Skin of the Night

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Chapter 75: Here's A Big, Fat Hint

Keeping my eyes open was proving increasingly difficult when it was nearing time for lunch. The sensation of it reminded me of the painful days I’d spent in lectures after having had assignments to turn in before the deadline the same morning. As a result, I would spend the entire night awake before lectures to complete them. I’d pulled too many all-nighters during my days as a student. In all likelihood, I’d probably shortened down my lifespan because of it. Even if I had become quite proficient at it in due time, and was now able to be productive despite lack of sleep, it was a terrible habit of mine. Although I always started on the assignments early, I was never quite pleased with them until the last possible minute, and that was why I always sat up till absurd hours, rewriting and editing like a maniac on cocaine.

As I mentally criticised that habit of mine, Robby inevitably popped into my head. I wondered in that moment how many nights we’d spent together, forcing each other to remain awake, while we completed our coursework and tweaked them to near perfection. We’d bounced so many ideas off each other that I nearly chuckled upon a particular memory.

It was from April, when I’d been sleeping over at his. We had been working together on an assignment all week, and I hadn’t been able to switch off my brain despite the fact that we’d agreed to go to bed and look at it with fresh eyes in the morning. So, at five in the morning, I’d turned my head and said, ’Robby, I just don’t get it. Could we go over the case again?”

Like the sweetheart he was, he’d simply switched on the lights, lifted his notebook from the floor and patiently answered every single question of mine until I felt more secure. The following day, we’d both resembled zombies during the lecture, and it had amused Olivia, because apparently it was so typical of us.

This felt like one of those days. All too often, I zoned out into a blank space of my mind while I stared at the time and noticed how slowly it moved. Staying awake was truly painful today. Every other minute, I’d daydream of my bed and a long, deep nap. A coma would be nice.

Coffee didn’t help much either. Since I’d had more than my share for one day, all it did was make my hands shake as though I was suffering from drug-withdrawal. However, that was about to change.

Fifteen minutes before it was time for lunch, something I’d never expected happened, and the adrenaline it triggered left me wide-awake. Trailing behind Debbie from receptions was a young lad, and he came bearing gifts. The bouquet between his hands was much larger than most, and while I didn’t know the name of most of the flowers, I was able to identify roses among the otherwise white and red arrangement.

“Either I’ve charmed somebody inadvertently, or those are for you,” my boss murmured when she looked up from her desk to acknowledge our company.

The bouquet beckoned attention, and so, naturally, I caught a few colleagues stealing glances into Violet’s office where I sat seated. In that moment in time, I wanted to cease existing. Was William truly capable of this? I was certain my face was equally red to the roses of the bouquet. This was completely out of my comfort-zone, even if I appreciated the intention behind his gesture. Couldn’t he have done it in a less eye-catching setting? This amount of attention, specially involving my private affairs, was my worst nightmare. It thoroughly unnerved me.

“While I’m sure you deserve this kind of attention, Violet,” said Debbie, “these are for Cara.” Her lips curled up with her amused smile. “From William.”

I buried my hot face in my hands while the lad approached my desk. Only after he’d placed the vase on it had I collected enough composure to look at him. “Thank you.”

He chuckled and presented both a box of chocolates and a card from his bag. “I mustn’t forget the card. He was very strict about that.”

I had just wrapped my hand around the relatively big and white envelope when Violet stretched from her seat, wallet in hand, to tip to the lad. “William has outdone himself,” she said to herself through a snicker, and then focused on the deliveryman. “Thanks so much for this. You’ve both made my day.”

His brown eyes looked about to pop out of his head when he saw that she’d left him twenty quid. “This is completely unnecessary. This is too much for–”

“You’re complaining about your tip being too large?” Violet questioned him, and her head tilted. “That’s very, very odd. It’s also what I would call a solid first world problem, and it’s also something I’d call your problem. Enjoy it, chap. Buy yourself a pizza, or a book, whatever you’re into. If none of that sits right with you, give it to something charitable.”

“T-thanks,” he stammered, visibly intimidated, and stole a coy glance at her before he turned for the door where Debbie waited.

“You didn’t expect this at all, did you?” Violet enquired of me the moment after they’d departed. For an answer, I shook my head whilst I opened the envelope to withdraw the card, and when I opened it, eight small scraps of paper fell out. Written on them – in what I recognised as William’s sharp but elegant handwriting – was every phrase he’d left on my coffees as of late. In the same beautiful handwriting, I read in his card,

I hope you’ve survived your morning, love. Sorry about this. I can only imagine how hard you’re blushing right now. Though, I must admit, it makes me laugh. Loudly. Anyway, I gathered you might need some help solving the enigma, so here are all the pieces of the puzzle for you in one place at the same time. Should make it relatively easy to solve. No pressure, though. You’re clearly not Alan Turing. With that said, I love you. Here’s a big, fat hint.

What hint? He ended the letter right before he shared it! “Ugh, this clown!” I moaned in frustration and buried my face in the card.

