Nanowrimo 2011: Of Places I Don’t Know – Chapter 14

Echo woke up, the sun streaming through the thin, pale curtains and into her eyes. She rolled over, half expecting Aiden to be there, next to her, to find her bed empty, as it had been when she had gone to sleep. Aiden had been staying at hers quite often, which cause questioning from Sophia that Echo didn’t quite know how to respond to, because it wasn’t exactly as Sophia thought, while a romantic element had emerged, there relationship was still largely platonic, they just had felt safer when they were together at night.

Since Aiden had stopped seeing Mick as quite as much of a threat as he had done before, he had been splitting his nights between her flat and his halls of residence room. He was still wary though, and no where near as confident as he had been that night. He had come to the conclusion, that as long as Mick was not inside his head like he had been previously, he was not so much dangerous as curious, Aiden wishing he knew how he was doing it, getting to him, and what exactly it was that he knew.

They had made plans to see Samantha, they were going today, and staying for the weekend, as it was acrossLondon, and Aiden wanted to spend some time at home. He had asked Echo to stay with him, both because he wanted to spend the time with her and he wanted Samantha to meet her, and because he felt her support would help when explaining to Samantha exactly what information he would be needing from her.

Echo slowly pulled back the covers, the cold air of morning after a night without the heating on hit her, and for all the excitement of the day, she wished she could just get back into bed. Gradually, she dragged herself away from the covers and began to get ready. She had time, but she wanted to look nice for meeting Samantha, she wanted to make a good impression on her.

She turned the shower on, waiting for the water to warm up before adding some cold to take the edge off the hot, and got in. Someone had told her once that to relax at the beginning of a busy day, she should shower, paying attention to every drop of water as it rained over her body, taking the time to feel everything as individual droplets rather than as one shower. She washed her hair with her sandalwood and patchouli scented shampoo, taking note of its texture and scent as she massaged it through her hair. She washed it out, finished her shower, and got out of the tub, taking down her towel from the towel rail and wrapping herself in it, again slowly so as to pay attention to each part of her body drying. It took a little longer to shower like this, but Echo always found the time to on days she thought she needed to take a little time.

It didn’t take her nearly as long as she thought to get ready. Dressed in grey jersey dress, yet another purchase from shopping with Sophia, black opaque tights, and wool-lined lace-up ankle boots, she slipped her black stone around her neck – it was small enough to pass for decorative – and began on the small amount of make-up that she knew how to apply well enough without Sophia’s help. Once she had put on the face powder, eyeliner, and silver eye shadow, and ran a coat of mascara over her lashes, she took out her back-pack and turned her attention to what else she needed to bring with her for the weekend, leafing through jeans and jumpers, trying to decide on what would be best to bring, but not wanting to bring too much, and at the same time worried she would not bring something appropriate for a situation she may be in during the time she would be staying at Aiden’s home.

She was excited to meet Samantha. Though Aiden did not talk about her particularly often, everything Echo had heard about her made her sound like they would get on well; he had even told her so on occasion. She kept glancing at her watch, willing time to go faster and for Aiden to arrive. They were taking the train to her house, to Aiden’s house. It was strange for Echo to think of seeing Aiden’s life before she met him, to see his old house and his home life. It made her think of Stony Oaks, and how she still missed her life there. She had barely heard from her friends back home. Most were working in Stony Oaks, she had heard some were getting married (the Apsu in Communes tended to marry fairly young), which scared her, as it seemed like something that was so far away for her with the path she was on now. She thought of bringing Aiden to Stony Oaks, and wondered what he would make of it, and moreover, what Stony Oaks and her parents would make of him.

Throwing into her back pack her wash bag and make-up, she sat down, ready and waiting for Aiden to phone to say he was there. Almost as soon as she sat down though, it rang. She answered, saying she would only be a minute, and put on her coat and scarf, before picking up her keys, handbag and back pack, and locking her door behind her.

She stepped outside, the winters air colder than she expected, making her cheeks glow red. She greeted Aiden with a hug, and the two of them walked towards the station. The paid for their tickets and went down the escalators to the train. Once the train arrived, they got on, found seats next to each other, and sat down. It was quite a long way to Samantha’s house, they had to change trains twice to get there, but Aiden had told her it wouldn’t take them too long to get there, under an hour, he had said.

On the train, Echo felt herself become inexplicably nervous thinking about the weekend ahead. Her mind raced through thoughts of fear of being in a strange place, albeit with Aiden there with her, through worries that Samantha would not like her, and just general, inexplicable, nerves. She lifted her left hand to her mouth and began chewing at her nails.

