AN: Basically SBTD from David's Point Of View.
This one chapter is set a few years back, hence a few comments etc. which aren't relevant anymore. You'll get what I mean if you read. ^.^
Epigraph from 'Stutter' - Maroon 5.
Lyrics from 'First Time I Ever Saw Your Face' – originally written by Ewan MacColl.
'You're just a fantasy girl, It's an impossible world,
All I want is to be with you always.
I need you every day, pay some attention to me,
All I want is just you and me always.
Give me affection, I need your perfection,
'Cause it feels so good, you make me S-stutter, stutter.'
David's Point Of View.
I had always thought that university was a time for getting laid, drunk and not caring about keeping up appearances. I realised that my assumption on the last of those was completely wrong, as I listened to my flatmate's hollering screams, along with a tearing sound, echo from up the hallway. The first and the opposite of the last were very much related.
A few minutes later, a voice spoke up. "Check or pin stripe?"
I glanced up from my newspaper at Michael, the man of great vanity who I shared a house with, and who was currently standing in my bedroom door frame, holding two shirts.
"Check. I'm wearing a pinstripe, and we're not going as tweedledee and tweedledum." I replied.
He slowly nodded for a moment, before pulling off his t-shirt which had baked bean stains down the front and discarding on the floor along with the shunned choice. He slid his arms into the chosen one and, leaving it unbuttoned, paraded himself around my bedroom like a male peacock bestowing itself to its mate.
"Do you mind?" I irritably muttered.
Turning on his heel, he grinned, probably because he thought that he was pissing me off with his body. Sure, he looked good with his naturally tanned skin and defined six pack, but then, I was not the type of guy who would want that. "Ohh, jealous? Or maybe you're just attracted to me." He seductively whispered the last bit, waving a hand camply around in the air. He'd always had a bit of a thing for trying to make me seem gay. The truth couldn't have been further from it.
I snorted. "You wish. I would just prefer it greatly if I had a flatmate who left me in peace and wouldn't dump his stuff on the floor of my room."
"Huh. You love me really." He scooped up his clothing. "Aren't you going to get ready?"
"Yeah, in a minute."
"We're leaving in twenty."
"I know. I just don't take three hours to wash my hair and shave my chest."
"Wax it actually." He laughed as I winced. "There still some in the bathroom if you want me to do yours. And actually, whilst we're at it, you could do with a haircut... And a shave... And a moisturise." Lightly slapping my cheek, he smirked.
"For someone who claims to be straight as a ruler, you are incredibly feminine."
"For someone who wants his room to be absolutely pin neat, you sure look a mess." He retorted, raising an eyebrow.
There were times like this when I regretted sharing a flat with my best friend. Different as chalk and cheese, we were. He was average height, stocky, tanned and American. I was freakishly tall, skinny and pale as white ice, like the true Scotsman I was. I'd met him in my freshman year of medical university and we'd bonded over a mutual love of rugby. That was where the similarities ended, but somehow or other, a year later I found myself sharing a house with him and a load of his mates. Another three years down the line, and here we were. A future surgeon just about to enter specialty training and a neurologist still a year away from entering the big, scary world of real-life branch internship.
"What're you even doing?" He frowned at me now.
"Checking stocks. You should really think about investing."
Shaking his head, he began to rattle around with the objects on my desk. "What's the point?"
"The point? Well, I'm sitting on a fortune of several million pounds, that's the point."
He shrugged. "I've got my inheritance."
"Yeah, and within a year, if you play your cards right, I reckon you could double it. I predict Apple stocks are going to make a massive rise over the next five years or so."
"Apples? Why would I invest in apples?"
"No, Apple. It's an American computer company, about to branch out into other technology routes. You should really know that. I reckon they're onto something big and electronics changing."
"And you think I should risk my money on this business?"
I shook my head. "Okay, but when I'm a multi billionaire, living in my Surrey estate, and you're in a poky one bed flat with the ceiling leaking, I'll be the one laughing."
He grunted in reply, grabbing my comb from under a book and sorting his blonde hair out in front of the mirror.
"Why are you fussing so much? It's just a summertime booze up."
" 'Cause I plan to get laid tonight, my friend. I gotta look b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l." He spelt the last word out. "There'll be plenty of pretty looking girlies to get off with. You know, if you scrubbed up a bit, you could easily catch the eye of someone."
"Whatever." I folded the paper and chucked it to the bottom of my bed, on which I was currently lying.
He glanced over at me. "Still hung up over Rebecca?"
"Michael, it's been well over a year."
"You can still be in love with her."
