Chapter Eight: Move Along
That night was the first since the storm in which Alexis and Simon didn't walk home together. Or sporadically text each other throughout the evening. Or meet up on Facebook for a chat.
Instead, Alexis walked home on her own, weighed down by the revelation of her new power and the overexposure it had brought with it. Loneliness and claustrophobia seemed to be looming over her, forming and mixing in her chest before developing into a tight, painful ache that seemed to grow bleaker with each step she took; the silence mimicked, growing steadily louder and louder with each step, forcing her further into herself and her thoughts and that chaotic mess within.
Part of her couldn't help but to imagine that it would all have been easier if Simon was here at her side to fill the gap he had forged for himself with his quiet thoughtfulness and constant company on these walks home. After only a week of doing so together and already it felt like she had lost her new shadow - no wonder everything seemed a little distorted without him. And yet another part was remarkably glad for his absence. This way he wouldn't be able to watch her: watch her and all her fear and confusion and hope play over her face, and figure her out even more.
She'd never been so torn before and the contradiction of it all was making her head spin.
Contradictions, contradictions, paradoxes: they seemed to be the foundation of her thoughts at this moment in time.
Her phone was a silent, heavy load in her pocket and its stillness had the tight feeling of isolation in her chest intensifying, making her twitchy and needy for some sort of reassurance. Right now contact or affection from anyone would have sufficed, but there was only one name ringing in her head, only one person she imagined helping. She needed normality; she needed someone who could understand what, and how much, had just changed in her life
Pulling her mobile from the confines of her jeans, she weighed it up in one palm, thumb working like a clockwork mechanism as it repeatedly scrolled down through her phonebook until it arrived at his name: Nathan.
Quickly, she tapped out a short, concise text message – ambiguous and unassuming – which she sent as soon as she was finished, before she could start to over think and try to take it back.
Because to Alexis, there was too much to fear and too much to lose from Nathan.
Sure, so Simon now knew her one, consuming flaw – her self-loathing - but that she could, and would learn to accept because he was sweet and genuine and was at least a little concerned for her and her wellbeing. And to be honest, he had his own shit to try and hold together.
But the thought of Nathan finding it out, figuring it out made her feel sick with anxiety because who knew what he'd do with the information? She'd already witnessed the way in which he treated Simon and who was she to be treated any differently by him? Because Nathan, he was the kind of person who hurt without knowing or understanding the true extent to the pain he caused, and if he attacked her with his bow-and-taunt assault, she just knew she wouldn't manage. Not because she wasn't used to people hurting her – she was – but because she never wanted him to see her that way or change the way he treated her.
All she wanted was for him to want her.
It was awful, she knew. Awful and selfish and vain, and almost a little desperate, because he was Nathan and mean and not the kind of boy you could bring home to ma and pa… but everything about Nathan – his charisma and confidence and hot appearance – just drew her in like a moth to a flame because they were everything that she wanted to own and everything that she wanted to be.
She bit her lip nervously, fiddling with the phone just as it vibrated in her hand. With butterflies in her belly she opened it up, feeling them intensify and a pleased, embarrassed smile bleed over her lips as she read Nathan's badly-spelt, incorrectly-grammared, shameless reply.
That night, in the place of the usual struggling words of Simon, Alexis luxuriated in the alternative that was Nathan's easy flirtations and the fact that at least someone, somewhere, seemed to want her. Even if that want was lust and nothing more.
It was another day at Community Service for Alexis or, more appropriately, enough chance for her to be coerced into dancing with OAPs.
Alexis shuffled self-consciously to the music, hating Sally for forcing her into doing this bloody thing again and yet, finding herself somehow still unable to stop the quirk of a smile that formed at the sight of a tiny old man before her. He held out one hand towards her courteously, smiling gently in an offer at a dance. She took it, and him, and allowed herself to be pulled into a classical ballroom hold, one of his hands politely on her waist, the other holding hers tightly as he led her in a rather awkward, but sweet, two-step to James Blunt.
