Snow is the first thing she sees when she steps out of her apartment, little white snowflakes sticking to her head. She takes in a deep breath and reaches up to brush them out of her hair, grumbling about how cold the weather is. She wishes she wore a thicker coat than the one she’s wearing right now. After a minute of debating, she shifts her bag over her shoulder and begins her trek down the street.
It’s noisy even though it’s 7 in the morning, and for her it’s annoying. Can’t a college student enjoy her mornings quietly? But knowing New York, it will never happen.
She stops in front of a coffee shop and leans against one of the post lights, pulling out a book from her bag. She slides her fingers over the pages and begins reading. Her eyes skim over the paper, absorbing the words like a sponge. At the same time, she listens to the footsteps of the people. She hears the snow crunch under their feet and the loud clicking of heels on the pavement.
She sighs and flips a page, but not before catching sight of someone running towards her. She closes the book and lets her arm fall to her side, a frown marring her face. She waits for the girl to reach her before placing the novel back in her bag.
The girl falls into a stop in front of her, leaning on her knees and catching her breath. “Hi Emma,” she greets with a cough. “Sorry, did you wait long?”
Emma smiles at her and shakes her head. “It’s okay, we’re not late yet anyway.”
The other girl nods and straightens her body, pushing locks of yellow hair behind her ear. “It’s so hard getting a cab here,” she complains and Emma looks at her with her eyebrows raised.
“What are you talking about?” the brunette questions, cocking her head to the side. “All you need to do is step onto the street a bit and stretch your arm out. What have you been doing?”
The blonde’s mouth falls open in shock. “You’re joking!”
Emma rolls her eyes. “I’m not.”
“Yes, Erika, really,” she affirms with a tired sigh. She shifts her bag over her shoulder and tells her to follow her. “Was that your first time trying to call for a cab?”
Erika shrugs her shoulders like it isn’t a big deal. “Usually my brother does it for me cause he gets down the stairs faster than me, but he went ahead earlier so I had to do it myself.”
Emma whistles and pockets her hands again, giving her friend a teasing smile. “Well, now you know how it works here in the city. At night you can use your phone with the screen lit up so that the driver sees you.” She pauses to wink. “It works every time.”
Erika waves away her arrogance with a hand and begins to chatter endlessly, telling the brunette about how annoying her brother was yesterday. She also informs her about an upcoming party in the weekend, asking her if she will come. Emma shrugs and tells her she’ll try, but with exams coming soon, she says she’s not sure.
They turn around the corner and they finally see the university. Suppressing groans, they walk up the stairs and are greeted by some of their friends on the way there. Emma leaves the talking to Erika though since she isn’t that keen on using her vocal box too much. She prefers to stay quiet and listen to the conversations that they were making.
“Did you study for the test?” one of their friends asks.
Erika freezes. “There’s a test?”
They all burst out laughing and the blonde blushes, glaring at them. Emma opens her mouth to say something but suddenly pain flares in her chest. She chokes on her words, and she has to concentrate on the cracks on the floor to not pass out. She sees the world tilt before her, her knees feeling weak. Not now. Please. Not now, she thinks.
Emma gives Erika a pat on her shoulder. “Hey, can I go on ahead? I have to do something first.”
The blonde laughs it off and nods, pushing her in the direction of the building. The brunette blinks for a few times before drawing in a deep shuddering breath, looking straight ahead and entering the university. She steps onto the hallway and heads for the infirmary.
There’s another pinch of pain when she pulls the door open and walks inside. She spots the nurse behind her desk, writing furiously with her pen. . She clasps her hands in front of her nervously while she closes the door with her foot. “Um, Miss Carringhood?”
The said woman lifts her gaze from the papers in front of her and flashes the student a bright smile. “Oh, Emma, good morning. What can I do for you?”
“Morning,” the brunette greets back, rubbing her arm awkwardly. “Can you give me, uh, some pills?”
The nurse furrows her eyebrows in confusion. “Pills? What for?”
“O-Oh, you know, the one everyone uses,” Emma mutters under her breath, hoping to get this finished quickly. She sees from the wall clock on the wall in front of her that there are only a few minutes left before class starts. She doesn’t know if that’s a good thing or not.
