Chapter 8

When I open my eyes I realise that I've nodded off for a couple of minutes. I'd promised myself I wouldn't do that last night. Oh well, too late now. I blink my eyes slowly, adjusting to the sunlight streaming into the room through the open windows. Everything is exactly as it was last night. The door is still shut tight and the house below lies in silence.

Letting my eyes travel downwards, I find Tony curled up beside me; his head nestled comfortably against my side and one arm draped across my stomach. He's asleep, at least it looks as though he is, and he's mumbling incoherently under his breath. I risk a smile, lightly walking my fingertips across his shoulder as he dozes. If we were somewhere else and we were someone else, this would all be so perfect. But we're not, we're Maxxie and Tony, and this isn't going to be easy for anyone anymore.

I sigh, anxiously nibbling on my lower lip and then duck my head down to slowly inhale the scent of his hair. Heaven on earth. He smells of apples, fresh and clean, and for now I'm happy to pretend we can stay this way forever.

Once again, sleep weaves its mesmerising spell over me and I fall away into oblivion, my fingers tangled in Tony's dark hair and my lips pressed to his ear in a feather light kiss. He doesn't stir.

Around an hour later I'm woken with a jolt as the alarm clock on Tony's bedside table springs to life, a ceaseless chirping that sounds in my left ear for the best part of a minute. He makes no conscious effort to move. 'Are you going to turn that off?' I question tiresomely, my words lost against his tangled hair.

He sighs heavily and then without a word, sits up dozily, leaning across me and shutting the alarm off with a click.

The room falls silent.

There's nothing.

I'm not sure what do to with myself. So I lie still and wait for him to do something instead, wait for him to make the first move. Tony's good at that, it shouldn't be a problem.

His eyes finally drift to mine several minutes later and he smiles. It's a real smile. The kind of smile that twinkles in a persons eyes and makes your heart thunder in your chest. It's the kind of smile he used to give Michelle before he messed everything up. Charming and honest, and all the things you imagine a smile to be. I feel honoured to be on the receiving end.

Tony has never been one to offer much to a person, and what he does offer usually needs to be taken with a pinch of salt - it is rarely truthful. Tony may act as though he doesn't care most days, but he is unconditionally loyal toward his friends.

I had expected him to throw me out this morning. Another stupid mistake and what on earth had I been thinking? Here're your clothes, there's the door, please use it. It wouldn't have been a surprise, because it's what always happens. Not today though, today Tony's happy of my company and he's running a finger down my throat with languid fascination.

Letting out a soft sigh, enjoying the attention, I return his smile. 'Can we stay here all day?' the question is asked before I get the chance to stop myself. There I go again, heart on my sleeve. But Tony simply grins at me and then swoops down to press a kiss to my mouth. It's over before it's even begun and then he's clambered out of bed.

I'm slightly disappointed but don't show it, instead move to prop myself up on my elbows and watch him from behind my hair. He hasn't bothered to take the sheet with him and is stood in front of his desk in just his boxers, tipping tablets out of bottles and knocking them back without a care in the world. I was pretty sure he would have been done taking things by now, seems not.

Tony puts down his bottle of water, picks up his jeans and wrestles his way into them, before intently settling his gaze back up on me. 'Maybe tomorrow,' he suggests and then without another word, heads out of his room.

A moment later I can hear him padding barefooted down the staircase and shortly after the sound of voices fill the air. Shrieks and shouts and girls giggling, last night's partygoers taken by surprise. I collapse back onto the bed laughing to myself and then, letting a breath go, I slip from beneath the covers and begin to collect my clothes together.

Five minutes later I'm making my way down the staircase and stepping over the random body of a redhead, she's out cold; her head leant back against the wall and her make-up smudged. For a moment I stay frozen to the spot, trying to decide whether I know her or not. I think she's from our psychology class. Who knows. She got pretty wasted last night, that much is clear.

I shrug my shoulders, more to myself than anyone else, and then make my through the house, looking for Tony as I go. I don't envy the mess he's going to have to clear up when everyone leaves. Suppose I could always offer to help out. Then again, might give him the impression I want to get involved in domesticated bliss. Better not.

When I reach the patio doors I spot Tony through the glass, he's sat in the middle of the lawn with Sid and Chris and clutching a carton of orange juice in his hands. I take a quick detour through the kitchen to grab a drink of water and then join the trio outside, sitting down beside Sid and resting my chin on my knees.

'Who the fuck is that?' Chris blurts out suddenly, pointing across the garden and clumsily dropping the joint he'd been smoking. Sid jumps a mile in beside me, swearing under his breath, darting back and narrowly escaping burnt eyebrows. Not a good look for anybody. The person who has gained Chris' attention so rapidly is curled up fast asleep beneath one of the trees, a piece of thick rope in their hands and a black and white trilby on their head. Leaning forwards slightly I try and get a better look, but their face is hidden behind the hat.

This seems to have sparked an interest with Tony though and he's back to standing, marching over towards them. 'Let's go and find out, shall we?' he says and we all reluctantly follow. As always, what Tony says goes and we do as instructed.

I crouch down beside Tony at the same time he removes the hat and we all stare, wide-eyed.

'Who the fuck is that?!' asks Chris again, but his words are more pronounced this time. There's a collective silence and we all shrug. No idea. 'Oh fuck it.'

He gets up again and walks off, kicking at an empty beer bottle and sending it scuttling across the path. I glance back at him a moment, laughing lightly, before my eyes are quickly drawn back to Tony. He's grinning, quite manically actually and then a second later he deposits the hat on Sid's head and stands back up. 'Nice to have things back to normal,' he says and then throws an arm around both myself and Sid when we join him. 'Right?'

Sid's reply isn't unexpected as he asks Tony if he's been on the vodka already this morning. I decide against saying anything until Sid has jogged off to join Chris in raiding the refrigerator. We're stood alone in the middle of the garden, it's six thirty in the morning and there are birds chirping overhead. It's not cold, anything but. The sun is low in the sky yet I can already feel the scorching rays against my cheek.

I close my eyes, and for a brief moment I'm back in Brighton; sitting on the beach, running my fingers over the smooth pebbles and watching Tony wading in the water. Who knows, maybe we could go back sometime, for a real holiday, all of us.

'When I get rid of everyone, meet me upstairs,' whispers Tony into my ear suddenly and I'm knocked straight from my thoughts and into a whole new scenario as he places a very light kiss to my neck. 'I'm not done with you yet,' he adds as a lazy afterthought.

By the time I risk opening my eyes he's already halfway across the garden, collecting cans up and shouting abuse at the random party guests asleep on the patio furniture. 'C'mon, get the fuck outta my house! Party's over!' A gaggle of girls scramble to their feet and make a dash for the gate around the side of the house, barefooted with four inch stilettos in their hands.

I watch for a moment and then set off across the grass, picking up empty beer bottles as I go and dropping them one by one into the wheelie bin. I can hear the sound of Cassie's cheerful singing coming from one of the bedroom windows and I smile to myself, my eyes lifting as I locate her whereabouts.

If this is what we're calling normality now, I'm happy with it.