"So, how's your home environment?" Mrs. Adan asked far too eagerly.
"I don't live there anymore, that's the point of this plan," I replied bluntly.
"Ah no Evan, I mean your home with Jo," I tried not to cringe at the use of the words home and Jo in the same sentence. It sounded so wrong.
"Fine." I huffed, the urge to cringe overcoming me. I'd barely talked to him lately, yet she acted as if we were a young couple buying matching curtains and pillow cases for their new home. I tried to push the thought of Jo dancing around the local Home Bargains buying curtains to the back of my mind. However, the observant counselor seemed to notice my mind steering off in a different direction as she raised her eyebrow. Unconsciously I glared at her, well not her but rather the way she looked at me; like I was a scared child who was lost. Her defined brow fell down and the expression disappeared from her face. She coughed into her hand to dismay the growing awkwardness in the air as I simply stared at her. But the only thing I could concentrate on was the agonizingly slow hand of the steel clock on the wall. The ticking sound seemed to grow louder with each approaching second. It was a quarter past three, I still had half an hour of this god awful session to pull through.
Unfortunately, my discomfort didn't seem to deter her intrusive questioning.
"And so how is your relationship with Jo? You boys getting along?" she asked softly, trying to seem approachable. My mind unwillingly flashed back to the god awful kiss that started this whole mess. I hated how my brain had stopped listening to me when it came to the train of my thoughts lately. Maybe it was because I was tired and over-worked. Yes, that was definitely it.
I decided to give her the answer she wanted so I could get the session over with as fast as possible. Most people only hear what they want to hear anyway.
"Yes," I affirmed, tight-lipped. Her mouth formed into a thin line, eyes squinting. She was a purple scarf today decorated with a peacock feather, which I counted each strand of in an attempt to block her over-bearing presence.
"Really Evan, are you ok? You know you can tell me anything. Is everything ok at home?" She looked at me with pity. I hated it.
"And I mean your home with your Mum by the way," she clarified, leaning closer to me from her chair.
I wondered what aura I gave off to people around me to make them think something was always wrong with me. Just because I didn't go out of my way to be a beacon of sunshine when greeting people, didn't mean I was buried deep in some sort of teenage existential crisis. I was perfectly fine.
"Could it be that he came bac-" I cut her off sharply.
"He didn't. I'm fine. My mum's fine. Everyone is fine." I stood up quickly and grabbed my bad, my throat feeling tight.
"Where are you going?" she asked furrowing her brow.
"I don't think I can do this today, Miss" I answered not looking her in the eye.
"Why?" She began, standing up as well, following me out of her tiny and cluttered office.
"I've got too much work to do," I lied. I completed all three essays and practical work I had to do on the day I was assigned them. She frowned and balled her fist. I was a good liar, but this one was so transparent even someone like her would be able to see through it.
"W-well then, would you like to re-schedule? . . . maybe a time when you're less preoccupied?" she suggested, looking me right in the eye. Her choice of words implied she was less than pleased, but more than anything, she looked upset. For the life of me, I couldn't understand why. She wasn't losing anything, she would just have to tell the college her counseling of students was going swimmingly and they'd happily shove her paycheck through her post box. I sighed heavily and then cursed myself for showing I was unnerved.
"I don't know. I'll let you know later of a better time," I shrugged walking away.
"Ok, just remember I'm here when you need me, Ok Evan?" she called after me.
I pretended not to hear her.
Abi scooped out a thick helping of brown paste from the small tub of product with the name GlamGlow proudly displayed on the lid. She promptly rubbed it onto Val's forehead, who was sitting opposite her on the small couch. His fringe was pulled back with a Hello Kitty hair clip. Jo closed his pale eyelids and inhaled the smell of the face mask. He looked at his friends, eyes sparkling like he had discovered something tremendous.
"It smells like chocolate! This is amazing. Does it taste like it Abi?" without waiting for the girl to reply he took a dollop of the product and shoved it in his mouth. Abi absolutely screamed.
"You fucking idiot! That shits expensive!" she put the tub down and smacked him on the head as started violently coughing.