"I don't know if I actually ever was." I sighed.
"Well, you told her so."
"Yeah, and I didn't get it back. Kinda crushed me a bit."
"Eh, that's what happens when you lose your virginity to someone. You're lying there, totally mind blown that it actually happened, you're all hormonally confused, and it slips out. She gets scared and runs off; it's all the same."
"And you would know?"
"Yeah, only, when I said it, I actually got told so back."
"Sorry." He finished combing his hair into a neat fashion, then rubbed his palm through it, totally messing it up. Made sense to do that, didn't it?
"Remind me again why you broke up with Tanya."
" 'Cause she wanted to get married. I loved her, sure I did, but she wasn't one I would spend the rest of my life with. I'm getting on into my mid-twenties; now's the time I should maybe be meeting that person, but I had to have a bit of fun first."
"I think I'd like that sort of commitment." I mused, staring at the ceiling.
He turned round, incredulous. "You're twenty one; you should be shagging everything that moves. I sure was."
"That's a bit derogative. I reckon you should really love someone to sleep with them. I mean, what if she got pregnant?"
"That's what a condom's for, you berk. Speaking of which, I'm all out, got any I could borrow?"
"Dude, it's me. Don't be stupid; of course I don't."
He rolled his eyes as he walked out. "Then we need to stop at a garage on the way. Be quick; we haven't got much time."
When he had gone, I got up, finding a clean white and grey pinstriped shirt and a pair of jeans and stumbled through to the bathroom. Having a quick shower and having utmost disgust at the waxing strips lying in the waste bin, I stood, looking self consciously at myself, in the mirror, hands grasping onto the ceramic sink.
That was one of the things I could never understand; Michael could stare at himself for hours in any shiny surface. I had never been particularly fussed about the way I looked; I was complacent in my own skin. I am who I am, and that's the way it was. I don't think I would have actually changed myself if the opportunity were to ever arise. Yet, I was still uncomfortable at seeing myself in the perspective that other people did.
I didn't really know what to think of myself, in terms of if someone would be attracted to me. I guess I was more of the unusual look rather than outright hot. The dark, mysterious type with strong features which would need a... I dunno, more deep, older person to fall for. That probably doesn't make sense. Just that the young girls would want the traditional 'fit' guy. Michael, in all respects.
Speaking of which, his earlier comments, I could now understand. My hair hung in wet strands about halfway down to my shoulders, and a week-old beard dusted across my jaw. Groaning, realising that I had to fix that, I opened the cabinet, pulling out a razor and a can of shaving foam, my fingers glancing off a pack of 24hour contact lenses, which, at a moment's thought, I also retrieved.
I neglected to mention that, right? I wore glasses. Major turnoff for some people. But hey, contact lenses are an absolute bugger; they irritate my eyes something chronic, but there were certain times which arose, at which maybe they were a necessity. Hell, I'd moved on a long time ago from my previous relationship, and I dunno, if I could have been bothered, I may have tried to give Michael a run for his money that night.
The whole world went a bit blurry as I removed the black, square rimmed glasses, before enlightening it back into sharp focus as I placed the two plastic lens against my pupil. Oh my god, I'd forgotten how much they hurt. Scrutinising myself once more, I sighed. I didn't even look mysterious now. More like a penniless hobo.
Ten minutes later, freshly shaven and dressed, I stepped into the hallway, where Michael was tapping him shoe impatiently on the tiled floor, glancing at his watch. "We're gonna be late."
"Who cares? Maybe if you hadn't taken so long in the bathroom at the first place-"
He cut me off, pulling a ten pence piece out of his trouser pocket. "Call for driving. Heads or tails?"
He flipped it, catching it with one hand and placing in on the back of the other's wrist. Smirking, he removed it. "Tails."
"Whatever." I grabbed the car key from its hook, turned back to face his incredulous expression.
"What're you wearing?" He looked aghast at my tightish jeans and converse. "You look so gay."
"Well, I was gonna go all out and wear a pink floral shirt, but I didn't want to give a too strong first impression to some people." I replied, rolling my eyes.
"Mate, it's scandalous!"
"I'm setting a fashion trend. You wait, in a few months, everyone'll be wearing them."
"Yeah, right." He snorted as we exited the flat, into the warmish, late June evening and got into our shared, battered mini cooper. He insisted, halfway up the motorway, that we had to pull in at a service station so he could buy his 'necessities' as he put it. And so, we arrived, a good forty minutes late, at our destination. A friend of a friend's summer backyard party, and judging by the cars lined up and down the street, word had got out and a lot more had turned up than who were actually invited. We were though, don't get us wrong.