“Let’s spend lunch on this. You’ll be Sherlock, I’ll be Watson,” Violet suggested and closed her computer to observe the puzzle William had left me. After peeling the card off my face with her neatly manicured fingernails, she turned it around and read the content.

“Makes him laugh, does it,” she mumbled to herself. “What a prick,” she continued through a snicker.

“Aye,” Andy cheered when he passed by the door only a moment after. When his eyes caught a glimpse of the bouquet, they widened with thrill. “He bloody did it. Oh, no – Violet, did you record her?”

“Forgot,” she muttered.

“How could you be so useless?” he whined. “I can’t believe I missed it. How red was she? Scarlet? Or just a faint pink?”

“Stop mocking my blush,” I grumbled and looked away from them both.

“Not going to happen, dear. Besides, it’s adorable,” Violet replied, audibly absentminded, while she completed reading the card.

“It’s just so funny,” Andy added and tucked his hands in his pockets while he stepped in.

“You both knew he planned to do this?” I asked of them.

They glanced at each other, and then Andy decided to reply after a shrug of his shoulders, “Will told us about his little scheme during dinner on Friday. I’ve got to say, Cara, I love this side of him.”

“Yeah,” Violet agreed, “I love that you’re able to bring this out of him. He’s always had it in him, but never done much with it. I mean, he’s generally quite gallant, but this is the extra mile I knew he was capable of.”

“What, he never did this for Kate?” I asked Andy and folded my arms.

He sent me a knowing smile. “You know the answer to that as well as I do. He brought her flowers, sure, because he’s got standards, but he never put this much effort into it. Why do you ask? You jealous?”

“Prick.”

“Yeah. Prick,” Violet joined in. “It’s a fair question, especially after how you phrased yourself.”

Sincere laughter spilled out of him while he studied the bouquet. “Even remembered the chocolates,” he murmured to himself when he noticed the box, and he resembled a drooling dog.

“And they’re Belgian. May I have a piece?” Violet asked of me. “My bum will hate me for it, but so what.”

Since Andy was becoming a second Jason to me, I didn’t shy away from commenting that, “He probably remembered that I’m PMS-ing. I crave chocolate when I’m nearing my time of the month. But yes, by all means, have a bite.”

“Ugh, you’re preaching to the choir. I’m PMS-ing as well. My tits hurt like hell in this bra. Good of Will to think of it, though.”

“Husband material, I’d say,” Andy murmured as he opened the box to collect a piece for himself. “I find this funny, though. While I can’t relate, Chloe keeps moaning about sore tits as well.”

“Well, she’s pregnant. Perhaps that’s why,” Violet stated and grabbed a piece of chocolate as well.

With a cautious tone, so not to come across as prying, I asked, “Is she really pregnant, now? Has she taken a test?”

“Yeah. She’s actually pregnant. I’ve got to say it, my ego was thoroughly boosted at how easy the process was for us. Does something with a man’s sense of masculinity when his sperm isn’t effective, so I’m relieved mine was. Now I’m just waiting for her to swell and start moaning. Then again, I reckon she won’t moan much. She’s generally not a whiner. She’s too prideful for it. She doesn’t like being pitied, and I absolutely love that about her.”

“Why don’t you buy her a box of chocolates after work?” Violet suggested.

A wicked gleam entered his eyes when he directed his gaze at her. “Can’t hurt.”

“Do it,” she pushed.

“Yeah, I think I might. She deserves it.”

“She does. Besides, she’ll get fat anyway now that she’s pregnant.”

Laughter surged out of me at her blunt, but nevertheless true, response, and Andy did not hesitate to join me.

“Christ, Violet,” I uttered disbelievingly.

She shrugged her shoulders. “What? I’m going to eat like there’s no tomorrow the day I find out I’m pregnant. I’ve been keeping this body in shape for bloody thirty-two years. Pregnancy will be nine months of consecutive cheat days, and I can’t wait. I’ll be making up for what’s been lost.”

Andy eyed her. “Well, you’ve got to find a man first, unless you’re just looking for a donor.”

“I’m already on it.”

My eyebrows climbed up my forehead with my surprise. Opposite of me, Andy mirrored my expression. Clearly, neither of us had seen this in the cards.

“Oh, don’t look so surprised,” she scoffed. “I’ve been seeing him for a few months now. His name’s Clive and he’s thirty-eight. He’s a journalist for The Guardian, and I quite like him. He’s clever, gallant, and bloody good in bed. Only downside is that he’s recently divorced, and he's got a three-year-old son with his ex-wife, and she’s a bit of a challenge, but we’re managing.”

Andy gawked at her. “Why haven’t you told me this?”

“You’ve never asked. And you didn’t now, either.”

“Oh, Violet,” he scolded. “Is that how it needs to be? I need to ask in order for you to tell me things?”

She shook her head and sighed. “No. That was only a poor joke. The truth is that I haven’t told you because I haven’t been certain about him. There’s a lot you’re not aware of, stuff that has made things a tad more complicated than what’s ideal, particularly regarding his ex-wife, so I gathered it was unnecessary to mention anything until I was certain. Now I am.”

