Devereux

Laurie Devereux. That girl.
©Parsavagely 2015-2016

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5. Chapter 5

School had become something of a monotony. I was determined not to let what was going on at home disturb my education, but there was only so much I could do. There were always going to be questions I didn’t want to answer and days I didn’t want to face. So instead, I got my head down; it’s easier to pretend I’m working than come up with some other excuse not to talk. Roxi would always give me a smile when she saw me - I’d return it but subtly, rumours are easier to start than fires and burn much more quickly. I’d never been good at lying, so the fact I’d stayed at her house overnight was going to be difficult to explain if it came out.

Staying with my dad was no more than a convenience, the hunt for somewhere else to go never ended but seemed now to be pointless. The night at Roxi’s had been a welcome relief, but I knew it was not a solution. Everyone has their own problems, lumping mine on her was most likely to just kill any friendship we had. I couldn’t risk that, not now.

Laurie’s pointless feud continued still, our classes continued to become more awkward but at least now I had a get-out; the teachers had been told to give me space, which I was thankful for, hell, I could hardly sit through a lesson without my mind drifting back to her. I missed my mum. I wanted her back, and when I didn’t, Laurie’s stares pushed me back into the shadows.

I never noticed that her eyes weren’t full of hate anymore, eye contact had become toxic in my head. I never saw her firm expression soften and work its way back to simple curiosity. But for some reason, whenever she failed to attend our lessons - which was fairly often - I felt worse. I never knew why because I never recognised the guilt I began to feel for keeping a grudge I’d never wanted.

That subconscious guilt took its toll, it was tiring and it brought so much darkness closer to the surface - and the harder I convinced myself I hated Laurie, the deeper the pain dug. I found myself using that get-out more and more often. My attendance was starting to match Laurie’s, which, of course turned the talk against me again.

///

“So...how many times?” Danny asked me. Mr Finch was running late, as expected, and Danny’s usual instinct was to gossip - not that he’d ever call it that.

“What do you mean?” I asked, going for a weary tone - as if that would stop him.

“You know, you and Miss Devereux, hm?” He explained, grinning as a few others turned to listen in. I scowled and pulled my textbook from my bag.

“The girl hates me, you really think she’d have anything to do with me if she didn’t have to?”

“Yes! This is classic “lover’s scrap” honestly, I’m telling you,” he laughed, but seeing my expression his confidence slipped. “Are you seriously not even going out?”

“What part of ‘the girl hates me’ did you fail to grasp?”

“Sure, sure, I get your point...no need to be so grouchy all the time,” Danny grumbled, “You get a free pass to skip lessons and all of a sudden you’re in a mood with me.”

“I’m not in a mood with you,” I explained, hoping the conversation might end soon, or at least be interrupted.

“Well it feels like I’m wading through shit trying to chat with you!”

“Oh for crying out loud…”

“What, am I not allowed to ask what I’ve done wrong?”

“Nothing, I told you, nothing,” I said, gathering up my things and getting up.

“Where are you going?”

“Outside.”

“It’s raining.”

“Better than wading in shit,” I snapped, turning on my heel and narrowly avoiding a collision with Mr Finch on my way out. “Sorry, Sir,” I muttered before I continued to exit. The route outside was automatic and only blocked by a single set of doors - which I opened a little too forcefully so that they smacked into the bin resting behind them. I looked for the first place to sit and took it.

Once again I found myself alone in the rain. The droplets formed fluid shapes across the dark polished wood of the picnic bench outside the common room. The sound was hypnotic, the repeating drumming echoed by my fingers, shaking against the table in front of me. I knew I was being pathetic, but I kept sobbing as if it were the day she left.

 

Memories are so cruel. They’re so real, reflections almost, as if I could just turn my head and see her again, for real. Sure there was visiting time, but only once a month and she didn’t want me to see her like that. So really, she was gone.

 

“Damn, it’s so hard to keep this thing lit in the rain,” I heard as someone sat opposite me, “but by the looks of it, you need this,” she handed the cigarette to me. I took it, but I’ve never wanted to smoke so I just held it.

 

“So, what’s up,” she asked. Waiting little more than a second, she tapped my head, making me look up, “Hey! I asked what was wrong.”

 

I looked up to see purple highlights in black hair. Her hair was dripping, as was mine but she was stood in a thin T-shirt, just as if it were midsummer.  Well, at least she seemed to be in a good mood. Good enough, anyway.

 

“I…I got some bad news a while back, that’s all,” I told her, but from her eyebrow raise I knew she wasn’t buying it. I tried again, “it’s family stuff, you know?”

