Martin looked out of the kitchen window. It was dark, and it was raining. The perfect night to curl up with a book and a cup of tea.
"Alright Martin?" Ruby was one of the new students, and Martin thought she had very pretty eyes. And it'd been a long time since he'd cuddled up with anyone on a rainy night, and Ruby always brushed up against him when she went to the fridge...
"Not bad. Hell of a night." He indicated out of the window. Of course, she was putting her pot noodles in the microwave.
"Yeah..." She came and stood next to him. Her arm brushed against his and she smiled at him. Martin tried not to blush.
"Um--" He stopped, cleared his throat and started again. "What are you up to tonight?"
"Oh, bit of homework, I suppose. You?" She brushed against him again. Martin got goosebumps.
"Not much. Was going to watch a film. Do you want to er? Unless you've got homework in which case of course--"
Ruby grinned at him. "I'm a student, of course I can watch a movie."
"Well, what were you going to watch?" She was standing quite close, and she was just a little shorter than Martin, so her head tilted back. She looked amused. Martin noticed one curl had sprung out of it's hair-grip and had to resist the urge to tuck it behind her ear.
The doorbell rang. Martin blinked.
"It's probably for Gav or James..." He began, hopelessly.
"Gav's at the pub and James is at his girlfriend's." The microwave dinged, and Ruby stepped back. "Maybe you should answer it. It could be important." Martin sighed. It was just typical, really. He watched Ruby's back (he'd always liked the sway of a girl's back) for a moment, regretfully, and the doorbell rang again.
It was Arthur. Of course it was. He was holding his jacket over his head and peered out at Martin from under it.
"What do you want?" Martin snapped.
"Well, Mum and Herc were going to go out for dinner and Mum said that she would probably let him come in for a cup of coffee and I thought maybe they would want the front room and the television in my room is broken because I was dancing and I knocked it over and Mum says I'll have to get it fixed on Monday but anyway it meant that I wouldn't have a telly to watch and it would be really boring and so I thought I'd go to the cinema but the movie's over and Herc's car is still outside and I went to McDonald's but they wouldn't let me sit inside so I thought would go to the park because there's a bandstand and stuff but then it was locked so I was driving around and I went past here and I saw your van so I thought I should just ask--"
"Arthur, breathe." Martin held up a hand to stem the flow. "Do you really have nowhere else to go? It's just I'm kind of..."
"Who is it, Martin?" Ruby was holding her pot noodle and a fork. "Oh, hello."
"Hello, are you one of Skip's housemates? I'm Arthur!" Arthur held out a hand and dropped his jacket on his head with a wet thlap.
"Hello Arthur, I'm Ruby." Ruby was trying not to laugh. "I think Martin's mentioned you before. Do you want to come in?"
"Oh, but--" It was no good, Arthur was already in the hall and looking around with great interest. Martin took his jacket, ruefully. Arthur tried to stand on one foot and undo his shoe with the other. Luckily, Ruby had put down her pot noodle, and caught him by the arm.
"Thanks!" Arthur said, finally getting the shoe off. "Only I walked through a puddle. Well, lots of puddles really, there were some really good ones in the carpark."
"Oh really?" Ruby raised her eyebrows at Martin. Martin shrugged.
"Yes. I should have worn wellies, I suppose. Oh well. Oh, wait!" Arthur scrabbled about in the messenger bag slung round his neck. "I went to Blockbusters um... Earlier. And I got Skittles!"
"Hey, cool," Ruby said, picking up her noodles. "Sound good to you Martin?"
"Oh, yeah, that's fine," Martin sighed, and followed them down the hall to the sitting room.
Okay, the film was good, and the Skittles a welcome addition. Martin had to admit he even started to enjoy himself. The sitting room had two armchairs and a two-seater sofa that was at that comfortable age where it sagged cheerfully into a bow if you sat on it. As a result he was squashed agreeably close to Ruby, while Arthur curled up in one of the armchairs. He thought he might even get to put his arm round her. But before he'd worked up the courage to move, the film was over.
"Wow, that was great. Do you think that we could make the house fly with lots of balloons? Then we could get people to pay to take the flying house to places." Arthur stretched himself like a puppy.
"Yes, but then no one would want to fly in GERTI." Martin pointed out.
"Maybe we could attach GERTI to the house instead of the balloons?" Arthur suggested.
"What about take off though?" Martin countered.
"Really long ropes that you can retract after take off," Ruby said, suddenly.
Arthur and Martin stared at her for a moment, and she burst out laughing.
As Martin would reflect the next morning, it really wasn't so bad. Ruby made them all hot chocolate, and they had discussed picking up houses and flying them to where the customer wanted to go. Then they played Hide and Seek and Arthur made everyone play with torches and the lights out. They all bumped around in the dark scaring the living daylights out of each other until Martin walked into a very fierce side table and barked his shin, and went down yelling "Mayday, mayday!" Arthur tripped over him in the dark and then Ruby had switched the light on, hanging onto the wall because she was laughing so hard.
After that they'd had a cup of tea and Ruby cooed appropriately over the bruise on Martin's leg. Smiling wickedly, Ruby suggested they go to the rugby field and jump in some puddles. Arthur thought that was brilliant and Ruby had patted Martin's leg when she looked at the bruise, so he thought it was brilliant too. So they all put on boots (luckily, several years worth of agricultural studies students meant there was plenty of choice-- Martin's even almost fit him) and splashed down the road, jumping in and out of the gutter in the street lights. Ruby took his arm to 'stop herself from slipping' and Martin thought he might just float off. Arthur linked on the other side and sang 'Follow follow follow follow follow theyellabrickroad' over and over again till Martin threatened to hit him.
The rugby pitch wasn't floodlit, but the other lights were more than good enough. Arthur immediately ran into the biggest patch of swamp he could and bounced about like a labrador. Martin rolled his eyes and stood on the edge of the swamp, watching. Ruby unlinked from his arm and joined Arthur, and soon Martin was swept into a breathless game of ring-a-ring-a-roses. This time Ruby lost her boot in a particularly sticky patch of mud and fell onto her back with a squelch. Arthur rushed to her side (and Martin was glad no one could see the look he gave him) and helped her up.
When Martin woke up the next morning, he could hear Arthur cheerfully clattering around the kitchen. Martin briefly considered getting up to see what Arthur was up to, but in the end, he decided he was much too comfortable where he was, curled up on the sofa under Ruby's dressing-gown with Ruby snuggled into his side.
No, it really hadn't been so bad.