Chapter Nine

Oliver drove a silver mini, as it turned out. David slipped into the back before I even had a chance to think about it, leaving me in the front seat beside my psychologist. One of the first things I judged about his car was that it was messy. This was not in a one-day kind of messy – it looked a much more chronic condition than that. Papers were crumpled, sweet wrappers abandoned, empty drink cans, and that was only on the floor in front of me. Although I hadn't given much thought to my psychologist's car, this wasn't what I'd imagined.

Even as I stepped in I had to push aside an umbrella, an atlas and a half eaten KitKat from the passenger seat. If Oliver noticed my disgust, he didn't acknowledge it or try to defend himself in any way. One thing I found sort of peculiar was what I saw when I turned around to look at David in the backseat. Amongst the same messiness from the front seat there were four fat books beside him with titles I couldn't even understand. I raised an eyebrow at David and he whispered to me, "Physics," as though we had to keep such a comment secret from Oliver.

"Where am I going then?" he asked.

I indicated a direction, saying, "Just over the bridge. I'll direct you from there." In our usual relationship I knew I wasn't meant to ask questions about him, but he'd broken that rule. If I cared enough I might have been curious about him abandoning his friends without a word. Maybe I'd have asked why he had any interest in dropping home a patient like me. It was probably pity though, I knew that already. He didn't need to know anything about me to know he should feel sorry for me. Such a thought made me sick so I pushed it out of my head.

David slowly went to pick up one of the physics books, as though something could go horribly wrong if he was caught. His eyes went wide as he flipped it to a random page, reading a few words. I was watching him, curious and he looked up at me and mouthed, "Jesus Christ."

Oliver noticed as David put it back though, glancing behind him.

"Sorry," David apologised, making a face.

"No problem," Oliver said. He sounded a tiny bit worried now. Maybe he'd realised the mistake of inviting one of his patients and her friend into his car. "Uh," he said, "Those are my little brother's. He did physics at university and they've been abandoned there for months now. I really should get them back to him." He spoke quickly and nervously, like David and I would even care. What did I care what was left to rot on his backseat?

"He must be clever," David commented, pulling a face that Oliver couldn't see as he stared at another page of one of the books.

Oliver made no attempt to respond to this.

"How have you been, Skye?" Oliver asked.

I darted my eyes sideways at him. "It's been a day," I replied.

Oliver fell silent again, only speaking to ask for directions once we were over the bridge.

"That's my house," I said, pointing vaguely about thirty seconds later. It really wasn't worth the car trip. Oliver pulled up to the pavement and stopped the car, putting on the handbrake. Feeling like it was obligatory, I said, "Thanks for the lift."

"Yeah, mate," David chimed in from the backseat. "Thanks a lot. You're the best psychologist this girl's ever had."

I saw Oliver smile immediately after this comment while David climbed out of the car. I made a move to follow my friend, but Oliver requested, "Hang on a second, Skye. Can I have a word?"

I rolled my eyes. Of course there was more to this. But I stayed still. Oliver has saved us from the cold after all.

"So you're getting out?" he said awkwardly. Brilliant deduction, Watson.

"It was coercion on David and Eleanor's parts. I believed they might leave me alone for a few days if I got out of bed and stopped pretending to be dead for the evening." This was, I decided, the gin and tonic talking. Normally Oliver was lucky if I'd tell him this much about myself in an hour.

"I just, I didn't know how often you were, you know…" Oliver was so struggling here that I decided to watch and see how long it would take him to finish the sentence. After forty-five seconds I got bored.

"Leaving the house."

Oliver perked up a bit. "Yeah."

I rolled my eyes. "School helps," I said even though I knew he meant recreationally.

"Right," Oliver said slowly. He was weirdly ill at ease. "So that was your sister?"

I just looked at him for a moment. Then I said, "You can't go out with her. It's unethical."

Oliver grinned like I'd made a joke.

I was beginning to understand he really didn't have anything to talk to me about so I put my hand on the door handle, saying, "Unless you deem me acceptably mentally healthy now, I guess I'll see you Friday." I knew better than to hope he actually might.

"Right," Oliver said again, "Sure. See you Friday."

I stepped out of the car tensely, rolling my eyes.

"Come on, come on," David begged from my doorstep. "My fingers are about to fall off."

Oliver didn't move his car until after I'd unlocked the door and stepped inside the house. After he was gone I went into the kitchen immediately and switched on the kettle to make David and myself hot drinks.

"So how long do I have before you kick me out?" David asked, taking a seat at the kitchen table.

I didn't mean to but I was feeling a little bad about this whole night. If it hadn't been for me, David would have still been there, still had a chance at fun. And even though it was his fault for dragging me along, and he always knew what he was getting into, I couldn't help that feeling in my gut. It made me feel a bit unfortunately human.

"Oh, hang out for a while. My mum loves you like the son she never had anyway."

David smiled and looked at me in this bizarre way. "Really? You don't mind if I stick around and bother you for a while? You're not going to complain about how you'd rather be alone, why I waste time on you when I could be doing better things?"

The kettle switched itself off and I mixed the hot water with instant hot chocolate in two mugs. Instead of responding to David's annoying questions, I asked, "Do you want to go find a film?"

