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Disclaimer: In case it is not clearly stated in the narrative, everyone in this chapter engaging in anything approaching or including sexual activity is at least 18 years of age. (Although this particular chapter hasn’t gotten around to any actual sex yet. Be patient.)
Note: This is written in British/South African English, although almost all similar media I consume is American, so that will have its influence too. For the sake of keeping the note short, I’ll post a comment to explain my use of language and obscure terms, if anyone asks or I think of something in particular.
* * * * *
Eric closed the door of his bedroom, and then led us further into the depths of the house. I couldn’t even say whether there were more doors than there were in the other corridors, or fewer, or indeed details like whether they were open or not. At that point, if Eric had quickly slipped around a pillar, I probably would have walked right into it. I’d only had a few drinks at that point — the pre-drinks and a couple of beers — but it was enough to turn off that voice in my head that worried about if the way I was standing at a party was weird, or if that thing I had said five minutes ago made people think I was awful.
Unfortunately, that voice also seemed to be the one that always told me to not form crushes on cute guys. So while I wasn’t drunk, I was following him in a complete daze that I hadn’t quite managed to protect myself from falling into. I only managed to partially snap out of it when we reached a set of stairs, and he began to lead the way up — but having his ass at eye-level wasn’t exactly helpful, and neither was watching the way his jeans pulled taut against his thighs and calves as he climbed the stairs.
We made our way out to a balcony once we’d reached the top of the stairs, and I knew we’d entered the lair of the ‘cool kids’ Eric had talked about. Three of them looked as if they’d been dressed for the party, but two of the guys there were just in T-shirts and jeans, like Eric, and a girl with red hair was wearing a beachy blue dress. They all sat around on a mishmash of outdoor furniture, including some fold-out fabric camping chairs.
“Finally! How long does it take to get one stupid bottle of gin?” The girl who was dressed for the party — a tall girl with tight blonde curls, wearing a black cocktail dress — snapped her fingers at Eric, and held out her hand.
Eric, smiling, handed her the bottle. She grinned back.
“You can always go party downstairs, Jess.”
“With the Bible-bashers? No thanks.” She turned to look appraisingly at me.
“This is Jay.” Eric grinned, clapping me on the shoulder. “He goes to school with Caitlyn. At Elohim.”
“Oh,” She looked vaguely embarrassed, and gave me a small smile and a shrug. “Sorry.”
“Hey Jay.” One of the t-shirt guys shifted in his camp chair. It was Louis, much to my surprise. It was very strange, seeing him outside of AP maths. I’d been half convinced he didn’t exist outside of those classes. He looked very different, lounging casually with his friends, a drink in his hand. He could have been someone else completely.
“Hey, Louis!” It suddenly occurred to me that Eric was still practically a stranger — he’d rescued me from a garage, I’d helped him get a box to his room, and then I’d been following him around since in a lustful daze. That was the extent of our relationship, which made me feel a bit strange for just casually agreeing to follow him to a secluded part of his house. Knowing someone else here was helpful, and Louis seemed nice. It grounded me, reminded me that all this was real, and I resolved to not get too carried away about the whole Eric thing.
“Oh right, you go there for that course.” Eric nodded at Louis. “Everyone, this is Jay. Caitlyn’s arch-nemesis.”
“I thought YOU were her arch-nemesis.” The red-headed girl sitting next to Louis said in a rich, low voice.
“I am. We’re joining forces.” Eric put his hand on my shoulder, and then began pointing them out, starting with the red-headed girl, while everyone offered a small wave as they were introduced. “That’s Melissa, this is Jessica, you know Louis, that’s Frank — don’t call him Francis, unless you want to,” Frank rolled his eyes. “That’s Jared and… sorry, who are you again?” He said pointing at the last guy.
“Vince.” The other guy in a t-shirt leaned forward to shake my hand. “Eric’s oldest friend. He’s usually nicer to me, because I know all his secrets.”
“I have no secrets.” Eric scoffed.
“He wet the bed until he was thirteen.” Vince said with a deadpan face.
“That’s not a secret.” Louis laughed.
“Jay didn’t know.” Vince shrugged, grinning slightly.
“I’d kind of assumed.” I said, before I could think better of it.
I do that a lot. Probably more after a few drinks, although I was still evaluating that. If I think of a joke, I tend to blurt it out. Sometimes it doesn’t land well, which would probably be mortifying enough to make me flee most parties. But this time, it was pretty well-received. A few of them laughed, and güvenilir canlı bahis siteleri Vince clapped. Eric gave me a wry grin.
“Brilliant.” Vince said. “Somebody get this guy a drink.”
“On it,” Jessica shouted over her shoulder, at the drinks table.
