The clinking of the lock to the Demircis’ apartment kicks me out of my daydreams, and my heart jolts as I jump to my feet, almost tripping myself up in an effort to not look like I’m loitering.
“I could hear you a mile off,” Cem says, shuffling out into the hall, shivering despite the duvet draped around his shoulders like a royal cape. “You need to go to work and stop trying to scratch my head through the walls.”
He sits on the step. Too weak to fight the pull of his presence, I plonk down beside him, probably bruising my arse in the process, because I know I’ll get what I’ve been craving. Cem has always needed contact, and here I am, being squashed against the wall as he leans his body against mine and his head falls heavily on my shoulder.
“I’m a dick,” he says, bang on with the self-reflection.
“Yeah,” I want to shout at him, scream in his goddamn face, shake him until he gets his head in gear and sees how he has shattered my world. But I don’t. I can be a calm, reasonable person, and I have far too much self-control to fall apart in front of Cemil Demirci.
“I got carried away at the weekend,” he continues. “There was a party, and then I stayed over with friends, and time just kind of evaporated, you know?” Excuses. Always excuses.
“You have an exam today,” I say. If I sound angry, it’s because I can’t help myself.
“It’s under control.” He sighs deeply and turns his head so his nose is pressed into my shoulder. That’s something else he does to reel me in. Why do I let him so cheaply buy my forgiveness? “I studied all week, so I’m good. It’s all in here.” His hand pokes out of the duvet to point at his head. “I’m not worried about the exams.”
I’m not worried either. Cem is too clever for his own good. He’ll read a book and memorise every line, quoting it back at me in long, rambling sentences I barely understand. Nor have I ever seen him use a calculator. He scribbles down numbers at frightening speed on whatever surface he can find and then does the calculation in his head.
Cem knows stuff. Far too much stuff.
“I miss you,” I whisper without meaning to. Even shielded by all the jealousy and anger I feel, knowing I’m slowly, irrevocably losing him again, it’s the truth. He is the calm to my inner storm, and I will forgive him for anything and everything. And I hate myself for it.