Iris saw Carol the moment she entered the flat. She knew Carol saw her as well. Not to sound too cliche, but their eyes met across the room. Iris made a bee line for Carol. She may be shot but she had pointy elbows and used them to her full advantage. Soon, the crowd was parting like the Red sea to let Iris through. She reached Carol in no time. The problem was, having made her way over, Iris now had no idea what to say.
Carol stared into her drink. As if she was speaking to the pink, glittering liquid, she quietly mumbled, “Hey.”
“Hi.” Iris could slap herself. She knew she was bad a talking when it came to Carol, but she could do better than ‘hi’. “I came to the party.” Okay, not much better, the statement was fairly obvious, but at least multiple words were used. Carol nodded. “I came to the party for you.” Iris mentally high-fived herself. Now she was getting somewhere.
“You did?” Carol sounded hopeful.
“Yeah. You were right, my excuse was bad but it wasn’t because I didn’t want to hang out with you. I tend to overthink things and Raf is really important to me and they’ve been really fragile lately. I feel this need to take care of them. I think its maybe a youngest child thing – all my sisters have always taken care of me, I feel compelled to take care of someone else. Not that Raf is compelling me or a burden or anything! I love Raf, they’re my favourite person! Now I’ve overshared and spoken way to much and you think I’m crazy, right?”
Carol laughed, “I don’t think you’re crazy.”
“Good.” Iris sighed, slightly breathless. She waited for Carol to say something else.
“So, Raf’s your favourite person?” Confused, Iris nodded. Carol bit her lip, “But I’m still your favourite customer?”
Iris laughed. She took Carol’s hand, “Yes, you are my favourite customer.”
The alarm clock was blaring but Iris had already woken up. In truth, she hadn’t really slept. A mix of excitement and nerves made for a restless night. Jumping up, Iris examined her face in the mirror. She was looking a little tired but it was nothing that a hot shower and a little make-up couldn’t fix. Putting on some Lizzo, Iris went about her morning routine, stopping only once to dance along to a verse of About Damn Time. Soon, Iris was flying out the door.
Iris walked with a skip in her step until she reached the small little cafe near Pultney Bridge. Cortado was one of her favourites so when Carol asked if Iris wanted to meet up for breakfast the morning after the party, this was where Iris suggested. Checking her watch, Iris was glad to see she was 15 minutes early and then walked in. Iris did a quick scan of the room, disappointed to find there were no free tables. But before she could start kicking herself for not having arrived even earlier to secure one, she heard Carol call her over from one of the tables near the back.
Iris and Carol quickly fell into easy conversation. It was so different from how awkward and voiceless Iris had felt all throughout the term. Mentally, Iris sent out a thank you and an apology to Millie for having ever doubted her. A warm feeling was spreading through Iris from her chest. She was tempted to say it was because of the hot chocolate, but she hadn’t taken a sip yet. She was too busy laughing.
Raf found Iris stood in the kitchen, mug in one hand, phone in the other, a grin plastered on her face. “I assume the date went well?”
Iris looked up, “It went really well. We’ve been texting non-stop.”
Raf smiled, “I’m really happy for you.”
“I’m happy for me too.” Iris really was happy for herself. She ran over and gave her friend a hug.
“Woah, careful of the mug Iris!” Raf arched their back weirdly to avoid the contents spilling on their shirt.
“There’s nothing in it,” Iris said into Raf’s shoulder, “I was going to make a hot chocolate but I got distracted by texting.”
That wasn’t the entire truth. Iris had been distracted by texting Carol – her average screen time had skyrocketed thanks to their whatsapp thread – but she’d also been distracted by the unanswered texts she’d sent Millie. Without Millie, Iris never would have made a move with Carol. Iris owed a lot to her friend and wanted to thank her. She also wanted to gush about Carol with Millie, ask Millie for opinions on date ideas, or at least give the girl a hug. But every message she sent asking if Millie wanted to meet up went unanswered. Two little blue ticks proved they’d been read, so Iris didn’t know what to think. Had she done something? Was Millie upset with her?
Iris was thinking about this for most of the day. She knew she tended to overthink things. The amount of hours she’d spent awake at night thinking over every word of every conversation she’d had that day, trying to see if anything could have upset anyone, was uncountable. But Iris didn’t think she was overthinking the situation with Millie. She cared about her friend, she missed seeing her around with George all the time. She wanted to make sure she was okay. So when George walked into the kitchen to prepare dinner, Iris wasted little time.
“Have you seen Millie?” The question made George freeze. “She’s not answering my texts.”
George straightened and looked Iris in the eye, “Something’s going on with Millie.”
Iris took a deep breath, “Is it bad?”
“I don’t know. She’s just not acting like Millie. Plus, she cut bangs into her hair and turned up to our study session the other day looking…” George made a face while he struggled to find the right words. “She looked amazing, but not like Millie.”
Iris chewed her lip. “I really hope she’s okay. And that she knows she can talk to me… if she wants. We are friends.”
George goes back to his cooking, “Does she know that, Iris? Does Millie know you’re friends?”
Iris hoped so. She knew she could be reserved in showing affection. Really, the only person she was never shy about her friendship with was Raf but that didn’t mean other people weren’t important to her. Truthfully, Millie was probably one of the people Iris was closest to this term. Iris squared her shoulders – she was determined to do better. Maybe what Millie needed was space right now, but when she was ready, Iris would be waiting, and she would make sure Millie knew just how special she was.
For their second date, Carol had decided on Bath Glow, the glow in the dark adventure golf course. Iris, usually very competitive, was trying to hold herself back… until she realised Carol was just as, if not, more competitive than her. They were only by the third hole when they got held up and had to wait for the group in front to finish. Carol looked ready to smash something with her golf club.
By the time they got to the sixth hole, Iris was also ready to smash something with her club – Carol was two points ahead of her. It wasn’t long before the two started to engage in distraction techniques so as to throw the other off their game. At the 18th hole, it was tense. Iris was winning but only by one point. Teeing up her ball, she tried hard not to be led astray by the horrific analysis Carol was giving of Dolly Alderton’s Everything I Know About Love – the girl was smart to use Iris’s favourite book against her, but she would not succeed in her attempts to keep Iris from winning. Hitting the ball perfectly, it raced through the course and landed, with a thud in the hole, disappearing forever. Carol groaned, Iris shrieked.
Straightening up and attempting to hide her smile, Iris reached her hand out to Carol, “Good game.”
Carol looked at Iris’s hand and then her face. She smiled a little before grabbing the hand and pulling Iris in for a kiss. The lights around Iris start swimming. Her brain turned into clouds and her heart pounded out a rhythm only the most trained drummers could keep up with.
Carol pulled away, “Good game.”