Emily had become committed to living alone during Katie’s trip and Nick’s “bullshit escape from bullshit” (Katie’s description). She liked the self-reliance it inspired in her when it came to paying bills or keeping her living space neat. She’d never fully experienced that sense of freedom even during the time she lived above the pub by herself. That was forced independence while this happened on a trial basis. Now, almost a week and half later, Emily was absolutely sure that solitary living space was what she wanted. Finding a tiny, hole in the wall flat in Bristol proved not to be a challenge since Emily had saved up enough to cover the deposit and the first month’s rent. She signed the lease 10 minutes after touring the place then handed over her money 2 minutes after that. The task left was telling people she’d relocated. Emily doubted any of her mates would object, including a recently returned Nick, but Katie was another issue entirely. They both knew Emily wasn’t going to live there forever since there was no way she could really continue to grow as a person in her sister’s flat and Katie hated Emily’s habits, but this was change. The Fitch twins had unpredictable reactions to change.
Walking around Bristol had become a part of Emily’s routine over the last couple weeks. Every time she got worked up over some situation, Emily now just slipped on some sneakers and calmed herself down during her trek. Today the catalyst for anxiety was a huge test in one of her Uni classes. She usually had a handle on studying for them but this time Emily felt like she was drowning in the material. The words coming out of the textbook looked like they were written in a different language and no notes were helping. This feeling wasn’t the type of thing anybody at the pub could really empathize with her about besides JJ but he hadn’t been around in a while. So Emily walked. She didn’t have a planned route to follow but somehow ended up in downtown Bristol. There were a good amount of people on the sidewalks since it was Sunday afternoon, mostly couples and families. Emily smiled at them passing by as she realized she was close to Katie’s flat, which in turn meant she was even closer to Jenna’s shop, Roundview and the gym. It never occurred to her before now that the Fitches were all squeezed together in the same area most of the time. Emily not running into any one of them on the street was sort of a miracle but she kind of wished she had. At least then the awkwardness from the lost-child-coming-home complex her mother seemed to have would be overshadowed by surprise.
She kept going down the sidewalk until the bright blue sign reading Fitch Fitness appeared in her peripheral vision. Emily bit her lip then peeked in the window to see if anyone was there. The main floor lights were off but she could make out her dad’s figure squatting to clean the mirrors. He always did that kind on thing on Sundays. Something told her to go inside so Emily pulled open the door handle and stepped on the gym floor quietly. “Dad? Rob’s body registered the voice with surprise and got up from the ground quickly. “Katie, that you?” Emily instantly felt like crying. Her own father had forgotten who she was. “No…it’s…”She could feel her voice start to crack and within seconds Rob’s arms were wrapped tightly around her frame. “Emily. I know who you are, love. Old Dad was just messing with his girl..” He laughed a bit. “Everything alright? I miss your face around the place.” He led them towards two chairs in the lobby and gave her a huge smile. Emily knew she missed her dad a lot, but sitting across from him was almost too much. She’d always been closer with him than Jenna, they had similar personalities.”Yeah, mostly. School’s kind of shitty though…” Among other things.
Emily had never thought that silence could be so horribly lonely. In the nights right after Cook’s disappearing, JJ and Emily wouldn’t cross paths unless completely necessary because of being so caught up in their own worlds. Still, she appreciated him being there as a constant. That’s why JJ’s decision to go stay with Celia for a bit made Emily feel like she was drowning. Drowning in a pool filled of nothing. The emptiness of the flat hit her like a bullet every time she walked past the other two rooms. She couldn’t stand seeing their beds just lying there unused so she’d taken to keeping the doors closed the majority of the time. It was easier that way. Emily was incredibly angry both of her flatmates were gone , but she also missed them so much it hurt. For weeks on end Emily numbly went to class, worked a shift, then came home until something snapped inside of her. What was the point in worrying about people who didn’t care enough to call? Or comfort? Emily had been down this road of waiting for someone to return too many times to not understand her mode of operation. She waited, she worried and she wondered what she’d contributed to them wanting to leave. Waiting, worrying, wondering. That was Emily’s MO. But if she wanted to get through this, she had to change. Instead of moping in her room all day Emily started getting as far away from the flat as possible. People in her classes had always thrown out the idea of getting drinks together but now Emily took them up on it. They went out and she made a point to get as fucked as she could to have fun. She did her coursework in a timely manner, spent more time at the library or music store and even did yoga to help release tension from being one of the only consistent waitresses at the pub.
