Annalise paid for her own room, they’re so expensive I went into the communal dormitory instead. Casper was close behind us and shared my bunk. Annalise had enough money for one of the posh rooms with hot water and T.Vs and everything. I am a little curious about how she has so much but when it’s nearly certainly stolen I don’t dare to pass comment. I irritated her enough last night. I mean, after being her hero and saving her life. Not that any of that made her any more forgiving. As seen as she was out of danger the old Annalise, grumpy and miserable as ever was back to stay.
“Roebai, you awake?” Casper calls from the bed beneath me. I knew he was awake, I heard him shuffling about ages ago. I couldn’t be bothered to get up with this killer headache so pretended I was still asleep. I guessed Casper would be anxious to get back to the camp.
“So, what do you think of her?” Seriously, he wants to talk about Annalise? It’s eight in the morning, I can’t really remember much of last night, I do remember that she is an unpleasant little cow, do we really have to have this conversation now? That’s what I think.
What I say, on the other hand is, “She’s alright, I guess. You seem to really like her.” I left it open. Not a question but he could reply if he wanted. Although I’m not sure why he’d want to talk to me about feelingsy stuff, I know he will because Casper’s always talked to me about everything. We’re close, in our own way. We’ve made our weird relationship work. Whatever it is he saw in me, I’ve repaid him for his patience and tolerance by being better to him than the rest. Maybe I wouldn’t have initiated a friendship but I’m glad he did or I wouldn’t have anybody. Who else would give me a chance?
“Yeah, I really like her. I know she could seem stuck up but she just seems shy in a weird way. She seems lost and I want to help her. I want to make her smile.” My first instinct is to mock him. I stop myself, it’d be too harsh. It’s amazing enough Casper chooses me for his friend, I don’t want to make him feel bad about confiding in me. I might not be good at this kind of thing but I’m the only person Casper would be so open with. He’s waiting for me to say something. I’m not used to being nice and I don’t have a clue what I’m meant to say.
“That’s sweet,” I settle for, aware how rubbish that is. Saying anything without being sarcastic was still an accomplishment for me in that situation. Despite the pathetic reply, I decide to be proud of myself. Maybe one day I’ll get the hang of this whole being a friend to someone thing.
I’m not sure if I’ve understood him right. Right from the start, I thought he fancied her. Thing is, there’s liking a girl and there’s liking a girl. There’s the, “She’s pretty hot, I’d snog her if she gave me the chance,” you think to yourself one moment and wouldn’t even recognise her the next kind of liking. Then there’s the type that makes people go crazy. I don’t really get it but I’ve seen it often enough. This is the kind people confuse with love. It really isn’t. Take Casper, he’s known this girl how long? Like fourteen hours tops. Love at first sight is a load of rubbish; when you like what you’re looking at it’s attraction. The love thing’s way more complicated than that. Good job Casper hasn’t known her long enough to be going down that route or I’d be so out of my depth. The most a girl’s ever made me feel is smug.
“Do you think I stand a chance? Be honest. I won’t be offended, I know she’s really pretty and there’s something proper about the way she speaks. For some reason she seems better than us, if you get what I mean.”
“Honestly Casper, and you did want me to be honest, I think you’re way too good for her. If you’re serious about her though, you could get any girl you like. You’re sweet and sensitive and although you’re not bad boy gorgeous like my tall, dark, handsome self, you’re cute in your own way. Besides, she didn’t fall for my manly good looks so your soft puppy eyes are definitely in with a good shot." He laughed at this. Casper’s sense of humour is probably the reason why we manage to cope with each other. If he’d taken everything I’d ever said seriously, he’d hate me so much. Whenever I say anything that could hurt him, he chooses to laugh instead. I admire that.
“And,” he starts in his sarcastic tone, "you’re not too jealous of me I hope. I know it must be hard for you watching me get all the girls when you tried to impress and got a slapped face. If I get time, I’ll try to teach you my technique.” I drop down from the top bunk, pillow in hand and poised to attack. Slamming the pillow down onto his face, I nearly bash my head against the wooden frame above as I quickly recoil to escape his playful punch. He rolls out of his bed and does his best tough look (which is hilarious).
Everybody else is watching us, half annoyed and half amused, except for this one man who’s clearly a deep sleeper. Their expressions make me burst out laughing. Casper joins in but I’m not sure if he actually understands why I’m laughing. Joining in is what he does. He’s practically always laughing. I haven’t laughed for months.
The moment passes. I remember what I am now. However normal, or at least relatively normal compared to the rest of my life, my friendship with Casper is, I am a killer. Even in these, light, carefree moments. I must carry my guilt because it is a part of me, exactly as I must carry my arms and my legs. Without it I will not function. It is my last human emotion. The last thing to think about before I get lost philosophising in the deep, dark unknown. My guilt I can understand so I cherish it. It is the starting point of everything I know for sure.
“We’d better get going,” Casper says, “We’re going to be in enough trouble as it is.” For Casper being in trouble is an issue. For me it’s a daily reality. Although they think they detest me, I sometimes get the impression some of the guards have a soft spot for me. I can make the bad boy act adorable when I need to. All greenies are evil but some have better sides than others. They all tolerate the huge injustice that splits our weird wide world. Some seem troubled by the fact. Others don’t care at all. That’s the difference. I condemn the lot of them obviously, but some I can use to my advantage.
The guards aren’t that bad, it’s the ones at the top of the efficient power system that control the situation. The guards are lower down, the ones who may or may not agree but either way they feel powerless to do anything. Well, except doing their tiny bit towards solving injustice by letting me off some minor rebellion. That, at least, is within their capabilities and their position.
We don’t need to get dressed after sleeping in our clothes. I’m good to go and hot as ever. Casper goes into the bathroom to play with his hair or something like that. When he comes out, looking no different to me, we go to see if Annalise is ready to go.
She doesn’t come to the door when we knock. I try the door and she’s left it unlocked. I’m angry; I know she’d not have deliberately left it open so there must be some problem with it. Casper puts his arm in front of me to block my entrance and steps ahead. He goes in, and finds her starting to come round from presumably a rough night. Her skin is even paler than it was yesterday, remarkably, and her eyes, although they were cold, have lost the sparkle they managed the first time we met. Her red lids have grown over her eyeballs and droop onto the blackish purple bags in the corners.
I leave it to Casper to know what to do. I’m not sure whether to ask if she’s alright. It’s what people usually do in these circumstances because it shows they care. I’m not convinced though, normally people don’t want to talk about what’s bothering and even if they do tell you, then you’ve got to navigate the dangerous conversation without saying the exact thing which will have the worst possible effect. Rather than put myself in that position, I stay exactly where I am in the doorway.
Casper does surprisingly well. It doesn’t concern me how differently she responds to Casper than to me. I don’t like her enough to care about her opinion. If anything, I’m rather proud of my ability to wind her up so effortlessly. Acupuncture is a skilled, trained profession. What I do is pretty much the same, precise aim for the right nerve and a quick pinch. It’s an art.
As Casper leaves, her eyes follow him out the room. I’d expected her to be annoyed by the intrusion. She is not. I doubt she’s conscious of the half-smile lighting her face. Whatever he said seems to be of some comfort.
“She just needs a bit more time to get herself together,” Casper whispers as he steps out, closing the door softly behind him. He lets out the breath he’s seems to have been holding a while and smiles as his chest falls. They both look so peaceful this morning.