Have you noticed that if you are wearing earphones, everything around you turns into an indie film? At least if there is a connotative dissonance between what you see and what you hear. The student lounge in your uni and Maria Callas’ Si. Mi chiamano Mimi create the most gorgeous, absurd pandemonium. So-and-so is groping his girlfriend, so-and-so is dumping his boyfriend, someone is chewing, someone is staring into a laptop and ruffling their hair in an attempt to stimulate at least a bit of brain activity. And Mimi the Embroiderer is sharing her simple lifestory. Jean Cocteau is nervously biting his nails in envy, sitting somewhere on a cloud.
Philip Durinson is sauntering in the lounge, and you consider hiding under your desk. You really have no time for this right now. You recognize the gleam in his eyes. It says, Where is Wren? Let’s drag her into some new barmy adventure. She just loves it, judging by her panicked yelling and flailing arms. He is strutting to your table and with a swanky twirl of his wide muscular body he slides on a sofa near you. That is so not good!
“Hello, love.” He places his usual fluttering kiss on your cheek and peeks into your laptop. “What’s that?”
“You would know if you’d actually studied for your OrgChem.”
“I bloody aced my OrgChem!” His indignation is properly fake.
“Only because you crammed the night before, on three energy drinks and five espressos. And twenty minutes after the test you head was empty again.”
“You know me so well, darling!” He gives you his best white-toothed grin and steals a crisp from your package on the table.
You love Phil. He is hearty, light, sunny, all golden mane and laughing eyes. Sometimes you think it would have been so much easier if you were in love with him. But then you would shag for a while, and it would end badly. Who would dump whom would be hard to predict, considering the previous record for both of you. But then again, for a while you would have an excuse to touch him. Because you really want to. All the time. His skin is always warm, he smells so nice, and you just want to curl into him and snuggle. It’s probably all the abandonment issues and the lack of affection in childhood.
“Alrighty, love, how about that? Trip to the swamps!” He looks very pleased with himself.
“Is it a name of a colourful cocktail with a high content of booze in it?”
“No.” He is laughing loudly, fluffy lashes hiding the blue irises.
“Then I’m not interested.”
“Common, Wren…” He is whining now. It should be annoying, but somehow it’s adorable. Plonker! “It’s a family thing. Everyone from the uni goes, their parents join, pops watch birds and talk shite, and then there is a bonfire!”
He is making puppy eyes. Let’s face it, his are not that efficient as his brother’s.
“Did I mention there is booze, everyone dances, mother bloody nature.”
“I don’t do mother nature.”
“Please?..” He is clasping his hands and making a begging gesture.
You feel bad. Because really you have been ignoring him recently, for a while already. The tests, the labs, and then you are just so knackered all the time. You think how great it will be, both him and his brother will take care of everything, and you will feel like they bundle you up in this warm blanket of caring and fussing around you. They will be making sure you are having a great time, feed you, tuck you in. Alright, maybe not tuck you in.
“Where am I going to sleep?”
“Yes! She said, yes!” He jumps on the couch and makes his best impersonation of Tarzan. The lounge is roaring with laughter, happy with any distraction from actual work.
He jumps off the sofa and then suddenly picks you up and starts swirling you, bridal style.
“Are you bonkers?!” You are laughing too. “Put me down, twat!”
He speeds up and you squeal and wrap your arms around his neck, and he is guffawing now.
“I’m taking you shopping, love!” You skeptically lift a brow. “We need wellies for your tiny sexy feet.” You look at your feet and feel slightly iffy from a suspicion you might not like his answer.
“It’s a swamp, remember?”
Bloody hell, what did you agree on?
You fall into your dorm, bags so heavy that they are hurting your shoulders.
“What in the name of?..” Your friend Thea jumps off her bed and helps you to put your stuff on the bed.
“Phil took me shopping.”
“Tell me it’s lingerie.” She sticks her nose in one of the bags. She is a long time advocate for you two finally having it off.
“It’s not. And I paid for it myself.”
She pulls your new pair of wellies out of a bag and wrinkles her nose.
