The flight home seemed to drag on forever, the turbulence rudely shaking me awake every time I managed to doze off to sleep. I tried reading a book but the second I took it from my bag, my head exploded with pain. For the remainder of the journey I sat head in hands, groaning to myself and daydreaming of a cup of water, paracetamol and a bed. My bed. It suddenly dawned on me that I'd be in my own apartment yet again, alone. My heart sunk a little. I'd loved spending the week around everyone, knowing that wherever I went in the house there'd be signs of life. You could always hear a conversation going on in the background, laughter, or just the general sounds of people moving about. In my apartment, everything felt silent. The people who lived in the apartments beside and below me were pensioners who made barely any noise, and the apartment above me had been empty for months. Sometimes it felt as if I was living in the apartment block entirely by myself… and I can't stand being by myself.
I undid my seatbelt, peeking behind me to where Harry, Rob, Greg and Kate sat chatting and laughing to themselves… they had each other. They knew people, they weren't socially awkward loners like me. It'd never be difficult for one of them to pick up the phone and within minutes have a house full of people. For me, life was a bit different. The few friends I did have when I moved to university had all made new friends since; new friends that were obviously more exciting than I was. The only time I had company was when Lizzie decided to stop by to pour her 'problems' out to me. And as much as I didn't want to hear them, I knew it was the only way to temporarily cure my boredom.
I started thinking, perhaps I should just tell Harry how I feel? Surely he wouldn't mind me hanging around him a little more; he'd asked me on that holiday after all. But just as I was thinking it, memories from the night before began to appear in my mind. I didn't need to tell Harry how I felt… I already had! I sat up straight in my seat, covering my mouth with shock. I couldn't believe it! Why had I said that? How embarrassing! My loneliness was meant to be an eternal secret, one that I certainly didn't want Harry knowing. In my head, the second I told someone I was lonely they'd just laugh and disappear from my sad life. The images from the morning came to my head, Harry asking me if I remembered anything from last night. That must have been why! I squeezed my eyes shut in disbelief… what if he thought it was hilarious that I was a loner? What if after all this, I'm left even lonelier than before? I couldn't remember what he'd said in reply; gosh, being drunk around Harry was not a good idea. Turning around again, I realized I couldn't even ask Harry what had happened; we were surrounded by all his friends… all my friends, and I didn't want anyone else knowing how I really felt. I'd always wanted to give off an air of independence rather than stupid lonely girl. But perhaps that wasn't going to happen. Perhaps harry had already told them my shameful story and they were all laughing at me. I felt tears prick my eyes. This wasn't meant to happen. None of this was meant to happen.
"What're you crying for? Didn't take you for one to be scared of heights…" An Irish voice came from behind. It was Greg. I wiped my eyes furiously, watching him as he took the seat beside me. "Come on. What's up?"
I didn't know how to answer him. What was up? My humiliating secret had been told to one of the most precious people in my life? No. I couldn't tell him that.
"I'm just… I'm just sad that we're going home. I really loved living with you guys. It was fun." I cried, telling only half the truth. He smiled, pulling me into a bear hug… or, the biggest hug you can be pulled into whilst sitting on an aeroplane.
"What a cutie. You should tell Harry that. He'd be over the moon." He said, not a trace of sarcasm in his voice. I looked up at him.
"What do you mean?"
"You've had a massive effect on this boy y'know. I've never seen him this… content before. He didn't shag anyone this week, do you have any idea how much of a big deal that is?"
"Uhh… no, not really."
"Let's put it this way; last year, he slept with fifteen girls in the one week we were here… a few of them being threesomes, that is."
I almost choked.
"What!? But why would me being here change that?" I exclaimed, barely being able to cope with the concept of sleeping with so many people in such little time.
"I don't know Andy, baby. All I know is that he was far too concerned with you and your little death incident to give a shit about other girls. And I can't blame him. There's something about you, Andrea. Something… different." He winked before kissing me on the forehead and joining the others yet again. I sat in silence, wondering what on earth that meant. Something different? Yeah, the fact that I'm a loner! The more I thought about what he'd said, the more I felt comforted… comforted that even though I may see myself as a lonely girl with nothing to offer, perhaps others didn't feel the same way. At least, I hoped they didn't.
