This is a blanket warning for my chapters. There will be swearing, and crude language. I just can’t have a story set in Scotland where this isn’t part of how people speak 😛 I can’t be arsed to tack it on to each chapter when there will be more important warnings I will need people to take heed of before they read!
Awaking to an empty bed had been less of a surprise than waking up to Kane would have been. Faye remembered the night clearly – neither of them had been that drunk – and recalled the feeling of his strength; the tenderness of his hands. Sure, it hadn’t been mind-blowing, but it was far better than most drunken sorties she’d had in the past.
Seeing that her room was empty, and his stuff long gone, gave her both relief and embarrassment. There was no awkward morning after, but instead she had to look forward to their shift later on in the day. Really, they had only delayed the inevitable bumbling around each other until they could find a way to let what happened slide – or embrace it, though Faye wasn’t convinced that was the likely solution.
She ducked into the tiny cupboard that worked as the staff room next to the bar and examined herself in the mirror. What would she say? She practiced appearing cool and nonchalant, mumbling out a few practiced lines in the hope that it would seem semi-natural when she faced him.
Finally, she stepped out and took her place behind the bar. It was early, so it was only the regulars (read: casual alcoholics) that were in, so they could speak freely. She hovered off to the side and hoped he would break the silence first.
He turned his head to the side and gave the slightest nod in greeting, which was no different from usual. Faye chewed on her bottom lip.
“So, uh, we should talk,” she croaked, fiddling with her choker and wishing it would live up to its name and just put her out of her misery.
“We really don’t need to,” Kane drawled. “Nothing’s changed.”
“But we had a good talk! You know, before…” Before you kissed me. That was what was confusing her the most. She hadn’t initiated anything. It had all been his doing and she had happily gone along for the ride (in a manner of speaking…)
For lack of anything else to do with her hands, she scooted over to the coffee machine and began to clean it. Now it was Kane’s turn to hover at her shoulder, but this time he was just making sure she was doing her job right. For some reason, the coffee machine hated her.
“We were drunk. People say shit they don’t mean when they’re drunk.”
Faye nodded slowly, waiting for the stream of hot water to finish clearing out the gunk left behind from the fancy coffees. She put the cup off to the side and picked up one of the cleaner brushes, giving it a good scrub and glad that her top was black when a clump of coffee grains flew out at her. Kane snorted.
“So you don’t forgive me?” she said in a small voice.
“Did I actually say that?” Kane asked, picking up the mug of hot water and pouring it away for her. The action was odd; Kane had never done something so helpful for her before. Maybe things had changed…
“I just thought…”
“Do yourself a favour and stick to the things you’re good at, Faye,” Kane muttered, but his tone wasn’t as icy as usual. Faye frowned at the finished coffee machine and wondered what else she could do to distract herself.
She ended up practicing the cocktails, trying to bring a little more flair into her moves as she had watched Kane doing many a time (and the smoothness of his movements, the fluidity of his muscles, suddenly meant a lot more to her). He gave an exasperated sigh when she dropped the plastic glass and spilled the concoction over the floor and her shoes, but behind his hand a smirk was hiding.
Faye reassessed the situation. What did she know?
Two – that maybe she could make amends after all and, by that logic, potentially make it up to her siblings so they would actually like her again and finally;
Three – that the proximity of Kane was driving her crazy; she could sense he was watching her or standing by her like it was a preternatural sense she had developed, and despite their continued snippets of tense conversation or full blown arguments, she found the idea of spending the night with him irresistible.
It was only a matter of time before it would happen again.
“I still cannot believe you know Kane,” Alicia mused, leaning back against their sofa while the TV played on in the background. Game show contestants were trying to answer questions to things that Faye had never heard of, but what was really distracting Faye was the smell of the avocado remains in a bowl by Alicia’s feet. It was making Faye seriously queasy.
“I don’t know how well I do know him,” Faye complained, ignoring the TV in favour of casting a helpless look at Alicia. “At work he barely tolerates me, but if we bump into each other in the evenings then… well…” Faye shrugged.
“Wait, what?” Faye had assumed that they had been work friends before Alicia had gone to work in the newly opened hipster bar that she still didn’t know the name of.
Alicia laughed. “We just had fun. I… we’re not that friendly. I keep in contact with him because he was my supervisor at Cooper’s – well, now the Hive – and he’s my referee for future applications.”
