“I like little flecks of blood adorning my doorsteps”, a half smile playing on her lips. I managed a bloody smile which would have mortified anyone else other than Jessica here. Please let the poor bleeding man in.
“Come on in”, said she. I bumbled onto the Oriental rug that layered the lounge. Yes she had a lounge. I plopped myself onto a comfy-looking couch that beckoned to me, trying not to get the blood to leak out between the fingers of my cupped palm.
There are some things in life that you just can’t juggle together. You can’t You can’t adopt a pet and expect to live out your couch potato dream of a lifestyle. And you cannot pinch close a bloody nose, pry a self-administered wedgie out of your ass crack and try and make it look inconspicuous. You just cannot.
Fortunately for me, it was Jessica’s toned derrière who stared at me as it bounced away.
All those squats and kick-boxing lessons begging for attention. Besides, when you have your head tilted back, trying to pinch close, a nose leaking blood, you’d welcome anything to take your mind off the throbbing pain.
She sauntered back a few moments later with two cubes of ice nestled inside a handkerchief and a steaming mug of what turned out to be hot chocolate.
“Tilt head forward, doofus. Do you want all that fresh blood to run down your throat.”, she smirked, handing me the ice pack. I accepted it and held it gratefully against my nose.
“Attila the Hun was thought to have died of a nosebleed on the day he tied the knot, you know.”, said Jessica, gingerly sipping down on the chocolate.
“More due to his alcohol related liver cirrhosis culminating in his esophageal varices rupturing”, she added delicately.
A shot her a glazed look from under the cold, wet, drippy handkerchief.
“The veins around his stomach exploded”, she continued “..which was somehow related to his liver being over-saturated with ethanol, allowing blood to flood his digestive system and..”
“..hence the nosebleed”, she finished with a flourish.
“One moment indirectly responsible for the fall of the greatest empire the world has ever seen and the next moment; dead, gagging on your own blood”, she whispered, snuggling into her end of the sofa, drawing her legs up so that her chin rested on her knees.
“That’s just one theory anyway. Another one says that he was assassinated by his young bride”, she said sucking a bit of cocoa off her little finger.
“Oh and I did not kill him”, she glared at me.
Nice of her to bring that up. I was hoping that this would be a one-sided conversation and that I wouldn’t have to do much of the talking. I wouldn’t have said much, even if her door hadn’t ambushed me and bashed my nose into my brain.
And Jessica would’ve scored perfect tens if the guys at Andrews were allowed to hold scores up when she passed them by. I was here only because of Neil. She knew it and I knew it. Three years, we spent in the same class and I don’t even remember having anything go beyond a ‘How’ve-you-been-friendly-smile’ routine. Damn you, social anxiety disorder.
Everything that I knew about her, was known by everyone. She was the kind of person whose love life would be discussed in huddles among girls all over the campus. Pieces and snatches of information from different sources which if pieced together would form a healthy, hit-scarred Wikipedia page.
“He had a Business Studies paper the next day and so he asked me if he could stay over to save up on the travel time”, she continued, ignoring the brief foray into my psychological history and the blatant violation of her privacy.
“I agreed. We bunked in my parents bedroom. I don’t think that he was here that night because of the paper at all. Neil was never the one to mug up stuff on the eve of an exam. He wasn’t even his usual horny self. I remember watching him pretend to study, his mind clearly on something else. He fidgeted with his phone and paced around a lot that night. It was as if he expected something to happen. I tried asking him about it but he shrugged it away. Then at about a quarter to one the phone rings. It must have been bad news because he sounded angry. He said something about not telling him something and that they were in big trouble. Then he storms off without so much as a goodbye. The next thing I know, I’m entertaining a horde of policemen walking all over my carpet. There’s my end of the story. Happy, Sherlock ?”.
I waited. As if there was anything else that I could do besides being a mute goat.
“It was some dude called Errol. I heard him say it when he answered it.”