Elizabeth is sleeping. The morning sun is flooding in through the gap between the curtains of the hotel room, casting a golden glow on her red hair. Marvin reaches for his glasses on the nightstand and then reaches out and strokes her hair gently without really planning it. It's like a silk curtain, he thinks, or a soft veil of sunset draped across her bare shoulders.
Elizabeth shifts, and then roles over onto her back. Marvin watches as she opens her eyes, savouring the way she smiles when she sees him.
"Morning." She says.
"Morning." Says Marvin, leaning down to kiss her.
"We should get up." There's a pause, while neither of them make any attempt to get out of bed. Finally, Marvin speaks.
"Do you want to shower first?"
"You go." she says with a smile. "I'm going to stay in bed for a bit longer." Marvin laughs and gets out of bed. He goes into the bathroom, and only then does he realise that he has nothing to wear. He showers and ends up redressing in the jeans and flannel shirt he was wearing last night. When he returns to the main bedroom, Elizabeth is lying on her front, looking at her phone.
"I suppose I'll have to get up now." She says, putting down her phone and sitting up. When she comes out of the bathroom some time later, she is dressed in skinny jeans and a grey jumper, her hair went and tousled. God, she's beautiful.
"Are you hungry?" she asks. "This hotel does great breakfasts."
When they get downstairs, the dining room turns out to be large and stylish, with a high ceiling and large windows along one side. The room is airy and bright, with delicate wallpaper. The breakfast buffet is extensive and inviting, and Marvin and Elizabeth spend a while walking round with empty plates, discussing the pros and cons of various foods.
Eventually Marvin settles on bacon, scrambled eggs, and some sort of pastry that looks like it might contain chocolate. He tries to act like he's supposed to be eating breakfast in this hotel while wearing incredibly crumpled clothes.
"I wish I didn't have to leave." He says wistfully, as they eat.
"I also wish you didn't have to leave." Elizabeth takes a sip of her tea. "I'm going to visit as soon as possible. You're going to introduce me to your brother. You have to."
"Yeah." Marvin grins at the thought. "I mean, technically you've already met him but I don't think that counts." Marvin is usually hesitant to admit just how important his brother is to him. Frank gets annoyed if Marvin acts too sappy. Actually, since Marvin got divorced he has realised that a lot of people get annoyed by him acting too sappy.
"I just realised that I get paid to be sappy." Marvin says this bit out loud, in case Elizabeth is interested.
"My books." He explains. "They're pretty sappy aren't they?"
"I guess." Says Elizabeth. "I suppose I get paid to be bloodthirsty then."
Marvin laughs. "Yeah, now you say that, I can imagine you as a vampyre."
"And I think you might be sorcerer of some kind."
"So, what are we going to do until I have to go?"
Elizabeth pauses to consider. "How long do we have?"
"I'm meeting Claudia and the kids this afternoon." He tells her. "We have a few hours."
"Let's go explore this town we seem to have found ourselves in." Elizabeth suggests.
Marvin met Elizabeth for the first time the summer before he started college, when he and Frank were staying with their aunt and cousin in England for a few weeks. Cousin Molly was a few years older than Marvin, and when Aunt Lucy was away one night for work, she threw a party.
So there he was, in a mostly unfamiliar country, in an unfamiliar house, surrounded by unfamiliar people.
"Calm down." Said Frank, throwing himself onto Marvin's borrowed bed with a force that made the aged bed springs creak ominously. "It won't be that bad."
"There's gonna be loads of weird British people who I don't know."
"Loads of weird British people." Frank repeated dryly. "Good luck with your creative writing course."
"Shut up." Marvin sank onto the end of the bed, shoving Frank's legs out of the way. "Anyway, you're not supposed to be there. There's gonna be alcohol."
"Oh dear." Frank said sardonically, rolling his eyes. He looked incredibly out of place in this room, his ripped black clothes and eyeliner against the old fashioned décor and floral duvet cover. He sat up, pushing his blond hair out of his eyes. "Let's go down and be there when the people arrive."
Marvin made a vaguely moany noise by way of response. Frank left the room, and Marvin took up his place sprawled on the bed.
By the time he had mustered the courage to get up and walk down the stairs, the party was already getting going. 'Semi-Charmed Life' by Third Eye Blind was blaring, and the living room was full of people talking, drinking, and dancing. Marvin had to weave his way through the crowd of strangers to find Frank, who was conveniently located beside the side-table of snacks.
