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Starving Artists by peppersweet
Chapter 22 : Metaphor Wrapping Paper
 
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Chapter Twenty-Two - Metaphor Wrapping Paper






It took a few minutes of that numb silence before we both scrambled out of our chairs, panic taking over.


‘We have to go after her!’ Scorpius cried.


‘Why?’


‘I don’t want this to end badly!’ he sounded desperate. ‘Not like last time!’


‘It’s too late! She knows everything! She’ll kill us!’


‘She – she knows everything? About what?’


‘She cornered me the other night,’ I said, tears prickling at my eyes. ‘You didn’t know?’


He shook his head, speechless.


‘She – she’d just figured out something had gone on,’ I explained. ‘And she was all,’ I made inverted commas with my fingers. ‘Don’t take him from me – I’m sorry, I should have said something, but, b-but it would have been awkward, so awkward!’


Scorpius looked terrified.


‘She knew?


‘She wasn’t a Ravenclaw for nothing-’


‘Oh, bugger! Just – bugger everything!’ he lunged for his shoes, nearly smacked his head off the table on the way down, and then fell into a chair, flicking his fringe neatly off his face as if he’d intended to sit there all along. At once, he set about pulling on his trainers, not even bothering to tie up the laces before he was on his feet again.


‘I’m sorry,’ he still looked terrified. ‘I’m so sorry, but I have to go after her.’


I didn’t quite know what to say.


‘I j-just don’t want everything to get screwed up again-’


‘I know, I get it.’


‘I’m sorry,’ he seemed to be stalling, perhaps too afraid of Rose to move. ‘But I just think-’


‘Just go already!’


With a final, pained look, he turned and scarpered, the front door slamming shut a few seconds later.


Oh, I got it. I got it alright. He’d gone after Rose. No question about it. He’d transferred to the Cannons, so to speak. Rose had come along and wrecked everything and, once again, he’d gone running after her instead. It all made me a touch bitter. Just a tad.


Who am I kidding? I felt more bitter than a skip full of lemons.


That’s a lot of lemons, you know.


This time, I didn’t feel like I had the energy to go chasing after him in turn. I just felt tired. Tired, bitter, and miserable. Thinking it would probably be best to vacate the house before Rose and Scorpius got back and announced they were off to elope to Gretna Green or whatever, I pulled on my shoes, unlatched the back door, and stepped out into the rain.


Perfect pathetic fallacy or what?


I won’t go into detail about the how the lovely flowerbeds looked especially lovely with lovely little droplets of rain on their lovely petals, nor how the sky was a broody, tortuously angsty grey. The whole situation was very poetic. I felt like I’d been transplanted into a bleak novel. Scorpius probably would have adored the whole thing, if he hadn’t been too busy chasing after my cousin and essentially giving me a big metaphorical slap in the face in the process.


I was more than a bitter skip full of lemons. I was a bitter skip full of lemons parked on Rejection Avenue, waiting for the skip truck of misery to come and pick me up and dump me in the landfill of despair somewhere off the M25 near Croydon. A big, metaphorical landfill of despair. Yeah, that’s where I was headed. Maybe Lettuce could come and dig me out. Maybe I could elope to Gretna Green with him instead. That’d be an interesting road trip.


The whole thing was just so, so lovely. And by that, I mean it wasn’t lovely at all. Of course it wasn’t.


Enough of my moping. I meandered along the little back streets of Mordenton-on-Sea – or rather, I trundled along, as a skip full of lemons should – and eventually came to the promenade bit facing the beach. It was still raining. The lights of the greasy spoon café shone on the pavements like an oil slick; I perched in a bus shelter with my trainers in a dirty puddle and stared out at the sea. I wished I’d brought a book or something – mopey as I was, I was pretty bored too, and I had no inclination to return to the house any time soon.


It was just like a repeat of the night of moping I’d had earlier in the holiday. The angst was there, the beach was there, and the rubbish weather was there. All I needed was some Firewhisky and –


‘I’ve been looking for you everywhere!


I whipped my head around at the sound of a voice. In my enthusiasm, I smacked my head off of the back of the bus shelter and in true comedic fashion, ended up staring up at Scorpius with my cheek squished against the glass.