Having ended up finding a parking spot two streets away, it took roughly five minutes to walk to our destination, or, if we're being precise as I liked being, four minutes and thirty-two seconds. If I was in the mood for being really facetious, then I could have added on the fifty-eight point nine milliseconds, but that wouldn't have been right, as I liked being taken seriously, and to be quite frank, I was probably boring you senseless with my ramblings. But that was just the type of guy I am. Deal with it.
Starkly coming back to the real world, no one answered the door when Michael hammered on it, so we just made our way through the unlocked wrought iron side gate into the originally deceptive, but spacious, back garden, where, judging by the ominous drum beat rippling through the ground, the other inhabitants were located. I would say guests, but that's sounds a bit pretentious and formal, don't you think?
Another thing you may have noticed, is that my words seem to have changed over the last few paragraphs, whether because I want to engage in a conversation with you, or that I don't really want to go into what happened next in my life, because it scared me greatly, is an entirely different kettle of fish.
However, seeing as no-one will actually ever read this, as people can't see inside my head and all, with mind readers being scams in my opinion, it's not like someone knows exactly what I was musing about and is going to go and make it public viewing for the world's inhabitants to read or anything stupid and impossible like that, I shall carry on with my recollection of the night which, probably, in all respects, changed my life.
It was the same as most summer booze ups; a lot of familiar faces and a lot of alcohol, at which, I was not complaining. Now, I was not one who particularly festered in getting so drunk that I don't remember who I actually am, in stripped context, I find it actually rather repulsive, but that night I felt a compelling instinct to get well and truly off my face. Problem? Yeah, I'd drawn the short straw and was driving. I was not so irrational to execute both. So, for the next five hours or so, it was a couple of beers then mineral water and some carbonated soda for me. Maybe a coffee if I can find some to sober me up, just if I was a little bit merry.
Michael turned to me, cracking a lop sided smile, and leant into me to murmur "Do'ya want me to get you something to drink?"
I nodded in reply, not bothering to yell back over the music, and he disappeared into a crowd of swarming figures. I proceeded to stand there like a lemon for a couple of minutes until a guy with a vaguely recognisable face came over and attempted to strike up a conversation. He seemed nice enough, with a friendly smile, badly broken nose and short cropped blonde hair, and introduced himself as "Chris". At least, I think it was that, as it was kinda hard to hear.
"So, are you here with anyone?" I asked, breaking the awkward silence which had fallen, and judging by the uncomfortable look which passed over his face, the poor guy thought that I was hitting on him.
I was just about to explain otherwise when he nodded and gestured over to a group of people sitting on a blanket, under a fir tree, a little way off from the main hubbub. "Yeah... My girlfriend and some of our mates..."
'The first time I ever saw your face,
I thought the sun rose in your eyes,
And the moon and the stars were the gifts you gave
To the dark and empty skies, my love
To the dark and empty skies.'
That was when I saw her; and in those few milliseconds, the goals of my life instantaneously changed. She was looking over her shoulder, in our direction, a lock of dark auburn hair twisted around her forefinger, the rest fluttering out in a gentle breeze, laughing at something the person next to her had said. Her smile faded, turned into a more intent contemplation resting on to me, or so I thought. My heart felt like it was clasped in an iron clamp, which was rapidly spreading out across my chest, harnessing my lungs, crushing the air out of them and twisting my stomach into a thousand demonic knots. She was so, so beautiful. So pure and perfect, carefree and exuberant. She stole my heart in a beat, whisked it away and ran with it into the non existing ether, never to return.
Michael had reappeared to my side, holding a couple of cans of Carling, seeming hushed into a speechless persona. After what was as an spell bounded silent age, he softly spoke. "Oh my god."
Chris seemed oblivious to the remarkable, sudden change in the universe and only turned back and forth a few times, a confused look upon his face. " ...What the hell just happened?"
Michael slowly shook his head. "What's... What's her name?"
"The red head."
"Oh... You mean Amber."
Their conversation hadn't really registered in my mind until then. Amber. It suited her so well. Fragile, natural but still bewilderingly breathtaking.
Chris continued, realisation creeping into his voice. "Sure, she's pretty but don't even try; she doesn't date."
"I plan to soon change that." You may have thought it was I who murmured that, but much to my dismay and arrogance, it wasn't. It was Michael, and only then did I break my gaze from its captive, an unstoppable, primeval urge flooding through me to wallop him to the ground and growl that no-one, no-one except me, was to have this divine goddess. My knee gave an involuntary reflex jerk as I attempted to oppress this sudden, seething anger, luckily managing, although, something at the back of my brain was telling me to tussle, rather in the manner of like young stags; fighting for the mate.
