“I need to take a year out.” I whispered softly to no one in particular. I was in the office and I was taking a breather before concluding my last piece of coursework before the end of the term. “But then I’d have to be in education longer ” Perhaps talking to yourself wasn’t the best thing to do in that situation, it didn’t help either that it made you look positively insane. The boys were downstairs watching the new episode of Sword Art Online just before they would be dead to the world until about 12pm the next day.
The illumination was low from the landing and the only glow was of the word document in front of me and the small gleam of the reading light shining down on the textbook pages. Pure whites and jet blacks glowed out and mirrored themselves in the glistening picture frame of my eyes. From the floor below i could hear the slight muffled cries from the TV, every now and then Dan or Phil would comment on a previous moment in the show like the other one hadn’t been watching. It was comforting and unnerving at the same time. Almost as if you were sitting on a glass balcony when you were afraid of heights.
I raked a quick brisk hand through my hair and fell back into the comfy cushioned office swivel chair. University was stressing me out, I needed a break for a couple of months and had recently been debating a gap year. I was currently studying Business and Finance at Oxford University.
Recently a small voice in the back of my brain had been hissing sour ideas about dropping out like Dan did a few years back. This couldn't happen for a number of reasons but the biggest would be the downfall of everything I have worked so hard for my entire life. These thoughts were repressed inside my mind for about a year and a half, no one would understand my situation better than myself so I decided to keep everything bottled up inside and keep a smile on my face. After all, it was easier to just smile than have to explain why you’re upset.
Phil called from the bottom of the office stairs. I wheeled the chair towards the door by pushing off the desk with my left foot.
I replied twirling the golden ring I wore on my index finger around and around as he spoke.
“Do you want some tea? You’ve been up there for about four hours now without anything to eat or drink”
He sounded generally concerned about my well being, I know he was. But the truth was, I felt so pressurized that I convinced myself that eating and drinking would have to come after studying for my final exams in a couple of weeks. So I declined his offer.
“No thanks Phil, I’m fine.”
this earned me a worried look, it made his features look troubled and exasperated.
“Aria you need to eat something”
His voice was firmer now but still had a pleading edge to it. “I’m fine Phil honestly” I reassured him, knowing deep down inside that i was just lying to myself and him. I saw a glint of disquietude in his turquoise eyes and knew that he could sense the lie. He was worried for me. Someone had to be.
He wandered off to the kitchen and I turned back to my previous studying. Although I had read through this page about seven times in the last hour, I still couldn’t concentrate on the task at hand. My mind was wandering with lack of sleep and lack of food and drink. To be perfectly honest I felt as though I was lacking almost everything in my body right then. I was beyond the point of stressed, I was well and truly eradicated.
When I became conscious again the first thing I felt was a strong comforting hand on my shoulder and a sweet scent of aftershave flow through my nasal passages. The second thing I became aware of was that my face was pressed against a large stack of textbooks and a freshly sharpened pencil that had been compelled against my cheek and had left an indent on my rosy face. It was still dark in the office but it was even darker still because the sharp white glow from the computer screen had disappeared and the radiance from the landing had been turned off. The only form of luminosity was the street lamps from outside on the cracked asphalt that poured in through the thick window. It seemed to light Dan’s face quite attractively.
“Aria, wake up”
He breathed, his voice was sluggish and husky which showed signs that he had been asleep but was rudely interrupted by a siren from the busy streets outside. He must of remembered she was still upstairs and went to look for her when she didn’t eventually come back down again.
She let Dan prop her back up in the leather chair silently. His long brown cascading fringe flopped lifelessly over his eyes as he hauled me up from the wooden desk.
“Thanks Dan…” I mumbled my eyes slightly closed as I slumped further into the chair. “You need to get some sleep, love” Dan whispered, he was kneeling beside me now so he was level with my chin. His eyes were caked in sleep and the bags under his eyes were a sure sign that he wasn’t the only one that was worried about me. “What you’re doing to yourself isn’t healthy” I reached out a trembling hand and pushed his fringe out of his eyes so I could plant a kiss on his forehead. His eyes closed lightly as a reflex and he let out a willing sigh. “Exams aren’t healthy sweetheart” I laughed softly. All those hours and days of barely any sleep were certainly starting to catch up on me.
Without another word Dan stood to his full height and scooped me up into his arms. My head rested against the spot where his heart beat most clearly and his rising and falling chest made a satisfying lullaby for me. The last words I remembered hearing was his gentle tone saying “You mean so much to me and Phil, please look after yourself…”