“Are you in love?” he probed.

She wrinkled her nose. “Not yet, but I think I can fall in love with him. I don’t think I’m that type of person who falls in love that fast. I need time. I’m attracted to people I rationally find myself compatible with, whom I’ll know won’t stand in my way, and figuring that out takes time.”

“I hope you fall in love,” he replied affectionately. “You deserve it. And... You’ll look funny. I’ll be taking sneak pictures of you. And if you get pregnant, I’ll create a whole album of you stuffing your face.”

The sound of her sweet laughter made me grin. “Ever the charmer, Andy.”

“So you were seeing Clive while...” Andy cleared his throat and stole a glance in my direction, and it made me smirk.

“Andy,” I said, “I know my boyfriend’s history with her. It’s okay. You don’t need to walk on eggshells.”

“Yeah, I started seeing Clive while I had my arrangement with Will,” Violet admitted. “And William is aware of that, just like I was aware that he was seeing Francesca from time to time.”

Surprised, I looked to her. “Sorry, you said William was aware?” He hadn’t told me this. Then again, William was a serious protector of secrets.

She chuckled. “Yeah. He hasn’t told you?”

“No.”

“Me neither,” Andy said and frowned to himself. “I’m offended.”

Violet snickered. “William is the best. I adore his values. He’s utterly trustworthy.”

“He’s okay,” I joked, earning me a laugh from them both.

While they continued to discuss her new relationship in detail, I fixed my gaze on the scraps of paper and started to really think of their meaning. I couldn’t understand what the hint was, but the fact that he’d added them all made me suspect that they needed to be seen as parts that would complete a whole, physically speaking rather than figuratively. So I started with lining them all up, first in chronological order after which song came first on the album.


Of trying to kiss you

Velvet morning

Unfair we’re not somewhere misbehaving for days

I saw this coming from the start

Left you multiple missed calls

Or the fat lady fancies having a sing

Each had a half of a king and queen seat

You call the shots, babe


I rested my head in my hands while I stared fixated at the lyrics, searching for a pattern. This made no sense. What was he on about? Where was the hint?

Reading the card again, I tried to detect it. I wasn’t sure how many minutes I spent with my eyes flickering between the scraps of paper and the card, while Andy and Violet chatted in the background. Then, at last, it was like something clicked in my brain. I suddenly got the inkling that the order was essential. In a hurry, I rearranged the pieces and then charged up from my seat.

“Yes!” I exclaimed, only to notice Andy and Violet’s baffled expressions. “I solved it! I bloody solved it! It wasn’t even that hard, so now I feel like an absolute moron, but the fact that he chose Arctic Monkeys was so misguiding! I thought it was relevant to them somehow, but it wasn’t! Well, I don’t think it was, anyway. What do I know. This is only the first stage, I reckon.” Proud of myself, I pointed to the new arrangement while Violet leaned over to study my deductions.


I saw this coming from the start


Left you multiple missed calls

Of trying to kiss you

Velvet morning

Each had a half of a king and queen seat


You call the shots, babe

Or the fat lady fancies having a sing

Unfair we’re not somewhere misbehaving for days


“Is it correct? Do you know? This can’t be a coincidence,” I said to her, and then watched a slow smile nest on her mouth. When she lifted her gaze to mine, I was certain I’d solved it.

“Well done, Cara.”

“Yes! Finally!” I exclaimed again and dropped down in my chair while relief washed over me. “That bastard didn’t even give them to me in the right order! They were scattered with my coffees. One letter on Monday, the appropriate next one on Sunday; he’s made it more difficult on purpose!”

Andy chuckled while he leaned over my desk and read it for himself. “‘I love you’. He is creative. You have to give him that.”

“He is maddening, is what he is. And what now?”

Violet smirked at me. “Send him a snap of it.”

“Good idea. Do you know what happens after this?”

Andy’s responding smile was cunning. “We know everything, Cara.”

“Ugh,” I groaned and grabbed my phone from my desk to snap a photo of it.

Along with it, I wrote, ’I have solved the enigma, you misguiding man. I love you, too (and especially the chocolates). This is unbelievably romantic of you. I don’t know what to say, Will. I’ve never been told ‘I love you’ in such a carefully planned way before. But why Arctic Monkeys?′

From how quickly he replied, I gathered he’d been anticipating, or hoping, that I’d solve it around now.

‘Nicely done, Cara, even if it wasn’t really that complicated. I agree that making it about Arctic Monkeys could serve as misleading, but perhaps not? You’ll find out when you get home. Enjoy your chocolates. Again, I love you x.’

I sighed to myself while wearing a smitten smile on my face. “I love him.”

“You ought to. He’s a diamond in the rough,” Andy replied firmly. “I’ve always been bloody proud to call myself his best friend.”

I turned my smile at him. “I love your friendship, too.”

“And I love these chocolates,” Violet said after she stole another piece. “I think I’ll make a lunch out of them.”

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