Emma finds herself being stared at by the other woman for a few seconds. After the short period of silence, she hears a sigh. “Well, I can’t deny a student of what she needs,” Miss Carringhood confesses, moving to the drawers in the back. “I don’t recommend using it too much though.”
The college student lowers her head and nods, knowing that she’s putting herself in danger. “I know... but I can’t leave him,” she whispers, hoping that the nurse somewhat heard her.
The woman reemerges with a small plastic packet filled with three red pills. She approaches Emma with a grim look and hands her the pack, smiling sadly. “I know it’s not my place to say anything but if you really want to be happy, do what’s right and break things off, alright?”
Emma doesn’t say anything and takes the pills from her instead. With a grateful nod, she turns around and exits the infirmary, leaving a worried nurse looking at where she just stood.
She’s already ripping the pack open before she even reaches the drinking fountain, popping one in her mouth and stepping on the pedal for water to appear. She swallows the pill and leans against the wall, waiting for it to take effect. Soon enough the pain in her chest disappears and she’s left with this cool feeling.
On her way to her first class, she remembers the nurse’s words in her head. Will breaking things off really be the best solution after all? She doesn’t know. She also isn’t sure if she ever wants to know, but she was really happy that the woman cared enough to give her advice. And even though she wants to believe in herself, her confidence is wavering. With every step she takes, she can feel the heavy weight on her shoulders like it’s making itself known to her. It’s intimidating.
She breathes out another shaky sigh, treading her fingers through her hair. She decides that she’ll leave this debate for later when she gets home. She enters class and slides into a seat next to Erika who immediately questions where she went.
She gives her friend a tired smile. “I just passed in an overdue essay.”
“Really? But you’re never late for homework,” Erika comments in surprise, raising her eyebrows. “What happened?”
Emma shrugs. “I don’t know. I just kind of forgot,” she says, laughing nervously. Her friend stares at her for a while, her eyes holding this look of suspicion. But after that, she gives up with a huff and turns to the board as the professor enters the room.
They all stand to greet the old man and with a gesture of his hand, class begins.
“I’ll see you tomorrow then?”
Emma nods and bids her friend farewell, watching as the blonde crosses the street and struggles to get a cab. She smiles in amusement, knowing fully well that it will take a while for the girl to get used to the city. It hasn’t been that long since she moved after all.
She brings her hands to her mouth and blows hot air on them, cursing the cold at the same time. It seems that the snow has stopped now and all that’s left of it are puddles on the floor. It isn’t much of a shock to her though. It rarely snows. Tucking her hands snugly in the pockets of her coat, she makes her way down the street to a familiar coffee shop.
The bell on the door rings and the workers greet her with a bright smile, guiding her to her usual seat. She smiles back and orders a cup of coffee with a doughnut. The waiter, named Seth, nods and writes down her order on a notebook. “Will that be all, miss?”
“Prepare an espresso just in case,” Emma informs him, leaning back and crossing her legs. “I might have some company later on.”
Seth gives her another nod before taking the menu from her hands. He bows his head and says, “I’ll be back with your order then.”
Once the waiter is gone, she looks through her bag and takes out the book she was reading earlier. She opens it with one hand and starts reading. Her eyes pass over the words, her mouth humming to the soft music being played. The atmosphere makes it easier for her to read, and it helps ease away the ache in her chest. The pain is gone thanks to the medicine, but it’s beginning to wear off now.
After a couple of pages, the waiter comes back and places her coffee and doughnut on the table. “The espresso is being prepared right now by our barista,” he tells her quietly.
Emma smiles at him. “Thank you. If my friend doesn’t arrive, I’ll have it for take out.”
Seth nods and with a final smile, she’s left alone. A sigh leaves her lips and she takes a small sip from her drink, the warmth spreading through her throat. She looks back at her book and stares at it for a while. The question from earlier is back in her mind. She wants to know whether it is right to end it all after all.
She props her elbow on the table and leans her cheek on her palm. Deep in her heart, she knows the answer. She knows what to do, what to say, what to think, but she doesn’t want to do any of those. It’s hurting her, yes, but she’s fine with it.
“But is he?” she murmurs softly.
It’s quiet for a few seconds until she shakes her head and takes another sip. She places the cup back down on the table and picks up her snack with her fingers. She’s just about a second away from taking a bite when she’s suddenly interrupted.
