Chapter 1: 1 ~ lightweight ~
1 ~ lightweight ~
"It would be so nice of you if I could have a teensy sip of that, hun."
I looked across at Emma, who was already into her third glass of Rosé of the evening, and I hadn't even put my shoes on yet. I knew I would be slipping on the spilt drink at some point the next day, the kitchen tiles splashed with Emma's beverage. It wasn't exactly a huge flat, which made it even more difficult for me to retrieve my converse from the doorstep. Emma was dancing and singing to our favourite song at the time: Immigrant Song by the ever-amazing Led Zeppelin.
"I swear there's nobody... NOBODY better than Zed Leppelin!" Emma slurred slightly; one Doc Marten short. That's my best friend.
"Yes. We love a bit of Zed Leppelin." I answered bluntly, but inevitably laughed at her. I propped myself up onto the kitchen counter, face to face with the mirror on the wall ahead of me, applying the rest of my make up on with attempted precision. It looked the best it could do at that point. I was able to get a sip of Emma's drink at one point, but not nearly enough to be as wankered as she was.
"Maria!! This is my favourite bit – Aaaaaahhhhhaaa!" Emma screeched so out of tune it was kind of unbelievable.
As I hopped off the counter, I belted out the outro with Emma, who had finally found her other Doc Marten.
"So now you better stop! And rebuild all your ruins!" With a laugh, I switched off the record player, grabbing my keys and leading Emma out the door.
Yes, we hadn't even left the flat yet.
It was difficult to lead Emma in the right direction as we made our way to the local pub. She was such a mess when she was drunk. I had no idea what I would do if I got that drunk. With it being student night, it was 60p a pint. So, I wasn't laying any bets on me not getting drunk.
"Oh my Gooooddddd, it's so hot!!!"
"Emma, it's 10 degrees." I pulled her away from the road.
"I know, Maria, that's why I'm wearing this weather bucket."
"It's a leather jacket, Emma."
Stuff like that. The good thing was that as soon as we got to the pub, we'd be away from any roads, so I no longer had to be responsible for her destructive actions. It was usually the other way around, in all honesty. I wasn't used to be the one to look after Emma. Emma had always been a mother figure to me, even throughout college.
Despite the difficult 20-minute walk to the pub, I knew the night was going to be interesting to say the least. It was so nice to see so many students congregated in one pub, laughing, singing and having drinks together. It was always a popular way to forget the stress of your studies, especially since it was so hard to make a living in London. Why Emma and I chose to study in London seems to still slip my mind to this day. To many, events management wasn't even a real thing to study. I admit, it is a weird thing to get a degree in but it was interesting to say the least. It had its moments.
Our local pub was a converted barn, so the yellow lights mixed with the fair colour of the wood created a warm undertone to the entire building. It was cosy, and friendly to a point where it felt like a second home. I let go of Emma and she immediately stumbled over to the bar, where she snatched up a seat.
She's not moving from there for the rest of the night...
I sighed and shook my head as she instinctively made moves on the bartender. She needed it, the poor thing. She needed a good shag, to be honest, there's no other way to put it. I, on the other hand, now felt very awkward. I'd never been left alone in a pub before. But I didn't want to risk ruining things for Emma and the bartender, so I walked over to the other bar that was stood directly next to that one.
A few drinks, and I should be fine.
After ordering my pint, I turned around and leaned on the bar so that I could get a good look at my surroundings. I noticed the stage was cleared of tables. Another student band, it seemed. A lot of the bands formed at Imperial weren't exactly original, in all honesty. It wasn't necessarily bad music; it just wasn't anything worth buying in to. After 3 and a half pints, my nerves had soothed out and I was confident enough to move myself over to an empty table. I did look around briefly for Emma, but I noticed she was now sat with another guy, at the other side of the pub.
That girl, I swear to God.
I would have ventured for someone else that I knew, had the student band not made their entrance. So, I just stayed where I was, finally being able to occupy myself with listening to music rather than sitting alone and drinking.
"We're extremely thrilled to be here tonight!" The frontman, evidently tipsy, announced to everyone. Some people had intentionally stopped what they were doing in order to get a better view. It had me wondering, were they anything special? "I'm Freddie, I'm the important one who makes sure you all have a beautiful night, you beautiful people." He chuckled into the microphone, which was attached to a dissected stand. "John Deacon on bass," he pointed over to the smaller male, stood towards the back. "Of course, we have blondie on the drumssss!" Freddie hissed, as the blonde at the back stood up, earning a wave of cheers and squeals: predominantly from the females in the room. "What a tart, Roger." Freddie teased, before excessively gesturing towards the last person to come on stage. He was much taller than the rest of them and his hair was... voluminous to say the least. He was also extremely thin, but he made up for it when he held his guitar in front of him. "And this is Brian May on the gee-tar!"
"Tequila shots?? Only 50p each!" A bartender held out a circular tray with shot glasses scattered out amongst it. I really shouldn't, I thought, remembering I had a meeting with my professor the next day. But, alas, I have never been good at self-control – especially when it came to alcohol. I bought two shots and downed them almost instantly, my throat almost closing at the strong taste. I was not used to it at all. I coughed, slapping my hand against my mouth, peering back up at the band on stage.
All in all, they were a nice-looking set of boys. Each of them different, but beautiful in their own way. Roger was clearly the sex-icon of the group, although I personally didn't see it. Sure, as he drummed away, he was somewhat attractive. But not enough to make me weak at the knees. The guitarist, however, was in no way difficult to look at. You could see that intense concentration and passion fused together that created one of the best performances ever done by a student band. I must admit, they gave the others a run for their money. I do remember one song stuck in my head for the rest of the night, but I couldn't for the life of me remember what is was called. Therefore, I shouldn't drink.
Something about staying alive or something? Whatever it was, it was a fucking jam. I was honestly sad when it was over.
"Maria!" I almost jumped out of my seat, as I looked in the direction of the noise. I could only just see through blurry vision that it was an even more pissed Emma, plonking herself on the chair next to me.
"Where have you beeeen..."
"I've been right here, listening to the band people." I slurred, lazily waving my arm in the direction where the band was stood. "Where have you been... and why is your face red? Oh my God!! Are you bleeding?!?!?" I yelled, standing up, knocking the chair over with the back of my knees.
"Noooooo!" Emma joined me, standing up. "It's the lipstick... got a bit smudged."
"But you don't wear stip-lick.. uh, lipstick." I cackled at my drunken mistake, my head pounding as soon as I did. I whined, holding my head. I was now more pissed than Emma was. And that was an achievement.
"We should probably go home.. unless you wanna meet the guys who were just up on that stage thingy... that blonde was so pretty oh my God!!!"
"No, we should go home. I got a meeting with Professor Perv." I hissed, guiding myself towards the door.
"You know, sometimes I think you should just shag the professor... That's the closest you'll get to a boyfriend, Maria.." That was the thing about Emma, she was brutally honest. When she was off her head.
"That band didn't seem so bad... I'd shag allllll of them!" I screamed at Emma's words, as we both stumbled down the path, on the way back to the flat. "Emma, I have a thing for guitarists now, I—" Before I could finished my sentence, I hurled over into a bush, vomiting aggressively some of the alcohol back up. I'm such a lightweight. Emma tried her best to get my hair out the way, but it was already infused with my vomit. What a lovely sight I was.
"Maybe guitarists are into lightweights."
"What a wonderful world that would be."
Chapter 2: 2 ~ for the experience ~
2 ~for the experience~
I felt like a hammer had swung right into the side of my head as the sound of something fizzing enveloped my brain. With an unsatisfied groan, I lifted my head to see Emma placing an aspirin on the coffee table.
"Maria, hun, it's 10:30."
I could barely open my eyes, the sunlight burning them and making my hangover more intense than it needed to be. "I need some sunglasses." I murmured, whining shortly after.
I pulled myself up from the sofa, rubbing my eyes. It wasn't my intention to get that hammered, I promise. Sometimes, I just get out of hand.
"What time is it again?" My voice was groggy, and my joints ached. I managed to hold the glass with the aspirin tight enough so I wouldn't drop it. Emma plopped on the sofa next to me, handing me a plate with a slice of toast on it.
"Half 10. What time is your meeting?" I looked at Emma, noticing she too had a pale complexion and didn't look very well, most likely due to last night's escapades.
When is my meeting... oh shit!
I quickly downed the aspirin and took a bite out of the toast, hopping to my feet. I must have gotten up too quickly, as I immediately felt queasy, my vision blurring. No, you have to steady yourself.
"I won't be too long, um," I scrambled for my converse, whilst trying to straighten my hair out. "I think there's some pasta from the other night in the fridge, I gotta go, love you." And with that, I left Emma alone.
To say that my flat was owned by Imperial, it was such a long walk to get to the main campus. It was times like these when I wished I had a car, or at least knew someone who owned a car.
It was one of those walks where your calves burn, really burn. When you know just how long you have left to walk, but your feet can't seem to take you there fast enough. When your brain is just filled of nothing but determination to get to where you're headed – even if it isn't even that important. Yeah, walks like that stressed me out big time.
With only a few minutes to spare, I walked through the double doors of the college atrium, heading straight for the lift. There's no way I'm walking up 5 flights of stairs feeling like pure death.
Much to my dismay, when I held out my finger to press the button, there was a piece of paper, with 'out of order' written on it.
Great, I thought.
I swear I could've started crying at the 3rd flight. My legs hurt, I started to feel overbearingly hot, and I felt as if I was about to pass out at any moment. Fuck alcohol.
I did, however, make it to my professor's room, which was also mine and Emma's lecture room. It was plastered with photos and information of the achievements of the music industry's most successful managers and publishers. John Reid was the focus of my studies that term; I was rather fascinated by his involvement with Elton John. He was a big name in the record industry, and he came from literally nothing, which made it even the more respectable.
As expected, I saw my professor sat at his desk, papers in front of him which he was looking over.
"Ah, Maria. You're late." Those weren't the words I was anticipating... but I deserved it for being, what, 20 minutes late.