It's not that I even wanted to sleep with her. I quite simply wanted to hold her in my arms, feel her touch against my skin, her breath brushing across my face and for her to return these overwhelming feelings which I have received from, quite frankly, capturing her within my visions. All this from a simple, ten second long gaze.
It was completely abnormal, absurd and probably inconceivable. In truth, it scared me; I couldn't even comprehend my own infeasible ardor. I felt like a rabbit in the headlights of a car, or a captive tied to the rails on the path of an oncoming train, or a sky diver realising that their parachute was not going to open. I knew that it would destroy me; it would internally smash me up, my bones shattered, organs failing and my heart cracked open and bleeding to the point where I didn't care for anything anymore - except her. It would be my demise, drawn out or quick, time could only tell, but it would come, and when it came, it would be a hard, sharp shock of pain. It would cause me to cry myself to sleep most nights, to make stupid mistakes which should never have happened before, and I would risk everything, every tangible and emotional possession I had, just for a chance. For her.
She unknowingly had me trapped, trussed up in everlasting chains, bound to her with a faithful enslavement. And the worst part? She couldn't let me go. She became the centre of my world, my gravity. Anchoring me to existence, my small thread of reality, tying me to the ground, not letting me float away into a place of sheer fantasy and sublime ecstasy.
A sharp elbow forcefully dug into my side, bringing me out of my apprehension of my current situation, and with a venomous glare, Michael passed me my can and muttered "Don't you dare do anything stupid."
What, to ruin his chances? I knew that glint in his eye, I knew exactly what he was thinking and wanted. He saw her as a piece of flesh; a body rather than a person. I had seen that happen so many times that I thought that it wouldn't faze me anymore. But it did, with a maniacal, psychedelic compulsion to not let him near her. I had grown used to lying in bed, hearing him banging some random girl in the next room, at which I would just turn the stereo on and play obnoxious music at full blast to get my point across. But not that time. That time, I wasn't going to let him do that. No way in hell was I going to. The only problem? How would I have done that without seeming like a crazed, mental jerk?
Chris also seemed to notice the look. "Listen mate, I have no problem with her dating someone and being happy, but if she lets you in and you break her heart, I swear to God -"
Michael cut him off. "I'm not gonna do that."
Jaw tight, Chris stiffly nodded, beginning to lead the way over, Michael following and me bringing up the rear. The hanger on; the meek little lamb.
There were a few hazy introductions, most going straight over the top of my head. "Hey, this is Amber, Ella, Kayla, Natalie and Zac... And um, guys... This is David and..." He trailed off, realising he didn't know.
"Mike." He cracked one of his infamous grins. "We're kinda loners here, mind if we join you?"
The was a couple of 'no's and a few shaking of heads. We sat down, Michael striking up easy conversation, the perfect schmoozer as always. I just sat silent, observing the interactions.
Amber was the only one also not to speak. She too just watched Michael, a thumb against her mouth as she lightly chewed upon the nail. I drank in her presence; the way she had tucked her hair behind one ear, but strands were falling forward into her face. Like when she found something fairly amusing, the corners of her mouth would turn upwards slightly and miniscule creases would appear at the corners of her eyes. How she was gracefully sitting, her long, pale legs tucked up beneath her, her palm resting on the arch on one bare foot. Everything about her seemed dainty, as if even a faint gust of wind could whisk her away, up into the atmosphere and away from me.
On closer inspection, her hair was not a dark auburn as it had first seemed. It was more of a titan red, with natural highlights of gold, chestnut and the occasional strawberry blonde. It tumbled down her back in a glossy waterfall, ever so slight waves enhancing its length and allurement.
The attention startlingly then turned to me. "So, David, are you graduating university this year as well?" The brunette girl, who I thought was Ella, Chris' girlfriend, asked.
"Oh... Um..." The sudden shift of conversation tripped me up. I wasn't shy, far from it actually, but I was tongue tied as Amber's eyes came to rest on me. They were green, a bright, glittering emerald, piercing me with their power. I felt naked, exposed in front of them. As if they could see far inside me, to what I was thinking. It was like being back in high school; I was a teenage boy again, driven by raving mad hormones, feeling shocked when his crush actually took notice of him. A crush. What a pathetic way to describe it. No, it was so much more. Quickly, I managed to swallow my shock and regain balance. "Oh... No, I finish my doctorate next year."
"You look very young."