Her eyes widen, her heart racing in her chest. She lifts her gaze from her book and to the person standing in front of her. He’s breathing heavily, his red hair disheveled and his scarf falling off his shoulders. She blinks once, twice, and laughs.
“You look ridiculous,” she comments, neglecting her doughnut and standing up to wrap his scarf properly around his neck. She fixes his hair a bit. “How’s work?”
He takes her hand in his and gently tugs it away from his head. “Still as busy as ever,” he says with a shrug, flashing a grin. “But it’s alright.”
Her cheeks feel warm. Slowly, she sits back down and he does the same. She sees Seth from the corner of her eye and he nods back, walking back to the counter. She turns back to the guy in front of her and raises her brow. “I didn’t think you’d come.”
“Saturdays are always reserved for you, Emma,” he says gently, reaching out to cup her cheek. “Always.”
“Lucas...” Her chest gives a painful squeeze and she forces a smile on her face, leaning against his hand. She sucks in a sharp breath. “Okay.”
Lucas’ eyes wrinkle in a smile and he pulls back his hand. “How’s uni? I hope you’ve been sleeping well.”
Emma lifts a shoulder in a half-hearted shrug. “The work is endless. But break is coming soon so I don’t mind much,” she mumbles under her breath, sighing as she takes her doughnut and finally bites it. “I’m thinking of moving, by the way.”
She closes her eyes and tries to direct her focus somewhere else, somewhere other than the pulsating ache inside her. “It’s too far away from work and it’s tiring.”
“But it’s closer to the university. Isn’t that important?” He asks in a whisper. She can tell he’s frowning from how he spoke, but she pretends she doesn’t notice it.
“I want a place that’s not too far from uni and work,” Emma explains wearily. She reaches for her coffee and takes another long sip, her palm beginning to feel sweaty. She puts the cup back down and wipes away the moisture on her jeans. Lucas’ worried face is what she sees when she looks up.
“I know I can’t stop you but,” he pauses to lick his lips. “Think about it, okay? It’s better if you’re closer to the uni than the hospital.”
Emma opens her mouth to reply but stops when Seth arrives with an espresso. She coughs into her hand instead and picks up her cup again, sipping it quietly. Lucas thanks Seth for his drink and asks for a cinnamon roll, to which she rolls her eyes at, and then sends him off with a pat on his shoulder. She bites into her doughnut and chews slowly, looking at the people walking across the streets outside the window.
She hears Lucas clearing his throat and she looks back at him from the corner of her eye. “What?” she asks after swallowing.
He blinks and laughs, shaking his head. “Nothing, I just want to say that you look beautiful.” He’s smiling and she hates it because she knows he’s proud of the sudden burst of color on her cheeks. “And you look very tired. Why not skip work today?”
She pushes the rest of the doughnut in her mouth and wipes her sticky fingers with a tissue. “I can’t. I promised my superior I’d help her with some case today. Plus I like working at the hospital.”
“You look like you haven’t had any sleep though,” he mumbles inside his cup. Her fingers twitch because he’s right but doesn’t say anything.
“I’ll be fine,” she assures him with a forced smile. He looks at her over the rim of his cup and puts it down, heaving a sigh. She’s aware that he looks annoyed when Seth comes back with his cinnamon roll and that they’ve been interrupted twice, but one bite into his snack and he’s fine.
Emma checks the time on her wristwatch and raises her eyebrows. She wears the strap of her bag over her shoulder and empties her cup with one big gulp, sliding the tissues off the table and into her pockets. Lucas makes a noise of protest and she leans over to plant a kiss on his lips. It feels electric, like a burst of power burning her mouth and striking her heart. It’s anything but pleasant, but she ignores the pain.
She stands up from her chair and checks the time again. She doesn’t really know why. She just does. Only a minute has passed and she’s not really late for work. She just wants to leave.
“I’ll see you next Saturday,” she tells him while running her fingers through her hair. She feels dirty. Maybe she’ll drop by her house first and shower.
“I can give you a ride,” Lucas offers, already shoving the cinnamon roll in his mouth. She blinks and briefly wonders how he can chew such a huge piece of bread but pushes the thought away.
“Nah, I’m good.” She pulls out a ten-dollar bill from her wallet and places it on the table. “Give me the change next time we meet each other.”
He messes with his bangs like he can’t bring himself to argue with that and sighs, nodding. “Alright. I love you.”
