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THURSDAY, DEC. 21

 

SIMON

He’s not here.

I’m not sure what I expected to happen. Whether he was going to stroll in looking excited and happy to see me, or if he was going to be lurking by a table in the back, ready to gouge my eyes out.

The idea that he wouldn’t even come didn’t really occur to me.

I glance down at my watch. 18:15. That seems past the possibility of mild lateness, but still. I’ve got nowhere to be. Classes are ended. Pen went home. Campus is deserted, and there’s nothing for me to be doing except sitting in Ebb’s cafe with the handful of people left of campus, waiting for Baz Pitch to show up and decide if he forgives me.

It’s him. Everything about this is confusing and has me twisted up and unsure, but I am sure of that. Gampire is Baz Pitch.

I knew. I knew for awhile, but I just didn’t want to…

I didn’t want to face it.

Pulling my phone out of my pocket, I check again to see if I have any messages, but I don't. My screen is blank and black, and even in the fuzzy reflection of my lock screen I can tell that I look like shit. My nose is still bruised and slightly purple from where Niall broke it during the scrum, and my hair has grown out too much. I should have shaved it, but Pen always helps me make sure I don’t take it too short, and I didnt want to do it without her, so my curls are wild and falling in my face.

Not the best impression.

My fingers are itching to text him and tell him I’m here, but I shouldn't. I’ve harassed him enough as it is. He’s right; I’ve been borderline stalking him.

It’s just, I need him to understand. I need him to let me explain, even though im shit with words. I didn't mean what I said. Or maybe I did, but it doesn’t apply, not anymore. Not now. The Baz Pitch I knew isn't the real Baz Pitch.

18:20.

His coffee is going to be cold. The idea of the overly sweet orange syrup and cream going cold and congealing makes me want to vomit, which isn’t a good mix with the intense stress I’m feeling right now.

My phone buzzes, and I nearly slam my hand into the table in an effort to get it out of my pocket.

 

(18:22): did he show?

 

Penny. It’s almost cruel of her to have texted me. I think about texting her back, but I don’t. I’ll fill her in later. I don’t want to have this conversation in public. It’s probably going to be bad. There’s probably going to be snot. And I’d prefer to be able to just get up and go for a run or something when it’s over.

18:26 and the door to Ebb’s opens.

I see Niall Kelly first, his bright red hair an instant identifier, followed by Dev Grimm, looking dark and untouchable, and, finally, walking behind them, his hands in his pockets, Baz Pitch.

He stops in the doorway and surveys me for a long moment, and I give him a small wave. My heart is beating out a fucking Congo line. He came. He came. He came. His mask doesn’t change, but he stalks over to my table, while Dev and Niall take a seat at the table by the door. My heart is beating so fast I feel like I’m going to have a fit.

“Hey,” I say, my voice coming out as more of a croak as he slides into the chair across from me. He stretches out his long legs — clad in tight black trousers, wearing sensible boots that match his dark wool jacket — and leans back in the chair, the picture of disinterested disdain. It digs deep in my gut.

“What do you want, Salisbury?” he drawls, reaching out toward the coffee I bought him with one hand, but not leaning forward. He turns it with one long finger to read the name scrawled on the side.

Gampire

Bless Ebb. She didn’t even blink when I asked her to do it.

Baz flicks at the lid of the coffee cup and then ignores it.

“You’re late,” I say. He arches one lazy eyebrow.

“Frankly, I didn’t intend to come,” he says, stealing a glance toward Dev and Niall which makes it clear his appearance here is apparently not willing.

“Oh,” I say, wilting. “Right.”

“Indeed,” he responds. And then we sit in silence.

“Look,” I say, leaning forward and knocking my knee against the table. His coffee jostles, and his hand shoots out to steady it. “I just wanted to say I’m sorry.”

“No need,” he says immediately, nearly cutting me off. He won’t look at me. He just has this bored expression on his face as he stares off over my shoulder, like he’s thinking about dinner or errands.

“Yeah, there is a need,” I argue, leaning forward again, but more carefully. “I really am sorry. I was panicking, a bit, because I was confused, and I just — I meant it, what I said. Not then,” I hurry to add. “Yesterday. I only knew this like… idea of you that you put on, you know? Where we fought? But there was more to it, and I got to know that. And like…” I pull at my curls and try to give him a smile that probably just makes me look constipated. “You like Snow more than Salisbury, right?”

