After a rushed call to Colin, I’m informed about Pemma’s house. Even though, I’m told by Eden, that she had ended her friendship with them all quite harshly, I think Colin kept her address because he knew she really didn’t have her heart in her goodbye. Regardless of how isolated and emotionless Pemma is, a few people can read her, Colin being one. They’re not particularly close but it’s like his superpower- he can read anyone. And I can only read Pemma because of how much she talked to me before, and during my coma. That’s the only two people I know, unfortunately, that could possibly decipher the labyrinth that is Pemma’s mind.
As cliché as it is, when I leave my apartment, its pouring it down with rain. With no wind to divert it, I’m soaked to the skin within seconds. Regardless, I pick a black raincoat from my coat rack. I sigh, carefully holding my hand over the ripped scrap of paper with Pemma’s address scrawled on it in my messy cursive handwriting, so the paper doesn’t get rained on. I run to next door’s house, as I always do when I need to borrow their bicycle. It belonged to their son, who was quite a bit older than me, who left for the military, and no matter how many times they try to give me the bike to keep, I don’t have it in me to take away a belonging of their son’s. My parents were always close friends to them- part of the reason I moved into the apartment that I did, and they always show me kindness, like today. Only with a mildly surprised look on her face, Maureen smirks at me in the doorway- drenched and shivering, asking for a bike. She obviously doesn’t ask questions but it’s like she knows what I’m going to do.
The bicycle is thin and wiry, a sickly colour of green with an unbearably hard saddle. However, when I can’t get a car from a friend, or I don’t have time to check the bus schedules, this piece of metal and rubber is my saviour. Many house parties have been ridden to on this pile of junk, much to Maureen’s disapproval.
I try to remember the directions Colin hurriedly gave to me- like he knew this was going to happen, and wanted me to do it as soon as possible. In this blinding rain, I have to keep stopping at each junction and stand inches away from each street sign to see what it even is. This weather is absolutely ridiculous, as a harsh shiver wracks me, making me bite my tongue. I curse. As I push forward in the harsh rain which shows no signs of stopping, I slow as I enter a rabbit-warren of a housing estate. All of these houses look the same, and by Colin’s instruction, I should be near my destination. But how am I supposed to tell her house apart from all the others? I know I can’t give up now, but in this level of rain I’ll have to go up to every single door to tell what its number is. I’d hate to live in as close quarters as this- having your own house only metres away from the one beside you, and the one behind you. Sure, I live in an apartment, but I thought houses were supposed to give you more freedom than this. I can’t imagine Pemma being contained in something as small as these houses- her ego and pride couldn’t possibly be contained.
A harsh shiver wreaks havoc throughout my body, as I bite my tongue and clench my fists until it passes. I need to find this damn house. They’re all so generic- right down to the way each of them have arranged floral hanging baskets on each side of their front doors. All the windows and doors are in exactly the same places, the exact same brickwork and colour, and the way the front gardens are all decorated is terrifyingly similar- they even use the same gravel in the pathways. There’s no way I can just guess which one is hers, I’ll have to stand within inches of each door to see what number it is. After blindly wandering up to what seems like hundreds of houses but was probably only about twenty, I find the number I’m looking for. Number 47. As I look up, the three-storey building looms above me, its windows slightly sticking out of the square building. There’s nothing special about it, really, except for one of the windows is highly decorated from the inside- covered in stickers, dreamcatchers and glass paint, kind of like a mural. It must belong to Leah, Pemma’s younger sister.
I timidly knock on the bleach white door, its frosted glass higher than me so I can’t peek through. As the door opens, luckily, it’s Pemma. If it were any other member of her family, and it would have gotten awkward pretty quickly. I can’t imagine myself saying something like, “Hello Mr Jackson, I’ve come to tell your daughter she’s a selfish ass and needs to make some friends.”
For the first time in weeks, I take in her appearance. I’ve missed her, since I was discharged from the hospital, but she looks exactly the same as the last time we spoke. In a tattered grey shirt and tracksuit bottoms with cascading waves of copper hair, she looks like the definition of relaxed. That is, until she sees me. Her eyes open wide, her body tenses, and her arm twitches to slam the door back in my face. To prevent this, I rest my dripping wet arm on the door.
“Hi, Pemma.” Is all I can say breathlessly, exhausted from the cold shivers wracking my body.
“Day six-hundred and fifty. You look really cold.”
“You don’t say? Mind if I come in for a bit, I’m pretty sure I have frostbite in almost all of my limbs.”
She shuffles aside to let me in.
“So, is this the part where I meet your family so it won’t be awkward further on down the line?”
She barks back, “There will be no ‘down the line’. Now go sit on the sofa in the living room while I get you a towel and some new clothes. You shouldn’t even be out in this weather; after all, you’re still recovering.”
I assume she keeps ranting on about how this is all bad for my health, but I zone out as I take in the interior of her house. It’s all clean lines and pristine cream walls with dark oak flooring, and her living room is much the same. A plasma screen, a DVD shelf, and a cream sofa. All very minimalistic, but devoid of personality. You’d have no idea three children and their parents lived in this house- it feels like more of an exhibition unit than a home. It doesn’t seem very… Pemma.
