Raf pushed the bedroom door open with their back. Swinging back through, the box Aaron had given them collided with a vase and knocks it to the floor. Raf froze. They slowly placed the box on the bed and then turned around to face the damage. The vase lay in several pieces on the floor, the flowers and water inside strewn across the carpet. Raf knelt to collect the pieces. Most of them were fairly big so Raf was certain they could mend it. The Japanese practice of Kintsugi – repairing items with gold-dusted lacquer – was something they’d been meaning to try. Maybe it was recent events playing on their mind, but there was something special about repairing things so you can see exactly how they were broken. There was an honesty to it, like the vase would be saying “this is me – broken but healed, put back together stronger than before”. Maybe they’d treat themselves to a kit for Christmas.
Raf picked up the flowers, poinsettias, and placed them in a mug on the desk. It’s new mug, a secret Santa gift, and absolutely brilliant. On the front read ‘Guess who’s back’, with an elf underneath, wearing sunglasses and riding a skateboard. Raf had always loved holiday-themed gifts and this one was fantastic.
Turning their attention to the wet ground, Raf looked around for something to mop up the water. Nothing was immediately in sight – the perk of having not worn anything other than pyjamas for a week was the lack of laundry. Raf started to rifle through the box. At the bottom was a sweatshirt. Raf began to soak up the water with it. As he placed it down and pushed it into the ground, Raf looked at the print. It was a Christmas jumper, purple with stitching that read ‘Christmas lights and equal rights’ surrounded by white, black and yellow lights. Jenna had made it their first Christmas together. Raf breathed in through the nose to stop the tears and continued to mop up the water.
It is at that exact moment that Iris flung the door open, threw herself onto Raf’s bed and screamed into a pillow. Raf sat quietly and waited for her to begin speaking. Iris, despite her flair for the dramatic, always needed to take her time getting things off her chest. Rushing her would send the girl running for the hills. After a minute or two, Iris sat up and began to cry. Raf left the jumper on the floor and sat next to Iris, taking her hand in theirs and rubbing small circles into her back. Before long, Iris began to speak. Her voice was quiet and wobbly but Raf heard every word. What she has to say sent chills down their spine.
“You turned down what is basically a date with the girl you’ve been crushing on since the start of term because of me?” Iris gave a small nod. Raf wastes no time and takes out their phone, sending off a quick text. “Do you know what you’re going to wear? I can ask Aaron if there’s a theme. Should we go shopping before? I don’t know if I have any good outfits.”
Iris looked at Raf like they’d grown two heads. “What are you talking about?”
“We’re going to that party.”
“No, we’re not. I said no, you weren’t even invited…”
“Actually, I was. I told Aaron I’d think about it. I’ve thought about it. We’re going.”
“You don’t have to do this. You’re still sad about Jenna, seeing Aaron is not going to help and I can’t go to Aaron’s party, you won’t be able to cope-”
“Iris, stop.” Raf said those words with such force, Iris’s mouth falls open. “Please don’t tell me what I can and can’t cope with. You’ve been telling me this entire time that I am strong enough to get through this and keep living my life – this is part of that. You are my friend and I want to do this for you.”
Iris’s eyes started to well up again, “Are you sure?”
“Thanks.” Iris started to laugh as she wiped her eyes. “I feel like such an idiot right now.”
“Yeah, but you’re my idiot.”
Iris punched Raf’s arm. The two of them fell into a fit of giggles. “You should probably tell Carol the good news.”
Iris nodded and got up to leave. At the door, she turned back, “Thanks, Raf.”
Noah scrubbed furiously at his tray. He’d been looking forward to his pizza all day and somehow, once it’d been put in the oven, he forgot about it until 3 hours later. Now all that was left was essentially charcoal. Noah was very close to breaking something, probably a knife that he was about to use to scrape off the big bits. This was ridiculous and all Aaron’s fault. Noah had been about to take the food out when Aaron’s friend – or sister’s ex, whatever – turned up. Raf was interesting and Noah was so confused as to why he then spent the rest of the afternoon thinking about them. When the kitchen filled with smoke as he took out the tray, Noah was wondering if Raf was a smoker. When he first saw the blackened mess, Noah was thinking about how it was the same colour as Raf’s hair. Before Noah even remembered about the pizza, he had wondered if Raf preferred margheritas or pepperoni. If Aaron had taken the box to Raf or at least answer the door when they first knocked, none of this would have happened.
As though thinking about it conjured him, Aaron sauntered through the door, frowning at his phone. “Raf just texted.” Noah’s stomach flipped, maybe it was the hunger from missing his pizza. “Guess they’re coming to the party.”
Noah couldn’t remember why he was angry before.