"Yes, Sir, I apologise. I must have slept in." I said, trying to hide the fact I was terribly out of breath. I laughed what was meant to be softly, but it came out more of an exaggerated sigh of discomfort.
Placing my bag on the floor, I was thankful for the opportunity to not be stood up for a second longer. My feet ached with satisfaction.
"As you know, Maria, I am a very busy man. And being based in London means there's too many jobs available yet not enough people to take them on." He started. I seriously thought he was going to give me another lecture on how I should get myself a job and not live off student funds, because I can't do that forever. "When I'm not being made to run 20 minutes overschedule by certain students..." Wow, go off. "I'm constantly being prepositioned with job openings."
I leaned forwards, rubbing at my aching knees. "Yeah?"
"And I know you're very hard working when you're not running late. You are surprisingly one of our top students in the course here at Imperial."
"So, I have an offer for you."
Am I finally getting a job offer? Will I be able to pay off debts? Can I finally tell my parents I have a job? My posture straightened up, eager to listen to what he had to say.
"As you may know, there are many bands being formed here and sometimes it's too many to handle at once. Everyone wants to be a Rockstar nowadays."
"Well, it does make a lot of money, Sir." I added a bit of humour to the conversation, hoping to soften the tension a little.
"If it works out, you could be a millionaire. But there is a group I want you to oversee."
"Oh wow! Tha—"
"For free," My professor quickly added, causing my enthusiasm to stagger ever so slightly. "If we pay you, other students will want a bit of the action, and we as a University cannot afford to place everyone in this department on a payroll. It'll be for the experience, Maria."
I must have radiated pure annoyance and disappointment to a point where it wasn't very well hidden. I slumped back in my chair, my hangover once again consuming me. I didn't have the energy to listen. Work?? For nothing?? I think the fuck not, sir.
"Listen, I'm not saying you'll have to work incredibly hard. I picked out a group that probably won't even go anywhere. It's just for the experience. Humour them and see if you can get them a few gigs locally. We're not talking big stars here, Maria. They're not even from the music department."
What have I got to lose?
"You could've had a bit of time to think about your decision, but since you turned up late, you have 2 minutes. They'll be here at 11."
It was 10:58. With an annoyed sigh, I ran my hand over my forehead. "Fine, whatever, I'll do it." It's not like I had much choice in the matter. Plus, how bad could it be if it would help me out to get a degree?
The next two minutes seemed to go so slow. Agonizingly slow. With each second that passed, I felt more and more nauseous and tired. This was when my fatigue decides to fail me? I thought to myself, as I heard voices approaching from down the corridor.
"How is it my fault that the bloody lift isn't working?" A high-pitched voice complained slightly out of breath, just as the door pushed open.
In came the blonde boy from the pub. As if, I thought.
But that's when the guitarist and the singer from the night before walked in, making me even more light-headed than I already was. Freddie and Brian, was it? Seeing them up close was a sight, I must say.
"Boys, this is Maria." My professor stood up and signalled me to do the same thing. "She's going to be taking care of you, making sure you book enough gigs to get noticed."
I shook away my hangover briefly enough to introduce myself. Freddie was just as charming as he was on stage, but slightly shier in person. Roger of course made no attempt to be gentle, he was obviously a very rambunctious person. Perhaps I should introduce him to Emma...
The poodle-haired guitarist was stood last, hands in his pockets. He did struggle to get his hand out when it came time for me to introduce myself. It's okay, I thought, I'm nervous too.
"Sorry, love. I'm Brian." The guitarist smiled at me, making my stomach turn. Or maybe it was the hangover. I froze a little. Was it the hangover?
"I'm..." My throat dried up, constricting my breathing as Brian looked at me puzzled.
I heard Freddie chuckle. "Have you forgotten your name already, darling?" It earned a giggle from Roger, who was fixing his hat onto his blonde locks.
"I'm gonna be sick." I mumbled, rushing over to the bin in the corner of my professor's room and hurling once again. This time, I didn't have Emma to hold my hair back. All of them stood and watched. Nobody came to help me.
When I was finished, I wiped my mouth with my sleeve and tried my best to act as normal as possible, as though I didn't just hurl my entire guts up.
"Jesus, we're not that bad, are we?" Roger said, offended at the idea. Brian just nudged him, making him shut up quickly.
"S-sorry... I guess I'm not well." I lied, not wanting anyone to know I was drinking heavily (for me, anyway) the night before. Didn't want them to see me as irresponsible.
"Don't apologise." Brian said quietly, and reassuringly. But it was drowned out by my professor's sigh.
"Maria, I think you should go home and come back tomorrow with a stronger mindset. I don't know what's gotten into you lately."
Ashamed, I picked up my bag and hurried past the boys, but I didn't get very far as I felt Freddie's hand clasp around my arm. He gave me a smile of sympathy. "It's alright, darling, we all get pissed sometimes." Laughing, he let go of my arm and let me go.
Talk about embarrassing.
I watched as Maria left the room. The poor thing was so embarrassed. The professor didn't seem to make her feel any more welcomed either. Prick.
I looked back at him, "Are you sure she's going to be able to handle us?" I asked, catching on to her anxious exit.
Roger chimed in, "Yeah, we're not exactly easy to be around. We want a lot from this experience, you know."
"I'm sure you do, Rog." I rolled my eyes, knowing exactly what he wants from a girl he's never met before.
"Ladies, please, we can fight in our own time." Freddie scolded us. "Deacy doesn't like the fighting, darling, how could you possibly be this childish?"
"It's a good job he's not here then, isn't it?" Roger backfired. He was so immature.
The professor interrupted our altercation, clearing his throat. "That's a point. Aren't there four of you? Where's the other one?"
"The other one, my dear, is our bassist, and he's more than the other one. What's more, he doesn't come here." Freddie immediately retorted, walking towards the professor and clasping his hands behind his back. You knew someone rubbed Fred up the wrong way when he did this. "He doesn't mix with scum, darling."
"Fred, chill." I said, trying my best to give the professor a warm smile.
Freddie backed away. "So, we'll take the girl's number and say no more about it, yes?"
"Of course." Maria's professor answered dryly, writing down her number on a small piece of paper. Freddie snatched it from him before he could even pick it up, turning around and heading for the door.
"Remember she's an unpaid student. Don't be too ambitious and don't make her too stressed, boys."
Roger smiled, shrugging his shoulders. "Don't worry, we only need a little push and we'll be on Top of the Pops in 5 years."
"Five years, darling? Try two years!" Freddie opened the door for us all to exit, which we did. I could've sworn I heard the professor say 'you wish' as we left.
"You can't keep your mouth shut, you two." I snapped as we made our way back down the stairs.
"What are you complaining about?" Roger asked, "One girl is going to be spending a lot of time around us, 4 guys. This is the best opportunity of our lives, Bri!"
I scoffed, "The only opportunity you think you're getting is to get into her pants, which will not happen, by the way. You can't mix up business with lust, Rog."
He stopped and raised his eyebrows. "Let's hope she has a hot friend then!" And with that he slid himself down the banister of the staircase.
"You wish, Blondie." I murmured as I followed down the stairs.
Chapter 3: 3 ~ chaotic ~
3 ~ chaotic ~
"I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't take the piss out of me, Emma, it was fucking embarrassing." I stirred the pot of tomato sauce on the stove, my hair tied back in a ponytail.
"But you spewed in front of three boys! You vomited as in fully choked!" Emma wheezed, leaning back on the sofa in her fit of giggles.
"How would you like it if you threw up in front of some really attractive guys? They probably think I'm so disgusting now. And I'm supposed to be managing them!" I rambled, some of the sauce splattering at me from the stove.
"You need to stir it—"
"I know I need to stir it, thank you Emma!!" I snapped, taking a deep breath and stirring it angrily.
"Don't get pissy with me, I'm just joking." Emma said softly, a slight tinge of guilt in her voice. She shut up momentarily whilst she got out two bowls and two forks.
"I'm sorry for shouting, I'm just really embarrassed, and I can't stop thinking about it."
"You mean, you can't stop thinking about them?" Emma grinned obnoxiously.
I spooned the sauce into a bowl of strained pasta, mixing it up. "I don't know what you're talking about." I said quietly, putting the pans in the sink.
"Maria, they're so attractive. And if they really were the guys from the other night, then you're so lucky that you are getting to spend so much time with them." She giggled, helping herself to the pasta I made. "Especially that blonde one, what was his name?"
Here we go...
"Roger." I said, smirking at Emma and her expression.
"Yes, Roger. You get to spend time with them all. You're one lucky bitch."
I emptied the rest of the pan into my bowl and walked over to the sofa. "It's just work experience, Emma, it's not anything much." I sat down, Emma joining me next to me. "Besides, I don't like blondes."
"No, you like the one with the big hair." Emma quickly retorted, shoving a forkful of pasta into her mouth. What a bitch.
As I opened my mouth to speak, the phone rang from the hallway. I groaned at Emma's cockiness, putting the bowl down on the coffee table and stepping over her legs, making my way through what was supposed to be cleaned up by Emma. Her and her stupid shoes.
I picked up the phone, placing it to my ear. "Hello?"
"Maria, darling, it's mum."
I gave Emma one of those looks, my eyes narrowing – whether it was aimed at her or my mother, it's up to interpretation. She just gave me a sour smile and went back to eating.
"Hi mum, how are things?" I sighed into the phone, trying my best to act positive.
"They're okay, your dad and I went to The Wellington the other night with Uncle Dave and Auntie Sue."
"The Wellington, huh...?" I asked, trying to be as calm as possible. "Where did the money come from for that type of meal?" I laughed, clinging onto the phone. Just hang up, Maria. Just hang up.
"Oh, we had some left over from the other week." My mum said so casually, her voice crackling on the other end.
"That's good..." I said quietly. "We haven't got a lot over here; we keep having pasta." I sighed, trying to drop a hint that I needed money.
"Oh darling, just get a job. There are loads of jobs in London. That's why you moved down there, remember?" It was as if she was completely oblivious to student life.
