Chapter Twenty: Problems
“So, Matthew,” said _____ as she stepped beside Matthew, who was preparing dinner in the kitchen. “Why are you in a house with girls? I thought Alfie said that they never put different genders in the same dorms.”
“They don’t,” he replied. “They just forgot to put me into a house until it was too late.”
“Ouch.” She shrugged and began mixing a bowl of ingredients after receiving Matthew’s okay. “Well, that’s happened to me a few times, too.”
“Yes, but with me, it happens all the time.”
“Really? You gotta be exaggerating at least a little.”
“No,” he sighed. “Everyone forgets about me. No matter how hard I try to stand out, I always fall short.”
_____ stopped mixing and stared at Matthew, taking in his saddened features. “Now who could overlook a face like this?” She lifted his chin with her index finger. She saw a smile creep onto his lips, and she smiled back. “I could never forget a sweetie like you,” she said, kissing him lightly on the cheek. When she drew back, she had to hold in her laughter at Matthew’s reddening face. The Canadian darted his eyes down to the floor and nervously twirled the spatula in his hands.
“T-Thank you, _____,” he said in his usual quiet tone. After a brief moment of bashfulness, a look of pure joy spread across his face. “Thank you, _____. It’s not a nice world when nobody remembers you. And when someone does recognize me, it makes me so happy.”
_____ smiled and patted his head. “You’re welcome, Mattie. . .Can I call you Mattie?”
“So, Mattie,” she said as she began to mix again, “How long until supper’s ready?”
“Oh, about twenty minutes.”
The four sat at the dinner table in silence, the only noises being the clanking of the silverware against the plates. _____ accidentally bit down on her fork, but kept quiet. She bit her lip, and decided to break the awkward silence. “So, how old are you guys, anyway?”
The other three lifted their heads from their plates. Natalia was the first to answer, saying curtly, “Nineteen,” before going back to her food.
“Well, actually,” replied Matthew, “today’s my birthday.”
“Really? How old are you?”
“I’m nineteen today.”
_____ smiled. “Well, happy birthday, Mattie. And many more.” She patted his head, causing him to smile.
“I’m twenty-two,” said Yekaterina. “How old are you, _____?”
“Wow! You’re so young!”
_____ grinned and rubbed the back of her head. “Thanks, Yekaterina. Uh, can I call you Kat for short?”
Yekaterina smiled. “Of course.”
_____ glanced over at Yekaterina’s plate; the food was cleverly cut and shredded with the woman’s fork to make it look as though it had been eaten. She shrugged and dismissed it as Yekaterina not being hungry.
That night, after saying goodnight to everyone (and wishing Matthew a happy birthday for umpteenth time), _____ crawled into bed and turned out the lamp. She lay there trying to go to sleep for thirty minutes, but to no avail. After almost an hour, she turned the lamp back on and sat up, sighing.
“Something’s missing,” she said to herself. She thought for a moment at what it could have been, then her hand started to wander to the empty side of her bed. She looked at the still made-up half of the bed and smiled sadly. “Oh, yeah. Feli’s not sleeping with me.”
She sighed and got out of bed. She walked out the door into the hallway, wandering around the darkened second floor quietly as everyone slept. She passed a closed door, then stopped when she heard an unusual sound coming from behind it. She looked at the door and decided to listen closer, putting her ear up to the door. She immediately heard the sound of retching echo through that certain room and through the door. She pursed her lips, holding up her fist and slowly knocking on the door.
“Hey. Are you okay?”
_____ heard a gasp and a few rattling sounds before the door was cracked open. Two dark turquoise eyes shone through the dim light. “Y-Yes, _____?”
“Are you okay, Kat? Were you throwing up?”
“Ah.” Yekaterina shrunk back behind the door, which caused _____ to gather up her courage enough to burst through the door. She stopped when she spotted fresh vomit in the toilet, then she turned to Yekaterina and saw that her right index and middle fingers were covered in saliva.
“Kat,” she muttered, suddenly finding herself speechless.
Yekaterina now looked terrified. She stepped back until she reached the wall, then she slid down and sat huddled up on the floor. Tears welled up in her eyes.
“Kat.” _____ knelt down next to her, resting her hands gently on the woman’s shoulders. “Kat, why?”
Yekaterina whimpered as the tears began to fall down her cheeks. “Because. . .I’m ugly. And fat. And stupid. And worthless. . .”
“Where the hell would you get that from?” said _____, almost repulsed. “You’re gorgeous and smart and so full of worth! Whatever made you think otherwise?!”
She covered her face. “Na-Natalia tells me all the time. . . ! She thinks I’m worthless and ugly and hopeless. . .!”
_____ sighed softly, and she sat down by Yekaterina and put her arm around her shoulder as she cried. She rubbed the young woman’s shoulder and back as they spasmed from her sobs. When she was finally done crying, _____ smiled sadly. “Hey, Kat. I got a riddle for you.”
Yekaterina wiped her eyes. “What?”
“What is utterly amazing and beautiful and awesome and says ‘ow’?”
“Um, I don’t kno––” The Ukrainian was interrupted when _____ suddenly pinched her arm. “Ow!” she exclaimed, then smiled. “Thank you, _____.”
She hugged the young woman. “You’re welcome.”
_____ hopped out of bed at 10:45 the next morning, walking downstairs to the kitchen. Before she could enter the kitchen, however, she caught sight of Natalia sitting in the living room. She furrowed her brows and walked toward her. “Natalia,” she called.
The Belarusian turned to look at her, her usual glare clear on her face.
_____ sighed. “You’ve been treating your sister like crap.”
“What are you talking about, dziaŭčyna? I don’t treat the woman like ‘crap’.”
“Really? Then why did she break down crying to me last night about how you were saying that she’s stupid and fat and ugly?”
Natalia didn’t answer, only staring blankly at _____.
“Do you know how freaking gullible your sister is? She will literally believe everything you tell her. And you haven’t exactly been telling her all these wonderful things.”
Natalia grunted. “So what? She’s a big girl. She can handle it.”
_____ sighed, sitting down on the couch beside her. “Natalia. . .I think your sister’s bulimic. And I think. . .you caused it.”
Although it was barely visible, Natalia’s jaw dropped. She remained quiet.
“So. . .I’m asking you––no, begging you. . .please, treat your sister better. Be kinder to her. . .Okay?”
A long moment of silence followed, then slowly, Natalia nodded.
_____ sighed, muttering, “Okay,” and going to the kitchen.