The other five had also been roped back into entertaining: Simon was back to robot dancing, Kelly was throwing her guns about, Curtis was proving black people do indeed have rhythm, Alisha looked like she was out at a club and Nathan was firmly planted in one of the seats on the edge of the dance-floor, leaning forward with a pained expression on his face.
Alexis glanced over at him. Despite all his (heavy, heavy) flirtations with her last night which, to her shame, she had encouraged and returned - although admittedly to a lesser extent - he hadn't once mentioned it or hinted at it or even given her one of his trademark dirty grins like he was undressing her.
For the first time since she'd met him, he looked like he was thinking seriously over something… or was that worrying? Was that the reason he was barely glancing her way, his eyebrows all screwed up and his lips sealed in a tight-lipped grimace, perhaps? What could possibly have happened?
Her imagination began running riot, the irrational part of her wondering whether it was her and her flirting that was making him look so ashamed and disturbed, while the rational side tried to argue back that c'mon, this is Nathan. Nathan who would flirt with a sock if it had on some mascara. You're hardly likely to be the worse and/or the reason. And she knew that - really, she did – but her belly still swooped with nerves and her brain still refused to stop focusing on that idea that it was her that was the cause (on her full stop).
It was just as her dance partner spun her around quickly, making the room a blur of people and shapes, that Nathan let out a disgruntled yell and shot out of the door.
When Alexis' world stopped spinning, he was long gone.
"Any idea where the prick could be then?" Curtis asked, swinging his litter picker at the ground as him, Alexis, Simon, Alisha and Kelly all wandered aimlessly through the estate closest to the Community Centre.
"No idea…" Alexis shrugged, gazing up at the taller boy as Simon shook his head and Alisha flat out ignored his question. Kelly however spoke up, her voice straining as she tried to perfect casual nonchalance, almost as if she was either still a little concerned that they wouldn't believe her or instead, that they'd start questioning how she did know (snooping in someone's thoughts was kinda frowned upon).
"He's under the highway… I think… I mean, ya know, it's just a guess but…"
She glanced at the other four expecting anything but the calm, almost blasé, looks they were all forcing onto their faces, each still unsure about their powers but none particularly ready to be the one to point it out first.
"Cool. Well we may as well head over there then, yeah? Just to check?" Curtis said to her, a small grin on his lips that she returned gratefully.
Alexis smiled at the two of them, noting how much more functional the group seemed to be without Nathan – functional, but nowhere near as amusing. Maybe in an attempt to create some in his absence, or maybe simply in an effort to get his attention, she prodded Simon in the calf with her litter picker, shooting him a pretty smile when he turned in bemusement.
A smile of his own seemed to melt over his semi-permanent frown at the sight.
Time passed between the five quickly as they walked to where they suspected (knew) Nathan would be hidden, laughing and talking and chattering away amiably between each other about little, to nothing of importance but feeling a little closer due to it regardless.
That is, until they spotted the hunched over figure of Nathan just ahead of them.
"Oi, what happened to you?" Curtis called out to him as the group descended down the slight slope to where he was.
Nathan glanced over at them as they approached, now dressed in their orange overalls with black bags and littler pickers in hand while a cigarette dangled in his own and he nibbled on his bottom lip, back pressed up against one of the concrete supports for the overhead highway. Great. Just great.
"I will not be in a room where that song is playing. Line in the sand, my friend."
By the time he'd finished speaking, they were all crowded around him. Alexis stood back a little more though, waiting for him to give the real reason for his disappearance and hoping it wasn't anything to do with her.
"Some old woman was looking for you." Kelly said, something like an accusation in her voice as she did so. Alexis didn't really blame her. Nathan didn't strike her as the kinda person who had anything to do with the elderly – unless it was robbing from them, 'cause that she could totally see.
He glanced off suspiciously to the side, eyes wide as he blew out one long stream of smoke as Kelly's face slowly rumpled into a look of disgust before widening in disbelief.
