Izabella felt exhausted. Emotionally. Physically. Her cheeks were crusty from tears and head throbbing as she lay in the dark. Her body felt heavy. Music pounded from over at her neighbors, everyone else was out and partying before the first week of semester. Izabella groaned and curled into her pillow, wishing the headache and fatigue would go away. With low iron, B12 and insomnia, she was struggling for energy in the day but to fight to sleep at night.
It had been a long summer, to say the least. Early work shifts and relentless training on top of the dark clouds that hung over her and anxiety pounding in her chest. Isolated in her small town, having wished for more than nothing and to hang out with her friends. But now that she was back in the city, everything wasn’t better like she had imagined it would be.
She was glad to be back with her flat mates, in their new house. The sloping kitchen floor and propped up furniture, their flat had character and for the first time in months, she felt at home. It was nice to go hang out in the other girls’ rooms and sit to have dinner together. But it still wasn’t what she had dreamed. Of them, going out and exploring in the day, and partying up with the rest of the student population by night. The reality was unpacking boxes and trying to build drawers, as well as sorting out her new car’s flat battery. Burnout from the previous university year and summer, alongside all her newly diagnosed health issues.
For now, curling up in her bed, tightly grasping her teddy was providing a thread of calmness. Lavender spray, fairy lights and folklore gently playing on repeat in the background. Izabella tried to focus on her breathing and relaxing her muscles, unclenching her jaw in effort to fall asleep. Frustration grew as the hour ticked by and she gave in and put That 70s show on. Her favorite show put her at ease and distracted her from the dark blur of thoughts unravelling in her mind.
Izabella’s phone screen caught her eye, lighting up with a notification. Nick. She hadn’t heard from him in months. Not since she’d dropped of talking, the distance too hard and weight on her too heavy to reach out to her friends, or whatever he was. She felt surprised and tapped in her passcode to read the message.
Nick: Hey, what are you up to on this fine evening
Izabella smiled, despite everything. She knew he and his mates would be on the search for a party to head to, not expecting her to be at home in bed.
Izzy: Hi, short story; not a lot. What are you guys up too?
She pushed herself into a seated position and pulled the covers up to stay warm.
Nick: No plans yet. The boys are messing around.
Nick: 1 photo attached
Izabella laughed at the photo he sent through. It was two of their friends, his flat mates on top of each other playing wii.
Nick: 1 photo attached
She smiled at the selfie he’d sent through holding a bowl of nachos.
Izzy: That looks like a night to me
Nick: Yeah, its chill. No one’s really going anywhere
Izzy: Fair enough, I do love wii, wii sports yes
Nick: You’ll have to come around sometime
Nick: So Fi and you not up to trouble tonight?
Izzy: Not today
Nick: Whats the long story Iz?
Izabella sighed, looking up from her screen.
Izzy: Its nothing. I’m just not feeling very well.
Nick: Ah, so no wild partying going on for flo, aye?
Izzy: No, not really
Nick: Do you need anything?
Izzy: No I’m fine, really. Just trying to sleep.
Izzy: Well I’m still talking to you aren’t I
Nick: I’ll let you go. Feel better Iz
Izzy: No your fine. I’m not really sleeping much these days
Nick: Rest up, so you can come play wii okay
Izzy breathed in, snuggling deep into her pillow. He always made her feel calmer, at home. She just was unsure what to define the things had happened between them and how much she should open up or protect herself.
Izzy: Yeah, I want to see you
Nick: Me too Iz
She set her phone down and rolled over in bed. Her cheeks were warm and mind full of what-if possibilities. She hadn’t let herself think about Nick properly in weeks, not thinking there were still a shot.
The knocking on the front door shock her out of her daydream. Izabella sighed, guessing it was probably one of Sofia’s friends but she had the fortune of having the room closest to the front door. She flicked her lamp on and reached out for her dressing gown before heading out her bedroom door. Their front door had the sort of glass that was blurry, not letting people see in or out. It was kind of dodgy, this time of night when she didn’t know who was there.
“Sofia!” She called as she reached for the doorhandle, “Someone’s here.”
The crisp night air poured in. Izabella shuddered. A tall figure with sea blue eyes and golden hair smiled at her.
“Nick?” She murmured.
He stepped forward, and the cold was gone as his warm arms wrapped around her.
“Iz,” He breathed her in, “Iz, Iz, Iz.” He repeated her name like a mantra. She didn’t want to move away from him, from this.
“Izzy!” Izabella pulled away and spun to see Sofia peeking her head out of her bedroom, “Shut the door, its friggin freezing.”
Izabella spluttered as Nick laughed and turned to shut the door.
“Hi Nick,” Sofia called cheekily.
Izabella’s cheeks burned.
“Come in here,” She tugged him towards her room.
Izabella sat on her bed, flushed and confused.
“Hi,” She breathed, “What are you doing here?”
The bed dipped as he down next to her.
“I wanted to see if you were okay,” He smiled at her, “You didn’t sound your usual self.”
“We haven’t talked in mont-“ She began, getting to her feet.
“I know,” He said, “I know Iz.”
Nick moved to lean against the headboard and wall of cushions.
“How was home?” He asked.
Her face dropped.
“Come here Iz,” Nick said gently, holding his arm out.
She linked her hand with his, and let herself be drawn into his chest.
“It’s going to be okay,” His hand stroked her along her caramel curls, “I got you Iz.”
She was tense and stiff but began to relax as he talked, asking about softer subjects and telling her silly stories about his days as a beekeeper. Izabella began to return his questions and nuzzled into the crook of his arms, as they lay there in the dark.
She felt safe at last.