Magnetised

Magnetised is a romantic, supernatural, fantasy epic, set in the world that we know well. Or do we.

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4. Antoniolatte

 

 

 

     “Beth.” There was a soft voice at my door late on Tuesday night. I thought about ignoring whoever it was, ignore the social attempt of an estranged housemate and become less and less a part of number 17 Cardwell Crescent. That’s what I felt like anyway. I could pretend I was asleep. “Come on Beth, I know you’re awake.” 

     Must be a bluff. 

     “I can see the candlelight under the door, Beth.” 

     I exhaled. “Come in,” I said in a small voice. I was wrapped up in a heap of blankets and cushions. Ryan walked in with two steaming mugs of hot chocolate, the sweet scent wafting round the small room.

     “Oh dear. What do we have here? Have you been crying?”

     “The tear stained face give it away?”

     “Ha ha. Here you go,” he said handing me a brimmed mug. There was a somewhat awkward silence. Ryan sat down next to me. “So, ever since you got in spectacularly late on Sunday, a credit to your anti social self I might add, all I’ve been hearing from the room above me is crying and depressive acoustic melodies, also credit to you for keeping that little talent hidden.”

     I smiled. I wasn’t in the mood to talk about anything, but I felt that Ryan was here to cheer me up rather than interrogate me. 

     “Are you ok Bethany?” 

     No. No. I really wasn’t. 

     “Yeah I’m fine Ryan,” I lied.

     “Just got a lot of things going on huh?” I nodded, looking down at my hands. There was a pause before he said: “Nothing happened to you did it Beth?”

     “No, nothing,” I didn’t like his implication but I was glad that someone cared. The first thing Abby had taunted me about when she saw me on Monday morning was my ‘pub boyfriend’ and since then I had made every effort not to see anybody. I hadn’t even been into Uni this week. I couldn’t bear the thought of going out and putting on a brave face. Sharon had rung me a few times; that being all the front I could manage. She’d asked me about how I felt with the new house and I’d been blunt with her. I told her I thought she’d been underhand and I hated that we moved all the time, even now. We had argued, but everything had eventually been resolved, which mainly constituted in me just accepting the move. For once, I had more things on my mind; complaints and worries about the new house became superfluous. 

     “My Mum moved house,” I said quietly to Ryan.

     “Oh cool.”

     “Not really. Now I don’t even have a home to go to, or I do but I couldn’t pick it out of an identity parade even if you put my Mum’s face in the window,” I replied cynically.

     “This is your home though,” said Ryan, ignoring my negativity. “You work, study and play here,” he continued. I suppose he was right. Even if I wasn’t happy, every part of my life was here. This was my spring box. Going back ‘home’ would just simply be these feelings in a different place, with added disappointment and failure. Now that was a depressing thought. 

     “Mmm,” I replied not wanting to let Ryan hear my inner monologue. 

     “Look Beth, I know it’s a big culture shock, moving away to University. It’s bloody scary and some people find it hard. I know; I’ve seen it happen to a load of my mates from home. I can see it’s been hard on you. And Abby hasn’t exactly made it easy. And I don’t know what happened on Sunday, but you need to start getting up and going out. It’s bad for you all this skulking around, you’ll get depressed.” 

     “I know. I know. Don’t worry about me Ryan, it’s just a blip. I’ll be fine tomorrow.”

     “Good to hear it,” he said the atmosphere having suddenly lightened, “Now I’m going to bed and I don’t wanna be hearing whimpers all night long you hear me?” He said playfully pointing at me.

     “Yes sir,” I replied saluting him and he left. 

     It was nice of Ryan to check up on me. He was fast becoming the first real friend I’d met at University. But I couldn’t open up to him. I found it hard to open up at all most of time, let alone to someone I barely knew. I think Ryan understood that though, so my skillful dodging of prying questions wasn’t taken personally. I guess that’s the biggest difference between men and women; men know when to just leave well alone and yet women must know everything, especially everything that doesn’t concern them. I was surprised Sarah hadn’t come knocking already. 

     I attributed my private nature to never having known my father. If things were getting on top of me, I had a duty to bury it for the sake of Sharon. We’d had money troubles when she left the City, hence why we moved all the time to try and make ends meet, and as far as I knew, Sharon didn’t and hadn’t had anyone since she lost Dad. It just wouldn’t be reasonable of me to make it harder for her, it would be unfair that I could vent on her and she had no one to vent back to. I actually think it is a good personal quality of mine, being quite guarded and I’d proven that by telling Sarah about Dylan and then getting burned for it.