"Oh, look who's emerged from his lair." remarked Frank to the bowl of chocolates he was rummaging in.
"Shut up." Said Marvin, helping himself to a handful of skittles. "You're the one who's hiding by the food."
"Actually, I'm checking out that guy over there."
"Which guy?" Marvin looked in the same direction as his brother. "The one in the grey shirt?"
"Do you think I should go talk to him?"
"Aw, Frank." Said Marvin. "Don't ditch me. I'm sure he's way too old for you anyway, if he's friends with Molly."
"Actually he's sixteen, he's that blonde girl's brother."
"Stalker." Marvin accused. And then Frank was gone, zigzagging through the crowd to the boy in the grey shirt. Marvin was left by himself, surveying the party.
"Marvin!" he jumped when he heard his name being called, before realising that it was Cousin Molly. "You look bored – let me introduce you to some people."
Marvin protested, but to no effect. "Marvin," said Molly, leading him over to a girl by the drinks table. "This is Lizzie. Lizzie, my cousin Marvin."
The girl – Lizzie – was dressed in grey jeans and a black t-shirt, and had wavy ginger hair that didn't reach her shoulders. "Hey." She said, with an Irish accent.
"Hi." Said Marvin, surprised that it was possible for him to get more anxious than he was already. He'd somehow ended up talking to a cute girl, and he had no idea what to say.
"So," He tried. "How do you know Molly?" By this point, his cousin had already vanished into the throng of guests.
"University." She said. "We have a couple of classes together, and one of my friends knows her roommate."
"Oh. Cool. So, what are you studying?"
"Oh, me too." Said Marvin. "Well, in America, it's, um, kinda different. But I'm majoring in literature."
"Ok, cool." Elizabeth nodded, and there was an awkward pause in the conversation.
"Sorry." Said Marvin at last. "I mean, that I'm wasting your time by talking to you when you could be hanging out with cooler people."
"It's fine." Said Lizzie. "Actually, most of these people I either don't know or are jerks, so I'm sort of relived that Molly introduced us."
Marvin nodded. "Fair enough. I was hiding upstairs until a few minutes ago."
Lizzie smiled, in a way that made her face seem to light up. "Are you staying with Molly, then?"
"Yeah, my brother and I –" Marvin glanced around the room to see if he could locate Frank, but he couldn't spot him. Or the boy in the grey shirt, for that matter. "We're staying for a couple of weeks. I think Mum and Dad just wanted to get rid of us for a while, to be honest."
She laughs. "So, where do you live?"
Another awkward pause. "So…" Lizzie looked around the room. "Do you reckon those two are a couple?" she gestured at a girl and a boy sitting on a sofa, but in such a way that it wasn't obvious she was watching them.
"Oh." Said Lizzie. "It's just a thing I do – trying to work out how people know each other, what their lives are like, that kind of thing."
"They're not a couple." Marvin decided. "They know each other, but not well."
"They're sitting too far apart." Agreed Lizzie. "They probably know each other from Uni. I think she's taking… maths. Or something like that."
"And they know each other because he's friends with her roommate." They carried on like this, discussing various people around the room. They helped themselves to drinks – both choosing soft drinks, although Marvin had been right about there being alcohol – and between them ate most of the skittles.
As the evening went on, the party got more rowdy as more and more alcohol was drunk. Eventually everything became so loud and intoxicated that Marvin decided it was time to escape to the relative peace of upstairs.
Molly had made it clear that upstairs was out of bounds, but Marvin decided that Lizzie could be his plus-one to the floral sanctuary of the spare room. Sitting on the floor with her, he found that his awkwardness and anxiety started to lessen, and Marvin eventually realised that he was chatting without having to rehears everything he said in his head first. It was exciting.
When it became time for Lizzie to go home, Marvin actually felt disappointed. "It was really nice meeting you." He told her, trying to show her he meant it.
"It was nice meeting you too, Marvin." She flashed him that beautiful smile again, and was gone.
So that was the first chapter! I wrote it almost two years ago and have only edited it a tiny bit, so hopefully the writing style will improve as the story goes on...
There's going to be some weird stuff and quite a lot of sad stuff in this story, and I'll put content warnings/trigger warnings at the start of each chapter. And as it's all written, I should be posting a new chapter each week.
I hope you enjoy this story! Reviews are appreciated. (Seriously, I get ridiculously excited about reviews)