A hot flush spreads across her cheeks. “Yeah.”
He looks offended and she bites hard onto her lower lip. “And I you.”
He rests his elbow on the table and places his chin in his hand while drinking his espresso. When he’s finished, he gives her a lazy smile. “See you.”
“Yeah,” she repeats and this time, she finally leaves. Her heart’s still racing when she exits the building, both from embarrassment and pain. She hides her hands in her pockets and throws her head back, breathing in the cold air of New York. It takes a while before her pulse returns to normal, the steady beat pounding faintly in her ears. She takes a deep breath to compose herself, and with a shaky exhale, she steps onto the street and stretches her arm out.
A cab stops in front of her and she slides inside, giving the driver the address of the hospital. She really wants a shower, but she’ll do that later. She has this feeling that if she goes home, she’ll fall asleep and forget work. She doesn’t want to skip work. She has a patient after all. Don’t be a disappointment, she thinks.
She wonders what kind of person her patient is. A he? A she? Is he or she nice? Will he or she like her? Her fingers curl into fists unconsciously. She thinks she’ll be a good nurse. Being a doctor is too tiring and they rarely have time anymore. But she wants to help them. They work so hard to save people and the least she can do is serve them and their patients.
But she’s too awkward. She’s too anti-social. She’s one of those people who get waved at but smile instead, and it’s not even the nice, easy-going smile, but more of a facial expression someone makes when they get muscle cramps. Not a very pleasing smile indeed. But she’s working on it. She needs to or else no doctor would ever want to have her as an assistant. The very thought itself makes her stomach churn in uneasiness and she shifts to her side in return. The leather seat squeaks and she cringes. What a terrible noise, she thinks to herself.
“Are you okay there, miss?” the driver asks, dragging her consciousness back to reality.
She blinks for a few times before getting out something that sounds like a yes. He looks at her from the rear-view mirror and frowns. He doesn’t look convinced but drops the subject anyway. She thanks him from the bottom of her heart for not pushing the topic anymore but doesn’t actually voice it out. She says the words in her mind instead. It’s the thought that counts, right?
At last, the hospital comes into view and she pays the driver the required amount of money. He gives her a smile that makes her wonder how long he’s been doing this, receiving money from so many strangers and offering them smiles before they leave his car. A smile tugs at her lips at the thought and he looks satisfied by it. She gets out of the cab and stands on the sidewalk for a while, watching the car get smaller and smaller as it moves out of her sight.
She turns around and unconsciously starts walking into the building. The guard-on-duty greets her and performs a security check on her, looking through her bag and patting her pockets. She thanks him and he asks how she’s been, to which she shrugs at, waving a hand while she walks away. She stops at the reception area and is about a second away from talking to the nurse behind the counter when she hears running footsteps.
She looks behind her and sees her superior and another nurse running towards her. They slow into a stop in front of her and the doctor lightly hits the top of her head with her clipboard, sighing heavily. “You should really give me your number now,” she points out, sounding frustrated. “Your patient came in an hour ago, said that she has to get home early for a family dinner. I wanted to call you but you weren’t at home and I didn’t know your cell number.”
Emma flinches and she lowers her head. “Uh, right. Sorry.”
The doctor stares at her from head to toe and shakes her head, pinching the bridge of her nose. “Don’t mind it. Just tend to her now. Change into your uniform and tend to your patient. She’s in my office.”
Emma nods once and shifts her bag to keep it from falling onto the floor, ready to head into the elevator.
“Oh, and Sangster?”
She stops and looks over her shoulder. The doctor is quiet for a while, her gaze focused somewhere else. She presses her lips together and heaves another sigh. “It’s nothing. Do your best.”
The volunteer offers a tense smile and gets into the elevator. She’s glad that it’s empty when she steps inside and presses the button leading to the third floor. The doors ring when she reaches her destination and she walks out into the hallway, towards the staff room. She changes into her scrubs, the appointed uniform for nurses and volunteers, and takes the tissues and pills from her coat and into her pocket. She leaves the room and strides into the office of her superior. She sees a girl who looks three years younger than her seated by her desk, fiddling with her thumbs and biting her lip.
