I woke up to the sound of knocking. I groaned turning over, using my pillow to block out the sound. I’d barely sleep last night. I’d been awake most of the time wondering if I should go over to Andrew’s room to ask what was wrong.
“Wake up, you have to follow me to the supermarket, so we can pick what you like to eat. I’d like us to also check out the university,” I heard Andrew say from the other end followed by barking.
“I’m coming!” I said sitting up on my bed. There was no response but the knocking died down, as well as the barking. I sighed in relief, getting out of bed even if it felt like I was still half asleep.
I walked into the bathroom to wash my face, catching a glimpse of myself on the bathroom mirror. I looked unbelievably tired and worn out from the lack of sleep last night. My mind drifted off to Andrew, wondering how in the world he managed to cry through the night and still have the energy to walk about in the morning.
He’s probably used to it. A voice said in my head. I frowned. I didn’t want to believe last night was a frequent occurrence. I cleaned my teeth before heading out to the living room. Andrew was sitting on the sofa, his left ankle being tenderly licked by his dog. I frowned, wondering what exactly was wrong with the thing.
“You’re here! Let’s head out,” Andrew said catching a glimpse of me.
“Go where?” I asked watching him get up slowly, his dog whining and still fussing over the ankle.
“Downtown to get supplies, didn’t I tell you?” Andrew asked, walking over to the front door.
“You did, it’s just...” I trailed, wondering if he’d already had his.
“It’s just what?” he asked, looking at me with clear confusion. I sighed, scratching the back of my neck.
“We — I haven’t had breakfast,” I said, looking at his skinny figure by the door.
“Oh, sorry. I didn’t remember,” he said as he fumbled with his hands, looking down at the floor like a child caught in the act. I raised a concerned brow at him. Did he forget to eat?
“It’s no problem we can grab a burger on the way, can’t we? I haven’t taken a shower I’ll take a quick one and meet up with you in a while,” I said while he just nodded.
I got out of my room in a pair of clean blue jeans and a gray t-shirt. I found Andrew in the sitting room looking around nervously like he was expecting something bad to happen.
“I’m ready,” I said, catching his attention. He looked up, muttering a small ‘oh’.
We left the house and headed for the car, and this time I made it to the front seat before the dog. She growled, making me gently shove her away with my foot. She whined running to the other side towards Andrew.
“Just let her stay in front please?” Andrew asked looking down at the dog that was whining at his feet. I frowned closing the door behind me. I can’t believe he actually suggested that.
“No,” I said firmly, looking away from him. He sighed and before I knew it a snout was poking my arm. I turned to find the dog sitting on his lap as he closed the door. He ignored my stare and started the engine.
“We’ll get caught, this isn’t safe.” I tried to reason as he pulled into the street.
“She won’t agree to be anywhere else. Besides, she knows not to touch the gear,” he said as we began to drive down the hill. I gave him a puzzled look before turning away. We came in view of the town soon after. It was small, sparsely occupied and as tucked away as his house.
I looked at him from the corner of my eyes. He brown eyes look tired and stressed out. His lips were pursed in a whistling motion. I turned away, a little scared at the odd effect the simple action had on me.
He pulled over at a small convenience store before unlocking the doors. I looked out the window towards the small secluded building.
“Come on, I promised we’ll check out the college after this, don’t want to drag everything,” I heard Andrew say as he got out of the car. I followed suit moving to walk beside him and his dog. I watched his limp from the corner of my eye, the dog must have been too much weight for him to handle.
“Andrew!” A man looking in his early thirties said from behind the counter as we walked into the store. Andrew turned to wave at him before approaching the counter with the dog hot on his tail.
“Who’s this fine fella?” the man asked, giving me an examining look. I could feel my face heating up so I just looked away.
“Not so friendly, is he?” I heard the man say, followed by a laugh. My ears perked up at the beauty of it, the laugh that is. I turned to find Andrew still chuckling. Was that how he sounded when he laughed?
“He’s just new around here. Can I have a stool? I don’t feel so good Claude,” Andrew said, leaning on the counter as a weak smile on his face. My mouth drew into a thin line when the man reached out to feel Andrew’s forehead.
“Geez, have you been seeing the doctor?” he asked, taking his hand away before bending over to retrieve something. I used the time to observe the place. The place looked a bit worn down; the shelves on the aisles were worn out and decorated with scratches, and the floor looked as if it had been over waxed for the past year. I raised a brow at Andrew’s dog who was now sniffing a teddy bear in the bottom row of a nearby shelve.
“Thank you,” I heard Andrew say. I turned to find him collecting a small stool.
“Come on,” he said dropping the stool in a trolley before moving through the aisles. He stopped at the trolley when we got to the aisle with edibles. He took the stool out of the trolley before sitting on it.
“Go ahead,” he muttered, holding his forehead.
“Pick what you like,” he said as the dog came to settle itself beside him. I moved around a bit picking cans of beef and sardine. I looked around hoping to find some cheese or chocolate bread. I left the aisle and Andrew behind wondering around the store picking bags of chips and sweets. When I got back to place them in the trolley I noticed Andrew was giving me an odd look.
“What is it?” I asked putting one bag of potato chips after the other into the cart. He shook his head before giving me an inquisitive look.
“Are you sure nothing’s wrong?” I asked, holding the trolley.
“No nothing... err, do you really need all that?” Andrew asked, giving the filled up cart an awkward look.