"Yep. Guess so..." I sighed, knowing I wasn't going to get anything out of her.
"How are things down there in the world of glamour, sweetheart?"
"I wouldn't exactly call it glamour. It's just chaotic and tired, and hungry." I stifled a little laugh, leaning on the wall and watching Emma clean out her bowl. "I got a bit of work experience given to me yesterday." I did sound optimistic at that.
"Oh, you know, your dad has just got in. We bought a new set of drawers for the dining room! Talk to you later, sweetheart, bye!" And then she hung up.
"Wow okay, love you too." I scoffed, slamming the phone back on the cradle.
"Careful, I'm paying for that!" I heart Emma yell from the kitchen.
"We're both paying for it, dickhead." I mumbled, picking up my bowl of pasta and taking a mouthful. It had gotten cold. Cold or not, it was food and I was hungry.
"I am assuming that was your mum?" Emma asked, sitting back down next to me, work folder in hand.
"Yes, she's doing wonderful, had dinner at The Wellington with the in-laws." I smiled sourly, peeking over at her work. She flicked through mind-map after mind-map of different influencers in the business.
"Has she always been that cunty?"
"You have no idea—" Interrupting me, again, the phone screamed across the hallway, each ring seemingly louder than the last. "Why, why, why, why..." I whined, trudging back through the endless amount of mess on the floor of our flat.
"I could've gone and answered the phone, you know." Emma said to me from the sofa.
"Do you want to?" I gestured to the phone as I got to the doorway.
"You're already there now."
"Cheeky bitch." I smiled and shook my head, picking up the phone.
"Hello?" I had a smile on my face by now; Emma never failed to put a smile on my face. Sure, life in London was a bit shit, but we had each other and that's what mattered.
"Hello, is this Maria?" A soft voice spoke from the other end of the line.
"Yes, this is she." I leaned against the wall.
"Hi, it's Brian. From yesterday."
Of course. Who else could that soft, gentle voice be??
"Oh, h-hi." I instantly got nervous, though. Memories of the day before flooded back into my mind, my anxiety coming back.
"I didn't call at a bad time, did I?"
"Oh no, no... Listen, I'm so sorry about yesterday, I really wasn't feeling well and I didn't mean to do what I did, I promis—"
"Maria, it's fine. Like Freddie said, we all get drunk sometimes." I heard him chuckle from the other end, which strangely made my stomach turn in a good way this time. He remembered my name...
"Yeah... Well, it was your fault anyway." What? Why the fuck did you say that?
"Wait, what I mean is that... I only got drunk because I stayed longer than I usually do. And the reason I stayed longer than I usually do is because you were playing and your music was decent, so-"
"I was joking, you don't have to explain to me." He chuckled again. "You liked our music?"
"Yeah, of course I did." I smiled into the phone. "I guess I didn't really get a chance to tell you that yesterday." I giggled.
"Thank you, we tend to get a good audience reception. Anyway, I called about the position your professor gave you yesterday. We want you to know we're not expecting much, and we know it can be stressful to keep up with studies and everything at the same time. So, if you want to back out, I completely understand." He now sounded nervous.
"Brian, it's fine." I said, now my turn to reassure him. "It'll be good for my course; I need to know this stuff in practice." I nodded to myself.
"Well, that's good then. With that being said... Do you want to come and meet all of us? You only met three quarters of us yesterday, maybe you should know the full quad."
I couldn't help but laugh at the way he worded that. "Quad? You can tell you're not from the music department."
"There's nothing wrong with that. I happened to be a smart astrophysicist. Anyway, can't do tomorrow; I have to go to a meal with family, but we can all do Tuesday. That sound good to you?"
I was still stuck at 'astrophysicist'. "Uh, yeah."
I had very little time to write down the address as the phone signal was awful from our flat. Fucking Imperial. Before we could even say our goodbyes, the line went flat, a monotonous beep piercing my ear.
I put the phone back on the cradle and folded the little sheet of paper and slipped it into the pocket of my denim jacket that was hung over the radiator. I walked back through into the living room, where Emma was just sat, now listening to some of The Beatles' music.
"And that was...?" She asked, looking up.
"Brian. You know, the big haired one?" I smiled, sitting next to her.
"Ohhhhhhhhhh...." Emma teased, nudging me.
"Shut up, you're so immature." I rolled my eyes. "He just wants me to meet all four of them on Tuesday. Properly."
"Yeah, vomiting all over them isn't a great way to introduce yourself."
With that, I grabbed a cushion and whacked her with it, her then doing the same. We were now having a pillow fight, giggling uncontrollably at one another.
"You bitch!" I heard Emma shout when I noticed I knocked her glass of cheap wine on her Doc Martens.
"It's your fault for leaving your shoes everywhere, you messy bastard!" I laughed hard enough for tears to form, and that was the last straw. Emma got up and stormed to the bedroom, which I used, picking up my favourite necklace and sprinting to the bathroom.
"Oh fuck no..." I went for her, grabbing it from her hand as she hung it over the toilet.
"What's wrong, Maria? Brian can always buy you a new one!"
"Will you shut up?! It's just business." I sighed, coming down from my hysterical high.
"Yeah, yeah..." Emma shook her head.
Why couldn't life always be this blissful?
Chapter 4: 4 ~ her majesty ~
4 ~ her majesty ~
It took me ages to find this address. Why did Brian have to live in such an obscure part of town? I lifted my hand and knocked loud enough for someone inside to hear me. Whilst I awaited an answer, I scanned my eyes around the surrounding area. I wouldn't say it was particularly nice, with its lack of security and the fact that their front door was hidden down a side alley, but I guess students can't complain.
I heard the lock from the other side of the door twist round and the handle being pulled on. Peeping through the crack in the door, I saw Roger's blue eyes staring back at me.
"Oh, it's you." He said, as though relieved, although I didn't catch onto that initially. He pulled open the door all the way, stepping aside to let me in.
"Good afternoon to you, too, Roger." I walked inside, little warmth hitting me as I did so.
"Who is it??" I heard a softer voice yelling from another part of the house.
"It's..." Roger stammered, looking back at me, "Sorry, love, what's your name again?"
"Maria." I sighed. He already forgot my name?
Just then, someone came out of one of the rooms, holding a big case in front of them, evidently containing a guitar of some sort. But you wouldn't find it difficult to tell who was behind the case; I could see Brian's big mane sticking out. That's when his face peered round the side.
"Hi Maria," He greeted warmly, adjusting his hands underneath the case. "I'll be with you in a sec, I just have to take this upstairs."
"I can look after her, you know." Roger said, almost offended at Brian's lack of confidence that he'd be able to do such a thing.
"And I'm sure you would." I heard Brian mumble, as he trudged up the stairs with the big case in his hands.
Closing the door behind me, Roger gave me a toothy grin, walking ahead of me. "You can come in here, we don't bite." He gestured his hand to follow him and I did so.
My eyes landed on Freddie playing scrabble on the floor with another boy, his hair also lengthy. That's the bass player, I thought. Freddie noticed me and his concentrated expression soon switched to a look of joy.
"Maria, darling, how are you feeling?" He also remembered my name? I'm more memorable than I thought. Freddie's eyes kept flicking from me to the scrabble board, making sure the bass player of the group didn't cheat.
"I'm feeling much better, thank you F..." I hesitated a bit, finishing his name as more of a question. "...Freddie, was it?"
"That is indeed my name, dear." He grinned at me, showing his teeth. I'd never seen an overbite so intense. But it somehow suited him and caused his uniqueness to get the better of him. "John, dear, don't be so rude, we have a guest." Freddie nudged the other guy, who instantly looked up at me. He too smiled, a slight gap in his front two teeth.
"Hello. You're the girl who's helping us, aren't you?" His voice was very sweet and childlike. But at the same time, it was comforting.
"Uh, yeah. I don't know how good I'll be, I'm a bit useless to be honest." I chuckled nervously, playing with my fingers.
"Nonsense." I heard behind me, Brian soon emerging from my side to sit on their rather worn out sofa. "It's nothing serious, don't have a thing to worry about. Of course, we understand it's unpaid so like I said on the phone, we don't expect much." Brian smiled; mouth closed. "Oh, uh, do you want anything to drink?" He noticed none of them had exactly been welcoming to their fullest.
"Umm... No, I'm alright thanks." I shook my head, my chest thumping with anxiety. New surroundings.
"Well, don't stand up all the time, love, sit down." Roger said from across the room, sat in an armchair, one leg over the arm. He had a cigarette hanging loosely from his lips as he lit it with a match.
I mumbled a little 'oh' as I stepped over Freddie and John's scrabble game, settling on the edge of the sofa, next to Brian.
"So, you've met everyone, do you think you can handle us all, darling?" Chimed Freddie, lifting his head.
"I think I can, you don't seem like much trouble." I joked, looking at each of them before my eyes landing on Brian. "Not at all." I smiled, earning a smile back from the guitarist. There it was again: that stomach turn. I don't know what it was about Brian, but he made me feel oddly comfortable – calm. Even on the telephone, his voice soothed me after my lovely conversation I had with mother dear. I was almost glad I got to sit next to him and not Roger.
I had to tear my gaze away from him before I started daydreaming. Very bad habit of mine. "So..." I sighed, looking at everyone else as though I didn't just get lost in Brian's hazel eyes for a second. "I was told you needed help looking for venues?"
"That's right, yeah." Roger nodded, looking at Freddie, who was very much into his scrabble game. "Fred, you said something abo—"
"Shit!" Freddie yelled, taking all of us by surprise. He said back, frustrated, leaning back on his hands. "Every time, Deacy." He narrowed his eyes sourly at John before noticing our looks. "Oh, sorry, darlings, what were you saying?"
"We were telling Maria about what we need help with, Fred." Brian sighed, leaning forward a bit to see passed me, since I was still sat on the edge of the sofa rather than on the sofa. I shuffled back a little, Brian smiling gently in appreciation.
