07 January 2010

Curse of the Other World, part fourteen

Chapter Six

Extract from Sarah Barclay's Diary

22nd January 2000 – Second term of my second year and I'm really enjoying it. Settled back into uni life bettr than ever before. This place really feels like home, now; which is probably because I'm sharing a house this year rather than living in halls. Having my own place makes me feel far more settled. I love it! I just wish there weren't so many noises outside keeping me awake at night. I've looked out of the window to see what's going on out there when I hear voices and weird sounds in the street but I've never caught anyone yet. Maybe I'm just going a bit mad? I don't know. I'm probably overreacting, as usual.
Peter is spending a lot more time here lately, which is great. I really like him. I'm not sure if I like him in that way, but he's certainly grown on me over the last few months. He even came up to Coxton to see me over the holidays, which was nice. Daniel sent a card, but it's not the same. He said he had to work but I'm starting to think maybe we weren't cut out to be in a relationship.


The early morning light had hardly begun to reach over the tops of the three- and four-storey town houses on Hallgarth Street as Sarah pulled her aching body out of bed and headed for the bathroom. Her head pounded in time with her heartbeat; her neck and shoulders were tense and felt like she had been working out too much. The night before was supposed to have been a quiet night in, but then Howard and Peter had come to visit, bringing a couple of bottles of wine and some takeaway menus with them. It had all gone downhill from there.
'You look how I feel,' said Daniel as she passed him in the hallway.
'Remind me never to drink again,' she said. 'Aren't you up a little early? You don't have lectures until ten.'
'Couldn't sleep,' he said. 'Someone singing kept me up this time. I'm going to call the landlord before I head out. The windows obviously aren't sealing properly or we'd not be hearing this crap all the time.'
She wished him luck and stepped into the bathroom, locking the door behind her. Her arms ached as she took off her dressing gown and slipped out of her pyjamas. On the inside of her right thigh was a small bruise the size of her thumbnail. It was blue-black in the centre flowing into an odd tinge of green on the outer rim. She ran her finger over it, wondering where it had come from. It was painless to the touch. She paid it no more heed. Bruises came and went without warning in her experience; had done for years and would no doubt continue to do so.
Howard had wanted to talk to her about something the night before, but with everyone else there she had been too nervous, or maybe too embarrassed. Although she had only known the other woman properly for a few months, although she had recognised her in passing before that, they had become close; good friends, although not best friends. That title was still reserved for Daniel, even if they were drifting apart.
As she showered, she made a mental note to meet Howard for lunch. Maybe she could prize the details of whatever was bothering Howard from her then. She decided to send her a text when she got out of the shower, providing her fingers were working well enough to use the buttons on her mobile by then. The shower usually fixed that but of late it was taking longer and longer on a morning for her joints to un-seize themselves. Just the week before she had been late for morning lectures twice because she found it so hard to tie her shoelaces.
If it doesn't get better soon, I'll see the doctor, she decided. The last thing she needed was to end up crippled by arthritis by the time she was thirty, like her grandmother had. The signs were there, but she had often ignored them or dismissed them outright as her seeing things that were not there simply because of her family history.
Skipping breakfast because she felt so hungover, she threw on a pair of jeans and a creased black blouse, her favourite, fighting her stiff and mostly uncooperative fingers to fasten the buttons; then donned a long, black cardigan to finish off the outfit. After rummaging around under the bed for a good five minutes, she eventually found her shoes and was all set to head out to lectures. She kissed Daniel goodbye, wished him luck with the landlord and headed out to her first lecture of the day.
The morning passed in a slow procession of boredom and note-taking. A procession of lecturers who looked even more worse for wear than Sarah did came in, said their peace, asked if there were any questions then did their best not to look disappointed as the same people asked the same questions they had no doubt heard year after year. She wondered how these people coped, trying to teach subjects they had probably once had a real passion for, to people that mostly did not share their love. That was no way to live life, she decided.
Her satchel rang as she was walking to the university library. Hunting around desperately in its recesses, trying to find her mobile before the voicemail kicked in, she took the call on the last ring.
'Hiya!' said Howard, sounding far too happy for a Monday morning. 'Still up for lunch?'
'Of course,' Sarah replied. 'I've just got to check some books out at the library. Meet you in Riverside in half an hour?'
'I'll grab us a table.'

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