Chapter 5 : Sarcasm
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‘And that was when I decided I was ready to become a man. I felt the ordeal had hardened me, strengthened my core, taken me by the horns and shaken me violently. It was in that moment, when I gazed at my possessions and my life thrown so haphazardly out of a second story window, I felt pure serenity. I knew my mother was right. It was time to fly the nest, to find my own way in the world, to be alone. I thought...’
The door flew open and I pushed the great pile of parchment into the draw. Emily and I leapt backwards from the desk and Andrew walked in, his arms filled with empty coffee mugs and bags of dry cleaning, his eyes hidden by giant sunglasses and his hair sticking up and odd angles.
“What are you doing by my desk?” Andrew asked suspiciously, navigating his way around the cramped office. Emily started giggling stupidly.
We had been reading Andrew’s memoirs. He had told us, a couple of years ago when we had first met, that he was going to be a famous novelist (or journalist, he hadn’t decided yet; plus he was still weighing up the idea of becoming the next Florean Fortescue) and it would be best if he started his memoirs now, while the memories and the emotions were fresh. And so every day, when he didn’t have chores to do or stories to write, he would sit down at his desk and type away at an old Muggle typewriter he had found in a second-hand shop down the road.
“It’s vintage,” he had said, when I openly mocked him, “it helps me find the words, like they are from another time, another place, another world.”
Emily and I had simply stared at him, unable to speak, as he swept his scarf over his shoulder and shooed us away. So many insults and jokes bubbled inside of me, and Emily was shaking so violently I thought she might collapse, but he looked so happy, tapping away at the old (no, sorry, vintage) thing that I was afraid to ruin it.
But it didn’t stop us from reciting his own words whenever Andrew asked for lost items, or asking where some celebrity or distant relative lived, or sneaking into his desk draw to read his own copy.
“Nothing, nothing at all,” Emily replied.
“We were... we were just, you know, tidying.” I moved a cactus from one side of his desk to the other.
“Tidying,” Andrew repeated. He looked around at the towering piles of paper and the overflowing bin and the fish tank that was growing mould - another one of Emily’s ‘fun’ ideas to make the place seem more ‘homely’.
“You make it sound like we’re undomesticated,” I said, squeezing out between the desks and shuffling over to my own. I stack of editing to do, not to mention an article on the latest socialite wedding of the week.
“That is because you are,” Andrew replied haughtily, pulling a long feather duster from a draw and sweeping the top of his desk, which was always immaculate. He put the cactus back in its original place. He then hitched up his corduroy trousers and sat down.
“That’s rude,” Emily said from her desk at the other end of the room, her face buried in her vase of lavender, which prevented the smell of mould from becoming too prominent. “We’re really nice to you, Andy, and all you seem to do if throw it back in our faces.”
“Ugh,” he sighed, pulling a dark notebook from the pocket of his coat, “you’re being petulant again, Emily, and you know I can’t stand it when you’re being petulant.”
“And you know I can’t stand it when you’re being a...” The rest of her sentence was muffled as Emily crossed her arms and sank further into her seat, almost far enough so that she disappeared underneath it. I could just see the top of her brown curls.
“You’re being ridiculous now, come out from underneath the desk,” Andrew continued.
“You’re hardly proving the petulant theory wrong, Emily”.
I shook my head as Emily’s stubbornness, flicking through a copy of today’s paper, hot off the press. I flicked through the boring Ministry stuff, the agony aunt columns, the rumours of Crumple Horned Snorkacks in the far off reaches of the Himalayas, trying to find the Quidditch results, when a large picture of James stared out at me from the social section: him and Henrietta, looking thoroughly happy and good looking and marvellous at some pretentious party or something.
I kept looking at his adorable freckles and I didn’t realise that Emily and Andrew were now wrestling, her hands tightening his scarf around his neck and him hitting her feebly with his copy of Transfiguration Today.
"You know, Amelie, I still don't understand why you haven't settled down."
