|13| - "I want to see the photos."

           

Skyping did not make me feel better.

Nathan had warned me that he'd been drunk, but there was hearing about it, and then there was seeing it first-hand. His usually tanned complexion was washed-out, the contrast of his black hoodie making him look even more pale. When he lifted a hand to rub at his bloodshot eyes, I could see the faded marks of stamps, evidence of the number of clubs he'd graced last night.

He looked utterly defeated, and I don't think that was just because he was in the dog house with me. Seeing him void of his normal eye twinkle, cheeky smile and bouncy persona was a clear indication of his current state, his suffering from a raging hangover.

"I just don't want to carry on talking about this over Whatsapp," he said.

              Despite it being his idea to Skype, talking appeared to be a real chore, too. His voice was croaky and he kept swallowing hard, as if in pain.

              Yet even though he was clearly in a large amount of discomfort, I couldn't bring myself to feel sorry for him.

              "I want to see the photos."

              He winced, and I couldn't tell if it was due to me or the hangover.

              "Bella, please."

              "It's not up for discussion. You didn't want me to see them, and I want to know why."

              "I've told you why," he said, before swallowing again and lowering his eyes. "They don't look good."

              "And that's exactly why I need to see them. Send them to me now, and I'll do you the courtesy of looking at them in front of you."

              He looked as though there were a thousand other places he'd rather be than on Skype with his furious girlfriend, but I needed to have him in front of me when I looked at them. It was for his benefit, too: he wouldn't have to make himself even more ill by wondering what I was thinking.

              "And don't even think about leaving any out," I said to his bowed head as he flicked through his phone.

              Nathan didn't react to my warning but, several seconds later, my phone buzzed. I took a deep breath but didn't wait any longer to open the messages. I'd been furious at his deceit, but now I just felt sick as I looked at the photos, all anger replaced by hurt.

              "I'm going to give you a couple of minutes," Nathan said, his voice resigned. "I just need to use the bathroom."

              I'd wanted him there initially, but now I was glad to see him leave me alone for a few moments. No longer under his scrutiny, I could flick through the photos without worrying about my expressions.

              He was right about one thing: they did look bad. They were all of him and Marie: some just the two of them, others focusing on someone else but with them in the background. Dancing together in the club, her back to him as she laughed. Outside on the terrace, her hand on his shoulder, her hips against his as she leaned up to say something in his ear. Posing together for a photo, arms around one another. Another picture, this time with Nathan sitting down and Marie leaning over him from behind, her arms draped around him as she pressed her cheek against his.

That was the one that got me the most. The rest, I could deal with. It was classic drunk companionship and, with each photo, I imagined myself doing it with Jack and whether it'd feel inappropriate for me. It wouldn't, but then Jack was a close friend. Marie was a colleague. Would I press my hips against Jack when hugging him? No, but in fairness to Nathan, that was Marie's actions, not his.

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