Why was Greg with Andrea? Why was Greg with Andrea!? Why wasn't I with Andrea? There were people talking to me, but I wasn't paying any attention. The only thing on my mind was Greg, walking over and sitting next to Andrea before kissing her on the head and returning to us. The thing that got me though, was the look he gave me when he came back. He was doing this on purpose, doing it to get me mad. And it was working. I sat with my fists clenched, a nasty snarl just dying to appear on my face. But obviously, surrounded by other people and with Andrea just seconds away, I could hardly launch myself at the dickhead. I still couldn't work out if what he said back at the Villa was the truth; would he really ask Andrea to date him? Or was he really joking around with me? Either way, I didn't like it. I didn't want to feel like this thing was a competition; I don't want to have to compete for Andrea's heart. I want to be the only one. And I don't care if that's selfish of me. I should have noticed it from the second she opened her door that Thursday night dressed in nothing but a towel… the girl should be mine. And there's so many reasons that just thinking about them makes my head swirl.
"Harry, you alright bro?" Emma asked all of a sudden, jolting me from the little world inside my head back to reality.
"What? Oh right, yeah, yeah. Just thinking about what I'm gonna wear to the Waterhouse Ball this year. Got any ideas?" I said, knowing that such a big topic would throw off any questions about Andrea and how I felt about her.
"Oh my God! I totally forgot about that… Kate! You and I need to go shopping for an outfit!" Emma cried, yanking Kate's arm.
It reminded me that I still had to give this Ticket to Andy. Plus, seeing that it was in three days' time, I was really running out of time to do it. I began to wonder how I should do it… take her out to dinner and give them to her there? Or just do it over a film and a takeaway at my place, keep it simple? Gosh. It began to felt like I was proposing to the girl. But I finally decided that I'd go to her apartment that evening, help her unpack and then give her the tickets. At least then, I'd be alone with her. Any 'thank you' treats would be done in privacy… not that I was doing it for the potential treats. Although that would be a nice extra.
An hour or so later, we were collecting our bags at the VIP arrivals lounge and getting ready to return to normal life yet again.
"Hey Harry," Ollie said, grabbing my shoulder. "Need to talk to you for a second. It's about Andrea." All the hairs on the back of my neck spiked; did I really want to hear this?
"What is it?" I muttered quietly, letting the others walk out towards the cars.
"You saw Greg go up and chat to Andrea on the plane, right?" He said, looking serious all of a sudden.
"He said she was crying."
"What? Why!? Is she alright? Is she feeling ill again?" I asked, fearing the worst.
"Not quite. Apparently she said she feels bad… about kissing you the other night."
My heart dropped.
"Listen Harry. You're my brother, and at the end of the day I don't want to see you get hurt. So when I tell you this, you gotta understand okay?"
"She doesn't feel that way towards you. She told Greg that the reason she felt bad is because it's me that she likes."
I felt all the colour from my face disappear. Everything he'd said about not wanting me to get hurt faded from my head, and a snapped. Bang. Before I'd even thought about it, he was on the floor, nose bleeding everywhere. I'd hit him. Hard. In front of everyone; the security guards, my sister, my mum… Andrea. My world stopped for a second and I surveyed the room. Everyone was looking at me with disgust, shaking their heads and prompting the guards to make their way over to me. Andrea had her eyebrows furrowed, mouth covered with her hands in shock. I'd really fucked up this time, and I knew it. I didn't need the guards to remove me; I needed to remove myself. So I did, turning and bolting out into the car park. I'd left my bags in the rush; no biggie, I could buy all that shit again. What I couldn't buy back was my dignity… and I couldn't buy back Andrea. I knew she'd be repelled by me, especially seeing as I'd hit… hit the man she loves. The words didn't sound right in my head. And as I drove frantically back to my apartment, nothing felt right. My brother? Of all people, why my brother? Watching her kiss someone who looked exactly like me would never be easy. Why did she tell Greg? Why didn't she tell me how she felt earlier? And why had she said all those things on the beach the night before… about being happier after she met me? That I made her feel wanted or something? Was it all a lie? Just something to tell me so I didn't feel like shit when she finally told me she was in love with my fucking brother? I couldn't hack it. I couldn't handle it at all. The thought of Andrea sitting at Ollie's side, wiping his bleeding nose and fussing over him made me feel sick.
