Her hair is soft, the curls spring back as my hand passes over them. The sensation of being so close to her lulls me into a serene contentment but a nervous excitement bubbles beneath.
“Why is he doing this to me?” she asks suddenly. “Who is he? I don’t understand. Why me? What have I done?”
“You haven’t done anything,” I tell her. “You are a lovely, kind, generous, friendly person and you don’t deserve any of this,” I hesitate and then add quietly, “You are beautiful too.”
She lifts her head from my chest and smiles up at me, her eyes wet with tears. “Thank you, Tom.” I can’t tell if she heard.
She rolls off the sofa and stretches her arms above her head, pulling her jumper tight over her breasts. I catch myself staring and quickly look away. “Oh, I’m so tired,” she yawns. “I haven’t slept properly in days. I keep trying to work out who it could be. Stupid really, it’s most likely some sad, lonely tosser who thinks it’s funny to send abusive texts to random strangers.”
“Yeah, probably,” I agree.
She looks thoughtful for a moment. “Whoever it is, I wonder if they know how horrible it makes me feel.”
“Are you sure you’ll be alright here on your own? I don’t mind staying on the sofa,”
She’s thinking about it and I hold my breath. “No. Thank you, I really couldn’t make you do that. I’ll be fine.”
“I really don’t mind.” I protest gently, but I can see she’s made her mind up.
“I appreciate it Tom, I really do,” she sniffs and then pulls herself together. “But I can’t let this lunatic rule my life. Thanks for being here for me though. I’ll see you tomorrow?”
“Definitely,” I say, hoping the disappointment doesn’t show. She holds her arms out and I go to hug her, burying my face in her hair and breathing in deeply. As we pull apart my cheek brushes hers and for a fleeting moment I imagine leaning in for a kiss, the feel of her lips on mine. The moment passes and I see a frown pass across her face as I step back.
“You’re a good friend,” she says.
Did I imagine the emphasis on the last word? I smile and say nothing.
“Thanks for coming round. I feel much better,” she moves round me to open the door.
“Hey, what are friends for?” I go for cheerful but it sounds weak.
“Night, Tom,” she holds the door open.
“Night,” I say and the door closes in my face; I hear the locks clicking and the chain sliding across.
Walking home I replay the evening in my mind. Was she trying to tell me something with that ‘friend’ comment? Maybe I should have just kissed her; maybe she would have felt the chemistry, the spark that I feel and then we could start being together as we should be. But I know the moment wasn’t right. I can wait though, it will happen. And after all, friendship is the best basis for a relationship.
At home, I take the strong-box out of my wardrobe and unlock it. I take out the phone and start composing a new text. I read it over, make a couple of changes, then press ‘send’. I put the phone back, lock the box and return it to my wardrobe.
My mobile is already ringing in my pocket. “Hello?”... “Yeah, I just got back, what’s wrong?” ... “Oh god, not another one.” ... “Yeah, of course I can come back.” ... “No, it’s fine, I’ll be there in ten minutes.” ... “Don’t worry about it. After all, what are friends for?”