Patrick slumped down into his chair, his legs spread, feet planted firmly on the carpet. He looked to everyone else to be a picture of casual disinterest.
He was still and silent for a moment, his dark hair hanging freely down his forehead and across his eyes. Then he moved sharply as he took in a deep breath, and let it out in a long, steady sigh.
Richard considered himself to have spent too much time with Patrick. So much, in fact, that he had run out of patience for the other man. They were in the same classes, they worked the same job (although Richard had started to avoid working the same shifts that Patrick did), and they had the same circle of friends. He knew what Patrick’s dramatic sigh meant.
‘What is it?’ he asked, fully aware that Patrick was going to tell him regardless of whether or not he demonstrated an interest in finding out what the matter was.
‘Oh, man,’ Patrick said, in a drawn-out voice that implied he had all the time in the world to explain his problems, ‘it’s this course, man. There’s so much to do. I never get any time to prepare anymore. I’m so busy, man.’
Richard picked at the corner of the assignment he had completed a couple of nights ago and spent long hours checking and rechecking until his stress levels had hit the roof.
‘Didn’t you get chance to work on it last night?’ Richard asked. He knew that Patrick hadn’t been at work, because he’d been there and none of the customers had complained once.
‘Nah. Was at the pub ’til one.’
Richard stared at Patrick, who showed no sign that he considered this action irresponsible.
‘Weren’t you at the pub the night before, too? And the night before that?’
Patrick shifted his weight around, pushing himself a little higher in his chair. ‘Yeah, man,’ he said, ‘but you can’t blame me. I need some time to relax and have fun.’
‘You could’ve done that after you finished the assignment,’ Richard pointed out. He watched as Patrick’s eyes flicked down to the completed assignment between his fingers, and sighed.
He wanted to say no, you should’ve done your own assignment. Deal with it. Face the consequences.
Patrick pushed himself up until his back was straight and he was seated properly. He leaned towards Richard and the assignment which his attention was now solely focused on.
Richard closed his eyes for a moment as he accepted the inevitable.
‘Fine,’ he said, slipping the assignment across the desk to Patrick. ‘But this is the last time, I swear. And don’t just copy it word-for-word this time.’
Patrick snatched the assignment off the desk, his hand moving fast enough to be a blur. ‘Thanks, man,’ he said.
Richard folded his arms across his chest and watched as Patrick copied down the assignment onto his own sheet of paper.
‘Hey, look,’ he said, once Patrick had finished and he had handed Richard’s assignment back, ‘isn’t that Millie? The girl you were talking to last week?’
Patrick, ever predictable, spun around to look for his latest crush. His back turned, Richard took his assignment off the desk and slipped it back into his bag, retrieving the real – and correct – assignment he had kept out of sight.
Patrick would learn, he was certain of that.