Emily looked at her phone one more time to see if Cook was anywhere close. He did say he was going over Mini’s, but she assumed he’d be back by now. The flat being empty still felt depressing. She didn’t want to nag so she made a note to ask him about later, if they ever met up then sat on her bed. Emily wasn’t in the mood for a club or even a bar for that matter. Katie was probably out with her boyfriend and being the tag-along sister didn’t appeal to her either. Matty was an option, but she decided against it. They still weren’t defined as anything. Still, sitting in her room for the rest on the night would make her feel pathetic. She needed to be someone without any complications or weird feelings , and she knew the perfect person. Emily grabbed her bag then sent a text out asking to meet her at the park, laughing at how this person would react.
Emily led Mark directly opposite the way back to the dorms, finally ending up on stone benches in front of a fountain. Mark hadn’t said a word besides asking her to slow down and heaved a sigh as he sat. ”An innovative definition of the words “taking a walk” goes to….Emily!” She took a seat beside him then pulled out another cigarette. Smoking two so close together only happened when Emily was completely stressed. She let out smoke silently, as Mark fiddled around with his camera. “I feel horrible knowing I made you go mute. My hands have a mind of their own. Boys kind of light my fire more anyway. Yes, you’re adorable and all but men have more, more substance. I apologize again.” Emily raised her eyebrows and laughed huskily. “Yeah, apology accepted. You’re an ok guy Mark, I just have somebody else in the picture.Was Matty considered as her boyfriend again? The night in Cardiff told her yes, while Emily’s reservations said no. Even if he wasn’t, snogging Mark wouldn’t be alright in any context. “I see. My ex was a cheater. Maureen was a lot of things, besides being my last girlfriend.” This time they both laughed heartily and Emily let go of some of the tension she held. Mark went on to describe his thoughts on materialism as the bane of society’s existence. His face changed from relaxed to completely intense, and it reminded her fondly of Matty talking about something intellectual. “So you’re saying as a whole, we all hate our parents because of what they represent? I can see that.” Emily puffed out a little bit more smoke. Imagining Jenna hearing Mark’s philosophies was entertaining. “Basically. We’re starving for attention from them but hate the pretension in their judgments.”
They got up from the benches and started walking towards campus. Whatever JJ and Mimi were doing had to be done by now. Emily herself was a bit anxious to get back. It wasn’t that she was worried about JJ, she was worried about Mimi’s influence on him. “How’d you and Mimi hook up?” Mark shrugged his shoulders. “We run in the same group of ragtag misfits, we were just lucky enough to come across the pond. It was getting toxic for the mind, body, and spirit.” She nodded then let the subject drop. None of this was helping keep her mind off anything. Mark walked her back to House D then reached awkwardly for a hug. “Cross our fingers that they’re both in their respective rooms?” Emily smiled and gave him a quick embrace before running to their room. “Night, Mark.” The door was unlocked. Mimi was on the bed curled up like a child, sleeping heavily. After checking for no signs of naked JJ , she changed and slipped into bed herself. Morning needed to come quickly.
Emily and Mimi practically raced one another to the first floor of D, laughing the whole way over. She wasn’t the first wild girl Emily had met, but Mimi fit into a category of her own. They threw their stuff on the opposite beds and Emily went inside the bathroom for moment. It was surprisingly spacious with enough room for them to shower and use the sink without bumping together. She wandered back into the room as Mimi was pulling things out of her bag. Emily watched her stunned. While Emily was in the bathroom, Mimi moved the beds into an L position, figured out how much smoke could fill the room without leaking, changed into a bikini and put her hair up in a curly fashion. “Come on Em, don’t be a lazybones. You’re the one who said 20 minutes…” Mimi raised her eyebrows, then picked up a little baggie full of white powder. Emily assumed it was coke so she turned away to change without a second thought. “Hey, can I ask you a personal question?” Emily nodded while slipping on her bathing suit. “Shoot.” She could guess what Mimi was about to ask, and blurted before the other girl could form the question. “I’m not dating JJ. He’s just one of my closest mates..” She wondered how JJ was doing with Mark, especially after the times he checked JJ out. It made her giggle thinking about that interaction. Mimi giggled. “He’s pretty cute, even though Mark’s probably trying to ravish him now.” Emily made a sound unrecognizable to human existence. What would JJ do?
