Everything is so fucking loud and bright.
Steve pulls back the blinds in my room and it fucking sucks. I get the sun in the morning, so it’s like seventy million flashlights being reflected off mirrors. That’re aimed at my window. “Tom, wake up.”
I slam my pillow over my head. “Steeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeve,” I whine.
I hear footsteps. “It’s almost 10.”
“I don’t care.”
I sit up slowly. I can’t see anything because it’s too damn bright. The headache doesn’t help that much, either. “...what time is it?”
“Almost 10. I said.” He puts down a glass of water and some pills.
I flop back into the bed. “Nooooooooooo,” I moan. I throw the pillow back over my head.
He throws the pillow off me. “God, you look like shit,” he says, putting on one of those fucking dumb sleep masks over my eyes. “What’d you do last night?” A bottle tips, and then something stings on my head.
Steve pulls the mask back so I can look at him. “When isn’t it peroxide, you knobhead?” And then he snaps it back.
Oh, God, that hurts more than the headache.
“So what happened last night?” He dabs me with it.
Steve sighs. That’s his way of saying he’s disappointed in me.
“What’d he do?”
I swallow. “Don’t remember.”
Steve gets up from the bed. “Do you want me t’ schedule something for you tomorrow?”
“I’ll get over it.”
He closes the curtains and sighs. “Fine.”
I take off the mask. “Thanks, Steve.”
“You look like shit.”
I smirk, and then it goes away.
Steve frowns and shakes his head. “Want a beer?”
He stands at the foot of the bed for a while and then asks, “Who’s Murph?”
“Do you remember anything from last night?”
My hands flop in my lap. “No. Why?”
“You mentioned someone named Murph?”
I inhale. I really don’t want to have this conversation right now. “...he’s a friend, why?” I say it quiet enough for him to barely hear it. I basically garbled it in my mouth.
Steve hops onto the bed and sits down across from me. “Do you remember anything from last night?”
“I...remember...at the Bugle – Bulge, this guy and I...we tried to – ”
“Skip the gory stuff. You tried to get it on, he was...gruff, and you got kicked out.”
For a second, I wanna tell him something. But I don’t really have anything to say that matters. If that makes sense. “I think I punched him.”
“Good. And then?”
I rub my eyes. I keep them closed. “...don’t remember.”
“Okay, cool.” Steve’s glaring at me.
“What’d I do?”
He shrugs. “You called Alan. Picked you up and drove you back here.”
I sighed. Alan and his taxi. I gotta get him something nice.
“And you got to the front door sobbing.”
I sit up. “Didn’t know I was a sad drunk.”
“You’re not. You’re a horny one. You tried to tell my why you were crying, but it was just this...garble. Like – ” Steve strings together a series of letter sounds while his mouth twisting into different shapes.
“Where’d you get ‘Murph’ from?” I ask.
“Oh, I was watching ′Interstellar′ when you got in and you began screaming ‘MURPH’ at the telly.”
I lean back against my headboard. “Go me.”
“And then you start screaming about her hands?”
I sit up again. God, I’m moving too fast. I think I’m gonna be sick again. “Murph’s hands?”
“Oh.” I look down at my hand and brush my fingertips over it.
I can’t think about this right now. My brain just isn’t there yet.
“Any of that ring a bell?” he asks.
I flop back in my bed. “No.”
“Hm,” Steve says, standing. “Well, for what it’s worth...it is actually 10 in the morning.”
I sigh. Adrian and Murph’ll be over at one to go to a museum. I’m kind of surprised we haven’t hit them all already. But then again, there’s, what, a million museums in London? “Goddddddddddddddd,” I moan. “There any Advil left?”
Steve points to the glass of water and pills on my bedside table. “Don’t ever forget who’s got your back, mate.” He stands. He’s about to leave when he asks, “Wait, you have a friend named Murph?”
I wave away his question as I swallow the pill. “Unrelated.” I wipe my face and ask, “Wake me at half 12?”
Steve gives me a thumbs up. “Goin’ out?”
I groan again and pull the duvet up over my head. “Never again. Get out.” I hear the door close and sigh.
And then I lean over the side of the bed and vomit.
Steve gets to the front door first. Only after he shoves me into the couch to get past me. And he only really fought me to get there because I said I have friends coming over. Which is a big deal for him since I only really consider him my friend. So this chance to him is probably like a week of sunshine to vacationers in London.
Adrian’s a good distance away from the front door, but Murph looks just happy to be there. “Hi,” he starts, smiling.
I glare. And it hurts. Because now is not the time for the dimples, Murph.
But then he sees my face and shouts, “Oh my God! Tommy, what happened?”
Apparently, I’m not that pretty anymore. Haven’t bothered to look in a mirror yet.
Probably deserved it, too.
Steve steps back and lets them into the front hall. “We’re the first door. 1A.” He’s breathless.
