AN: It's that time of the month again, and I've actually produced something. :D
Excuse the theme of essay fever. I guess I have a one-tracked mind ¬_¬
"You know," Seb said, as his eyes scanned to the end of the last page. "You write like you talk."
Ianthe gave him a quizzical look.
"Prolifically?" she said. Seb flipped the papers of her essay draft back into place, and held the bundle out to her.
"Chaotically," he corrected her.
There was a pause as she waited for him to say more, but apparently, he was done. His naturally grim mouth was set in a thin lipped line, and from beneath the shaggy blond hair that hung down to his wide, flat cheekbones, the look of finality in his eyes was unmissable.
Ianthe's hands trembled as she took the pages back. She overshot a fraction, and grazed Seb's thumb with her nail. He didn't complain, and she didn't apologize.
"You think I should start again?" she said, fighting back tears. "Jesus! I'm not even halfway through, and I'm going to have to go right back to square one..."
"I didn't say that," Seb said, shrugging up the shoulders that were a good size too big for his spindley frame, as he pulled out one of the books from the neat little pile in front of him.
"Well, what else could you mean by saying that it's chaotic?" Ianthe hissed, in the most discreet way possible, waving the papers up and down under his nose. "Chaotic implies a lack of coherency, which means it isn't up to par as an academic work, which means it's most likely a hopeless case, which means –"
Seb cut her short.
"There you go again," he said, not looking up as he flicked through the book in search of the material he needed, but raising one finger in an accusatory point. "Chaos."
He couldn't help but be a little sharp with her. He'd come to the library in a quest for quiet so that he could get a large chunk of particularly concentration-consuming reading out of the way, and he hadn't expected to find her here, slowly working herself into a frenzy.
What kind of a friend would he have been to shrug her off?
Ianthe glared at him, her big, dark eyes squinting at the outside corners. She took the pages of her draft, and one by one, tore them in half, scrunching each piece into a tiny ball before batting them over the table into the nearest bin.
She was a surprisingly good shot.
"That's it," she said, failing to keep the hysteria out of her voice as her fingers gripped into the mid-brown roots of her hair. "I'm done. Somebody lobotomise me already."
"That's a bit extreme, isn't it?" Seb said, marking an interesting point from the book down in his notepad. He was going to keep working whether she liked it or not. Who said men couldn't multi-task?
"No, I've had it, take the whole thing out," she said, sinking down in her chair as her hands came up to cover her eyes. "I don't want to think, feel or exist anymore."
"That wouldn't be a lobotomy that would be euthanasia. Very brutal, unorthodox euthanasia."
"Shut up, pedant," Ianthe snapped, far too loudly for their location, opening her hands like shutters on a window to shoot Seb with a withering glare.
A sharp hiss shushed them from the librarian's desk.
The scowl on Ianthe's face broke as she swivelled in her chair to give the librarian an apologetic look, and mouth the word 'sorry'. The librarian pursed her lips with disapproval.
"Look," she hissed to Seb as she turned back around. "You got me into trouble."
"If you want to stop existing, why care about getting into trouble with a school librarian?" Seb said, turning the page of his book.
Ianthe's upper lip curled in a silent snarl, and she dropped her face into her hands, the heels pressing into her eyes.
"It's days like this that make me think how blissful death must be," she said, after a period of silence. Her voice was devoid of anger and frustration now, just thick with sorrow. "The thought of nothing mattering anymore seems like heaven. Life is just switched off, and there you are – free. You don't have to look, touch, hear or smell. All you have is beautiful, empty silence."
"Dear Lord," Seb muttered. "You can the girl out of the melodramatic teens, but you can't take the melodramatic teen out of the girl."
"Is that your way of telling me to grow up?" Ianthe said.
"I hate you."
"Of course you do."
"Maybe death is a bit extreme," Ianthe said after a moment of thought, lifting her head from her hands and staring over library with blank eyes. "Maybe a minor, but life-threatening accident would do the trick. If I went out onto the main road now and got hit by a car – just bad enough to break a leg, or my ribs or something – then I could forget about that stupid deadline tomorrow."
"Getting yourself put into hospital eighteen hours before a deadline won't excuse you from handing something in," Seb said, in the rational monotone of someone who had been through this routine before, most likely more than once. "Go and print off another draft, and get with it. Even if you did manage to get hit by a car and survive, you'd still have to finish your essay on the history of the novel at some point. You may as well get it out of the way."
Ianthe sighed heavily, and slid her gaze over to her friend.
"I'm seriously considering death being preferable to this mental torture," Ianthe muttered.
Seb sighed, and looked up from his book. They held each other's gaze for a short moment, his exasperated, hers defiant. They stayed like that until Seb flashed Ianthe that calm, knowing grin that had made her decide, on the very first day she met him, that she wanted this boy to be her friend.
Right now, it gave her a barely controllable urge to slap him.
"I'm suicidal, and you don't care," she said, unable to stop a pout.
"No, you're over-reacting and avoiding work by blathering on about death. There's a difference," Seb said, the grin almost turning into a smirk.
"So if I ever did become suicidal for real, you would care?"
Seb went back to his book.
"Of course I would," he said mildly.
He heard the scrape of Ianthe's chair pushing against the rough grain of the carpet, and then felt a warm, wet spot hit his cheek.
"You're such a darling sometimes," Ianthe said, with the barest hint of sarcasm in her voice, as she pulled out of the affectionate peck, and trotted over to the computers.
Seb watched her go with a small smile, and turned the page of his book. A very small voice, situated right at the back of his head, wondered out loud whether that morbid streak of hers really was just all talk.
For a second, he let that worried voice take over, and suddenly Ianthe was no longer there. Seb's world had an Ianthe shaped hole, with only an outline of her shape to ever suggest she was there in first place.
He took a deep breath, and made himself focus on the text in front of him. The small words became more than black marks on yellowing, musty paper, and as his brain took them in for processing, the worrying thoughts were banishing.
Back in the real world, Ianthe was fine, very much there, and retaking her seat, a bundle of paper in her hand.
"Okay you jammy little mo-fo," she muttered to it, as she dropped it onto the desk in front of her. "Let's get you finished."
Seb hummed an unfinished chuckle.
It was talk and hysteria with her. Nothing more.
Just talk, hysteria, and hypothetical exit strategies.
That was all.