The door slammed behind me. I hated this. I really hated it. The same arguments, the same tension… but we always came back together. Somehow. Things we said were just brushed under the carpet, forgotten about, because at the heart of it, I did care about him. I do care about him. And I know he cares about me.
TD and I had been friends for years. We met in London – although the exact details are hazy – and we hit it off. We had a few mutual friends, surprising for a large place like London, and we lived somewhat close by to each other. That meant we met up regularly for an after-work bitch and dinner, or a walk in a park. But whenever we’d had a bit too much time together, we got at each other’s throats.
This time was such a time. We’d been cooped up together for a week in his small apartment, because my place had a leak. I was only supposed to stay for a few days, but the leak apparently went deeper into the walls than the emergency plumber had anticipated, and as such I had no water until the kitchen had been, and I quote, destroyed to the foundation and rebuilt. That meant a solid week out of the place. Especially with the virus pandemic, I couldn’t be there. TD hadn’t thought twice about offering me his sofa bed, and I’d accepted – we’d form our own social bubble. It’s not like I had anywhere else to go, but neither of us wanted to admit that we hated each other after a few days.
And so, exactly seven days after I’d packed a bag and moved over to his place for a short while, we had a steaming argument. I slammed the door behind me and sank to the floor. I hadn’t wanted to leave. I pulled my phone from my pocket and fired off a text to our mutual friend, Jamie. She agreed to meet me at the local park. When she saw me, she pulled her mask back up over her nose and mouth. I did the same.
“What was it about this time?” she asked me. I’d tried to wipe away the redness of my eyes from crying, but it hadn’t worked. I still looked distraught.
“He’s an arsehole.” I took a seat beside her and thanked her for the bottle of cherry Pepsi Max which awaited me.
“Which is common knowledge. I asked what it’s about this time.”
“I think I’ve overstayed my welcome.” I shrugged. I was cold. I wished I’d had the chance to grab my coat. I pulled at the sleeves on my hoodie. And then, I understood exactly why he’d made the terse comment about me being completely at home. Jamie had, too.
“Looks to me like you’re pretty comfortable there.” She gave me a wry grin, and I felt my eyes well up again. “Wearing his hoodie.”
“It makes sense, now.” I wiped my eyes instinctively on the sleeves, and then cried out. He’d kill me if he knew! “Ugh! For fuck’s sake!”
“It’s a hoodie, Alicia.” Jamie rolled her eyes. “What happened?” I took a deep drink of my Pepsi, and sighed, recounting the whole argument to her. TD had been out that Sunday morning to record some stuff in the park, which he knew would be quiet because Sunday mornings generally were. I’d had a lazy morning, seeing as there was nothing else to do and my work was a nine-to-five teleworking office job, I’d decided to sleep in. That had meant he’d had to creep around the tiny living area, and quietly make a coffee and something to eat. I’d woken up when he’d dropped a mug.
“Shit! Sorry!” he whispered.
“Not much point whispering now, is there?” I murmured, curling up. Bad move. Evidently, I’d been too tired to put the cheeky smile on my face when I’d grumbled it from the pillow that smelled just like him.
“Bit hard to navigate the place when the bed’s pulled out, Al.” His tone pissed me off. I looked at him. He was brewing coffee. He didn’t even drink the stuff, normally.
“You don’t normally drink coffee.” I sat up, rubbing my eyes. “What time is it?”
“Half seven. I said I was heading out early.”
“Yeah… but I thought you meant Sunday early, not ‘normal weekday’ early.”
“I literally told you. And it’s on the calendar.”