"You shagged her!" Kelly spat at him, grossed out at the thought.
What the fuck?
"Yeah. Yeah, nice one. I gave her a right good seeing to." Nathan retorted sarcastically but there was something about his protest that just didn't seem honest enough or firm enough to be true.
Alexis' face grew slack in disbelief and revulsion and, had she been able to look, she would have seen almost identical masks on the others as they each tried to compute what they had just been told: Nathan had fucked an old lady.
So that's what had happened last night.
Before, during or after his texts to Alexis, Nathan had decided to relieve himself and have sex with some other girl. Wait, no. Not just another girl but an old lady – a sixty plus year old lady – who in no way could have been any more attractive than her.
As Kelly made a long "eurgh" noise, Alexis' face flushed even more and nausea began churning in her belly in both a mixture of humiliation and disbelief. He had boned another girl while texting her. An old lady. Ewww. No freakin' way.
"You totally screwed her." Alisha said, a laugh bubbling out of her at the face he made as he weakly argued "No. No!" and shot to his feet.
"You nailed that old woman?" Curtis pointed his picker at him, lips curling in distaste, "Nah, that is wrong."
"Did you enjoy it?" Simon asked, the ghost of a smirk on his lips at provoking Nathan even further (and perhaps a little from being able to finally retaliate for everything he had previously done to him). Alexis would have been proud had she not been so repulsed and turned off by Nathan at that moment in time.
"Shut up, you little freak!" Nathan shouted, pointing angrily at him but even that didn't contain its usual force. Simon smiled a little wider and retorted:
"I think he enjoyed it."
"Are you into that?" Curtis demanded while Alisha laughed even louder.
"No!" Nathan cried out in exasperation. "She didn't look like that when we started, okay? Remember that bird Ruth, from Tuesday? Beautiful, yeah? That wrinkly old bint… that's her! It was the storm… it made her young again."
"Please. Please tell me you didn't…" Alisha brought two fingers up to her mouth and flickered her tongue between them, imitating oral sex while both Kelly and Alexis waited with bated (and disturbed) breath for his reply.
When his face crumpled, they both let out a disgusted gasp.
"He did! He did! God's sake!"
Both Alisha and Curtis couldn't help bursting into loud laughter at Nathan's embarrassment, and even Simon let out a few soft chuckles. Alexis however, could only watch blankly as he turned away from them and marched further off down the sloping dirt.
"Nathan. Nathan, wait! Look I didn't mean to tell them…" Kelly called out after him, jogging up to his retreating figure. He turned and said something angrily to her that Alexis couldn't hear over the distance before walking a few steps away, turning around and yelling:
"And stay out of my head, okay?"
Kelly was stumped for a reply, so instead she shrieked back:
"Hey, are you okay?" Simon asked Alexis softly in concern, touching her shoulder briefly after noting the chalk white of her skin and the frown creased into her eyebrows. She flinched at his touch.
"Y-yeah, I'm fine. Just… just feeling a little sick."
Part of Simon knew why, another part pretended not to.
"I told you there'd be other people who got messed up by the storm and you didn't even believe me." Kelly accused Nathan in annoyance, glaring at him before turning to the mirror in the changing room so she could reapply her lipgloss.
"Yeah, well, I was wrong, wasn't I?" Nathan admitted, leaning himself back on his locker. "There's a hurricane of weird shit out there."
"Us included." Alexis offered, pulling on her cardigan as Simon nodded in agreement and Curtis supplied a "yeah", grinning in amusement. Alisha shot her a slightly offended look at being called weird before facing Nathan to mime oral sex again, much to his 'pleasure'.
"Oh. Another oral sex gag. Brilliant."
A few seconds passed by in silence, Alexis checking her make up in her compact and Curtis pulling on his trainers, then Simon speaking up and, for the first time since she had met him, sounding sure of himself.
"We need to be ready for when they come after us."
"What are you talking about?" Kelly asked, puzzled.
"The other people who got caught up in the storm."
