During Fresher's Week Ryan spends a lot of time with Pete and that's just fine because I can make friends of my own and, really, I have a lot of unpacking and sorting to do. It wasn't as if I thought that just because we were sharing a room we were going to do everything together. Of course I didn't. That would be really stupid, wouldn't it? Good job I didn't think anything like that.
He doesn't need my help much at all actually, which is really great, isn't it? Because it means I have all this time to do my own things. Yeah. It's wonderful. Oh Lordy. Denial's a river in Egypt, right?
I can read all of my course books that I was supposed to, without interruption. I can listen to my Will Young CDs without anyone telling me to turn them down, or calling me a poof. I can do my ironing. I can-
"Yo, David, are you staying in again?"
Ryan wheels into the room from the bathroom, looking freshly showered but fully dressed. It takes him ages in the bathroom sometimes, but I don't mind because he always takes his clothes in with him, which means it isn't weird when I do it as well. Well, maybe it is a little, given that I don't have any problems getting into my clothes, but it means he doesn't mention that I do it and I don't mention that he does it, and yeah. It's a good system really.
I look down at my duvet and make a bit of a face at my text book, wanting to sound a bit less of a loser than I know he thinks I am, just because then maybe he'll realise I'm a nice person and we can be proper friends.
"I'm not going out..." I mutter, as if that's entirely different thing to staying in and tangle my fingers into the sheet of my bed.
Freshers' Week is like it is at any other university. The windowless corridors become filled with drunk eighteen year olds in the evenings and I skitter back to my room, avoiding rowdy, cheering fun. Last year I took part. I've done it once already, so I don't need to do it again. This year I have books to read. Lots of books. Should have read them over the summer, but I didn't, did I? Oversight, David. Major oversight. Otherwise, I'm sure I would be going out. A lot. On my own. Oh Lordy, maybe not.
Ryan dumps his old clothes down into his dirty laundry heap and I cringe a little, imagining the state he's probably left the bathroom in. I have a laundry bag that is just the right size for washing machine load, so that when it's full I know I have to do a load. It's a really great system.
"Gnarly. You wanna watch a film?"
"Um." Yes, David, the word is yes. Roommate bonding - it's what I wanted. "What kind of film?"
Ryan's eyes widen and he sucks in a breath, blowing it out over his teeth as he thinks. "Uh, I don't know. Something one of us has on disk. What kind of films d'you like?"
I close my text book, smiling now that I've realised the offer's still good. Ryan - my roommate – wants to spend time with me, and it's only Wednesday. I knew it. This year is going to be fantastic.
"I like lots of films. I have about a gazillion on my computer. I have comedies and tragedies and horror and Romance and Film Noir and lots of foreign films which a lot of people find really annoying because of the subtitles, but I think that's just lazy because saying you don't want to watch something because you can't be bothered reading a few words at the bottom of the page, is just a bit silly, if you ask me. Which you didn't, but I'm just saying anyway."
Ryan blinks. "Fuck me, do you breathe out of your ears?"
"No..?" Oh Lordy David, tone it down. "Sorry, I'll just. .." I open my text book again, trying to find the page I was on, embarrassed that I'm so stupid sometimes.
Across the other side of the room, Ryan wheels over to my desk and I watch him boot up my computer, unplugging it and bringing it over to my bed with a mumbled. "Let's see what you've got then."
One thing I've learnt about Ryan in the three short days we've been living together is that his chair is strictly for transportation purposes only. Any chance he has, he's out of it, so it doesn't really surprise me when he chucks my laptop down onto my duvet and pulls himself onto my bed. He moves quite easily without it, shifting his legs without difficulty, usually with one hand rather than two. From what I can see, he has a very small amount of movement in them – just about a toe-wiggle's worth. Usually after supper I come in to find him lying on his belly, sprawled out on the floor, reading. Tonight his agility isn't any different. In the time it takes me to shove my text book out of the way under the bed, Ryan's commandeered one of my new pillows and is leaning against the wall the long side of my bed is shoved against, with my computer on his thighs, browsing film titles.
"Fuck, I don't recognise half of this shit."
My cheeks glow. "We don't have to watch one of mine."
Ryan shakes his head, not looking up from the screen. "No, D-man this is awesome. Choose a good one. Go on – I'll only pick something crap 'cause I don't know what it is."
D-man– that's a change. I smile, grabbing my other pillow and settling down next to him, angling the screen so I can see the list myself. I'm not too close in. I don't want to be. I'm close enough. I toggle the mouse down until I find what I'm looking for.
Subway is one of my favourite films and with all the skating in it I'm sure Ryan'll enjoy it at least a bit. "It's French," I warn as I take the laptop off him and shuffle forwards to settle it down somewhere far enough away we don't go cross-eyed. I drag a desk chair into the middle of the room and set it on that. "There's this guy who's on rollerblades a lot."