“Hey,” Aiden said softy, putting his hand on her wrist, as she lowered it from her mouth, “Don’t worry, it’ll go fine. Anyway, it’s me who should be worried about what she’s going to say, not you!” He half joked.

“I know,” Echo smiled up at him, slightly nervously still, “I can’t help it though. I am excited too, so they’re sort of good nerves. Tell me about Samantha’s, well, your, house. I think I’ll be less nervous if I know what it’ll be like.”

Aiden let out a little half-laugh, “You can’t just wait to see it?”

“Well, I can I guess.” She looked down. She had heard snippets about Aiden’s house before. She knew it was a world away from Stony Oaks. He had said it was quite large, for the two of them at least, and in quite a built up, but still nice, city area. She knew Samantha worked for an interior design magazine now days, and so expected their house to be quite modern and fancy, though she did not know what exactly to expect. She really was excited to be going there to meet Samantha, excited to spend the weekend with Aiden in his home, and excited to see how he lived as a Lu before.

The train pulled into their first stop. They got off, walked through the station and changed to a different line, Echo did not know where she was going in this strange, round, underground, colour-coded tunnel system, but she followed Aiden, as he seemed to. She had not been into the centre on the tube before, and the bustle of people was unbelievable to her. She clutched onto Aiden’s hand like a child would to their mother, terrified of losing him in the crowd. They approached the platform and heard the train approaching, Aiden taking up a faster pace, Echo running along to keep up so that they could make the train before it pulled away again. They jumped on right as the beeping started and the doors began to close.

The rest of the train ride was faster than Echo had expected, two stops on the pink line, and then four on the brown one, until the reached Maida Vale train station. As they tapped their tickets out of the station, Echo was amazed at the sights that surrounded her. Though the area ofLondonshe had been living in was far more a city than anything she had known, this here was something completely different. There was no green, just concrete. High rise buildings and shop fronts, old fashioned looking large buildings too as the walked further down. There were canals too, lined in boats, a sort of boat the Echo had never seen before. Aiden saw her looking at them, quizzically.

“They’re house boats,” He explained, “People live on them.”

“Wow,” Echo replied, “Do you?”

Aiden laughed, “No, Samantha always liked the idea of it, but it’d be too small for her I think.”

Aiden took out his mobile phone and dialled Samantha’s number, to let her know they were on their way. Echo tried her best to listen into the end of the receiver, trying to get a fragment of Samantha’s voice to hear, to see if she sounded like she expected her to, but all she could hear was the wind blowing past the receiver. They turned a corner onto a road lined in cream coloured buildings, each looking the same, with two tall back pillars in the front of each of them. Aiden began to walk towards one of the doors.

“Here?” Echo asked, “You live here?” Her voice was part shock, part questioning. She was surprised to see that Aiden lived in an area like this, it seemed such a restrictive place for an Apsu to live.

Aiden simply nodded, as he turned to the gold entry machine next to the door and punched in a code of four numbers. The machine buzzed and the door clicked as Aiden pushed it open. Inside were corridors lined in cream carpet, a flight of stairs, and a lift, which Aiden walked over towards.

“Years ago, this was one big house. It’s flats now though, we live at the top, on the third floor.” He explained.

They got into the lift, Aiden taking his back pack off his back and placing it on the floor. The lift moved quite slowly, and made whirring sounds as it did so. Echo held her breath, waiting for the lift to get to it’s destination, trying not to think too much so as not to psyche herself out too much. The lift stopped gradually and the doors opened loudly, as they stepped out. Echo exhaled before inhaling deeply, following Aiden to the door in the corner. He reached into the pocked of his back pack to retrieve his keys, but as he did so the door opened.

“Hello there, love!” Samantha voice was lively, happy, and bright. She greeted Aiden with a hug and turned to hug Echo.

“Hello, love,” She said as she did so, “You must be Echo, lovely to meet you at last!”

Echo smiled at Samantha, “Yeah, hello, it’s nice to meet you.” She replied, still somewhat nervously despite Samantha’s welcoming tones.

Samantha was tall, taller than Aiden was. Her skin was tanned in contrast to Aiden’s ghostly white, her eyes a rich shade of mahogany to match her long straight hair. She wore clothes in many layers, with decorative scarves and necklaces dangling in different shades of metallic and earth tones. In her ears she wore long gold earrings with feathers at the ends. Echo noticed that she was barefoot, although next to the doorway was a large collection of various colours and styles of high heels. Echo looked back to Samantha and saw that her eyes were rimmed in green eyeliner, the exact same shade as Aiden’s eyes were, as if to match him in ways their natural appearances could not. She was beautiful, in completely the opposite way from Aiden’s beauty. Samantha stepped aside, and ushered them into the penthouse flat.