Ah, the amazingly patronizing tone of the already engaged. If my mother wasn't pushing me to marry the first man I saw and promptly steal all his money, Fred and Alice were busy dangling their wonderful, life-altering love in front of my face. While yes, their new engagement was cute and adorable and I was thoroughly happy for them, the sight of them kissing and canoodling at any free moment was sometimes too much to bear. It was definitely too much to bear when seated alone with the two of them at a fancy restaurant.
"Not for a while, I'm afraid," I replied. I felt even worse when Alice picked up on my thoroughly bored tone. I watched as she untangled herself from her new fiancé, placing her palms flat on the table. From her stern gaze and cocked eyebrow, I knew what subject was about to come up.
"Are you sure you did the right thing with James? You two were so good together."
I rolled my eyes and was severely tempted to throw some champagne in Alice’s face. When Fred and Alice weren’t acting all lovey-dovey and wonderful, they were busily asking me questions about ‘the lunch’ and the ‘the love’ and ‘the bitch’ (as they had affectionately named Henrietta). They would try and sway me, try and convince me, but in the end it would always finish the same: it would not work.
"We've talked about this," I replied, picking distractedly at my napkin, "it wouldn't be right. He lied to me about Henrietta. He's clearly not serious about us or whatever because he wouldn't have done that."
"Thatmph is a - a rummish reasonmph," Fred attempted to say while his mouth was full of chicken. Alice wiped at her cheek as the spray of food hit her face. I just ignored him.
"Plus I have my work and there might be a promotion and he's now a proper Quidditch player and he's got Henrietta and his family..."
"All ridiculous reasons."
"I don't even need a reason," I replied, the napkin now in shreds, "if it's not going to work, it's not going to work. The party proved that."
Alice sat back, a defeatist look on her face. Fred just continued to glare at me, his jaw moving up and down as he inhaled his food.
"But what about..."
"And I think -"
"No, you don't."
“You two would have really cute…”
“No, we wouldn’t. They would have had his stubbornness and my emotional unavailability. Hardly a wonderful combination for a small child.”
“I was going to say conversations, Amelie,” Alice said, a mischievous glint in her eye, “you two would have really cute conversations.”
Fred sniggered. I glared at him until he shut up.
“Remember what he was like when you dumped him the first time?” Alice continued, and I didn’t like the way the conversation was taking a thoroughly more serious tone. “He was all over the place.”
“He had a whole new addiction to Droobles Best Blowing Gum. So what?”
“It was the only thing he ate.”
I swirled my glass of wine and smelt it as if I had suddenly embodied the world’s greatest wine connoisseur. Anything to get away from the memory of James holed up in the Shrieking Shack with just chewing gum and firewhiskey for company. He had looked so pathetic.
“You should have just got back together then,” Fred said quietly, “would have made all of this so much easier.”
“What, and let him think that him cheating on some other girl was right?” I almost shouted, and the couple opposite me looked around at the enquiring faces of the other people in the restaurant. “Did I want him to believe that him cheating with Georgia-bloody-Watson was acceptable?”
“That’s not what I’m saying,” Fred tried to retort. He looked a little like a gnome caught in wand light and Alice patted his arm comfortingly.
“What are you saying, then? Please explain your point to me.” I had a hard time keeping the sarcasm out of my voice.
"You were good together! You loved each other! That should have been more important than whatever happened."
“But how would that have looked to Georgia-bloody-Watson with her hot bod and blonde hair? She would have strolled around being all lovely and bitchy with her hair being all blonde and her legs being all long..."
"Amelie, please, be quiet," Alice pleaded, as the maître de looked in our direction, his eyebrow raised in confusion.
"She would have thought that she had won. She would have used it against us and it probably would have happened again."
"And you really cared about Georgia Watson and the stuff she said?"
"James obviously did." There was silence as the waiter, hands shaking slightly as I glared up at him, took our plates away and refilled our glasses. I downed mine in one.
