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Authors: Lisa Swallow

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Because of Lucy

BOOK: Because of Lucy
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Because of Lucy

 

 

 

By Lisa Swallow

 

 

Because of Lucy

 

Copyright © 2013 by Lisa Swallow. All rights reserved.

First Print Edition: September 2013

 

 

Limitless Publishing, LLC

Kailua, HI 96734

www.limitlesspublishing.com

 

Cover: Eden Crane Designs

Formatting: Limitless Publishing

 

ISBN-13: 978-1492223184

ISBN-10: 1492223182

 

No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to locales, events, business establishments, or actual persons—living or dead—is entirely coincidental.

 

Dedication

 

 

This one is for you, Bec.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1

 

 

Autumn

 

NESS

 

There’s a stranger lying in my bed. The streetlight casts an orange glow through the open curtains and across the tell-tale mound. I’m standing in the doorway, and underneath my brand new and expensive bedding is a snoring figure. A male, judging by the size, and by the decibels. When I left for work this evening, the bed was definitely vacant.

I drop my bag on the carpeted floor and swear loudly. He doesn’t hear. I’m not surprised, the noise of voices and music downstairs would drown out the sound of me murdering this moron. I suppose I should be thankful there’s not a couple using my bed.

Slamming the door behind me, I head for the stairs. The tatty furniture of the lounge room is covered with people. Littered is the term I’d use looking at the state of them. Half a dozen inebriated, scruffy students draped over the brown sofa or propped against each other on the threadbare carpet. A couple gaze at me absently. My housemate, Abby squints and pulls herself unsteadily to her feet. She staggers towards me, wine sloshing onto the dirty floor.

“Ness!” she cries, trying to hug me.

I step back, tensing. “Yeah, I came home. About five minutes ago.”

She blinks. “Did you?”

Her long brown hair escaped the straightening tongs this evening and sticks up on one side. Abby’s smeared lipstick, and her boyfriend Matt nearby, indicates why she didn’t notice me coming home.

“Who is in my bed?” I shout, above the music.

Abby gives me a look. One I’ve learned to identify over the years. She’s beyond any chance of reasonable conversation. Then she frowns. “No idea.”

“Abby! I’ve been working all night. I want to go to bed and there’s one of your guests occupying it.”

Abby giggles.

“Not funny!” I yell, “you can’t do this every night, we talked about this. Weekends only. Please.”

We agreed to share a house; her as a student, me working full-time. What a huge mistake.

“It’s not my fault…” she burbles.

“What? You mean we were invaded? They just let themselves in?”

The people in the room are becoming familiar, the same set of friends arranged in their favorite places around the room. Drinking wine and smoking pot. Oh, so serious, discussing politics and listening to Lou Reed. So hip, so retro. So clichéd.

“No, but…” She puts a hand over her mouth, making a noise somewhere between a hiccup and a burp. No, but… she’s the only first year student who lives in her own house. When the pubs and clubs shut, they can’t fit everyone into one of their dorm rooms. So I have the pleasure of their company most nights. I want to shout at her, tell her how selfish she’s being but there’s no point. Her goldfish memory is worse when she’s drunk. She won’t remember a thing I say.

“So where do I sleep?” I ask, hands on hips like a petulant child. As if I’m going to get any sleep in party central anyway.

Again she looks at me blankly. Such a fantastic combination - alcohol and pot. She’ll be spewing in the sink next.

“Abby!”

I pick my way through the bohemian bodies on the floor and into the kitchen. Empty bottles and dinner plates vie for a place on the cluttered metal draining board. There’s two glasses left in the white cupboards and I fill one with water.

I agreed to this, why? Join student Abby in Leeds when I’d rejected a place at the university myself. Rubbing my parents’ face in it while I lowered myself into the life of a call center drone. Pride of the family, Vanessa, was always going to be a doctor, like Daddy. Until I said screw that. I’m not their precious Vanessa who they can mold into what they decide. I’m Ness and I’m doing what I want with my life.

And now, as I regard the state of the so-called elite, studying class around me, I’m glad I’m not one of them.

“’Scuse me.”

I side step the sink and turn. A guy leans against the doorframe, trying to appear nonchalant but his slackened stance indicates he’s attempting to keep himself upright. His brown hair is longer at the front and spills into his face, and unfocused brown eyes appear to be looking in my direction. He’s one of the regulars. I don’t pay a lot of attention, but he’s a good-looking guy and they never go unnoticed.

“Yes?” I snap. I’m so not in the mood.

