A little something I came up with writing a short story for a creative writing class
| The stars twinkled above, some bright, some barely discernable, none giving off enough light to illuminate their hiding place in the trees. Amy sighed, and snuggled closer into Dom, feeling the warmth of his body down her left side, leaving her with the odd feeling of being partly submerged in hot bathwater. He looked down at where she was lying, watched her pointing out constellations to herself, and scarcely believing his luck. He knew she might merely be using him as someone who understood, as someone who was also dealing with what she was going through, and therefore would be a reliable shoulder to cry on, but he was grateful nonetheless.
They’d all had a shock, all felt the loss, but some of them seemed to be coping with it better than other. He allowed himself a small smile as he thought about Jason, seemingly untouchable, making sure everyone else was coping while appearing to be unfazed himself, but Dom knew the truth; he’d been the one to drive Jason to A&E after he cracked and punched the wall. Cam seemed to be coping, but she had always had a strong resolution, always seemed more mature and able to cope than the rest of them. Not that he was trivialising her grief; more she was the only one able to keep the heid after that night.
It seemed so long ago already, but it had only been a fortnight, two weeks in which the world had been shoogled aboot and put back in the wrong place, with one crucial piece missing. He had only been nineteen, the youngest of them all, and they knew he had problems, but none of them had expected this…then again, who does expect a friend to top themselves?
It still seemed utterly bizarre, like something you’d see in one of those poorly written soap operas Dom avoided like the plague. Hell, they’d been out that night, had been bowling, shared pizza and jokes, all five of them seemingly having the time of their lives. None of them could have none it would be the last time they’d be group.
Except him, Dom was now coming to realise; there’s no way he hadn’t planned it in advance, that would be why he had been so peaceful and happy to go along with their jokes, his mind was made up, and there was no changing it. Yet Dom couldn’t get the image of James smiling at him across the table out of his mind, the glint in his eye, the look that said everything was ok; had he misread it, should he have intervened? Oh no, don’t go there, that way madness lies.
“Christ James,” he muttered, only realising he had done it aloud when Amy looked up at him. “Why now, why at all?”
“Dom…are you ok?”
“Yeah, sorry, just thinking is all.” He looked down at her again, the slender, pretty girl he’d had his heart set on for months, and realised he wanted as far away from her as possible. “I think I’m gonna head back, you want a lift?”
They sat in silence the whole way, Amy staring fixedly out of the window, Dom’s eyes on the road. She whispered goodbye when he pulled over, and he sat and watched her walk to the door before moving off.
It was stupid, he thought. What was the point in getting upset at her? She didn’t even know about the fight.
James and Dom has been friends since nursery, bonding on the first day through their shared love of building things, and shared joy of grossing girls out. Never, in all the years in between, had they locked horns over anything; it was usually someone else on the receiving end, after either of them had heard enough gay jokes to last a hundred lifetimes. Not that it really bothered them, if their schoolmates wished to be so infantile when that was their choice. Unfortunately, the only way to shut some of the thicker bams up was to give them a panelling. Not that they were the only ones handing out a leathering, fights being pretty much commonplace throughout their schooldays.
The only time they had ever had a fight had been a few months back, having had one too many cans during an all-night pizza and video games marathon. James had brought up Amy, and how he was thinking of asking her to the upcoming Christmas dance, and Dom, who had been thinking the same thing, got a bit narked, to say the least. It had ended in a nosebleed, a black eye and a mutual agreement that neither of them would ask her, instead they would wait and see if she asked either of them. In the end they spent the night watching what claimed to be an Indiana Jones movie at the cinema; it was shite, but not as shite as the dance, Jason had later claimed, he having been the one Amy asked.
The incident had been playing over and over in Dom’s mind since that night, and while he knew it wasn’t directly responsible for what had happened, he couldn’t help feeling guilty. James had been diagnosed as bipolar two years earlier, and Dom lay awake at night, wondering if there was more he could have done; if there was anything he could have done.
He thought back to earlier on tonight, when he’d gotten the call from Amy; they had only started hanging out properly when she had started dating Jason, and Dom hadn’t even been aware that she had his number. He guessed it was sort of compliment, that she had wanted to talk to him, but now he wasn’t sure. It was Wednesday, which meant Jason had Aikido, and nothing got between him and practice, even if one of his hands was bandaged. So, had he been a last resort? She wanted someone with a car, and Dom was the last choice? He had to be; she was Cam’s friend from school, that’s how they’d met her, so surely Cam would be above him in the list?
He pulled into his parking space and killed the engine, resting his head on the steering wheel. He had to snap out of this; being mad at the world wouldn’t bring James back. He reached over and fished his parking permit out of the glove compartment; even at this time of night he was taking no chances with the Edinburgh Council Parking Nazis.
It took him forever to climb the two floors to the flat, at least, it felt like that. He had just raised his key to the lock when the door burst open and he came face to face with a drunken Kimiko and Ryan, clearly on their way to a fancy dress party. He hoped, considering their outfits.