"Oh yes, sorry." Freddie apologised, sitting up straighter. "We play at The Kings Head not far from here on a Friday evening. But, unfortunately, that's all we are doing at the moment."
Brian chimed in, earning my attention. "We're all studying, you understand, and we are quite far away from any other venues. We struggle to get any word out about Queen."
"Queen?" I asked, raising my eyebrow. "What's that?"
"Why, it's our band, darling!" Freddie announced enthusiastically. "After her Majesty, of course. Isn't it outrageous?"
I stifled a little giggle. "It's a different name, to be honest. It's nice to hear that you're not called 'death tribe' or anything cliché." I was beginning to feel a lot more comfortable now. These guys were easier to talk to than I had anticipated. "I must have missed that on Friday."
"That's where I've seen you before!" Exasperated Roger, sitting up in his chair, holding his hand out with the cigarette between his pointer and middle finger.
"You what?" I said, my Northern accent not failing me.
"I saw you dancing during Keep Yourself Alive!" So that's what the song was called! Roger was grinning, and this information made Brian chuckle under his breath. "On Friday!"
"Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you... Maria likes our music." Brian nodded, seemingly proud of himself. "They picked us an easy one to work with." He glanced at me, giving me that smile again. That fucking smile.
My cheeks burned up with embarrassment, nonetheless. Purely because I was caught dancing, more than anything. I was a terrible dancer. Plus, I was drunk. I couldn't even begin to imagine what that must have looked like.
"Are you a musical person, Maria?" Freddie asked, standing up and perching himself onto the armrest on the sofa, next to me.
"I guess you could say that. I sing sometimes, but it's just for fun." I smiled. "I used to sit with my dad when I was like 12 and we used to sing non-stop. It drove my mum crazy." I laughed, for a second remembering when life was a little less stressful. "Sorry, I'm rambling."
"Don't apologise, love, I think it's wonderful that you like music." Brian reassured me, his smile a little wider.
"It just kind of takes my mind off of things. It's like an anti-stress technique." I giggled. "Which explains why you guys are so deep into it."
"Music comes naturally. I can only speak for myself, darling, I don't know about the others." Freddie smiled innocently, chuckling at his own dig at the boys. "No, I'm only joking, we all love it. And we all love performing it. That is if we actually had anywhere to perform it..."
My eyes widened, feeling bad about going off on a tangent. "Sorry, that's my job now, I guess." My eyes scanned the room for a clock, only noticing a little one on the coffee table. "Um... I know this is quite important to you all, but it's almost 9:30 and I have a lecture first thing..." I trailed out, looking at the boys individually.
"Oh, don't us disturb your studies, darling! Just come back tomorrow and we can talk real business." Freddie stood up immediately. I followed, letting them all know I was leaving.
They all stood up to, eager to say their goodbyes. Freddie assured me he wouldn't put too much stress on me, as he knew they could all be temperamental in their own ways. As much as I knew he was right, I honestly would feel awful if I was to not give 100% in this experience. It was extremely important to them all, and I knew that deep down they were struggling and desperate for a big break.
"I'll see you out." Brian said, walking with me to the door. I opened the door, turning around to say goodbye to him.
"We are all grateful for this, Maria, you should know that. We're struggling at the moment." Knew it.
"It's my pleasure. Besides, it's gonna help with my degree, so I'd be stupid not to give it a go." I smiled reassuringly, folding my arms over my torso.
"Have a safe journey home, and I uh... I'll uh... See you tomorrow, I guess?" He scratched the back of his neck, placing a grip on the door. Is he okay?
"Yeah, I'll see you tomorrow." Nodding, I missed the warning of Brian leaning towards me, planting a soft kiss on my cheek.
"See you." I simply said, turning and leaving.
Don't stress over it, Maria. He's obviously a gentleman. And that's what gentlemen do out of pure respect when the other is coming or going.
I repeated this in my head as I made my way back home.
Chapter 5: 5 ~ on your knees ~
“The competition between Allen Klein and Colonel Tom Parker is an example of healthy competition. If you don’t find yourself in a situation where you’re having to compete over a certain clientele, you’re doing something terribly wrong.” Earning a subtle wave of chuckles from the class, Professor Ross ran over the details of the topic we had been studying for the past fortnight.
Emma, adjusting her glasses, accordingly, rushed to note down the dates of Allen Klein’s major peaks in his career as a businessman. He’d worked with The Beatles, hence why Emma was so excited to record everything possible about him.
I, on the other hand, didn’t think much to Mr Klein’s methods; he was way too sneaky for my taste. I could never be a manager like him; force-signing clients and heavily intoxicating himself to deal with his clientele in the first place. Though Professor Ross was entirely correct, his competition with Tom Parker, the manager of Elvis’ estate, was incredible. It showed that if you want something enough, you’d go for it without letting anything get in the way.
Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. The point being made is that I wasn’t listening much to Professor Ross’ explanation of their feud. Besides, I was set on my studies of John Reid and had done mind-maps, flow-charts, pages and pages of notes on his career. Rather successful career, in fact.
“That being said, I will give you the next 15 minutes to discuss your findings with your fellow students. Get the inspiration flowing, my little protégés.”
Hearing the class begin to mumble to one another, I turned to Emma, who was finishing up her mass of notes.
“He’s in a scarily good mood today.” I stated when Emma had finished. “I don’t think I have ever seen him so… upbeat. He’s always been a boring old bastard.”
Emma giggled, taking off her glasses and setting them on the table. “So, you met the guys yesterday?” Of course, this was going to come sooner or later.
“I did. It was evident by the way I walked out the door and said ‘Emma, I’m going to Brian’s place to meet the boys, see you later.’” I rested my elbow on the table, tapping my pencil against my lips. My sarcasm was fluent.
“Okay, sarcy. Were they nice to you?”
Of course, they were nice to me. Man, they were more than nice, they were fucking welcoming.
“Yeah, they were alright.” I nodded. “They’re a nice group of lads.”
“I bet they were.” Emma said all too casually, wiggling her eyebrows at me, making my eyes roll.
“Jesus, Emma, can’t you go a second without making something dirty? Come on, you know I wouldn’t shag someone I’ve only known for two days.”
“Would you settle for three?” Emma raised her eyebrow quizzically, earning a shove from me.
“I think you’re confusing me with yourself, mate.” I laughed, shaking my head. “Speaking of, Roger was there.” I grinned.
“Oooohhhh!” Emma squealed, earning some looks from other students. This was why we chose to sit at the back, in the corner and away from every other fucker in that room. “Tell me, are any of them single??”
“By any of them, do you mean Roger? Because as far as I know, Roger isn’t exactly the relationship type.” To most girls, me especially, this response would have pierced a dagger right through my heart. But this actually made Emma’s grin wider.
“Really???” Her voice was high pitched now and she was way too excited about this.
“Well, I didn’t see any girls around and none of them had a ring on their finger so I’m gonna go out on a limb and assume they’re single. I’m sure you’ll find out soon enough.”
“And Brian was there, right?” Emma asked.
“Yes, Emma, they were all there.” I smiled. I would be a liar to say that I hadn’t thought about the kiss Brian gave me on the cheek the night before. It wasn’t even a big deal, nor should it have been made a big deal by me. But, fun fact, nobody had ever done that to me before, let alone an attractive guy. How do you expect me to react?
“Wow, you like that man.”
“No, I do not! I hardly know the lad. I mean, yeah, he’s attractive. And he’s quite nice. And his voice is like soothing. But that’s it!”
“That’s it? Maria, you just listed 99% of what makes him.” Emma said bluntly.
“Why do you always push this on me? You know I don’t want a relationship and you know full well I’m terrified of that sort of stuff. And after this work experience is over, I probably won’t ever see him again. So, there’s no point in forcing this shit, Emma, so stop it.” I turned back forward, resting my head on my hand.
“Do they all—”
“Right.” I started, turning around a bit more viciously than I intended, as I knocked some of my papers on the floor. “If you want to know more about them, I’m meeting them later. We’re going back to Brian’s place and we’re gonna do some business shit. Do you want to come with?”
I swear I’d never seen Emma’s eyes light up any more than they had done in that moment. “Are you playing with me, Maria? Because if you are, I’ll cry.”
“Why would I joke about that? You’ll stop asking me questions finally.” Emma went for my arm, but I quickly dodged it. “So, you coming with me, or not?”
“Yes, I’m coming with you, idiot! Are you sure they won’t mind?”
“I don’t think they’d mind. They seem to like having more company.” I tilted my head to the side, once again thinking about Brian. Why is he always in my fucking mind?? He was just so soft and gentle, and he made me feel comfortable. Sometimes when I see someone, and they’re both attractive and nice… I tend to develop an infatuation for them. But I was determined not to let that happen with Brian. My business with them will be temporary, and so should our acquaintanceship.
After class, Emma and I decided it would be a good idea to take a shortcut to our scheduled study hour. The lifts still weren’t back in operation and it was agonising for all students. There was an overcrowd of students with physical disabilities on the ground floor, blocking up quite a large section of the main corridor.
The stairwell of the business and economics department of Imperial was completely blocked with people coming and going, some people starting to get trampled on, and some people deciding to just slide down the banister.
“Um… I can’t be arsed with that.” Emma huffed, grabbing my hand and leading me over to the staircase to the science department.
“Emma, hun, we’re going down. Not up.” I raised an eyebrow, my eyes scanning over all the posters of stuff I never understood in school and probably am never going to understand.
“Yeah, we can just use the staircase over here instead. Saves us going through the corridors.”
I didn’t question her logic. It wasn’t like I had to be anywhere in particular at that very moment anyways.
I held my hands out and took the pile of books from Dr Porter.
“Can you take them to the office, just put them on the desk.” His Scottish accent rang out, only just being able to register it.
Obliging, I pushed the door open with my shoulder, steadying myself as I began my short walk to the science office. The grip on the bottom book became a bit loose, so I sped myself up ever so slightly. Why is there never anywhere to put books down when you need to?