‘Hi,’ I did my best to look casual, sitting up straight again. However, it is very hard to look casual and attractive when you have to peel your face off a window. Especially when you leave a big, face-shaped mark behind, like when a daft pigeon flies into a window and leaves big wing prints on the glass.


I was that pigeon.


Scorpius seemed to have run all the way to the promenade, reprising his ‘librarian in a sauna’ look. The glasses at a jaunty angle, the fringe plastered back against his head – breath short, he flopped down into the seat next to me and squinted up at the glum sky.


I had no idea what to say.


‘I looked for you everywhere,’ he repeated, almost making it sound like a question. ‘I thought – I thought you’d run off for good, or…or something like that.’


‘Why would I run off for good?’


It was hard to stay angry/mopey/frosty when I was simply so pleased that he’d come to find me.


‘I dunno,’ he threw up his hands, although I suspected he wasn’t being entirely truthful. He probably suspected that I’d got the hump about him still being with Rose, even after my great big spiel about vegetables and steaks and…erm, Quidditch.


It was time to ask the killer question.


‘Er…Rose?’


That wasn’t a coherent question, I know, but I think we both understood it.


‘Rose,’ he repeated, looking somehow relieved. ‘Oh – she…’


I felt almost sick with nerves. ‘She…?’


‘Almost broke my camera,’ he said.


I understood how serious it was.


‘Uh…ouch.’


‘And she…well, I think she wanted to hit me.’


I leaned forward and cast a cursory glance over him. No broken bones, not so far.


‘But she didn’t?’


‘No.’


‘But she nearly broke your camera.’


‘Yes.’


‘Is she angry at me?’


‘I don’t know.’


Somehow, I suspected that she was.


‘She…I think she wanted to go home. Just a hunch.’ he spoke in a rush. ‘She was basically packed already. Well…she went back for her suitcase. And then came out of the house with it. Then she put it in her car. Then she got in the car. Then, er, she drove away.’


‘I think that’s more than a hunch.’


‘I think so too.’


The rain suddenly got heavier. Great droplets of rainwater splatted against the side of the bus shelter – which wasn’t really much of the shelter at all. The lack of sides meant that the wind carried the rain straight through. Even my socks were wet. I started to shiver.


‘I s-suppose you’ll be f-following her,’ I said, through chattering teeth.


‘You’re freezing,’ was his response.


‘And I g-guess I’ll have t-to go t-too-’


I’m not going back.’


‘…you’re not?’


Definitely not.’


‘Er…’ I forgot how cold I was for a second in my confusion. ‘You’re not…going after her?’


He looked pretty uncomfortable. ‘No,’ he said. ‘Never again.’


‘Never?’


‘It was a bad idea,’ he said, finally.


It may have been chucking it down with rain, but that little sentence was a tiny ray of light. Like when a door isn’t quite shut, and a thin, little chink of light gets thrown across the floor.


‘She’s…’ he struggled to explain. ‘Changed. A bit. A lot, actually. And yeah, sorry for being vague, she has gone home. For definite. It’s kind of done, now. All this mess.’


‘I don’t-’


‘Let’s put it this way; this week has been the pits,’ he said abruptly. ‘I think…I was thinking, anyway, we should have gone to some cheap, tacky little island somewhere we could just be totally sozzled. Not…not a place like this. Not…’


I was going to add that I’d been thinking of the whole sunny, sozzled island plan, but I was on tenterhooks for what he was about to say.


‘There was a door,’ he finally said, after a lot of deep thought. ‘And Rose put her foot in it.’


‘Funny that,’ my voice was weak. ‘She accused me of putting my foot in the door.’


‘And she accused me of holding the door open for you.’


‘Did she?’


‘Oh yes.’


‘Were you?’


‘Probably,’ he said, vaguely. ‘Actually, yeah. I think I threw the door wide open. Kicked it open with steel-capped boots. Maybe I just took the door off its hinges, chopped it up and used it for firewood. Maybe the door never existed.’


We were back to existentialism again. ‘Enough about doors,’ I said. ‘She’s gone back to London?’


‘Affirmative.’


‘Are you going back to London? Well, are you going after her?’


‘No. Okay, well, I’ll have to go back to London, but, no. It’s kind of over.’