Emily put her hair up in a ponytail, then turned to see Mimi injecting herself with a needle. “Well what the FUCK?” A whole system was set up around the crook of Mimi’s arm, something Emily had only seen in passing. Mini only laughed and pulled out the needle. “C’mon. Bristol is like 3 seconds away from Amsterdam, the drug powerhouse. People must shoot up all the time there. And my needles are clean, if you want to try.” Emily’s eyes widened at the offer. “No, I’m perfectly fine. Maybe I’ll needle up or whatever later or not..shit..” Her words were blending together and Mimi noticed. “Calm it, Emily. It’s not like I’m junkie. Sometimes I like to, I dunno, feel good.” Emily finished slipping on clothes to walk across campus in and thought. Maybe she was being high-strung. Mimi seemed to be able to function without the drug during the tour. “It’s fine, I guess. I think we should meet the boys downstairs, yeah?” Mimi nodded and pulled on a sundress that showed off her long legs. It fit her beautifully. “Let me finish up and I’ll be right out.” Emily stepped out of the room then walked out in front of House D. She spotted the boys standing an awkward distance apart from each other and waved. Half of her wanted to gush to JJ about her roommate’s habit, but he looked stressed enough.
Emily left the pub pretty early by hangover standards, but she had to go see Dr. Maxwell to clear a few things up. Cook still wasn’t around which bothered her a bit. It was like they missed each other all time these days. The walk to the ward for therapy was happening less and less lately and it made her feel good. Like things were changing for the better. Emily got to the front of the building then made her way down the hallways to Dr. Maxwell’s office. She felt exhausted even after crashing but put on a happy face once she opened the door. “Hi, Dr. Maxwell. You wanted to talk about something?”
He looked up from his paperwork with a small smile. “Hello, Emily. I just wanted to see if you’re ready for the open day tomorrow. I’ve reserved your spot on the tour.” Emily’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. Dr. Maxwell didn’t catch her reaction and kept talking on. “You’ll be staying overnight in one of the dorms with 1 or 2 girls. They’ll take about the courses and such, nothing too extreme.” He kept scribbling on his pieces of paper. ”I-I thought it was in a couple of days. Tomorrow?” She instantly started to feel her breath quicken like the start of an anxiety attack. It hadn’t happened in so long, Emily didn’t know what to say. Dr. Maxwell gave her a look of concern. “If you’re not okay with this, we can wait. We’ve talked over and over about how big a step you’re taking.” Emily shook her head. She didn’t want to give in to her insecurities now. “No, no. It’s fine. I’ll be there.” Dr. Maxwell didn’t look that convinced but didn’t comment anymore on the subject. A nurse knocked on the door asking to speak with him, leaving Emily alone in the room for a good 10 minutes. He came in with his eyebrows furrowed together. “Between you and me, we need to fix the security in this place. It’s getting ridiculous. We have another runaway patient, a Matthew Levan.” She immediately tensed up, not knowing what to say. Emily felt numb. Dr. Maxwell noticed her looking strained and sighed. “Alright, we’ll have a follow-up in the next couple days. Have fun.” Emily mumbled some form of a goodbye to him with a fake smile, but she only could think about what he said. Runaway patient. Matthew Levan.
Emily woke up sprawled on her bed and still in her clothes from the rave. She felt like a squeezed-out tube of toothpaste even after sleeping for what seemed like days. The rave was a blurred memory besides the time she’d spent with Tony and Cook. Tony, who kissed you. Emily moaned while burying her face in the nearest pillow. Her head hurt enough without thinking about Matty’s reaction. She fumbled around for her phone and checked a few random texts about the rave. Matty’s reply from earlier came up, a simple I love you without any explanation as to why he didn’t come out with them. Usually Emily would accept it because of him still staying in the ward, but her stomach felt weird. While she tried to shrug it off, she headed down the hall to take a much-needed shower. Cook’s door was closed from last night which made Emily think he was still dead asleep.
After getting out of the shower, she felt refreshed but her head was cloudier than ever. It would take a while before she was completely sober again. Emily got dressed and hummed to herself while picking up the dirty clothes. She wondered what had happened to Katie, deciding to meet up with her later. They hadn’t talked about any of the stuff going down after Katie broke up with Rich and she knew it probably bothered Katie more than she showed.
Emily walked into the kitchen aimlessly. There was more in the refrigerator than usual, but Emily settled for a tall glass of milk. She leaned on the counter and took small sips still thinking. It had been a week since the therapy session about going to University, which meant the open day was in a couple days. The thought of going still scared her a bit. What if she ended up hating the place? Would she be holding herself back from staying healthy? Stop doubting yourself, she thought. Emily bit her lip and sighed again. She didn’t want to go back to the old way of handling things, so doing something out of her comfort zone would help. Emily finished her milk while making a point to talk to Matty about all of it. Hopefully he’d be around.