I woke up the next morning, in my own bed, with a terrible hangover and practically no memory of the night before.
I opened and closed my eyes, stretched out my mouth, pressed my fingertips to my temples. I was hoping I’d feel better enough to fall back asleep, but no such luck. I lay on my messy sheets, incredibly awake, incredibly pained, and starting to get nauseous. Normally I don’t have such a bad reaction, but that just goes to show how much alcohol I’d really consumed the night before.
Somebody had opened the window blinds to let the sunlight in, and in my state I couldn’t stand it. I opened my mouth, swallowed an aching dryness, and managed to say in a surprisingly capable loud voice, “Close the window!!”
Nobody answered me. I didn’t know if anyone was even in the room. I sighed in my head, tried to fall asleep again, and failed again. After a while, with some of the pain and nausea fading, I rolled over onto my side and spotted Isabella, sitting on her bed across from mine, doing work on her computer.
She looked over at me, her expression completely impassive. She didn’t say a word. We stared at each other for a moment, and then she lowered her gaze back to her computer screen and went on working. There was a strange tension between us that hadn’t existed before, and I couldn’t comprehend the meaning of it. I kept staring at her, my mind completely empty, and after some five or ten minutes she closed her laptop and met my eyes.
“Good morning,” she said.
Her voice wasn’t cold – it was just neutral, and that alone startled me. Normally her tone was friendly and open. On this morning it was closed off and unreadable.
“Good morning,” I replied slowly, nursing my dry throat.
Isabella sighed. “Hungover?”
“Don’t throw up. I’m not cleaning it for you.” Her voice curled up a bit, prodding me. “Do you want something?”
“Can I have some water?” I asked timidly.
“That’s five words out of six.”
She nodded, got out of bed, and went to get me some water. I waited for her to return, gazing around at the empty room, feeling alone and scared for the first time in years.
“Where’s Taiga?” I asked when she came back.
“Class,” Isabella replied. She handed me a glass and I gingerly sat up in bed to drink it. Immediately I started to feel better, though I knew the pain would probably last for quite a long time.
“Does he always go to class?” I said, amused at that idea.
Isabella sat on her bed to face me and scowled a little. “Don’t underestimate him. Taiga’s not some stereotypical snobby teacher’s-pet rich kid. He goes to the classes that are necessary and productive for his education, and skips the ones that don’t help him.”
Her words rolled over my head. “Okay, okay. Whatever.”
She started prodding me again. “Do you remember what happened last night? Anything at all?”
“Do you not think that’s a problem?”
“No,” I said honestly.
She sighed. “What are we going to do with you? Really.”
Something in that irked me. “Nothing,” I said, annoyed. “You have no business getting involved in my life. It’s mine and no one else’s, and I can do whatever I want with it. I’m the only one responsible for me, and I like it that way.”
“Keep telling yourself that,” Isabella replied. “But one day you’ll understand that it’s not true.”
“What’s not true about it?”
“Take last night,” she said. Now her voice was edging on cold. “You say you don’t want people getting involved in your life – well, last night, Taiga got involved. You’d have died if he hadn’t saved you. Do you understand that? You’d be dead – dead and gone – and he might be dead too, on account of trying to save your worthless self, and for the rest of the semester I’d be living in a single at a discount rate because both of my roommates went and died on me for no reason at all. Are you listening?”
She was talking too fast, and I couldn’t keep up. I closed my eyes, fought off an intense desire to just flop over and go back to sleep, and spoke slowly.
“Isabella, what happened last night?”