Pepper rolled over and sprawled across her bed. Half-asleep she rubbed at her itchy nose then her tried eyes. Pushing back her red dyed hair, she stared at the ceiling. Licking her dry lips, she rolled over and snuggled into an old flat soft toy bat. She shut her eyes again and started too drifted off.
The sound of knocking boomed in her ears and disgruntled, she tossed the edge of the duvet back and twisted her neck to the door.
‘Shower’s free. I’m making coffee and toast,’ the voice of her best friend and housemate, Holly, shouted from the other side of the door.
Pepper growled then replied back, ‘okay!’
Getting out of bed, she grabbed her dressing gowned from the floor and walked to the door. Opening it, the mixed smells of Holly’s shampoo and deodorant assaulted her nose. Pulling a face, she walked out of the short corridor to the bathroom door. She heard Holly rattling things around in the kitchen.
In the bathroom, she locked the door and did what she had to do. The hot water really woke her up, easing the aches in her feet and back. She brushed her teeth afterwards and felt like herself again. Towel drying her hair, she walked back to her room and got dressed in some comfy clothes.
‘Coffee!’ Holly called.
Zipping a brush through her hair, Pepper then tied it up and went into the living room. Holly had laid out a plate of buttery toast, two coffee mugs and a jar of strawberry jam. The TV was on some Sunday cooking show and Holly was curled in the arm chair with a glass of orange juice.
Pepper sat on the edge of the sofa and grabbed the knife. As she began spreading jam on a slice of toast, she shot Holly some sly looks. Holly was wearing a long, blue wool jumper with the sleeves rolled up and a pair of jeans. She had her short boyish brown hair ruffled up and her large green eyes locked on the TV screen.
‘How are you feeling?’ Holly asked after a few moments.
Pepper nodded, her mouthful of toast.
‘And last night?’
‘What about it?’ Pepper said as she swallowed.
‘You can’t keep kissing strangers and pretending it’s him,’ Holly pointed out.
Pepper froze, toast and jam pressed to her lips.
‘You were all over that guy with the Mohawk…don’t you remember?’
‘Some of it,’ Pepper replied and nibbled at the toast.
Holly sighed, ‘I know you miss him. But you need to stop behaving like that.’
‘I’m having fun okay? And since when does kissing some guys in a nightclub hurt anyone?’
‘It hurts you, Pepper,’ Holly stated.
Pepper threw the rest of her toast down and stood up.
‘I’m trying to help,’ Holly pointed out.
‘Sure you are,’ Pepper snorted and walked back to her bedroom.
Holly called after her, but Pepper slammed the door on her voice. Sitting on the edge of her bed, Pepper pulled up her handbag and dug through it. She removed a crumpled napkin that had a phone number on it then a square of toilet paper that had another number bleeding through it. Placing them aside she dug out her phone and looked through the text messages.
When she didn’t find what she was looking for, she put the phone back and her bag on the floor. Curling up on the bed, she shut her eyes and thought about him. Memories danced before her and it took a few moments for Pepper to select one to play.
A light tapping on the door drew her back a few minutes later. Opening her eyes, she watched the door open and Holly coming in. She crossed the floor and sank down next to Pepper.
‘I care about you,’ Holly said softly.
‘I know,’ Pepper muttered back.
‘You need to stop. I’m worried something bad will happen to you.’
Pepper nodded into her pillow.
‘I know it’s not easier, but you will meet someone else. Maybe you’ll be happier too. But you need time to sort yourself out. And kissing random strangers isn’t going to help that,’ Holly lectured.
‘What if I never meet anyone else?’ Pepper answered.
Holly shook her head, ‘you will do. Everyone does. Just focus on yourself for a little while. Stop going to the nightclubs and spend more time thinking.’
‘Maybe, you’re right,’ Pepper breathed.
‘Just a little,’ Holly slotted in.
Smiling, Pepper pushed from the bed and hugged her best friend, ‘thanks for looking out for me.’