“But you invited him to your party,” Faye frowned. “Surely you must like him.”
“Not like that. We catch up now and then. I invited him around because I thought it would be good for you to get to know your supervisor in an informal environment.” She laughed and shook her head. “I didn’t think you’d get to know each other that well so soon.”
Faye flushed and wondered what Alicia would have thought about her. Not only was she sleeping with someone that Alicia had, but from her point of view they’d only known each other for a couple of days.
Alicia peered at her nicely painted nails (she’d showed Faye the post on Instagram proudly) and flicked over the channel. Something that Faye had learned quickly when watching TV with the girl was not to get invested in the programme, because she almost certainly would not see the end.
“Apart from that, how are you settling in?”
“You do not sound very sure,” Alicia said sweetly, giving Faye a knowing smile. She shrugged self-consciously. What did productive, put-together Alicia think of her?
“I…” She blew out a sigh. “I guess I don’t know what to do with myself when I’m not working. I feel like my parents expect me to do something with that time.”
“I dunno… Binge TV or films, watch youtube, shop…” Before, she would have been out with friends most of the time, but her shifts were always with Kane on the bottom floor of Hive, and when it was busy enough to call another person in there was never time to talk. She didn’t talk to a lot of her friends from back home; of those that were still friendly towards her, Michelle’s attitude towards Summer and Uma had made her a no-go, and the others had only exchanged the obligatory ‘fine, how are you’s when asked how they were doing.
Maybe that was why she was so fixed on Kane. He, and Alicia, were the only solaces to her loneliness.
“Yeah, I guess. Bored, sometimes, but it’s fine.”
Alicia flicked the channel again until they landed on some American football (or rugby? Faye was pretty sure it wasn’t rugby, but her sports knowledge was atrocious). “Oooh,” Alicia giggled, watching the men on the screen. She turned back to Faye. “Well, you have identified your problem. What do you propose is your solution?”
Faye blinked and looked sideways at Alicia. Surely if she had a solution to her problem, it wouldn’t be a problem anymore! “There isn’t a solution,” Faye disagreed, and immediately cursed herself for what she said. Alicia would probably burst up and hunt around for her tarot cards, but to Faye the only thing that could be predicted was how quickly Alicia decided her cards could give an answer to any question posed. She had once used them to see if she should make fruit tea or drink a coffee.
Surprisingly, Alicia only rolled her eyes. “Of course there is. Give yourself a personal project. Study online or teach yourself something. Join clubs. Meet people. You too quickly shut your mind off to any thought or opinion that doesn’t match what you want. It is a problem that will continue affecting your life.”
This sounded like the tarot readings. Faye bit the inside of her cheek to stop herself from snapping. Her readings always seemed to be about what she needed to improve, but then Faye supposed there wasn’t much about her that didn’t need improvement.
“I guess I’ll try to find something,” Faye said, in the hope that it would appease the girl and they could change topic or channel onto something more interesting.
The problem was that Faye still had no hobbies, no real talents that she pursued, and no sense of motivation to learn something new. It was because of these things that she had never – and probably would never – settle on any career or make anything of herself in her parents’ eyes.
And that stung. But was it right to force herself into these things if they would make her unhappy? She wiggled the mouse and watched the cursor fly over the results from her searches. There were a few groups around town; a yoga class, a craft class and a choir group. Faye couldn’t sing, and decided she couldn’t craft (with no evidence to support this theory) so that left the possibility of yoga, but it would probably be full of old people and who made friends with people in their yoga classes anyway?
With a sigh she closed the tab and stared at the blue screen, aimlessly swivelling around in the chair as she thought. She could afford to go through to Glasgow and spend time there, but what would she do? Shop? There was only so much her bank could take of that, so it was hardly a sustainable option no matter how much she hoped it was.
Was there really a problem with the way her life was now? Sure, she could have done with a few more friends and it would be nice for her family to remember to talk to her, but apart from that she wasn’t unhappy. Then again, she wasn’t happy either. Did she actually feel content, or did she feel nothing? Who the hell knew? Faye groaned and pushed her seat back, deciding to call this attempt a failure.
However, she saw Alicia’s keyboard as she left the chair and decided to perch on the stool, her hands hovering over the keys with confusion. She pressed on one experimentally and frowned when nothing happened, only realising after a couple more prods that it was electronic. She switched it on and tried again, listening to the different keys and feeling utter confusion about what note was what, and what the smaller black keys were for. She’d heard Alicia play a few times, and the girl was good – nothing spectacular, but enjoyable to listen to.