We both stared out at the sea, him fidgeting with his glasses and sodden fringe. The rain eased up a little, although whenever I shifted my feet I could hear my socks squelching around. If there’s anything you can rely on the British summertime for, it’s rain. Good old rain.


‘I didn’t think there was a door at first,’ Scorpius said, bringing up the whole bloody extended door metaphor again. ‘Rose created a door.’


‘And I put my foot in it and you chopped it up and burnt it, whatever.’


‘No, no, what I mean is…I think Rose had the wrong end of the stick. Or the door. Not that you can have a wrong end of a door or anything…’ he broke off into a stream of dithering. A little fed up, I elbowed him.


‘Rose always has the wrong end of the stick, door, whatever. It’s not a first.’


‘Just – oh, I can’t say it - I mean – I want to apologise again.’


Apologies? A minute ago, we were discussing whether the door had ever truly existed. Personally, I think I preferred casual existentialism. I wasn’t really ready for another emotional wronski feint. I was still recovering from my metaphorical broken nose and concussion from the previous – oh, enough with the metaphors.


‘Rose…when I met up with her at the party, she seemed to think that instantly it was all okay again.’


‘So she took you side-along, fiver a pint, you crashed at her flat, hunky-dory, I know, I got it. Don’t rub it in.’


No. I mean – she seemed to think we were just, well, going out again.’


‘And you were.’


‘No, we really weren’t.’


‘Why didn’t you tell her?’


He gave me a pointed look over the top of his glasses. ‘Would you have?’


‘Er…no. Wait – so you weren’t-’


‘No.’


‘But you snogged her-’


‘No I didn’t!’


‘Okay, she…okay, she didn’t. But you shared a room!’


He gave me another pointed look.


‘Don’t look at me like that,’ I frowned. ‘I’m not twelve, I know what room-sharing entails-’


Now he simply looked offended.


‘Lucy, you…argh, you’re infuriating sometimes. We didn’t.’


‘So did you not-’


No!


‘But I thought-’


‘It doesn’t even matter!’


‘You’re the one who was dithering on about bloody doors a minute ago!’


‘Yeah, but that was a fair statement. The door didn’t exist, so really, when Rose accuses me of holding the door open for you to put your foot into it, she’s talking about an imaginary door and therefore the whole thing is a mental construct designed to work her up into a downward spiral of paranoia and shame and…’


‘You lost me at ‘door’.’


‘The door doesn’t exist,’ he said, flatly.


‘Got it. Never was a door and never has been,’ I said. ‘The door does not exist.’


He gave me a disparaging look.


‘Don’t look at me like that,’ I said. ‘Do you want me to repeat it? There never was a door and-’


‘Look, I wasn’t going out with Rose,’ he suddenly cut in. ‘I just…wanted to patch things up neatly before I did anything else with my life. And I kind of made a hash of it. Which shouldn’t really surprise me. But, yeah, er…I tried to sort things out with her and put the whole thing to rest and it failed.’


Well, that shut me up.


‘We…we had a fight after she got off the phone.’


‘Oh, right,’ I shifted around my seat, still shivering. ‘That’s why you wanted to get out of the house.’


‘Ye-es,’ he said, slowly.


Neither of us spoke for a minute.


‘Yeah, so,’ he ran a hand through his hair. ‘She’s…really mardy.’


‘That’s…that’s great.’


Another moment passed in silence before he abruptly threw up his hands and said-


‘I don’t – I don’t think you get it…’


Somehow I suspected this wasn’t about the extended door metaphor.


‘I mean, you’re kind of being a bit oblivious right now…’


But, really, I don’t think it was ever about the extended door metaphor in the first place.


It was just me being a totally oblivious fool. Oh, and Scorpius being far too awkward and fidgety to ever really say anything meaningful without wrapping it up in metaphor wrapping paper and tying it with a pretty analogy bow.


As per bloody usual.


This was the boy who voluntarily woke up obscenely early (okay, seven being obscenely early for art students, anyway) just to take me out and play pinball. And the boy who wandered out of a nice, warm house at ten at night to find miserable, mopey old me and bring me back again.


And I suddenly wondered if he’d ever have done that for Rose.