“Thanks,” says Adrian as he side-eyes me and Steve. “I...I was a little skeptical about the address at first, but...” He can’t seem to stop looking at me. “Shouldn’t he go to a doctor or something?”
“The fuck’s that supposed to mean?” I ask.
He looks to Steve, then back to me. “Which part? You look terrible, or my assuming you were lying about the address?”
I point to Steve. “He got the place. I’m just mooching.”
“Okay,” he says, nodding his head slowly. “That makes sense.” Then he steps passed me to shake hands with Steve or something.
“Tommy,” Murph says, stepping up. His hands reach out to touch my face. He doesn’t, though. “Uh, h-have you, um...thrown up recently? Unable to remember things? Difficulty balancing?”
I nod. “’m fine. Promise.”
He pulls out his phone. “I’m calling a doctor. You might have a concussion.” Then he looks at me. “What’s the number for the hospital?”
Oh my God. I take his phone. “Murph, I’m fine. Promise.”
He doesn’t seem convinced by it. “You just...” Murph frowns and takes his phone back. “You sure you’re all right?”
Steve steps forward. “He’ll be fine.” He pats my shoulder. “Usually, anyways.”
Fuck you, Steve.
“Y-you have a very nice apartment,” he says, holding out his hand to Steve. “I’m Murph.”
Steve shakes his hand. “It’s nice to meet – woah.” He stops and eyes Murph’s hands. “S-sorry. ’m Steve. Nice to meet you.”
Murph smiles warily at me, and he proceeds forward into our flat.
Steve eyes me as he closes the front door. “Want a piece of the action, mate?” he asks, reaching out for my hand.
I’m pissed off. I don’t want to talk about this right now. My head’s killing me and I just want to crawl back into bed. I grab his collar and whisper, “Shut up.” I wait for Adrian to go in before whispering, “I wanna hold his hands again, no joke.”
“Oh yeah,” he says, nodding. He looks at his hands for a second. “That was also the best soft handshake I’ve ever gotten. Like…woah. I wanna hold his hand.”
“And you’re not even into that gay shit.”
“Right?” he asks, grinning.
“Are you done?” Adrian calls from our front lounge. “Because we could’ve taken some stuff by now.”
Steve goes first, if only to make sure that Adrian’s threat isn’t real. Then Murph pokes his head out and says, “I’m sorry. You know he’s kidding, right?”
I smirk. “Yeah, I do.”
He smiles. “Oh, thank God. I was worried – ”
“Mate, you’re fine. Adrian talks a great game, but is all bark and no bite.”
“Excuse you, I once stole an entire Lego set from a friend’s house!”
I harrumph. I shake my head at Murph. “Don’t believe it.”
But then Adrian shouts back with, “It was a big Lego set!”
I roll my eyes as Murph pushes open the door to my flat. “Where are we going today?”
Murph takes in a slow breath and asks, “...are you sure you’re okay to come with us?”
I nod. It hurts. “I can just take some more painkillers ‘r somethin’.”
“Are you sure?”
“Do ya want me to say ‘no’?”
“I want to know you’re okay.”
The look on his face. Fuck. There’s nothing about it that makes me think he’s making it up. He’s probably ready to stare me down because he cares so much.
I shift my weight to one foot and swallow. I look away for a second. “I’ll be fine.” I pause. “Been in worse scrapes than this.”
Murph starts talking, although I don’t know if he’s bought what I said, but it occurs to me that it’s the twenty-ninth. I don’t know how many days there are until May, but it’s now this countdown until they go back to America, and life goes on. As if they never really came over in the first place.
And something twists in me.
“Are you okay?” Murph asks.
I realise I’m making this weird, constipated face and I shake my head.
“What?” he asks.
“You still lookin’ for someone to go to York with?”
His sad face comes back. “Yeah. Well, Adrian can’t go because he has an exam he needs to prepare for the next week. And since you said you can’t go because you need to...” Then he perks up. “Why’re you asking?”
“I can come.” I have to move a ton of shit around, but I could do it.
He jumps up and down in place. Like an excited child. “Yay!” he exclaims, and then turns back into my flat. “Adrian! He said he’d go!”
“Good. Now will you let me study for my modules?”
“Yes!” Murph’s smile shrinks a little, but then he turns back to me. “And I know you’re probably not into trains, or history, at all, but I will try to be entertaining for you.”
I smirk. It hurts a little.
But the truth is, he already is kinda entertaining in his own right.
I step past him into my flat. “Where are we going today?” I ask again.
Murph opens his mouth, probably to ask me again if I’m okay, but then he shuts it. “Oh...uh, we were...we were thinking of going to one of the markets in Camden. Is that okay?” He pauses. “Be – because I knew you were expecting me to say a museum.”
I shrug. “I’ll survive.”
He smiles, I push passed him, and he closes the door.