Nobody understands her. They all think she’s gone fucking mad or something. That disastrous barbecue was one thing, now everybody seems to think Naomi is the victim in this situation when she was the one who cheated, broke her heart and that girl Sophia girl’s too, selling her the drugs and causing her to kill herself. Everything that happened is all her fucking fault.
It sounds petty, but Emily can’t help but hold it against her. She knows that if she lets go first, she’ll end up being the weaker one. And she’s grown so fucking tired of that. Even Katie has come around to seeing her as an equal these days, at least after she’s witnessed the damage that’s been done, and because she’s her sister after all. Emily loves her but she can’t talk to her about it. She can’t talk to any of them. The much has happened over the last few weeks, months, however fucking long it’s been.
She walks the streets alone in the hope of finding somewhere to hide, somewhere to rest herself and not think about any of it any more. Part of her wishes she could run away from all of this, run into the woods just like she did with Katie when they were young, build a house for herself out of sticks and broken pieces of wood and just live alone, away from everyone else. But that’s just a childish fantasy, and it amuses and saddens her to think of it. Deep down she knows she’s still just a little girl, lost, afraid and broken. Everyone looks at her like she’s changed, and they don’t like it. Maybe she has changed, or maybe she’s just been this way all along.
She spots him standing just a few steps away from her. Even in such crowded streets, it isn’t hard to notice someone you know well. And he notices her too. He’s smoking a cigarette, standing in a street corner with his hoodie on, trying his best to look inconspicuous. If Emily has recognized him then, that pretty much means he hasn’t been doing a very good job of it. The first thing that comes to mind though, is how the fuck he managed to get out of prison.
It’s late in the afternoon, and Emily doesn’t think she’ll stick around for long, she knows she’ll have to go back home soon but she feels the sudden urge to walk over and talk to him. Cook smiles at her in that cheeky, almost lascivious way that used to annoy the shit out of her, but she’s way too upset to care about little things like that. Besides, she knows he’s one of the few people who won’t pass judgment; he hardly knows what’s going on between her and Naomi anyway.
“Hey,” is all she manages to come up with when she comes over to him.
“Fucking hell, this disguise is for shite if you recognized me. I bet if some coppers were around, I’d be in fucking bracelets by now. How’s you doin’ Emilio?”
Emily hangs her head, she’s all choked up and she’s trying not to cry. It’s not him though, but he probably won’t notice that. She tries to say something, but the words get caught in her throat. The last time she was like this was when Thomas found her in the street, bawling her eyes out after she’d had a fight with Naomi. She wonders just how long this will go on, and how many times she’ll be left out in the cold like this. But somehow Cook just being there it makes her feel much better in a way she can’t comprehend.
“Naomi cheated,” she starts, her voice weak and tears streaming down her eyes. “That girl you sold the drugs to that night, the one who killed herself. Naomi cheated on me with her. She fucked her and then tried to keep it a secret…”
“I know,” he said. “I know about it, man. I’m sorry.”
“No…” she cries, hanging her head down again. “You don’t understand. I…I’m not sure if I can forgive her.”
“Hey,” he says, moving closer to her, throwing his cigarette out on to the street and wrapping his arm around her shoulder pulling her in. “You birds will work things out, I’m sure. Where would I be without my favourite fucking lezzers, eh? You two are made for each other. Look at me man; I’m a fucking criminal on the run, yeah? I’m well bummed.”
“Cook…” she rasps. And he pulls her closer, wrapping her in a hug as she buries her head in his chest, sobbing hard. He strokes her hair as he holds her tightly; it reminds her of the way her father held her while she cried the day she found out about Naomi and Sophia.
She wipes her face clean and rests on his chest for a while, her eyes half opened, looking out on to the streets. The evening sky casts a distinct reddish yellow on the pavement and all its surroundings. It won’t be long before it gets dark and Emily knows she can’t let Cook get too exposed either or else the wrong person will notice he’s out and she doesn’t want that on her conscience. But she doesn’t want to leave him, even the overpowering smell of cigarettes and cheap cologne doesn’t put her off, she just can’t help but cling to him. She knows she’ll have to leave though, and that he won’t be able to come with her.
Emily pulls away from him, wiping her eyes, and Cook reaches out, runs a finger across her cheek and smiles at her. It makes her feel better than she’s even felt in a long time. He moves closer again, and when he presses his lips against hers, it’s soft and momentary, not the kind of kiss she’d expect from Cook. She always imagined he’d try to grope her or something or press his lips hard against hers the way he did with Effy, but it’s not like that at all. It’s sweet and soft, and barely a second passes before he’s looking down at her again but she can still feel him on her lips when she pulls away. She smiles back at him, and it’s then that she knows he’ll do just fine when she walks away.
“Go home, babe,” he says. She nods her head and kisses him on the cheek before turning back and walking the other way, watching to the other side of her as the sun begins to set. She isn’t sure what to expect when she comes back to see Naomi, but it doesn’t matter because she knows she can work it out somehow. And because their problems don’t outweigh those of other people, as she has managed to find out thanks to Cook who’s managed to be there for her twice when she needed someone to talk to.
She doesn’t look back for a moment, but she knows he’s watching her walk away. It feels good to have someone look at her that way again.