meal I didn’t want to eat and go out with a stranger I didn’t like wasn’t fun. She stopped mid-turn and saw the photos on my laptop screen.
“Awww. Is this a younger sibling? He’s so cute!” As Lennox leaned in to get closer look I quickly slammed my laptop shut.
“Like I said I’m busy, and I already ate.” I mumbled, I was beginning to lose my patience. I scooped up the chocolate digestive packets, one of the few foods I could eat without needing to rationalise it first.
“That’s hardly healthy. Please let me take you out, get some protien you look like you could do with it. It would be a chance for you to tell me all about your brother.” She pleaded as I dropped the wrappers into the bin. My hands shook with anger.
“He’s dead you inconsiderate bitch! I’ve tried being nice you are clearly not getting the message so I’m going to tell you so you can understand. I didn’t want to bump into you, I have no interest in who you are and I definitely don’t want to spend an evening of my brother’s birthday talking about how he died!” I screamed. I was angry at her, I was angry at myself, I was angry at fate. It all came out in a large wave at this stranger. This had the effect I wanted. For once the wide, carefree grin wasn’t on her face.
“I………..” She began but I had had enough. I screamed at her again between sobs.
“Get out! Just get out!” The emotion that I had tried to supress for all these years came out at once. It scared me. I always tried to keep them in check, trying to hide my fear, trying to keep myself going. By the time I had calmed down she was gone.
I was still wiping the tears from my eyes as I left the business centre. Shortly after Lennox left I packed up my things to go home. I needed the absolute solitude of my room to collect myself. I had left the textbooks behind, Even in my emotional state there were rules I still had to follow. The isolating, exhausting rules. I barely noticed the heavy rain as I paced down the street and made a right turn down the alley way. The large waste and recycling bins that lined each wall set my anxiety reeling but right now I needed speed rather than convenience. I buried my head into my scarf and carried on past.
Through the sound of the heavy rain I started to hear a low growl behind me. I turned when some bin bags behind me exploded, sending trash flying in all directions. Furiously keeping my face covered, I didn’t see a sleek black form speed past me and block the way through the alley. I should have ran, every cell of my body screamed at me to move. But I was frozen to the spot. In the middle of the alley stood a large panther.
I tried to think of something to defend myself. I eyed the nearest trash can lid, it could have been a shield but part of me was more willing to be mauled to death than go near the garbage. The only option my rules left me with was to panic, my breathing becoming shallow and fast. My heart pounded in my ears as the sleek predator coiled and leapt for me. In the moment before it was about to reach me, fangs and teeth outstretched, I could see the intent to kill in its eyes. I knew I wouldn’t survive. Suddenly another large cat was between us and sent the panther reeling backwards. The impact of the clash knocked me off my feet. Aware of the bins, I landed on my back instead of reaching out an arm to steady myself. My protector was different to the panther. This new cat was thicker, resembling a lynx, with large paws and a long tail. Her coat was covered in a pattern of yellow spots ringed with black. She was hissing viciously at my attacker. The panther got its feet and made another attempt to leap but the lynx was faster. It charged the other cat knocking back and out of the alley. Hidden by the darkness and the rain, I couldn’t see the two fight but I could hear their growls and hisses. I continued to stare in horror when the fighting sounds stopped. I quickly got to my feet and braced myself. I didn’t know if the lynx was fighting to protect me or for the chance to have the first taste. Slowly the Lynx lumbered out of the rain as victor, its paws speckled with red.
“S-stay back.” I commanded. I tried to muster as much confidence as I could but I only sounded like I felt, vulnerable and feeble. The lynx’s amber eyes locked with mine and the large cat bowed to me before disappearing back into the rain. I didn’t hesitate to run as fast as I could, out of the alley and towards the train station.