“You know, more than anyone, how sorry he was that it happened,” Fred said, breaking the silence, “how sorry he was about the stuff with Rose and Scorpius and everything.”
“He brought that on himself,” I said.
Alice rolled her eyes, letting out an exasperated sigh. “Looks like your baby wouldn’t only get James’ stubbornness.”
I tried to think of a response that was sharp enough, but all I could picture was a little boy, swathed in orange Quidditch clothes, with his freckles and my green eyes, gurgling happily on a biscuit. He was cute.
“I was going to say…”
The image of cute baby James vanished. “That it would be easier if I was some sort of massive cop-out who never stood up for herself and simply bowed to the wiles and the ineptitudes of men?”
“Would it be easier if I somehow turned into my mother?”
“We weren’t saying that…” Fred tried again. Alice shot him a look that clearly said ‘we?’ in a vaguely high-pitched and panicked voice.
"Because the last thing I want to do is to turn into my mother. Would you have preferred it if I had married James, got access to his substantial amount of money only to have my gold-digger genes kick in and for him to die in some mysterious broom accident? Would you like that?"
"No, not at all, just that..."
“What, Freddy? What were you trying to say?”
“I… she… I don’t…”
“What was that? I’m not sure I can understand you.”
“James said that you’re now dating Ewan,” Fred spat out, and I paled. Of course James would tell Fred. He’d want some sort of background check on my new ‘lad’, and so he would question or waterboard Fred until he got answers. Alice hit him on the arm.
“You weren’t going to tell her that we knew!”
“What? Why not?”
“Because we know it’s not true.”
“Well obviously she knows that.”
I sat there, listening to them bicker. I signalled to the waiter and he came over and refilled my glass. When they weren’t asking me whether I was going to marry James and be the mother of his children, they were cooing and asking coy questions about Ewan and me, saying we were perfect for each other.
“Why did you tell him that?” Fred asked me.
“Because James was all angry that I wasn’t giving him a ‘proper’ reason that we should get back together,” I said, ignoring the looks of Alice and Fred – clearly they thought I didn’t have a proper reason for rejecting James, again. “So I told him I was dating someone else and Ewan was the first person who popped into my head.”
“Of course he was,” Alice squealed, clapping her hands together like an excited six-year old. There went another glass of wine.
“You didn’t tell him that it was a lie, did you?”
“No,” Fred answered, “I said I didn’t know and looked confused.”
“Thank you. Have you talked about it with Ewan?”
“Haven’t seen him in a while,” Fred said, and he turned to wink at Alice. They probably had some stupid plan up their stupidly interfering sleeves.
“But you and Ewan, eh? That’s nice, isn’t it?”
“It’s imaginary,” I answered wryly. Fred and Alice started bickering again, and once or twice turned to ask me a question, but I didn’t respond so in the end they simply gave up.
I reached to pick up my glass again, and a shadow fell across the table. I turned, waiting to flash the waiter my most terrifying glare, only to find Ewan looking down at me. He looked a little shocked at the ridiculous contortion of my face. I blushed and returned to looking at my napkin.
I had told James that Ewan was my boyfriend. Fred and Alice knew and were now smiling smarmily at me.
“Hello Ewan,” Alice said. Fred greeted him with a handshake and I just sat there, staring down at the intricate patterns of the tablecloth. I was blushing furiously.
“Here, sit down,” Fred said and I felt Ewan take the seat next to mine. His knee accidentally bumped mine. I suddenly found my fingers extraordinarily interesting, as well as the quality and state of my nails. I could hear them make polite conversation, asking Ewan about Gringotts and Quidditch and his family and boring current affairs. It was brilliant.
“Amelie, what do you think?”
“Yes,” I automatically answered.
I looked around the table, at Fred and Alice and Ewan, and they were looking back at me with annoyingly judgmental looks. I had the horrifying thought Ewan had been lurking by our table for a very, very long time, that he had heard everything I had said. I also had the horrifying thought that by saying ‘yes’ I had just agreed to go or do something terrible or tedious, maybe like attending Victoire’s baby shower or some house elf freedom protest or another of my mother’s weddings.