My foot felt like it was magnetically stuck to the accelerator, my frustration playing out in my speed. A set of traffic lights appeared about a quarter of a mile ahead and I sped up, my breathing getting heavier and heavier as I got closer. It turned amber. It turned red. I couldn't stop… I didn't stop. And then all my anger, all the pain I felt in my chest, everything… stopped. I couldn't feel anything. I thought maybe it was over, maybe it was all over. And the worst thing about it all was that the last thing I thought before I blacked out was that well… what a relief. Now I don't have to feel anything at all anymore. Never again. I'm done.
Third Person's POV
"Woah, wonder what happened there?" Rob asked as they drove past what looked like a colossal accident on the way back from the airport. The ambulance lights flashed brightly in the wing mirrors, shining in Andrea's eyes and making her blink. She huddled up in the back seat and shut her eyes, not wanting to think about anything. Why had Harry punched Ollie in the face and stormed off? And why was everyone acting as if it wasn't a big deal? Ollie and Greg were squished beside her in the back, both talking about some big event that was coming up in the next few days. Rob and Kate were singing along to the music (badly) in the front, and Emma and her mum had gone back to their house already. Without Harry around, Andrea felt herself slowly sinking back to her former lonely self. She felt irrelevant; she didn't know this music. She didn't know what event the boys were talking about. And she didn't know how to inject herself into everybody's conversation. In fact, she didn't want to. The only thing Andrea wanted to do was to call Harry and find out if he was okay. It shocker her that none of his so-called friends had bothered to inspect the situation. She knew that if Amber had done the same thing back when they were close friends, she'd have called her immediately until she knew what had happened.
An hour or so later, Andrea closed the door of her apartment and leant on her suitcase, surveying the room. Everything was spotless from where she'd cleaned before she'd left; even someone with severe OCD would feel at ease gazing at such a tidy apartment. Andrea wasn't the type to leave unpacking until the next day; she immediately unzipped her suitcase and began putting everything back in its place. Piece by piece, she began feeling a little normal again. The eerie silence of her flat reminded her of life before Harry. She'd lived like this before, and she could do it again. As much as she'd enjoyed living with everyone… living with him, she knew that that wasn't how life would be. Perhaps the reason Harry had stormed off was because he'd had his holiday ruined by her near-death experience… maybe he was mad. After all, people went to Ibiza to escape. Not to be stuck by the side of your recovering friend. But then, that still didn't explain why he'd hit Ollie.
"No," She whispered to herself, folding a pair of riding pants and placing them neatly in a draw, "I mustn't think of him. I need to get back to normal. Stop living in a wonderland, Andy. Come on." A tiny, weak smile appeared on her otherwise blank face… wonderland. Was that how life with Harry around was? A wonderland? A sudden buzzing from her phone stopped her dead in her thoughts. The number flashing up on the screen was unrecognised… but something made her pick up anyway.
"Hello. Is this Ms Hart?"
"Uhh… yes. May I ask who this is?"
"My name is Doctor Machen. I have some bad news. Do you know Mr. Marsh? Harry Marsh?"
Andrea's heart dropped. She leant against the wall and slowly sunk to the floor.
The voice on the other end of the phone paused.
"I'm afraid he's been in a car accident. Would it be possible for you to come in? He's been drifting in and out of consciousness for the past hour now, and each time he mentions your name. We've only just managed to unlock his mobile to call you."
"Oh my God…" Andrea cried, remembering the accident she'd seen on the motorway on the way back from the airport. That could have been him. She could have passed by, leaving Harry laying sprawled and bleeding on the road. Tears fell from her eyes almost immediately.
"Oh! Yes, yes I'll be in straight away. Where is he!?"
"Come straight to Accident and Emergency and ask for him. I'll have a nurse wait for you."
"Thank you, thank you so much. I'll be there as soon as I can."
Every thought of returning to her normal life had already disintegrated; Harry was the only thing on her mind. She grabbed her keys, slung on a scarf and left the building, running down the street and to the nearest taxi rank she could find. In the back of the taxi Andrea sat face in her hands, the tears soaking her sleeves. After he'd spent so much time nursing her back to health, this was the least she could do. The second she'd paid the taxi driver, she was sprinting towards the Accident and Emergency ward, almost as if there were a basket full of gold bars waiting for her at the end.
