It was Janet who found her, who got her home, and made her hot chocolate she couldn’t drink. Eventually, she left, and Psyche dragged herself to bed. Aglaura and Cilippe were at the pub.
She forced herself to get up and moving the next morning. She had two major assignments and an exam coming up, and she’d done so much work to get this far, even though it seemed pointless when Eros was suffering. She tried to imagine Persephone beside her, what advice would she give?
As she lay there, staring at the bubbled paint on the ceiling, she could just hear her feisty friend saying. “You’re not going to help him, or you, by devolving into a turnip. Get out, get on, and keep busy. The time will go quicker.”
So she clambered out of bed, got dressed and went to make breakfast.
It was nearly lunchtime when her flatmates emerged, panda-eyed and drooping. Aglaura sneered at her. “And there she is, acting so sweet and innocent, not caring a mote about poor Christos.”
Psyche pinched her lips and looked up from her laptop. “That would be the ‘poor Christos’ who broke the door to the college darkroom, ruined my photography assignment, assaulted me, and led to Eros being taken to hospital?”
Cilippe stopped pouring orange juice. “Eros?”
Psyche rolled her eyes. “Eros is my tutor, and thanks to Christos, he’s now being treated for acid burns.”
Cilippe began pouring again. “Guess that means we owe you a month’s rent each. Unless he’s got a wife no one’s mentioned.”
Aglaura gaped at her. “She got Christos expelled and you think we owe her rent?”
Her sister flopped on the sofa. “No need to get shrill, I’m right here and hungover to Hades. You might think the sun shines out of Chrissy-boy’s nether regions but now his parents can’t come crowing to Ma and Pa about how he’s doing so much better than us.”
Psyche could just about hear cogs ticking over in Aglaura’s mind in the silence that followed.
Grabbing her own glass of juice, Aglaura perched on the arm of the sofa. “So if we’re the good cousins right now…”
Cilippe finished the thought. “Ibiza here we come.”
Aglaura lept up with a whoop, then subsided with a groan. “I hate tequila.”
Looking at Psyche, Cilippe asked, a little too casually. “And what are your plans for the summer?”
Psyche looked at the email she’d been stewing over for half the morning. “Father’s suggesting rather strongly I move back home until I find a job.”
Both her flatmates looked confused and horrified.
“A job?” Aglaura made it sound like a disease.
“This was my final term, and unless I get a summer internship, I’m not going to be able to stay here.”
Aglaura turned to Cilippe. “But if she’s not here, who’s going to look after the flat while we’re in Greece?”
Cilippe sniggered. “Christos?”
She went on before Aglaura could respond. “But if we each pay up on the bet with Psyche, then she has to stay here because her rent is paid and she mustn’t waste money, and then when we’re back, two months will be up and she can move back with mummy and daddy.”
Aglaura said. “Or get a job.”
They both laughed.
Psyche bit her tongue. She didn’t want to go home and Cilippe had her father pegged, if her rent had been paid, she must get her money’s worth. Two months’ respite from her parents fussing over her comings and goings and trying to set her up with sons of friends? She’d take it.
She said. “I’m happy to stay and look after the place, but if Christos comes anywhere near me, I’m calling the police and reporting a stalker, then moving home.”
Cilippe replied. “No need to worry, Ma said he’s being sent to Grandfather’s for the summer, to learn how to behave.”
Aglaura shuddered. “Can you imagine? How much do you want to bet he skips the country?”
Psyche left them to their speculation. Her final image for Janet’s class had been ruined and she needed to look through the other ones and work out how to compensate for its loss. She didn’t have time to re-do it, even if the maintenance people fixed the darkroom door before the end of term, and their track record wasn’t good.
She had a couple of earlier images where things hadn’t quite gone as planned, and she’d set them aside in favour of other prints, could she re-organise things to make them fit the project? She pulled them out. The one where the chemicals had created strange swirls of over exposure, fading and burring parts of the image.
Eros had laughed at her dismay. “Next time, try and do it on purpose.”
She bit her lip and pulled out another. Memories of Eros were soaked into every image, she couldn’t do this. Tucking the pictures away, she turned to the computer and mocked up the image she’d intended. A placeholder would have to do.
She lay awake most of Saturday night, then made a pot of coffee and tried to concentrate on her essay for Dr Thoth on Sunday. It didn’t go well. She heard nothing from Eros.
There was no Design Thinking lecture on Monday, Psyche spent the morning in the library. The college hallways were filled with the buzz of speculation, mostly about exams and essays, but enough curious eyes followed her progress that she donned headphones and pretended to be absorbed in her phone.
An email dropped in just before lunch, from Janet. Hope you’re okay after last week’s drama. If you’re in at school any time today, drop by, I’d like to see what can be done to rescue your work.
If the photography lecturer was surprised by Psyche’s appearance at her classroom door mere minutes later, she didn’t show it.
“I’ve been making arrangements with industry contacts for my students to use their darkrooms this week, do you want me to try and find you a spot?”
Psyche replied. “I’ve mocked up something to explain my plans for the final image, and what I was going to do to achieve it…”
Janet nodded. “That sounds acceptable if you’re comfortable you’ve done a thorough job on the process outline.”
Psyche gripped the handle of her bag. “I think it’s okay, I’ll go over it again before I hand it in, but… please, is he alright?”
Janet’s expression moved through surprise to sorrow. “He was discharged from the hospital under his mother’s care yesterday, I don’t know anything more. He’s not been in touch?”
Psyche shook her head, biting her lip hard.
Her lecturer tried for a reassuring smile but didn’t quite make it. “I’m sure he’s fine and will call you soon.”
“Of course,” Psyche avoided Janet’s gaze, it was too sad and knowing, “Thank you, I’d better go, there’s a lot to do this week.”
As she reached the door, Janet called out. “Did you apply for any of the internships this summer?”
“All of them, but I haven’t heard from any, so I’ll start looking for work next week.”
The older woman said. “Most aren’t making a decision until they see indicative results and class reports this week, don’t give up hope just yet.”
Psyche tried to smile but gave up. “Thank you.”
She put on her headphones as she walked down the hallway, until she could get to the loos and have a proper cry, she was best not speaking to anyone.
Patrick had no tact. He appeared beside her, a little too close. She edged away while refusing to look up from her phone screen.
He poked her. She stopped and pulled off her headphones. “Do you mind?”
He smirked. “Got your attention. So, given you’ve put that fashion guy in hospital and got Christos expelled, you’ve only got me left. Where do you want to go for lunch?”
Psyche welcomed the rage seething up through her, she snarled. “I want to go anywhere you’re not, and if you take one step closer, you’ll find just how much Persephone as taught me, and just how nasty I can be.”
He took a step back. He actually retreated, the small victory fizzed in her blood. “Now come on babe, I know it was probably upsetting for a fragile little thing like you but I’m here now, I’m the good guy. I’ll take care of you.”
She realised they had an audience when every female in it snorted. She waved a hand at the crowd. “What they said. You’re not a ‘good guy’, you’re a borderline stalker who doesn’t understand the word ‘no’. I am not a porcelain doll to be put on a shelf, I fight my own battles, I have my own dreams and I will live my own life, without you in it.”
The group surrounding them cheered. Patrick went red, and Jamal stepped in. “Come on man, like I told you, she’s the type you admire from afar. Too close, you burn.”
He nodded to Psyche as he wrapped an arm around Patrick’s shoulders and led him off, promising beer and fun company at a nearby pub.