“Sorry, what are we talking about?” I muttered apologetically, and Alice sighed, sipping delicately at her coffee before turning to Fred and discussing seating plans and flower arrangements. Ewan smiled.
“How are you?” He asked quietly.
“I’m well, yes,” I replied, rather weakly, arranging my knife and fork so they were perfectly aligned. I accidentally dropped one on the floor, and I stooped to pick it up. Then I quickly folded my napkin, and examined my nails again, for what seemed to be the hundredth time. Ewan moved his hand over mine, as if to calm me.
“Are you sure?” He said, a hint of laughter in his voice.
“Yes,” I said quickly.
“Because when I was talking to the maître de, I overhead some pretty wonderful stuff.”
Now it was Ewan’s turn to smile smarmily at me. I groaned, letting my head fall into my hands. Obviously he had overhead. Obviously he was listening. Obviously he now knew that he was my pretend boyfriend.
“Well basically, I only said that you were my boyfriend because I have this ex-boyfriend who seems to believe that we are going to get back together even though he has a girlfriend and a problem with being monogamous and lying and is always being such an enormously stubborn pain in the ass...”
“Oh, I was just referring to the stuff about not bowing to the wiles and the ineptitude of men,” Ewan replied. I paled. “Stirring stuff. Hit me right in the heart, made me think about all the struggles women have gone through.”
He smiled at me. I peeped through a gap in my fingers to look back at him.
“No, really, I’m flattered,” he continued, leaning closer to talk to me. “I’m worthy enough to be your pretend boyfriend, thank you.”
“There’s no need to get arrogant about it,” I replied.
“Oh, I think there is. I’m the pretend boyfriend of the great Amelie Harris! No, really, I can die happy now.”
“Shut up, Ewan.”
“You’re so rude. Shall we take a break? I feel our relationship is all you, you, you.”
“They say sarcasm if the lowest form of wit.” He was beginning to sound like James, and when your pretend boyfriend is the same as ex-boyfriend, that’s never good news. Maybe I’m just too attached to the sarcastic, annoyingly persistent man.
“Who should we have at the wedding? I’m thinking Fred as my best man, Alice as your bridesmaid. Should we invite your mother? She may get confused and think that it’s her own wedding and jump up and marry me instead. Then I’ll die in some horrific Quidditch accident and she’ll be left all alone with my considerable fortune and a daughter who pretends she has a boyfriend.”
“You’re ridiculous,” I said, trying to force the image of a man with dark hair standing at an alter looking wonderfully good-looking in posh dress robes. Remarkably, Fred and Alice were still arguing about bridesmaid dresses and so had not paid attention to Ewan’s rant.
“Look at the bowtruckle calling the wand wood. I don’t go around pretending I have a boyfriend.”
“Maybe because you are so infuriatingly annoying,” I said, my voice growing louder. The newly engaged couple stopped talking and turned to look at the two of us: Ewan’s face very close to my own and his hand on top of mine.
“Amelie! That’s no way to talk to Ewan,” Alice said from across the table. She then beckoned a waiter over and ordered another coffee. Fred winked at me, and I rolled my eyes exasperatedly. I was hoping that they just wanted me to be happy, with James or Ewan or whoever, but secretly I knew it was because they wanted to do couple-like things with their friends, like going out to a pretentious restaurant or taking in a show. They’d want to have a joint wedding in the Maldives and then we’d all live happily ever after.
I pulled Ewan’s hand off mine.
“I apologise profusely for my behaviour,” I said, through gritted teeth, and Alice smiled, as if satisfied by the thoroughly underwhelming response. She returned to her fiancé, who was now on his second pudding.
As I sat, grumpy and disheartened, my arms crossed and lips pouting, I listened to Alice and Fred witter on about their wedding plans. I was happy for them, I really was, but I wish they wouldn’t spend their whole life matchmaking and finding a date for their little spinster friend Amelie.
