I’m trying to concentrate on painting my nails, and Snow keeps sighing. If she does it one more time, I swear I’m going to throw every single thing on this desk at her head, even if it means committing a grievous crime against my manicure.
She shuts up for five minutes—five glorious minutes, during which I manage to apply my quick-drying topcoat—and then I hear her sigh again.
“What?” I snap, deftly screwing the lid back onto the polish and turning to glare at her. She’s lounging on her bed wearing an oversized t-shirt, tiny running shorts and a pair of white sports socks pulled halfway up her calves, slightly wrinkled at the ankle. Her hair is scrunched into a messy bun, curls exploding out of it in every possible direction. She looks like a complete and utter mess.
“What?” she parrots, as if she has no idea what I’m talking about.
“You have to be kidding me,” I snarl. “What do you mean, ‘what’ ? The sighing, Snow. The endless sighing.”
“M’not sighing,” she says, throwing her laptop down and stretching; she lifts her arms up over her head and arches her back into it, muscled thighs pressing into the mattress. It’s extremely distracting.
“You absolutely are,” I say curtly. She tries to tuck a wayward curl behind her ear as she frowns at me, and I mirror her without meaning to, tossing my curtain of dark hair back over my shoulder. Damn. She won’t notice, though. Sherlock Holmes she is not.
“I’m just trying to work out this—have you heard of the curly woman thing?”
She grabs her laptop and turns it around, and I lean forward in my chair to read it. “This.”
“It’s not the curly woman thing,” I say incredulously. “It’s the curly girl method. It says it right there, Snow. I know I joke that you’re illiterate, but this is—”
“Whatever,” Snow says, going red. She looks ridiculous when she scowls; like a puppy that’s trying to be intimidating. It’s not that she couldn’t take me in a fight—she can, and has—it’s just that malice doesn’t come naturally to her the way it comes to some people (me).
“I didn’t think you cared about your hair,” I say, turning back to my desk. I can still see her in the vanity mirror, staring grumpily at the back of my head.
“Right, right, because it always looks so shit,” she says, rolling her eyes.
“Well. Yes,” I say. It’s not true; Snow’s curls are out of control, but I like them on her. I like everything on her. She walked out of the bathroom the other day with her sports bra on backwards by accident and I almost fell over. “But I also really thought you didn’t care.”
“Just because all this shit comes naturally to you it doesn’t mean it does for everyone,” she says.
“What ‘shit’?” I say.
“Oh, come off it. I see you in the morning every day. You might faff about with straighteners and moisturiser and whatever that thing is you do to your eyebrows—” (I can’t believe she doesn’t know what brow gel is, but that’s a problem for another time) “—but you don’t really need it. You can just get up and put a clean shirt on and walk down to breakfast and you still look…”
I really, really want to know what the end of that sentence is, but she seems to have run out of words. It happens a lot. Normally I’d make fun of her for it, but I’m currently trying to process the fact that she’s been watching me in the mornings. Noticing my morning routine. Thinking I look … something.
“Anyway,” Snow says, and I realise I’ve just been staring at her wordlessly in the mirror. “Doesn’t matter.”
She’s so pathetic it’s almost endearing.
Ugh. It is endearing. “Oh for fuck’s sake, Snow, come here,” I say, and she looks ridiculously startled.
I get up and inspect my nails one last time—they’re dry—and then beckon her towards me before turning and slinking into our bathroom. She follows warily, like I’m going to try to drown her in the sink.
“Take your hair down,” I say, and she reaches up to do it, even though she still looks extremely suspicious. It’s cramped in here, so we have to stand right next to each other, and I lean back against the sink to create a bit more space between us.
“Fuck,” she says, wincing in pain. “Bobble’s stuck.”
“Well, don’t yank at it,” I say impatiently, watching as she tries to get it out with brute force. “Crowley. Turn around.”
I’m surprised when she does it immediately, still scrabbling furiously at her hair; I press my pale hands over her warm, freckled ones and they still immediately. Then I gently remove them from her head, pushing them down to her sides so she can’t do any more damage. The fine, golden hair on the back of her neck is standing up on end, like she’s cold—but that can’t be right, because she’s never cold. The thousand arguments we’ve had about sleeping with the window open since first year can attest to that.
I reach up and carefully unhook the curl that’s causing the problem and then ease the scrunchie out of her hair, slowing down and working more caught hair loose when I feel her flinch and then sliding it off in one, quick motion.
“You ripped about half my hair out with it,” she grumbles, but I don’t think her heart is in it.
“Use my conditioner,” I say—although it pains me, having spent years telling Snow to stick to her own supermarket brand 2-in-1 haircare and leave my expensive sulphate-free stash alone. “Don’t use any shampoo. Just really gently massage it in, and then rinse it out.”
“Right,” Snow says. “How do you know how to do this?”
“Because I have internet access and a keen interest in the world around me,” I say drily.
“Right,” Snow says again. “Er. Thanks.” She’s just standing there, blocking the doorway, this one curl that’s tumbled forward over her brow rising and falling with her breath (mouth breather).
“You have to let me leave,” I sneer, suddenly feeling like I’ve been far too nice to her. “Unless you’re planning on putting on a show.”
“Oh,” she says, going red again. “Yeah. Sorry.” She steps out of the way, crushing herself up against the wall to make room for me, and I sweep past her and back out into our room.
