We were silent in the car journey towards Nora’s.
Both of us were lost in our thoughts, but instead of mine going towards the bad, I thought about all the good times I had with Mason. I thought about the times we would stay up all night talking about nothing yet everything at the same time, I thought about the times he would whisper sweet nothings in my ear as I tried to concentrate on something Nora was telling me, or the times we would go on long drives just because we wanted to.
I got pulled out of my thoughts when I realised he had missed the turn to Nora’s and were pulling up into a local coffee shop. “Stay here,” Avery said and quickly got out of the car before I had time to even take my belt off. I watched as he jogged into the cozy little store and pulled my jacket over me tighter.
It was December now, and I knew it would start snowing soon, but I was still dumb enough to wear denim jackets instead of a warmer one. I quickly texted Nora that I was on my way and purposely ignored the message of her asking where I was. I would be at hers soon and could tell her then.
The driver’s side door opened, letting in a gust of cold air that made me shiver.
“Here.” Avery passed me a takeaway coffee cup, and the smell of chocolate wafted through the car. “You looked cold, and I wanted a hot chocolate.” He fitted his own cup into the cupholder before reversing out of the spot.
“Thank you.” I smiled and blew the liquid before taking a small sip. Creamy cocoa filled my mouth and instantly warmed me up. Whenever I had hot cocoa, it reminded me of winter. Winter was my favourite season.
It wasn’t long before we were pulling up to the side street beside Nora’s apartment complex. I held my drink tightly, making sure not to spill any as I jogged towards the door and pressed the buzzer repeatedly until someone let me through.
The group planned the other day to all go to Nora’s and order some take out. It was a Tuesday, and it felt weird to be meeting up and not watch a horror movie, but I felt like it felt wrong for everyone.
I held the door open for Avery as I waited for him to lock his car before we walked up the three flights of stairs. We didn’t bother knocking on her front door, knowing that everyone would already be inside because we were running late.
“About time,” Nora muttered when she saw me, but it was like she hadn’t actually seen me because her mouth dropped when she noticed my hair. “You cut your hair.” She announced, which made everyone else turn to look at me. She didn’t say it in a mean way or anything like that. It was more out of shock.
Everyone knew the last time I had my hair short was when I was in middle school.
Her eyes went behind me, and her mouth dropped even further. “And you dyed your hair!” She gasped and walked over to Avery to pull on the strands making sure it was real.
“Jesus, Aves, who would have thought silver would suit you?” Lily joked before looking at me and patting the spot on the couch beside her. I took her up on the offer and flopped down, making the chair bounce slightly.
“It looks cool, man.” Jaxon complimented before greeting me and saying that short hair suited me. Once everyone said hi and spoke about our new hairstyles, Wyatt decided to speak up.
“So, what have you two been up to, ay?” He wiggled his brows at me before his face dropped at what he just said. We all know what he was insinuating. All of a sudden, the empty spot beside me felt cold, like it was missing something.
A frown found its way onto my face, and I fiddled with my fingers as I looked away from everyone. I hated that I couldn’t even take a joke without getting all sad. “Shit. I’m sorry, I didn’t even think, I-I just spoke without thinking.” He stumbled over his words as he apologised. In all my two years of knowing Wyatt, I had never heard him stutter.
“I’m just going to go to the bathroom.” I muttered and stood up from my seat. I ignored all the looks I was receiving and speed-walked to the bathroom. Unfortunately, the only in use bathroom was the one that was in Nora’s bedroom because the main one was currently being used for Tristan’s stuff.
I locked the door behind me and rested on the wood before slowly falling to the ground with my head in between my knees. I didn’t want to start crying, especially in front of everyone, but I wasn’t strong enough to hold it in anymore.
I had never lost anyone before.
All my grandparents were alive, and I had never had a pet before, so maybe I was taking a little longer to get over it, but does grief ever have a time limit?
The sound of the door opening in front of me made me quickly wipe my eyes with my jacket’s sleeve and look up at the person.
Zachary walked into the room in nothing but his sweatpants, which made me roll my eyes. Did he ever wear clothes?