“I’m sorry,” Ewan said quietly, after a thoroughly pregnant pause, and he looked genuinely apologetic. “I’ve had a bad day and I had to go see my step-mother, which made things even worse, and then I find out that I’m somebody’s pretend boyfriend without even being asked...”
“Wait,” I said, turning to face him, “you’re actually upset about this?”
“Not upset, more like... frustrated.”
“Because I want to be your real boyfriend.”
And that was the moment that Fred and Alice stopped bickering about chicken or salmon, or chocolate or vanilla, and turned to look at us. Damn their incredibly selective hearing. Fred’s eyes were wide and staring (probably in jealously because he would never be as smooth as Ewan) and Alice was smiling so broadly I thought her teeth may fall out with the strain.
“I think,” she said slowly, still beaming as Ewan hung his head in embarrassment, “that we should go and get the invitations, don’t you, Fred? Don’t you think? And leave you too alone?”
They stood up to leave, and I leapt up quickly too.
“No, you really don’t have to,” I said quickly, grabbing onto Fred’s arm as he took his jacket from the maître de and put it on, “you can stay forever and forever and eat all the pudding you want, Freddie. I’ll pay. How about the jam roly poly? Or the bread and butter pudding? Or both? Whatever you want.”
Looking back at the table, I saw that Ewan looked a little dejected at my pleading. I felt bad. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be his girlfriend, just that I wasn’t prepared for the no doubt deep and meaningful conversation that will happen when Fred and Alice leave. I wasn’t good with seriousness.
“No, really, we really should be going” Alice said, pulling Fred’s hand out of my grasp and leaning close to my ear. “What are you doing? He wants to be your boyfriend!”
“I know that, but I...” I whispered, but Alice interrupted me.
“Stop being stupid. You told James he was boyfriend and now he’s going to be. Now go back there and talk to him, and hopefully it’ll be the end of your dry spell and the end of our meddling.”
“Unless you’re worried about James?” Alice pulled on her coat, cocking an eyebrow. I shook my head vigorously. She was definitely, definitely not right. At all. She was wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
“Fine,” I said, “I’ll see you later.”
Alice smiled and kissed me on the cheek, and then I sauntered back over to the table, sliding to my seat gracefully like I hadn’t a care in the world.
“Ewan...” I began.
“Are you asking me out?”
Of course I had no prior experience of this. James and me had just sort of... happened. We had been best friends. He had kissed me in Hogsmeade. He had told me he loved me and then we just sort of began. No wooing, no courting, no flashing the ankle or dropping the handkerchief. No flirtatious fan waving. Nothing.
The other lads were inconsequential and not worthy of my time or attention.
“Yes,” Ewan replied, his voice slow and cautious.
“Yes!” I said. He looked even more confused at that.
“What? ‘Yes’ as in exclamation or ‘yes’ as in...”
“No, no, no...”
I paused. He was looking dejected again, his large dark eyes reminding me of some forest deer that had just lost its mother.
“I mean... what I mean is. Yes, in acceptance.”
“You’re saying yes?”
“Both in exclamation and acceptance,” I replied. Ewan smiled. I smiled. I reached out across the table and took his hand in mine.
“Sweet,” he said.
“That’s it? No deep and meaningful conversation?”
“Why, do we need it?”
I grinned again. He leaned across the table and kissed me on the cheek, and I blushed. I definitely wasn’t thinking of James, and his pretty girlfriend, or their ability to be in a newspaper for doing absolutely nothing at all. I definitely wasn’t thinking of the cute James baby with freckles and green eyes and Quidditch robes.
I was thinking of Ewan.
This is yet to be beta'd, so if you see any mistakes, please let me know! And yes, I'm back. There should be another chapter around February time - I've got exams starting next week (fun!). Hope you like it! Are you Team Ewan or Team James? Or Team Amelie Happiness?
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