When I wake, he is still there, sprawled across the foot of my bed, arms bent and fingers linked under his neck. He looks comfortable, but completely out of place. It's been a while since I've had someone in my bed. The implications are there, but he just looks bored, and I opt for feeling annoyed. It's the least complicated of my emotions.
"Mornin'," he says, seeing me stir, "good nap?"
I huff and nod, not quite ready to speak yet. Instead of curing the hungover, my nap had intensified it and now my whole body has dry mouth.
I'm not sure how to deal with this, so I ignore him. If I ignore him, he'll go away. That's what they said in Paranormal Activity, no? It might be daft to take advice from a movie, but I don't exactly have a better frame of reference.
So I eat, and I work, and he chatters on incessantly about basketball and how good it feels to watch tv again. He says he came with the couch. The guy whoee flat he was in before was old - ancient, Bryan says - and had birds that pooped everywhere. I ignore that too.
But he comes into the bathroom when I go to shower, a cheeky grin wide on his face, so I throw a towel at him. It doesn't fall through him, as I excepted it to, instead catching square on his surprised face. With some murmured choice words, he walks back out. Instead of relaxing, I spend the entire time in the bathroom wondering what sort of a ghost haunts a couch. So much for ignoring him. Hungover intensifies.
Pretending not to notice him takes a lot of effort, mainly because he won't shut up. The day passes like this, then the next and the next. Ignoring Bryan becomes second nature, when his face hovers above me as I wake, when he rattles on so loud I can't watch the morning news, and especially when I try to work. We have a couple silent agreements – I don't come near the sofa, he doesn't follow me in the bathroom. He doesn't talk before I have a coffee, I keep the tv on when leaving the house. The bills are going to be astronomical.
When the week nears to a close, the inevitable panic comes. Jamie and Alice come for a meal (which consists mainly of booze) every Friday. We order Indian and make fun of whichever client Alice is dealing with. She's in finances. We have kept it up since school. Now, there is a presence in the house which, no matter how much I ignore him, isn't going away. Would they see him? Would they think I had a man in the house? Can he leave, at least for an evening? I know he can't, surely, if he could he wouldn't sit on that sofa for around 20 hours each day. It must be boring I catch myself thinking. A little bit of guilt raises in my chest. At the moment, he is preoccupied with some basketball match, silent sans choice expletives thrown exasperatedly when his team loses points. I take the moment to observe him, knowing his attention is elsewhere. He seems so... normal. Not like an unwanted presence, not at all what horror movies would have me expecting. I realise I'm getting used to him. The realisation hits me hard, and I try to argue against it – he's a pain in my ass. He won't bloody shut up. I liked living alone.
Why not just sell the couch then? I haven't thought about that before, but it feels plain rude. I can't just sell him. Can I? No, of course I can't. I look at him again from above my laptop, for the first time taking all of him in. He doesn't seem unhappy. I try to get back to work. I text Alice to meet me at the bar.
"And then he... and then he said – Clara, you wouldn't believe this, he then goes-" Alice drowns on laughing and throwing her hand around gesticulating widely, "he said if you can't find me a way to avoid the taxes, what's the point of you then? Oh god, I'm so sorry." She knocked some guy's beer half out of his hand while putting on a gruff imitation of her newest client. I laugh along, although mainly now at her discomfiture, and the scowl on the guy's face. Jamie watches carefully, ready to step in if the situation escalates, but he too joins me in some good-natured ribbing when Alice returns to us unscathed.
We've had in excess of four rounds of tequila and the world was becoming a much nicer place, although slightly less stable. I swayed a little bit, excusing myself to the ladies. Looking in the mirror at this stage of the night was ever the bad idea, but my makeup was still intact and my hair not too far gone, so all in all – success. When I came back, Alice and Jamie made quick excuses for heading home, looking at one another like lovestruck puppies. I stayed for another drink, waving them goodbye. It was nice, I told myself. Nice they still got that after five years. Nice they had someone to go home with. For a second, the familiar jealousy filled me until I remembered I wasn't exactly going back to an empty flat. That did little to lift my spirits, however, after all he wasn't a boyfriend, he wasn't mine, and neither of us thought like that. He was just the ghost who haunted the couch. My couch. My ghost.
Another pang of guilt shot through me. If I was lonely with all these people around, how must Bryan feel when the only person who sees him ignores him? I quickly lost appetite for my beer, pushing the glass away with distaste. I had to get home and apologise. The bar was busy, as always, everyone who lived or worked near relishing the freedom of a weekend. I managed to get the bartender's attention, paid my tab and headed off, hoping I was walking straight. The Grove wasn't far from my apartment, just over three blocks, but I felt such an urgency to get back I considered hailing a taxi. I had to get back. To talk to him. The gnawing, nagging feeling hasn't left me, instead becoming more intense and making me nauseous. I sped up, almost run towards my door, not caring for the looks people were giving me. Insane, drunken girl. Let them think.
I had to get back. Explain. Apologise. But how do you apologise for silent treatment? How do you explain why you're treating someone like they aren't there? He didn't do anything. It wasn't his fault I took the sofa. It wasn't his fault he was stuck with it. I was in the wrong from day one, only too stubborn to realise. Good job, Clara. Good bloody job.
I stumbled through the door almost breaking the key in the lock. He was there. Sprawled across the sofa, watching a soap commercial on the tv. He looked at me, surprised at my sudden appearance, and had no time to hide the vulnerability on his face. It made my insides twist. But he was there. He was right there. I had time to make things right.
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Love, Death & Second-hand Furniture | CompleteRomance
Clara is thrifty. She rents a cheap apartment, works multiple jobs, still has the same set of chairs from her university days. When she decides to get a free Craigslist couch, she knows what to expect: questionable stains, damp, assortment of bugs...