Broken

Her own actions, she judged, were unethical and despicable especially since they ailed one of the most important persons of her life, her best friend.
*for the On Dublin Street Competition*

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1. Broken

The first impression that Courtney had gathered on her roommate on former visits was that Ariel was one of the conceited, immoral girls that Courtney execrated. Now, looking at Ariel, her blond curls disarranged, in a crop top with a décolletage that exposed her cleavage, Courtney’s belief and disdain deepened.

   Before moving in she had an intense debate with herself. Finally, she decided that a commodious room and a reasonable price was worth giving up a demure roommate, the kind she was and the kind she preferred.

      ‘Hey,’ said Ariel amicably, just strolling in. ‘You’re unpacking, huh?’

      ‘Yes,’ Courtney replied, not reflecting her convivial tone.

      ‘Superb.’  Ariel yawned and stretched, her undersized top ascending a few centimeters. ‘I had a wild night.’

      I’ve already figured that, Courtney thought.

      ‘I am looking forward to us being good friends.’ Ariel sounded flamboyant.

      ‘Doubtless,’ Courtney skeptically agreed, tugging open a drawer. Covertly, she dismissed the idea as Ariel’s fallacy. Her animosity towards the idea of any collaboration with Ariel prompted Courtney to despair over Ariel’s possible attempts at cultivating her. The thought itself was crotchety.

      But her prophecy failed. Ariel’s complaisant nature won over Courtney, despite her aversion towards her smoking and drinking habits. In a bid to impress her new roommate, Ariel cut down on her cigars, drinks and even her frenzy nights. Her caprice and communion triggered Courtney to think that a good friendship between them was credible.

    ‘You never talked about your family,’ Courtney realized one evening while they were enjoying coffee and small talks.

    ‘Oh, my family…’ Ariel took a ‘sip’ from her empty cup, producing a deliberate and suspicious pause. ‘I was fostered, never knew my real parents until I turned sixteen. Turned out my mother was young –only seventeen- when she had me and couldn’t afford me.’ She snorted. ‘Why have babies if you can’t keep them? So, you never talked about your love life.’

     Her friend’s attempts at changing the subject slipped a smile on Courtney’s face. ‘Oh, I don’t do airy relationships. I am pretty serious about my Masters anyway. What about you?’

     ‘My boyfriend’s away in China, family business,’ said Ariel. The former traces of her acrid expression were blurred by sudden ecstasy. Courtney smiled again.

      Ariel’s other cocksure friends however weren’t exactly avid about their amatory bond. They openly affronted Courtney’s dowdy attires and Ariel finally snapped one day calling one of them a ‘bitch’ when she tagged Courtney’s tastes as simply ‘cheap’.

      ‘You didn’t have to do that,’ Courtney said, tenderly.

      ‘I did,’ insisted Ariel. ‘She was being a total bitch to you.’

      The comment ignited a blaze of compunction fueled by Courtney’s earlier thoughts and vows regarding Ariel. She admitted to herself that she had once deemed her as a bane, but now believed that she deserved something beyond Courtney’s esteem. She deserved her love. The confession boosted Courtney’s confidence for their comradeship’s future,

    Once again, her prophecy went astray.

 

    A week later, on a clement afternoon, Courtney heaved herself off her bed to attend to the banged door. On opening it, she discovered an awaiting stranger on the ‘Welcome’ mat. Luminous blue eyes framed by short, thick lashes stared into hers. Except for the sharp bends at the corners, his dark eyebrows were almost lined and the forelock of his windswept dark hair dominated his forehead. The rounded framework of his mouth still withheld a boyish appeal and influenced Courtney to believe that he was still in his early twenties. The broad shoulders and torso on the other hand marked the supremacy of manhood.   

   The interchange of words between the flabbergasted pair was prevented by the sudden appearance of Ariel who, in uncivilized gluttony, flung herself at the stranger.

     ‘Leo!’ she shrieked, her voice radiating with boundless delight. ‘When did you get back?’

     ‘Last night,’ the docile voice replied.

     ‘Last night! And you didn’t call?’ His presence had metamorphosed her into a sentimental youth. On terming his facial expression as a diversion, she said, ‘Oh, this is Courtney, my new roommate.’

     ‘Ah, the Masters student,’ he revived from his knowledge, offering her a tanned hand.

     ‘You must be Leonardo,’ said Courtney with an injection of unreasonable stiffness.

     ‘Please, call me Leo,’ he insisted.

     With a curt nod, she retreated to the comfort of her forlorn bedroom, unsure about the raw angst that was drumming within. Perhaps it was due to the frisson that shot through her at the sight of Leo and learning that he was Ariel’s? Contradicting the idea proved to be arduous, especially with her heart raging, but Courtney was eventually successful in belittling the theory by consolidating her attention in her work.

      But the frisson renovated at Leonardo’s frequent visits. His appealing features aside, Courtney was soon charmed by his conversations, coquettish conduct and especially his passion for football, something that Ariel, infuriated, tried to submerge only in vain. Enduring his sleepovers proved to be ordeals. The knowledge that he was making love to another woman a few meters away was venom in her mind. Worse still, was his fixation with her.

     ‘So, do you like it here?’ he asked one day while aiding her with preparing lunch. Ariel was slumped on a couch, witnessing a musical program.

     Narrowly avoiding slicing her thumb, Courtney responded churlishly, ‘Yes.’ Their hands brushed and she instantly withdrew hers. Morosely, Courtney registered how she always discerned his presence, even if she was unaware of it.