“Calendar?” I frowned. I was tired. Normal not-tired thought would have made me back way off at the first mug-drop, but apparently understanding how early it was made us both arseholes unwilling to back down. “Because I know where that is.” TD tapped a wad of paper on the wall behind the fridge. I rolled my eyes. I felt the tension rise in the room. I knew he’d made enough coffee for both of us. He also knew I loved his tiny balcony, looking out onto a tiny bit of the Thames. But at this point, even with those small things, we were getting on each other’s tits. I was pissing him off with my Bathroom Broadway sessions in the shower, and the small dent I was making from my permanent place on the sofa. I also annoyed him with my running. Daily runs gave him an hour of peace to himself, but when I came back, I was chatty, sweaty, and didn’t shower straight away. I also ate like a horse. And loved to cook. And simply put, he just didn’t have the space to accommodate me for so long. I got it.
He left after a tense coffee and breakfast, both of us watching the Sunday morning breakfast shows on his tiny TV in stony silence. When he came back, around ten thirty, I’d put the apartment back to how it was, and was busy writing for my blog. A little bit of time away had made us more amicable, until it came time for lunch. Again, I loved to cook, and I wanted to cook a roast for us both. He wanted to go to the pub for a take-away one, though – again, apartment too small for a full roast cooking.
“Is this place big enough for anything in your eyes?!” I’d asked, but this time he saw the cheeky smile and played along.
“It ain’t big enough for the two of us,” he said, in a Wild West accent. Despite myself, I’d giggled. We did our usual routine of a shootout, and eventually settled on a pub lunch, because he was right. His tiny oven wouldn’t cook a damn thing enough for two of us. And, if we had to make the trek to Sainsbury’s to buy the stuff anyway, we might as well go the extra five minutes and grab one from the pub. But we never made it there, because I’d nipped into his bedroom where my suitcase was being stored, and I’d grabbed my hoodie from on top of it. I hadn’t realised at the time it wasn’t mine. We had ones the same shade of grey. Or perhaps I did know, and a subconscious part of me was just happy to have him around me? I pushed the thought away. But me wearing his hoodie had been the tipping point for another argument about my flat’s leak, and how long did this shit take to fix, and all the things wrong with me. Naturally, given I was stubborn as he was, I shot back much the same vitriol – the age-old argument flow we’d had for the years we’d known each other. I’d left after he’d told me he thought I was making myself a little too at-home, and why didn’t I just go ahead and move in fully?! Since when did we agree on ‘what’s mine is yours’?
“So… it’s basically both of you freaking out because you both got a bit too close for sharing feelings?” Jamie moved a little bit further away from me, and removed her mask. I toyed with the strings on TD’s hoodie.
“I don’t have feelings for him. I don’t need him.”
“Funnily enough, he says the same thing about you. But you’re all he fucking talks about, and he’s all you fucking talk about.”
“He’s an arsehole,” I murmured, yawning.
“So are you!” Jamie shook her head. “Al, I love you dearly. But you and him are made for each other. You’re both caring, giving, but so fucking stubborn it hurts. I think if you were dating, it’d lower both your boundaries. God knows, it’s like waiting for a porno to happen when you guys are out with us.”
“Shut up!” I cringed. Sex?! With TD?!
“It’s true. We all see it. He talks to us about you in the same way.” As she spoke, her phone rang out. “Oh, look. Speak of the devil and he fucking rings you. TD?” she answered the phone before I could protest. “Sure. I’m on the Green. Okay.” She put the phone down and I stared at her. “What?”
“Who’s an arsehole now?”
“I’m going to knock sense into both of you.” I pulled the hoodie off and shivered in the cold breeze. “What are you doing?”
“It’s not mine. This was the final straw. I can apologise for it.”
Ten minutes later, the grass behind us gave away the sounds of someone approaching. I didn’t look around. I was, on the plus side, too nervous to feel the cold. The footsteps stopped a little way away.
“Oh. Sorry. I didn’t know you were with Al.”
“That was the point, dickhead.” Jamie turned. “Sit down, TD.”
“No, it’s fine –“
“SIT. DOWN. TD.”
“Yep, alright.” TD sat down, and drew his knees up. I curled up. “Al? Are you crying?”
“She is. She turned up here in tears.” Jamie reached over and took hold of the hoodie I’d neatly folded. “I think this is the culprit.”