His eyes sweep my figure
.
Unbelievable..
.
I straighten my sleeves and look at him with an eyebrow raised.

“Are you Abby’s housemate?”

“Who are you?”

“Evan.” He rubs his nose. “You’re not a student?”

“Correct, I am the one not lying in a drunken haze on the floor contemplating my navel.”

Evan takes a step forward, steadying himself with one hand as my witty repartee sails over his head. “Why?”

“Why am I not on the floor pissed?”

“Why aren’t you a student?”

“Because I work instead.”

“Hmm.” He pauses and grasps onto the sink, searching for a glass. I pass him the spare one. “Did you fail?”

“Fail what?”

Evan fills the glass. “Or are you just not smart enough for
uni? What is it you do?” He gulps the water in three mouthfuls then wipes his mouth with his hand.

Arrogant
wanker.

“That’s right, I’m not smart enough. I’m living with Abby until I can find a nice man to marry then I can have 2.4 kids and a house in the suburbs. Because, as I’m not a student, I have no future.”

Evan leans against the sink. “Fair enough.”

Oh my god he believes me. How pissed is he exactly? “So, you think anyone who doesn’t go to university is inferior to you?” I demand.

I’ve seen her friends looking down their noses at me. Inverted snobbery. On top of that, the locals hate students and the students hate locals. I’m neither. I can’t win.

We’re close now and he stinks of alcohol and pot, a faint hint of deodorant lingering on his clothes. Evan’s T-shirt has come
untucked and rides up as he leans against the sink. He’s toned, evidently works out. I can’t help myself, I check him out. Beneath his curls he has deep brown eyes. Incoherent eyes. I hate to admit, but something about him is seriously sexy.

Even if he is a dick.

“Well, if you’ll excuse me,” I say.

He sniggers.

“What’s funny?”

“You sound like the Queen.”

Not this again. I get enough crap at work. I move from Cheltenham to Yorkshire and suddenly I’m ‘stuck up home counties girl’.

I don’t dignify his comment with an answer and turn away from him, and walk out of the kitchen.

“Want me to get the guy out of your bed?” he calls after me.

I stop and look round. “You know him?”

“I could replace him.”

My mouth drops open at his arrogance. An attempt at a flirtatious smile plays around his lips but the unfocused eyes kill the effect he’s trying to achieve. He’s serious. I imagine he has a ready supply of eager girls. No surprise with a body and looks like his, such a shame he needs a personality transplant.

I step towards him. “Evan. I am not pissed. Nor are you getting into my bed. Good night.”

Feeling happy with my retort, I saunter towards the stairs. Behind me, Evan impersonates my sentence with an exaggerated posh accent.

It’s a good thing that I’m sober otherwise I’d go back there and punch him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 2

 

 

EVAN

 

Light assaults my face, forcing me awake. There’s a god-awful taste in my mouth. I squint. Why do student houses never have curtains that work? Too short or too narrow. These are both. The sun floods though the three centimeter gap between the thin pink material pulled across the bay window.

I unfold my limbs from the confines of the small sofa and stretch my stiff neck. Someone bangs around in the kitchen, plates rattle onto the draining board and a radio plays loudly. Whoever’s in there intends to wake the whole house up. I grope around for my phone and slide the screen. Eleven am. What time did I go to sleep? Pass out. Whatever.

I’m the only person from last night who’s left in the room. Cans and bottles litter the floor, ashtrays overflow and a couple of open pizza boxes reveal congealed cheese and grease. Gross. Good job I’ve got a strong constitution because I feel like crap.

The door bangs and I wince. A draught of cool air passes me and a girl sits in the blue cushioned seat by the bay window, and tucks her legs beneath her. Without a word, she eats her toast and drinks from a mug.

“Hey,” I say and smile.

She turns her unimpressed green eyes to me. Something is vaguely familiar. For a make-up free girl who recently got out of bed, she’s pretty hot.
Well, pretty. Her silky brown hair frames her face and there’s a natural rosiness to her pale cheeks. She’s dressed in shapeless clothes - yoga pants and a sweatshirt, huge socks covering her feet. Only her delicate hands are visible. For once, I’m lost for what to say. Mostly because of the death stare she’s giving me.

“You live here, then?” I ask, pushing hair out of my face.

“We established that last night.”

“Oh?”

“Oh.” She jams in another mouthful of toast.

“I don’t remember.” It’s true
.
Cra
p
. I hope I didn’t try and hit on her. No, if I had she’d probably be in bed with me. And I’d be naked. I touch my chest, confirming I’m still dressed.