     ‘I could show you around,’ he offered.

     The temptation possessed her as she visualized them together, enjoying a pleasant evening, but she replied. ‘No thanks, I am busy.’

    The following month, things did not facilitate, only exacerbated. The more Courtney demurred to engage with him, the more he seemed concerted on knowing her. Her cantankerous responses to his proposals did nothing to diminish his interest.

     ‘Why do you do that?’ he questioned rather unexpectedly one evening when they were abandoned by a sleeping Ariel.

     ‘Do what?’

     ‘Play hard-to-get-at.’

     ‘Why do you care?’ Her effort at walking away was halted by Leo blocking her path. ‘Look here…’ Lust momentarily overwhelmed her and swallowed her voice. ‘I am not your priority, Ariel is.’

      ‘You could be,’ he blurted, sounding off-hand and heated. ‘It’s not up to you to decide. Besides, Ariel and I aren’t exactly serious about our relationship. She is just a friend.’

       ‘A friend you often share a bed with,’ Courtney pointed out.

      Locking his eyes with her face he said, ‘We are both just kidding around.’

      ‘Ariel isn’t!’ she snapped. ‘She is serious and I am not coming between you.’

      ‘Is that supposed to mean you care for me?’

      ‘No, it means stay away from me.’ And with that, she walked away, ambivalent whether to cavort at his attraction towards her, or dread over his flippancy towards his affair with Ariel.

      Fortunately, Leo evinced signs of accepting her caveat and maintained a good distance from her over the next few visits. The melancholy that cascaded at the sight of the couple was heartrending, but the fact that Ariel was being conserved from pain contented Courtney.

    After a smooth week though, his efforts collapsed. Ariel was lured away by a mall promotion when he turned up and hammered the door for quite sometime. Finally, when it did open, with an objectionable look, he said ‘Where the hell…What’s wrong, Courtney?’

      Courtney flounced, but her seized hand prevented her from accomplishing any more than a few steps.

      ‘What’s wrong?’ he repeated his hand tightening as she grappled to free hers.

      ‘Nothing.’

      ‘Courtney!’

     ‘My mother called,’ she responded, too weary to argue. ‘My da-dad’s been in an acc-accident.’ Enfeebled, she allowed him to embrace her and rest his chin on her head. She found comfort in his lack of commiseration and his only words, ‘I am here.’ He looked down to contemplate her features and Courtney felt a disturbing craving to permit their corporeal attraction to take over. It was very crass of both of them but, he had perused her desires and was already leaning down. She visualized their entwining lips, except as his grazed hers, the door flung open and cataclysm struck.

    Ariel stood there, thunderstruck.  Her countenance emitted her antagonistic thoughts on their carnal moment. It was much too late to make amends, but Courtney tried anyway.

    ‘Ariel let me-’

    ‘No!’ she screeched, acridly before whirling around and tearing away. Courtney’s try at following her was arrested by Leo, who had once again grabbed her hand.

    ‘You stay here,’ he advised. ‘I’ll be back with her in a few minutes.’

     He didn’t. At midnight, Ariel doddered home, her hair and garments bedraggled, her hand clutching the neck of a wine bottle.

     ‘Ariel, where have you been?’

      Ariel lifted a shaking finger to her lips. ‘Hush, Court…the ne-neighbors will be up.’

     ‘I am so sorry, Ariel.’ Tears slipped down her face without any resistance.

     ‘O-Oh you sound ju-just like h-him. He catches me a-and s-says ‘A-Ariel, its all my  f-fault. Come h-home.’ And here I thought you t-two w-were the f-family I never h-had. Tell, me Court did you s-sleep with him?’

     ‘Ariel, please!’

     ‘Screw you, Courtney!’ Naked acrimony shaped her features. ‘Y-You can d-ditch the g-good girl act now. The whole in-innocent g-girl thing of yours was j-just an act right? Right?’

    Her backlash to Courtney’s silence was flinging the bottle at her. It missed. Oblivious to the accretion of Courtney’s abiding tears, Ariel turned and staggered to her bed.

     The following morning, when the table clock besides the bed was apprising time to be elapsing past very early hours of the morning, just around five, Courtney was denuding her wardrobe. The previous night had provided her with little sleep but plenty of time for aligning her thoughts. Leo’s several calls were avoided by her. The only thing that edified her slightly was her mother’s text which stated that her father was much better.

     Her own actions, she judged, were unethical and despicable especially since they ailed one of the most important persons of her life, her best friend. She would never forgive herself, but taking herself out of the triangle seemed like a good beginning for refurbishing the damage. As she zipped her suitcase, Courtney recalled her other plans. After yanking her cell phone out of her purse, Courtney typed ‘I Hate You’ and sent it to Leonardo. It was an excruciating lie, hopefully a cogent one, but Courtney had sworn to counteract her sins and decided that abhorrence was likely to detach his passion for her. Still bleary-eyed from her tears, she then scribbled a couple of words on a note-pad. Stealthily, she slid to Ariel’s congested room and set the paper beside the table-lamp. Her eyes lingered on Ariel’s worn and despondent face, despicable feelings demolishing the little self-respect she had in store. She confessed that the words ‘Forgive Me’ were futile. She didn’t deserve forgiveness. Moments later, she decamped, leaving behind no tinge of her existence, only memories.

 

 

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