I didn’t post any of this last week. Did anyone notice? Did they fuck.
[Things go wrong]
She wasn’t fine though. When I came back around the corner with Simon – beer in hand, arms full of bowls – she was still stood outside the door and had gone back to wringing her hands. She was not fine at all, and it was my fault. I’d made her come here and she was miserable. This didn’t make me feel very good. But I wasn’t going to stand for it. The stab in the gut I felt when I saw her still outside the door all alone I pushed back against. I would make her enjoy herself, damnit! I would make sure she did. She deserved it.
“Waiting for me?” I asked, putting on as real a smile as I felt I could manage at that moment. She nodded.
“Very polite! Couldn’t get the door, could you please?” I asked, and she looked at it. With someone who could only convey how they felt through body language and little flashing lights she gave a very convincing impression that she thought the door might bite her. Still, glancing back to me and my delicious, salty burdens, she slowly nudged it open for me.
“In you go in you go,” I said, walking up behind her in a stance that inexorably forced her into the room ahead of me. She squeaked, and I tried to avoid tripping over her tail. Inch by inch I herded her into the room and I slowly got a view of it myself. The heat of so many bodies crammed into one place hit me, combining beautifully – for some measure of ‘beautifully’ – with the unique scent only produced by students. It was invigorating, in its special way. Everyone scattered around the small room was drinking and talking though, as eyes went onto Tillie and me, these things stopped and everyone got quiet.
This made me a little angry, but only a little. As much as I would liked to have played dumb with myself and pretended I had no idea why everyone went so silent all of a sudden I knew exactly why. And it was my fault – again! – for basically strapping poor Tillie to my front like the figurehead on a ship and then cruising into a room full of people who reacted pretty much as can be expected when suddenly faced with something or someone you had no real reason to be expecting. I could be so incredibly stupid sometimes, I realized. I’d known this already, but seeing it demonstrated in such a way was most unwelcome. I had to do something, I knew.
With just about enough room by Tillie to squeeze through I did just that, balancing bowls, beer and myself perfectly so as not to fall over and then interpose myself between Tillie and the room full of blank, staring eyes.
“Yes, it’s me. Yes, these are snacks. Your reverential silence is appreciated, though I’m a little offended no-one stood up,” I said, shuffling forward to dump the bowls onto the table in middle of the room.
The table was already practically invisible under layer of glasses, empty packets and general muck and was also – naturally, just to make my life easier – so low to the ground that I practically had to kneel to safely unload. I didn’t plan on making such a hash of it but I did and this at least pulled attention away from Tillie. Simon appeared by my side some seconds later and between the both of us we just about managed to stack and rearrange the contents of the table in such a way that nothing fell over and everything was on offer. I felt we deserved medals. We did get a little applause, which was something at least.
With my arms free again I could focus on the next important task of finding somewhere to sit. Since somehow just about everyone else had been early, this wasn’t as easy as I might have hoped. Casting my eye around though I did spy in the very corner of the room something that could charitably still be called a sofa on which was sat only one person and so had space available. Touching Tillie on the hand and tilting my head I started moving over and she followed. Somehow she made less clumsy progress than I did. She had a tail. I had legs. That shouldn’t be how that works.
Plonking myself down right in the middle of the tiny sofa so as to give Tillie a buffer against strangers – which I assumed she might appreciate – I swivelled in place to face my new neighbour, Michelle, whom I knew.
“Hi,” I said, extending a hand which she shook with only a small laugh.
“Hello,” she said before promptly hugging me. Since Michelle had nearly a head on me, I nearly disappeared.
Michelle was one of those people who I only saw sometimes and never really meet up with, but when I did always wondered why I didn’t do it more often. A lovely person, to be sure, even if she was far too fond of slapping me on the back of the head. I mean seriously, why; it was like a nervous tick with her or something. Worse things had happened though, and she was funny enough to be around that I was willing to put up with dopeslaps every now and then.
With me and Tillie settled conversation sort of started resuming, and slowly but surely the party (such as it was) got underway properly. And it was very pleasant indeed, I thought. Much snacks, much drinks and much idle chat about nothing in particular. People talked across the room, strands of conversations got muddled and only one drink got spilled in the first hour, which had to be a record. Tillie clung to me basically the whole time, and in the most literal sense. Burrowing herself down deeper into the cushions next to me she found my hand yet again, only this time it was pretty obvious I wasn’t going to be getting it back.
More distressingly, no-one was saying anything to Tillie, and she was saying nothing herself. I of course had missed the golden and polite opportunity to actually introduce her to everyone at once because I’m a huge idiot and it was far too late now, but I could still do something. Once Michelle had finished whatever it was she was doing at the time I turned to her and said:
“This is Tillie, by the way. I would have introduced you earlier but, uh…it’s more dramatic this way,” I said. Michelle’s look was evidence enough she knew I was full of it but she said nothing, instead reaching over me to actually get a better look at Tillie. I was squashed, and by body parts of Michelle’s that made me keep my eyes forward and my hands very still indeed.