“I remember all too clearly. Are you going soon? Or do I have to politely tell you to piss off?” she continues.

Wow. Rude. I must’ve hit on her. Or said no. Don’t think I would’ve said no.

“Whoa, okay, babe.”

The toast drops to her plate and she chokes. “Babe?”

“I’m only trying to make conversation, you’re being shitty for no reason.”

“Apart from you insulting me last night, no reason.” She drains the contents of her mug and stands. “I have to get ready for work.”

Work. A memory filters into my brain. “You’re Abby’s housemate?”

“No, I’m the Queen.”

The cool blast of air follows her back into the kitchen. She does sound a bit like the Queen but it’s an odd thing to say. I rub my sore neck, stretching out my shoulders. She passes me again. This time she stomps up the stairs and I watch her small frame disappear around the corner.

I wish I could remember how I insulted her. Normally I wouldn’t insult a chick to her face, and then usually just the dodgy looking ones trying to come on to me. Nothing about her would’ve put me off. Apart from the attitude.

 

****

 

I’m in the kitchen drinking my third glass of water when the front door slams. I push the net curtain in the window to one side and peer out. Grey skies and rain. Again. Cars line the narrow street and people hurry along the cracked pavements to the bus stop at the end of the road. If I crane my head far enough I can see the local shop I trip into every evening, to pick up beer and snacks.

Abby’s housemate fumbles with the key in her small blue car. She’s dressed in a knee length grey skirt with black stockings and sensible shoes. Her matching jacket pulls in at the waist and accentuates her hips. I wonder if they really are stockings and my imagination disappears on its own tangent. When she leans into the back seat to deposit her bag, her skirt rides up. Nope. Not stockings. Nice backside though.

Probably best I don’t keep looking at her rear, I might be hungover but my body responds. I adjust myself and turn away from the window. How depressing, having to go to work. Here I am, no lectures until this afternoon. Most afternoons. My days are awesome - wake up, gym, uni, pub or party and maybe a girl. Rinse and repeat. Freedom. The cool water soothes my throat as I swill down the rest. Yep, life is awesome. God knows I deserve a life.

The front door slams, shaking the windows, and footsteps stomp up the stairs. A muffled conversation above me ends in another door slamming and the footsteps returning down.

“I’ll get the bloody bus then!”

The girl’s voice. I peer back out of the window and her car is still there.

“Sorry! I know, I should’ve got petrol!” Abby’s voice carries downstairs.

“I haven’t got time to drive in the opposite direction to get petrol now!”

I duck my head out of the kitchen. “What’s up?”

The girl glances up from where she’s rummaging in her bag, gives me that death stare and empties the contents on the table. Most chicks I know have bags full of make-up and girly crap. Not her. A purse, tissues and pens.

“Everything okay?” I ask.

“No. My car has no petrol and I’m going to be late for work. And now I can’t find my
Metrocard.”

Her brown hair swings across her face and she pushes a strand away, cheeks reddening and eyebrows knitted together. Normally when I’m around angry chicks, I’m the reason and it’s stressful. So I usually switch off. The glistening of her eyes warn of impending tears. Chicks often do that around me too and I’ll do anything to avoid them.

“Where do you work?”

“At the call center in Beeston. And they get really shitty if I’m late for shifts. This was such a stupid idea…” She’s talking to the items she’s pushing back into her bag, won’t look up at me.

The rain slams against the window. Guess it’s not drizzling anymore. Her head snaps up and when she sees the weather she throws her bag down and scrubs at her eyes with the edge of her jacket.

Oh jeez, don’t cry. “I’ll take you.”

Finally she turns her reddening brown eyes to me. “Take me?”

“To work. I drove here last night.” What I really want to do is go home and get ready for the gym but I’m just too sucked in by tearful girls.

“No, it’s okay.”

“I’d like to help,” I say and root around on the floor for my shoes.

 

****

 

NESS

 

I hadn’t expected chivalry from him. Rescuing a damsel in distress and taking her to work. I snort softly, unimpressed at my decision to let him drive me. Weighing things up, I had a choice between getting drenched at a bus stop plus an hour long journey or thirty minutes in the car with him. The stress of work dramas if I’m late versus having to make conversation with a Neanderthal. The Neanderthal won.

He leans into the door and picks a pile of papers and empty fast-food wrappers off the seat, tossing them into the back. Quite a collection he’s got going. Evan steps back, accidentally brushing his chest with mine as he turns around. Instantly I flush, the hard warmth of the muscles beneath his T-shirt sends a shock through me. It’s a while since I came into contact with a guy. I tell myself that’s the only reason I react like this. He grins and his eyes light up.

