Trip: a. a stumble or fall b. an error or lapse in conduct or etiquette.
Their trip's over and Cook should have been expecting this. Bonnie and Clyde never did have a happy ending. But he can't say he feels like he's been riddled with bullets, no, not exactly. Girls come and go but he'll always need his lads. And this is the start of a new chapter. He's going to be a better friend. He's going to be considerate. He isn't going to dope himself up or drink himself to death.
He takes another swallow from his fisted beer can. That's all bullshit. He'll be back to messing up his life soon as he steps on land. And it isn't so nice to have his lads back when all they do is piss all over his fun. There's still a trace of anger that's left in the pit of his stomach, mucking up the resolve of acceptance he's trying to appropriate. His lips twist cruely as he watches them at the other end of the boat: knees touching, him pulling back a strand of her hair, him having his cake and eating it too.
He averts his eyes.
He's going to turn over a new leaf. A new chapter. He has to because he loves them so fucking much.
Freddie's gone to the bathroom and Emily and Naomi have sneaked off somewhere or another and they've left Effy and Cook, uncomfortably, alone at the table. The two have managed to avoid this exact situation for a while now but Cook's not going to dance around the issue.
His two fingers do a show of pounding a cigarette stick on the tabletop for a bit as he readies himself to ask it. Effy's already anticipating it.
"So what's it like?" he finally says. "Being in a relationship. A committed relationship."
Given their predicament– long forgotten by them and everyone else (or at least pushed to the back of their minds where it can't mess with this pretty little world they've all created)– this is the sort of thing you ask just to be an asshole. And the way Effy's looking at him he realizes that he sounds like one. But there isn't a hint of a smile on his face because he's asking in all earnestness.
He's desperate to know if it's all it's cracked up to be. If he's missing out on being loved. He and Effy are alike, he knows that-- they're pretty much the same. (They both love Freddie, at least.) And if she can survive in a cage than maybe he can too.
"What do you want me to say?"
"Just tell me what I wanna hear," he shrugs.
Pretty soon Freddie's out of the toilets and JJ's finally caught up with them and a girl walks into the pub that catches Cook's eye mostly because he's busy looking for a distraction.
This girl, the one he's found at the bar, comes back often enough, and Cook fucks her often enough but he can't stand her otherwise. She's got an awful, nasally voice and she never stops talking except for while they're fucking and so he fucks her a lot.
He's fucking her now, in fact, and all is somewhat quiet in his dormitory. With this other girl under him he thinks back to the question he asked Effy at Keith's pub, about what it was like being in a committed relationship. "Just tell me what I wanna hear," he'd said.
She'd leaned forward and bore into him with a piercing gaze he couldn't shake off and said, "It's a fucking fairytale."
She finds him through the swarm of gyrating bodies even though the place is packed and the music's thumping. She's trying to get his attention and he really wants to give it to her but he can't stop dancing and his head's some place else and his hand's glued to this other girl's hip... and side.... and breast.
"Effy!" he shouts, ecstatic. "Why the long face, Love?! This party's fuckin' mental!"
She answers him but he can't hear her at all until finally she takes his hand and leads him through the throng, back to where the bathrooms are. He slams himself against the wall and catches his breath, wipes his forehead with the back of his sleeve.
"What is it, Peachy?"
"Do you----any more of----you're on?!"
He can't make out have of what she's saying so he leans in, presents his ear for her to speak directly into.
"Whatever you're on!" she says, "do you have any more of it!?"
His mouth cracks open wide and he laughs, heartily, and she sort of laughs too, or at least smiles.
"Whatever you want, Princess!" He digs his hand into his pocket, rummages through the bits of useless crap in there till he pulls out a little yellow pill with the picture of a bomb on it. He hands it to her.
She gives it a good look. "It's the same...."
But he knows what she was going to say. "They're the same ones we had in the car that night!" he says, the side of his head right next to hers. "D'you remember that night? I remember everything!"
He stops talking but she stays there, inclined into him, listening, and he notices that her palm hangs on his abdomen. "You explained how fire works," he says, and he doesn't need to shout because her ear is right by his lips. "And then you picked glass out of my head and you tended to my wound. D'you remember that?!"
'Tended his wound' is a generous way to put it but he waits for her to answer. He can't see her face but he sees the way she nods.
When he puts his hand on the side of her neck, tangling his fingers in her hair, it feels like they're the only ones in the whole club and for a moment all he does is feel how close she is to him. She's so close he could breath her in. He could fucking kiss her if he wanted to. He could do a lot more than that. "I remember fucking in the back seat," he goes on. She doesn't move when he touches her thigh. Doesn't even flinch when it roams farther in. "I remember... I remember you think you were born backwards."