Well, maybe Faye was a hidden virtuoso. She had to be good at something, right? Faye closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and began to play, letting her fingers move along the keys like they were dancing.
A garbled song played as her fingers, in reality, plodded around the keys. She winced and let her hands drop to her side, craning her neck back and giving an almighty groan.
Okay, so music was a no-go. Fine. Faye would just go back to her laptop and fill the time with that, then.
“I’m not in your way!” Faye protested, placing her final cup of coffee on the side before she could spill it at the confrontation. Kane had been grumpier than usual, shouldering her out of the way a couple of times, and Faye had had enough. Sure, she knew she deserved to be treated coldly, but there had to be a line, and her arm was beginning to get bruised from all the not-so-near misses with Kane.
“You’ve been spacey all night,” Kane growled.
“And you’ve been an asshole all night,” Faye shot back. It was funny how their occasional trysts didn’t seem to warm the actual relationship between them, but she had long since given up trying to understand it. To Kane, it was probably simple, but to her it seemed overly complicated.
“Because I’ve been picking up your slack!”
“For fuck’s sake,” Faye yelled, throwing her arms up in exasperation and glancing at the quiet bar to make sure her expletive hadn’t been heard by any customers. “You can’t keep snapping at me every time something doesn’t go your way. Anyway, I’m recovering from a stomach bug, I’ve been pulling double shifts to make up for Claire’s absence, and I’ve had the hardest customers tonight, so can you get off my case?”
Kane’s eyes bulged. “Your customers are difficult because you’ve been so fucking slow today, getting half your shit wrong and then standing back while I’m trying to sort it. You’ve been here almost three months, Faye. Fucking act like it.”
“Oh, piss off,” Faye muttered, shaking her head, but her eyes were burning and she could feel her body shaking, half out of anger and half at humiliation at being shouted at. She excused herself to go to the bathrooms and spent five minutes convincing herself that she was a good worker, and okay, today wasn’t the best day to show that, but her boss had praised her and that meant more than Kane’s words. Sure, she’d admit that she had been slow and her mind wasn’t as focused as usual, but everyone had off days. Hell, even that asshole did!
Kane approached her when she returned, casting a quick glance at the empty bar before satisfying himself that no one was waiting – or overhearing? Faye shook her head at him, taking a step away and hoping to leave the argument before it began, but he put up his hands in surrender.
“Sorry,” he said shortly. “I am,” he added, when Faye rolled her eyes. “That was shitty, and I shouldn’t have taken a bad day out on you.”
Faye wanted to tell him what she thought of his apology, but bit the inside of her cheek before she could talk. Here was an olive branch (she thought so, anyway, she had only learned about them because of that quiz on TV) and she should take it.
Faye took a deep breath. “Thank you. I’m sorry that I’ve been slow and added to your bad day.”
Kane’s eyes softened. The residual anger fell away from his face like sun slipping out from behind clouds. He looked so much better like this that it was a shame he was so grumpy and angry all the time. Still, maybe that was his fault, and not hers.
Kane nodded and scratched the back of his head awkwardly. “Look, there’s only half an hour until closing and most of the place is clean. Go home early, yeah? Consider it a…” He waved his hand through the air, trying to think of the right word, before shrugging. “An olive branch, or whatever.”
Faye watched as he turned around and finished up the last of the cleaning of his bar. This was what confused her. It was like hot-and-cold all the time. How was she supposed to know where she stood, or if he had forgiven her, if they were always fighting?
And then he did things like this; obvious signs of apology or sincere acts of friendship and it only served to confuse her more.
More than that, though, it was making her wish for the kindness all the time, because there was something comforting and dazzling about Kane when that anger dropped away.
Faye shook her head and decided just to leave. There was no use in wishful thinking.
A/N: I am hoping to get a chapter out next weekend, because it looks like I’ll be home and free to use the internet, so fingers crossed. Beyond that I don’t know, but we will be finished generation one before August ends, I am DETERMINED!
Also, in other news, I passed 50,000 words for one of my other writing projects, a novel called Chaos Awakens. It’s technically an edited version of the story I wrote a few years ago, but I’ve learned a lot about writing and these characters since so only a few scenes can be kept. It’s been fun though!