“Get in, you’re getting soaked,” he says.

I slide onto the threadbare seat and put my bag on my knees, kicking empty water bottles in the foot well out of the way.

“Not as nice as yours, huh?” he asks.

Was it so obvious that I wondered how this car managed to get to the end of the street, never mind half way across the city. I wish mine was older, my year old blue Hyundai stands out too much amongst the beaten up cars in the street. I’m waiting for someone to steal it. Someone apart from my housemate.

“Thanks for this,” I mumble.

“No problem. I feel like I have to make up for something. But I’m not sure what.”

His brow furrows as he says this, and as he maneuvers the steering wheel, the tendons in his forearms move, glistening from the rain. I blink away an image of me touching the dark hair on his arms. Some guys just exude sexuality, engulfing you when you’re around them. Even when you don’t like them. Exactly like him, and it’s frustrating.

“I can’t remember your name,” he says and side glances me, biting his lip coyly. Is he trying to come onto me?

“Vanessa.”

He nods and leans over to switch on the radio. The Killers blasts into the car, filling the less than comfortable space between us. I could’ve told him Ness, but I’m not Ness to him.

“How come you know Abby?” he asks.

“We went to school together our whole lives.”

“You’re very different.”

I fiddle with the air-vent in front of me, wanting warm air on my wet arms. “Yeah, different families.”

Different parts of town. My parents tried to ban me seeing her when we hit fourteen, decided she was the proverbial bad friend leading me down the wrong path. Little did they know I was the one stealing alcohol from their overflowing drinks cabinet. Escaping from the constant pressure to be the best I could be. Parents on my back the whole time, nagging me about study, achieving. And be like them? Working so much they never saw their children.

“Couldn’t stand to be apart, eh?” he said, “I have a friend like that. Hard to let go of everything from home. Especially when you’ve moved so far?”

“Not really.”

The car stands at a red light and I delve into my bag and check the time on my phone. I should be okay, now I don’t need to take the bus. Evan taps his fingers on the steering wheel.

“Not much of a conversationalist,” he says.

I inhale. His scent fills the car, his dampened T-shirt releasing the fragrance of his deodorant. The sickly smell of pot and stale beer detracts from the appeal.

“I’m tired,” I reply.

“Yeah?” A stray damp curl falls into his eye as he turns his face to me. His expression is blank.

“Something to do with having a late shift and then someone being in my bed all night.”

“Really?” His tone changes and his eyes sparkle, “Someone keep you awake all night?”

Ohmygod
, he thinks… “No!” I say a little too hastily and he smirks. “You don’t remember, do you?”

Evan’s eyes widen, and his brow dips in confusion. He scrutinizes my face in a way that pools heat deep inside my stomach. “Shit. Sorry… No, I don’t remember. Look, I didn’t mean to…”

“Oh my god! No! Not you… Not anyone! What I meant was you don’t remember talking to me. Not that we…”

Evan exhales. “Thank god for that, I thought I’d done it again.”

“Done what?”

“Sometimes… I forget.” The traffic moves on again.

“Forget?” But I know what he means.

Evan inhales deeply. “Things I do. Sleeping with people. When I’m off my face, like I was last night. I can’t help it sometimes.”

“That is offensive. Really bloody disgusting.” I look out at the passing cars.

The rest of the journey passes in silence. I lean my head on the cool window pane and listen to the tires splashing through puddles, the loud hum of his engine. What annoys me the most is he doesn’t apologize for his misogynistic behavior. What surprises me even more is why his words bothers me. So many of the guys I’ve come across from university behave the same, because they can. He probably only offered me a lift so he could line me up as his next conquest.

My irritation turns to anxiety as we approach the industrial center. He pulls up outside the hanger sized, rectangular building stretching out in front of us. The sun attempts to break from behind the grey clouds and I step out into a puddle.

“Thanks for the lift,” I say begrudgingly, leaning into the car.

Evan turns to me, the frown he’s had on his face for the last twenty minutes still present. “I wouldn’t have forgotten you.”

I open my mouth to tell him what I think of his sexist attitude, watching for a sly smile or wink. There isn’t one. Is he contrite or trying to hit on me?

“And that makes everything better does it?” I close the door with a satisfying slam.

My footsteps slap across the wet car park as I pull myself tall and stride away. I know he’s watching because his car engine idles behind me.

BOOK: Because of Lucy
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