This is the second instalment of a short story I wrote called Stuff Happened. The first part can be viewed here.
UPDATE 20th May 2018 – the third part can be read here.
Stuff Happened: Part Two
The sound of the passing traffic is slightly overwhelming. Bébhinn cautiously gets out of the Jeep, assisted by Ben, and walks to a small tree a short distance away from the edge of the field. She leans her hand against it – acutely aware that John, Jenny and Lexi must be watching her from the Jeep – and slumps slightly as a fresh wave of nausea hits her.
‘You okay?’ Ben asks softly.
‘I … I will be.’ As she takes a few deep breaths, her nausea begins to subside. She closes her eyes for a moment – wondering whether she will vomit – but doesn’t feel as though she will. All she had for breakfast was a tiny apple and a spoonful of yoghurt. ‘Nothing’s going to come up. I can feel it.’
Ben rubs her shoulder and watches her with concern for a few moments. ‘You sure you’re up for this, Bébh?’
Bébhinn inhales deeply again. ‘Yeah … yeah, I’m sure. I feel a bit better being out here.’
‘If you still feel sick when we get to the sanctuary, I’m sure you can just lie down somewhere.’
‘I think I’ll be okay. Let’s just … let’s wait here a bit before we go back.’
‘No problem.’ He leans against the tree and folds his arms. ‘So. What’s going on with you and Lexi?’
‘Come on, Bébh. When have you ever been able to bullshit me?’
She stares at him for a moment, struggling to come up with a plausible story, before her shoulders sag.
‘You remember the night of the fundraising gig?’
‘Of course,’ she mutters awkwardly, remembering that this was the night he and Neil broke up. ‘Well, afterwards, I – we … well, we were hanging out. Me and Lexi, that is. And a few of her friends. In Pygmalion. I got a little drunk, I guess, but not … I mean … I wasn’t, you know, really drunk. Just kind of tipsy.’ She knows she is stammering, talking too quickly, stumbling over her words. The only way she can get this story out is if she hurries it along as quickly as possible. ‘I didn’t want to go all the way back to Owen’s place at the end of the night. Not after … you know, the fight we had. Lexi didn’t have enough for a taxi back to Lucan on her own, so she … um, she said we could split the taxi bill and I could stay at hers. I just slept on the sofa for a few hours, it was fine. But then we … in the morning, we ended up talking and…’
Ben heaves an enormous sigh. They stand there for a few seconds – listening to the roar of traffic on the road beyond – before he turns to her and opens up his arms. ‘Come here.’
Bébhinn leans into the hug. She is comforted by his warmth, his sheer size, and the fact that he is willing to simply be there for her. ‘Um … Ben, how are you?’ she asks cautiously, after they have spent a few moments in silence. ‘The whole thing with Neil – we never really talked about it…’
She feels him tense up. ‘I’m alright,’ he says eventually. ‘Well. I will be, at some point in the future.’ He stands back and smiles a little sadly at her. ‘Let’s keep our chins up, okay?’
They make their way back to the Jeep and climb in. Bébhinn allows Ben to respond to Jenny and John’s questions – ‘all okay?’, ‘no need for the bags, then?’, ‘ah yeah, Bébh just needed to be outside for a bit, we can get back on the road now…’ – while she settles into her seat and closes her eyes once more. She has stopped feeling faint, at least.
“Bébhinn looks back at Lexi a little nervously and chances a small smile: the most she feels able to give her, for now.”
‘Are you alright?’
The question has come from Lexi. Bébhinn’s eyes fly open, but she does not turn around to face her.
‘Mm-hm. Yeah. I just … you know … felt a bit light-headed.’ After a moment’s hesitation, she adds, ‘thank you.’
Bébhinn looks back at the other woman a little nervously and chances a small smile: the most she feels able to give her, for now. Lexi responds with a shy smile of her own before turning her head to look out the window.
‘Fresh air will do wonders for car sickness,’ Jenny declares stoutly. ‘So, did you not need those poop bags?’
‘No,’ Bébhinn says with a smile as she hands them back to her. ‘Thanks anyway.’
Hand on laptop: Whooo’s Reading
Image of tree: Wikimedia Commons
Image of two women in nightclub: Videoblocks