Horses: Everything You Never Wanted to Know
Author: Reb Hay

Chapter 25
They are Hard-wired for Honesty

Back in the dorm, we start the process of packing and cleaning. It’s a pretty dismal process. ‘So—’ I try to brighten the mood. ‘What are we all looking forward to when we get home?’

            Lily shrugs. ‘Sleep.’

            ‘What about getting back to see your boyfriend?’

            She shakes her head. ‘There’s no boyfriend.’

I look to Charlotte. ‘Nope,’ she says. ‘I’m single too. I’ve got homework to catch up on though. That should be fun.’

I look at her sharply.

‘Just kidding.’

That’s a relief. You can never be sure with Charlotte.

‘What about you?’ she says. ‘Have you got a boyfriend?’

‘No, not at the mo. My last boyfriend was a jerk.’

‘Yeah? What did he do?’

I think about this. ‘Jerk’ is just the first word that came to me. It isn’t and never was an accurate descriptor. ‘He didn’t really do anything wrong,’ I concede. ‘He was just a nerd.’

‘Nerds are the best. My last boyfriend was classic nerd. We used to go to the library together and read sci fi. He used to say he was so relieved to find a girlfriend who wouldn’t ever expect him to dance.’

I consider Charlotte’s stream of past tenses. ‘What happened to him then?’

She shrugs. ‘We grew apart. I knew it was over when he took up ballroom dancing.’ She smiles but her eyes are sad and I feel a flash of anger at dancing nerd boy. What f— did you do that to Charlotte for?

‘What about your boy?’

‘We weren’t really suited. He just wanted to talk about maths all the time. Calculus this and calculus that.’ I exaggerate, of course. ‘It was his favourite topic of conversation.’ Blah, blah, blah.

‘Was he good looking?’

‘Not really. He liked to comb his hair over his head as if he were hiding a bald spot.’ I stuff my festy jeans in my bag and zip it up.

Charlotte wheels herself closer. ‘You must have liked something about him. What about his eyes?’

I begin to describe Todd in detail, seeing him as if he were standing next to me. ‘Well, he’s about this tall.’ I wave my hand somewhere slightly above my head. ‘He has brown eyes but light brown. Hazel, I guess. Brown hair …’

‘Is he kind? I bet he’s kind.’ Charlotte is leaning forward as if she can see him too. Even Lily has paused in her packing.

‘Sure,’ I shrug. ‘But he’s really thin and his hips are wider than his shoulders.’ I wince. The bitchiness hangs in the air like a fart. Charlotte’s hand slips back to the wheel and she turns herself every so slightly away from me. Lily starts stuffing her sleeping bag in its bag. The way she does it is like a fist punching.

Somehow I don’t want this to be their last memory of me. I clear my throat. ‘But yeah, he was kind,’ I say. ‘He used to arrange picnics with a picnic mat and everything.’

‘Ooooh I love picnics,’ Charlotte says.

‘And he organizes the most amazing food. Olives and kabana and cheeses.’

‘Ooooh I love cheese.’

‘And he has this cute way of talking.’ I struggle to describe it. ‘It’s like—’ I am suddenly reminded of Ben and the flickering of his ears every time I said something. 

‘You mean he listens,’ Lily says.

‘Yeah.’ I smile. That’s it. He listens.

‘Sounds like a gem,’ Charlotte says. She is wheeling towards the door, her bag perched on her lap. There is a finality and a strength to her hands on the wheels. Topic over. Conclusion reached. The past tense is reformed to the present. Todd is.

There’s a knock at the door just as Charlotte reaches it. The Frisker has arrived to return our devices.

The phone feels kind of alien and weird in my hands. I switch it on and wait while it loads. There are two messages. One from Mum sent two days ago: Proud of you. And one from Todd: You can do this. I’m believing in you.

            I stare at the screen and swallow as something catches in my throat. Todd. I suddenly really want to see him. I want to feel his hand in mine. I want his arm around my shoulders and the warmth of his body to seep through into me. I just want to be with him. And I have the best pick up line.

            I hit reply: Hey Todd, can I come around later. I’ve got some calculus homework I need help with. I press send and drop the phone in my pocket.


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