"Awesome," Ryan grins. "Hey don't start it yet. You want a beer? And that cake needs eating." He eases towards the edge of the bed, scooping his legs out of the way and reaching for his chair.
"Ryan, I'm up already. I can get it."
He pauses where he is, sat on the edge of the bed and his shoulders rise and fall in an unconcerned shrug. Getting in and out of his chair doesn't seem to bother him, despite the effort it must take. "Sure. Beer's in the wardrobe." The fruit cake's been sitting on his desk since yesterday. It looks really good. I grin. He likes me. I knew he'd like me.
I chuck Ryan over a beer and because he hassles me into it, I take one for myself. I don't really like the taste. I like it even less when it's warm, but I'm not about to start arguing. I grin, cracking the tab and pour some into the glass I keep on my bedside table for water. Ryan drinks from the can, tapping the top to pop the bubbles with his blunt thumb nail before he opens it. I take a sip and try to smother the face I make, but Lordy, this isn't very nice. My roommate laughs.
"Put some blackcurrant in it if you want. Haven't got any cider, but you're halfway to snakebite there."
Blackcurrant. Yes, I like blackcurrant. I clutter back to the bed with my newly reddened drink and the cling-filmed cake, hitting play before I squirm into place next to Ryan, careful so as not to spill anything.
He nudges me in the ribs, "Lights?"
"Oh, sugar," I breathe, handing him my glass and hustling off the bed to switch them off. Ryan laughs and for just a minute I have no idea why.
"Sugar. That's sweet."
I frown at him, trying to be stern, but I've never been very good at that. "I can't be all fuck-fuckity-fucking everything if I'm going to be working with children, now can I?"
"Yeah, but I'm not five. You can 'fuckity-fuck' anything you like around me." Ryan grins and something in my stomach twists uncomfortably. His eyes really are horribly blue.
I stare at him. I know that was a joke, I'm just winding myself up again. Oh Lordy. I don't like change. Maybe I should have stayed where I was, despite what happened. I don't deal with new situations well.
"I – uh. I don't really - um. Sugar's fine. You're missing the start of the film."
Oh Lordy. See how I run. He didn't even mean anything by it. I have to get over this otherwise I might as well not have moved.
I crash back onto the bed and nearly flinch when Ryan hands me my glass, but he doesn't mention it. I sit there in uncomfortable silence, staring at the screen, trying to calm down. It's just a word.
Oh Lordy, no it's not. It's grabbing hands and smothering smells. It's a cold wall at my back and pain in my spine. It's fingernails in his skin and not caring if he breaks my wrist, because everything just hurts so much already. It's hot and it's tearing and it makes me feel sick.
Ryan breaks me off a piece of cake and shoves it at me. Lost in nasty recollections, I jump about a foot in the air at his sudden movement and chuck my drink into his lap.
Ryan's pierced eyebrow notches skyward. "Jumpy much?"
"Sorry. I- I'm sorry. I'll get a cloth," I tell him, scrabbling off the bed as fast as I can, but he stops me – leaning forward to snag my arm with gentle fingers as I reach for my now empty glass.
"I can't believe I did that. I'm just so clumsy sometimes. It's ridiculous. I mean, who ever heard of a clumsy nurse? Certainly not me. I'm going to have to do something about it. D'you think they have classes for like, coordination or something? That would be a great idea. I should find out wh-"
I look at him and if it weren't for the blue eyes I'm sure his expression would make me calm down.
"Shut up, sit down and eat your cake," he orders, handing me over the chunk he'd tried to give me before on a small smile. "You're missing the film you spazzy bugger."
"Oh." I swallow. "But your lap's all wet."
He shrugs, pulling himself a little closer to the wall because he'd slouched down a bit. "Is it?" he asks, as if he really couldn't care less. "David, I'm paraplegic. A bit of beer in my lap isn't going to bother me for an hour and a half. Just don't come near me with hot drinks, alright?"
I nod reluctantly, settling back down. Oh Lordy, I'm an idiot. "Good thing your trousers are black."
He smirks, "Good thing you're doing my laundry."
He rubs his nose and gives a cough. "Yeah. Uh – turning circle in there's really shit and the dryers are halfway to the ceiling. Are we watching this bloody film or what?"
We do watch the film. We sit on my bed with a comfortable distance between us, so we're not even close to touching. I kind of like that. When the credits roll, my roommate lets out a yawn.
"What day is it? We should do this every week until I've seen all your weird films," he mumbles, shifting across the mattress towards his chair. Oh Lordy, I think Ryan's going to be my first proper straight male friend. It's going to be brilliant.
"Wednesday," I smile. "I think it's Wednesday."
He flips the brake off and rubs a hand sleepily through his short hair. With a grin, he leans back and tips his chair up into a static wheelie, turning more or less on the spot before he lets the front thud down again in the direction of the bathroom. "Awesome. I need to piss."