While attending to my lavatorial needs, the door chime sounded. I grumbled under my breath. The last thing I wanted to do was socialise but then my hopes soared. Maybe it was Peter ... or better still, Lizzy.
I raced to make myself decent and answered the door, but it was neither Peter nor Lizzy. It was Farrah Bel-Williams with a small queue of people behind her.
"Oh!" I exclaimed with a mixture of disappointment and surprise, immediately realising how awful it sounded.
"Nice to see you too," chirped Farrah, who pushed her way past me with a huge box in her arms. Her entourage followed, each laden with a crate, which they dumped on Lizzy's old bed before doing an about-turn and disappearing, leaving Farrah standing alone with me.
"Sorry," I said uncomfortably. "That's not what I meant. I thought you might be someone else," I continued, my eyes straining to examine the delivery. Perhaps the Academy had allocated Farrah to share my room with me, but it was unlikely. Farrah was in her final year and had just finished her last exams so she'd only be with the Academy a few more weeks. Still, it was the only thing I could think of, so I asked.
"You moving in or something?"
"Grief, no! I finish the Academy in a couple of weeks," she confirmed for me, "and then I get my first posting."
"I thought so, but what's all this stuff then?"
"It's Lizzy's," and she peeled back the lid on one of the boxes to reveal a pair of sequined, blue stilettos. "Dr Firth asked a group of us to take it for recycling, but it's not his stuff, is it. It's Lizzy's and, regardless of how we felt about Lizzy, it's not his to chuck out."
"But I don't see what I'm supposed to do with it?"
"But you're Lizzy's friend."
"Not exactly. Not after today anyway."
"But you won her case for her."
"Yeah, but I wasn't exactly nice about it, was I."
"Couldn't be helped."
"Well, it doesn't matter either way, because Lizzy's not talking to me."
"What about Mr Buffalo?"
"That's the guy."
"Then why not talk to him—"
"Because ..." I interrupted, "because ..." but I didn't know why really. "Because I don't feel like it."
Farrah looked at me as though I had grown a second head.
"Look," I explained further. "Lizzy doesn't want to see me and I don't want to see her ... not because I don't like her or anything, but because ... well ... because if I do, I don't doubt I'll get a bit of a beating—verbal beating that is, and that's the last thing I need at the moment."
Farrah physically baulked, looking at me judgementally.
"Wow! I didn't realise this was all about you," she jibed.
"That's a bit below the belt!" I retorted. "It's been all about Lizzy for weeks now so if you don't mind, I think I will take a couple of hours to feel sorry for myself. Is that okay with you!"
I was very sharp.
Farrah dropped her gaze to her feet, shamefaced and sighed heavily.
"Yes," she agreed. "Sorry. I suppose you aren't the only one that's feeling bad about things. We weren't exactly nice to her, were we. I mean, we were quite happy to call her names and things, but none of us felt compelled to find out what the matter was."
I pulled a face and pouted.
"Don't beat yourself up about it. She didn't make it easy for herself."
We both stood silently, not sure what to say next, if anything.
"Anyway," Farrah finally broke the silence. "I was hoping you'd help me get her stuff back to her."
I remained silent.
"Will you?" she pressed, asking sweetly.
I balled my hands into little fists and pressed them against my eyes.
"Not today. Please, not today."
"Okay. Not today."
"And only if you'll be there when I message Peter. I'm not sure I can face either of them alone."
She grinned widely.
"Chicken," she accused, drawing out the word.
There was no other response I could think of, so I clucked like a chicken to which she hooted with laughter.
"Come on," she said. "You need a change of scenery. Do you play pool?"