“I just want to be clear, because these guys fuck around,” Eric gripped my shoulder. “I absolutely did not wet the bed. It was a prank these assholes pulled.”
“Suuuure.” Vincent said playfully.
“I know. I’m sorry. I was just trying to fit in.” I grimaced.
“That’s adorable.” Melissa chuckled. “Come sit with me and Louis. We’re the nice ones.”
“You stabbed me with a pencil when we were nine.” Vince said indignantly.
“Allegedly.” She looked at me and patted the empty chair between her and Louis. “Come Jay, sit.”
Eric went to the drinks table to join Jess, and I obediently sat down next to Melissa. The group carried on talking about whatever they had been talking about before we arrived, which I found a bit hard to follow, having missed half the context. Louis gave me an encouraging grin. I glanced over at Eric as I sat down, and saw Jessica lean over and whisper something to him. He shrugged in response. I looked away as he grabbed two drinks, and made his way over. He sat down next to Melissa and handed me mine — a gin and tonic. It seemed to be what they were all drinking, except for Jared and Frank, who had beers. I sipped on it gratefully, happy to have something to do with my hands.
“How’s Caitlyn’s Eighteenth going?” Melissa asked Eric.
“Garbage. Mine was way better.”
“Yeah,” Melissa scoffed. “She only has like, what, twenty times as many people here as you did?”
“Exactly. So my party had way more fun per capita.”
They all laughed, and I tried to join in and not seem awkward.
“So you’re eighteen?” I asked him.
“Yes, officer, I’m allowed to be drinking.” Eric scoffed. “Mel, Vince and I are the grown-ups here. Lou and Jess are still babies. Arrest them!”
I laughed, and Louis rolled his eyes. I wondered about Frank and Jared, but I didn’t really want to ask. I knew Louis was in my year, I’d figured they were all in the same year as well — friendships across age groups were basically mythical in high school. Even the loneliest people didn’t want to slum it and be the loser whose friends were all younger than them. Sometimes girls would date guys older than them, so maybe that explained Frank not being included, at least.
“You forgot about John.” Melissa commented.
“Oh. Right. Where is John?” Eric asked.
“Oh, he’s off hitting on one of the-” She paused, glancing at me. “Elohim kids.”
“Bible-bashers?” I suggested.
“Oh, hey,” Melissa said delicately. “I get that your faith is a personal-“
“I’m an atheist.” I said, raising an eyebrow.
“OH. Well okay then.” She grinned, and winked at me before turning back to Eric. “Well in that case, John is off chasing some Jesus-floozy.”
“Sensitive.” Louis said dryly.
“Thank you.” Melissa grinned widely at him.
“Do we know who it is?” Eric asked.
“Frank? Who’s the girl that John’s flirting with?”
“Oh, ummm… I don’t remember her name. Tara? Zara?”
“Sara?” I suggested.
“Probably.” Frank nodded. “She’s with a friend though, so he didn’t know if he was allowed to bring them up.”
“Melissa said he couldn’t.”
Eric turned to look at her.
“Hey, I was just being careful. Meeting new people sucks.” She glanced at me. “No offence.”
“Some taken.” I said. Louis and Melissa laughed, but Eric was weirdly serious.
“Jay, is Sara okay?” He asked. “And do we know who her friend is?”
That was a weird question. I mean, he’d brought me up here, and he pretty much only knew I didn’t like Caitlyn and that I snooped into other people’s garages. I don’t know what kind of character reference he was expecting from me, based on that.
“Oh, I don’t really… know Sara. I guess she’s okay? The friend was probably Ellie. She’s pretty nice. She’s my neighbour. Ellie’s the one that made me come here.”
“Is she your girlfriend?” Jessica asked, leaning forward for my answer.
“No, just friends,” I said quickly, trying not to be annoyed. “And neighbors.”
“Right.” Jessica said. “And are you seeing anyone?”
“I’m not.” I said.
Eric gave Jessica a weird look. At least I wasn’t alone in finding that odd. I felt like I was being interrogated about my love-life by a relative.
“YOU are though, and I’m sitting RIGHT here.” Frank said, with an exaggerated tone of hurt.
“They used to be so in love.” Melissa shook her head ruefully.
“Oh, calm down.” Jessica leaned over and kissed Frank on the forehead. “I’m just helping all of us get to know Jay. I don’t want to date him.”
“Well, now you’ve hurt his feelings.” Frank said. She rolled her eyes.
“Lay off, guys. Anyway, we’re getting off-topic.” Eric turned very seriously to me. “Are Ellie and Sara nice?”
“Ellie’s nice. She leant me a pen once.” güvenilir illegal bahis siteleri Louis commented.
“You have low standards.” Eric smirked. “Jay?”