     Dylan Sawyer. Ryan’s interruption had cheered me up, but the thought of Dylan sunk me right to the depths again. Without even realising, his utter flippancy had ruined the precious escape The Folly Inn was becoming for me. He was so self absorbed! What right did he have to treat me with such malice? But of course it was all my fault. Not only had I hyped up the meeting in my mind to impossible, romanticised heights, an element I should never even have entertained; but the fact of the matter was that I’d been rude to him first. I regretted moodily approaching him at the dresser. It was me who had put his back up and caused him to snap at me. If I had just been polite it would have set a precedent, and I wouldn’t feel so bad now. I would’ve felt like I had done nothing wrong. But I had. Of course I had. What had Sharon always told me? Treat others the same way you expect to be treated yourself. She’d stolen it right out of the Bible and now I was responsible for my unholy sinning. I thought back to the argument with Abby on her birthday, and how she’d accused me of holding people to unrealistic standards. I needed to sort my attitude out.

     I was a mess. 

     One minute I was melodramatically sad that I had acted the way I had, and the next I was furiously angry that Dylan Sawyer had treated me so unjustly. But most of all I felt like I had missed something, like an opportunity had arisen and I had completely screwed it up, and I deserved to feel this out of control. Usually I could get over these things. People had been vindictive to me before and I had been able to sufficiently repress any bad feeling and move on. It was Dylan. There was just something about him that was making my emotions so excessive. I needed answers from him. I felt like I needed his approval for some reason, I needed him to validate everything I had been feeling. Otherwise, what was the point? Something inside me just screamed out that there was something wrong, something I couldn’t ignore, and that I wasn’t feeling this intense for nothing. 

     Completely ridiculous I know!

     It was like every time I thought of Dylan I cringed embarrassingly, like somehow everyone saw me setting myself up for the fall but hadn’t the heart to tell me. They had told me about Dylan’s attitude, but this was more than that. He appeared to hate me to the core. I saw it in his eyes that first Monday he’d swept past me into the pub, and it was written all over his face on Sunday. Even Michael had said something on Monday evening to me. Everyone had noticed; everyone could see me with mud on my face. I felt like such an idiot! It didn’t help that I’d started to feel fluey. I’d sat on the river bank next to the Folly playing guitar until the pub had completely emptied and all the staff had gone on Sunday night. I must have been there for about four hours. I didn’t want anyone to see me, so I waited until they’d all driven off. It was very late, and I was freezing by the time I got home, so I only had myself to blame for being ill.

     NO! I blamed that stupid, horrible, bad mannered Dylan Sawyer for my being ill. If he hadn’t been such a bastard to me I wouldn’t have sat out strumming my sorrows until the early hours. 

     Every single muscle in my body ached; it seemed to penetrate right into my bones, when I settled down to sleep that Tuesday night. Ryan’s cocoa had done the trick (he made his with milk, whilst I was lazy and just used boiling water), and I drifted into sleep as soon as my head snuggled into the pillow. My last thought was of Dylan; I had one thing to thank him for; my songwriting had much improved.

 

     I was dreading the forthcoming Friday, during which for the first part of my split shift, the 12-3 section, it would just be me and him. I couldn’t figure out how I was going to act. Should I bring up Sunday and Monday? Should I pretend it never happened? Should I just ignore him? Should I apologise? Did I want him to know how much he’d affected me? The thought of walking across the threshold and seeing him there, behind the bar, with no one else was terrifying. We wouldn’t be able to avoid each other; we would have to communicate even if just a little bit. I prayed that he’d found me so repulsive that he’d taken the initiative and quit. I’d feel bad, but I’d be able to stop going round and round in circles, thinking about the situation from every possible angle. 

     The tables had completely turned and University had become the escape for me. I took Ryan’s advice and soldiered on through the week, attending every lecture, every seminar and spending time in the library reading and catching up on work. The more I did, the less time I had to think about Dylan and relive the sensations and confusion. I berated myself every time I thought of him and came up with a method to stop any thoughts progressing. Whenever Dylan Sawyer popped into my head, I would imagine myself putting him and all of it into a square safe, and dumping the box in Port Meadow, there safely waiting, to be thought about later. It was a good system. 

     My flu symptoms had all but completely cleared up, and I felt stronger in mind and in body. But only too quickly did Friday roll around. I was making tea in the kitchen that morning, when Abby waltzed in.

     “Well helllooo stranger, getting ready for work?” She said, grabbing a bottle of water from the fridge.

     “Yep,” was all I said, not wanting to get in an argument. It was hard enough trying to keep my emotions under control at the minute. 