"Shit Val! Spit it out! Spit it out!" she yelled, hitting his back to aid him. He grabbed a tissue and spat as hard he could, face and ears reddening.
"It don't taste like chocolate at all! That's false advertising!" he complained, throwing the tissue on the floor.
"Yeah well you deserve it, only an idiot would actually eat a face mask," she pulled his face towards her and began spreading the concoction over her friend's smooth skin. She looked at him and envied how God damn pretty he was. With his eyes closed he looked peaceful, the exact opposite of his idiotic self, his thick eyebrows perfectly symmetrical and long black lashes fanned out to create a shadow underneath his eyes.
She remembered back to high school where she had actually had a crush on this boy. She put a crumpled piece of paper with the question "Do you like me?" along with a tick boxes titles 'yes' or 'no'. God, how embarrassing. That was their first encounter, in which Val promptly replied she was cute but he wasn't interested in girls. Which she probably should have seen coming considering rumours of him getting caught with his hands snugly down the pants of the football teams goalie in the boys changing room had been circulating for some months prior. Despite their rocky start they soon found comfort in each other with their similar humour and mutual appreciation of David Beckham's perfectly toned arse.
"You look so much older with your hair pulled back," Abi mused.
"Been told that before, have to admit this stunning ol' forehead of mine got me into my fair share of Nottingham's finest queer establishments," he grinned playfully.
"Which reminds me, you promised to take me with you to the 'Little Red Corvette' last summer, but you were too busy running around in a field of roses with a certain ex," she whined.
"That's cos you was only seventeen then," he gave her a stern look, trying to look responsible, failing as the thick brown paste on his skin made him look more like a child who had dunked their entire face into their birthday cake. Hell, she bet Val would still do that, knowing his love for all things sweet.
"Don't act like you never went there when you were under 18!" she argued, spreading the leftover paste on Val's milky neck, his Adam's apple sharply jutting out. Val shook his head.
"Trust me, you wouldn't wanna go there. Like, it's named after a Prince song, which more than shows how the sexual tension there is higher than a sophisticated lady like yourself could ever handle," he smirked as she burst out laughing, playing with the beads in her hair.
"Oh, sophisticated lady? As if! What if I want to see sweaty hot guys grope each other on the dance floor?" she challenged him. This time well couldn't contain his mirth.
"You're a perv, you are," he chuckled, resting his head on the back of the sofa.
"Says you, the . . . how did you put it? 'Connoisseur of romance"' she teased him pinching his arm. He inhaled, giggling as it tickles and squirmed under her fingertips.
"Seriously, though, we're going this weekend, Ok Val?" Abi pegged. Val shook his head, loosening the hair clip.
"The sexual tension corrupting my purity ain't the only reason I can't go there," He confessed, looking from Abi to the ceiling. She gave him a searching look.
"After the scene that happened last time, I don't think the owner would want me back anytime soon-" he cut up as Abi sprung up.
"Oh come on, that wasn't your fault," she huffed.
"Yeah but it's embarrassing for me, you know, cos every bloke there thinks I pulled Evan and fucked-" Val as cut off, as suddenly the door loudly opened. Speak of the devil thought Abi. He turned to Val, who visibly paled, praying to the lord that Evan had not heard them through the front door.
His dark hair was wavier than usual due to the rain as he strode in with his bad on his left shoulder. Val thought he'd been pretty good at keeping his admiration of his flatmate to the minimum, but Abi's open gawking was making it more than obvious who they were just talking about.
Val jolted off the sofa and tried to make himself look cool and composed. Then he remembered the Hello Kitty clip in his hair and face mask. His tight Unicorn print shorts also didn't help. They were at the bottom of the bargain bin in the kid's section and he couldn't resist. As Evan's solid gaze regarded his body he wanted the ground to swallow him up whole. He looked mildly surprised at his current beauty treatment. Val figured the shorts didn't phase him as more than often Evan ended up doing his washing as well after he left his unmentionables lying around in various odd places of the flat. Evan complained each time but ended up washing and drying it all in the end anyway. His gaze flitted over to Abi who looked like a goldfish out of water. She blushed looking at him. Somehow seeing him in the setting in which he lived made her feeling hot and nervous. How did Val even manage to survive?
