Before jamaica lane, p.9
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       Before Jamaica Lane, p.9

         Part #3 of On Dublin Street series by Samantha Young
 
Page 9

  ‘All right!’ I yelled as I picked up the entry phone and slammed my palm on the button to let him in.

  To save the irritation of going through more banging, I swiped my hair off my face and clumsily unlocked the door, hearing Nate’s footsteps ringing up the stairwell as I opened it. Through the jet-black strands of my wild hair I saw his face appear.

  ‘You look like shit,’ he observed cheerily, looking way too sober and happy for someone who had been drinking the night before.

  Skin prickling with embarrassment, I grunted at him.

  He held up a bag. ‘I brought you aspirin, energy juice, and donuts. ’

  I must have turned green, because he sighed, brushed past me toward the kitchen, and advised, ‘You need to eat something. ’

  I grunted again and turned toward the bathroom. Seeing the crazy-haired lady with the globs of mascara around her eyes, pasty pallor, and lipstick smeared across her mouth, I gave a little shriek.

  ‘You okay?’ Nate asked warily.

  My fingers shook with the hangover as I leaned across my sink. ‘I look like the Bride of Frankenstein with a massive hangover. ’

  ‘I’d be hungover too if I’d just had to fuck Frankenstein. ’

  Despite myself I giggled and then groaned when the sound ricocheted painfully through my noggin, as my dad called it. I took a couple of deep breaths and then fought through the hangover tremors and the nausea to wash quickly, brush my teeth, scrape my hair off my face, and scurry into my bedroom to change into a pair of jersey pants and a T-shirt.

  Nate smiled at me from behind the kitchen counter as I approached. ‘There she is. ’

  Unable to meet his gaze, I lowered my eyes to the glass of orange juice, bottle of energy drink, aspirin, and donuts he had laid out for me. Mumbling my thanks, I swallowed the aspirin and sat my ass down on a stool to nibble on a donut. After five minutes of total silence, Nate finally leaned across the counter and forcibly lifted my eyes to his by tilting my chin up with his fingers.

  Everything from last night passed between us.

  ‘Please,’ I whispered, my lips trembling as I fought the tears of vulnerability. ‘Please don’t tell anyone, Nate. ’

  His dark eyes widened slightly. ‘So it is true?’

  Instead of answering, my gaze sharpened.

  Nate sighed. ‘Who am I going to tell?’

  ‘Nate. ’

  He held up his hands in a gesture of surrender. ‘I promise, all right. ’

  I went back to chewing on my donut, my skin burning from the heat of Nate’s attention.

  ‘How can it be possible, Liv? You’re an attractive, outgoing woman … How …’ He seemed flabbergasted. Honestly, that was kind of nice. Flattering.

  Which was probably why I was finally able to meet his gaze as I replied, ‘I’ve always been shy around guys I’m into, but more than that I just wasn’t really in the game. I never have been. My mom was sick when I was a teenager. When other teenagers were experiencing boys and kisses, dates, and sex, I was busy fussing over my mom. Then she got sick again when I was in college. ’ My eyes burned into his. ‘You know, Nate. ’

  And he did know.

  An offbeat sense of humor and an inner geek weren’t the only things Nate and I had initially bonded over. We’d bonded over a third thing: the Big C.

  While I lost Mom to it, Nate lost his childhood sweetheart to lymphoma. They were only eighteen when she died.

  Not a lot of people knew that about Nate, and I had the feeling I was among the privileged few who had gotten the whole story out of him. It explained a lot about him.

  ‘It consumes you,’ I whispered. ‘You don’t care about anything else. Nothing else mattered but spending every second I could with her. ’

  He swallowed hard, his eyes dropping to the table. ‘I get it, Liv. ’

  ‘By the time I got out of college I was – I am – constrained by my self-consciousness. ’ I looked away from him. ‘Having such a lack of experience … it has shredded what little confidence I might have had. ’

  We were silent a moment as Nate seemed to process this. Finally he turned my face back again so I had to look into his eyes. I found his expression solemn and thoughtful. ‘You were really sad last night, Liv. I’ve known you for almost a year and you know me probably better than most people, and yet last night I felt like I was getting to see a huge part of you that you’ve kept from me. From everyone. ’

  Tears filled my eyes, my throat burning as I tried to keep them in. ‘I don’t want to be the person who looks in the mirror and hates what she sees, or be the person that moans about how she can’t interact with a guy long enough to secure a date. That’s not a good person to be, Nate. I just want to be like everyone else. Have a relationship with the opposite sex. But I can’t. It’s pathetic. But at least I’m not pathetic enough to moan about it. ’

  ‘It’s not pathetic,’ he snapped, his eyes flashing. ‘Liv, you’ve been through a lot. You can’t expect to be normal. And to hell with normal. Normal’s boring. And you, babe, are anything but boring. ’

  I smiled weakly, grateful that he was trying to cheer me up, but not really feeling cheered up.

  ‘And this guy?’ Nate continued gruffly. ‘This guy at the library. You like him?’

  Nodding, I dropped my head to my hands and groaned at my crappy situation. ‘Yeah, I like him. ’

  Nate contemplated this, and when it appeared he wasn’t going to say anything, I lifted my head from my hands and stared at him questioningly. He smirked at me.

  ‘What?’

  ‘You have next to no experience, and I have too much. ’

  My mouth twisted with annoyance. ‘It’s not really a good time to brag about that shit, Nathaniel. ’

  He grinned at me. ‘I’m not bragging. I’m helping. ’

  ‘Helping?’