 

“Okay, so, why are you still upset? You said it was a while back didn’t you?”

 

“Yeah but it’s kind of a big deal.”

 

“If it’s that big of a deal why won’t you tell me?”

 

“Because it’s personal?”

 

“Oh please,” she rolled her eyes and jumped onto the benchtop, swinging her legs round so she was facing me. “Personal is code for interesting, embarrassing or fucked up. All of which I happen to be an expert in.”

 

I sighed, “Maybe I just don’t want to tell you.”

 

“Maybe you should calm down and realise I’m trying to be nice.”

 

“You’re not doing very well.”

 

“I gave you a cig didn’t I? You’re not even smoking it you ungrateful git,” she teased.

 

“I don’t smoke.”

 

“You should, it’s bad for your health.”

 

“That makes no sense.”

 

“Think about it, all the best things are bad for your health, so smoking must be even better because it’s even worse, right?”

 

“What? I can’t even pretend to follow your logic.”

 

“Good,” she said with a grin, “that’s how I like it, now, what’s up?”

 

I realised then there was no avoiding it, whether I wanted to or not I was going to have to tell her. I wiped my eyes and cleared my throat, then in a moment of madness I tried the cigarette. I found myself choking so hard I almost drowned out her laughter.

 

“Even I wasn’t that bad!” She said between breaths.

 

“Well, whatever, you want to hear or not?” I snapped, she shut up and I could’ve sworn she leaned a little closer. I took a deep breath.

 

“My mum’s in prison, I saw her for the last time last night,” I told her slowly, “I have to go into foster care unless I find somewhere else to stay because I can’t afford to live alone.”

 

“Well,” she said, her tone finally serious, “that’s a bit shit.”

 

“A bit?”

 

“Okay, it’s fucking shit,” she conceded, “but you’re not staying at mine.”

 

“I know.”

 

She looked, for the first time, unsure. Her shoulders were slumped and her legs just dangled, swaying slightly as if there was some unseen breeze. She turned her head so I could only see her left side and closed her eyes.

 

“Are you o—”

 

“—Hush, they’re talking,” she whispered, raising a hand. I obediently closed my mouth and contented myself with just watching.

 

She left her hand in the air where it was, but ever so gently dropped her feet onto the ground. Tilting her head, she took one step away from the bench. A smile revealed itself, taking its time to delicately pull at the corners of Laurie’s lips. For a moment I thought she was dancing, but it was more like swaying, like she was rocking herself into a trance.

 

“They sing?” she asked, then confirmed, “They sing!”

 

I figured that they must have sung well by how happy this revelation seemed to have made her. She was turning and laughing, her feet landing lightly between each step. Something changed in her eyes, I couldn’t tell if something was missing or something new had taken its place, but there was definitely something different about them.

 

Without warning they became an awful lot closer.

 

“Enjoy the show?” she asked. Her tone was accusatory, I wasn’t sure why but I was suddenly very sure I had done something wrong.

 

“I...er…” I hesitated, searching for words but cut off by laughter.

 

“You take me so seriously!”

 

“I...what?”

 

“Oh my God! You’re so fucking innocent!”

 

“Hey, come on!” I argued. “How am I supposed to have worked you out already?”

 

“I’m not that hard to work out,” Laurie said. She held up a finger, indicating I shouldn’t reply. She jumped back onto the table and grabbed the cigarette, putting it in her mouth. “Happy Laurie,” she said with a gesture at herself before jumping back down and tilting her head, staring into the distance. “Creepy Laurie,” she said, turning her head slowly back to me.

 

I tried not to laugh, but I couldn’t help it. She knew what people thought, but she simply didn’t care. I felt guilty for being able to smile despite everything, but I knew it was good for me.

 

“Ha,” Laurie said.

 

“What?”

 

“Got you.”

 

“Huh?”

 

She grinned, “I got you to laugh.”

 

I couldn’t help smiling at that, she wasn’t the bitch I thought she was. She was definitely a bitch, but a bitch I could live with. “Thank you,” I said quietly.

 

“Anytime,” she replied, thinking for a second, “but I’d rather not have to do this every day, so try to cheer up, yeah?”

 

I gave her a weak smile “I’m doing my best.”

 

“God...I thought Roxi said you were fun, not a fucking misery all the time,” she said, laughing again, then placing a hand on the side of my shoulder, “seriously though, keep smiling, okay?”

 

I nodded and before I knew it, she had run back inside, leaving me with nothing more than a strange urge to run after her. I wasn’t that kind of guy though. So instead I sat there, letting the last few hints of smoke fade in my lungs and the rain sting my face.

 
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