“Unless it’s his kink, I don’t want to know.”
“We are heading to the mansion for the weekend.”
“Just the two of you?” She is wiggling her brows.
“And a half of uni. All the posh ponces. Apparently some traditional bonfire or something.”
“Oh, I’ve heard of it. The Bonkfire!”
You are starting to doubt the wisdom of your decision.
Thea is “scum”, just like you. It means poor. And that her family name isn’t engraved on one of the marble boards decorating the stairway in the Central Building. Durinsons were among those who founded the uni. And their uncle’s portrait is in the library. It’s huge. He also apparently paid for the renovations of one of the buildings and for the Japanese garden on the roof. Pretentious nob twat!
“I thought you are not going there anymore.” She now pulls out a pair of thermosocks from the bag.
“I haven’t spent time with them for a while, I feel like a bad friend.”
“You know what would make you a very good friend to them?” You think you know the right answer.
“Let me guess, you are going to propose a threesome. Again.”
She gasps in fake shock.
“Wren, well I never! I’m sure he wouldn’t want to share you.”
“Who he?” She rolls her eyes.
Thea is wrong. On both accounts. Phil would share anything with his brother. They have this rare relationship you envy endlessly, but feel a bit creeped out by at the same time. They are always together, Phil being an overprotective older brother, meddling into Killian’s life too much, Killian asking him for advice on everything. Those two weeks that you sort of dated Killian, you wondered if he asked Phil’s advice on that too.
Secondly, sleeping with either of them would make you a bad friend. Neither is harbouring any feelings for you, you can’t say you fancy either romantically, so it would just botch your friendship up. And you love spending time with them.
“I was going to suggest you stay there for a week.” The’s tone is serious and you look up at her. “You are all daft and jittery recently, with all the work. You love their Mom, spoil yourself a bit.”
You think of Deadre Durinson and sigh. That is person you could spend more than a week with. She is funny, kind, and supportive. Everything a mother should be. Or at least you assume so, you never had one.
“Is it because you want the room all to yourself for the next week?”
“I will utilize it, of course. But I’m mostly worried for you.” You give her a hug. She is a good friend in all honesty.
“Thanks, pet. I’ll let you know how it goes.”
At six o’clock in the morning Phil and Killian knock at your door. You are stuffing your toothbrush in a bag, and Thea rushes to open the door. They give her a synchronized bow, and she guffaws.
“Oh glorious Thea, what a gorgeous flower you are!” Phil is announcing in his best debonair voice. She smacks his chest.
They tried it the first year. According to Thea, the spark just wasn’t there. You speak Thea-ish well enough to know it means they shagged all through the night like bunnies but didn’t feel like round six in the morning. And that’s a ‘no, thank you’ in her dictionary.
Killian helps you with bags, and you immediately fall asleep on his shoulder on the back seat. You open your eyes already in the mansion. A large crowd of their friends is already there, their older relatives slowly arriving, everyone gets loaded in seven Land Rovers. You get squeezed between Killian and a girl you’ve only met once before. She is the Dean’s niece, and the diamond on her finger is the size of Mount Vesuvius. It would be a pity to lose it in smelly swamp water, you think vengefully. She is chatting with Killian over your head all though the ride, and you think you need a migraine medicine by the end of it.
The tents are for two people, and somehow it is assumed you are sharing yours with Killian. You guess you are sort of familiar with each other. He spent a couple nights in your bed, but you never actually got to shag. The whole thing was about him being heartbroken, and you being stupid.
The day passes in decorous picnics, bird watching, – and there you thought Phil was taking the piss, – and fishing. When it gets dark, the younger lot finally gets their fun. The apparently long awaited bonfire time comes. It is roaring, flames are seemingly licking the sky, and you are awed.
The only problem arises when you realize that bonfire means bewy and skinny dipping. Neither of the two interests you. You can’t drink, pretty much losing consciousness after three shots, and even more so you are not looking forward to what you understand is an advertisement of available goods. When everyone starts talking too loudly and walking unsteadily, you sneak away and go back to your tent.