The second time he told her he loved her, she punched him in the mouth and left. Tim watched her leave, watched the door slam, watched her shadow disappear from behind the glass panels in the front door and waited. His jaw was clenched. His lip stung. He licked and tasted blood, and smirked. He snatched a cigarette from the packet on the table and looked around for a light. He checked his pockets, then went to the kitchen and lit the cigarette from the burner. He stomped through the house and out to the front gate. Taking a deep breath of smoke, he looked up and down the road, seeing if he could spot Sam walking away. Nothing. He sat on the front fence.
“Cup of tea?” Jenny, Tim’s housemate, called out from the house.
“Yeah. Ta.” Tim finished the cigarette and flicked the butt into the gutter. He took one last look for her and walked inside. He slumped onto the couch and flicked on the television. Rage was still on, the sound was still down from when they’d come in last night. He flicked up the volume and watched as some young angry boys walked in black and white down the road, singing something. He flicked through the channels, through the usual Sunday morning crap.
“Here.” Tim took the mug from Jenny. She sat on the armchair and curled her legs up under herself. “Brrr…”
Tim cleared a tiny spot on the coffee table for his mug, got up and turned the heater on. It took four goes before it fired up, having a challenging mechanism like those in most inner suburban shared houses. The elements started to turn red. Tim looked at it for a moment then, satisfied that it was really on and wasn’t going to flick off again, he grabbed his tea and sat back down.
“So… I take it Sam’s gone?”
Tim sighed. He took a sip from his tea, and the heat from his mug stung his mouth. “Yeah. She’s gone.”
Tim couldn’t look at her. Despite the fight, despite her insults and his sarcasm, he had thought Sam was special. He thought that he really did love her, no matter how false that had sounded when he’d yelled it across the room. He picked up his cigarettes and headed to the back yard for another smoke. Jenny sighed, grabbed the remote and flicked through the channels.
Tim took a deep drag on his cigarette. He thought about how it had started. Sam was a friend of a friend who had been camping near them at one of the so-called summer festivals. Summer – it had been nice the first night, then the rains picked up, and by sunset on the second day, there were eight of them crammed into his friend Jon’s white van. The mattress that Jon was going to sleep on was covered in mud, but he didn’t care. They were sitting all over each other, anytime anyone tried to move a leg or arm, a ripple of groans and giggles went through the rest. They passed around a coke bottle filled with whiskey and a couple of joints. Sam was almost laying on top of Tim. They talked about themselves and each other and Blur and Oasis and the Beatles and Elvis and Brett Easton Ellis and travel. They smiled, and kissed. Tim was glad that the interior light wasn’t working so he could avoid the eyes of his friends. He knew they’d be giving each other that sickly smile, perhaps even shooting him a thumbs up. He wanted to keep it private and good. The next day, they’d gone on the ferris wheel, and as they reached the top, they kissed long and hard. There was still a sprinkling of rain. She’d smiled at him, then looked away, looking down at the people below. “I love you.” He’d said it, said it loudly, certainly loud enough for her to hear. But she didn’t respond. At least, not much. He was sure he’d seen her neck tighten and her breath catch. Then she’d turned and started talking about one of the bands that they’d missed in the van last night. He wasn’t sure. Had he heard her?
Tim felt the heat of the cigarette reach his fingers. He flicked it onto the ground, stood on it and picked up the butt and put it in the ashtray. He flicked the rest of the tea into the garden. He had no plans for the rest of the day. He went to his room, dumping the mug on the sink on the way, noting that Jenny had gone back to bed and that the TV was off. In his room, he checked his phone for messages, pulled off his jeans and hopped into bed. He shut his eyes and tried to sleep his thoughts of Sam away.