...The still-untitled New Adult. But yes. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Clover, Natalie and Harry (who just happens to be Aidan's brother). They'll be clawing their way out of my computer and into a bookstore at some point this winter.
“I’m sorry.” Natalie plonked herself on my bed, and I winced as she crushed my clean laundry. “You did what?”
“I. Well.” I drummed my fingers on my red laptop, the usual blank page still flickering. “He seemed nice enough, and we really need a flatmate—“
“We don’t need him!” She crossed her arms, squeezing lumps of her cardigan in fistfuls. “A bloke? A strange bloke? Clove, what were you thinking?”
“I was mostly thinking that I like this flat and I don’t want us to get booted out for non-payment,” I muttered.
“How am I meant to talk to him?”
“Well.” I chewed my bottom lip. “It’s about time you got over that, isn’t it?”
“I spoke to the checkout guy in Tesco. I’m progressing!”
“Think of this as….more progress?”
She shot up, pacing my room in her purple fluffy slippers. She kept having to step over my gym rucksack, but it didn’t stop her. “Boys smell. They reek, seriously. And you’re the one who’s got to share a bathroom with him. Or did you forget about that?”
“Erm.” As a matter of fact…yes. I had. I’d let Nat have the ensuite so she didn’t have to deal with the mortal fear of strange backsides on her toilet seat, and the remaining two bedrooms shared a separate bathroom. “I’ll cope.”
“What if he does, like, massive poos, and then doesn’t flush them? Men do that!”
“I shared with an alcoholic for a year. I can deal with massive turds.” Not that I wanted to. Not that Silhouette looked capable of such monstrosities, either. He probably subsisted on chocolate protein shakes—how bad could his poo be?
Why was I thinking about his poo?
“Have you even Googled him?” she barked.
“I have not.”
“Then do it. Go on. Let’s see how many Girls And Dogs forums he’s a member of, shall we?”
I rolled my eyes and dropped my chin to rest in my palm. “Okay, Hitler. If you insist.”
She came back to sit beside me on the bed. “I’m just being sensible.”
I brought up the browser and typed Harrison Fox into the search tab. With one tap on Enter, the page filled with links, and we scrolled through, squinting. There were a couple of Facebook pages but none of the photos matched his. Aside from that, they all appeared to be American.
“I’ll try the short version of his name,” I said, typing in Harry Fox as Nat put her chin on my shoulder to watch.
Harry Fox brought up several more Facebook pages and a Twitter account, as well as some old local news articles. But nothing matched.
“You should’ve asked for his email address,” said Natalie, sighing. “It’s Google detective gold.”
“Silly me. I suppose I was just too busy finding out insignificant things like what he studies, and what he—ooh. Hang on a sec.” I typed in Harry Fox, personal trainer.
Up popped his website.
“Bingo.” I grinned.
Nat squinted at the screen, her screwed-up features softening. I could swear she flushed a bit as his photo came up. He stood in a sunny green park, commanding a group of women in tracksuits, all of them caked in mud. Cross Training on Saturdays, read the tag. Talk about hardcore.
“Is that really him?” she said.
“Yep.” I pointed to his dark auburn hair. It was as short as it had seemed in the steam room, and now I noticed it was also a little bit curly. “Look, Nat. He’s a fellow ginger. Kind of.”
“He’s awfully tanned for a ginger person,” she said, suspicious.
“Maybe it’s like the next step in evolution, or something. Everyone thinks it’ll be Wolverine or people who can move stuff with their minds but actually…it’s gingers who tan.”
“Yeah. You’re not really selling him to me.”
I flicked on to his biography page. In that photo, he stood in his running gear, grinning beneath a faint sheen of sweat. The tag described him running a marathon in the summer for a foundation supporting kids in poverty. “How about this?” I said hopefully. “Come on. He’s generous and charitable. And pretty.”
“The last time I checked, you didn’t want to be near a guy, let alone live with one,” she grumbled.
I blinked for a second and tried to rid myself of the image of Simon--the one where his eyes glazed over, and he smiled vaguely as if he knew some special secret I was too stupid to understand. “Unlike you, I’d quite like to get over my issues.”
“And He-Man here is a good place to start? You know how it works, Clove. Girls like us don’t date guys like him.” She lowered her gaze. “We just read about him.”
“Who the hell said I wanted to date him?”
“I don’t see you inviting any ugly blokes to live in the spare room.”
“I don’t see any of them asking, either.” I set the laptop back on the desk beside the bed. “Look. He’s coming to view the place tomorrow night and there’s not a lot I can do about it—I don’t have his contact details.”
“There’s an email on his website,” she huffed.
Gah. There was no getting anything past her.
“We need the money,” I pressed.
“I know. I just—” She wrung her hands. “I don’t know if I can do this, Clove.”
I wrapped an arm around her shoulders and gave her a squeeze. She smelled like cocoa butter. “You don’t have to talk to him, or his friend—“
“He’s bringing someone else?” she squeaked.
“Some dude called Foot, apparently.”
“Foot? Great. No, really. Fabulous. He’s probably in one of those murderous gangs.”
“You don’t have to talk to either of them. Just be there, see what you think of him. See what your instincts say.” I rocked her. “If he’s bringing a mate, he’s probably as nervous as us, don’t you think? And I’ll make it up to you tonight. Favourite dinner.”
She sniffed. “Cheesy chips? Broccoli on the side?”
“Absolutely on the side.”
“And can we watch Labyrinth?”
I snorted. “We will dance the magic dance.”
“I’d let David Bowie move in if he was still in costume for The Goblin King,” she said.
“You’re very weird.”
“I know.” She nodded, a smile tugging the corners of her mouth. “You love it.”