The two women sat with their feet dangling in the water over the edge of a wooden bridge. The little stream remained a surprisingly clean fixture of the abandoned, overgrown garden, the water supporting ducks and all manner of local fish. The cries of birds signalled the coming of the early morning a bit more clearly than the slowly emerging sun for the two women, both fighting hangovers from the night before. It was particularly sharp for Maddie, fighting the tougher of the two headaches as her tooth-baring grimace attested. Putting her feet in the cold water provided some sort of relief and very definite contrast to the squeezing warmth in her head.
She didn’t really know the other woman too well, not being someone she’d normally hang out with, but out there in the dark, there was no way she was risking herself by going out alone. Being drunk made her way friendlier anyway… Maddie squeezed the bridge of her nose as if it was going to relieve her pain. No way am I giving into peer pressure again… Perhaps the vodka hadn’t been a good idea. It was a bit too late to complain about whatever she was doing the night before, but it didn’t make Maddie curse them any less.
The silence between the two women broke. “You’re Matthew’s friend, right?” Thembeka, the other woman, asked.
“Yeah,” Maddie answered, “and nothing more, no matter what people will tell you.”
“I wasn’t accusing you of anything,” Thembeka assured her, no small amount of scrutiny in her mind nonetheless. She sat looking at Maddie with a cocked eyebrow. The two women could scarcely look any different: Maddie’s light hair was dishevelled and standing about in all directions while Thembeka’s sat in neat, dark braids, their skin tones in turn matching the colour of their hair. Maddie followed the other woman’s eyes and set about putting her normally straight hair down as Thembeka looked at it amusedly.
Maddie sighed before voicing her concerns. “I probably look awful.” She stood up, still clutching her head, and only then realising her feet were still in the water.
“You look alright.” Thembeka chuckled. “Those boys last night thought a bit better of you.”
“Oh, them…” Maddie said, remembering what she’d come to know as inevitable late-night heckling. No matter whose party you ended up at, there were entitled arseholes trying to chat you up. “Derrick, Wyatt, Brett…”
“Wyatt and Derrick are typical entitled white boys,” Thembeka said, tipping her head as if to dismiss them mentally. Maddie decided to ignore that comment, the slight distaste on her face enough to tip off Thembeka. “I mean, if that’s your thing, then sure.”
“I’m not interested in boys… like that… like them,” Maddie said. She continued to tug on her hair and it refused to stay down. “Wait, you didn’t say anything about Brett.”
“Yeah… He’s a freak.”