She steps back, finally, after an eternity, and looks at him with a wrinkle in her brow. The spell's broken and Cook falls back against the wall. It seems like so long since that night in the car. Or even the night in the motel. It seems so long ago since their trip together.
"Don't care which way you were born, Love," he says shrugging and laughing. However close they were a moment ago's already forgotten. The music's loud again, people are jumping and dancing and moshing. "Backwards, forwards, anyway's fine by me!"
She looks down at the pill again. "Do you have another one?!"
Right, she'd need one for Freddie of course, who's somewhere in this club where Cook hasn't run into him yet. He laughs to himself as he digs through his pockets again because it figures that she'd need some form of synthetic dose of happiness to keep herself entertained while Freddie's around.
He gives her another pill.
"See you 'round, Effy."
"'Ve I got the wrong house? No. Hang on. This is the right house. Who the fuck are you?"
"I could ask you the same thing."
Cook checks his hand. A second ago there was a bottle there, he's sure. And now there's a strange person in Effy's house. "What?" He is confused.
"Are you one of Effy's friends? She's got so many now I can hardly keep up," Tony says with very little enthusiasm.
"Are you 'er brother?" Cook asks, a blind grin spreading across his face as he slowly recognizes the same vague sense of unsettling beauty. "I know all about you, mate! Yeah! You went out with a girl with funny nipples. Eff tol' me all 'bout you. You're legend!"
Tony sighs as if at the thought that all his adolescent life has been boiled down to this rather stupid anecdote. "Well it's good to know the legacy's still alive and well." Turning towards the stairs he shouts, "Effy! Door!"
Effy comes down, a little slower once she sees who's there. "He smells like whiskey," Tony says on his way up. "And yet, still more interesting than that boyfriend of yours."
Cook hears him, laughs, salutes.
"What are you doing here?" Effy asks him.
Cook ambles around the small foyer like he's not very sure of the answer.
"You have me," he says. He shrugs. There's really not much else to say. "I've been with you. I'm not curious or anyfin'. It's not... it's not the chase, you know? I know what it's like. I know exactly what it's like to kiss you. To be kissed by you."
"I don't want you," he stresses, talking loudly now. "I don't want you at all. I fucking need–"
"Cook, if my dad sees you here he'll–"
"I feel like I'm fuckin' starving to death, Eff." He doesn't know how else to explain it. But Effy's eyes shine sadly and she seems to understand him.
The next time he hears his name it's in the form of a question, and coming from the brother he'd met just before, on his way back down.
Cook's used to inspiring the sort of abrasive anger in people he sees now in Effy's brother. He'd love to fight but, "Not the best time, ma–"
"Tony!" Effy says as her brother forcefully grabs the front of Cook's shirt and pins him to the wall.
"You're the one who took my sister on a little summer holiday." Tony's face is threateningly close to Cook's. (He has the fleeting thought that maybe fighting Effy's brother would be a bad way to make himself acquainted with her family so he adopts this as his excuse to stand limp under her brother's fists.)
"She needed me," he explains. "No one else was there and she needed me! I fucking saved her from... from..."
He's too drunk and pitiful to finish and Tony shoves him outside, without much effort. "She fucking needed me," he says to himself.
Like most things that ever happened between them, they don't bring it up again. The next time they see each other they're at the same table for lunch but Cook's miles away laughing at one of JJ's jokes and she's in a distant land nodding and smiling at something that Freddie is saying.
"Didn't Freddie tell you?" JJ says. "Well, I suppose he'd be a bit reluctant to, given your combined histories. But there seems to be trouble in his and Effy's proverbial paradise."
"What d'you mean?"
"Well, from what I gather, Freddie feels he can't always understand what makes her tick. I believe his exact words were 'I love her, I just wish I knew what she was thinking half the time.'"
"'S that what he told you?"
"Yep. Apparently he hasn't caught on that Effy's definition of sharing her thoughts comprise mainly of making cat eyes and offering the occasional smirk. Though, oddly enough, I thought that's what he liked about her."
Cook stands and chuckles and paces aimlessly, restlessly. "She's not meant to be read like a book. If she wants to tell you something she'll say it when she's good and ready. Any i–"
"Oh boy, I shouldn't've said anything."
"This information is privileged, Cook. Whatever happens between Freddie and Effy just promise that it won't inevitably cause another rift between the two of you. Alright?"
Cook laughs. "Yeah, alright."