     “Boring,” mocked Abby, “Pass me that fork would you,” she said taking a half eaten pasta pot from the fridge she’d saved from weeks ago probably.

     Then something very strange happened. As I went to reach out for the fork, the butterflies in my stomach that I’d been trying so hard to tame MENTION BUTTERFLIES PREVIOUSLY IN THIS CHAPTER seemed to pulse through me and explode out of my fingers. The fork appeared to move fractionally towards my outstretched hand before I had time to realise what was happening. Pausing I looked at the inanimate object and picked it up. The metal felt hot, like the cutlery had on Monday evening, except this fork had been nowhere near hot water. I closed my fingers around it. Abby hadn’t noticed.

    “Here you go,” I said and rushed off up to my room.

    I pinched myself. No I was definitely awake. Did that really just happen? I rummaged around on my desk for something metallic and found a pair of scissors. 

     Nothing.

     They were just an ordinary pair of left handed scissors. Completely ordinary. I looked at myself in the mirror. I looked crazy, standing there looking shocked at a pair of scissors. I was crazy. I was clearly just imagining things. The kitchen window was open; the movement must have just been a blast of wind. I knew that didn’t make sense but a knocking at my door made me jump. Abby walked in 

     “You forgot your tea,” she said, putting the mug down on my desk. “What are you doing?”

     “Huh?”

     “You look like someone straight out of a Ken Kesey. Look at you!” She was blunt, but she was right.

     “Oh right yeah,” I said shaking my head, “I just nearly cut myself so I guess I’m in shock,” I pitifully lied.

     “Whatever,” said Abby, a standard reply. 

     I didn’t have time to dissect what had happened just then. It was nearly time for me to start work; probably the worst three hours of my life so far, if you discounted Sunday. Getting dressed swiftly, it was easy to forget the fork incident, as I prepared to get another emotional battering. 

 

     As I crossed the car park I told myself the only way to deal with this was to be confident and if needs be, ignorant. At the end of the day, Dylan Sawyer was only a guy, and if he was going to behave the way he was, he wasn’t worth it, despite what I might think.

     Breathe.

     As I walked in, there he was, exactly as I’d imagined he would be, leaned against the back of the bar, arms crossed, looking through his eyelashes at me as I walked into the Folly Inn. I couldn’t help but notice how achingly attractive he looked, his white shirt sleeves rolled up and taut over his arms, his top shirt button open. I thought I saw his lips curl into a smile, but I was sure it wasn’t friendly.  

     I had to stop daydreaming and focus. His looks still didn’t excuse his behavior. I was a mixture of angry and embarrassed still, but confident I could handle this meeting better. I strode directly over to him, keeping eye contact the whole way, his gaze unfaltering and put my bag down on the bar. Putting on my apron I said:

     “Dylan.”

     He nodded my acknowledgment, “Bethany.”

     In silence I tied my long white apron, grabbed my key tag, pens and paper and logged onto the till. I pressed a few buttons to make it look like I was doing something. You could’ve cut the air with a knife, with the bluntest, most badly kept knife you can imagine. I went to the kitchen to get a serving cloth, but mainly I just to regroup. His silence was off putting. 

     “Alright Beth,” said Alex. 

     I did a double take. 

     “Yep, I’m in, I’m actually here today,” he said. I laughed and greeted him warmly. Alex was a nice guy, wouldn’t hurt a fly even if his life depended on it. Not many people got along with him though; they’d been here too long and bore grudges against the guy that always let them down. The relationship between front of house and back of house had evidently been a fraught one. I tried to keep conversation going for as long as possible, but all too soon I had to go back to Dylan. As I left the kitchen my heart raced in anxiety. I could feel a tingling in my fingers again. He hadn’t moved from his place at the bar.

     “You do caramel, lilac and bar, I’ll do magenta and sage,” he said roughly, “It’s the Oxford Varsity Derby today so it won’t be busy.”

     “Fine,” I replied, surprised at my moody sounding reply. There was a prolonged silence. Neither of us moved; we simply just watched the lunchtime traffic on the road outside.

     “About Sunday…” He started.

     “It’s fine Dylan. People have told me about you. I didn’t expect any less.” 

     “That’s not true though is it,” he replied. I said nothing. I wasn’t quite sure what he meant and I felt the need to keep my cards close to my chest. He looked at me. “You wanted to know why you were scared on the Monday.”

     “How did you know that?”

     “You told me,” he replied. 

     I felt so stupid. Once again I had fooled myself into thinking that there was something different between Dylan and me, and that we were somehow very much on the same almost telepathic wavelength. He smiled a wry smile, as if he were enjoying my discomfort. 