He twitches an eyebrow, but doesn’t answer.

“I was a prick. I knew as I was saying it that there was a strong chance it was you, but I’m stubborn, and…” I shrug. “We’re both shitheads, alright? Can we… can we get past it?”

“I never took you for the begging type,” he says, his tone cold. He picks up his coffee cup and takes a long sip of it, then makes a face as he puts it back down on the table. “This has been fun, Salisbury, but I’m afraid I have a pressing lobotomy scheduled. Excuse me.”

He stands up quickly, rising from the chair in one clean, fluid movement, and I see Dev and Niall’s eyes snap toward us.

“Wait,” I say, reaching out and grabbing his wrist. “Wait, just, stop being a fucking prick and wait.”

“Or what?” he snarls at me.

“Or nothing,” I snap back, pulling on his wrist. I expect him to put up a fight, or pull his wrist out of my grasp, but he doesn’t.

Instead he sits down.

And stares at the wall behind me.

“This is fucking stupid,” I growl, almost on the verge of smashing something. I’m so frustrated, and I don’t know how to explain to him what’s happening and what I want. I don’t know how to make my words work. “We both like each other. We do, don’t we? We fucking told each other. And I… I don’t know, I just thought—”

“What do you want Salisbury?” he says, sounding so tired and so bored and so... detached.

“You!” I say. More like shout. Several heads pop up around the cafe, and Dev and Niall are staring at me. “You,” I repeat, more quietly, leaning forward. “I want what we had, I want this…. Terrible idea or whatever it is. I want to go back to that.”

“You made it clear you’re not interested in me,” he says, picking at something on his sleeve.

“Well I was wrong. I am,” I growl. “I just… I don’t know. I forgave you when you said a whole bunch of bullshit to me. Why can’t you forgive me?”

He’s silent for a long moment.

“Say I did forgive you. What then?”

“Uh.” I didn’t think this far in advance. I was kind of just focused on the ‘get him to forgive me’ part and then I figured we’d go from there. “Want more coffee?”

He stares at the cup of cold coffee in front of him, and then slowly turns in his chair. His friends catch his eye immediately, and he gives them two short nods. They both stand up and leave the cafe, and don’t look back. It’s uncanny. They’re like henchmen in a bad spy movie. That would never work on Penny. She’d just shout from across the cafe that she didn’t understand what I was saying.

“Go on, then,” he says, turning back to me. “Buy me a coffee, Snow.”

 

BAZ

 

This may be one of the more terrifying moments of my entire life.

Salisbury gets up from the table with a clumsy motion and nearly jostles everything again. He stammers out a quick apology, and then hurries to the front.

He’s not small by any means; he’s shorter than me by a bit, but he’s practically twice my size regardless, and nothing about him will ever be smooth or elegant. Except maybe when he plays — when he’s on the field, his movements are easy and casual and instinctual, and it’s like he suddenly fits in his skin and knows where to go and what to do.

Not so here.

And he’s not alone.

The problem is, I want to forgive him. I want desperately to find a way out of all of this and just be fine and exist in a world where Simon Snow Salisbury actually cares for my feelings and wants to start something with me and wants me to trust him. But I always want to be petty and cowardly and keep him out because the idea of letting him in sounds terrifyingly exhausting.

I’m not very good at this.

But he’s persistent. He’s stubborn. He’s a fighter, even if he doesn’t want to be, and maybe I’m living in some bizarro world where I’m something he would fight for.

When he returns to our table he’s loaded down with two cups and a plate of scones, which he sets between us with a wide smile.

“I got you another of your pumpkin things, since the first got cold while you were being a twat,” he grunts, pulling the lid off his own cup and blowing on it. I look away from the motion of his lips as he takes a tentative sip of his tea.

“So I figured out why I had your number,” he says, leaning back. I raise an eyebrow in response, and he nods. “I wrote it down during freshers week. And then when we got introduced, you took one look at me and then walked away. And I wrote “HELP” and held it up to Penny, who was across the room.”

“Thrilling,” I drawl. “I wonder how you managed to completely forget about that.”

He shrugs and picks apart a scone, before popping half of it into his mouth.

“Never occurred to me it’d be you, to be honest. All of that week was a blur anyway, with things being new and being alone and trying to figure shit out.” He shrugs again. “I don’t hold on to the shitty memories.”