He's in some trouble and it's the kind of trouble that results in a black eye and what seems like a quart of blood spilling out of his head. He goes to Freddie because Freds is supposed to be looking after him and he finds him in his shed, and Effy's there too.
"What the fuck happened!" Freddie's concern has always been a cocktail of anger and frustration and Cook finds it reassuring. "Fuck, you're gushing blood, Cook!"
"It's just a flesh wound, Freds!" He exclaims. He's a little dazed and a little crazed and Effy's looking a little horrified in the corner. He wouldn't normally stare at her with Freddie in the same room but Freddie's turned away, explaining to her that he's going to get bandages and that he'll be right back and that she needs to watch him.
Freddie's out the door in a flash and Cook plops into the big chair and checks his pockets for spliff like it's just any other day and half his face wasn't covered in red.
Effy kneels in front of him and he forgets about the weed. Her eyes roam his face and he can see concern and fear and alarm and he'll be damned but he's sure he sees love. He's certain of it. He can't help but smile.
"Trying to get yourself killed?" she says.
He's so sure he sees it. He's certain.
"You're not fucking Clyde, Cook."
He chuckles at first. Then his chuckle grows into laughter. She isn't joking around but he feels so light he has to laugh.
What he remembers most from the day he met her is that she ate ketchup off his face and he was struck dumbfounded for once in his life.
It's not long until Freddie himself brings up his lover's tiff. He can't help it really, since Cook shows up at the shed while Freddie's poring over a note from her for the millionth time.
"She's not talking to me."
"She's your girlfriend. Why wouldn't she talk to you?"
This is strange because they never ever, under any circumstances talk about Effy, but Freddie must be really desperate, and anyway, what's Cook supposed to say to something like that?
"'Don't be mad,'" Freddie reads from the note. "'I'm not talking to anyone right now. It's not just you.' I mean, what the fuck, right? She could talk to me. She's just choosing not to. It's so fucking childish."
Freddie crumples up the note but doesn't toss it too far. He takes another spliff and lights up but it's doing nothing to lighten his mood.
"What would you do?" He asks Cook, obviously reluctantly.
Cook shrugs and shakes his head. "Dunno, mate," he says simply.
What Cook would do is sit with her. (Primarilly because she can't protest.)
Later that night he's outside her window, holding on like an inexpert rock climber as she stands by the pane.
"I heard you aren't talking," he says.
"Your brother back at uni?"
"Your dad 'round?"
She shakes her head.
"I brought refreshments," he says, heaving up a six pack. "You gonna let me in now?"
They sit on her floor, leaning against the side of her bed with the only light coming from the street lamps outside her window.
A few months ago she was his. Now he can sit so close to her and not even touch her without betraying his best friend. But the truth is she's still his. She'll always be his; Freddie's just playing with her now because teacher insists on sharing and Cook's already had his turn. But Cook can wait.
He's on his second beer and Effy's on her third. She doesn't like the taste of it, though, he can tell, and he'd ask her if she wants something else but he actually kind of likes the quiet.
"This is stupid."
He takes the rim of the bottle from his lips, a little surprised to hear her after an hour of no sound whatsoever.
"I thought I'd be able to think more clearly. Sort everything out. Everything was so much easier when I never said anything. And you aren't making anything easier being here."
"Throw me out, then."
She takes another swig from her bottle and ignores him.
"You need to sort things out?" he asks innocently (or as innocently as Cook can.)
She stares at him and chooses not to talk this time because the answer's so obvious. "Why did you come here?"
He shrugs, takes another drink. "You know, we never slept in a bed together before? Not once during our trip. Or before then. D'you want to? Right now?"
"I'm still with Freddie, Cook."
"I don't mean sex. I mean sleeping, together, in the same bed."
"I know what you mean."
"Fine," Cook says. "When you're not with Freddie anymore, you gonna sleep with me then?"
It's almost too dark to see the smirk on her lips but he sees it. He can see she's finally fallen just as hard as he has.
He remembers their trip and a night of carrying her, kissing her, holding her and never letting go, and they kept walking and walking until they couldn't walk anymore. He remembers stopping, falling to the ground together, deciding this was a perfect spot to go to close their eyes. And they didn't need anything else because this was enough.
"You, me, under the stars," he'd said, looking down to the top of her head, resting on his chest. He remembers her hand on his stomach, her cheek nuzzled against him, and he held on to her to keep her warm and to feel her near him, always. "It's alright, 'init?"
He remembers the way Effy looked up and smiled like she meant it, and kissed the underside of his jaw.
"It's always you and me," she says.