I loved the walk home from school all year round, but autumn was by far my favourite season to do it in. The leaves had fallen to the floor, creating a natural carpet of swirly burnt orange and honey yellow. The leaves crunched under my trainers and I breathed in the air that seemed to be guiding me home, promises of hot chocolate, toasted marshmallows and solitude making me pick up my speed. My house came into view eventually and I felt the knot in my stomach ease slightly, the comfort of home always soothing my soul. My brother was home, but other than that the house would be empty, much to my delight. I slung my bag down at the foot of the stairs, pulling my feet from their once glitzy prison before trudging down to the kitchen.
‘Hey little sis. How was today? You look tired.’ My brother looked up from his book, and I noticed he had the window seat which I had been secretly hoping was available. I shrugged as I poured myself a juice, savouring the silence between us. Elijah was amazing at asking questions then becoming instantly distracted, which suited me.
‘Dinner is pasta salad, in the fridge if you are hungry.’ He called after me as I walked away, tugging the elastic from my hair as I headed for the family bathroom. Tell me, is there anything better than a bath with a book? I think not. I stood in front of the mirror staring at my seventeen year old reflection, wondering if I would ever start to look my age. I had dimples for crying out loud, and no boobs to speak of. My hair hung around my shoulders limply, like it too felt depressed. My eyes, the window to my soul apparently, were grey and not a spark of life in them. I sighed as I wondered what Bailey Fenton must’ve thought when he was talking to me today, and I cringed when I ran in through my head critically. I wondered if he knew what it felt like to be almost invisible? I think not. I suppose it wasn’t entirely his fault, he didn’t get to choose his genes. But he didn’t have to sleep with every girl in school did he?
Urgh. Why am I thinking about him again?
I was pleased to see the bath brimming with hot water and bubbles- I simply loved the feeling of incredibly hot water on my skin, no cold water required thanks. I sank into the bath, holding my nose as I let the water hide me, momentarily from the world. I guess it was like being back in the womb, the silence within water. I stayed like this as long as I could without drowning myself- the dark line of thoughts that sometimes interrupted my bath hadn’t quite led me to feeling suicidal. I was just your average teenager. Just lonelier. I wish I had some dark secret that made me feel the way I do, but sadly not. I just don’t feel much. I watch life happen to other people you see, and today had startled me somewhat. If Bailey wanted to join the queue of guys that vied for Ray’s attention, crack on- but don’t bring me into it. No one else did. I stayed completely still in the bath, watching the water become still only to be disturbed again by my breathing.
See? I was even annoying the bath water.
The house was silent, and I knew Elijah would be deep within the world his book created, and for that I was envious. We were both readers, our mother was a librarian and our dad an English teacher at another school, so I suppose it was a given. Luckily we both loved it. I closed my eyes and felt my body relax.
Just five minutes.
My wet slumber was disturbed by the telephone ringing from deep within the house, and I heard Elijah cursing as he looked for it.
‘Annabelle. It is for you!’ He yelled up the stairs in annoyance.
I groaned, knowing full well it was Ray. I shouted back to tell her I was in the bath when he called back.
‘He said he will wait, its important.’
My eyes pinged open.
I could hear the curiosity in Elijahs voice, but also knew he had manners that would prevent him from demanding to know who it was and what they wanted, so I grabbed a towel and climbed out of the bath, the phone waiting for me on the floor outside the door. Obviously I wasn’t expecting that, so I stood on it, surprised to see it wasn’t broke when I picked it up breathlessly.
‘Anna. You are a difficult girl to get hold of. I can’t believe you have a house phone, don’t you have a mobile like the rest of the human race?’ His amused tone made me go cold.
‘Bailey?’ I uttered, my voice barely above a whisper. I grabbed my towel tighter around me, as though he could see me as he chuckled.
‘The one and only. I’m sorry to interrupt your bath.’ He sounded sincere enough, but I doubted he really cared.
‘What do you want?’ I knew I was being blunt, and probably borderline rude; but I couldn’t care less right now. This wasn’t the beige halls of school where I was a prisoner, this was my home and right now he was eating into my private time.
I was silent. I didn’t see the point in communicating further, I had asked him what he wanted. I waited, my hair dripping onto the floor causing a puddle on the rug. I pushed my toe into it idly, wondering why the hell he was on the phone.
‘We need to talk about Project Ray.’ He declared, and I closed my eyes.
Was he really this hung up on her? I chewed on my hair as I sighed.
‘I really don’t think-’
He cut me off as he yawned loudly in my ear.
‘She is interested. I know. She’s not. So I need your help. Shall I come over?’
I nearly choked on my hair as I grabbed for it frantically, dropping the phone at the same time.
‘Shit!’ I hissed as I picked it back up, wondering what the hell I was going to say.
There was silence on the other end.
‘No?’ He repeated softly.
‘No.’ I confirmed, even shaking my head for confirmation- another pointless exercise.
‘Ok, then you come here. Do you know where I live?’ He demanded and I laughed.
‘Bailey, I’m not coming to your house. I have things to do. I have to go.’
I hung up immediately before he could make any further comments. I realised I was shaking as I made my way back to the bathroom, dipping my fingers into the now lukewarm water. I sighed as I pulled the plug, the water swirling down the plughole perfectly as I watched, entranced. I got up and dried my hair, pulling it into a loose bun as I slid on my hoody and comfy shorts. I made my way down to the kitchen to see that Elijah had left, a note on the table saying he would be back late. I had the house to myself! I did a little dance as I opened the fridge, my appetite now raging. I spotted the pasta salad, and spooned some into a bowl before carrying it back to the window seat in the kitchen. It was raining now, lashes of rain hitting the window as I ate quietly, wondering for the hundredth time why Bailey was so intent on me helping him.
Project Ray? More like Project Nay.
I sniggered as I remembered her reaction earlier. I suppose it would be entertaining to try and convince her, if nothing else it would humour me.
I picked up the phone and dialled her number, a smile playing at my lips as I envisioned her reaction this time.
Oh Bailey. It seems you are finally out of your depth, and even I can’t help you.