Word count: 1,651
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Occasionally, things just don’t go the way you expect them to. Sometimes it’s for the best, sometimes it’s for the worse. Sometimes it’s both things on the same night.
I wake up the morning after Summer Ball feeling like someone has spent the night drilling holes into my cranium. My eyes are so puffy I can barely open them. Why am I even awake? I try to burrow myself deeper under the covers but it’s too hot, I need to find the strength to get up and open a window.
“Miiiiilaaaaa!” Amy’s voice is coming from downstairs. “Hurry! We’re leaving!”
Oh, that’s why I’m awake. Amy and Iris are going back home for the summer. It will be only Jessica and I for the next few days, before we go as well.
No matter how groggy I’m feeling, I have to go and say goodbye. As I wobble down the two flights of stairs, holding tightly to the railing, every step a stab in my brain, I get flashbacks of last night.
Oh god. That was horrible. Truly, truly horrible.
The girls standing by the bright doorway, suitcases upright, Amy’s car parked just outside. Jessica’s eyes widen when she sees me. I know she resists the urge to comment on my appearance, and I thank her internally.
We say our goodbyes. Even though it’s not really the end of an era, it kind of feels like it is. I’m glad I still have Jess. When Amy and Iris are gone, she turns to me. “I’d give you a hug but I don’t really want to touch you before you’ve had a shower.”
I laugh for the first time today. “I think that’s a wise choice.”
She makes a face. “I’m so sorry about last night, Mila. It was so shit. Get some more sleep, take a shower, and whenever you’re ready I’ll take you to That’s Amore for a nice hangover meal! Well, I guess you’re gonna have to take me because you’re the one with the car, but it’ll be my treat. What do you say? We can sit in the outdoors area, with the nice little tealights and candles.”
There’s nothing to say. It sounds amazing. I just walk closer to her and hug her, knowing that, despite her cry of protest, she will hug me back. “Let’s just take a cab. I think I’m going to need a drink.”
The sun is just beginning to set on another hot day as Jessica and I make our way out onto That’s Amore’s garden area. It’s cosy, with wooden, picnic furniture, colourful cushions and glimmering candles. Despite our hangover, we order two glasses of Prosecco. It’s an almost mandatory thing to do at That’s Amore, at least for us.
“One day we’ll be older and responsible and we won’t be able to drink like this,” Jessica rationalises, and I agree.
I’ve spent most of the day sleeping. When I woke up it was already late afternoon. My head felt better, my eyes were no longer puffy thanks to the cucumber and aloe vera eye patches Jess had insisted I wear to bed, and my heart felt less heavy, too.
I drank two cups of coffee and ate scrambled eggs with toast. I then took a long shower, scrubbing every inch of my body, and when I came out I put argan oil in my hair and a purifying mask on my face. I felt better, ready to slowly take on the next phase of my life.
As we sat in the summer twilight, I am overcome by a sense of peace. What happened last night felt so far away, like it had happened to somebody else.
“Are you feeling better, hun?” asks Jessica. “Aims and Iris both texted me to ask how you were, they didn’t want to bother you. Look.” She shows me the girls’ concerned texts. I feel lucky to have friends like them.
“Yes, I am. Like, I actually am.”
“You do look way better. When you came downstairs this morning you literally looked like Samara from The Ring. I was genuinely scared.” She pauses. “Oh god, too soon?”
I laugh. “No. But you didn’t look much better yourself when you were yelling at Adam to fuck off and go die in a ditch.”
“I did say that, didn’t I?”
Just then our entrées arrive. Mozzarella and beefsteak tomato with basil and olive oil and chunky slices of bread. I feel better and better, even if we’re getting into talking about last night, which I hadn’t planned on doing. But I guess it’s inevitable. “Well, he sure deserved it, Jess. Thank you for sticking up for me.”
“Do you want to talk about it at all? Or shall we talk about something else? Do you want to talk about the hot guy we saw in the VIP area last night? I’ve done some research and—”
“What hot guy?” I ask, genuinely curious.
“Come on, the guy in the booth with all the drinks who was checking you out.”
“Oh, right.” What had come after that had completely obliterated any memory of him. “Wait, he was not checking me out.”
Of course he wasn’t. If you heard Jessica talk you’d think everyone falls in love with me at first sight, she’s kind of like my mum in that way.
“Whatever. Let’s do talk about Adam.” I put my cutlery down and take a long sip of Prosecco. “What I don’t understand is why bother saying all that stuff about us seeing each other officially. Like, literally, why bother. This is the only thing that I can’t wrap my head around. All the rest — that’s just typical him. I should have known better.” I finish my drink and ask for another one.
“That absolute wanker.”
Last night, when I went back downstairs to the dance floor to join the girls I gushed to them that Adam and I were officially together: boyfriend and girlfriend. They couldn’t believe it. We celebrated with more shots and danced our hearts out for the next two hours, until we were all too tired to stand and needed a break. We went back to the VIP room, and Iris went to the bathroom.
When she got back to our table, she looked pale. “Iris, what’s wrong? Are you okay?”
She came to sit next to me and handed me her phone, the screen lit up. “Mila, I… I think you should see this.”
It was Adam. Adam and somebody else. The photo was blurry, but I could see him standing in the corridor just outside the men’s toilets, holding a tall, white-skinned redhead by the small of her back. Not just holding — properly grabbing her waist with both hands. She seemed to be pushing him against the wall, long, bare leg wrapped around his left hip, and he seemed hungry for her, kissing her with his mouth wide open and his eyes tight shut.
“That’s impossible…” I almost dropped the phone.
What came later was chaos. I started crying. The tears were pouring out so voraciously that I could barely see in front of me, but I didn’t care who was watching. I’d had enough. I just wanted to go home, and the girls were leading me towards the exit. Despite my protests, they wouldn’t even consider staying in Liquid any longer. They were coming home with me.
Unfortunately, on the way out we bumped into Adam, who was not alone. The redhead was standing next to him, and I thought I recognised her as a girl in third year, Rebecca, who I’d seen around before. I just wanted to leave as quickly as possible, I needed to get away.
I heard Adam say my name, his voice tense, jittery. And then I heard Jessica unleash a wave of fury that would make a football hooligan blush, and which didn’t end with the death wish but went on, and the last part was addressed at the redhead: “And you, young lady, better check into an STI clinic first thing tomorrow morning. We all know Adam’s got chlamydia, and that’s a high price to pay for three and a half inch dick!” Somehow, Amy and Iris managed to get Jessica away and get us both into a cab.
No matter what though, I couldn’t be more grateful.
“Still can’t believe I called her ‘young lady’,” says Jess, shaking her head.
“You’ve said worse, trust me,” I laugh.
Jessica orders another two glasses. “See? I told you we should have just gotten a bottle.” She sighed. “Listen, Mila. You have to promise me, promise me, you’re never going to get back together with Adam.”
I’m not hesitating because I’m not sure. In fact, I’ve already made up my mind. I’m never going to get back together with Adam, no matter what, no matter how much he pleads or cries or whatever. Which he isn’t doing much of at the moment, considering my phone has been pretty quiet all day.
I’m hesitating because, after everything Adam and I have been through, it’s so hard to actually say it, and I want Jessica to believe me. She might ask: why is this time different from any of the other times?
And it’s because this time he broke my trust. He bent it and bent it and bent it over the course of the last few months, until last night it snapped, and nothing can fix that. There’s nothing he could say or do that would ever make me believe him after what he’s done.
Maybe Jess senses my unease. “All right, Mila, forget I said that. Fuck Adam, fuck his chlamydia and his three inch dick. Let me tell you about my research on the hot guy from the VIP area…”