[This is the second to last chapter in Murphy and Me: Sophomore Fall. But don't worry, because after the fall semester comes the spring semester. Happy Monday.]
I keep swearing every time a big paper comes up I won't do this. It's not fun. It does nothing for my blood pressure and my brain melts right around two-thirty, three o'clock. These don't get any easier. Might actually get harder, come to think of it.
Which is why all-nighters aren't good for the human body. Which was why I was not totally coherent.
Which was mostly why I was falling asleep in my omelet in Saga the second day of finals. My T-S Britain paper was due at eleven, and Em and I had handed ours in at ten-thirty after starting them at six the previous night. Not a moment of brilliance on my part, and if there was a way to mainline coffee, I needed to do it. Preferably an hour ago.
Not a voice I recognized, first of all, and, to be frank, my outfit left a lot to be desired. Murph's flannel shirt, rolled up to the elbows, William Smith soccer sweatpants, the legs pushed up to my knees, and my beaten New Balance sneakers. A hot mess, that was me.
I looked up, blinking hard to get the fuzziness out of my eyes.
I was not awake enough for this shit. That much I knew.
"Hi." She looked like she hadn't just ripped an all-nighter - more like she'd come from the gym, with all her carefully applied makeup still intact - and she sat delicately across from me.
My appetite promptly fled. "Morning."
"Yeah." Manda shifted. "So, you're Murphy's new girlfriend?"
If she meant "new" as in "together officially for four months" then yeah, I was the new girlfriend. "Kinda, okay, yeah." Really hope that made some sort of sense.
"Well, there's some things you should know." She shifted again.
What happened next was more...verbal vomiting from a sleep-deprived brain that did not want to deal with this shit. Not now. Not ever.
"Wait a second."
Manda looked at me - actually looked at me for the first time - and froze.
"If you're going to sit there and tell me secrets - dirty secrets about Murph, then I don't want to hear them. Not from you." That damn Boyd temper was rearing its ugly head. "Any secrets," I said, calmly gathering my things, "about Murphy I plan to learn from Murphy when Murphy is ready to tell me." Didn't care she had to look up at me. "I have no desire to hear anything you might have to tell me about Murphy. Good luck with your finals."
And I walked away. That was a moment of brilliance.
Packing was a good way to procrastinate on studying for physics. While listening to music, of course. My orgo exam had been more of a train wreck than originally thought and the act of decompressing from that was more to let my brain solidify again by random action than anything else.
The little black flip phone buzzed against the bed frame.
you upstairs? from Liam, of all people. He must have been visiting his brother. I sent back an affirmative and seconds later - which told me he'd been standing outside the door - he was knocking. A quick trip to open said door, then around the piles on the floor to turn the music down.
Liam must have figured the only safe place to stand was leaning against the door. "So...You walked out on Manda."
I moved a pile of sweatshirts and sank into the moon chair. "Yeah. Guess I did." To be honest, that whole exchange had a funny, almost out-of-body feel to it. More like I watched it happen than actually did it.
Again, not what I was expecting.
Liam opened and closed his mouth a few times before he found the right words. "When Murphy was with Manda he...He wasn't happy at times. Downright miserable, really. And when you're the older sibling - by a whopping minute and forty-five seconds - you want your younger sibling to be happy." He put his hands in his pockets. "I haven't seen my brother this relaxed in a long time and he's content with you in a way he never was with Manda."
I clutched the pile of sweatshirts tighter, not sure what to say.
"I don't know," he said, "if I were in your position, if I would have walked away. I really don't. And to do that took a lot and, just...Thank you for having such faith in my brother."
Liam was open and raw in a way that was almost shocking in its intensity. It made me wonder what exactly Manda had done to him, and why anyone would ever want to hurt Murph in any capacity, but especially on this level.
"You would've," I said. "You would've walked away."
He shrugged. "I don't know. I don't have a solid answer for that."
Just because he wasn't sure didn't make me the better person. Did it?
"You're good for him," Liam said. "And thank you for that." He smiled softly. "And he is going to be unbearable for the majority of winter break."
I blinked. "He won't be that bad."
Liam outright chuckled at that. "Oh, yeah, he'll be fine for the first two weeks and then he'll be bear to live with." He brought one hand out of his pocket to swipe at his nose. "But you're good for him." He fumbled for the door handle.
"He's good for me, too." Not sure if he heard me, but he smiled one last time and left almost as quietly as he'd arrived. I sat in the chair, still clutching the pile of sweatshirts, and trying to put my newly melted brain back together again.
It really helped to put perspective on things. What perspective on what things was a little vague, but at the end of it all it boiled down to being with someone - loving someone - and being loved in the capacity Murph and I had found in each other. This was probably one of those cases where the head had problems reasoning through what the heart could understand instinctively.
It was more than slightly confusing when a critical examination was attempted. Better to just go with it, no questions asked.
There was another knock on the door. No point in me getting up to sit back down. "Yeah, it's open."
Murph slipped in and had no qualms about navigating the piles to sit on the only space on the bed not covered in physics material. "Hi."
"Hi." Now I was not only procrastinating at studying but also procrastinating at packing. But Murph was always a welcome distraction.
"So, Liam's done tomorrow at eleven and then we're packing the car and heading home."
"I have the seven to ten tomorrow."
"Shit." Murph scratched at the slight stubble he had going. "You'll be around in the morning?"
"Yeah." My room was a mess but he'd probably seen worse. "You wanna stay tonight? Up here?"
He hesitated, glancing at the open physics book. "You have an exam tomorrow."
"Tomorrow night." There was this almost tangible I sleep better when you're next to me that we both acknowledged but didn't verbalize. "I have all day to study for physics."
"Like you've done so far?" He smirked.
"Funny." Smiled anyway. "But really. Stay, please?"
He looked at me, then looked down, then finally back at me. "If you're sure."
"I'm sure." No hesitation on my part. There probably never would be, either.
Murph looked at my clock. It was late. "You want me to go grab some pajamas?"
"Yeah. I'll stuff all this stuff...Somewhere." Have I mentioned my hatred for packing? I asked Murph as much. He grinned. I scrubbed my hands over my face and mumbled, "I need to go to bed."
"I'll be right back."
The door swung shut behind him and left me there staring at the piles of stuff on the floor and wondering how I was going to get all of it home. Then again, did it all need to go home in the first place? Regardless, it went into the hamper and the hamper - now bulging - sat by the closet.
A pair of soccer shorts and a tank with a built-in bra were pajamas, and I was tugging the hair tie from my curls when Murph came back in, dropped both warm hands to my hips and tipped his forehead all the way down onto my bare shoulder.
Neither of us needed to say anything. The how long is winter break and I'm going to miss you was clearly there. But that was going to be then. We wanted to stay in the here and now for as long as possible. Here and now in this corner single with Murph and Ollie and nobody else, not even in memory.