‘I said it’s over!’ Kate screams. ‘This isn’t going anywhere!’
Oh shit, I shouldn’t be listening to this, but my curiosity is getting the better of me. I can see Kate’s back down the hallway, and I pray the next person who I’m going to see will be Dan. But it’s not. It’s Sam. My already aching heart takes a further nosedive for my troubled best friend. She doesn’t know what she’s doing.
‘Kate, come on.’ Sam’s voice is beseeching, and a little confused, which tells me he has no idea why Kate is finishing their relationship.
Relationship seems like a pretty strange word to use to describe their set-up, but past all of the jokes and casualness, is a connection I’ve never witnessed with Kate and a man. Not even with my brother. If they could get past all things Manor-ish, then I know they would be perfect for each other. I could kill my brother. And I could kill Kate for being so stupid.
‘Just go, Sam.’ She stomps off across the landing, straight into the kitchen where she’s obviously opening and slamming every cupboard door in sight. Then I see Sam follow her in.
‘What’s brought all this on?’ he asks, ‘What’s changed?’
‘Nothing!’ There’s a collection of further bangs before she’s coming back out of the kitchen and marching into the lounge. I catch a glimpse of her pale face, looking no brighter than this morning. Her red hair is still dull and scrapped into a ponytail. I know that expression. That’s her stubborn, I’m-not-being-honest face. I could throttle the stupid cow. Now I want Sam to leave so I can let loose on my wilful friend.
‘Obviously something has!’ Sam almost laughs, but it’s a nervous laugh. It’s a laugh that clearly indicates worry. This just confirms my thoughts. Sam really does like Kate. A lot.
‘Just go.’ she spits shortly.
‘No! Not until you tell me what the fuck is going on!’
I can’t see them, so I creep out quietly, scolding myself for being so nosey, but I need to hear this because I’m just as intrigued as Sam. I suspect I know, which is just spiking my already fraying patience.
‘I don’t owe you an explanation.’
He laughs properly this time. ‘Yes, I think you do!’
I catch a glimpse of Sam trying to hold Kate in place, but the stubborn cow just shrugs him off. ‘No, I don’t. We were fucking, nothing more. It was fun while it lasted, but I’m bored now.’ Her cold words slice through me, so I can only imagine what they’ve done to Sam.
He doesn’t say anything, but I see the slight shake of his head. ‘Fun?’ he repeats. ‘Just fun?’
‘Yes. Not anymore, though. I’ve had all the fun I’m going to have with you.’
My mouth gapes, just when I thought she couldn’t be any colder. She’s on fire. Sam’s body shifts, and I know he’s leaving, so I creep slowly and quietly back to my room and push the door shut. I don’t blame him for giving in. Despite his chosen lifestyle and that he’s dragged Kate over to the dark side with him, it’s perfectly clear he has deep feelings for Kate. And I know she does, too.
I hear the front door slam, and then the unmistakable sound of sobbing. She’s crying. She never cries. I’m infuriated with her, but feeling incredibly sorry for my stupid best friend. What is she trying to prove here? I can’t help but think that this would never have happened if Dan wasn’t here.
I could stay in my room and let her have her tears, but instead of letting Kate grieve in peace, I step out and walk across the landing to the lounge. I’m not letting her brush this off later. If I witness her turmoil, then she has to admit that she is, in fact, in turmoil. I’m not letting her evade me this time.
I lean up against the doorframe of the lounge and watch for an eternity as her shoulders jerk and she cries relentlessly. My instincts tell me to sit beside her and cuddle her, but I don’t, and after a good ten minutes, she harshly brushes her cheeks and stands, turning and immediately clocking me in the doorway. As I knew she would, she plasters on an unaffected face and tries to smile. It’s insulting to my intelligence and our friendship.
‘Hey,’ she chirps on a supressed sniffle.
‘All right?’ I ask, not removing myself from the doorway. She isn’t getting past me.
‘Sure I am. What are you doing here?’ She straightens her t-shirt out, diverting her glazed eyes all over her body instead of facing me.
‘My car’s outside. You didn’t see it?’
She still doesn’t look at me. ‘No. What are you doing here?’
I ignore her repeated question. I’m not going to allow her to change the subject. And what would I tell her, anyway? I’ve been married for less than a day and I’ve turned up at her flat with a packed bag. That has to be a record for all married couples. ‘You probably didn’t take much notice. You know, as you were fighting with Sam.’
Her eyes whip to mine. She knows I have her. ‘Oh,’ she says quietly, then insults me further by smiling brightly. ‘Tea?’
‘No,’ I answer coolly, and with no chirpiness to mirror hers. ‘An explanation would be good, though.’ I know my eyebrows have just risen expectantly, and I must sound like a nagging parent, but I’m not caving in. She will not brush me off this time.
She laughs a little. ‘An explanation to what?’ Her smile falters when she realises what she’s just said. She’s invited me to get it off my chest, and by the look on her face, she’s regretting it.
‘Well, we could start with your little performance last night with my brother, then you could try explaining why you’ve just finished things with Sam.’
‘There was nothing to finish.’
‘What about my brother?’
‘It’s none of your business.’ She goes to walk past me, but I shift, blocking her escape. ‘Move, Ava.’
