We were back at a mate’s place and I was lying in bed, ready to pass out from the whiskey and wine I vaguely remembered drinking. I closed my eyes and let the feeling of being drunkenly young wash over me, too body stoned to care about the spinning world above.
“You can’t go to sleep.”
A hand grabbed my shoulder and my mind catapulted into consciousness. Suddenly, I was me again.
"Mmm…” I groaned, blinking my eyes open and squinting towards the direction of light.
“Oi, yeah, nah, ged’up, you can’t go to sleep.”
My mind stumbled – for a second, I felt stupid. I recognized the tall blond guy in front of me; he’d hopped in the car on our way home from Robbie’s. What was his name again?
“Yeah, nah, ged’up, you can’t go to sleep” he smiled, putting out his hand and pulling me up from bed.
“Aw, fuck,” I sighed, rubbing my eyes.
“It’s all good,” he laughed, “But it’s way too early to go to sleep, you definitely don’t wanna do that.”
“Yeah, nah, true,” I smiled, checking my watch, “Probably don’t wanna go to sleep at six-thirty.”
“Yeah, fuck, everyone was hammered at the pub, though.”
We made our way to the lounge and I sat myself down on one of the couches. I took a good look at the blond stranger – baby-faced, dressed in black and a bit taller than I remembered – before glancing around the lounge. It was small and there were used dinner plates, empty bottles, dirty tea-towels and beer caps everywhere. Thank God they’re moving out soon, I thought. It was a nice enough place, but there was no way I could see myself living there. Boys.
“Do ya wanna drink?” Matt asked, lighting up a cigarette.
“Aw, nah,” I said, “Thanks, though, I’ve had way too much to drink tonight.”
“Don’t you usually drink?” he asked.
I shook my head.
“Nah, not really, I mean, I do, but then not that much. I’d just rather smoke weed.”
“Aw yeah,” he grinned, “Do you got any?”
I dug into my satchel and threw him a small plastic bag.
“Is there weed in it?”
I could tell he was sceptical.
“I dunno, eat it and find out.”
“Sick, weed’s so good, aye.”
“Yeah, it is, aye,” I smiled, “I’m Sela.”
“Yeah, I’m Matt,” he said, “You gave me a ride home.”
“Aw, yeah. What’s your last name?”
“Day,” he smiled.
I let his name slide from my lips – and that was it. I’d met Matt Day; nothing more, nothing less. We hit a few bongs and soon after, some mates from home stopped by with boxes of beer and circles of banter. I recognized a couple of faces and names, but only one of them had caught my attention.
Much to my relief, Tahlia bounced back into the room just as he took a seat beside me. I quickly pretended not to notice his presence and focused on Tahlia's rosy-cheeks and well-balanced entrance. She sat down on the couch and gave me a slight nudge with her elbow. Cheeky cunt, I smiled to myself, She knows.
But of course she knew. Johnny was handsome and all the pretty girls from home knew that; he had the face of a movie-star – jet-black hair, piercingly soft eyes and a smile that drew energy from the room just to give life to everyone else.
We sat for a bit, and inevitably, I tried my best to keep my cool, mid-conversation with Johnny. The two of us small-talked amongst the background noise and he mindlessly radiated stories the sick-minded like me went crazy for, until one of the boys ordered that cigarettes be smoked outside, and with a joke, Johnny jumped up and made his way across the room, taking my gaze with him. I gave Tahlia a look and with a nod of agreement, we stood to leave. It was typically comfort for the Coast kids to gather, but all I could think about was getting home to my own bed.
We said our goodbyes and on the way out, Matt smacked my arse. Had I not been so stoned, maybe I would have made a scene; but instead, I let him have it. He was cheeky, but he was polite, and I respected that.
As we drove home, I replayed the night in my head, kicking myself for not remembering parts of it and hating myself for some of those I did. Tahlia sat quietly with her head slightly tilted towards the window, her hair messily pulled into a ponytail and her green eyes tired with unreadable emotion.
“Actual, Tahls, Johnny’s so cute.”
“Aw, yeah?” she smirked, “I thought I seen you two talking, what was he sayin’?”
“I dunno,” I sighed, “Nothing much really, just, like, work and stuff. Does he have a girlfriend?”
“I dunno, Sel, I don't think so - I could get his number for you.”
“Yeah, I’ll text Caleb now.”
My heart began to race. I can’t text Johnny.
“Nah,” I said, “Don’t worry about it, sort it tomorrow.”
“Okay,” Tahlia laughed, slipping her phone back into a brown leather bag.
She ran a hand through her hair. It was another twenty kilometres before we were home, and I could feel myself fading in and out reality. We were exhausted, and a low mist was beginning to form on the road. I blinked my eyes and gripped the steering wheel, trying to keep myself sane and awake enough to drive. Tomorrow, I thought. Tomorrow would be a new day, but first, all we had to do was make it through tonight.
Finally, I came to a turn where the street lights disappeared and a long open-road stretched ahead. We drove until I spotted a red mailbox on the side of the road, and we pulled into a gravel driveway. Home.
Before climbing into bed, I quickly checked on Gandalf.
Gandalf snuggled into my jersey and tried burrowing himself deeper into my scarf.
“Hi, Gandalf,” I cooed, “Sorry I’m a bad mama.”
He tickled me with his whiskers and rubbed his face against my cheek.
“Love you, Gandalf. I’m going to sleep now, little baby.”
His fur was warm and smelt sweet like hay; I put my lips on his small, mousey head and cradled him back into his cage, tucking him beneath an old grey cardigan.
As I lay in bed, my mind began to slow its pace. I whispered a prayer and let the weight of the room enclose on me, heavy and unchanged, drifting… drifting… Until all I could see and hear was his name, over and over again, a laughing mantra that sent the world around me into a deep and silenced sleep.