TBAM – Chapter 1: B

See the full novel so far here.

Levi still had dreams about Keats. Once conscious he had to rinse out his mind as you’d rinse out your mouth after vomiting. He used more soap in the shower on the mornings after those dreams than he did on others. At around the same time that Keats had her run in with Terran Sultus, Levi was aggressively straightening his bed sheets, hair still dripping from the shower, and contemplating distractions. Maybe he would call one of his old friends from university, or take on a lodger. The extra money might lead to more distractions, but something to fill the house other than silence would be payment enough.

In his car, Levi crawled amongst the city’s morning traffic, looking at the grey skyline and numbing himself up for what he predicted to be another unsatisfying day at work. When he finally arrived at the ugly office building, he took a small amount of satisfaction in being able to park slightly closer to the entrance than he usually would. If the last four years of his working life was anything to go by, this would be the highlight of his day.

Ignored by the secretary, he turned left when he entered the reception and approached the stairwell. When he saw which two females he would have to walk past to get to his office, he attempted to look unfazed.

“Good morning, Levi.” Chrissie Walker smiled politely. Her companion looked down into the mug of coffee she was holding, the sheet of dark hair not quite hiding the grimace on her face.

“Morning, Chrissie.” Levi paused and nodded. “Laura.”

Laura’s head jerked up. She looked almost startled, like she hadn’t noticed he was there. Or at least that she was pretending very hard that he wasn’t there.

“Hi,” she eventually replied. Her expression betrayed a kind of uncomfortable annoyance, as if Levi had broken a non-verbal agreement that he would never try to speak to her. To be fair to her, she hadn’t pulled the “we’ll still be friends” line when their relationship took its last breath.

Chrissie pressed herself against the metal bannister so that Levi could sidle past and continue up the stairs. He fought off the urge to take them two at a time, and even kept his composure when he heard Laura mutter something that caused Chrissie’s laugh to echo up the stairwell.

Sometime after the break-up, Levi realized that the worst thing about Laura’s cold shoulder was that he still wasn’t sure what he’d done to deserve it. Had he been the most attentive, thoughtful boyfriend? Probably not. Had he refused to go to the majority of the social engagements Laura had asked him to? Maybe. But was she really resorting to these tactics because he hadn’t been perfect? Well, screw her, he thought, as he walked to his desk.

When they were dating, things had been nice enough. He’d even considered telling her. About the Keats thing. He wouldn’t say that it had actually happened of course. Laura, like any other rational person, would have thought he was crazy. He’d describe it as if it was just a dream he’d had. A very vivid dream. The closest he had come was the night they’d just got back from a restaurant. They were sitting on his couch, drinking wine, and they were in the middle of a long silence. He was about to mention it, as if it had just come to his mind, when Laura stood up.

“Levi, this isn’t working.”

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