"Why would they come after us?" Curtis said in sincere bemusement at Simon's paranoia.
"Because that's what people do."
Right then and there, Alexis felt like her heart was breaking in pity for him. Really? That's what he thought people did? All her theories on him being hurt, and being this way, because of others were confirmed absolutely with one innocent sentence.
"Yeah, well, if they do, we'll just tell them it was all your fault." Nathan smirked as he spun back to his locker.
Alexis watched Simon's face fall slightly before tensing into a hard mask. And before she could stop herself, she was reaching out towards him, touching the shirt at his bicep and smiling sadly up at him with a look she hoped he would understand to mean I would never hurt you. He smiled gratefully at her, feeling her sentiment and touching her hand briefly with his own; the skin-on-skin contact seemed to produce a warm electricity that sparked between them but before either could be too surprised, Nathan spoke out to all of them.
"You know that note you found in your locker?" Everyone turned to face him curiously, including Simon and Alexis. "I think it was talking about the probation worker." Simultaneously, they all moved closer to the locker, eyes wide and frightened as they stared at Tony's picture and the threat of 'I KNOW'.
Instinctively Alexis reached out for Simon's hand. He took it and squeezed.
Community Service was done for the week and much to Simon's surprise (and Alexis' too), he had agreed to spend Sunday unpacking and helping her move into her new flat. He had agreed in a flurry of acceptance that took him over when he received her text, all excitement and hey, I know you're probably really busy but d'you wanna come over on Sunday? Help me unpack my new flat? I'll cook you your tea x, and who was he to say no to that?
Flat 246. Six floors up one of the tower-blocks opposite the Community Centre, separated by the river and yet still close enough that you could see its squat, drab square from her front door and the open walkway.
And that's why he was now stood awkwardly at her new door, hands clenched in his pockets and eyes set determinedly on the white PVC that separated him from her –as if he was expecting it to magically open up and pull him inside. Seconds passed and still he hadn't worked up the nerve to reach forward and knock so instead he settled for sighing deeply, flattening his fringe and counting backwards from ten. Then he knocked.
"Simon, you came!" Alexis chirped happily, opening the door in a blaze of hair and smiles that took him by surprise.
He blinked dazedly. Someone sure was in a good mood. It was cute; it looked nice on her, setting her mouth almost permanently into a wide grin that seemed to glow on her face and made her eyes something more akin to a Christmas lantern than an Autumnal tree. Was moving that much of a weight of her shoulders? Was freedom really that liberating for her?
She ushered him inside with a quick wave of her hands and he complied, smiling softly and wiping his feet as he stepped over her new threshold. As she shut the door behind him, he quickly glanced around, figuring out the blueprint of the apartment with that razor-quick brain of his, helped slightly by the fact that it was the typical layout for the area.
He was currently stood in the hallway, a tiny cloakroom-come-broom cupboard to his left, followed by the boiler cupboard and then the okay-sized bathroom. On his immediate right was a closed door but, at a guess, what he imagined to be an almost-too-small-to-be-anything spare room, followed by the open door to the kitchen - complete with a cheap, plastic two-seater breakfast bar pressed up against the far wall. He walked forward into her living room, noting the open double doors that led out to the concrete balcony and threw reams of natural light into the space and the dust floating idly through the air. Her bedroom also stood to his right, her door open and allowing him a sneaky look at pale apple-green walls and a cream carpet and, guessing from the similar lighting of the room, another set of double doors leading to the long balcony. Throughout, boxes and furniture were littered carelessly around the laminated floor.
"You just missed my mum and Colin and Faya – oh, and Louise." Alexis said cheerily, bouncing past him so she could gaze out over the balcony and Simon wracked his memory for each person and their relationship to her. Colin – step-dad. Faya – younger sister. Louise – best friend. Done.
"Oh. That's an erm… shame?" He said sheepishly, kind of glad he didn't have to meet them; that would have been beyond awkward for him because trying to impress people? Not exactly his forte.
