I had a problem.
Me. Skye Ashton. Just-turned twenty-one, a student approaching my last year at university, with the richness of life spread in front of me like a confusing patchwork counterpane, its acres of patterns and textures waiting for me to make my mark on them, to forge my own path through their knotted maze of colour, their swirls of emotion. Balanced on the edge of everything and a little bit scared to step off. Dreaming all the dreams that girls of my age do, of a career. Running my own business. Turning the tedious studies of the business management classroom into a real-life adventure. Running my own marketing consultancy. Being a serious player.
No, not in love. Afraid I was in love.
That was the problem.
I sat in the window of the Edinburgh flat I shared with my older sister, River, balancing my phone on the palm of my hand and weighing up my options as I watched the comings and goings two floors below—the elderly couple with their groceries, the summer visitors pointing their cameras to catch the sharpness of the city skyline against the clear blue sky, the children bowling along to the play park.
Should I call Zack or Leona? It was Leona’s birthday and although I’d already texted, she could be needy and liked attention so perhaps we should speak. She’d give my mood an instant injection of some feel-good chemical that few people were able to produce—a zest for living, for doing, one of the things that attracted me to her.
That was the case for phoning Leona.
Phoning Zack, by contrast, was a bad idea. Whenever I spoke to him my heart pounded in my chest and my blood pulsed much more quickly round my body. And if that was a feel-good drug in itself, its side effects sent me accelerating towards a crazy lack of control; and I hated being out of control.
Zack or Leona? Holding the phone out into a pool of sunlight, I counted to three. I wasn’t normally so indecisive. If River had been there she’d have stood no nonsense. Call Zack, her voice instructed me in my head. You’re in love with him. But River was out who-knew-where in theory at work, but she hadn’t made it back to the flat from the night before and I had no idea where she might be. And no matter how sensible, someone else’s wise words are no good when you say them to yourself.
Zack or Leona? Leona or Zack?
I took the easy option, flashing a finger across the screen until Leona’s number appeared in front of me like magic. ‘Call Leona’ urged the screen. But still I hesitated.
Zack’s was the voice I yearned to hear, even though he was at work and the chances were that all I’d get would be the businesslike message on his voicemail. That would be enough, for now; that fix of feel-good folly.
In the end my indecision paid off and I was ridiculously relieved when the phone rang and spared me the wrong choice.