I have no idea what possessed me to ask if she wanted me to stay.
I suppose—what’s that ridiculous saying? ‘You miss a hundred percent of the shots you don’t take.’
When I walk out of the bathroom, the first thing Baz says to me is “bend over.” I nearly drop my towel.
“Oh, calm down,” she says, arching a dark eyebrow at me. “You have to bend over and let all your hair fall forward, and then I’ll wrap it for you.”
“In a t-shirt?” I say doubtfully as I approach her. She’s holding one of mine; it’s a borrowed men’s Watford lacrosse jersey (Ags plays). Of course, Baz wouldn’t sully one of her t-shirts for this; not that I can really blame her. I saw the price tag on one once. £80. For a plain black t-shirt. Mental.
“Are you going to keep complaining about this every step of the way or are you going to shut up and let me give you the help you so desperately need?” she says, and I bite back a retort and just do as she says. I spray her with water a bit when I swing my hair over, and she flinches like it’s acid. She doesn’t seem to want to get too close to me. I guess it’s cos I’m pretty naked, which always makes her act weird. I don’t know why. She showers with the other football girls.
I mean—I don’t know that for sure, I’ve just always assumed.
I feel like a tit doing this, and I’m just about to stand up straight again when I feel her press one cool hand to the back of my neck. My hands are all stubby, with short fingers and too many freckles and nails chewed short, and I’ve always been fascinated by hers because they’re the complete opposite. They look like hands that were made to play the piano or stroke a pedigree cat or something; long and thin and elegant. I’ve always wondered if they’re soft.
They are. She’s using them to wrap the t-shirt around my hair, and then I feel a bit of gentle tugging and she releases me.
“There,” she says. “Simple. Even you could do it.”
I turn to look in her mirror. The t-shirt is tied tight with a knot over my forehead, keeping all my hair gathered on top of my head. I look completely ridiculous.
It’s made worse by the fact that I can see Baz standing at my shoulder, taller than me by a good three inches; her hair doesn’t spring out all over the place like mine. It falls over her shoulder in a long, silky wave. She tucks it behind her ears most of the time, but when she’s stressed she runs her hands through it over and over again until it’s got this dramatic lift at the roots that makes her look stupidly glamorous without even trying.
I do not look stupidly glamorous right now. I just look stupid.
I’m suddenly made very aware of the fact that I’m only wearing a towel, because I reach up to try to push one escaped curl back up into the wrapped t-shirt and almost lose it; Baz steps forward, like she’s going to grab it for me, then freezes with her hands outstretched.
“Um,” she says. I don’t think I’ve ever heard her say ‘um’. She’s gone a bit pink, too, which is just as fucking weird.
“I was just—” I jerk my head up and the curl bounces.
“I’ll do it,” she says. I turn so that I’m leaning against her desk and she comes to me. I can’t believe she’s about to touch me for the third time in one evening and neither of us is throwing a punch.
She wraps the curl around her index finger, and then lifts the edge of the t-shirt up with one hand so that she can push it back into place; she tugs at my hair a little by accident as she does it, and it draws a little exhale of breath out of me that makes her freeze for a moment.
I have no idea why I made that sound.
She hasn’t managed to get the curl back into place, so she tries again; and this time I’m convinced she pulls at my hair on purpose. My eyelids flutter half-shut for a split second, and when I open them, she’s fixing me with her icy-grey stare like she’s trying to figure something out.
I don’t understand how she can look this good close up. I’m sure I look like shit from where she’s standing. She’s cut in these lines that are somehow strong and delicate at the same time, like she’s been sculpted out of marble, but some part of her face always seems to be dancing. Eyebrows. Eyes. Mouth.
I know for a fact that my lips are a bit chapped, a bit too dry—right now they’ve got shallow little imprints of my teeth in them, from where I’ve been worrying away at them all evening—but Baz’s are perfect. I mean, she probably slathers them with lip moisturiser or mouth masks or whatever it is posh girls do, so I guess it stands to reason that they look good.
I don’t even realise I’m staring at her mouth until she quirks one end of it up in a smirk, and the sight of it seems to switch my brain off completely, because I do something unbelievably stupid; I lean forward and kiss it.
She’s still got one hand on my forehead, and I think she’s going to use it to shove me away from her, but instead she drags her fingers back behind my ear and down to the curve of my neck and fucking sighs into my mouth as she kisses me back.
Not like she’s pissed off at me, which is why she usually sighs. Like she’s relieved. Like she’s wanted to do this for ages. The sound of her sends this thrill of something up the entire length of my body and it’s so unexpected that I laugh, which makes her stop kissing me—damn it—and pull back, frowning. She’s got little wet patches on the front of her school shirt, from where she was pressed against me.
This is the weirdest night of my life.
“What?” she says irritably.
“What do you mean, ‘what’?” I say, raising my eyebrows at her. “You’re sighing, Baz. You sighed.”
“Oh, fuck off,” she says, looking faintly embarrassed; she tries to step away from me but I reach out and grab her wrist, nearly losing my towel again in the process.
“No,” I say. “I like it. Come here and—and do it again.”
“I will not,” she says petulantly, but she comes back anyway, and when I lean in and press my lips to hers—running my fingers up the length of her arm, until they come to rest in the hollow of her collarbone—I can feel that she’s smiling.