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Because of Lucy
by Lisa Swallow
Release Day: February 25, 2016
There’s a stranger lying in my bed. The streetlight casts an orange glow through the open curtains and across the tell-tale mound, and underneath my brand new and expensive bedding is a snoring figure. A male, judging by the size, and by the decibels. When I left for work this evening, the bed was definitely vacant.
I drop my bag on my carpeted bedroom floor and swear loudly. He doesn’t hear. I’m not surprised; the noise of voices and music downstairs would drown out the sound of my murderous intent towards this moron. I’m exhausted after an eight-hour shift and this is not what I need.
Slamming the door behind me, I head for the stairs. The tatty furniture of the lounge room is covered with people, although littered is the term I’d use. Half a dozen inebriated, scruffy students are draped over the brown sofa or propped against each other on the threadbare carpet. A couple gaze at me absently. My housemate, Abby, squints and pulls herself unsteadily to her feet. She staggers towards me, her drink sloshing from the cup onto the dirty floor.
“Ness!” she cries, trying to hug me. “You’re home!”
I step back. “I’ve been home for half an hour.”
She blinks. “Have you?”
Her long brown hair escaped the straightening tongs this evening and sticks up on one side. Abby’s smeared lipstick and her boyfriend, Matt, nearby indicate why she didn’t notice me coming home.
“Who is in my bed?”
Abby gives me a look; one I’ve learned to identify over the years. She’s beyond any chance of reasonable conversation. “No idea.”
“Abby, I’ve been working all night. I’m knackered. I want to go to bed and there’s one of your guests occupying it.”
“Not funny!” I snap. “You can’t do this every night; weekends only for parties. Please.”
We agreed to share a house, her as a student, me working full-time. What a huge mistake.
“It’s not my fault…”
“What? You mean we were invaded? They just let themselves into the house?”
The people in the room are becoming familiar, the same set of friends arranged in their favourite places around the room. Drinking and smoking, discussing politics and listening to Lou Reed. So hip, so retro. So clichéd.
“No, but…” She puts a hand over her mouth, making a noise somewhere between a hiccup and a burp. No, but… she’s the only first year student in the group who lives in her own house. When the pubs and clubs shut, the friends can’t fit everyone into one of their dorm rooms, and I have the pleasure of their company most nights. I want to shout at Abby, tell her how selfish she’s being, but there’s no point. Her goldfish memory is worse when she’s drunk, and she won’t remember a thing I say in the morning.
“So where do I sleep?” As if I’m going to get any sleep in party central anyway.
Again, Abby looks at me blankly.
“For god’s sake, Abby!”
This is pointless. I pick my way through the bohemian bodies on the floor and into the kitchen. Empty bottles and dinner plates vie for a place on the cluttered kitchen counter. There’re two glasses left in the white cupboards and I fill one with water.
Why did I join student Abby in Leeds when I’d rejected a place at the university myself? I’m rubbing my parents’ faces in it while I lower myself into the life of a call centre drone. Pride of the family, Vanessa, was always going to be a doctor, like Daddy. Or she was until I said ‘screw that’. I’m not their precious Vanessa who they can mould into what they decide I should be. I’m Ness, and I’m doing what I want with my life.
As I regard the state of the so-called elite, studying class around me, I’m doubly glad I’m not one of them.
I sidestep the sink and turn to the voice. A tall guy leans against the doorframe, trying to appear nonchalant, but his slackened stance indicates he’s attempting to keep himself upright. His brown hair is longer at the front and spills into his face; unfocused brown eyes look in my direction. This person is one of the regulars. I don’t pay a lot of attention to Abby’s friends, but he’s a good-looking guy; and however hard I tried not to, I’ve noticed him, but not only because of his looks.
Some nights as I eat a late dinner after work at the table in the corner, I watch the group from my seat with a mixture of despair and amusement, and this guy intrigues me. Girls gravitate to him, and he turns on his smile and soaks up their attention, but something I can’t put my finger on hovers around the confident persona. This guy has his place as the joker who ensures he’s at the centre of the group, but some nights he’s quiet and focuses more on drinking and less on girls. Like tonight.
“Yes?” I snap, not in the mood.
He sweeps a gaze along the length of me, eyes lingering on where my work shirt stretches across my breasts. Unbelievable… I straighten my sleeves and look at him with an eyebrow raised.
“Are you Abby’s housemate?” he asks.
“Who are you?”
“Evan.” He rubs his nose. “You’re not a student.”
“Correct, I am the one not lying in a drunken haze on the floor contemplating my navel.”
Evan takes a step forward, steadying himself on the counter with one hand, as my witty repartee sails over his head. “Why?”
“Why am I not on the floor drunk?”
“Why aren’t you a student?”
“Because I work instead.”
“Hmm.” He grasps onto the sink, searching for a glass. I pass him the spare one. “Did you fail?”
Evan fills the glass. “Or are you just not smart enough for uni? What is it you do?” He gulps the water in three mouthfuls then wipes his mouth with his hand.
The arrogant bloody… “That’s right, I’m not smart enough. I’m living with Abby until I can find a nice man to marry then I can have my kids and a house in the suburbs. Because, as I’m not a student, I have no future.”
Evan leans against the sink, his tall frame dominating the small kitchen. “Fair enough.”
Oh my god, he believes me. How drunk is he exactly? “So, you think anyone who doesn’t go to university is inferior to you?”
I’ve seen Abby’s friends looking down their noses at me. To make things worse, the locals band together and hate students, and the students do the same and clash with the locals. I’m neither. I can’t win.
We’re close now and Evan smells of alcohol and pot, with a faint hint of a clean scent lingering on his clothes. His plain blue T-shirt rides up as he leans against the sink; that’s a serious set of abs he has. Okay, I can’t help myself, I check him out. Beneath his fringe, Evan has deep brown eyes. Incoherent eyes. I hate to admit, but something about him is seriously sexy.
Even if he is a dick.
“Well, if you’ll excuse me,” I say.
“You sound like the Queen.”
Not this again. I get enough crap at work; I moved from Surrey to Yorkshire and suddenly I’m ‘stuck up Home Counties girl’.
I don’t dignify Evan’s comment with an answer, turn away, and walk out of the kitchen.
“Want me to get the guy out of your bed?” Evan calls after me.
I stop and look round. “You know him?”
“I could replace him.”
My mouth drops open at his arrogance. An attempt at a flirtatious smile plays around his lips, but the unfocused eyes kill the effect he’s trying to achieve. He’s serious. Evan has his ready supply of eager girls; I guess it doesn’t matter to them how conceited he is. Some girls go for his type. Not me.
I step towards him. “Evan, I am not one of those drunk girls in there. I have no interest in you getting into my bed. Good night.”
Feeling happy with my retort, I weave back through the lounge in the direction of the stairs. Behind me, Evan impersonates my words with an exaggerated posh accent.
It’s a good thing I’m sober; otherwise, I’d go back and slap him.
The next book in the series,Finding Evan, will be releasing March 29th!
Finding Evan (Butterfly Days #2)
Releasing: March 29th