“That’s a skill, I suppose.”

He grins at me.

“Yeah. Depends how you look at it.”

We lapse back into silence and I sip my coffee for lack of anything better to do with my hands, and suddenly wish I’d never come at all. Hating him for forever would be easier than sitting in uncomfortable quiet and not knowing what to do.

“Where did you get the lipstick?”

“What?” I ask, confused. “What lipstick?”

“Last year,” he says. “You wrote threatening messages on the mirror in lipstick. I assumed it was your girlfriend’s, but…” He gestures at me. “You’re you, so. Where’d you get the lipstick?”

“Fiona,” I say, clearing my throat. “She used to visit and she left it there once.”

“Why leave me a shitty message in lipstick?” he asks, frowning.

“For the aesthetic?” I offer. I don’t really remember my motivations, other than just being endlessly put out with him. And wanting to lick him.

“Right,” he says, nodding. “So those things you said. About why you were always such a prick to me? Were they… is that true?”

“I was a prick to you because you’re a slob,” I snap, looking down into my coffee cup.

‘Right, but the other shit. The stuff about, you know. Liking me?”

I want to set myself on fire. I want to just light myself up and go. Maybe I’ll kiss him first, just to let him see what he’ll be missing after I self-immolate due to humiliation. Kiss him, then go.

“Yes,” I say, my tone stilted. “Yes. It’s true.”

“Right,” he says for the third time and nodding, like something has just been decided. “Right, well. Good.” He puts the lid back on his tea and then stands up quickly, and reaches for my hand. “Come on.”

“What? Why? Where are we going?”

“Out,” he says, tugging on me again and pulling me unwillingly to my feet.

“It’s raining,” I argue.

“I have an umbrella,” he counters, and I don’t really have an argument for this, so I allow myself to be dragged through the cafe and out the doors and into the drizzling evening chill. Salisbury stops for a moment to dig his umbrella out of his pocket, and then holds it up high so it covers both of us. It’s an awkward angle; I’m taller than him, so it hits my head just a bit, and we have to stand extremely close in order to be protected.

“Where are we going?” I ask him again.

“Shut up,” he growls, and crowds into my space.

“I haven’t forgive you, you know,” I say, walking to keep time with him as we cross campus and cut left at residence hall we used to live in.

“Okay,” he grunts, and steers me down a hill.

Maybe this is where I die.

I probably deserve it, after having been such a prick for so long.

“Why are we at the football pitch?” I ask, realisation hitting me as we head toward the car park. No one is there; we’ve broken the season for the Christmas holiday, and no students are still left on campus anyway, even if it weren’t raining.

“So,” Salisbury says, continuing his determined walk toward the field. “I’ve come here pretty much every Wednesday since I started uni. Coming here Wednesday nights to watch you play has kind of been one of the only constants in my life, you know?” Even as he asks the question, he shrugs, which causing his hideous umbrella to hit me in the face. “Even when you were making my life hell last year I came and watched, because you’re… I dunno. You’re you. You’re brilliant. And also terrifying.”

“Is this how you apologise?” I ask, taking another sip of my coffee and trying desperately not to break.

“Like you’re any fucking better,” he mutters, elbowing me in the side. “And I said I was sorry. But I figure, we just have a lot of bullshit to work through, yeah?”

“Is this you or the terrifying roommate speaking?”

“Shut up and let me finish,” he says, dragging me over to the stands, and sitting down on the bottom one.

“I’m not sitting, I’ll get my trousers wet,” I say, scrunching up my face. He grabs my hand and tugs again, and I sit. Because I’m weak. And because he’s him, and he’s staring up at me with his blue eyes and his stupid mole ridden face and because it’s cold and wet outside but he’s warm and dry and he’s Snow .

“I liked talking to you,” he says. “I liked being your pocket nightmare way more than being your shitty suite partner.” He pauses. “Though you were kind of shitty too. Massively shitty.”

“Snow,” I say warningly, and he shrugs again.

“I want to be able to keep talking to you and seeing you and texting you.”

For a boy who struggles so much with his words, sometimes he gets it so simply, blindingly right.

“You’re a terrible texter,” I tell him, even as I’m melting.

He grins, and he’s made of trouble.

“I want to be your terrible boyfriend.”

“You’re ridiculous,” I say, but I can’t breathe.

