Take Me Away

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Chapter 9

Word count: 1,537

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes


What is he doing here? There’s two people behind him, but he’s standing slightly in front of them, too close to me for comfort, looking even better than I remember.

My memories from Liquid are hazy. Most of all, they are tainted by what happened later that night. But looking at Liang is like drinking a glass of cool water when my mouth is parched dry; I can’t believe how beautiful he is.

Which is not helping my case. I’m already naturally tongue-tied, and having to talk to someone who looks like a film star while I’m holding greasy pizza boxes and wearing ugly house shorts over borderline too-hairy-to-bare legs is quite challenging.

Even Jessica has gone quiet, which is not like her.

“Mila?”

He has a deep voice and he pronounces my name Mee-la instead of My-la, but I don’t want to correct him. It sounds nice.

“Hey.”

“I’m Liang, I was there yesterday when… the ambulance came and everything. Hi, Jessica.”

I can sense Jess beside me waving her hand at him.

“Sorry if I came all the way here, but I’m staying nearby and I wanted to make sure you were okay.”

I can’t help but smile. “I’m good, thanks. The doctor said I only lost consciousness because of low blood pressure, not because of the fall, and my back is fine.”

“That’s good. I’m sorry if I’m disturbing you during dinner time.”

“Do you want some garlic bread? It’s got no cheese though,” says Jessica, holding up a greasy slice.

Liang looks mildly repulsed, but he tries to conceal it and declines Jessica’s offer very politely.

“Well, I guess I’ll leave now. I’m happy you’re okay, Mila.”

“Okay…” As Liang is turning to leave, Jessica elbows me and mouths say something.Her eyes look menacing. “Um, wait! Liang.” I clear my throat. “Thank you for what you did yesterday. For saving me. And thank you for punching that guy for me.” For the first time, I see his smile as he chuckles and my heart does a little somersault. “Is there anything I can do to make it up to you?”

He goes serious again and takes his time before he replies. “Do you know London?”

I’m not sure what he means. I’m not sure I even heard correctly. Like, do I know about it? Or, like, have I ever been there? Every time I’m forced to look straight into those brown eyes I forget what’s going on. “I… I know it’s our capital city,” I stammer.

Jessica looks at me like I’ve completely lost my marbles. “Yes, Mila knows Londonvery well, don’t you, honey? You grew up there, and it’s only about twenty miles from here.”

“Oh, yes, I do know London, of course.” I smile, trying to look, if not intelligent — it’s too late for that — at least not quite such an imbecile. “Why?”

“I’m leaving the country soon to go back home and I haven’t had a chance to visit it. Would you mind showing me around?”

Just like that, would you mind showing me around. Yes, I would mind, actually. I don’t want to spend anymore time with him, it’s way too taxing. This conversation is stressful enough, imagine having to actually spend more time with him.

“I’m a bit busy, actually. Tomorrow I’ve, uh, got to drive Jessica to an appointment and I don’t know how long it’s going to take, to be honest. Could be hours. Right, Jess?”

Jessica nods. “Yeah, could be. But remember what I told you earlier? That I don’t need you to take me to my appointment anymore? Kate is taking me.” We don’t know a ‘Kate’. Jessica looks at me meaningfully. “You guys should just go ahead.”

“So, tomorrow is okay?” he asks.

It’s a done deal. I can’t get out of it now.

He agrees to meet me at nine in the morning. If I only have one day to show him the whole of London, we’d better set out early. Although I tell him to meet at the train station, he says he will come pick me up here first, at which I feel an unexpected sense of warmth.

Just then the delivery guy barges over, profusely apologising for the mix up, handing us the pizzas we actually ordered and telling us we can keep the rest if we want.

Ten minutes later, Liang and his friends have left and Jess and I are back outside in the garden. I was starving earlier, but my stomach is one big knot now. I still can’t believe what happened and what is going to happen tomorrow. Where will I take Liang? Where does one take somebody who looks like a model and only has a day to see the whole of London?

I’m not used to being around people like him. I’m used to people like me, like Jessica, like Amy, Iris and Adam: normal people who live unexceptional lives in ordinary homes in ordinary towns.

“If you want to be proper touristy you have to take him on the London Eye,” says Jess, swallowing a mouthful of cheesy garlic bread.

“Oh yeah, I’ve always wanted to go but I never had a good enough excuse.”

“You should go at sunset. It will be really romantic.”

“Romantic? No, no, no. There’s nothing romantic about tomorrow. It’s not a date. As he said, I’m just paying him back for punching Adam.”

“Man, I wish I’d been there to see that. I can’t believe Adam ran away. Embarrassing, really.”

We both laugh to the point where I almost choke on some dough and have to wash it down with half a can of coke.

I know Jessica has disliked Adam for quite some time now, mainly due to the way he’s been treating me. Although she tried to be supportive, I could tell her heart wasn’t in it. It never got to the point where it bothered me; however I secretly thought she was overdoing it a little. Could it be there was some jealousy there, seen as she used to like Adam herself? Only now I’m coming to the full realisation of just how wrong I was.

“I mean, where do we start? We’re definitely going to have to buy a day travelcard, we’re going to be jumping on and off the tube all day.”

“Where are you going to take him for lunch?”

The thought of eating hadn’t even crossed my mind. “I bet he’s going to expect somewhere fancy,” I sigh.

After a long deliberation, I come up with some sort of plan. We can start at Covent Garden, walk through Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus and Regent Street all the way to Trafalgar Square, then off to Buckingham Palace and St. James’s Park, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, and to finish off we can grab a drink on the river or something before heading back.

“Classic,” decrees Jessica.

“I mean, I don’t think there will be any time for anything else.”

“‘Anything else’ what?” Jess winks.

“Oh, Jessica, stop it! I’ve had enough of men at least until the end of the summer, thank you very much. And he doesn’t like me, anyway.”

“Of course he likes you. Why else would he want to spend the day with you?”

I disagree with her. He must be here on some sort of business, and he’s probably sick of spending time with those two creepy friends of his who are always hovering nearby. Why would he like someone like me, anyway? I’ve seen the kind of people that hang around him — I’m not on their level. Not even close.

Later that night, Jessica is in a food coma and has nodded off on the sofa in front of Ex On The Beach. I climb up to my room and pick out an outfit for tomorrow. There’s going to be a lot of walking involved and it’s going to be hot and sunny, so I need to be comfortable: I set out a pair of my favourite high-rise jeans shorts and a grey crop top.For shoes, I settle on a pair of white trainers — though they’re not really white anymore, they’ve gone a bit greyish — but they’re great for walking. I throw ina mini backpack and lay everything out on my desk chair.

I set my alarm for seven: I don’t want to go full-on Jessica, but I’m going to need the time to wash my hair and put on some makeup with a little more care than usual, and maybe try and eat some breakfast, like the doctor ordered.

I get in bed, and although I feel jittery with anticipation sleep eventually takes over. But when I wake up in the morning and recall why it is that my alarm is going off at this ungodly hour, I crawl further back under my bedsheets and pray for a small-scale, non-destructive natural disaster to occur, or maybe for Jess to hurt her little finger or something — anything that would get me out of actually having to meet up with Liang and spend the rest of the day with him.

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