“You can sleep here,” Claudia said to her cousin, who was standing uncertainly in the doorway.
“I’m going to crash with my flat-mate, Margrite.”
“I don’t want to kick you out of your room,” Michael protested.
“Well, would you rather sleep with Margrite?” she teased and a dark blush rose beneath his tan.
“It’s just... I could... well I could stay in a youth hostel or something,” he mumbled.
“Don’t worry about it. Hostels are ridiculously over priced and Margrite and I are fine. Really, she doesn’t mind at all.”
Claudia didn’t add that this would not be the first time she had shared her friend’s bed. There were topics and ambiguities she was not ready to discuss, not with him, not with anyone. But swallowing words made her feel heavy and she felt a prick of resentment towards him, as if he were responsible for her lack of honesty.
That night she lay down beside Margrite and nestled into the arms that encircled her. She could feel the heat of Margrite’s skin pressing against her back.
“I was really looking forward to Michael coming here,” she said as a hand began caressing her back. “But he just makes me feel uncomfortable and self-conscious.”
Margrite didn’t say anything, but her warm hand traced lines on Claudia’s back, like she was writing in invisible ink.
“I wanted Michael to be happy for me here, but I find myself keeping things from him, lying to him, hiding my cigarettes, hiding you...” Claudia spoke in a low voice in case her cousin could hear through the thin walls.
“Why do you need to impress him so much?” Margrite asked gently. “What does it matter what he thinks?”
“You’re right,” said Claudia, rolling away from the caressing hand. “It shouldn’t matter what he thinks. This is my life and I have nothing to be ashamed of.”