“You’re a twat, it’s fine,” he responds, and then he begins leaning in. Slowly. Leaning in. Like he can make all these problems disappear with his mouth, and with his hands — one of which is still holding his shitty umbrella over us, and the other which is stroking my knuckles.

“I really hate rugby,” I whisper.

And then he kisses me.



SUNDAY, FEB. 24

 

SIMON

It’s freezing. The rain turned to snow halfway through the game, and the small number of people in the stands have been slowly trickling out. The WFC lads left at half time, just shouting out apologies as they clambered down off the stands and went to seek shelter. Maybe ten people remain to see the end of the game.

That’s actually a pretty good number, considering it’s February, and no one comes to watch rugby in February. Even Penny doesn’t. She tried once, and then told me she loved me, but it wouldn’t be happening again.

We won, but it doesn’t really feel that way. I think the other team just gave up, but that’s fine, because I’m freezing and I’ve a bruise forming on my knee and my fingers are shaking.

I pull my hoodie on over my muddy, sweaty shirt and dig through my bag for my mobile.

I have twelve unread texts.

 

(17:05): It’s fucking freezing out.

(17:05): You better fucking win.

#

(17:16): I saw you just grope that boy’s ass during the scrum

#

(17:36): Dev says that was a ‘decent enough catch’

(17:38): My favourite thing about Dev is that he hates you and this will never change.

(17:38): Good man.

#

(17:57): It’s fucking snowing.

(17:57): Dev is leaving because it’s fucking snowing. Christ this is miserable.

#

(18:07): Now would be a wonderful time for you to get injured and have to sit out the game.

(18:07): If you get injured right now and get cut I will buy you one of Ebb’s turkey sandwiches.

#

(18:15): Christ I hate rugby.

#

(18:19): There is snow on my nose. I cannot believe this would happen to me on my birthday.

(18:19): I’m leaving.

 

Grinning, I tuck my phone back into my bag and lift it up onto my shoulder, then survey the stands. Almost everyone has left, but there’s no sign of Baz. I guess he did leave then. I can’t blame him; it’s baltic out here. I don’t even want to be here. Maybe if I text him he’ll come pick me up in Fiona’s car. She’d probably let him. Fiona likes me. Well. Fiona tolerates me, which I think is as good as I can get.

“That was the most boring game I’ve ever seen,” comes a dry voice from behind me. I spin, and there’s Baz; bundled up in dark colours, his face almost hidden under his scarf, my manky white umbrella in one hand and a coffee cup in the other.

“Is that for me?” I ask, reaching for the cup, but he snatches it back.

‘Of course not, it’s mine,” he says, sniffing. “Dev brought it for me so I wouldn’t die.”

“I thought Dev left?”

“To get coffee, he came back,” Baz says dismissively, looking at something over my shoulder. “Hurry up, he’s driving Niall home and he won’t wait for us.” He lifts up the umbrella for me to step under, and hands me the coffee cup as he ushers me off the field.

I pull the lid off to take a sip — because Baz will bitch at me if I get even a hint of mud on the cap — and make a face, even as the warm liquid hits me. I fucking hate this drink. It’s one of the most revolting things I’ve tasted in my entire life.

But it’s warm, and I soak up the warmth of the cup for a moment before transferring it to the other one hand and reaching down to clasp Baz’s.

“I’m starving,” I tell him, leaning my head to knock into his. He turns his face sideways briefly to put a kiss on my hair, then pulls back immediately, making a face.

“Oh, gross, you’re sweaty,” he says, blanching in disgust.

“You’re an athlete. Why are you so weird about sweat?”

“I don’t sweat,” he bites back.

“Yeah, uh, okay,” I say. “Can we go to Ebb’s and get sandwiches?”

“No.”

“But you said—”

“I know what I said,” he responds as we reach Dev’s car. He and Niall and are already waiting in it, and the heat is cranked up so high that the windows are fogging. Baz opens the door and gestures for me to get inside.

“But I want a sandwich,” I mumble, scooting over the leather seat. Dev grunts a hello, but doesn’t look back, and Baz crowds in after me.

“Sandwiches are for people who get injured in rugby,” he snaps, shaking the snow from the umbrella all over me as he snatches back his coffee.

“I hate you,” I mumble.

He grins and catches my eye and slings an arm over the seat behind me.

“Mutual,” he says. And we both know we’re lying.