My palms became sweaty, the glossy cover of the book slipping from my grip. The books did fall, unfortunately. But to my surprise, it wasn’t due to my weak grip on them all. I must have been too focussed on making sure they didn’t fall, that I walked right into someone as I swiftly turned a corner. I immediately lowered to pick them up.
“Oh my God, I’m so sorry!”
I recognise that voice.
I look up from my position, a smile instantly beaming across my face. “Maria!” She looked so guilty and she, too, kneeled down to pick them up.
“I’m sorry, Brian, I should’ve looked where I was going.”
“No, don’t be silly, I was probably carrying too many anyways.” I breathed through my teeth, shaking my head.
She avoided looking at me as she helped me stack the remaining books. As she did, I looked up to see another girl stood there, a folder in her arms and her hair pulled back into a ponytail. I gave her a smile of a greeting and continued helping Maria.
When she placed the books back in my hands, I managed to get a grip on more than one at the bottom of the pile this time. I looked back up at Maria and smiled at her. There was something so inviting about her; her dark hair that matched her dark eyes. Yet, not dark enough to be black. Just a deep toned brown. The best kind.
Noticing I was just staring, I cleared my throat, shaking my head. “So, uh… You still coming later?” I tried to make the tension a little less prominent, Maria’s friend shuffling a little at it.
Maria nodded, showing her pearly white teeth as she smiled. “Yep. Which reminds me, where am I meeting you?”
“Car park, I should imagine.” I shrugged, being too distracted by her voice. And that accent.
“Do you drive?” She asked, tilting her head to the side.
“No, I don’t. But Roger does.” I nodded, seeing her friend’s posture straighten before coughing what seemed to be intentionally.
“Oh! Brian, this is Emma. She’s my roommate.”
“Oh, well, it’s nice to meet you Emma. I would shake your hand but…” I chuckled, gesturing to the books in my hand.
“It’s okay, don’t want you and Maria on your knees again.” This made Maria give Emma the side eye, trying my best to hold in a laugh.
“Well, we should get going. Shouldn’t we, Emma?” Maria held onto her friend’s arm, smiling at her.
“Oh yes, we have a study session.” Emma agreed, beginning to walk off. “Nice meeting you Brian.”
Maria and I exchanged smiles, before she walked off also. I didn’t get very far when I heard her voice again, which I would of course answer to immediately.
I turned around. “Yes?”
“Is it okay if Emma comes with me tonight? She wants to meet you all.”
“It should be okay. It’ll be a bit of uh… A bit of a squeeze in the car, though.” I hummed.
“I’m sure it’ll be fine, thanks Brian!” Emma yelled from the other end of the corridor, earning an eyeroll from Maria, who I was still looking at.
When we started to part once again, I paused. I needed to just look at her face one last time before we saw each other later on. Hoping she hadn’t disappeared, I turned around again.
She turned around, her hair flicking with the movements of her head, the denim of her jacket rolled up to her wrists, the sleeves baggy enough to be considered a fashion statement.
“I uh…” I didn’t know what to say to her. I just wanted to look at her again.
Quick, make something up, Bri.
“Can… Can I have your number or something?” I stuttered, but immediately regretted my question afterwards. We already have her fucking number…
“Do you not already have it?” She asked, raising her eyebrow, that confused expression taking over her features.
“Oh… Oh yeah. Forgot. Apologies.” I timidly said, licking my dry lips.
“It’s okay. I’ll see you later, yeah?” Maria giggled, pushing it off as a funny accident.
“Yeah, see you later…” I trailed as she turned around and joined her friend at the end of the corridor. I watched as she walked around the corner.
Wow, you’re an idiot, Bri.
Chapter 6: 6 ~ my hand on your grease gun ~
We waited at that car park for a good half an hour after we should have been meeting. What is it with things being late this week? I thought, glancing at Emma, who was applying some lipstick.
“Mate, you don’t wear lipstick, what are you doing?” I asked, leaning against the wall.
She looked at me for a second, clearly trying to construct some type of an excuse. We both knew exactly why she was doing that. Roger.
“Well, maybe I want to switch things up a bit, you know.” She answered in defence, her face almost dropping in anxiety, staring at something ahead of her. I followed her gaze. The boys were here.
The three of them walking next to each other, like a group of backstreet boys or something. Freddie wore a red velvet jacket and black bellbottoms, obviously topped off with his platforms. He was such a fashionista. Roger wore blue bellbottoms, a striped button up shirt, and his hat. That weird hat. It did look good on him, I must say. The buttons weren’t fully fastened, so he made sure to leave a bit of chest showing. Emma clearly couldn’t take her eyes off of him as they all approached us.
Brian, on the other hand… His outfit was less flashy and gentler. Like him, I suppose. Everything was black apart from his shirt, which was also unbuttoned down to his lower chest. I’m not saying he didn’t suit the more generic look, he looked obviously handsome like he had the last three times I’d met him.
Anyway, Emma was smitten with Roger the closer he got to us. She had to snap out of it, so I cleared my throat and nudged her subtly in the side, to which she shook her head and stood up straight.
“Maria, darling, so good to see you again.” Freddie grinned, and pulled me in for a hug, which I accepted without argument. Brian shot a smile at me as I looked over Freddie’s shoulder. I smiled back, quickly dragging my gaze away from him. It was so easy to get lost staring at him.
“Who’s this, then?” Roger asked me, but fixated his eyes on Emma, who was still leaning against the wall.
“This is my friend, Emma. She’s my roommate. And…” I trailed off, mortified at the way she was looking at Roger, and the way Roger was looking at her. I swear they just eye-fucked each other. “Brian said she can come with me. She wanted to meet you all.” I finished, slightly uncomfortable.
“Don’t be so shocked, darling, you should see the girls who hang around at our concerts.” Freddie shook his head, whacking Roger on the arm. “You driving, blondie?”
“I am indeed.” Roger answered, but I feel like it was more of an innuendo to him, as his eyes were still on Emma. I guess she didn’t have to worry about a first
impression at this rate.
“It’s going to be a bit of a squeeze, I’m afraid.” Brian let me and Emma know as we got to Roger’s car.
“Emma and myself in the front, yeah?” Roger grinned, opening the passenger side and letting Emma slide in, himself hopping in the driver’s seat.
“Didn’t really have much of a choice.” I mumbled to Brian, who hummed in agreement, opening the back door for me to get in. Freddie had already got in at the other side. Great. Queen sandwich.
I squeezed into the back seat, being basically suffocated by the builds of Freddie and Brian on either side of me. I wasn’t necessarily slim, but it surely wasn’t uncomfortable. I did, however, feel a slight discomfort as I watched Emma in the passenger seat, eyes all over Roger.
I could not deny Roger was gorgeous. But he was nothing more than a pretty boy to me – same old, same old. To Emma, however, he was a God. I had witnessed Emma develop infatuations for boys before, but each time ended in disappointment. I never forget the time one of Emma’s friends dated her ex – only a couple of weeks after the breakup, in fact. I forever despised anyone who hurt my best friend. And I couldn’t help but feel unsettled when picturing Roger being involved with Emma.
Anyway, I shuffled around, trying my best to make myself comfortable. After all, it was only a 15-minute drive back to the boys’ place. It seemed as if once we hit the road, we were halted at a red light instantly. That’s London. It gave Freddie time to mock Roger, much to my confusion.
“You and this car, darling, you ought to get a new one. It’s falling to pieces.” Freddie complained, straining to roll the window down due to the lack of space in the back.
“Hey, I am never getting rid of this car. I don’t know what it is, but I’m attached to it. We’re like the same person!” Roger exclaimed ever so enthusiastically as he ran his fingertips over the steering wheel.
I rolled my eyes: typical boys, I thought, hoping to get Emma’s attention. But she was still so infatuated with Roger and his admiration for his automobile.
Brian cleared his throat, shuffling his legs to a position where they wouldn’t be completely pushed inwards, with him being so tall. “Honestly, Rog, it’s not such a bad idea to get a new car.”
“No! I’m keeping this fucking car, if you all don’t like it, go buy yourselves one!”
Jesus, he was so defensive.
“I think your car’s lovely, Roger.” Emma chimed, smiling at him, almost making him miss the green light.
“Oh, uh – thanks, uhm… Emma.” He stuttered. “What a pretty name for a pretty girl.” It was like Roger completely forgot we were in the backseat.
Brian sighed, shaking his head, causing me to look up at his reaction. I couldn’t help but chuckle. Roger flirting was clearly a regular occurrence. Surely Emma wouldn’t fall for something that cliché—
“Thank you so much!” Spoke to soon. “I love the name Roger. In fact…” Emma leant in a bit closer to the driver’s seat, us three in the back noticing his grip on the wheel stiffening. We are going to die.
“If I ever had a car, I’d call it Ro—”
“Emma!” I yelled from the backseat, causing her to fly back to her original position. “He’s driving. Save it for when you’re alone, yes?”
I earned a laugh from Brian. I’d never heard him laugh properly. He lowered his head towards me and whispered. “Nobody has ever interrupted Roger with a girl before. Especially when they’re flirting like crazy. Thank you.” He gave me an impressed look, his hand patting my knee. I don’t know what it was, but my body completely stiffened when he did that. His hands were so big, yet so harmless.
The rest of the car journey was more or less silent, apart from the occasional back and forth of normal conversation. I became accustomed to being squeezed between Brian and Freddie, although I found myself leaning more towards Brian. Nothing against Freddie, I just seemed to press my leg against Brian’s more.
It probably meant nothing when Brian’s arm laid across the backseats. It just felt like he was putting his arm around me. And it was a protective gesture. And I liked it… But I shook the merest bit of attraction to Brian away, hoping for the car journey to soon be over. The Lord answered my prayer, as we pulled up outside their house.
“John should already be here with a Yellow Pages book.” Freddie said to me, as we made our way down that alley towards their front door.
Roger and Emma came inside a good ten minutes after us – God only knows what they were doing in that alleyway. John and I were sat next to each other on the sofa, scanning through the Yellow Pages book to find venues for the boys. Brian was seated on the armchair across the room and Freddie was once again looming over my shoulder, perched on the armrest of the sofa.