Emma’s appearance doesn’t seem to shake her out of her thoughts, so she takes the clipboard on her table and skims its contents, blinking in wonder. She finds out that her name is Ashlee, and that she’s fifteen. A bit younger than she first guessed. She lowers the clipboard slightly to look at the girl. She sees signs of sleep deprivation and malnutrition, and she finds it weird that her problem wasn’t written on her form. She scratches the back of her neck with her free hand and sits across from her.
“Hey,” she calls out softly, hoping to catch her attention.
Ashlee blinks out of her stupor and seems startled by the volunteer, but smiles in the end. “Hi,” she greets back, her voice quiet and meek, like a kindergarten kid.
“I’m Emma and I’ll help you today.” She hopes that the smile she’s giving right now isn’t the one that makes others cringe. “How are you feeling right now?”
Ashlee’s black hair gets into her eyes when she lowers her head. “Are you supposed to be a therapist?”
Emma doesn’t know if that was an insult or not, but she doesn’t react to it. “I’m a hospital volunteer. Dr. Maudsley told me I would be able to help you more, so here I am.”
“But you aren’t an intern.”
“Yeah, I know.”
The girl lifts her eyes to meet hers. She looks unsure, but she draws in a breath and nods. “Okay,” she whispers to the volunteer.
Emma smiles a genuine smile and mentally pats herself on the back. “So, how are you feeling right now?”
“Tired,” Ashlee answers immediately, her shoulders slumping forward for evidence. “And scared.”
That’s strange, she feels that way too. The words are on the tip of her tongue, ready to be released, but instead she says, “Do you want some coffee then?”
Ashlee looks surprised by the offer, and a bit glad, but she shakes her head. “Thanks. I’d like to, but I’ve already had three cups of that,” she says with a nervous laugh.
Emma’s eyes widen. Three cups? That’s too much even for her. She wets her lips and doesn’t comment about it. “Alright then,” she replies coolly. She pushes her hair behind her ear and shifts in her chair until she’s seated comfortably. “Have you been sleeping well?”
Ashlee is rubbing her arm now, and Emma knows it’s a sign of anxiety. “It’s about… why I came here,” she starts hesitantly. “I need help.”
The college student is somewhat relieved that the girl wants to get this over with. Dr. Maudsley told her to ease her patients first before questioning the heavy parts but she likes it when they are straightforward. “That’s what I’m here for. So, what’s your problem?”
“My chest started hurting two weeks ago,” Ashlee explains, her fingers digging into her arm. “I don’t really know why, but I have this boyfriend and we kind of kissed. But when we did, I felt this pinch in my chest.”
Emma’s blood runs cold but she doesn’t interrupt.
“And then two days later, we kiss again. And you know how people say kisses are magical? I think it’s bullshit. Cause our kisses hurt. They hurt so much that I didn’t want to kiss him anymore. And they tell me it’s stupid for kisses to hurt well what do they know? They have never kissed anyone, they keep telling me it’s all in my head and that I’m ill. So maybe I am,” Ashlee rambles, fury seeping into her words. “So I took a pain killer and kissed my boyfriend again.”
But that doesn’t work, Emma thinks.
“And it didn’t work. It hurt even more, and he looked concerned. I thought maybe he thinks I’m a horrible kisser. Maybe he hates me now, because he can’t kiss me magically like what other people say.” She’s crying now, her shoulders shaking with sobs and her hair sticking to her wet cheeks. Emma takes out the tissues she hid in her pocket and offers it to the girl. She takes it and scrubs angrily at her eyes while Emma rubs circles on her back.
“So maybe I am sick with something,” Ashlee tells the volunteer, gasping between her words. “And I thought I should have it checked out because I—I love him. I don’t want him to think that my kisses are painful or uncomfortable. I want him to think that my—our kisses, are magical.”
Emma feels a familiar ache in her chest and she curses in her mind. Ashlee still speaks though, relaying her feelings and all her anger. When she’s finally finished and she’s breathing heavily from crying and talking at the same time, Emma gives a comforting pat on her back and leans back onto her chair.
“Why didn’t you try talking to your teachers?” Emma blurts out. She’s surprised by her own question but doesn’t take it back.
“Wha—what do you mean?”
The volunteer rubs the back of her neck again and tries her best not to look away from the confused gaze of her patient. “They should’ve taught you already about the goal in this world,” she mutters under her breath. The girl probably goes to one of the government schools where they want the students to fall in love freely without worrying about anything. It’s stupid, she thinks.