“I... I can put stuff back if you want,” I said, realizing I’d probably crossed a line.
“No, no, no. It’s fine. I was just... You can have them,” he muttered, getting off the stool. I moved to carry it and blushed when he muttered a small thank you.
We got into the car, with the dog still sitting on Andrew’s lap. I gave him a worried look before offering to carry the dog myself.
“I don’t know...” he trailed as he pats the dog’s head.
“It’s not a problem,” I assured whistling before patting my lap. It gave me a funny look before scrambling into my lap. Andrew murmured a small thank you before starting the engine.
“We’re heading for the university. You’d like it there, I spent my last year there...” he trailed, keeping his eyes on the road. I pat the dog’s head, resisting the urge to ask him why he only spent his last year there.
The rest of the small trip was silent, save for Roxie that keep whining and adjusting on my lap. We pulled into the university complex, and felt rather relieved at the look of the place; well keep and simple. Definitely better than the run down group of buildings I expected to see.
We parked and I let Roxanne out, spending a few minutes to rearrange my hair. I would have cut it short, but the pleasure of annoying my mother with it was just overweighed the pleasure of a trim.
“Come on, you’re not going to see anyone special,” Andrew laughed. I sucked in some air, trying to get the sheer effect the laugh had on me. It rang out like a new bell, smooth and lovely. I got out the car and ran to catch up to him, blushing at the grin he gave me as I got to his side, I wondered why he didn’t smile more — laugh more.
We took a quick tour of the place with a crowd of about ten people. We ate in the cafeteria during the tour. I noticed Andrew was picking at his food but I didn’t mention it. We completed the Tour late in the afternoon, and I must admit that at viewing the lecture halls and facilities I realized the place wasn’t as bad as I thought it was.
“You’re starting tomorrow, just thought you should take a look,” Andrew said when the tour was over. I nodded looking down to the floor, trying to be careful and not trip over Roxie who was running around us in circles. She seems to have taken a quick likening to me. Odd, considering she wasn’t so accepting of me yesterday.
“I’ve murdered someone here,” Andrew said stopping in his tracks. I looked over at the grand field, watched the flags swaying on their poles at the corner.
“Not literally, fictionally,” Andrew said, shaking his head. I nodded already knowing that. The place reminded me of a crime scene from one of his books; ‘Buried truths’ if I remember clearly.
“I’ve read some of your work,” I said casually. He gave me a confused look.
“You know my pen name?” he asked. I blinked at the realization of what I implied.
“Your uncle told me. He saw me reading a work of yours.” I lied. I don’t think I want to explain how I found out.
“He talks about me?” he asked in an awkward tone; as if acknowledging the oddity of the possibility, but he didn’t say anything further.
We drove back to the cabin in silence, Roxie on my lap. I unloaded the car, noticing Andrew didn’t feel too good on his leg.
“I’ll make dinner.” I offered as I walked into him washing an apple.
“I... There’s no need for that,” he said, waving it off. I ignored him taking our supplies for a stew. I noticed him giving me a wary look before exiting the kitchen.
The stew didn’t take too long to make. I was done rather quickly and dished out two bowls, placing them on the wooden dining table. Andrew was giving me a strange look, as if he was worried about something. I sat at the edge of the table waiting for him to join me.
“Won’t you eat?” I asked. He blinked, nodding before muttering a small sure. Roxie that had been preoccupied with nuzzling his ankle rushed to the table, Andrew following behind her.
When Andrew finally got to the table to seat I concentrated on my own food. From time to time I’d look towards Andrew to find him awkwardly spinning his spoon in his bowl. I finished mine and pushed my bowl aside to watch him. He looked towards me for the first time throughout dinner.
“Won’t you leave?” Andrew asked.
“You haven’t eaten anything.” I pointed out looking towards his full bowl.
“I’ll eat it,” he said still spinning the spoon in the bowl.
“But it’s already cold.” I pointed out. I watched as his lips quivered.
“I’m not hungry,” he said pushing his bowl.
“How can’t you be hungry? You haven’t had anything all day,” I said getting up at walking towards him.
“Look, I appreciate your concern but I’m really not hungry,” he said, sighing before bringing his hands to his face.
“What are you trying to do, kill yourself?” I asked squatting beside him.
“Look, it’s none of your business! Damn you and the calories!” He said his voice coming out violently.
“I...” he trailed, covering his eyes. I pulled his hands away, surprised at the sight of him crying. I was blank about what to do, what to say.
“I’m pathetic, I’m sorry about this,” he said trying to smile through his tears.
“Don’t say that,” I said taking his face in my hands. I could feel myself shiver as I ran my hand through his hair. He looked from my hand to me, his now glittery lashes flickering gently. I could feel my heartbeat in my chest as a wave of curiosity took over me.
“What are you doing?” he asked gently. I bit my lip not knowing what to say before acting on instinct and reaching up to kiss him.
I expected some form of retaliation; maybe a shove or even a slap. I could feel my heart slam in my ears as I deepened the kiss. He didn’t pull away, just whimpered. I gasped, moaning into the messy kiss. I could feel his fingers creep into my hair, pulling me closer. We kissed until our lips turned red. We pulled away softly. I looked into his eyes ready to apologize, but he smiled and asked for another bowl of soup, saying his was cold.
I did get him another bowl. I also watched him drink half the bowl. We didn’t talk about what happened after that, just went about our own businesses. But I did notice something late that night I didn’t hear him cry like the night before.