“Oops, sorry. Have a nice night in Dom!”
He gave them a small smile as they passed; glad to shut the door behind them. That pair; always either drunk or high, it’s a wonder they had lasted this long at uni.
Dom found Cam sitting in the lounge, large mug of tea as always in hand, jazz as always on the stereo, book on her lap. It was as if the world had never changed.
The first thing he had learned about Cam was the passion for jazz music. That first, hung-over, bewildered day of university had opened his eyes to many new things, responsibility being the main player, but many old things had surfaced too. From an early age he’s been into jazz, due in no small part to spending so much time at his Nan’s. At school he had specialised in the genre, even getting put forward for nationwide competition. So when Cam had rocked up that first class, cans on, it had taken him seven syllables to make a friend.
“Rhapsody in Blue, Gershwin.”
She had smiled, not removing the cans, and pressed the shuffle button, another piece permeating the air. Five seconds later, he had a friend for life.
“Green Dolphin Street. Eddie Harris if I’m not mistaken.”
This had caused her to remove the headphones.
“Impressive,” she said, in the, he was ashamed to admit it, upper class English tones he had been expecting. “And you are?”
“Dominic Marshall. But please, call me Dom.”
“Camilla Jones,” she had replied, proffering a hand for him to shake. “But, likewise, I shorten it to Cam.”
They had sat together in the class; there was no official agreement, it just happened. Afterwards they went to a coffee shop, on Cam’s suggestion, which was when Dom first discovered just how much the woman loved tea. She also pulled a copy of the Guardian from her bag, a paper Dom had refused to go near in the past. However, she introduced him to G2, which happened to be running a piece about the Tokyo Jazz festival. Needless to say, they’d been firm friends since then.
She jumped at the sound of his voice, and then looked glad to see him. Apparently she had had fun with the dope buddies.
“Oh, don’t even go there baby. Work was a total drag, some douche came in to shout at me about something Theresa did the other night, and nothing I said could shut him up. Then I came home and found those two lolling around in the kitchen, making a mess, so I banished them to their room. I had to put my headphones on to block that out. Thank Buddha they are out of here, I was so close to throttling the pair of them. Want some tea?”
Dom looked down at a previously unnoticed teapot and mug on the floor.
“I figured you’d get fed up with Amy and be home soon.”
“Ta. And I didn’t get fed up with her, I just…Ach, I don’t know, I just don’t know!”
“It’s ok babe, it’ll take time.”
He nodded, and accepted the mug of tea, sitting back into the cushions on the sofa, and letting his thoughts drift with the music.
Camilla looked up from her book as she took a sip of tea, gazing over at Dom sitting on the other end of the sofa. Poor thing wasn’t taking this at all well, and who could blame him? His best friend of sixteen years had just killed himself, something like that would most definitely take time to get over. She looked up at the clock, and saw that it was nearing 11pm; as far as she knew he hadn’t eaten all day, and that wasn’t healthy.
“Hey, Dom, you want something to eat? I was thinking of pasta…”
“Yeah, please, that’d be nice.”
“C’mon, come sit in the kitchen.”
He pulled himself off the sofa, belatedly realising he was still wearing his hoodie and shoes. He shrugged both off and followed her through to the other room.
Cam started pulling pots from the cupboard, humming to herself as she gathered ingredients, sneaking glances at Dom, who had now picked up a section of the newspaper. She stopped, took a deep breath, and turned to face him.
“D’you want to talk?”
“All of this, about James, about you. You need to talk Dom; you can’t keep this all bottled up.”
He didn’t say anything for a moment, so she turned back to what she was doing, unsurprised to hear him crying gently behind her.
“I just don’t get it Cam, what makes someone do something like that? I know he had bad days, but we helped him get through it, he said himself he thought things would be ok. We were going to go travelling this summer, do Europe by rail, and get pissed in a pub somewhere, just chill. And now…I just feel I should have noticed something was up. Hell, I spent more time with the guy than anyone else; I just can’t help but think I should have noticed the signs!”
Cam gathered up the chopping board and knife, and transferred them to the table, where she sat opposite Dom, chopping mushrooms as she spoke.
“Look, I know people will keep saying it, and you won’t want to hear it, but you can’t keep blaming yourself. It’s a tragedy, I won’t deny it, I miss him too, but getting upset at yourself, and the world, won’t turn back time and bring James back. You’ve got to accept that and move on. Remember the good times, the times you were happy, the times you laughed. I know it’s all clichéd bullshit, but it’s true. We’re only here for a limited amount of time, so you have to make the most of it!”
Dom seemed stunned by her speech, and Cam herself was stunned by how angry she had sounded. She got up from the table and headed to the cooker, beginning to make a sauce in the pot next to the already cooking pasta.
Five minutes, then ten went past, and neither of them said anything. She dished up their dinner, fished forks from the cutlery holder by the sink, and sat down.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to sound so harsh. I’m hurting too.”
