Chapter 3:
'Tis not so sweet now as it was before

Ophelia was back not even two days before she had taken over the dining table, the lounge and the worktop in the kitchen with piles upon piles of paper. An incomprehensible jumble of critical essays, written both by her and by others, notes on translations, and lecture notes, had turned their flat into a library any English or Classical Studies scholar could only dream of owning. Ophelia's laptop stared at her, the 3,378 words of her essay glowered at her, disagreeing with its own argument. Ophelia stuck her tongue out at the laptop, childish, immature and oh so satisfying. Non-cooperative essays were the bane of her existence and unnervingly common these days. Skipping to the next song on her 'Thucydides Playlist', Ophelia shut down the document and let her eyes drift over to the small facebook icon bouncing in the lower right hand corner of her screen. Swallowing her hope back down her digestive tract, she clicked on it, reminding herself how improbable it was that it would be him.

Bet it'll just be Maia, She thought, somewhat gleefully, clicking the icon hopefully. Despite what she told herself, she still had to squash her disappointment when it turned out it wasn't her favourite actor.

If you thought this worked as a way around the no-texty ban, you thought wrong. Get off Facebook and write your essay. Love, Hol xx

A little huff of laughter burst from Ophelia, as she sheepishly reopened the Word document, and glanced back at her essay. She typed two words, and stopped. Her fingers hovered over the keyboard, as she tried not to grin at her screen.

"I hate you, Holly," Ophelia called, a ripple of laughter floating through her voice. Holly appeared in the kitchen doorway, an impish grin spreading across her face. Ever the picture of false-innocence, she batted her eyelashes at Ophelia, and danced across the room to her.

"No, you don't!" She sang. Holly draped her arms around Ophelia's neck, swinging like a little girl, yet with both feet firmly planted on the ground. Ophelia raised an eyebrow at her, visible only through the reflection in the dark window opposite. Holly cut her off before Ophelia could dispute her sweeping claim. "You love me - and I'll tell you why. Because we're going out tonight, and I am gonna buy you all the alcohols."

"All the alcohols?" Ophelia repeated, turning to look at her flatmate incredulously. "How the hell did you get a first?" Holly grinned at her, raising her eyebrows and whispering:

"Allllllll," as she slid backwards out of the kitchen. Her maniac laughter echoed throughout the flat, equal parts ominous and weird; Holly's speciality. Her disembodied voice floated back through the flat to Ophelia.

"Oh, bt-dubs, Tom texted you. It made me gag."


Maia lay on the bed, laptop resting on her knees, open but not in use. She tapped her fingers of her working arm against the keys of her laptop, lightly - too lightly to actually press any keys. Music blasted out of the phone on the bedside table next to her. She hummed along with the music, before abruptly sitting upright, causing the laptop to slid down to her shins, catching it with her upturned feet, her toes pointing to the ceiling. She shut off the music quickly, her figure rigid, refusing to move, to relax. Footsteps sounded in the hall outside her room, and Maia rolled her eyes as she recognised the entitled clatter of heels on the wooden floor.

"Maia?" Called a voice from the hall, arrogance radiated through the single word. Maia rolled her eyes and ignored the call, perhaps only because the haughty tone demanded a response. The door handle turned, and Maia quickly snatched up her phone, turning it on as her mother strode into the room. "Maia, don't be disrespectful." Maia glanced up at her mother, and then back down to her phone. Her mother folded her arms, and stared down her daughter. Maia finally looked up at her mother.

"Oh hi, mum," Maia's enthusiasm was a void, absent of genuine emotion, any love replaced with a knife into the cold heart of her mother. "Didn't see you there. You see I thought a demon or an ice monster had walked in. You know, because of the soul sucking despair that follows you around," She scowled at her mother. The ice which ran through her mother's veins stopped her from even flinching at Maia's hostility.

"How long will you be staying?" Her mother asked simply. Maia gestured at her arm in the cast.

"This is only on for a month. Until then I can't work, so I think I'll make use of the free food and good company-" Maia cut off her sentence with a comical gasp, clutching her left hand over her heart. -"oh you don't think I mean you do you? No, I mean Wharton. See, he actually gave a shit about me and Ophelia, unlike you. And he noticed us. And he knew I was in town-"

"- Enough," Snarled her mother. Her arms unfurled, and she stalked out of the room. Pausing in the doorway, her mother turned back around. "Don't you forget, this is my home. I bought it, and funded you two with my own money which I earned. If you two want to throw away your lives and your education- which I paid for- then so be it." Maia glowered at the back of her mother's head, attempting to think up a witty response to spit at her. She failed, and instead threw a cushion at the door. Her mother reappeared at the door, and seemed to restrain herself from throwing words right back at her daughter. Instead, she grasped the handle and slammed the door shut behind her.

The lounge was buzzing with low-level chatter, giggles and gossips floating through the air on the vibrations of music that sung from the speaker hidden behind the couch. The gaggle of girls all held drinks, alcoholic and otherwise, cheeks pinked with the warmth of the room. Each was genuinely happy to see the others, the ease of chatter lifting all spirits. It was such a comfortable situation that Ophelia didn't even feel the need to repeatedly check her phone, distracted by her friends. She sat on the arm of the couch, leaning into the girl sat next to her for balance, and talking animatedly. She gestured towards Holly with the hand that held her drink, spilling a few drops of its contents on the floor. She grinned sheepishly, and rubbed the dampness away with her socked foot.