“I’m Michelle,” Michelle said, obviously.
“Tillie,” Tillie said very, very quietly and I felt her hand tighten even more on mine. At least it wasn’t going anywhere.
“So you’re his housemate?” Michelle asked, not letting awkward silence descend for even one moment.
“It’s more like he’s mine,” Tillie said, still quiet. More of Michelle’s weight pressed down on me as she laughed, one hand coming around to poke me in the nose.
“Ow, why?” I mumbled.
“It’s good that you got that the right way round. Is he a nightmare to live with? Dreadful? Unpleasant to be around? Pungent? Anti-social?”
“Hey, I’m right here…” I continued to mumble until Michelle just mashed my face with her palm to get be to be quiet. I glanced to Tillie who looked to me, clearly for guidance, but I really didn’t have any to give on this one. She was on her own, so to speak.
“He’s not so bad,” she said, lights pink.
Clearly uncomfortable with her position Michelle straightened and just pushed me flat-back into the sofa so she could lean across rather than on top of me. This was a little better for me, as I know did not have a headful of breasts. Nice in theory, in practise awkward, as what can you really do? Hold very still, in my experience, while the owner of them pokes you in the face for no good reason. I wondered if anyone else had to put up with stuff like that.
“Hear that, you’re not so bad! But seriously though, pretend he’s not here. What’s he like at home?” Michelle asked, mock-conspiratorially. Tillie’s pink lights went a rather deeper shade and she legitimately started to crush my hand.
“He’s nice. He’s tidy and he’s nice to be around and we watch films and-“
“You watch films? Hey, how come you never watch films with me?” Michelle asked, giving me a piercing and accusing look. I shrugged as best I could.
“I don’t live with you?” I suggested. She rolled her eyes.
“Paltry excuse,” she said, turning back to Tillie “Do go on.”
That went on for a little while, with Michelle continuing to sow outrageous insinuations about me and Tillie genteelly batting them aside each time. Eventually the conversation got more general and more relaxed and even I was allowed to speak, which was nice.
At some point as the evening wore on Michelle got up to use the little girl’s room and Tillie moved immediately, straight-up curling up on my lap. That did take me by surprise, and I was again glad that she didn’t weigh that much. It was quite nice actually, albeit unexpected – especially when she just wrapped her arms around my neck. I ended up basically cradling her.
“Can we go soon?” She asked, barely a whisper in my ear. I frowned and eased her back a little so I could look at her but she wasn’t meeting my eyes.
“You want to go?” I asked. She nodded.
She looked up at me quickly but then just as fast looked away again before nodding once more before burrowing her head back into the crook of my neck. Tillie’s head was not like a person’s head. It wasn’t particularly large and there wasn’t anything in particular that stuck out, but it was still not quite the right shape for what she was doing, and certain bits dug in here and here. It wasn’t too bad though, and I felt my arms come in around her middle without me even really thinking about it. From the corner of my eye I could see at least one person staring, but oddly enough I couldn’t really find it in me to care too much.
“Hey, hey it’s alright. You want to go right now?” I asked and she nodded into me.
“Okay, we can go right now if you’re ready.”
“You don’t mind?” She asked.
“It’s fine, it’s really fine; you want to go you want to go. Up you get, come on…”
With a bit of gentle encouragement I managed to ease her off my lap and onto the floor, which didn’t actually change her height much. Hand on her side I gave her a little nudge towards the door and moved back around the table. Before we reached the door it opened and we found ourselves face to face – if not eye to eye; she really was quite tall – with Michelle, who came up short.
“Oh, hi,” she said, eyeing us both. I opened my mouth to reply but something about her distracted me and took a second to put my finger on.
“Is that my hoody?” I asked, pointing. She looked down, flicking it a bit.
“Yeah. It was just there, thought I’d put it on. You know,” she sounded exceptionally nonchalant about this, and now that I thought about it wasn’t the first time it had happened, either. This was the first time it had inconvenienced me, though. Awesome as my hoody was it barely even fit her. I did not get it.
“Naturally. Can I have it back? I need it,” I asked, holding a hand out. She frowned.
“We’re leaving,” I said, and her frown became much more acute. Distraught almost.
“Leaving? You just got here!”
I shrugged and Tillie started doing the hand-wringing thing again until I put my own hand onto her shoulder, which stopped her and made her lights turn a less bright colour. For a second it looked like Michelle would say something and continue her protests but instead she deflated a little and quickly removed the hoody, handing it over without comment before stepping out of our way.
