“What’s wrong? You sound sad,” she immediately blurted down the phone.
“I was just wondering if I could come over for a little while; a week?”
“Why? What’s happened?”
“I think Yuni and I need some time apart,” Aaron admitted in a downcast tone.
For the past three months, Yuni had been taking a break from her busy lifestyle to have a normal relationship with her boyfriend. She was staying with Aaron and his family who were, for the most part, thrilled to have her stay. Although it had started fine, no better and no worse than that, their relationship had taken a tumble after the first month. Yuni was really enjoying herself, accompanying Aaron at every one of his rehearsals and spending every spare moment with him, too. Unfortunately, Aaron was not so excited to wake up every day with Yuni attached to his arm. The days had all turned repetitive, swamped with Yuni in all directions. There was no escape, not even for five minutes.
“Let me ask quick.” There was some mumbling, then some shouting, and Ceri was back on her end of the call. “Should be fine. Do you mind sleeping on the sofa?”
“That’s alright, I just need to get away.”
A few hours later, Aaron’s bags were packed and were sat in the corner of a strange, new room, surrounded by strange, disapproving people. Tammy was already less than impressed to find out that the friend that Ceri had invited to stay was Aaron. She was furious when she discovered that he was using their flat as a safe haven and hiding spot from his girlfriend. To say the least, there was definitely a peculiar atmosphere in the room. It was almost set up like an interview; Ceri and her parents were uncomfortably squished up on the sofa, and opposite them sat Aaron, averting his eyes and nervously burying his toes in a fluffy rug.
Eventually, Ceri gave a dramatic yawn and announced that she was going to bed. Her parents followed suit and Aaron was left alone. As silently as possible, he got ready for bed and slid beneath the spare blankets. That night, Aaron barely slept. He tossed and turned as the hours ticked by, finally finding some sort of solace in music as a last resort. If every night for the next week was to mirror this one, he’d have no hope of rest.
Cotton pillow cases; tear catchers disguised as helpers of unconsciousness were soaked through in no time. Colourful blankets, stained black by the night’s watercolours, were bundled at his chest in an attempt to patch up the gaping hole in his ribcage. Yuni was lovely, really, so why did he feel this way? They had already confessed their love to one another, but Aaron was doubtful of its truth. He curled up foetal style, desperate to hide away from her tauntingly mesmerising voice.
He ripped the earphones from where they were embedded in his body, hoping it would cut off Yuni’s voice, even for just a minute, but his plan was unsuccessful. Still, her sweet voice went on and on and on, like a fairy-tale princess reciting a dreadfully long poem for her younger subjects. Perhaps the year between them was the issue? Aaron tutted at his own stupidity. They were plenty close in age.
He forced his eyes shut, squeezing his eyelids so hard that he thought his pupils may burst. It didn’t help him sleep at all. With a sigh, he rolled over, briefly teetering on the edge of the sofa before falling into a more comfortable position. Not quite right. He shifted his weight back onto his original shoulder. One more heavy sigh later, Aaron found himself on his spine.
Every night for the following week was the same, and every morning he woke up grouchier than the day before. Fresh air helped a little, so Ceri took Aaron on small tours of the quieter side of London. They slowly meandered through parks on unused paths, making their daily visit to the dark corner of Tasmin’s café, then heading back to Ceri’s flat again. Aaron found the routine settling—something to keep him tied to reality despite the chaos that was raging in his heart.
Towards the end of his stay, Aaron spilled his troubling thoughts to Ceri. She listened intently, but was unable to solve anything for him.
“I really want to help you, but I shouldn’t have an opinion on something like that.”
She bit her tongue. If she dared to speak another word of the matter, she’d surely suggest that he break up with Yuni before it’s too late. Of course, it would be an accident to let that slip, but she felt a strong urge yanking her heart to Aaron’s and was reluctant to watch it fade away.
“Wait,” he said while they stood out in the carpark, putting off going in to face Ceri’s parents, “can I have a hug?”
They could’ve been there for hours, wrapped up in each other’s arms. Hearts were beating in sync and breathing was perfectly matched, so that their stomachs and chests weren’t fighting for room between them. Aaron rested his head on Ceri’s shoulder. Perhaps hugging her should have felt stranger, but it didn’t. Even the sensation of having a hand and a stump pressed against his back didn’t seem out of the ordinary in the slightest. Just how many times have we hugged in my dreams?
A small noise, potentially footsteps, but likely just a pigeon getting over-excited by a stray crumb, couldn’t even get them to let go.
“Aaron. Explain this.”
A phone held by extravagantly decorated nails was thrust under his nose, blocking his view of his guitar strings. He set down the instrument and tuner to turn his full attention to his girlfriend’s phone.
It was like looking upon a fond memory from a different perspective. Clearly, it wasn’t meant to be ‘fond’ according to Yuni.
“Why were you hugging her like that?”
“I…uhh…we—she…umm…” Yuni’s penetrating glare suddenly forced a coherent sentence out of Aaron. “She was having a hard day. She needed a hug.”
“No, she just wanted you to touch her.”
“Don’t try to tell me I’m not right! I can see it in the way she’s holding you. She needs to find someone else’s shoulder to cry on.”
“Yuni, I have two shoulders for a reason!” Aaron shouted, his voice rising with his body.
There was silence, then sniffling. “I need both of your shoulders sometimes,” she wept.
“I just don’t tell you in case you think I’m silly.”
Aaron sighed as he felt her arms slither around his waist.
“Are you alright?” he asked after what felt like an eternity of discomfort.
“Only if you don’t leave me for her…”
“I’d never do that, Yuni. I love you.”
This is the ninth part of a short story by Heather. Follow Heather on Instagram and Wattpad @centaur_h. Stay tuned for the next part!