( SIX )
Emma wasn’t quite sure what to do about Izzy. She wasn’t even sure she needed to do anything at all. She had never been in this situation before, not with cheating and not with a woman, and she didn’t know what was supposed to happen next, or when, or how. She didn’t know whether they were meant to just pretend that nothing had happened, and to move on, probably never mentioning that evening again, or whether they were supposed to talk about it, the way she would most other problems with most other friends, until the situation had been discussed enough to have lost all its awkwardness and discomfort.
Emma didn’t know what to do, but she knew she didn’t want Izzy to be offended or hurt. Especially not to be hurt. Or to feel like Emma that somehow led her on. Emma wanted Izzy not to be upset, and as well, perhaps most of all, she didn’t want to lose the only friend she had made since she moved here.
She knew what she wanted, to make things right with Izzy, but she didn’t know how to actually make that happen.
She felt slightly helpless. She wasn’t sure what to do.
She ought to talk to Izzy, she decided, and make sure Izzy was all right, but she didn’t know whether it was better to do that quickly, as soon as possible, in the hope that acting quickly would show Izzy that, for Emma at least, nothing had changed between them and that everything was fine, or whether it was better wait a little longer, in case Izzy was upset, and to let Izzy have some time to calm down.
Emma didn’t know.
She thought all the next morning, while doing housework with a kind of frantic haste, and in the end, mostly because she hoped that their agreement to be utterly honest with each other would help calm the situation a little, she decided to phone Izzy, and talk to her, and to make sure Izzy was all right. And then to just see what happened next.
She phoned right away, while she was feeling brave enough to do it, but without quite thinking though what she was going to say. She had some idea. She would say sorry again, in case she’d handed things badly, and apologise for whatever else she might have done wrong. She would apologise, and would also just talk for a little while as they had talked when they first met, to show Izzy that nothing had changed unless Izzy wanted it to change, and that everything could go on as it had before.
She phoned Izzy, intending all of that, but then couldn’t think of the right words to start. So instead she just said, “Hi,” and then nothing else for an uncomfortably long time, until Izzy said, “This is a long silence.”
“Yeah,” Emma said.
“Is everything okay?”
“So you’re just calling because…?”
Emma hesitated. “Do you want coffee?” she said, suddenly.
“Coffee?” Izzy said.
“Yeah. Like the other time we did. Do you want some.
“I do, but…”
Emma felt disappointed. Izzy didn’t want to talk to her any more.
“Shit,” Izzy said. “I’m sorry. I can’t today.”
“That’s fine,” Emma said, getting ready to say goodbye.
“I’m not saying no,” Izzy said, as if she knew what Emma was thinking. “I’m not avoiding you.”
“Are you sure?” Emma said, uncertainly.
“Then how about tomorrow?” Emma said. “If that’s better?”
“Tomorrow morning? Is that all right? I have something I need to do first thing, but after that…?”
“Yeah. If you like. Whenever you want. Just call me a bit before you get here.”
“Okay,” Izzy said.
“Actually do,” Emma said. “Because I quite often go back to sleep after Mark leaves and I don’t have an alarm. So I might not be awake otherwise.”
“I will,” Izzy said. “I’ll call. But hey, I’d better go.”
“Okay,” Emma said. “Bye. And call first.”
“Yeah, I will. Bye.”
Even though Izzy had promised she’d call before she turned up, she didn’t. And as Emma had half-expected she would, she barely woke when Mark left, and then went straight back to sleep. She slept, and was woken again, hours later, by the sound of the doorbell chiming, and someone knocking on the front door.
Woozy, she got up, still half asleep, and went downstairs to open it.
She opened the door, and then woke up quite suddenly when she saw Izzy standing in front of her. And when she felt the cold, sharp draft through the open doorway.
She blinked, and said, “Fuck,” and then didn’t know what to do. She stood there, and shivered, and hugged her arms around herself. “Hi,” she said.
“Oh shit,” Izzy said, and seemed to be trying not to laugh. “You were serious about not being awake?”
“Well,” Emma said. “Ah. Yes.”
“I’m sorry?” Izzy said.
Emma nodded, and then kept standing where she was. She was having trouble thinking, and a lot of trouble deciding what she ought to do next. After a moment, she realized. “Come in,” she said.
She opened the door so that Izzy could, and then closed it again, quickly, against the cold, once Izzy was inside.
“I had to go out,” Izzy said. “And I wasn’t sure how long I’d be, but since I was already out of the house, and heading back this way, I thought it was probably easier if I just turned up. Since you knew I was coming.”
Emma nodded slowly. She still only felt half-awake.
“I guess I shouldn’t do that,” Izzy said, after a moment.
“Probably not,” Emma said.
“I really am sorry.”
“Don’t be. It’s fine.”
“Were you actually still in bed?” Izzy said.
Emma was confused, wondering where else Izzy expected her to be sleeping.
“I mean, were you really still asleep?” Izzy looked at her phone. “At ten thirty?”
Emma nodded again. “I usually sleep in. But don’t talk too much until I’ve had tea.”
Izzy smiled, and obviously thought Emma was joking. She opened her mouth, and started to say something else.
“Really,” Emma said. “Please?”
Izzy stopped, seeming a little surprised, and didn’t speak after all.
“I’m sorry,” Emma said. “I know it’s rude. But there’s no point talking to me too much right now. I’ll just get confused. And I won’t hear because of the buzzing in my ears.”
“Buzzing?” Izzy said.
“You really need tea,” Izzy said.
“I really do.”
“Actual buzzing?” Izzy asked.
Emma nodded again.
It wasn’t true, but Izzy didn’t seem sure, and it seemed to make her decide to stop talking.