"It's my floor I'm ruining?" She giggled, with a guilt-driven glance towards Holly, hoping she hadn't noticed. She had. Holly raised an eyebrow at her.

"Thought you said you weren't going to drink much tonight?" Holly spoke with a false sternness that caused Ophelia to blush slightly.

"Oops?" She offered, before shrugging and trying desperately to dig herself out of the hole she was starting to make for herself. Her little, broken sentences only acted in the same manner as a foot scuffing the earth did; added tiny little digs into the ever growing hole, weakening the ground she should on. Her friends let out bubbles of laughter until Ophelia finally gave up and threw her hands in the air. The momentum carried her back slightly, and she slipped down the arm of the chair, landing on her friend's lap. "Fuck it, it's my birthday. I'll get drunk if I want to!"

The club was loud, as is to be expected, but the crush of people was more excessive than usual. There were always more people touching Ophelia than she was ever okay with, and her breaths were coming increasingly short. She grabbed Holly's arm, a plea for a united front in their fight through the throng of people. Holly's brushed the hand off, causing Ophelia to whack her arm, drawing her gaze, and physically pulling her towards her.

"But he was cuteeeee," Holly whined, with the manner of a drunk sorority girl, or a small toddler.

"Hol, you have a girlfriend," Ophelia retaliated shortly, shouting her reply over the noise. "And can we please go to Flares now?" Holly pouted sealing her characterisation as a bratty child, and whined more, stumbling in her steps and trying to tug Ophelia back towards the dance floor, failing miserably. Ophelia walked stoically away, holding her friend by the wrist, as a mother would with a misbehaving child. Holly whined the entire way through the club, but Ophelia continued walking forwards purposefully.

The two women emerged into the night, the cold air blasting them in the face, and sending shivers down Ophelia's spine. Holly didn't seem to notice, and was instead pleading with Ophelia's back for them to go to Flares.

"Or chips - can we get chips? Please, 'Felia, I want chips." Holly's words slurred together somewhat incomprehensibly. She tugged on Ophelia's arm, and dragged her to face her. Ophelia turned, and caught sight of someone over Holly's shoulder. She swore, and tried to hide behind Holly, crouching down slightly to try to avoid being seen. Holly spun around, and unsubtly asked, with alarming volume.

"Why are you hiding?"

"Yes, why are you hiding, 'Felia'?"

Ophelia cringed internally. She straightened up and looked Tom in the face, an apologetic smile half forming on her face. Holly's head bounced back and forth between the two of them, dawning comprehension spreading across her face with alarming speed. She looked up at Tom, moving to stand more or less below his chin, and stare up his nostrils. Ophelia grabbed her by the back of her top, and yanked her back to a more normal distance.

"Is that Tom?"

"Yes, Hol."

"I am indeed."

Holly narrowed her eyes at Tom, and inspected him closely.

"He's cute," She decreed solemnly, nodding once. Holly grinned at Tom, and nodded again. "You're cute. If I were single-"

-"You're not -"

"- I would ten out of ten agree with 'Felia's opinion, but I have a girlfriend so I am neutral on the matter of the cute guy." Holly beamed once more, and turned to Ophelia. "Did I do a good?" Her eyes widened, and Ophelia was hit with the resemblance between her friend and a needy puppy.

"No. Hol. You didn't do a good," Ophelia muttered under her breath, cringing internally, feeling as though her very organs has been thrown outside her body and she needed to hide the disgusting, slimy flesh back within the safety of her skin. When Holly's face fell, plummeting into self-defeatist despair. The guilt of making her inebriated friend only added to Ophelia's feeling of nakedness to increase.

Tom and Ophelia babysat the drunk Holly to the local chippy, bought her chips, and unceremoniously poured her in a taxi with more than enough money. Whilst Tom stood outside with Holly, waiting for the taxi to show up, Ophelia called Holly's girlfriend to warn her that she was sending her to her place, not home.

"Jesus, 'Felia, why do I have to deal with her?" The disgruntled, sleepy voice had complained down the phone. Ophelia had laughed, and shook her head, knowing full well it would enrage Abbie more.

"I looked after her all night, I'm not dealing with the puking," She reasoned. Before frowning, and adding "And Hol is your girlfriend. You're meant to look after her, not me." Ophelia hung up as Tom walked back in. She turned to him, and lifted her phone aloft. "You know what I miss? Flip phones. You could hang up so sassily." Ophelia mimed snapping a phone shut with her empty hand, her fingers slapping into her palm with a quiet pat. With that action all her energy left her, and she sank into the chair closest to her. She let her head fall on to the table before lifting it and moaning about the stickiness of the table. Tom laughed at her, and placed a hand on her arm. Warmth spread out from his touch, filling Ophelia with a contentedness she hadn't realised had left her. She felt blanketed by his touch, protected in the cocoon of his presence, and so she lifted her head.

"Perhaps you should head home too?" Tom suggested. Ophelia mumbled into her elbow some words which got lost as they feel from her mouth, due to their incoherent and unintelligible nature, unintelligible even to herself. Tom lifted her upright and looped an arm around her waist. "Come on, I'll take you home."