     “Well, I didn’t think you remembered,” I said flippantly, looking down at my hands and feeling redness stain my cheeks.

     “I don’t remember scaring you because I had no intention of scaring you. But I do remember seeing you. You were all ‘deer in headlights’ as I walked past,” he said either sarcastically or arrogantly, which I could not decide.

     I didn’t know how to answer but luckily for me in then walked a group of people. I became very conscious of myself as Dylan went to serve them. 

     I had never thought I was that transparent, indeed I was a very guarded person, but apparently, Dylan had seen straight through me. And he wasn’t hiding the fact that he was able to. He seemed to sadistically enjoy seeing me squirm and I didn’t like it, I didn’t like him knowing me, without me knowing him. No wonder I was feeling self aware. And embarrassed, very embarrassed that I had built up this illusion in my head of Dylan Sawyer. I was clearly no Elizabeth Bennett. I could feel myself frowning as he walked over to me again. As he reached for a glass that was on the shelf under the section of bar I was leaning on, he looked at me coldly and said:

    “You really need to find a new expression,” and he continued to serve.

     Ouch. I needed to get out of there. A few more people were headed into the pub, so I shot to the kitchen, leaving Dylan stranded and preoccupied on the bar. Standing by the walk in fridge I could feel anger and hurt swelling inside me. My bones seemed to ache as if the flu were returning, the muscles cramping around my legs, a physical symptom of my mental pain. In that short conversation he had managed to make me look foolish and insult me. I only had myself to blame, for putting this stranger on a pedestal and imagining that he would do the same for me because of some fantasized connection. He clearly just didn’t like me and had no intention of changing that. 

     “Heard about your run in with Sawyer last week,” it was Alex, who started looking in the fridge for something. “You ok?”

     “Yeah” I said feebly, feeling the embarrassment of my situation bubble over, “And now I’ve got to work with him again, just me and him. I don’t know why he’s taken such a strong dislike to me.”

     Alex laughed. “Oh don’t worry about it Beth. He hates everyone, at least when he first meets them he does. Course he never warmed up to me, but that’s because I never warmed up to him. He has no respect for the kitchen. Somebody needs to bring him down a peg or two, if you ask me.” finished Alex. But that didn’t help. For some strange reason I still believed that I was something different, despite obvious and real circumstances. I knew I needed to tread carefully to find the answers to my questions. 

     But then maybe I was the one to bring him down a peg or two after all. The embarrassment I felt had turned into annoyance. If Dylan was going to gratuitously ruin my day, I sure as hell wasn’t going to make it easy for him. I walked confidently back out of the kitchen, ignoring my aches and put on the best carefree face I could muster. He was stood in his usual spot. 

     “They just drinking?” 

     He looked at me like I’d asked a stupid question. What was his problem?? Why be so obstructive? It was all becoming a bit tiresome. I nodded in acknowledgement of his non answer and went to get a drink. Walking past him the butterflies strangely fluttered in my stomach, almost warningly. I could almost feel his body heat burning me as I walked by. He stomped away from the bar; my unruffled reaction to his rudeness must’ve been frustrating to him. I felt a stab of hurt as I imagined that perhaps he had walked off in disgust of being so close to me. I suppose sliding past him like I had, had been unnecessary; but it had worked. As far as Dylan Sawyer knew, I did not care one bit about him or what he said to me, no matter how far from the truth that was in reality. 

     Pretending to drink, I looked over to him, now leaning on the customer side of the bar, reading the paper. His eyes followed the paper and carried on until he was looking directly into mine. I should’ve looked away quickly, kept up my cool act, but I couldn’t look away. It was as if he was trying to read me, like he’d lost the knack to see through me, but I could feel those eyes getting closer to the core. I wanted them to reach it, to let me in to what was going on. We held our gazes for what felt like hours, and then without any hint of reaction, he looked back down to the paper and carried on reading. I turned to look the other way and let out a silent gasp. I hadn’t realised I’d been holding my breath throughout and my heart thundered for oxygen. I put a hand on the ice cold beer pump next to me to steady myself, and felt the coldness of it shoot up my arms, stinging its way through my skin, to my fragile feeling bones. It was like the cold wouldn’t stop going, I could feel the freeze getting into every capillary and pore. It hurt. I snapped my hand away.

     “That will be cold,” said a sarcastic voice behind me.

     Be casual, I reminded myself, “Very cold,” I muttered in reply. Looking at my hand, I noticed it was blue, as was most of my forearm. That was worrying. I’d only touched the cold metal for a few moments.