Ever. No, really. Ever.


He continued to dither on about real doors and imaginary doors and the wrong end of sticks and Quidditch analogies and food metaphors and I cried -


‘Screw the imaginary door!’


- which was possibly the most unintentionally romantic thing I’ve come up with to date. Even more so than ‘I am your side salad, but I want to be your steak’ or ‘you are the anomaly in my mental filing system’, because I had a bit of a revelation at that point, which was that he probably never really liked Rose all that much anyway, not for over a year.


Hence why the door didn’t exist. The door was a metaphysical representation of the relationship that existed between Rose and Scorpius, and if it never really existed then there was never really any door for me to put my foot in anyway, and therefore Scorpius’ reasoning about Rose just being a paranoid so-and-so was remarkably-


Why am I even rambling on like this? The short and short of it was that, after my battle cry of ‘screw the imaginary door!’, I lunged.


And this time, it actually worked. There wasn’t any dithery, will-they-won’t-they tortuous anxiety. I kissed him.


And it went surprisingly well.


The rain was still coming down, I was still freezing, my socks were still squelching around inside my shoes and I was twisted at a pretty uncomfortable angle – but it was fab. And then somehow, after some vague, uncertain length of time, I thought he’d probably need to breathe and pulled myself away.


‘I…I lied,’ he said, although his voice was a comical octave or so higher than usual. ‘You…er…don’t kiss like a Horklump on acid.’


‘How cliché, in the rain and all,’ I babbled, my internal stern voice going shut up, shut up, you blibbering fool. ‘Oh, yeah, you’re not a whelk. Hurrah and all that.’


‘Thanks,’ he said. ‘I love you too.’


If there was ever a phrase that gave me wibbly knees, it was that one.


***




I suppose you want to know what happened next. Well, a big nuclear bomb fell on Mordenton-on-Sea right at that moment, and everyone died, except for all the cockroaches and Rose.


Kidding.


There you have it, though. The story of how, in a very long-winded and convoluted fashion, I rebelled against my parents, found the love of my life and sent a massive up yours to my cousin in one fell swoop.


Not to sound big-headed or anything, but I think that’s pretty cool. Even if it basically took me a year, and even if I was intermittently drunk/injured/moping around in the pits of gloom along the way.


It’s been three months since that rainy, metaphor-riddled day in Devon and things are going pretty swimmingly. I’m back at art school now, a week into my second year – I only just scraped through the first and no more. Scorpius, of course, passed with flying colours. Everything’s very different, though. Tarquin and Gwendolyn/Raven have gone on to do big things on the open mic circuit (i.e they’re working as professional hecklers, with a smidge of hedge-hopping for recreational purposes now and again). We still live with Tarquin, although, if you don’t mind me being blunt, I don’t exactly sleep on the sofa anymore.


I’ll pause for a moment while you all vomit at that last statement.


And, now…? I’m sitting on the sofa in the common room, one I’ve quite possessively begun to call ‘our sofa’. My feet are up on the table; I’ve got mud all over Obscure Henry’s stash of indie kid magazines. The Obscure one in question doesn’t look too chuffed, but he’s too engrossed in pretending to draw to tell me off. Barry’s gone, Frances has gone – the common room’s a bit lonely now, although I hear we’ve got quite a few joining us this year. I guess Scorpius and Ellen, being the eldest, are in charge now, although I personally wouldn’t trust Scorpius in any position of power. Even if we are kind of, er, ‘a thing’.


I suppose you also want to know what’s happening next. After now, I mean. After this fleeting little moment in the common room, where I’m sitting with my feet up on the table getting mud everywhere. Well, I have to get a job, that’s a given. I’m practically destitute. I don’t mind, though. I have a flat and a nice boy and good friends, and, so far, Rose hasn’t come round to Avada Kedavra me in the middle of the night.


Actually, I’m on fairly alright terms with Rose. Well, we haven’t spoken. But I’m guessing the fact that she hasn’t tried to kill me yet…it’s a good sign, right? And we’ll work on it. I know that there are infinite reasons for why I should hate her and never let her near me or Scorpius again but, well, proverbs are proverbs and blood is always thicker than water. So someday I’ll have to patch it up with Miss Mardy Bum, if she ever feels like patching it up with me.