Roger trudged over to the only other empty space in their front room: the second armchair next to Brian.
“Oh dear, there’s no other place to sit, Emma.” Roger grinned at her, to which she immediately blushed. This interaction grabbed all our attentions. “You better sit here, it’s the most comfortable seat in the house.” He sat back and gestured to his lap. Who was Emma to say no to that offer?
Poor Brian look absolutely flustered as the two armchairs were dangerously close to each other. I gave him a look that said something along the lines of ‘what the fuck’ and he returned it, hiding a chuckle from the two lovebirds adjacent to him.
Emma now on Roger’s lap, his arms wrapped around her waist, John cleared his throat and continued looking under ‘B’ in the book.
“What about The Britannia?” I asked, pointing to its designated spot on the page. I looked up at Freddie for an answer.
“How patriotic! Rather like us, wouldn’t you say?” He giggled, leaning over me and searching for a number on the page, to which the space was blank. “They couldn’t even leave a number.” He shook his head. “We’ll have to go down there ourselves and have a word.”
"They’re a four-star pub, Fred.” Brian said, furrowing his eyebrows a bit. Was he actually anxious about this?
“So is The Kings Head, darling.” Freddie corrected him.
“We only got in there because you know the owner’s son.” Roger claimed, shooting Freddie a knowing stare.
“There’s no denying that, dear.” He seemed proud of himself, looking down at me. “Remember, Maria, it’s not who you know, but who you sleep with.”
“Might have to take you up on that advice, Fred.” Roger grunted into Emma’s ear, making her giggle.
This is sickening to watch.
“They close at 9pm.” John started, moving the attention once again from the rabbits in the corner. “We have plenty of time to go and see them tonight. The sooner the better, anyways.”
Brian huffed and got up from his seat, standing 6ft 1” in front of us, making us all strain our necks to look up at him. “We have a problem.” He said quietly.
“Which is what?” I asked, raising an eyebrow.
“We’ll have to use his car.” He gestured to Roger with his head. He was right. We weren’t going to get very far if Roger was so hooked on Emma in that moment. And he definitely didn’t seem like the type to let someone else use it for a while.
“They’re closed on a Thursday; we can’t go tomorrow.” John shook his head. He obviously wanted to get this done as soon as possible.
Brian sighed; his eye being caught by something in the hallway as he paused to think. “We can still go tonight.”
Freddie looked just as confused as I did. “Darling, you just said—”
“Rog, we’re going to go talk to some owner.” Brian said as he turned around, no answer coming from the blonde. “Are you coming with us?”
Roger looked up at Brian finally, inhaling heavily as if he was thinking. His eyes flickered between us and Emma and he exhaled finally, with a bit of a groan. “Uh, nah. I think me and Emma will stay back. Get to know each other a little more, huh?” He looked at Emma, who was quick to nod her head in agreement.
“Yeah, that seems like a good idea.” She played along with this bullshit story of staying back to get to know each other.
Brian didn’t seem shocked by his response, so when the two went back to flirting with one another, he pressed his finger to his lips, gesturing us to follow him into the hallway. We did so, still confused.
“What are you doing?” I whispered to him, soon meeting him with a smile when he held up Roger’s keys, that were clumsily placed on the banister.
Freddie and John soon caught on also, the three of them making their way outside. I stopped at the doorway of their front room one last time, looking at Roger and Emma.
“Emma, are you going to be okay?” I said loud enough for her to hear me. She didn’t break her contact with Roger, but she did answer me thankfully.
“Yeah, I’ll be fine.” Short, but at least it’s something. A bit like her.
“Don’t worry, Maria, I’ll take good care of her when you’re gone.” Roger had that fucking smile on his face, and I knew exactly what they’d be doing whilst we weren’t there.
Let the girl get pounded into a mattress, she deserves it.
“Um, alright. Bye.” I mumbled, certain I wouldn’t get a response. So I just headed for the door, shutting it behind me.
I walked towards Roger’s car, to see Brian in the driver’s seat and Freddie and John in the back seats. I slipped into the passenger seat and gave Brian a quizzical look.
“I thought you said you didn’t drive.” I challenged, sending him a playful smirk.
He stuck the key in the ignition and twisted it, firing up the car after a few clumsy attempts. This man cannot drive, can he?
“I have my permit.” Was all he said before he pushed down on the gas pedal, and we were soon on the road.
“You have your permit? So you don’t have a licence?” I asked, slightly worried. I heard John laugh in the back.
“Don’t worry, Maria, he’s driven us places many times when Roger was too drunk to drive back himself. He’s… he’s alright.”
With that, I sat back, praying for two things: that Brian won’t kill us, and that Emma uses protection.
That drummer will not hurt my friend, whether my life depends on it.
Chapter 7: 7 ~ scent of pine ~
“Do we know where we are going?” Brian asked as we got on the road, flicking his eyes from ahead of him and back to me every now and then.
“I think John wrote the address down…” I said, turning to him in the back. He raised his eyebrows and immediately looked guilty.
“I was supposed to get the address?” He asked.
“John, darling, how are we supposed to know where we’re going if we don’t even have the address of the place?” Freddie huffed, waving his hand about.
“Hey, it’s okay.” Brian hushed them, moving one hand from the wheel and to the glove compartment in front of me, struggling to get it open without crashing. I grabbed his wrist and moved it away gently.
“I got it.” I said, not paying attention to how his muscles stiffened when I touched him. I opened up the compartment and there laid a map. “Great, did anyone take orientation ever by any chance?” I asked sarcastically, unfolding it. Why are maps so complicated?
“It’s upside down, Maria, dear.” Freddie corrected me, his face appearing besides me from the back.
“How am I supposed to know? The whole thing looks like the human nervous system.” I mumbled, flipping it round and trying my best not to hit Brian in the face with it. I looked around us for any type of sign of whereabouts we were. “Oh, you need to take the second left up here. It’s more South of Kensington.” I pointed towards a junction in the distance.
I became the party’s guide. Being the one with the map gave me responsibility to make sure we got to The Britannia. Freddie and John started up their own conversation revolving around their game on scrabble when John won, leaving Brian and I to form a conversation of our own.
“How old are you, Maria?” Brian finally broke the silence in the front of the car.
“I’m 22.” I answered, but immediately furrowed my brows. “I don’t like saying that. I feel old.”
“Does that mean I’m ancient? I’m 25.” Brian retorted, giving me an offended look briefly.
“I didn’t mean it like that… I just meant that it doesn’t seem that long since I was 18.” I looked ahead of us, watching all the other people around us. People watching was one of my favourite things to do. It made me wonder who we were and how we came to be like that.
“I know the feeling. How long have you been doing your course at Imperial?” His voice was so soothing to me. I felt very much at ease in this conversation.
“Oh, I’ve only been doing it for a year. I’m not that far into it.” I shook my head, looking down at the map.
“How do you like it?”
“It’s alright… You need to turn right here.” I pointed to the turn ahead of us.
“Is it the career path you’re choosing? Because it’s brilliant that women are getting involved with business aspects of showbusiness. It’s a huge step forward to me, it really is.” Brian nodded, seemingly impressed with the thought. But I had to disappoint him, unfortunately.
“Um, I don’t actually know what I want to do after uni, to be honest. I mean, I’ve always loved animals and taking care of them, but I don’t think my mum and dad would be too pleased about me doing something like that.” I laughed half-heartedly, wishing it was some type of joke.
“Why the hell not? It’s a wonderful thing to take care of wildlife and nature.” He exclaimed, passion dripping from his words. “What’s your favourite animal?”
“I’ve always had a fascination with guinea pigs for some reason, I have no idea why.” I giggled, warmth flowing in my stomach as I finally got to talk about something I genuinely love with someone. “What about you?”
“Well,” Brian started, inhaling deeply. “It often changes from hedgehogs to badgers, but any type of animal that’s endangered I can consider my favourite. All animals are amazing, and I love all of them. But there are some really underrated creatures out there that deserve love too.” He gave me a warm smile. I saw his eyes light up as he spoke. He really does love animals, doesn’t he? “Guinea pigs are cute, though.” He smiled and nodded.
I grinned at him, before looking back down at the map. “We should be there after another two turns.”
“I kept meaning to ask you. I couldn’t help but notice your accent, where abouts are you from?” He sounded genuinely interested in me. And in all honesty, I liked it. I never really made any friends while I was in London as I was focussed on the studies and I had Emma anyways. It was nice to have a normal conversation with someone different for a change.
“I’m from Yorkshire. Couldn’t get any more common.” I joked, earning a laugh from Brian.
“You’re not common. Not in the bad way, at least. What’s it like up there?”
“It’s quieter. And I prefer being up there. No offense to down here, of course, I just… I feel more at peace back home.”
“Why did you come to study down here then?”
“My mum said it would give me opportunities if I moved to a city location.” I rolled my eyes, looking out the window to my left, spotting The Britannia in the distance. “It’s there.”
When we parked upside it, my hand froze as it went to open the door. “Who’s talking to the owner…?”
“You, darling, isn’t that part of your experience?” Freddie asked, hopping out the door.
“Oh, yeah… Of course.” I took a deep breath and exited the car along with everyone else.
I looked up at the pub as we pushed open the wooden door, the scent of beer and pork scratchings hitting my nose all at once. There weren’t many people indoors, which clearly worried Brian some bit as I saw by his face. His teeth were clamped around both his lips, eyes scanning the perimeters.
I spotted the bar and I approached it, prepared to put my studies to the test practically. Behind it was a short, bald man, wiping out pint glasses and storing them back on the racks. I cleared my throat to get his attention, John joining me whilst Brian and Freddie stayed behind us, looking around. The man finally turned around, scanning over me and John and scrunching up his eyebrows.
“You ain’t regulars, what do you want?” His strong West London accent went right through me. I wasn’t expecting him to be so rude. It threw me off, and John obviously caught onto that, so he interjected.
“We were just wondering if you are open to gigs, you know for local bands?” John patted my back in reassurance, as he could obviously sense my discomfort.