Not wanting to ruin the clean sofa, I stand on the bare wooden floor, my clothes still dripping. She clambers back down the stairs as I hear heavy footsteps behind me, as she pads into the room.
“Here.” She shoves a black towel, a faded blue T-shirt and a pair of jeans my way. You’ll have to return the jeans eventually, they belonged to my dad, but you can keep the t-shirt, it’s too big for me anyway, I don’t even know why I bought it.”
“You bought it in the hopes that you could give it to some dashing young boy who cycled in the driving rain just to see you, perhaps?” I try to lift the mood, as I hear her voice break a little at the mention of a dad- I don’t want to push the subject.
She ignores my comment. “You might want to get changed. The bathroom’s under renovation at the moment, but go up the stairs and into the first room on your right. Don’t go snooping around in any of the other rooms either, my siblings don’t like it when people go in theirs.”
I salute, giving a wide grin, and take off my squeaking shoes before ascending the stairs. No surprise, the clean, modern look carries on throughout, the occasional fern plant here and there. I push open the room I was directed to, and a wave of earthy, strong perfume hits me. It must be Pemma’s room. I imagined it would be like the rest of the house, all pristine and neat. What there is, however, is the opposite. It’s like some boho chic den in here. A low bed, various band and TV show posters line the walls along with patterned blankets and tapestries, a full length mirror draped in scarves and necklaces, a small bookshelf packed with what looks like fiction, and various paper lamps and origami cranes gracefully adorn the ceiling. Overall, the colour theme seems to be dark red. Not what I imagined her colour would be at all, but hey, I’m still trying to decipher that mystery.
As I look at the window, I realise that it must be Pemma’s that I saw earlier, covered in dreamcatchers and glass paint. It’s like this is the only place she can truly express herself, because I can practically feel the emotion running off the walls. This is a whole new dimension to Pemma that I never knew about, that I doubt anyone knows about. She certainly doesn’t act or dress like this, but it suits her. I like this Pemma. It seems there’s lots of different versions of Pemma now, like she’s in lots of different pieces but needs to be put together again to be properly herself. There’s the violent Pemma, that almost drowned Colin in a locker and kicked a girl in the face, there’s cold-hearted Pemma, who kept brushing me off coldly until I literally had to die to get her attention, there’s sleepy unguarded Pemma who dozed in my bed on the camping trip, kinder Pemma who stayed to help me get better even if it wasn’t voluntary, and now this Pemma, the disorganised and relaxed one. I can’t wait to see what one I see next.
Downstairs, she has laid out some sort of tiny banquet of biscuits, coffee, and sandwiches.
“Those clothes suit you remarkably well.” She remarks, “You can have a bit of lunch here but after that you need to leave.”
I grab the towel she offered me earlier and rub it vigorously through my hair, “Why? Why won’t you tell me the reason you don’t want to be with us anymore? They miss you, and I know you miss them too.”
“No reason. If you’re going to keep prying into my mind then you can leave now.”
“I’ll stay for a bit longer and I won’t pry,” I say shamefully, “Also, nice room.”
“You are not to breathe a word of that to anyone.”
“I won’t, but I think it’s very you. Maybe not the you that everyone sees, but the you that you want to be. And I think that’s amazing.”
I can see her blush. It flushes out all her freckles. “Shut up and eat.”
We graze on the food in silence until she notices how quiet it is and turns on the CD player beside the TV.
“I hope you don’t mind this kind of stuff, the only other music we have is my parents’ symphony CD’s.”
“I’ll have you know that I’m rather partial to the more sophisticated works of Tchaikovsky and Bach, and I’m especially drawn to the haunting symphonies of Mozart.”
She scoffs. “You have no idea what you’re talking about.” And of course, I don’t.
Some sort of punk rock filters through the overhead speakers and although I don’t recognise it, I do like it.
As if reading my expression, Pemma informs, “It’s Green Day. Look it up.”
We lounge on her sofa, my now damp hair fully dry and completely unruly, her gently snoozing next to me. She let her guard down again, and I feel like this is a small triumph.
It’s exactly like I remembered before the incident- the soft curve of her shoulder, the halo of gold outlining the copper hair, but now I can see her features and she sort of resembles a cherub. Her usually sculpted face has fallen into a soft, chubby state, her lips slightly parted. I should probably leave before her parents get back, but I haven’t told her about the reason I’ve come.
I gently shake her awake after about half an hour of silence. She swats at me.
“Pemma? I’ve been thinking, maybe you’d want to come and look after me like the others are? I know you don’t really want to but the others and I would really appreciate it to have another pair of hands looking after me while I recover.”
She looks up groggily. “Judging by the fact that you ran to my house, I’d say you don’t need much recovering.”
“Ha! If anything, that’s why I need more recovery time. My muscles are killing me from that.”
She rolls her eyes. “I know you’re guilt tripping me into this, because its kinda my fault you ran here in the first place. Firstly, may I say that guilt tripping people is a very low and selfish act. And secondly, it works. I’ll come and look after you for a while, but only because I feel responsible.”
I fist pump the air, and take my leave.