“Taught me what?” Ashlee asks, sounding more tired than before.
Emma swallows hard and gives the girl an apologetic look. “I don’t think it’s my place to tell you, but I can give you something that will help ease the pain.” She pulls out the pack of pills in her pocket and stares at it for a while, almost tempted to glare at the crimson color of it. She closes her eyes and hands Ashlee the pills.
She takes it from her and furrows her eyebrows. “What are these?”
“It will help,” Emma assures, opening her eyes. “But this is all I’m giving you. If you want more, just tell them you want the pills that everyone uses, okay?”
Ashlee nods slowly, trying to digest the information, but she still looks confused. “Will these really help though?” she asks, sounding unconvinced.
“For a while,” Emma answers, and she hopes Ashlee is satisfied by it. Fortunately, she is. She slides the packet into the pockets of her jeans and smiles gratefully at the college student.
“If… If things don’t change, can I come back here?” The girl asks shyly. “And talk with you?”
Emma’s aware that she feels warm, and that she’s so happy she wants to burst, but she covers all of that with a nod and a chuckle. “Of course.”
Ashlee collapses onto the backrest of her chair like she’s been sitting on the edge of her seat for too long, waiting for those two words. She pushes a hand through her black hair and takes in deep breaths. Emma reaches for the clipboard on her table, looks at it, and inwardly smiles. First patient? Success. She may as well graduate with flying colors. Ah, but not yet.
She looks at the digital clock on her desk and blinks. “Hey, Ashlee?”
“Aren’t you going to a family dinner or something?” The volunteer questions, turning her head back to the girl.
Her eyes widen in realization and she jolts up from her chair, pushing another hand through her hair. She takes her wallet and phone from Emma’s table and grips them with two hands. Emma doesn’t register what’s happening, just that there are arms encasing her and that she’s also holding someone. When she does, it’s too late. Ashlee leaves with a goodbye and the door closes behind her, leaving the volunteer alone with her thoughts.
The silence is irritating. She hears the ticking of the clock on the wall where Dr. Maudsley’s desk is, the rhythm so accurate and steady that it makes her itch. She breathes out incomprehensible words and gets up from her chair to stand behind her desk. She stares at it for a while. She told Dr. Maudsley that she didn’t need one because she’s just a hospital volunteer, but the doctor insisted because she’s going to be an intern anyway. She fixes the stack of papers in the corner, picks up the pen that’s about to fall and drops it into her pen holder. She’s wiping the table with a rug that she keeps in one of the drawers, although there isn’t really any dust or dirt. She just does. Because it keeps her distracted from the regret she’s feeling.
She gave away her pills. She doesn’t have any left, here or back home. She could drop by a pharmacy later and buy some more. The only problem is she doesn’t want to. People will look at her, with that face that screams why? They will probably think she’s pathetic, trying to cling onto a relationship that will never work out.
But maybe, maybe this is a good thing. With this, she can feel the pain and she can think about what to do next. Not now though. Later, when she gets back to her apartment. For now, she has to distract herself from thinking about it. And cleaning her desk is the only distraction she could come up with.
The peace is stopped by the door creaking open and her superior walking through the door. Emma breathes in relief, muttering something like "thank god" quietly and finishes her task in a sweep by throwing some crumpled tissues into the trash bin under her desk. She straightens up and disregards the raised eyebrows of Dr. Maudsley. “So, I’m guessing you want me to learn something from Ashlee.”
Dr. Maudsley rakes her eyes over the volunteer, just like before in the lobby, but it isn’t offending. She just does that whenever she’s thinking about what to say. “I want you to do what she’s not doing,” she says slowly, carefully, as if she’s picking out the right words from an organized heap of folders in her head.
“You made her do what you’re doing.”
Emma winces and fists her hands. Her nails dig into her palms and it hurts but she doesn’t stop herself. “I did what I could to make her happy.”
The doctor scoffs in disbelief, her fingers already pinching the bridge of her nose. “What you did was pointless. She’s going to think there’s a way to make this all happen, which, is wrong. There is no way to make this happen. I’ve tried it before,” she says angrily, muttering the last part.
Emma lowers her head and bites her lip. She knows that what she did was wrong, but she just wanted the girl to be happy, even if the happiness could only last for a short time. She unclenches her fists before she draws out blood from her palms and presses them against the side of her thighs. “But unlike us, you’ve already found him.”
