You know those tense moments in the movies? Where the bad guy is just about to kill the good guy or the guy is about to move away from his ‘true love’? Yeah. I was in one of those tense moments.
We were now all sitting around the dining table, him making casual, polite conversations with my Mum and him being sweet to El. I cringed when my Mum responded with the most cringe-worthy, exaggerated sentence; ‘you’re oh so top-notch cool, kid’. I think that was her attempt to act ‘hip’.
The cute son, whose name was Charlie Hunter, was in his last year of compulsory education. He studied Art in Bridgewater college, which was known for producing good results. He liked sports, but only played for fun, and found great enjoyment in reading. He was so stunningly perfect.
Unfortunately, I hadn’t managed to say a single word to him this evening. He hadn’t ignored me, but everything he answered my Mum made a (probably planned) response.
Until he asked me something even my Mum didn’t know.
“So…Where would you travel if you could go anywhere, Anastasia?” Charlie asked me, a happy smile creeping onto his beautiful face.
I gulped, whilst my Mum looked rather frantic. “Probably Japan. I mean their culture is so unique and I love the fashion and-”
“It’s probably all those Japanese cartoon books you read. Charlie, she’s really a USA kind of girl” Mum gabbled, which gained her a deep frown from me.
Charlie smiled at Mum, but he looked put off. “Tell me, Anastasia, what’s the point of travelling if your only aim is the atmosphere? Wouldn’t it be hard to get over there?”
Miss Greyson glared at her son. “Charlie!”
I shook it off. “No, it’s OK, Miss Greyson.” I paused. “Is it wrong to crave happiness?”
Of course I was happy that Charlie seemed to want to talk to me, but I didn’t get why he needed to know all these fine details about my idea of a good time in a foreign country.
“No,” Charlie chuckled. “Not at all.” He sighed. “I apologise, Anastasia. That was…odd and out of place of me to say.”
“Nonsense, Charlie!” Mum beamed, rubbing his hand. “Anyway, since we’re all finished, Elsie, why don’t you take Miss Greyson and Charlie to the living room?”
I knew this wasn’t good. Mum wanted to have a ‘little chat’ with me, meaning she was going to tell me off for something that probably wasn’t even my fault and then she would make me feel guilty. Just brilliant.
Once Miss Greyson and Charlie were out of the picture, Mum’s facial expression shifted. She looked tired and angry and most of all disappointed.
“Do you want Miss Greyson and her son to get the wrong impression?” Mum sighed, pinching her nose.
I pulled a face. “What are you talking about? I did nothing wrong.”
Mum frowned. “Japan?! Japan is such a wacky place. They’re going to think I’m raising to be careless.”
“Trust me, Mum. No one in the world would be able to make that assumption.”
I started to walk out of the room, but I started to stop, as I heard Mum say ‘for Gods’ sake, girl’. Though, I decided to leave it and walked on to the living room.
“Nas!” El said cheerily, whilst beaming. “Come join us in our conversation about the pointlessness of continuous exams and the pressure it brings.”
“Isn’t it terrible?” Miss Greyson asked me, with so much passion, I felt obligated to agree with her.
“Yes, yes it is…So terrible.”
I felt as if someone was watching me. Like, this sort of thing doesn’t happen to me often, so I tend to get even more freaked out. I presumed it was my mother, but when I looked around Charlie quickly turned to face El, making me have thought that it was him. Although, no one could be sure. Charlie seemed to carry that element of mystery. It was impossible to know what he was thinking or what was going on in his head.
“Why is it so terrible, do you think, Anastasia?” Charlie asked me, frowning slightly. Why the hell did he have to keep asking me such annoying questions?
Luckily I did actually think excessive examinations was pointless. “Well, it causes people to think that the one most important thing in the world is their grades. That personality, or emotionality or health is less of importance than exam grades. It’s madness.”
Charlie seemed pleased, for whatever reason. “Indeed, Anastasia.”
Whilst El, Miss Greyson and Charlie (and later Mum) continued their conversation on education, I managed to sneak away. I went over to my favourite place at the back of the house, on the top floor. It had a beautiful view over the town and it looked especially gorgeous at night. Whenever I got scared or worried, especially when I was younger, I’d always go to this spot of the house. It made everything seem better.
It was in the attic, with only a small window and a broken bean bag as a seat, but I still didn’t care.
I stayed up there for a while, and was about to go downstairs, before I heard someone call out to the attic. Oh damn. What was I supposed to do now?
“Hello?” The person called out. It was a male voice, meaning it was either Charlie or a burglar, because, why on Earth would Charlie be nosing around up here? It didn’t really add up. And not only was it peculiar, it was also annoying. Even if it was Charlie, someone sincere and honest and great, the attic was my special place. I didn’t want to share, as selfish and as childish as that sounded.
“Hello?” They called out again. This time I would have to respond, whether I liked it or not.
“Yes…What is it?” I asked, still not being able to see the person.
Then they stepped out of the dark, and it could see the person clearly. It was Charlie. He looked even better so close up. Like a Greek God, only better.
“Your Mum wants you to come down” Charlie explained, shifting awkwardly.
“OK. I’ll come down, then” I said, standing up and getting off the beanbag I was just sitting on.
Yet Charlie didn’t look quite satisfied. “Are you alright up here? It seems a little…abandoned.”
As much as I knew Charlie was probably just trying to help, I really didn’t want his input. It felt not only unnecessary, but it would make things increasingly uncomfortable between us. Or maybe it would just make me uncomfortable, knowing someone knew about my special, secret place.
I tried to laugh it, being as casual about it as I could. “Oh! Me? Nah…I’m fine, really, Charlie. Thanks for asking, but it’s no problem. Let’s go downstairs and-”
But Charlie didn’t drop it. “Are you sure you’re OK? At dinner, and when you came into the living room and left. Is it something me and my Mum have done? Do we smell funny?”
Actually, Charlie, you smelt like heaven, but you didn’t need to know that.
“N- no, you don’t smell at all and I’m fine, really, Charlie.”
I didn’t get why he was still pushing it. It was like he enjoyed making me feel awkward.
“Charlie, is there something you wanted?” I sighed, starting to get a little irritated.
“I guess I’m just having a hard time figuring you out. I’m used to an open book” Charlie explained to me.
I responded with and nod and said “It’s not my fault I’m so closed off. It’s just the way I am. You can’t expect people to change if they’re comfortable with who they are.”
Charlie gave a soft chuckle. It was annoyingly unfair that he sounded so good when he was laughing. It distracted me and I almost forgot what I was going to say.
“I guess you’re right,” Charlie sighed, finally stopping laughing. “But is it wrong for me to be curious?”
“No,” I replied, simply. “But, careful, ‘cause one day, that curiosity may get you in trouble.”
Charlie smiled, gently. “I will be. Anyway, we should be heading downstairs…”
I nodded. “Yep.”
“Wait, let me just ask you one more thing,” Charlie said to me, whilst I sighed and nodded, yet again. “I heard your sister calling you ‘Nas’ and you seemed way more comfortable with that. Would you prefer me to call you that?”
I wished I wasn’t such a drama queen and I could have just said it was fine. But it wasn’t, not to me. “Actually, if you could call me ‘Nas’, I would much prefer that.”
Charlie responded with a happy nod.
I didn’t know whether to be annoyed or grateful that Charlie was so damn perceptive. On one hand, it made things less awkward for me. But, on the other hand, it meant that slowly, ever so slowly, I may have been in danger of opening up properly to someone.