Monica pushed her seat back as far as it would go, pulled her complimentary blanket up over her head, and cried as quietly as possible, so her parents wouldn’t know. This plane trip was different to all the others. She couldn’t get excited over the free movies or the weird food – or for that matter the weird people. Her thoughts kept returning to her destination, and what she’d have to face there. She snuffled quietly into a tissue and felt sorry for herself.
Josh lay on his bed, looking at the ceiling.
“Life sucks,” he muttered angrily, and punched the wall beside him.
“Oi!” came a voice from the other side of the partition, “Keep your angst to yourself, you upper-class TWIT!”
Josh growled, but couldn’t be bothered doing anything about the insult.
He was a rapist. He’d gone into a girl’s room, and he’d…
“Shit!” he muttered, “I’ve gotta get outta here FAST! Stuff it, I’m gonna be expelled anyway.”
He got up, snuck past the dorm-master who was supposed to be watching him closely but was instead watching a football game, and made his way out of the school and down to the local village.
“Alcohol fixes everything, right Dad?” he said to himself with a sneer, and walked into the pub.
The man behind the counter looked at him and raised an eyebrow.
“Now, you,” he said jovially, “don’t look more than 16! Come straight from the school?”
Josh thought hard. For some reason, he hadn’t expected this.
He rolled his eyes at the bartender and sighed melodramatically.
“Bloody hell, mate!” he said, affecting an Aussie twang, “ya wouldn’t believe how often I get that, eh? You’d think working 12 hours a day half the year’d take the bloom outta me cheeks, wouldn’t ya?”
The bartender looked suspicious.
“So you’re saying you’re not a student?”
“I’m a swaggie, cobber, what do ya call it here? Itinerant worker! I’m outta work at the moment, it being winter and all…”
“Where’s ya pack?”
Huh. Another thing he hadn’t thought of.
“Train people lost it,” he lied quickly, “ah well, possessions only weigh ya down, eh cobber?”
“Oh, fook it,” the bartender said gruffly, “I don’t care anymore. Just keep your mouth shut and you can have a beer – that accent’ll scare me customers! Oi! Ya got money, right?”
Josh nodded and slid over a tenner. The bartender glowered and plonked a pint of beer and his change in front of him. Josh grinned and sipped his beer. Plan A – get drunk ASAP – was working. Which was lucky, because he didn’t have a Plan B.
A kick in the ribs woke him, and he doubled up, stomach cramping. The movement made his head hurt as though a spike was being driven through it.
“Kid, this aint the place to be sleepin’ at this time o’ the morning – push off before I call the cops!”
He opened his eyes and winced. An old, bald guy with a scowl on his face was drawing back his leg for another kick. God, beaten up by a codger with false teeth? Josh lurched to his feet and threw up. All over the codger’s feet, he noticed with satisfaction.
“GAH – that’s disgustin’, kid! Get outta here!” the codger yelled at him.
“Sorry,” he mumbled, and backed away cautiously. He wouldn’t put it past the old bastard to lay into him again just as he got his balance.
Safely away, Josh blinked away some tears and tried to focus. Corner store across the road – they’d have water and painkillers of some sort. He walked in, and barely noticed that every head swivelled to look at him. He opened the door of the nearest fridge and grabbed a bottle of sports drink. That’d rehydrate him fast, right?
“Hooo, boy, don’t you look terrible!” the woman behind the counter cackled, “Had a bit much to drink last night? We thought about waking you, but you looked so comfy – like a little cherub!”
The other patrons cackled at her wit. Josh frowned, but stayed silent, patting his pockets for his wallet. Finding it, he pulled it out and took out a card.
“Awww, still hurting, luv?” the woman asked more kindly, “here, grab a pie, it’ll fix you right up! Ignore what your tummy says!” seeing the revolted look on Josh’s face, “it always chases away the lurgy, luv.” She rang up his purchases and swiped his card for him. As he punched numbers, she peered at him again.
“Here, aren’t you one of the students from Kingsley’s? I’m sure I’ve seen you in here buying sweets and porn magazines!”
“You are, too! Come on, grab your stuff, come and sit in the office while I call them to pick you up, silly boy! What a silly escapade! You could’ve died out there last night!”
Josh had no energy left for resisting – and besides, his head hurt so much. Maybe if he did what she said, she’d shut up.
An eternity of brain-drilling later, Mrs Knightley appeared in the doorway. She jerked her head in a ‘follow me!’ gesture and walked out of the shop. Josh followed, scared that her habitual talkativeness was so absent. She’s furious, he thought to himself, and boy, am I going to catch it when I get back!
Mrs Knightly maintained her silence all the way back to school, and as she escorted him to his dorm room.
“STAY!” she commanded, and left.
He lay down on his bed – careful of his still-throbbing head – and brooded.
She’d found out. That was the only explanation that fit the chilly reception she’d given him. She’d found out, and she hated him, she was utterly disgusted by him. He sighed. There was nothing more he could do except get expelled and disappear somewhere. He should’ve run instead of getting drunk. This hangover SUCKED.
A knock sounded at Josh’s door. He stayed silent, looking at the ceiling stubbornly. He didn’t want to see anyone.
“Josh?” a female voice called quietly. “Can I come in?”
The door opened anyway, and Monica slipped in.
“I’m sorry to barge in,” she said, tears starting to well up in her eyes, “but I had to come and – oh shit, sorry – “ she reached into her pocket, pulled out a hanky and blew her nose vigorously, “ – I had to come and explain.”
Josh sat up and frowned at her.
“You shouldn’t be in here,” he said, meaning, ‘remember what happened last time I got you alone?’
“It’s OK, Mrs Knightley said I could come,” she said, misinterpreting entirely, “Ummm…”
“What?” asked Josh, refusing to look at her, in case he was overwhelmed again, and did… that… again.
“It wasn’t your fault. It was mine. I cast a spell. It went wrong. It made you act – bad. I’m so sorry. It was all my fault. I didn’t mean anything bad to happen. I’m… sorry.” she said, wishing he’d look up.
Josh looked up, and Monica saw naked rage on his face.
“You cast a spell on me? To make me do that stuff?”
Monica nodded, bottom lip quivering.
“You fucking little bitch! I’ve been feeling guilty because – and you did that? FUCK! Get out!”
Monica fled, sobbing.
Josh stood up, slammed the door and laid back down.
What a bitch! Why the hell, he wondered, had he ever had a crush on her?