      “That’s not normal,” said Dylan, suddenly in front of me the other side of the bar. I quickly put my arm behind me. Dylan looked at me with concerned suspicion, as if I were some vital code he was trying to read. I didn’t know what to say, so I just stood there silent. Finally, he walked away. 

     Due to the lack of custom, I spent the rest of the shift sitting down on a table in caramel, watching the slow ebb of the Thames as my aches started to ease. I thought about the cold beer pump incident. I suppose it was sort of similar to what had happened in the cellar, that Monday night. There was the same type of pain and coldness. I thought about the fork incident this morning and how peculiar things had been lately. I really needed to get a good night’s sleep, especially if I was getting the flu again.  

     But most of all I thought about Dylan. 

     There was nothing to recommend about him; he was stern, rude and unprovoked; but despite him being so towards me, there was also something else there. I realised that my condemnation of him was wrong because I was in denial of the way I felt. If I listened to my head it told me that Dylan was a bad guy, not worth caring about; but if I listened to my heart it said that I shouldn’t write him off too quickly. I couldn’t refute the fact that we had stared at each other, both trying desperately to reach some answer in ourselves. And I couldn’t ignore my heart that exercised like a gymnast when I was around him. I got the sense that Dylan had put into play a motion; a series of events that I couldn’t ignore. I couldn’t hide from it. There was something there, something just beneath the surface and I felt like he was screaming at me to find it. In spite of my trepidation, I felt an odd calm around him, but it was a fragile calm. It seemed like Dylan was battling his own demons when it came to me.

     “You might as well go,” he said sternly.

     “Ok,” I replied and he raised his eyebrows at me, like that was a challenge and I just failed. I wasn’t in the mood to play his game; I was too buried in thought.

     Silently, I got myself ready, grabbed my bag and headed to the door. And out I walked. I’d expected him to say goodbye or something. My heart raced. I felt hurt again. This was ridiculous! I didn’t owe him anything, why did I need his approval and favour so much?! Any calm that I had felt in his company vanished. I felt bad that I didn’t say goodbye either; I was just as bad as him! This was becoming a nightmare. I was turning into a tangled web of desire and restraint. I hated it. I regretted not saying goodbye. Why did it matter so much?!? 

     Things got worse as I noticed my car looked lopsided. Looking over the vehicle I saw the problem. I had a flat tyre. The urge to cry crept up on me, like a thief in the night. I told myself to hold it together, while I tried to figure out what to do. Repression was coming to me too easily lately. 

     I didn’t know where to start. I felt like such a pathetic little girl, stranded with a flat tyre and no mechanical knowledge whatsoever. Luckily, Alex was having a cigarette and saw me kicking my car in anger.

     “What’s up?”

     “Flat tyre. I have a spare, but I don’t have a jack and I have no idea how to change it anyway,” I replied, as Alex looked as all men look when confronted with car issues; like they think they know how to fix it, but have never done so before.

     “Wait a sec, I think I’ve got something inside,” he said walking off.

     “Like what?” I shouted after him. I couldn’t see that anything in a kitchen would help a flat tyre.

     “The delivery men left a pallet mover last time, might be able to use it to lift…” he trailed off as he went round the corner. 

     Great. Well at least I’d be able to make use of my AA Membership. I fumbled around in my bag trying to find my purse with the card in, mainly to check if it was still in date, when Alex came back with the worst thing imaginable to change a tyre; Dylan Sawyer. He looked thunderous at having to help me.

     “Heard you need a hand,” he said, so, so unbelievably sarcastically.

     “Yes, could you help me get this tyre off please,” I replied, in such a monotone voice, I deserved a medal.

     “No problem,” he said harshly, completely aware of my discomfort, and yet making no effort to ease it.

     “I’ll cover the bar,” said Alex, and he walked off leaving me with Dylan, who had gotten a jack from his car, conveniently parked next to mine, and had already raised my little automobile when I crouched down next to him. I could feel the tension in the air.

     He worked silently making everything look so easy, like none of it weighed more than a feather. He got the bolts off with his hands which I thought was odd. I looked at him, puzzled and he seemed to hide from my gaze, like he had a secret he nearly gave away. 

     “Did you just…” I started but he’d quickly got up and opened the boot of my car to grab the spare.

     “You play?” He asked changing the subject with a raised eyebrow. My guitar lay soundlessly in the boot.

     “Do you?” I said defensively. 

     Dylan Sawyer had taken the simplicity of the Folly from me; he definitely wasn’t going to take this. I didn’t want him to know anything or be anywhere near my music. 

     “For God’s sake Bethany,” he sharply replied, slamming the tailgate. “Chill out.”