“I’m sorry I wore it,” I said pathetically. It sounded nastier than I’d intended. “I mean… I got them mixed up. We have similar ones. I’m sorry I didn’t check if it was mine.”
“I thought you…” TD looked away. “It’s fine, don’t worry about it.”
“Say what you were going to say,” said Jamie, throwing the hoodie at TD. He caught it and held it.
“No. It doesn’t matter.”
“Do I have to say it for both of you?”
“No, Jamie!” I cried. Perhaps I was a little too over-zealous, but Jamie steamrollered on.
“Both of you need to drop the strong man act and admit you need each other.”
“I don’t need him!” I yelped, at the same time as TD yelped ‘I don’t need her!’.
“Oh, perhaps you don’t ‘need’ each other in the conventional sense. You’ve each your own place, your own jobs, hobbies, whatever. But neither of you can deny you want each other.”
Jamie, despite it all, was right. I wanted him. I was pissed off and frustrated that he was angry at me for wearing his hoodie, when I wanted to wear that and only that after getting out of his bed. With him. I turned a deep shade of purple when Jamie read my mind, only from TD’s perspective.
“If this hoodie really is the issue, TD, at least have the balls to admit it’s because Alicia’s not wearing that, and only that, after you guys have just slept together. How many times have we been over this. Kiss her and get it done!” I stole a sideways glance at TD, who was turning red, too. He looked at me, and I gasped and looked away. One thing we both had in common: we hated being on the spot like this.
“The hoodie… wasn’t the issue.” His voice wavered. He cleared his throat. He didn’t say anything more. But there was a look in his eyes I’d never seen before. And it made my mouth dry… and my groin a bit squirmy.
“The… the coffee mug this morning wasn’t the issue, either,” I whispered. TD was close enough to me (bubbles and distancing) that he heard me perfectly well. I sniffed and shivered, looking away.
“I’m going to leave you guys to it. Don’t disappoint, please. Listen to the universe. It’s pushed you both together so many times.” Jamie winked at me, and I buried my face in my arms. Jamie was heavy into her astrology and universe paths, and I had a closeted interest too. And even I could see she was right. Our schedules always aligned, and in terms of his creative output, we were yin and yang. We even had the same hobbies, we just didn’t admit it. And movie nights were always fun because we picked the same holes in the same plots at the same time.
We were also both shit stubborn.
And so, when Jamie left us to it, we sat in silence for a solid five minutes. The clouds had rolled in, and the wind was picking up more, and it was colder. TD had a light coat on, but I only had my t-shirt. I shivered again, deciding that I’d go back to his place, pack my bag, and go chill out in the local hostel until my kitchen was finished. Another four days, they’d said, and it would be completely finished. As I was about to stand up, TD moved beside me and put his coat around my shoulders. He pulled the hoodie on, and put his arm around me. The coat was deliciously warm. His warmth. And then, when I didn’t protest, when I leaned in just a fraction, his lips met my temple, and I turned fully to face him. A droplet of rain landed on our noses, and he smiled gently.
“Home?” he said softly, and I nodded.
We arrived back at his place in five minutes, soaking wet from the random torrential downpour that hadn’t been forecast for that day. Jamie and the universe were apparently driving forces, then. I didn’t care, though. As soon as TD’s apartment door was closed, we were on each other, kissing, pausing only to undress each other, eyes locked on each other’s. It felt natural, and the more of him I saw, the more of him I wanted. Down to my underwear, he picked me up and carried me to his bedroom, and lay me down gently on the sheets. Neither of us had said a single word. Not until we were a tangled mess of limbs, him crying out my name, me crying out his. Running my hands through his hair, I begged for more of him, and his hand as a fist in my hair, he told God exactly what he thought. And as we both reached a climax, his green-grey eyes poring into my baby blues, we both knew exactly why we’d hated each other so much after a few days.
Because Jamie was right. Neither of us would admit it, but we really did need each other. In every possible way.