That was the moment I should have told her.
As she stood there staring at me wide-eyed and excited about the future, I should have admitted the disappointing truth before I got myself in too deep.
Before I told a lie that I couldn’t come back from.
I should have told her.
My options as I saw them were either tell Selena the truth: admit to the smartest girl I have ever met that I am a dim bastard who got rejected from every university that I applied to and disappoint her. Or, I could tell another lie that kept her happy and meant that I could just ignore it and not acknowledge it for a bit longer. The option that means she doesn’t end up seeing me as a loser who’s going nowhere fast.
The option that means she doesn’t realise how much better she is than me just yet.
I didn’t tell her.
“Yeah, that would be great, wouldn’t it?” I said in a small voice instead and forced out a smile. She squeezed my hand excitedly as the guilt created a growing weight that slowly crushed my chest.
I followed her around blindly all day. Her voice sounded as though it was a million miles away whenever she spoke and my skin was practically numb to her touch. It was like I was there, but at the same time, I wasn’t. It wasn’t until we were on the train home that she mentioned it though.
“You okay? You’ve been very quiet this afternoon?” She said, leaning her head against my shoulder.
“Yeah, just tired.” I lied and tried to smile at her reassuringly. She studied me for a second and then sighed, taking my hand in hers as she turned her body awkwardly to face me.
“Listen, I just got excited before, I know we haven’t been together for long, and if you don’t want to come to Manchester with me that’s okay!” She spluttered quickly, her eyes not meeting mine as her cheeks flushed pink.
“No!” I said quickly, “No, that’s not it, S, really…” I reached my hand to her cheek in an attempt to squash her fears. She frowned and I could see her trying to make sense of my actions in her head as she searched my face for some kind of explanation.
“What is it then?” She asked quietly, slumping back in her seat and squeezing my hand. I wanted to tell her. The words were stuck at the back of my throat, choking me, unwilling to be said. Instead I just smiled at her sadly.
“You know, I just don’t want you to get too excited about me coming with you in case I don’t get in…” The words burnt as they came out. I had just told a bold-faced lie to the girl I loved with all of my heart. I felt even worse as her face softened and she smiled.
“I have faith in you Harry, I know you will.” The trust in her eyes as she spoke killed me but I still couldn’t find the words. I just rested my head against the seat back without another word. She did the same, her hand still gently caressing mine in hers.
She wanted me to come in when I dropped her off back at her house an hour later, but I made a poor excuse of a family dinner that I couldn’t miss so I could leave. I couldn’t face the guilt that rushed over me every time she smiled at me after the amazing day we’d had.
By the time I got home I was so angry with myself that it wasn’t going to take much to set me off. I had planned to get home and go straight to my bedroom – most likely to put another hole in my wall – but as I slammed the door, Gemma entered the hallway with an eyeroll that I just couldn’t ignore.
“What?” I snapped at her, itching for her to retaliate so I could blow off some steam. She stopped and looked at me, seemingly taken aback as if she hadn’t expected me to actually speak to her.
“What?” I repeated as I took a step toward her, “Fucking rolling your eyes at me all the time! If you have something to say, fucking say it Gemma!”
She hesitated for a second, processing my words as the thunder filled her eyes to match my own. I had done it. I had egged her on and she was about to take the bait.
“You’re so pathetic! Always looking for an argument now because you’re pissed that you got rejected from every uni you applied to! It’s not my fault that you’re a thick bastard, so you can lose the attitude!” She hissed nastily. I was momentarily caught off guard by her words, I didn’t know she knew about that. I hadn’t told her, I hadn’t even spoken to her since New Year’s Eve.
Gemma clearly took my silence as her winning as she turned to walk up the stairs.
“Rather be a ‘thick bastard’ than a stubborn, disloyal bitch any day!” I retorted to her turned back as she started up the stairs. She stopped and let out cruel sound I guessed to be a fake laugh before turning to me, her eyes wide.
“Are you actually fucking serious? Disloyal? You want to talk about fucking loyalty?” She snapped and laughed again as she stepped closer, “You might want to take a good look at that fickle little tramp you’ve been running-!”
I cut her off by punching the wall next to me leaving a small dent in the shape of my fist.
“You say another damn word, and I swear to god!” I snapped, glaring up at her as the door opened behind me.
“Ah! Kids! How is everyone? How was Manchester, Harry?” My mum asked as she and Robin filed in, not realising that she had just caught her kids seconds away from killing one another. She finally looked at our faces when I didn’t answer.
“What’s going on?! What happened to my wall?!” She asked, pushing her way between us. She looked up at Gemma and then back at me.