     In silence, he fixed my tyre, as effortlessly as before, except this time he made no pains to hide it. It was as if he was punishing me for being so closed with him about a talent I had, and he was showing his off broadly so I felt bad. And I did. I felt terrible.

     “Put the jack back in my car,” he said gruffly.

     I wasn’t in the mood to argue or complain, so I went for the greasy yellow tool. As I lifted the metal, my fingers burned and the fire seemed to stick to me like napalm. I threw the jack away from me, and it clattered down next to Dylan with a splintering crash. I thought he would go mad at me. I thought he would shout at me, say horrible things to me and generally make me feel like a complete waste of oxygen. 

     But he just looked at me. There was a sadness in his eyes; a defeated, hopeless sadness. 

      “I’ll see you tomorrow, Bethany.”

     Then he picked up the jack, and walked back into the pub.

 

~~~

 

     Pacing up and down the small length of my room, pushing my hair more and more violently out of my eyes, I spilt the whole story to Ryan, omitting certain parts.

     “Then after all that, he said ‘See you tomorrow, Bethany,’

     “He said your name, that’s a good sign,” Ryan replied, flicking through my DVD collection. I looked at him, puzzled. “What? If a guy says your name, especially like your full name, it’s more personal, like they’re trying it on, seeing how it sounds. Plus if it seems the girl likes you saying their name, it’s a dead giveaway.” 

     It sounded suspect to me but I jumped on it, “So he’s into me?” I answered, praying.

     “Woah, not so fast. Perhaps. I’m not sure. He could do, but then he could not.”

     “Great help, thanks Ryan.”

     “Whether he does or not though, be a bit careful, Beth. He seems kinda strange.”

    Now that I couldn’t argue. It was Saturday morning and I had been going over and over in my head the events of Friday afternoon. The more I went through it, the more I came to the same excitable conclusion. Despite everything he had said ‘See you tomorrow, Bethany’ and to me that meant everything. It meant regardless of his attitude towards me, he was interested in becoming my friend at the very least and all the nastiness would end, hopefully in the answering of all my questions. He was going to warm up to me, I wasn’t going to be outcast and thankfully my Folly Inn escape would be safe. 

     The herd of butterflies tingled in waves as my mind made the natural jump from begrudging friendship to undeniable sexual tension and the declaration of love. There was something there, I could feel it and it was exciting. I couldn’t wait to go to work again, us both trying to deny our feelings, but who I knew, I knew, liked me, and the electric spark of attraction would become a hunger. Now I understood why I had felt an odd calm around him; I even knew then instinctually that he meant me no ill will, and that he was trying to deny his love blossoming for me.

     Can you see how out of hand this was getting? No prizes for guessing the outcome of Saturday night, which rolled around achingly slow.

 

~~~

 

     Butterflies were ever present in my stomach as I arrived early at work, hopeful that Dylan and I would take more steps on the path to friendship and beyond. I was cautious, but somehow I had convinced myself that from my endless daydreaming, things had changed between us, shepherded on by the favourable side of Ryan’s analysis. I had so many questions I was eager to ask him; about his skillful dismantling of my car, about the pains I was feeling and perhaps even about what he was thinking when he looked so intently at me yesterday. I didn’t worry about his reaction to me asking. I felt like he wanted me to confide in him. There seemed like a new level of confidence in me, like Dylan was different around me for some reason, almost like a sort of disguised care. I was treading a dangerous road with my imaginings; desires based in no truth. I walked into the Folly Inn, as happy as I had been the first day. I got myself ready and propped myself against the bar, waiting for him to arrive; waiting to feel strangely special again.

     And then in he walked; tall and confidently. Natasha was with him.

     “Oh Dylan, stop it!” She said giggling and playfully hitting him on the arm. He was looking directly at me, as he had been when I arrived on Friday morning. A slight triumphant smile danced in the corners of his lips. “You are so mean!” She continued in a high pitched voice, a high pitched voice immediately identifiable as flirtatious. He said nothing in return, just carried on looking at me, a fearsome look in his eyes. My heart sank. I was such a fool.

     The pair sorted themselves out with aprons at the dresser to the side of the bar. Natasha hadn’t even noticed me yet. An old shyness washed over me, like when someone doesn’t hear what you’ve said and then there is never an appropriate time to repeat yourself. I hung back behind the bar. Rachael and Violet walked in.

     “Hello Dylan,” said Rachael, winking at him, “Long time no see, where ya been?”

     Winking at him?! Can you believe? She was just playing, I know, but she wanted it to be read either way. He continued to be effortlessly silent and smile at them, his gang of girls. Violet was no exception. She walked past and poked Dylan in the ribs exclaiming:

     “Token boy eh Dylan?”