Abi awkwardly coughed.
"Er, Hey?" she began, feeling guilty at the mess of masks and lotions she'd made on his living room table. He regarded them pensively.
"Hi." He replied. Man, he really wasn't much of a talker for sure.
"How was college?" asked Val, voice high. After their ice-cream 'date' he thought he had gotten through to Evan. He even thought of the possibility of being friends, after making Evan open up at Cherry's place. Just looking at him standing in front of him made Val remember the tentative smiles that Evan wore that day, so short that if you blinked you would miss them. He had found his flatmates refusal to let him pay adorable. The other's presence, although often dismissive, had helped him feel content. It made him feel less shitty about what happened with Declan. But after the ice-cream Evan seemed to keep to himself increasingly, even eating dinner in his own room. Val didn't have the courage to question him.
After a pause Evan replied,
"I'm going to take a shower," he stated. Val squinted. Was he simply stating what was to happen or asking Val's permission? If it was the latter it didn't make sense because it was as much as Evan's home as it was his.
"Erm. .OK?" Val blurted out. Evan didn't answer, looking at him once last time before disappearing upstairs where their shared shower room was located.
"He must have had a bad day," Abi observed.
"Why'd you think that?" Val turned to her.
"I don't know, he just seems very tense," she frowned, and at that Val shook his head.
"He's always like that! Gotten used to it now. Not like he's hard to live with or anything,"
"If anything, you're hard to live with, I think I saw your SpongeBob briefs and paintbrushes in the dishwasher before," Val burst out laughing, causing his friend to grin.
"It's chill, they were just drying out," Abi rolled her eyes.
"Val?" she asked. He felt the change in her tone,
"Don't make life too hard for him. Obviously, I don't know him, but he seems to have something going on with him. Plus if it was anyone else they'd probably smack your arse for leaving your shit everywhere," she sternly told me,
"Oh, and what if I want him to smack my arse?" his eyes gleamed with playfulness. Abi blushed deeply at the thought.
"Val! I'm serious!" she lightly smacked him on the arm. Val gave up and backed away.
"Ok ok, I'll be a bloody angel of the household, I promise," Val stared at the staircase which Evan had run up moments ago. Abi followed his gaze.
"Right I'm gonna go, be a good boy and behave," she ruffled his head.
"You said you was going to stay over!" he pouted.
"Somehow I don't think that would work out," she said, leaning over to kiss his head instead of chocolate mask covered face. At that, Val's annoyance dissipated. He hugged her goodbye at the door.
"Right I'm off. Love you, you idiot," she reached up to ruffle the back of his unruly hair again. He smiled warmly.
"Love you too," she left and he closed the door.
Thinking over what she said about being a good flatmate, he quickly disposed the mess he made in the living room and washed his face mask of it the kitchen sink, admiring how clear his skin looked afterward in the reflective metal of the sink.
He removed his wet paint brushed from the open dishwasher as well as his pink shorts he wore, which were so tight he just wore them as underwear. He shoved them into the washing machine on the other side of the kitchen. He remembered coming back late yesterday and leaving the kitchen in a tip due to his midnight cravings to eat anything edible in his vicinity. The next day he was afraid Evan would yell at him. Which was fair enough, he had fucked up, as usual. But he simply cleaned it all up in morning and said nothing to Val. He had to admit, he was worried about Evan. After thinking about the other boy for some time, he felt a breeze on his groin and released his lower half was naked. He grabbed his SpongeBob briefs from the dishwasher and put them on, blushing at how many times Evan must have had to touch his underwear to wash them. Even the sexy lacy ones he never got around to wearing for Dec. He just wore them because they felt nice and were comfy, but Evan for sure probably thought he had the weirdest kinks. Val shook his head to clear it, blushing even harder. He picked up the paintbrushes and walked upstairs.
Hand on his rooms doorknob, Val heard a violent Bang from the bathroom followed by loud swearing. He froze, eyes wide. His heart beat erratically as he ran to the source of the sound. He swung the unlocked door open.
"Evan! Are you OK?!"