“Now! Stop whatever this is! Right now! Harry, in the front room!” She snapped in a panicked voice as she guided me out of Gemma’s eyeline and into the living room. Once I could no longer see her face, I felt my adrenaline rush leaving me to be replaced by the throbbing ache in my hand. I sat on the couch as I looked down at my knuckles, tinged with purple and specks of blood. Great, something else I would have to lie about.
“What the bloody hell did I just miss?” My mum snapped as she slammed the door. I tore my hands away from my hand to look up at her and see how mad she was. She was red faced as she pulled her bobbled hat from her head and ruffled her hair. Her brow was furrowed but there was definitely more worry than anger flashing at me. I bowed my head and shrugged. She sighed and took a seat beside me.
“Harry, sweetheart, please tell me what’s going on with you and your sister…” She pleaded, “I noticed you weren’t speaking a few weeks ago and I thought you’d had a tiff, but you’ve just put a dent in my hallway… I’m worried this is more serious than I thought…”
“It’s nothing… we’re not talking because we’ve had a disagreement, but tonight was my fault, I egged her on because I was angry. I’m sorry...” I muttered weakly. She was quiet for a moment, seemingly thinking of where to go from here. I felt her hand in between my shoulder blades and knew all was forgiven. I was lucky that my mum was so understanding when I lost my temper.
“Why were you so angry?” She asked, taking my hand in hers and studying my knuckles.
“I lied to Selena today and told her that we could go to Manchester together!” I winced as she ran her fingers gently over the fresh wounds. She stopped what she was doing and looked up at me, her eyebrows raised in question. I nodded, confirming that she had heard me right.
“You haven’t told her yet.” It was a statement not a question so I didn’t bother to respond.
“Oh Harry, what are you doing? I thought you said you’ve got no intention of going to university in September?” she said with an exasperated sigh, letting my hand drop.
“I don’t.” I confirmed.
“You have to tell her, you can’t keep lying to her because it could change her decision for herself…” my mother reiterated the logical truths that had been swimming around my brain all afternoon.
“I know I do, I just don’t… I can’t disappoint her…” I said quietly as I reached to my neck for the cross and rubbed it between my thumb and forefinger.
“If she cares for you like you care for her then she will understand…” she said as she stood and moved toward the door, “Lying to her will only disappoint her more.”
She dipped out of the room, probably going to speak to Gemma, leaving me alone with my thoughts. I knew that she was right and that I had to do it. I reached into my pocket and pulled out my phone, taking a deep breath as I pressed her name and clicked the call button.
“Hey, just give me a second?” She answered after three rings. She leaned away from the phone but didn’t bother to cover the mouthpiece as she spoke to her mother.
“Is that Harry?” I heard her mother ask as she asked to be excused from the room.
“Yeah, I’ll be back down in a minute…” Selena replied.
“Okay, don’t forget to tell him about Nancy!”
A few seconds later I heard the shuffling sound that told me Selena’s ear was pressed to the phone again.
“Nancy?” I asked, forgetting momentarily why I had called in the first place.
“She’s my mum’s friend who I completely forgot about! She works for the Humanities and Cultures department at Manchester, she said that she’ll give her a call and see if Nancy can have a look into when their admissions are being released for their department! Just so you have an idea when you’ll get your acceptance!”
“No, don’t let her do that!” I said a bit quicker than I should have. I felt the colour drain from my face as I imagined Selena finding out from some random woman that their admissions had been released over a month ago and I hadn’t even been put on their reserve list.
“Harry, it’s really no bother at all! Then you can stop worrying!” Selena said, completely misreading my reluctance.
“Not really fair though is it, honestly, I’m not worried, please don’t…” I said, trying to inject an air of confidence into my voice, “It will ruin the surprise when it comes through!” I added. Well at least it wasn’t a complete lie, I would genuinely be extremely surprised if an offer came through. This new extension to the lie meant that I definitely couldn’t tell her the truth right now as I had intended though.
“If you’re sure?” She conceded finally. I let out a silent sigh of relief as I heard her lay back onto her bed, “You guys ready for the showcase next week?” I welcomed the change of subject with a smile.
I had been writing new songs non-stop since New Year’s Eve. They had all been about her of course, but I was excited for her to finally hear the three that we had chosen for the showcase. I had been shooing her away whenever she had tried to see what I was doing but she didn’t know it was because I was writing about her. I settled back into the couch, happy to talk about something that I didn't have to lie about for a while. I would tell her eventually, the right time would come, but now just wasn't it.