‘No. You’ll sit and talk to me. What is wrong with you? We’re supposed to be friends. We’ve always told each other everything.’ I grab her arm and drag her over to the couch, pushing her reluctant body down onto the soft cushion. ‘What’s going on, Kate?’
She flops back irritably. ‘Nothing.’
‘Oh, you make me mad.’ I spit. ‘Start talking, Matthews.’
She bursts into tears. I’m so relieved. I was on the cusp on slapping her for being so tenacious, but now my arm is around her and she’s sobbing into my chest. I don’t know about Kate, but I feel so much better for this. She does care.
I try to soothe her. ‘Let’s start with Sam.’
‘I told you, it was only meant to be fun.’ Her words jerk with her fitful breathing.
‘Was?’ I ask. ‘So it’s more than fun?’
‘Yes… no… I don’t know!’ She sounds so confused, just like me. Sam and Kate’s relationship isn’t ideal, but even with The Manor in the equation, I can’t help but think that it’s healthier than anything she and Dan ever had together, crazy as it might seem.
‘I knew this would happen with Dan arriving.’ I sigh. If I was talking to my brother, then I’d currently be shouting down the phone at him. ‘Kate, you need to remember every reason why you and Dan called it quits.’
‘I know. We’re so bad for each other, but we connect, Ava. When we’re together, we connect so well.’
‘You mean the sex.’ I wince and screw my face up a little. I can’t think of my brother like that.
‘Yes, but everything else fails so horribly.’
‘It does,’ I agree. I’ve witnessed the violent rows, the incessant need to rile each other and the unhealthy flow of their doomed relationship. They had no respect for each other—not mentally or physically. It was all just about the sex. Mind-blowing sex does not make up for the relationship’s other failings, which in Dan and Kate’s case was on every other level. At the time, I ignored it all, simply because the thought of my best friend and my brother being in love was so ideal. That was the problem, though. They weren’t in love. It was just lust, and maturity has made that glaringly obvious to me.
She shifts in my embrace and sits herself up, taking a few calming breaths. ‘I hate men.’ she declares.
‘You shouldn’t, especially when there’s one who obviously thinks the world of you.’
She looks at me curiously. ‘Sam?’
I almost slap her for her blindness. ‘Yes, Sam.’
‘Ava,’ she laughs. ‘Sam doesn’t think the world of me. I make the world move for him, that’s all—in the bedroom.’
‘You mean you connect so well?’ I raise my eyebrows at her. ‘Except with Sam, you also get the mental connection.’
She scowls at me. She knows I’m right. ‘It was just fun.’
It’s me who flops back on the couch in irritation this time. ‘You’re unbelievable.’
‘No, I’m a realist.’ she argues. ‘It was sex.’
‘So why the hell were you blubbering like a baby?’
‘I don’t know.’ She stands up, ‘I feel like shit. It gets the emotions going. You want tea?’
‘Yes,’ I huff, standing to join her before following her out to the kitchen.
She reaches up to the cupboard and grabs a couple of mugs. ‘Why are you here, anyway?’
The question makes me falter mid-lowering of my butt to the chair. Should I tell her? I’ve walked out on my husband less than twenty four hours after we said our vows. A brush off here is not going to suffice, although given how she manages to shirk my questioning so well, I shouldn’t be too bothered about offending her. But I am in need of some help. She openly admits to her fondness of Jesse. This could change her opinion dramatically, and even though I’m seething with him, I hate divulging any information that’ll have my loved ones questioning him. And questioning me, for that matter. Questioning my sanity.
I decide that I do need my best friend on this. I bite the bullet. ‘You know my pills that mysteriously kept disappearing?’
She turns and frowns before stuffing a teabag in each of the mugs. ‘Yes, you and your ridiculously unorganised life.’
‘Hmm, that’s what I thought.’ I stare at her back, waiting for her to click, but she’s happily topping up the mugs with water, and then milk. ‘At first, anyway.’
She stirs the tea and brings it over to the table, plonking herself down into one of the mismatching chairs. ‘At first?’ Her confused face tells me that she really isn’t copping on. Maybe it’s the hangover.
‘Jesse has been taking them.’ I blurt it out quickly, before I can change my mind and withhold the information.
Now her confused face is frowning heavily over the rim of her mug. ‘He what?’
‘He’s been taking my pills. He wants me pregnant.’
Eyes wide and with a slightly gaped jaw, she puts her mug down very carefully. ‘He told you that?’
‘Yes,’ I breathe. ‘Although I kind of already knew.’
‘You knew he was taking them? When you replaced them that time and lost them again?’
‘I was distracted.’
‘Why the hell would he do that? And didn’t you use any protection?’
‘No, not always.’ I mutter indignantly, bracing myself for a lecture on carelessness. I was pretty careless, but I’m now blaming Jesse for the whole diabolical situation, not for just lifting my pills. Yes, I should’ve made him wear protection every time, but I forgot. Lame excuse, but I did, and that is because my crazy man distracts me far too well.
Kate still looks shocked. I’m not surprised, it’s shocking. ‘So if you knew all along, then why didn’t you take him to task on it?’