“How was your journey here?” Samantha inquired, “Not far, is it? Don’t know why you couldn’t just live at home! It’s just so quiet here without you!”

“Yeah, it was alright.” Aiden replied, “And that’s not what you said when I was leaving! You were looking forward to having space to yourself, you were going to be having parties and reliving your youth.” He jested.

“Oi, don’t be cheeky there, I’m still young.” Samantha rebutted, before turning to Echo, “How are you, love? Are you alright?” Echo nodded in response, not wanting to appear rude but too shy for words. She hoped that Aiden had warned Samantha of this. “Come on, let me show you around.” Samantha said, as bright as ever.

“So, this is Aiden’s room, much tidier now he doesn’t live her.” Samantha began, with the first room there was once through the front door, “And this is where you’ll be staying,” She continued, as she pushed open the doors to what seemed to be a spare bedroom. Echo had to stop herself from gasping when she saw the room. High design, and ultra-modern, the bed frame alone was stunning, rounded and black, it appeared to be levitating off of the ground. The sheets were grey, rimmed in silver stitching. The floor, in contrast to the carpet in the hallway, was white and marble, with a grey rug swirled in silver.

“Wow,” Echo said, as she peered around, “It’s beautiful.”

“Thanks, I love it too.” Samantha replied, taking the time to look around the work she had created.

Echo swung her back pack off of her shoulder and placed it on the marble floor, before stepping out of the room and following Samantha and Aiden for the rest of the tour. There were also two bathrooms, and Samantha’s bedroom on the lover level. Next was upstairs, though Echo was surprised to see stairs within a single flat.

The staircase emerged into an open plan living and dining room, marble stone floors, which as Echo walked on them, having taken her shoes off down stairs, appeared to he heated as they warmed her feet as they made there way across the room. On the right hand side was black glass dining room table with metal legs, fairly long and rectangular, with six black chairs around it. From the ceiling directly above the table hung a red glass chandelier, and red tea light candles lined the middle of the table. The walls were white and glossy, contrasting with the dark furniture. Contrasting with the modern of its adjacent room, the centre piece of the living room was a huge, ornate sofa, black again to match, and two arm chairs in a similar style. Mounted on the wall was a flat screen TV, and below it was an old-fashioned fire place. On the far side were sliding doors to a balcony.

Echo had never been somewhere with such design and style before. At Stony Oaks, their houses were about functionality, often with elements of nature inside, but nothing as high-concept in design as Samantha’s place was. It made her feel slightly out of place, like a little girl trying on her mothers high heels, stepping into a life that wasn’t hers, and yet at the same time it was fascinating, fantastical, elegant and extravagant, alluring to her with its aesthetics.

“You two go sit down,” Samantha said, gesturing towards the sofa, “I’ll make us a cup of tea, shall I?”

Echo walked gingerly over to the living room area, checking over her shoulder to make sure Aiden was following her. She sat down in the corner of the sofa closest to the balcony, and looking out the glass doors could just make out what appeared to be some sort of park directly outside it.

“It’s a communal garden, a few buildings around the square share it.” Aiden said, as he sat down next to her, seeing what she was looking at.

Echo nodded, “So, do you Become there?” She asked?

Aiden laughed, “No, no dogs allowed.” He said.

Echo chuckled, although the idea of an outside area that did not allow dogs seemed deeply sad to her.

“Do you take sugar, love?” Samantha called from the kitchen.

“Yeah, one.” Aiden replied for Echo, knowing the voice she would be able to manage around Samantha would not be loud enough to carry through to the kitchen, situated just off from the dining room area.

To the side, ad slightly behind the sofas, Echo noticed a spiral staircase.

“Where does that go?” She asked Aiden, pointing at it.

“Oh, Samantha works from upstairs these days. You know how she was a nurse at the hospital where Mel had me? She stopped working there soon after, ‘cause she, well, had me. She started doing interior design stuff freelance for magazines maybe five years ago, and set the upstairs up. It’s pretty much just computers and cameras and art-y things up there.” Aiden explained.

He thought it would be stranger than it was, having Echo and Samantha together. He thought it would be strange having Echo in this house, but having no memories of them there together in the past, like he had with everyone else who he had round there usually, all his friends from before. None of them were around now, of course. Either busy with work, or living away, being back had made Aiden realise that his life had changed irreversibly by leavingLondon, and as he glanced over to Echo, he realised that it may have in fact done so for the better.