     This was too much. I stormed round the bar to the dresser, the butterflies enflamed by the snub.

     “Hi everyone,” I said as cheerily and carefree as possible.

     “Oh hi, Beth,” said Natasha, “I didn’t see you there!”

     That set a precedent for the rest of the night. The Folly was incredibly busy, making up for the slow week. We four girls were on a section each whilst Dylan handled the bar with Billy when he was around. I got stuck with lilac, the smallest section with the littlest capacity for tips, (no thanks to Rachel who was given the section first, but complained so loudly I swapped just to silence her) which also happened to be situated in front of the bar. All night long I could see and hear the three witches flirting and acting dumb for Dylan, getting him to make drinks and joking around. None of them made any effort with me; it was like there was no one else on the planet except Dylan Sawyer. 

     Why were they acting like that? It occurred to me that I wasn’t the only one that Dylan had a hold over. It was sickening, like they’d all become lesser people for it; maybe I had too. I stood at the window in lilac pretending to wipe a table watching the grim show unfold. Natasha had walked over to Dylan and put her hand on his back, leaning into his ear. Dylan said nothing, just looked at Natasha, raised an eyebrow and reached up to the top shelf to get a dusty bottle of whiskey down. His shirt pulled at the waistband of his trousers as he reached, revealing a slither of pale skin. Natasha had no doubt achieved her aim. She smiled that smile that every girl knows, the smile of conquest, and walked off shaking her hair out behind her. Before I could look away, Dylan had turned around and caught me staring. The look in his eyes scared me; it was like a fierce command that sent chills down my incessantly aching spine. I gasped and looked down at the table I had wiped a hundred times already. When I looked back he was gone. 

     This was a disaster. Once again I had hyped Dylan Sawyer up in my head and once again he had let me down. That was unfair. I had let myself down. I had gotten carried away on some far flung notion that somehow, despite himself, and every other situation that pointed to the contrary, Dylan Sawyer saw something in me. But there wasn’t something in me, there was just me, Bethany Lane, the silly, immature new girl, with ideas above her station, and no idea about the Sawyer Show.

     My head pounded with a stress headache again.

     I felt wrecked. I’d spent so much time over the past two weeks thinking about Dylan that I was exhausted from it all. It was better to just draw a line underneath it and concentrate on myself, however hard I was going to find that. I felt so upset, but I was too shattered to cry or worry. It was over. It was all over and it never started so I couldn’t even complain of a broken heart, just a misconceived crush. My questions didn’t matter anymore, I’d given up caring. It wasn’t important. I took some plates to the kitchen and solemnly continued my shift in lilac, with barely any enthusiasm.

     “Smile,” said a helpful customer and I bared my teeth at him, to which he replied: “Actually don’t.” 

     Great. Was it only me who didn’t know it was Layer It On Lane Day? I was wallowing in self inflicted pity.

     Finally the punters started to leave and the kitchen closed up as it drew towards half past eleven. Walking past the door, a scruffy looking guy about my age walked in. He had long knotted hair and his jeans dragged along the floor. He had incredibly chiseled cheekbones, and deep brown eyes, set on a canvas of softly tanned skin. But it wasn’t enough to distract me from my sulking.

     “Sorry we’re closing,” I said fully aware there was still a good pint of time left.

     “Oh I know, I’m Dylan’s friend, Tony,” I looked at him blankly, cringing to hear Dylan’s name. “You must be new, I come in usually at the end, don’t get to see my old friend much now he works evenings!” 

     “Right. Ok, well I’m Beth,” I replied, moodily not knowing what else to say. He just stood there smiling at me; I grappled for conversation. “Alter Bridge?” 

     “Huh? Oh! Yeah, you like?” He said realising I’d clocked his t-shirt.

     “Yeah, they’re pretty good, not like they used to be though. Lightened up a bit,” I replied, with a little more interest. Tony looked at me warmly.

     “Tell me about it. The X Factor generation for you,” he replied and I laughed.

     “I saw them in London once.”

     “Yeah? I saw them here, but years ago before they got big.”

     “At the Academy?” He nodded. “But that’s tiny!” I commented. Tony opened his mouth to reply, when his eyes moved over my shoulder, and my whole body immediately tensed.

     “Anton.” It was Dylan suddenly behind me, standing too close to me. I could feel his body heat again burning me and my muscles screamed with tingles. I stepped to the side, but Dylan’s body was still curved into mine. I felt tentative accepting his protective stance.

     “Hey Dyl, you nearly done?”