“Thank you,” I said, and she did not reply.
Making general sounds of farewell to the room at large I slipped into the hoody I had just got back and zipped it up. By the time I had done this, Tillie had already opened up the front door and gone outside, so I followed. Night had just barely fallen and things were now dim, if not quite dark yet, and all was still. Catching up to Tillie we started to go back the way we’d come, she saying nothing and me not really being able to come up with anything to break the silence either, at least for a minute or so.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“I’m okay,” she said.
“If you’re sure. Did you have an alright time though? Not too horrible?” I asked.
“Oh yes, yes, it was nice. People were nice. It was fun,” she said. I nodded and felt this was a good thing. I wasn’t one-hundred percent sure she wasn’t lying to me, but if I pretended she wasn’t it was a good thing.
“I’m glad,” I said.
We kept moving on in quiet again for a few minutes. For some reason, nighttime always seemed far quieter than daytime. I wasn’t sure if this was something only I noticed, or if everyone did and it wasn’t special, or it was just me thinking it was quieter. Maybe darkness worked for sound the same way it did for sight. This seemed unlikely, but being a humanities student it was a good enough explanation for me. Darkness swallowed everything one way or another. Now that was deep. That was the humanities part paying for itself.
“I don’t want you to meet up with that girl anymore,” Tillie said quietly and quite suddenly.
“Sorry?” I asked. I wasn’t sure if I’d heard what she’d said right. I had been so deep in deep, deep thought that for a split second I thought I’d imagined her saying it entirely. Tillie nudged her head back, indicating back down the street and more generally towards the house we were moving away from.
“That girl. I’d like it if you didn’t see her anymore. If you can help it.”
“Which girl?” I asked. I really didn’t know what was happening. Tillie’s lights flashed dark red for a moment, but only a second or so.
“The tall one. She wore your coat, kept touching you.”
I blinked, squinted and screwed my face up. I hadn’t really been paying attention much that evening if I was honest, but then it clicked. I was mostly distracted by Tillie having called my hoody a coat, since that was what Michelle – the girl she had to be talking about – had put on. I still did not know why she had done it, nor did I really care that she had. Tillie, perhaps understandably, was not an expert on clothes. This was because she didn’t wear any or even own any, as far as I knew. Such confusion was cute as with most things about her, but in this case it just distracted me and put me on the back foot straight away.
“Michelle? Uh, why?” I asked, brain fizzing.
“Yeah. Do you mind?”
“Uh, I, uh, I mean I don’t exactly see her that often anyway, but, uh – I thought you were getting on?”
“Oh, she’s nice. I just…” She trailed off.
“Just what?” I asked, genuinely intrigued. Tillie stopped moving.
“Nothing. I’d just rather you didn’t see her if you didn’t have to, okay?”
“That’s just, uh, a bit of a strange thing to come out with all of a sudden. I mean, she’s just, uh, well…” What was Michelle? I didn’t know. She was just her. Why Tillie would take such exception to her and so suddenly I could not fathom.
“So you won’t do it?” Tillie asked, keeping the pressure on. I stammered, as words became letters that tumbled from my mouth without much order in them.
“I won’t – I mean – I won’t see her if you don’t want me to, I just don’t get why, you know? And, like, uh, I mean, she’s in some of my lectures so I don’t really, uh, I suppose…”
“So you will?”
“Will not see her? Yes? No? What’s the right answer here?” I asked, trying a sheepish grin. From the deathly cold colour her lights managed to somehow turn evidently this was the wrong thing to have said.
“You keep going, I’ll be behind you,” she said. I looked at her and looked at the dark and – no offense to the residents – shabby neighbourhood we were stood in the middle of. You could almost smell the drug deals. In fact, you really probably could if you tried; no hyperbole.
“You sure? I’m not that happy just leaving you here.”
“I’m fine, keep going.”
“But-“ I started saying something along the lines of ‘but I’m really not happy leaving you here’ but I did not get that far before Tillie, lights blaring red, cut me off.
She said this so loudly her speaker actually popped. I’d never heard that happen. I didn’t even know it could. The sound of it echoed off and down the street and if she was aware or unhappy that she’d just shouted at me in the middle of the night she did not show it. She just stared at me, completely unmoving, lights red, lenses narrowed down to tiny glowing pinpricks. I could feel myself shrinking.
“Uh, okay. Yes. I’ll keep going. See you back the house?” I asked as I tip-toed backwards away from her. She said nothing and continued not to move, other than just following me with her head. This said considerably more than words could have. I turned, and walked away much faster, keeping my head down and my hands in my pockets.
I had absolutely no idea what had just happened. But I was sure it was probably my fault somehow.
Tomorrow was going to be even worse, I just knew it.