“I don’t deal with business of the pub. The owner’s in the back, I can fetch him for you.” And with that, he disappeared round the back.
Brian and Freddie approached us with quizzical looks.
“He’s getting the owner.” I told them, my voice quiet and my confidence tainted a little. It can’t be that bad, Maria, just talk to them.
Brian furrowed his eyebrows at me, keeping his gaze on me as the little bald man came back out, presenting a taller and bulkier man. “This is Oliver. He’s who you need to talk to for business.” And he left us with him.
“What can I do for you?” Oliver asked, towering over all of us, even over Brian a little bit.
“Um..” I started, clearing my throat. “We were j-just wondering if you were open to book any acts for bands, like, locally?” I felt my palms become sweaty, and my vision becoming blurred. Everything around me cancelled out and it was just me and this overpowering man.
“What’s in it for us, sweetheart?” He folded his arms, and I felt my chest become tighter. I didn’t know this man, I didn’t know what he wanted, and I didn’t know how he took business deals. What am I supposed to say to that?
I licked my drying my lips, swallowing hard as I tried to take a deep breath, but it just came out as a shallow huff. I can’t deal with this…
“Maria, darling, are you alright?” I heard Freddie behind me, making me more nervous, knowing that they were waiting on me to get them a deal. I could feel Oliver judging me. God, I’m making such a dick out of myself. I felt my legs begin to lose strength, and I swear I could have collapsed any minute. I had to get out of there.
Without any other word, I spun around and rushed as quickly as I could out of the pub, standing face towards the white wall outside. I leant my head on it, squeezing my eyes shut and trying to regain my breath. I was flustered, my head was hot, and tears began to stream down my face unmercifully.
That’s when I felt a hand on my back, pulling me round gently. The three of them all looked utterly concerned, not really sure what to do.
“What’s the matter?”
I put my hand over my mouth, once again trying to regain my breath. I fucking hated public panic attacks. There was too much space around me, I felt overwhelmingly vulnerable. Anything could get me at that moment. I was uncovered from the hands of evil. So, I did what I had always done in times of that.
I held an arm out, signalling for someone to pull me into an embrace, my face drowned in my tears. I found my solace, when someone wrapped their arm around me and pulled me into their chest. I buried my head into his clothes, soon noticing by the pine scent that it was Brian.
I absolutely drenched his jacket and shirt with my tears, but the embrace and comfort from it did calm me down. His other hand stroked my hair, his mouth hushing me to calm down. He seemed very experienced with this.
My hands continued to shake as I slowly pulled away after a few minutes, Brian’s arm still wrapped round me loosely. I turned my head to look at Freddie and John, who still looked concerned. I wiped away tear stains on my face and gave the three of them a little smile.
“I’m okay…” I whispered, nodding my head and taking a refreshing, deep breath. “I’m sorry.”
“Oh, don’t be sorry, darling, we shouldn’t have pushed you to talk like that.” Freddie shook his head immediately, rushing over to me and handing me a handkerchief, which I graciously took.
“If we had known, we wouldn’t have—” Brian started, squeezing my shoulder.
“No, it’s okay. It’s okay…” I repeated, partially to myself as well. “Thank you.” I said to all of them, but primarily smiled at Brian.
“Do you want Brian to drive you back home? We can’t expect more from you tonight, Maria.” John shook his head.
I did contemplate going back in the pub, for a split second. But I knew that as soon as I walk back in there, the very same would happen again. And I couldn’t bare making myself look like an idiot for the second time. So, I just stood there, wrapping my denim jacket more around me, looking down and nodding my head, agreeing with John’s offer.
Without saying another word, John and Freddie both gave me a hug and said their goodbyes, once again apologising for the situation, even though it was in no way their faults.
“Are you going to wait here, and should I come back?” Brian asked, getting Roger’s keys out of his pocket.
“We’ll be here, darling. Make sure she gets home alright.” Freddie answered, shooting me a warm smile.
I got around to the passenger seat of the car, sliding in. As soon as I shut the door, I leant against it, my enthusiasm deflated. Brian didn’t attempt to make any type of conversation as we started driving once again. In fact, it was 10 minutes before either of us decided to talk.
“Does that happen a lot?” Brian’s voice was limited to a mutter loud enough for me to hear.
“Yes.” I simply answered truthfully.
And that was it for the rest of the journey.
Brian did, however, walk me up to mine and Emma’s flat. We were walking down the hallway with the different numbers.
“This is me.” I gestured to the number 8, our walking halted. I turned to Brian and sighed deeply. “I’m really sorry. I’ve not been any help to you at all.” I sniffed a little, my nose slightly blocked from crying earlier on.
“Please don’t apologise. You can’t help it.” Brian spoke softly, putting his hand on my arm, rubbing slightly. “Don’t doubt yourself, we’re all grateful we have someone we can work with. It feels better to know that someone else thinks we have potential.”
I raised an eyebrow at him, stifling a little laugh. “And when did I say that?”
“Oh, um, you didn’t but I just thought…”
“Calm down, I’m joking. You definitely have potential. All of you do.” I smiled, unlocking my door.
“Are you sure you’ll be okay?” He was so concerned.
“Yes, I’ll be okay. I’ll just listen to some records and lay down.” Shrugging, I stepped inside, turning to face Brian.
“Well, call me. If you ever… Need to talk to someone.” Brian said, before leaning in and placing a gentle kiss on my cheek once again. But this time, it didn’t make me embarrassed. It sent a warm, fuzzy feeling inside my stomach; something I had never felt before. “Bye.” And with that and one more smile, he walked away down the corridor and soon went out of sight.
Brian is certainly something, I thought to myself as I shut the door, now in my safe place.
Well, one of them.
Chapter 8: 8 ~ poodle ~
Another mouthful of cornflakes, another minute closer to 9am.
I multitasked that morning. I carried that bowl around the flat, consuming spoonfuls of the cornflakes, seeking out my notes for the day’s lecture, whilst also thinking about Emma and if she was okay. I felt I had totally neglected her the night before, purely because I forgot she was back at Brian’s place after he’d dropped me off.
The least I could have done is call up and check on her.
Apologising was just a habit for me. I couldn’t not say sorry in the slightest situations. That reminds me, I probably should have apologised properly to Brian, or even thanked him for his gracious gesture back at the pub. Nobody, apart from Emma, had tended to my attacks like that.
With that in mind, I headed for the phone in the hallway, placing my bowl of cereal on the unit. I had, shamelessly, cello taped Brian’s number onto my wall, right next to the phone. Of course…It was for business purposes…
I couldn’t hold back the little smile on my face as the phone rang out distantly. I was almost positive that nobody was going to answer until I heard a crackling and a soft ‘hello’ from the other side.
“Brian,” I knew it was him. “It’s Maria.”
I heard him smile on the other side, his voice quickly perking up. “Maria. Hello, love, how are you doing?”
“I’m doing a lot better, thank you. I’m just calling to apologise again. I feel really bad for leaving you all hanging on that one…” I trailed off, huffing out a laugh.
“How many times do I have to tell you not to apologise until it’s drilled into that brain of yours?” He chuckled.
“Quite a lot, I’m a hard person to convince.” I smirked into the phone, proud of myself mentally for being able to feel so comfortable around someone new. Even though Brian wasn’t really that new.
“I’ll keep that in mind.” He stated with a small chuckle. “But truly, you don’t have to ever apologise for something of that nature, Maria, it honestly isn’t anything you can help. Besides, we managed to get ourselves in at The Britannia, so we didn’t miss out on an opportunity. So please, I’m begging you to stop worrying yourself over this. Please.”
Perhaps he’s right, I thought, sighing deeply into the phone, probably blowing Brian away at the other end. Running my hand over my face, I leaned against the wall, my finger tangling itself in the telephone wire.
“Fine…” I mumbled, looking down at the mess I made with my finger and the wire. “How did you get in?”
“It turns out that they needed their speaker system fixing, and John studies electrical engineering, so… Put two and two together, you have yourself a business deal.”
“You lot are seriously interesting.” I mumbled, shaking my head and earning a chuckle from Brian. “Well, I’m glad you got something out of last night. If you won’t let me apologise, at least let me thank you for being like you were. You really helped.”
“I think it’s only fair that I help a friend in need in their most distressed moments.” He said with a slight tinge of humour, but still evident that he meant his words. “You are my friend, aren’t you?”
“Yes, I’m your friend.” I laughed, nodding my head. “But, I’ll be your dead friend if I don’t make it to this lecture on time. Sorry to cut a nice one short but, like, I have to be in class at nine. Precisely.”
“You better sprint to that lecture, love, it’s ten to now.”
“Cheeky bastard, I can walk quick enough."
“Okay, okay, I apologise. Go to your lecture. I’ll see you around somewhere, okay?”
“Okay,” I started to put the phone down, but quickly pressed it back to my ear. “Brian??”
Hearing a distant ‘oh’ from the other end, the phone crackled once more. “Yes?”
“Is Emma alright? I’m assuming she stayed the night?”
“She’s fine, she’s still asleep I think.” There was a tinge of reassurance, my worries about my best friend being alleviated.
“Oh, okay. Thank you. For everything.” What the fuck? “I mean, for telling me and stuff, I was getting worried.”
“I understand. Now go to your class, you’re going to fail.” He joked.
A laugh bubbled through my mouth. “I should be so lucky.” I mumbled, seeing the irony in his words. “Bye, Brian.”
And with that, I pressed the phone back into the cradle on the wall, my eyes traveling down to my cornflakes that were now completely soaked and soggy. Nope. I left my bowl on the side, next to the sink, deciding I didn’t have time to sort it out. With that, I slipped on my denim jacket, picked up my bag and headed out the door, locking it behind me before I walked off.
It felt really empty in that lecture. The air around us was a lot cooler than usual, the windows fogged up with condensation, everyone wearing some type of thick jacket or coat, and more importantly, the chair next to me was empty. Emma still hadn’t shown up to lecture, and it was unusual for her not to show up.