  ‘Helping you. ’

  ‘Helping me how?’

  ‘Helping you get laid. ’

  My cheeks grew even hotter. ‘Uh … what?’

  Appearing quite happy with himself, Nate leaned back against the counter, crossing one ankle over the other and his arms across his chest. ‘I know sex. You don’t. I’m going to teach you. ’

  Feeling a flush of … something … I blushed to my roots. ‘How are … How does that …’

  ‘First we work on your confidence. Next we work on your flirting. I’ll get you to a point where you feel confident enough to approach this guy you like and ask him out. ’

  My heart was racing at the thought. ‘I don’t think you understand the magnitude of my ineptitude when it comes to men. ’

  ‘Well, that’s the wrong attitude to start with. ’ He shook his head and leaned, palms down, on the counter, his face ducking so our noses were only inches apart. ‘I may not do flowers, hearts, and all that shit with women, but you’re my friend, and I consider myself the kind of person a friend can always turn to. Friends are important to me, Liv. And last night a friend cried in my arms and admitted she was unhappy. ’ He brushed my cheek affectionately. ‘You deserve happiness, babe. What’s the harm in letting me help you try to obtain it?’

  ‘Nate,’ I whispered hoarsely, my throat clogged with emotion. That was so effing nice I was seconds from bursting into big goofy tears.

  ‘We’ll take it step by step. We’ll start off by trying to work out why you don’t feel confident enough to talk to men you’re attracted to. ’

  I nodded, and then winced when the movement caused a sharp streak of pain through my skull. ‘But not today, right? Because I might puke on you. ’

  He grinned and straightened to his full height. ‘Sexy. But no. Be ready, though. ’ He winked at me as he grabbed his jacket and readied to leave. ‘Lessons start tomorrow. ’

  My mind was whirring with the turn the conversation had taken, so it wasn’t until he was almost walking out the door that I realized I hadn’t acknowledged what he was of
fering.

  ‘Nate. ’

  He stopped, his hand on the door handle. ‘Aye?’

  My smile was slow but filled with appreciation. ‘Thanks. ’

  Nate grinned and yanked the door open. ‘Anything for you, babe. ’

  All throughout work I’d been a jittery mess, playing off my absentminded clumsiness as a result of day two of my epic hangover. Angus was sympathetic and let me spend most of the day in the back office doing quiet admin work, but that still didn’t stop me from messing up, and sooner rather than later, his sympathy waned. When adding html to the library Web site, I’d advertised our new student pods incorrectly. We already had pods on the first floor where large groups could sit in a booth and use the computer for working together on projects and tutorials. Additional pods had been set up on the second floor, and these accommodated fewer people. This was explained in the main text, and then there was a picture of the pod and a little tagline that should have read, ‘Maximum use: six. ’ Instead of ‘six,’ I wrote ‘sex. ’

  We didn’t know until Janey, a young colleague of mine who was obsessed with checking out the Facebook page ‘Spotted: Edinburgh Uni Library’ – a page used primarily for students to ask out students they’d seen in the library, but also a page for them to post about students who’d pissed them off in the library, or done one of a million disgusting things noted online – discovered it on the student page. It had greatly amused our student body. It had not greatly amused my boss.

  He sent me home early, where I downed about six cups of tea in hopes of finding whatever harmony it was that British people thought tea provided. No harmony to be found.

  Nate was coming over to start our lessons and I was ready to upchuck what little I’d eaten all over him.

  About twenty minutes before the time he was set to arrive, my dad called me. He was over at Dee’s and they were inviting me to dinner.

  ‘I’d love to, Dad, but I can’t. Nate’s coming over. ’

  ‘Nate’s always over,’ Dad replied, not sounding happy about that.

  ‘Nate’s my friend. ’

  ‘Hmmph. ’

  ‘Dad. ’

  ‘He’s a player. ’

  ‘We’re just friends,’ I promised, although my skin was tingling with the anticipation of the possibilities for tonight. What on earth was he really going to be able to teach me? And how would he do it? I was going to die of embarrassment. I just knew it. Nate was all sex and charisma. He probably had a mouth on him. No, I knew he had a mouth on him. Would he expect me to talk to guys the way he talked to girls?

  My eyes bugged out at the thought.

  ‘Liv, you there?’

  ‘Yeah, Dad. ’

  ‘Dee’s asking if you’d like to come over for dinner on Wednesday night instead?’

  ‘Sounds great. I’ll be there. ’

  ‘How are you feeling today? Still hungover? You were pretty smashed at the wedding. ’

  I nervously ran my fingers through my hair as I tried to think back to the reception. ‘Did I, uh, say anything embarrassing?’

  Dad laughed. ‘No. You were a funny drunk, sweetheart. Who took you home, by the way? You never said when I texted you yesterday. ’

  ‘Nate took me home. He’s decent like that,’ I pointedly reminded him.

  ‘If you say so. ’

  My buzzer sounded and I flinched. ‘Got to go, Dad. Nate is here. ’

  We said good-bye quickly and I hung up as I hurried to the door to let Nate in. I was standing tapping my foot impatiently as I waited for him. The sounds of his footsteps in the concrete stairwell seemed to match the rhythm of my heartbeat, and by the time he appeared in my doorway I was just about ready for passing out.

  Nate reared back at the sight of me. ‘Christ, you look as though you’re about to faint. ’

 
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