This is the sixth part of a fiction serial, in 787 words.
Although Gabby was the only friend I connected with, I didn’t see that much of her. When I found out she wasn’t going back abroad for the holidays, I naturally invited her to come and stay with me and mum. “It’s not as grand as you will be used to, Gabby, I will say that now. But it’s a comfortable house, and mum is a good cook”. She stroked my face, and that made me tingle.
“That’s okay, Mikki. I have people I know in England, and it will be good to catch up with them. Drink a lot of wine, sleep on a few sofas, you know how it goes. Besides, we will be sharing a house next year, and seeing each other all the time”.
I didn’t know how it goes at all. When you have no friends and struggle financially, you tend not to gad about sleeping on sofas and drinking wine. But I didn’t tell her that of course.
Once the academic year started, she didn’t mess around, finding a house to view that first weekend. I was already back in my job at the Campus Cafe, and I needed the money I had saved from that for food and clothes. I knew it was going to be hard to find the cash to share with her and Ben, but I had been looking forward to it since she first mentioned it. There was a few hundred in my Post Office account, left to me by my grandad whe he died. But I wanted to keep hold of that to learn how to drive when I graduated.
Extra hours in the cafe job were going to have to make up the shortfall, and I was just hoping I would get them this year.
That Saturday, I woke up late, and by the time I had got ready and walked to Colman Road, I was hot and exhausted from rushing. It was already a done deal, and I hadn’t even seen inside yet. Gabby handed over all that money as if it was nothing, and Ben saved my bacon by agreeing to sign the contract and get his parents as guarantors. My mum’s credit rating was so low, she barely qualified for a regular bank account. At least I got a nice double room, with a big bed.
Shame it looked out over the main road though.
Ben asked me to lunch after. I thought it sounded like a date, which threw me completely. I was tempted to tell him how I felt about Gabby, to put him off. But then he said something smart about Ben being his real name, and that he had lied to Gabby by saying it was Benedict. That gave me reason enough to act angry with him.
I still went for lunch though. I was hungry, and he said he would pay.
The paperwork came through within a week, and Gabby brought me the keys for the gas and electric. You had to take them to a certain shop or petrol station, and put money on them to charge them up, she told me. I didn’t let on that I knew everything about Key Meters. It was all my mum was allowed to have at home, after defaulting on her bills too many times. So I pretended to have just discovered how to operate them. “Oh, I see. Okay then, I will put thirty on the electric, and twenty on the gas. I doubt we will be using the cooker that often”.
The day of the move, Gabby had organised a big van, with a driver who helped us carry our stuff. At the house, he complained about not being allowed to park outside. Gabby put him straight. “We are not going to be that long. It’s mainly clothes and books. Come on, just put your hazard lights on. You can stay in the van if you’re afraid of getting a parking ticket”. Then she flashed him a smile, and he actually blushed.
Once everything was unceremoniously dumped inside, Gabby produced a bottle of champagne, and a pile of cash. “Tonight, we are going to celebrate our new home. An Indian takeaway, on me. And if we have to drink the champagne out of tea mugs, I don’t give a shit. Mikki, get the electric on, I need to put this in the fridge”.
Even now, I think of it as one of the best nights of my life. We sat around on the worn-out furniture, watched rubbish on the TV, and stuffed ourselves with Indian food, washed down with good champagne.
Whe Gabby went up to bed, she kissed me and Ben goodnight. Real kisses, on the lips.