Emma filled the jug from the tap, and switched it on, and then stood there, watching it boil. Watching it, and waiting. She kept her back to Izzy, not wanting to talk, not yet. She stared out of the kitchen window at the side of the neighbour’s house, something she looked at most mornings. She stared, and waited. After a moment she picked up the tea tin and opened it, and put a spoonful of leaves into the teapot. Then she waited some more, still without speaking.
The jug seemed to be taking forever to boil, far longer than it usually did.
After a moment, Emma realized she was being rude. Izzy had followed her into the kitchen, and was watching the jug boil too, probably because she had nothing much else to do.
“Oh,” Emma said. “Sorry. Sit down or something, if you want.”
Izzy looked at the kitchen table, but she didn’t move. Perhaps because Emma was acting strangely.
“Yes,” Emma said, slightly impatiently. “Sit there.”
Izzy nodded and did so. Emma suddenly felt bad for snapping.
“Sorry,” she said. “Sorry if I seem odd.”
“I bet I’m not. But I am sorry. I just need a second to wake up.”
“A second and some tea.”
Emma stood there for a moment, confused, and then realized that was a joke. “Yes,” she said. “Tea.” She made herself smile.
The jug was still trying to boil. Emma looked around, trying to wake up. She felt cold, and hugged her arms around herself to warm up, and then realized she was still in her pyjamas.
“Actually,” she said. “Sorry. Just give me a second. I’ll go and put something on.”
Izzy grinned. “You don’t need to.”
“Yeah I do. I’m cold.”
“You really don’t.”
Emma looked at Izzy for a moment, trying to work that out. Then she noticed Izzy’s grin and realized Izzy was teasing. Or perhaps flirting. Emma wasn’t sure which. She kept standing where she was for a moment, trying to decide, a little uncertain how to respond. Because yes, she was in pyjamas, and yes she already knew that Izzy had noticed she had tits, but still, it seemed a little too early in the morning to be acting so cheerfully flirty. Or at least, it was early for Emma.
Flirting right now seemed almost cruel.
Emma stood there, confused, trying to decide whether she should respond. She wanted to say something clever back, but couldn’t think of anything clever to say. Not when she had just woken up, and not before she had her tea.
“I’m cold,” she said firmly. “I’ll be back in a minute.”
Emma dithered a moment longer. She had a momentary urge to flash Izzy, a surprisingly strong urge. She almost did, then decided she was far too sleepy to be making important decisions like that. Especially when she could barely deal with flirting.
She went out into the hall instead.
Emma went and got dressed. Then she went into the bathroom and swished mouthwash around in her mouth, just while she bothering to make herself tidy. Then she realized what a terrible idea that was, when she was about to drink tea, and swished her mouth out again, this time with tap-water, once and then twice. Then she drank a little water, too.
Then she went back downstairs to Izzy.
She wasn’t sure, but when she went back into the kitchen, she thought Izzy almost looked disappointed that she had more clothes on. Deliberately, teasingly disappointed. Quite obviously so.
“Stop it,” Emma said.
Izzy just grinned.
“Please,” Emma said. “Not yet? It’s too early.”
Izzy actually looked apologetic. “Yeah, I’m sorry.”
“Do you want coffee?” Emma asked, trying to be polite.
“Oh,” Emma said, a little dismayed. She tried to work out what she needed to do. She was having trouble thinking. She stood in the kitchen, her own kitchen, and looked around, confused.
“Actually,” she said, after a moment. “I think maybe I need tea first. Before I make coffee.”
“All right,” Izzy said.
“Just so I’m able to think about the coffee.”
Izzy nodded. Then said, “You need to think about coffee?”
“Yep. Fancy coffee, like you have. I definitely do.” Emma had a sudden thought. “I can’t just make you instant, can I?”
Izzy looked slightly horrified.
“Yeah, I guess not,” Emma said. “Oh well. So in that case, I need to think. To work out whether we actually have any proper coffee for one thing. And where the boiler pot thingy to put on the stove is, too.”
“I don’t actually need coffee,” Izzy said.
“I should give you something, though. Since you’re here. To be polite.”
“I’m really fine.”
“How about tea?”
Izzy shook her head.
“Something?” Emma said, a little desperately. “Anything?”
Emma nodded. That was easy. She went to the sink and ran water into a glass. Then she stopped and said, “Oh. Did you mean filtered water or something?”
“No. Just water.”
“It’s fine like this?”
“It’s completely fine like that.”
“Good,” Emma said. “Okay.” She stood there for a moment, thinking. “I really need tea.”
“Just let me make tea.”
Izzy nodded. “I won’t move. I’ll just sit here.”
“All right,” Emma said. She looked down at the glass in her hand. She was confused for a moment, then remembered why she was holding it. “Shit,” she said, and went and put it down in front of Izzy.
“Thank you,” Izzy said, smiling, and picked it up, and sipped a little.
Emma nodded, then stood still for a moment, concentrating, trying to work out what to do next. She had already filled the jug with water, she decided. She had switched it on. It wasn’t boiling now, so it must have already boiled.
She went over and touched the side of the jug, making sure.
It was hot. It was almost unpleasantly hot.
She took her hand away, and looked in the teapot, and saw leaves. She must have been almost ready to make the tea, she decided. Everything was done.
She poured water into the teapot, and smelled the first tart sweetness of the tea, and felt a little better, right away. She watched leaves soften, and the water darken. She stood where she was, with her back to Izzy, and waited while the tea brewed.
After two minutes she decided the tea would have had long enough. She poured some into a mug, and then took a careful sip, even though it was hot.
Then she turned around, and went over to the table and sat down.
“Don’t talk to me yet,” she said to Izzy.
“Don’t, okay?” Emma said.
“I’m just sitting here. I’ll wait.”
Emma nodded. She wasn’t sure whether to say thank you or not, so she just sat there, silently.