David kept that weird look on his face even as he stood up to go into my sitting room, thanking me for the hot chocolate. He calmed down a little once we were sat down to some crazy film about a Jewish neo-Nazi that David assured me was meant to be amazing. And I stopped feeling so bad about the night because at least David seemed happier now.

I genuinely thought it was a joke when it happened again on Monday afternoon. But no, there was Arthur Parson outside my school once more. God knows why. I didn't know why he had such an urge to bother me lately, so for a while I tried to convince myself he was here to see another girl, maybe Diane. Maybe all I'd have to do was say hello before I could escape.

I should know my luck by now though.

"You didn't say goodbye to me the other night," he said first.

I blinked. "You want me to do it now?" I'd been to a million things with Arthur over the time we'd known each other. Since when did he care whether or not I said bye?

Arthur made a face. "Well I'd rather you say hello now. Goodbye comes later." This was probably said to spark banter between us, but I said nothing in response. Instead, after an awkward moment, Arthur ran a hand through his shaggy hair and asked, "Did you learn anything good today?"

It occurred to me he was freshly shaven again, and in clean clothes. This was such a rare event that I was in shock that it happened twice in four days, and I'd been witness to both.

"Gordon Brown knows nothing about economics?" I offered.

"Oh," Arthur said. I wondered if he might be thinking it was time to try the goodbye thing now. There was a pause before he said something truly shocking. "Do you want to get some coffee?" Coffee - with Arthur. I couldn't remember a day when Arthur hadn't wanted to get wasted, no matter the time, no matter the place.

I was so awestruck by the comment it took me some extra time to reply. In fact I couldn't even manage it before Arthur started talking again.

"I would have called you to ask, but it seems to be rather an ineffectual way of contact," he went on. I blinked. "If you're busy, we can figure out another time."

"Um," I said. I wondered if Arthur looked like my boyfriend to the other girls streaming out of the school, if I looked like one of those girls who had her boyfriend meet her after school. Emily and I always hated those girls, like could they not meet at the tube station or something? And what wrong with him that he has nothing better to do than follow his girlfriend's orders to hurry to her school once he's finished his? David knew well of our feelings on the subject and so had never come to bother Emily outside our school back in the day.

I started moving just to stop too many people thinking I was one of those girls. Worse still, not that I particularly cared, but I wasn't a fan of everyone in my year thinking I was going out with Arthur Parson. I mean, god, we all knew Arthur Parson, and he wasn't a mistake I wanted to make twice.

Arthur followed me, asking, "Is that a yes to the coffee?"

"I'm not a huge caffeine fan," I informed him unenthusiastically.

"Oh," Arthur sounded a tiny bit disappointed. And for the second time in a week, I took pity on someone. It only made me feel better that if I was taking pity on him then he probably couldn't be taking pity on me.

"But you can always get water and other stuff at coffee places, I guess."

Arthur's face lifted and lightened almost immediately. As was typical Arthur behaviour though, I knew I was a conquest, even if I was apparently a two-part conquest. This wasn't something I considered Arthur aware that he did. He just lost interest once he knew he could get a girl. I couldn't blame him. Before Michael had come along, I'd been pretty much the same.

"Great," Arthur said, grinning, and then a second later again, "Great." He started moving before finally asking, "Do you know where a coffee place is around here?"

I tilted my head to the side and rolled my eyes, keeping walking to get there faster.

"I guess that's a yes," Arthur commented, following me.

Over the next hour I could see things improving. Our conversation vaguely flowed and, as odd as I sometimes found Arthur, things were okay. It was something my life had lacked for a long time. Arthur and I used to joke around. He'd never been someone I'd call for a chat, but he was fun to have around on a night out. And Arthur was one of few people who knew what had happened and didn't constantly have that look on his face. From Arthur, I got grins and bright eyes rather than a look that searched to see how I was doing and eyes that could hardly meet mine.

When I got back to my empty house, I was met by one unexpected thing. Stuck through the letter box on my front door was an envelope with one bulge in the middle. All the envelope had on it was Skye Oaken. There was no address and no stamp, so it had clearly been hand delivered. I'd already guess from the shape, but I opened it to find nothing but a strawberry lollipop inside. It definitely wasn't David's handwriting and I couldn't figure whom else it might be from, no matter what the boy had said in denial.

I shrugged, reasoning that there was no hope in me finding out whom it was from in the very near future so I might as well just eat the lollipop. Although I cared little about it, it was still a mystery of sorts.

A/N: Sorry about the shortness of this chapter. It was really the only place I could end it seeing as what's happening in the next chapter (which I will try to make longer to make up for this one). A bit more Oliver here, and a little more information about him. Not much on the Emily situation, but I promise it's coming.

Slightly off-topic, if you don't know already, I've started a new story called Red Lights. In some ways it definitely is a bit lighter topic-wise than this (although not in others), hopefully not bad writing though. Anyway, if you get a chance and you're interested please check it out. I love pretty much any constructive feedback I can get (that applies to this story too, and all my others).

Thanks for reading this chapter, and please let me know what you're thinking in a review.

Thanks for reviewing the last chapter to: Sing With The Elevator Music, iFly, Tandrian, Val Skauf, Petals of Paranoia, DH L'Orange, Seisaset, Wabibito, geminibaby6789.