"Uhuh." She turned around to face him, a hand set on the doorframe, "Anyway, I just kinda need your help moving the boxes to the right room? Is that cool?" Simon nodded and she moved away from the door to kneel by a box, opening it up and peeking inside. "Mum, Colin and me were already here all yesterday, moving my furniture and stuff. Colin works with lorries so he was able to borrow a van from one of his friends to help, and me and mum painted my bedroom." She nudged her head towards the door.
"It's nice." He said lamely, "I mean, it's great. Nice. Er…"
She laughed aloud, her good mood tinting her words. "Simon! You need to stop being so uptight. Just say what you wanna say, I'm not gonna judge you."
He smiled at her sincerity, feeling his tension slowly melt away from his jaw and his shoulder – and his tongue. Was this what it felt like to be with someone who truly liked you?
"O-okay… Sorry." He knelt opposite her, shedding his denim jacket and grabbing a box before pulling it towards him. Another deep breath and he did something he never did – he initiated conversation. "So… how did you meet Louise?"
She smiled at the significance of him asking the question, knowing how hard it was for him to relax, before starting the rather boring, cliché story of two girls meeting on the first day of sixth-form at the local grammar school.
By the time they were sat on the living room floor, cross-legged and just about to tuck into their tea, the sky outside had faded to a dusky pink, bleeding at the edges into the midnight blue of evening. The balcony doors were still open, allowing a soft spring breeze inside to stir at the furniture covers and gathering dust and the ends of their hair as she passed him his bowl of pasta.
He thanked her, spearing his fork into a few spirals hungrily. They had spent the last few hours moving a lot of boxes, unpacking a few less, shuffling furniture around and talking easily – a completely new concept to Simon. And he guessed that's why when he looked at her, hair pulled back into a messy bun and chewing quickly on her own food, he felt like he was looking at some sort of mythical creature.
She was a friend and this was friendship.
Alexis caught his eye and he quickly looked away, still a little shy, a little nervous around people despite their newly instated relationship and so he brought his fork to his mouth in an effort to stop the moment from being too awkward.
(Alexis felt nothing of the sort.)
Instead she grinned at him over their bowls, glad he had decided to come and help. When she had invited him, part of her was certain he wouldn't come due to his reclusive nature but still she had wanted to try and so she had sent him that text.
It just felt like, to her, as though he never left his room. Each time she asked him what he had done that weekend, evening, week, he simply replied with an offhand 'not much' and whenever she logged onto Facebook, he was always there on chat. Recently – the night she had sent the text - he had told her about talking to 'shygirl18': a randomer who had added him that he didn't know, and yet who he spoke of as if they were his closest thing to a friend – and that was a little weird to her. Surely he must have had someone other than a stranger? And so she had invited him, remembering her promise to be his friend and sure, they were definitely on their way, but inviting him over was just one more step up the ladder for them.
She motioned to his bowl.
"D'ya like it?"
"It's great, really great."
Okay, so that was a little of an exaggeration. The food was okay, it was edible, but when she smiled happily at him, a faint blush lining the apples of her cheeks, Simon decided it was a white lie definitely worth telling.
They grew up in the same old town, never knowing the other was around.
Read from the same damn books and never gave each other looks
But one day the sun will shine, I know, for their eyes have told me so.
Rush Together – Quiet Drive
I am so sorry with how long it took for me to update this! But life decided to get in the way, what with exams and coursework and college and friends, and then I was hit with writer's block and the words would just not come out.
Anyway, thank you so much for all your reviews/alerts/favourites. They were the fuel for my continued efforts and I hope you guys keep them coming so this rocket can keep flying :) Hopefully the next chapter will be out soon but I am going to warn you – I still have a lot more exams to come so it may not be as quick as I'd like. And oh yeah! This story will soon be M-rated – you guys guessed that though, right? This is Misfits :)
Lastly, thoughts on Robert Sheehan leaving? I dunno about you guys but Nathan was like, a huge percent of that show and I'm absolutely gutted. Staying for Simon though. Obv. H-xo