Still he said nothing, just silently scooping pasta into his mouth. Cam set about her own meal, figuring if he had anything to say, he’d divulge in due course. He finished his meal, thanked her and left the room before she could say “You’re welcome”. She sighed, dropping her fork into her now empty bowl, and slumping back against the wall.
He was hurt, she understood that, apparently he’d been relying on her as a source of comfort, and here she was, not only having stolen his blankie, but having chewed him out for having it in the first place. She’d let him sleep, maybe things would be better in the morning…
Cam woke with such a jolt that she immediately thought she had been electrocuted. It was pitch black, when meant it must still be night; her “blackout shutters” were crooked, so some morning light always made its way into the room. As she lay trying to calm her breathing, her eyes growing accustomed to the dark, she was given another shock as she realised there was someone standing just inside her bedroom door.
“Sorry. Guess I wasn’t as quiet as I thought.”
Thank god it was Dom; she had been dreading it was a drunk Ryan, having gotten the wrong room. Now she was awake, she could hear someone clattering around in the kitchen. That would be another mess she’d have to clean up I the morning.
“Dom, no, it’s ok.” She sat up, switching on her bedside lamp as she did so. “Just got a fright is all.”
He smiled slightly, and she patted the empty side of the bed, indicating he should come and sit down. He did, curling his knees up to his chest and hugging them tightly.
“So, what’s on your mind?”
“I was thinking, about what you said earlier, and you’ve right; being mad at everything isn’t going to make anything better. And I was thinking about James, and the times we spent together, and it made me realise I have to treasure what I have, who I have.” He glanced over at Cam as he said this, a look that made her heart flutter. “So, I decided, now, before I bottle out, to tell you I love you, and I am so glad I know you.” He made to stand up. “And know I’m done freaking you out, I’ll go back to my own room.”
“No, it’s ok, you can stay. Plenty of room in here for two.”
He laughed, a proper, happy laugh, letting her know a massive weight had been lifted from his shoulders, and they were a step closer to getting the old Dom back. She joined in, shaking her head as she thought of how the two of them must look.
“So, when are you getting the tattoo?”
He looked over sharply, subconsciously stroking his untattooed arm. Then he smiled again, knowing she knew him too well not to know he was planning some sort of memorial.
“I dunno. I think I want to draw something up, something original, but I’ll have to make sure it’s transferable.”
“Well, you’re a great artist, so I’m sure you can do something.” She yawned. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, it was a long shift, and I have loads of vocab to revise in the morning. You’re welcome to sleep here, but if you’re going to, get in the bloody bed!”
He laughed again, sliding off the bed and pulling the duvet back, inadvertently revealing Cam to be wearing just a vest and pants. He looked away quickly, and climbed in beside her.
“No problem. Goodnight.”
She turned her light off, and lay down on her side, facing away from him. Soon, the sound of gentle breathing filled the room, and Dom just lay there, staring at the ceiling, thinking.
When Dom woke next morning, he found Cam was no longer lying beside him. He got up, rubbing sleep out of his eyes, made the bed, and headed into the kitchen, where he found her at the sink, up to her elbows in soapy water, angry mutterings permeating the air over the sound of the radio.
Dom hesitated for a moment, unsure whether he should speak, or if he should just sit down and shut up until Cam spotted him. She did this while he was still standing at the door.
“Oh, hey, morning. Sorry, just wound up at those two, they make such a mess! Their stuff was everywhere; I couldn’t start cooking ‘til I cleaned it up.”
“No, god, I wasn’t coming through expecting my breakfast to be on the table, it’s cool.” He sat down. “Did they wreck your stuff again?” Only a week before they had broken the teapot Cam had been given for her eighteenth birthday.
“No, it’s theirs, it’s just everywhere!”
“Leave it. They’ll have to wash up eventually. Tell you what, you put on a pot of tea, I’ll do us a fry up.”
She smiled, the big, beautiful smile he loved so much, threw the cloth back into the sink, and dried her hands.
“You know, you’re right; if I keep doing it they’ll expect me to do it.” She grabbed the packet of tea leaves out of the cupboard. “Sausages are in the freezer.”
Neither of them said much as they worked, just letting the music from the radio fill the room; Cam liked it, liked that she could be in someone’s company but not have to engage them constantly. She poured him a mug of tea, laid it at the side of the hob, where he was charcoaling various animal matter, and settled herself down at the table with a newspaper. She was so lost in her own world that he had to move the paper to get her attention.
“Oh, thanks love.”
He set the plate down in front of her, tossed some cutlery down next to it, and sat down in front of his own. The food was unrecognisable; everything that could have been blackened had been, but it tasted delicious.
She looked up and saw him sitting with a bit of sausage halfway to his mouth, clearly thinking about something. He put his fork down, and she did the same, catching his eye so he knew she was listening.
“Look, about last night…”
She had seen this coming, and cut him off. “Don’t you go apologising about it being awkward, ‘cos it wasn’t; you had to talk, I understand that. And it was nice sleeping beside someone, so it’s ok.”
He gave a small smile, nodded to himself, and went back to eating.