It was times like this that I hated that they had one of those bathrooms that connected two rooms.
Usually, I was smart enough to lock the other door, but I had completely forgotten about it this time.
“Sorry, I didn’t realise it was occupied.” I know he noticed my tear-streaked face, but he didn’t mention it as he turned back on his heel into his room.
“How do you do it?” I asked, knowing that he would understand my answer straight away. Zach’s girlfriend died a few years back, but everyone knew not to bring it up to him because it was obviously a touchy subject.
He turned around slowly, and I thought he might be angry with me, but instead, he looked thoughtful. “One day, you wake up, and it hurts slightly less than the day before.” He spun back around, and this time I let him walk back into his room, but before he closed the door, he added with a smirk, “Alcohol helps too.”
To be honest, the thought of drinking hadn’t crossed my mind over this past month, but maybe he was right. Drinking did always make me happier.
A soft knock on the door behind me made me quickly stand to my feet and unlock the door. It was probably Nora checking up on me to make sure I was okay.
I was right.
“How are you feeling?” She asked and pulled me in for a hug, to which I reciprocated. I didn’t answer her at first.
“I’m okay. I just needed a minute.” I sniffled and looked into the mirror to see how much of a mess I looked. My newly cut hair was sticking up where I had run my hands through it, my nose was all red, and my face was puffy. I tried splashing my face with cold water to make it look less puffy.
My blue eyes looked even brighter due to them being slightly bloodshot.
“You didn’t do anything with Avery, did you?” My eyes snapped to hers in the mirror, where she held her hands up defensively. “It’s just that neither of you denied it or anything.”
“How could you ask me that?” I already felt guilty from what the woman in the hair salon said, and Nora was making it even worse. I knew that Wyatt didn’t actually mean what he said, but Nora knew full well what she was insinuating.
“Don’t take offense,” every time someone said ‘no offense’ it usually means they’re about to say something offensive. “but it’s only been a month since he died, and I don’t think you’re ready to move on to someone else just yet, especially one of Mason’s best friends.”
“You don’t have the right to tell me what I can and can’t do.” I sneered. “I wouldn’t do that to him, and you know that.” I don’t understand why she would think I could disrespect Mason like that.
“I know, it’s just that a month ago you and Avery barely spoke, and now he’s living with you, and you’re getting hair cuts together.”
I wanted to pace up and down and scream at her to shut up. “Have you ever thought that maybe I need someone?” I responded, causing her to look away at the ground for a moment.
“You have me.”
“No, Tristan has you just like Jaxon has Lily. How would you feel if it was the other way round, and it was me accusing you of shit you haven’t done? Telling you how you should be grieving.” I knew everyone could hear me, I was practically shouting at this point, but I wanted to get my point across.
“I don’t think you have the right to tell her how to grieve when you’re not going through the same thing she is.” Zach’s deep voice interrupted whatever Nora was going to reply with, and for once, I was thankful that the bathroom was connected through the rooms.
“Fuck off, Zach. This isn’t any of your business.” Nora retorted.
“It is when I’m trying to get college work done, and here you are making noise.” His response was quick like he knew what she was going to say, but he also sounded bored, like he could be anywhere but here. I was just glad he defended me.
“Whatever, you can leave now.” This whole conversation was unlike Nora. She would never accuse me of things like this before or even be rude to Zach. She adored Zach, which is why she hated it when we would argue.
“Yeah, I think I will.” His eyes flicked over to me before he continued. “If you stay here, you’ll be dealing with judgemental people. I’ll take you home.” I almost choked on my own spit from shock.
Was Zach actually being friendly to me and offering me a lift home?
Nora was now glaring at me, challenging me to actually agree. “You know what? I think I’ll take you up on that offer.” I couldn’t hide the smug smile on my face as I barged past her and walked into the living room to where everyone stopped what they were doing to look at me.
Every single one of them looked at me in pity, and I hated that they did.
I turned back to Zach when he came out of his bedroom door with his keys dangling in his hand. “Come on, shithead.”