Back to my original point: I need to get a job. Scorpius (currently brewing a cuppa at the kettle, no major incidents so far) has some ideas about that in his mad little mind. He’s being really pushy about this thing the Prophet are doing – they’re looking for writers, you see. It’s kind of basic – just condensing stories into column inches, just picking the truth from the lies in the scandals and then, er, publishing the lies. He seems to think I - quote unquote - ‘have a way with words’. But, of course, I was never going to apply myself. So he put my name down without me realising. And now I’ve ended up on this bizarre journalism evening class as preparation. Complete madness. No, I actually really like it. Art school was never going to lead to anything anyway. Well, except for him. So, thinking about it, going to art school was the best decision I ever made. Even if it was pretty last-minute.


I’ll pause again while you all vomit at the utter cheesiness of that.


‘Tea,’ Scorpius returns from the kettle, three mugs in his hand (recipe for disaster or what?). He sits one down before Obscure Henry, the other two down in front of our sofa – then sinks into the seat beside me, propping up his feet on the square (hitherto mud-free) inches remaining of Obscure Henry’s magazine stack. I duck my head obligingly so he can put an arm around my shoulders, ignoring the tea. (Well, who needs tea when you have Scorpius? Actually, no, I could never give up tea. But I really do love him. I swear.)


‘Are you on your course tonight?’ he asks.


‘Yup,’ I say. ‘I’ll be late…’


‘I’ll cook later, then.’


‘Instant noodles?’


‘You bet.’


And so – for no reason, because I don’t need a reason – I reach up to kiss him, and Obscure Henry chooses that moment to tut aloud and drawl:


‘Oh god, save it for the dark room.’


Well. This is awkward.


‘So,’ Scorpius does his best to look casual. ‘New students arriving in…’ he consults his watch. ‘Ten minutes or so.’


‘Yeah.’


He looks a little nervous.


‘You’ll be fine,’ I try to console him.


Just then, the door to the common room bursts open and Dean Dean Holstone hurries in, a sandwich in each hand, eight young hopefuls in tow.


‘Or maybe…now.’


Scorpius looks fairly terrified. I do my best to crack a smile at the new lot, but I don’t make an effort to move. I’m far too comfy here on the sofa with him and a cuppa.


And so a new chapter seems to begin in my life – okay, I know, that’s a cliché and a half. But I’ve always felt that, with autumn, the year begins over again. You know, all that back to school stuff, new parchment, new textbooks, leaves to kick, scarves coming back into fashion. Autumn’s nice. I like autumn, always have. And somehow, I feel like this autumn will be good. I’ve just got…a dead good feeling about autumn.


Yeah. I think that just about sums it all up.


the end.




a/n: it’s over! One year, six months, twenty-two chapters, forty-four different chapter images (yes, really) and 100,000 words and it’s over. Wow, that was a little cathartic. If you’re reading this author’s note, thank you for sticking with this fic to the bitter, bitter end! It’s been amazing fun. This isn’t the end - there’s a sequel and a prequel & a few one-shots up, because I could never go without writing this lot for too long. The sequel's called Weather for Ducks and, well...in a nutshell, it is 'what Lucy and Scorpius did next', encompassing such exciting themes as Scotland, kittens, graphic designers, and the impending zombie apocalypse.
Now some thanks. I’m indebted to a lot of people - Gina, Gubby and Helena for reading a few of these chapters over thanks to the power of skype, noot nooting and pitchforking and all. The raver puffins, for raving...you know who you all are. The validators, for getting 22 chapters of my sense of humour through the queue (including loads of edits). Anyone who’s dropped a review - you’ve all put a smile on my face. Also, everyone who’s nominated me for a Dobby, and everyone who voted and eventually helped me win that coveted little award - definitely the highlight of my career as a moonlighting fanfic writer. To all the mad people I know in RL for inspiring this, especially the ones who taught me dark room photography and got me through a lot of art coursework, and especially, especially Hannah, for being an all-round good egg and maybe, maybe inspiring Gwendoraven (you know I love you really). Anyway...I think that’s it for all...so thank you, and goodbye for now! ♥
edited (hopefully for the last time) 20/06/2012


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