     He was just about to answer when I interrupted, “You said your name was Tony?”

     Dylan’s lips curled into that brooding smile and he inched closer to me again. The butterflies literally exploded through me, the aches seeming to mutate into strength.

     “His name is Antoniolatté,” said Dylan and Tony groaned, “But as you could imagine, he prefers nicknames, mainly Tony.” Tony looked at me and shrugged, smiling. “I’ll be about an hour, get a drink,” said Dylan angrily, suddenly aware of his unusual friendliness and walked off. 

     I watched him walk back to the bar, still shocked at how quickly his moods changed and said to Tony: “Does he always have to be so rude?”

     “Haha, no, but that’s just his way I guess,” replied Tony and we started walking to the bar together, “We’ve been friends since primary school so I don’t really notice anymore.”

     “Lucky you,” I said quietly but he still heard and laughed at me good naturedly, “What can I get you?” I said walking round the service side of the bar.

     “Fosters, please Beth.”

     Tony hung around the bar waiting for Dylan to finish refilling the sauce tray which one of the mindlessly flirtatious girls must have convinced him to do, so I occupied myself with closing down the bar. Tony was really easy to talk to, which was refreshing having been in Dylan’s company, or lack of all evening. He liked much the same music as me and had impeccable taste in films, despite his love of the Saw films which I just thought were sick. He always seemed surprised when I mentioned bands and films that he expected me not to know, and I felt a comforting warmth emanating from him like the sunshine that had kissed his skin. 

     “Well aren’t you a surprise Miss Lane,” he said to me, just as Dylan arrived back.

     “Hardly, she’s the same as any other eighteen year old student,” said Dylan.

     “What’s that supposed to mean?” I said in hurt, the atmosphere making a complete 180.

     “That you Bethany, will party and puke and screw around just like the rest of them, with no real regard for anything worthwhile or intellectual. You will leave University with an IQ lower than your shoe size and an ill gotten perception of the world and your worth in it.”

     It literally felt as though a freight train had blasted through my chest. I didn’t know what to say. My mouth dropped open, as the hurt began to flood in. He had just torn me limb from limb in front of a stranger and left me out cold, with nothing but false impression and severity. Dylan Sawyer hated me, and felt worse that I had developed a soft spot for him. He hated all that I stood for even though I stood for nothing that he had accused me of, and he always had hated me, right from the start. He didn’t know me but he still wanted to judge me as everyone else. I thought he had seen something in me, seen something unusual and precious, something which he wanted to uncover. But that was a lie. He had no care or need to know me. I was clearly the same as everyone else. Tears pricked at the corners of my eyes.

     “Back off Dylan,” said Tony getting up from the bar stool he sat at, but his tone fell short. 

     Violet and Rachael were headed round to the bar. I couldn’t stand to let them see me like this, especially since they’d been having such a flirty night. I would look like such a loser. 

     “So as long as you guys can manage…” I said, scrambling for my bag, “I’ll just go early. See you tomorrow!” And I almost ran out of the pub. 

     The coldness of winter had started to seep into Oxford, and the suddenness of it from the comparative heat of The Folly Inn, knocked the tears from my eyes. It wasn’t long before I had spluttered my way into full blown crying. I hurried onto my car, but could hear footsteps behind me. 

     “Beth, Beth!” It was Tony, “Beth!” I stopped and looked straight at him. “Come here,” he said arms outstretched.

     This was never like me. I barely ever let my guard down in front of my friends let alone people I’d met an hour ago and I certainly never cried in front of anyone. But as Tony pulled me into his chest and I hid my face in the folds of his hoodie I cried and cried and cried. 

     “It’s ok Beth. Dylan is just struggling with this at the moment.” I wondered what Tony meant but was too absorbed in my own pity.

     “What about me? My Mum moved, I hate Uni and now all this, I can’t take it!” I wailed.

     “It will be ok, Beth. It will all get better,” said Tony, unconvincingly rubbing my back tenderly.

     We stood there for as long as I could handle the closeness and then I wiped my face, thanked Tony and promised I felt ok now. 

     Lies.

     As soon as he walked back in to the pub, smiling and holding his upturned thumbs at me, I grabbed my guitar and bolted for my river spot, before another tear had time to crawl down my cheek.

 

I wish I could just tell her, make her understand that we can’t even be close in proximity, let alone close in mind and heart. She must be feeling the affect of me now, why does she not leave? 

     But of course it is all too late now. God damn my soul and needless heart! I was never supposed to meet her; she was never supposed to exist. Now I have a duty to her. Now I am bound to her, but bound from a distance. That is the way it has to be. 

 

     

 
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