"H… hello… I'm… I'm Miss Hart and I… I'm here for…"
"Harry Marsh, yes? Follow me." The nurse said, understanding Andrea's out of breath language. The blindingly bright lights in the corridors reminded her of her own stint in hospital just a week before. How could it be that two people so close to each other could go through such trials within the same week? It wasn't fair. But she had no time to think about that; the nurse took a sharp left and pulled back some curtains, revealing a bruised and battered Harry, lying with his eyes shut and various tubes running in and out of his body. Almost on cue, Andrea burst into tears yet again. The nurse patted her on the back and ushered her into the room before leaving them alone.
"Harry!? Oh my God…" Andrea bawled, softly pawing at his bloodied face. It was dry; at least the doctors had stopped the bleeding.
"Andy? Andy!" He replied, voice muffled and eyebrows furrowing.
"You're awake!? Oh, thank God…" She said, cupping his face and planting a firm kiss on his forehead.
"Ooh, a little lower please." Harry whispered, wincing as he tried to laugh.
"Awake and completely normal, I see. Harry… you scared the crap out of me! I thought I'd turn up and you'd be missing your head or something!"
"No… I'm not missing anything. Well, nothing but you, that is." His hand reached out, feeling for where she was. Andrea grabbed his hand and held it tightly. "I'm sorry for worrying you. It's my fault. I was being a moron."
"Why'd you leave like that? I thought we had such a good holiday… did I really ruin it for you?" She asked, brushing a strand of lose hair from his face after watching him attempt to blow it off himself.
"Because Ollie told me something… he told me what you said to Greg on the plane."
"…You hit your brother because I told Greg I was lonely? Harry, that makes no sense."
Harry paused, screwing his face up and trying to sit up. He failed miserably.
"No… no wait. He said that you'd told Greg that you felt bad about kissing me last night on the beach. You felt bad because… it's not me that you wanted to be kissing. You'd rather be kissing Ollie." Harry growled, his voice pained. Andrea did a double take.
"I kissed you on the beach!? And I'd rather be kissing who!? Harry, what on earth are you talking about? I never said that! Greg came over and asked me what was wrong, and I told him that I was worried you'd think I was a loser because of what I'd said to you on the beach the night before. I told you how lonely I was before I met you… that was supposed to be a secret. I don't like people knowing that I feel lonely." She explained, turning away from Harry in shame. He squeezed his eyes shut before raising his eyebrows so high that his eyes were finally prized open.
"That's what you said to Greg? Ollie… that fucker! I'll kill him! I swear, I'll fucking kill the twat!" He yelled, overexerting himself and causing the heart monitor to beep out of control. A doctor rushed in at the sound of it, urging him to calm down.
"No! I won't calm down… shit, that asshole! Let me out! Let me out!" His voice had almost reached a scream, the doctor physically having to hold him down on the bed whilst Andrea stood beside in horror. Ollie had twisted the truth yet again. But this time, it'd put Harry in hospital. That wasn't okay with her. Not at all.
"Harry please… stop. Get better. Just please, get better. I can't stand seeing you in pain like this… it hurts me too." She said, Harry calming down almost instantaneously.
"Now you know how I felt last week. In fact, no, you don't. Because you really were dead. And I bet you anything that that was Ollie's fault too. I just don't get it Andy… he's meant to be my brother. I get it, he's jealous. But if he'd just stop being such an asshole, the guy could be even more successful than I am. He's a mathematically genius, that boy. But no; he'd rather waste his time trying to ruin my life. Prick!" He took a few more deep breaths, finding Andrea's hand again and holding it tight. "Listen, I'm gonna ask them to move me to a private room. Would you… stay? I might recover quicker if you're here, Andy." He pleaded, cheeky grin returning to his face.
"Of course I will. Anything to make you recover quicker."
"Yes, any… wait, no not anything, you cheeky cripple!"
"Aww okay. Ah, but I have a present for you. A big present. And maybe after I give it to you, you'll give it to me." Harry said, winking perversely.
"Yep. But I think it'd be best to give it to you when I'm not stuck to a hospital bed."
Harry could only hope that the tickets to the Waterhouse Ball were still in his coat pocket, because imagining her reaction when he gave them to her was his motivation to recover as quickly as possible. Besides, now he knew she wasn't in love with his asshole of a brother, he yet again had a reason to wake up in the morning… Andrea.
A/N: No, I haven't given up on this. I've been promoted at work at it's a lot of work. But I'm soldiering on with this baby because I love it. If you're still reading... comments? PLEASE? Enna.