I nonchalantly shrugged. "I started the course when I was sixteen. It was sort of how Michael here paid attention to me; he thought it would be funny on fresher's week to get the kid drunk and see what would happen."
That made Amber laugh; a delicate peal of laughter, like a bell softly chiming in the wind. "Fresher's week seems like a laugh." Her voice suited her perfectly. It was like music; a gentle, husky rise and fall of notes, quiet but still strong; making itself noticeable. Its tender tones wrapped themselves around me, caressing me into a breathless state. I could have listened to it forever and never gotten tired or bored.
I met her intense gaze, and her eyes widened slightly. It was not something that she was used to happening. "You don't know?"
An almost shy smile graced her lips as she slowly shook her head. "I start an architecture course in September."
That made her... Eighteen, wow I now felt old. Just as quickly as it had appeared, the talk moved away, but still did she hold my eyes. She'd soon find that I could out stare anybody, and fair enough, after a few moments more, she uncertainly frowned and looked away.
That was the only point that evening which she really took much interest in me. Her attention flitted from point to point, but with a disconcerted manner, it always steered clear from me.
I sorely watched them all get steadily and deeply intoxicated, more and more flirtatious and gradually bolder. Harmless banter floated above our heads, mixed with unrestrained giggling and stupid innuendos, which in a sober state, would seem juvenile and inane.
The sky dipped behind the trees, colours bleeding across the cloudless sky, like blood slowly dripped into water; dispersing in dimensional swirls, fading into time and space. I felt fluid; a liquid mass, with no solidarity or presence. A ghost sadly observing a doomed scene, which he would do anything to stop, but it was inevitable as death.
At some point, Michael lunged across at me, tackling me onto the ground, wrapping his legs around me in an suggestive manner and started whispering ludicrous things into my ear. Even then, I could force a laugh. Things which I would have normally found hilarious, could only form a faint niggle of amusement which produced a fake expression.
He rolled off me, keeping an arm around my neck and close to him as there was a flash of a polaroid camera, in front of a grinning face. The person who possessed it, took hold of the glossy bit of paper, waved it a couple of times in the air and let it drop to the rug. With the words of "Give it a while to develop. There's fireworks in a few minutes.", and a toothy, suggestive smile at Michael, she swanned back over to the dancing figures.
I sat up, released from his grip, gasping for air, noticing that the others had also lain back onto the grass. Picking up the photo, I took in the increasingly defining picture which portrayed the events of the past few minutes. It had claimed five of us, including Amber, all laughing and seeming to be enjoying their time. 'Pictures are so deceiving' were my thoughts as I slipped it into my back trouser pocket.
Michael stood up, giddily swaying as the blood rushed from his head. "Let's go watch the fireworks!" He grinned like a five year old, looking across at the huddled crowd on the patio, then gazing expectantly up at the sky.
He offered his hand to Amber, and she graciously took it, smiling as he lightly pulled her up to her feet in a motion which make me want to hurl. They floated across to the congregation, others following. I sat still and silent until Ella turned back, an uncertain look upon her face. "Are you coming?"
I slowly shook my head. I didn't want to see them together, acting like that. "No... I'll watch from here." She bit her lip, eyes questioning before turning away without any interrogation.
I sighed, lying back in the cool grass, contemplating, just contemplating. It wasn't going to happen. The stark truth hit me like a brick wall. She wasn't interested. Of course not; she was far, far too good for me. Psh, what did I have on him? I was not particularly good looking, I was skinny, lanky, not in a good way, and I wore glasses. What in that did I have? Eh, I had a higher IQ, but he would have the better specialty. I mean, you go to a dinner party, and could introduce your boyfriend as either 'the renounced surgeon' or 'the guy who deals with comas, head traumas and the occasional tumour'. I wonder, I really do. That was sarcasm by the way. Whoever said that it was the lowest form of wit obviously was an idiot and couldn't understand finer principles. Anyway, how could I ever compete? I couldn't, that was the answer.
A rocket shot up into the air with a wail like a kicked and humiliated dog, exactly how I currently felt, before exploding in the air with a feeble shower of pink and silver stars. Still, it produced a low bout of 'ooh's. Seemed that being drunk enhances the effects.
I glanced over towards the house, all the silhouettes sharply falling back from the two entwined at the front. She was in his arms, her palms against his chest as he bowed his head, their lips touching in an indiscreet motion.
A thick feeling like cold blood squeezed up my throat from my stomach; a fierce, burning, liquid loathing. The world fell away in shattered fragments, leaving me encased in bitter darkness with that image indented in the back of my mind. Forever.