I chewed the end of my pencil, Professor Ross’ words going straight through me as I gazed out the window the best I could, though I couldn’t really see much. See, Professor Ross was extremely biased when he taught us. He loved Allen Klein, so he was determined to drill him into our heads every lecture. He’d go on a 40-minute anecdote about how he once met him and how it completely altered his life for the better. However, I’d already decided who my rival project was going to be based on, so my intentions for lecture was purely to distract myself; to give myself something to do.
The thick book in front of me was concentrated with amazing people, but my priorities were of course John Reid and his rival Don Arden. I’d found an older Jerry Lee Lewis vinyl back at the flat the night before and I just had to know who his manager was. His name was everywhere. He must have someone strong managing to be a man of that calibre.
Snapping me out of my thoughts, I heard the empty chair next to me scrape along the floor, as though it was being dragged along the floor. I turned my head from the window to look in the direction of the sound.
“I feel… Like shit.”
“Good morning to you too, Emma.” I raised an eyebrow, mumbling back and taking her bag off of her and setting it on the table. Once she was sat down, I leaned into her, whispering. “You could’ve told me you weren’t coming home.”
“Sorry, mum, I didn’t realise I had to tell you everything.” She put her hand in her head, groaning.
“Oh my God… Are you drunk?”
“Hangover, Maria.” Her voice was muffled in her hand, but she lifted her head and looked straight at me, her eyes black and her hair a mess. “I have a hangover.”
I just shook my head at her. Not in an angry way, it was more of a ‘yes, obviously’ fashion. But then I got a good look at her, my eyes wandering over her before scrunching up my eyebrows in confusion.
“Is that Roger’s sh—”
“Miss Brennan and Miss Audsley.”
Both of our heads snapped to the front of the room, where Professor Ross was staring straight at us.
“Can you listen please? I don’t appreciate being talked over.”
Earning a few awkward glances from other members of the lecture, Professor Ross turned away from us, but not before adding, “I’ll talk to you both afterwards, I’m not wasting my lecture time on you two.”
I sighed heavily, side-eyeing Emma. She had her head completely laid on the table, her bag fallen on top of it to cover it up. I won’t disturb her, I thought. The poor girl clearly needed a rest.
I packed my textbook and my notepad into my bag, hurling it over my shoulder as I walked to the front of the room, Emma sloppily following behind me.
“I understand it’s difficult to concentrate in the cold weather, girls. But that doesn’t stop you both from talking relentlessly at the back of my room. If I had it my way, the cold would freeze your jaws up so you can’t open your mouths even if you wanted to.”
I raised an eyebrow, mentally debating whether or not to pull him up on his misconduct. Surely, he’s not allowed to say that. But, I didn’t say anything of that nature.
“Sorry.” Was all I said. I couldn’t be bothered with much else. He was an arsehole Professor and he didn’t deserve more than one word from me. Except my ten-thousand-word dissertation, but that’s besides the point.
“Do you both understand that we cannot afford to keep students in this University who refuse to absorb any of the information we give you?” He continued, disregarding my apology.
“We understand perfectly, Sir.” Emma piped up, finally, her hands folded over her chest. This attracted the attention of Professor Ross, as his face contorted in disgust at Emma’s attire.
“I’m aware we’re not Oxford, Miss Audsley, but if you’d be so kind as to sort yourself out, it would be much appreciated by me and every other male in Imperial.”
“I could say the same to you and the females in Imperial.” Emma retorted, under her breath but not exactly unheard.
“Apology accepted, can we go now?” Emma was growing impatient. And hungry. This wasn’t a good sign.
It seemed as if we’d caught Professor Ross on a good day, believe it or not, when he just sighed and ran his hand over his head. “Yes, you can go. But I don’t want to have to do this again.”
I nodded at him, turning to leave but I was soon pulled back in again by the sound of his dreadful voice. “Not you, Maria, I need to ask you a question.”
I looked at Emma, who smiled her best at me, gesturing to the hallway. “I’ll be waiting out here.”
Professor Ross took his seat at his desk, gesturing for me to sit at the chair in front of it. I felt like I was in the same meeting I met the boys at.
“How’s the work experience going?” His eyes pierced right through into my soul. There was no way I could tell him the truth and complain; he would single-handedly get me thrown off the course, therefore out of Imperial altogether and there was not a chance in hell that I would go back home if my life depended on it.
“It’s fine. Great, even.” I forced a smile, nodding my head. “Got them in at The Britannia already.” I skimmed over what Brian told me on the phone.
“The Britannia? Impressive stuff, Maria.” He nodded, seemingly genuinely impressed.
“Yeah… I’m not completely useless, it seems.” I stifled a chuckle, playing with my fingernails, the black polish chipping away slowly.
“You’re not useless, Maria.” He shook his head. For once, I thought he was going to be a supportive mentor. Like he’s supposed to be. “Quite the opposite, actually.”
“What, I’m useful?” I scrunched up my eyebrows.
“Precisely.” He stood up, going towards the door and opening it, gesturing for me to leave. “Because of you, I don’t have to manage that ridiculous dental student. Or that uncomfortably feminine art student. Or that dry, scrawny astrophysics student.” He shook his head, seemingly disgusted at their choice of courses.
I could ignore his digs at Roger. I could ignore his digs at Freddie. But the last one got me.
As I made my way out the door, I turned around quickly. “Have you ever tried astrophysics?”
Professor Ross raised a suspicious eyebrow at me. “No, I have not.”
I narrowed my eyes, as though I was examining him, slowly nodding my head before quickly adding, “Thought not.” And walking away, Emma running behind me.
“Before you ask, yes this is Roger’s shirt.” She rambled when we got a good few flights down the stairs.
“And those are the same jeans.” I added, smirking at her. “Come on, spill.” I humoured her through, another smirk spreading on my lips. “What was the boy like in bed?”
“Maria, he was fucking incredible!” She lifted her hand as if she was praising the Lord or something… She was that desperate. “Like, he knew just what to do.”
I just smiled at her, happy she finally got the lay she deserved. “Are… you going to see him again?” I asked, prolonging the question by leaning into her and nudging her side.
“Maybe… He didn’t say anything about that.”
“Don’t you worry, Mrs Taylor, you will have your little drummer boy. I’ll make sure he sees you again, he’s not leaving my best friend high and dry.” Grinning, I gave Emma an encouraging look.
“Thank you.” Her worried expression softened as it was now her turn to smirk suspiciously. She leaned into me, whispering in my ear. “I came seven times last night,” before bursting out into a fit of giggles.
I rolled my eyes as we made it to the ground floor. “I did not need to know that, hun.”
“Well I did! He was amazing!” She got more and more excited the more she spoke about him.
God, she’s smitten…
“Yeah, but…” I stopped us both on the way to the cafeteria. “Seven times? That’s a bit excessive.” I laughed, shaking my head.
“Maybe it wasn’t seven… But it was definitely more than three.”
Our conversation about Roger’s talents died out as we found a table, situating ourselves as far away from everybody else. The quieter, the better. For me, anyways.
It took 15 minutes to get halfway through our chips, with us getting a large portion, before Emma decided she was going to go back to the flat and freshen up before spending the afternoon studying like we usually did on a Thursday.
I was lost and distracted, scanning over the words in the textbook splayed out in front of me, my hand slowly feeding myself with the chips left over. I was totally in my own world.
That was until I felt a presence next to me, the chair scraping on the ground. I lifted my head, and I’m pretty sure my eyes lit up when I saw it was Brian taking a seat next to me.
“Hello.” I said, a smile beaming on my face.
“Hello to you too.” He returned the smile, facing me in his chair. “Just wanted to double check on you, I guess… Just to uh, make sure you are definitely okay.” His eyes bore into mine, the comfort seeping through his gaze.
“Yeah… I’m okay. I come down from these things very quickly, Brian, you don’t need to worry about me.” I smiled, shaking my head.
“Alright, well…” He shifted a bit in his seat, clearing his throat. He definitely looked more or less uncomfortable, or more like something was brewing. I glanced down at my textbook. “Maria…”
I quickly looked back up at him. “Yeah?”
“Do you, uh… Are you doing anything after you’re finished for the day?”
My eyes shifted, swallowing a bit. “No, I don’t think so…” I trailed off.
“Do you want to, uh, do anything? I mean, I don’t know, it’s stupid. We could just chat or something…” He had a hopeful glint in his eyes. How could I say no to that?
“Uhm...” I bit down on my lips, in thought. There’s no harm in it, Maria, it’ll be nice to do something different. “Yeah, alright. We can do.” Nodding, I gave him a soft smile.
He let out a huge breath, laughing through it, almost relieved at me for my response. “Great! There’s a coffee shop not far from here, do you want to go there?”
“I mean, I don’t really have any money.” I nervously giggled. “But we can—”
“I’ll pay. It’s no worry.” He was almost trying to convince me.
“If you’re sure… Yes, we can go there.”
“Great, good, good…” He nodded, a natural smile now plastered on his face. “Well, I better be off, I have a lecture in a few.”
“That’s fine. You better sprint.” I smirked at him, teasing him from this morning.
“I can get there, don’t you worry.” He smirked back, standing to his feet, causing me to look up at him.
“That’s only because you have long legs, poodle head.” I don’t know where that came from, but it just… came out. I was definitely comfortable with this man to be able to playfully take the piss out of him.
“Shut up.” He shot back, turning to leave but swinging himself back round, clicking his fingers. “Oh! Roger wants his shirt back, by the way.”
“I’ll let his wife know.” I grinned.
“Thank you very much, I’ll see you later, Ria.” He said, before walking away and out of the cafeteria.
I couldn’t help but shiver at the name. Whether it was in a good way or not, I don’t know. But I hadn’t heard that nickname in years.
So, I made my way to the library, finding a comfortable spot for Emma and I to do our studies. But I doubt I’d be able to concentrate too much on the work at hand. And whether or not I could call what was coming a date or not circled my mind and took priority over anything else.
I guess some people tend to take over your mind more than others.