Dr. Maudsley doesn’t smile or anything, but her eyes hold some recognition for herself, like she’s really glad. “It took me too long. I look like I’m only in my thirties but hey, I’ve been in this world for 80 years.”
Emma nods. She knows this. She knows that the woman had gone through several relationships that didn’t work out. But she said that she loved each and every one of them, just that there was one that outshone them all. That’s her husband now.
Emma realizes that they’re both still standing so she sits down, hoping that the doctor will follow her actions. Turns out, she does. She sits in front of her desk, which is on the opposite side of hers, and leans back. She gathers her wavy copper hair into a bun and keeps it in place with bobby pins. “Although I’m a bit disappointed that you gave her pills,” she starts out, and Emma doesn’t even ask how she knew, “I’m also a bit pleased. Don’t buy them anymore, got that?”
The college student mumbles a yes. Dr. Maudsley stares at her from the corner of her eye, calculating and full of experience. Her lips twitch into a small smile. “Make me some coffee,” she orders then and Emma is glad that she’s given a reason to act busy.
She gets up and goes to the coffee machine behind them in the corner of the room. She doesn’t have to be reminded that it should be black and that it should have two teaspoons of sugar. She makes it just the way the woman wants it. When the coffee is done, she holds the cup delicately and gives it to the doctor. She takes it from her hands and takes a sip.
She flinches but sighs happily. “It’s bitter.”
Emma rolls her eyes. “It’s how you want it.”
“Exactly. Thank you.”
It’s half past seven when she gets home, dragging her feet up the stairs and into her apartment. She looks for her keys in her bag and sees the amount of homework she’s got. Crap, she thinks. She finds the keys buried under all of that and sticks it in the keyhole, turning it and pushing her door open. She sees nothing when she does, but mainly because it’s dark. She stumbles inside and closes the door with her foot, sighing heavily. She pats the wall for the light switch and flicks it open.
She grimaces at the sight. There’s an unwashed plate on the table and some clothes thrown over the backrest of her sofa. Her notebook’s on the floor and there are crumpled pieces of paper everywhere. She runs a hand through her hair and drops her bag on the sofa, shrugging off her coat. She hangs it on a chair in the dining room and picks up the dirty plate, soaking it in water in the sink. It’s troublesome, but she also goes around, gathering as much crumpled papers as she can and disposing of them. She also takes the time to throw the clothes she saw in the hamper, making a mental note to do her laundry sometime tomorrow.
She checks her phone for messages and finds none. She jabs her thumb on the screen, typing out a message to Erika and sends it, dropping back the gadget on the sofa. She rolls up the sleeves of her sweater and puts her notebook back on the coffee table, moving to the refrigerator. There’s eggs, cheese, milk, water, orange juice, and some leftover pizza from the other night. She takes the leftover pizza and heats it in the microwave.
She moves her bag from the living room to the dining room, taking out her homework and laying it on the table. She skims her eyes over it and thinks about how much time it’s going to take. She decides she’ll finish all of the work before midnight. She makes herself some coffee, black and bitter, and takes a long sip. Her nose winkle at the taste but she knows it will keep her awake.
The microwave’s lights disappear with a ding at the same time her phone rings. She goes back to the sofa and looks at her phone.
So, mall plans are canceled?
She frowns. She feels bad that she can’t go with Erika tomorrow to shop, but with so much clothes piling up, doing her laundry is her top priority. She types out a short reply and gets the pizza from the microwave. She places it on the table beside her mug and sits down, placing a pen next to her notebook. She takes a bite out of her pizza and stares outside the window.
She thinks about Lucas and his smile, his freckled cheeks and his messy hair. She wants to run her fingers through his hair because it’s so soft. She wants to hug him. But the thought of him makes her heart squeeze, in a bad way. She closes her eyes and takes in a deep breath.
She’ll think about this tomorrow, she decides. Tomorrow. It’s final.
Her eyes flutter open and she finds herself staring at her coffee. She picks up her mug and takes a sip, the hot liquid burning her tongue and throat, but she doesn’t mind. She puts it back down on the table and picks up her pen. She flips it between her fingers, reading the questions written on her notebook over and over. She knows how to answer this, knows what to do, just feels very lazy.
With a reluctant sigh, she takes another sip of coffee and begins doing her homework.