Samantha came back in, three mugs in her hands, each with a different colour stripe painted around the middle, and the name of the colour underneath, the modern sort of self observant mugs that were used in nice cafés. She handed Echo a mug that said it was 5285 Heather, and Aiden one that said it was 10C Cool Grey. Her own was 520 Grape coloured. Echo found these mugs intriguing, the way the Lu seemed to categorise their colours, rather than letting the colours be. Echo knew that a colour was nothing without room to breathe and grow.

Echo blew on the top of her tea to cool it down, before taking a sip slightly too early and nearly scolding her tongue. She put it back down again to wait for it to be at a better temperature for her to drink. Samantha sat down on one of the arm chairs perpendicular to the sofa. She asked the two of them questions about how their course was going, inquired after Aiden’s housemates, and asked Echo how her flat was. Before too long, Echo started to wonder hoe Aiden could stand this small talk. There was no mention of Apsu, nothing of the sort, no mention of why there really came. Echo wondered how Aiden would turn the conversation round to that, but was sure he’d be able to eventually.

“Do you two have plans this evening?” Samantha asked.

“Nope, not really, I came back to see you!” Aiden said.

“Good, just thought I’d check!” Samantha said, “Anyway, I was wondering what you guys wanted to do for dinner? I was thinking maybe we could go out somewhere? If you guys wanted to, that is.”

Aiden smiled, “Yeah, that’d be nice.” He replied, Echo suddenly very happy she had packed so much, including dresses and skirts and ballet pump shoes. She wondered how she became the sort to worry about fashion so often, but put it down to nerves. They talked some more about university, their new lives, and ask Echo questions like where she was from and about her family, which she answered shy, ad tried her best to get around mention of Apsu, as apparently it was not something that was generally discussed here.

The time passed quickly and Echo began to settle down. Samantha was welcoming, and with Aiden there next to her she began to feel less out of place than she had done to start. She had had no idea that Aiden had come from a background like this, but seeing him here, it was his home, and he acted like it was, slipping back into the life he had before so easily, it was like nothing had changed, aside from the fact that he had Echo with him now. It was like there was no gap where he had been away, like he had been living here for the last few months, like he had no began a new chapter of his life learning to be Apsu, like the was no Mick, no Xul, and nothing to Ask of Samantha. Or perhaps he just wanted to wait, she thought, to make the most of his time back at home.

As the time passed, Aiden went downstairs to retrieve his Laptop, so that they could look up a restaurant for the night and book a table. The eventually decided on a local little Italian place, and Samantha called to make a reservation, before excusing herself to disappear downstairs to shower and change for the evening.

“You really don’t need to be so on edge here,” Aiden said, putting his arm around her, “My home is your home and all that.”

“Yeah, I know, I’m alright now though, thanks.” Echo replied. And she was. Not entirely so, but enough for her to feel comfortable in his house, “It really is beautiful here.”

“Yeah, it’s nice at the moment. Samantha changes it around a lot, trying out new things for the magazine.”

“What’s your room like?” Echo asked, “I haven’t seen it yet.”

“My room? Oh, it’s not like the rest of here. It’s just my room, it’s not all fancy like the rest. Come see if you like?” He said.

They got up, needing to go downstairs to change for dinner anyway. Aiden lead the way, opening the door ti his room for Echo. She stepped inside, to see what looked like a progression of Aiden’s life in room form.

The walls were light blue, with one navy. To one side was a double bed in a modern silver frame, and stuck to the ceiling above it were glow in the dark star stickers, arranged in constellations. On the walls were posters of bands and musicians Echo had never heard of, and along one side were photographs of Aiden, at different ages, with friends Echo had never seen before. She peered at them, seeing a younger, longer haired Aiden, in tight fitting t-shirts and studded belts, black eyeliner rimming his eyes. She looked back to him now, his hair shorter, framing his face, in his long sleeved grey t-shirt pulled over his hands, with brown tinged blue jeans, straight cut but not skin tight as the black ones in the photograph were. She thought of how much older he looked now and wondered how old he must have been in the photograph, amazed by how fast appearances seemed to be able to change. It was strange, meeting new people and then being introduced to their past, especially for Echo, who could not remember the last time she met a friend who she had not known virtually her whole life prior.

“It’s a bit childish,” Aiden grinned, “But I like it.”

Echo left to go change for the evening, and went next door to the stunningly modern styled guest room. Echo shut the door and walked around it, trying to make it feel like home, at least for the weekend, so that she would be able to sleep that night without the fear of waking up, confused by her surroundings. She got her bag and sat down on the edge of the bed, the thick feather duvet plush beneath her. She zipped the bag open, and began to take out rolled up items of clothing, compressed for space, to begin again the process of deciding what to wear. The Lu world may have started to get to her.

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