“Yeah, Ellie’s great. I don’t know Sara well. She seems fine.”
“Fuck it, I’m bringing them up then.” Eric hopped up and headed inside. I wondered for a second if I should follow him, but concluded that it would be a weird thing to do. I quietly sipped on my drink instead.
“Was that… normal?” I asked Louis quietly.
“Oh, I like you.” Melissa laughed.
“Yeah…” Louis grinned wryly. “He’s just trying to find ways to be nice to John. Things have been… tense. Don’t worry about it.”
“Okay.” I settled back in my camp chair.
“It probably doesn’t matter how nice Sara is, anyway.” Melissa circled back to the topic. “She’s just going to be making out with John.”
“He does have a surprising amount of game.” Louis smiled.
“Is it surprising?” Frank wondered. “John’s not bad-looking.”
“Jay, if Frank leaves me for John, will you be my rebound guy?” Jess asked.
Everyone laughed. I was beginning to relax, and starting to really like them. No one I hung out with from school was like this — I had a group I just did schoolwork with, and a group I just played video games with. I didn’t have anyone I could just sit with and talk, and have a good time. Ignoring my developing crush on Eric seemed important, because I was falling in platonic love with his friends. I was still feeling a bit out of place, but the feeling was fading fast.
Most of what they talked about was just very light-hearted stuff. No one traded in bitchy, back-handed gossip about people from their school. They weren’t even going on about what I thought was generally a pretty benign topic — the horrible looming academic pressures of the year. Even Louis, who’d be facing all the same pressures as us, seemed to be completely at ease about everything that would be coming his way. It was incredibly refreshing.
Eventually Eric arrived, and with him was a guy who must be John, then definitely Sara and — as I predicted — Ellie.
“Jay! Louis!” Ellie came over and sat down in Melissa’s seat. She seemed slightly drunk, but still fairly sensible. Melissa was at the drinks table, and started talking to Sara while John poured them drinks. Eric came over to us, and grabbed my empty glass. I’d been sipping compulsively, and had gone through it quite quickly.
“Another drink?” he asked me.
“Can I have just lemonade or something?” she said, batting her eyelashes.
“I’d like a drink too, Eric.” Louis gave him a cheeky smile, waving his empty glass.
“Fine, fine.” Eric snatched Louis’ glass, and went back to the drinks table to pour.
“Eric’s so nice.” Ellie tapped my arm. “Hard to believe he’s related to Caitlyn.”
“Yikes. ‘Related’,” Louis chuckled, “Do NOT say that to his face.”
Ellie laughed and shrugged.
“I should go help Eric carry the drinks back,” Louis got up and left us.
“I’ve been drinking too much.” Ellie leaned in conspiratorially. “But there was nothing else to do. She’s just been talking to him all night.”
“I’ve been bored too. And worse.” I suddenly remembered getting stuck in the garage. It felt like it had been ages since. “I did actually message you.”
“You did?” She pulled out her phone. “Oh, sorry. What happened?”
“I got trapped in the garage. But it’s fine, I was rescued and then brought here.”
“Ooh, an adventure.”
“Yeah, it was thrilling. Shelves of boxes and a ladder that could have killed me if I tried to use it. Real Indiana Jones stuff.”
Eric came over and handed me my drink, and sat down next to me, in Louis’s seat. Louis handed Ellie her drink and sat down on her other side.
The four of us drank and chatted, sometimes joining the conversation of the larger group, sometimes breaking down into smaller, private conversations. Jess had settled on Frank’s lap, playing with his hair, generally just doing the ‘adorable couple’ thing. John and Sara were leaning against the wall, talking quietly, touching each other’s arms and hair, smiling slightly — putting out the general impression of people about to kiss at any moment. Jared got up to smoke, to everyone’s disgust, and was banished to the far end of the balcony to do so.
Maybe I’d had too many gins at that point, but I’d kind of begun to perceive the night as some sort of elaborate live-action recreation of a renaissance painting. Ellie’s outflung arms, Eric’s cool gaze, Louis’ pensive thoughtfulness, Melissa’s hearty smile. Jess and Frank’s easy intimacy in stark contrast to Sara and John’s building heat. Jared’s exile. Vince’s capering antics. It all felt so perfect, and a little surreal. Ellie and I ended up alone again, and I began to feel that I was kind of getting to a point where I’d had too much to drink. Ellie looked around at the group and sighed.
“I feel like such a yokel.” She said, “They’re so cool.”
“I güvenilir bahis şirketleri feel like this around everyone.” I chuckled quietly, and she narrowed her eyes. “What? It’s true. But I do know what you mean. They’re so relaxed, and easy-going.”
“I know!” She said, a bit loudly, and then moderated her tone. “And they’re so nice. What the hell is wrong with our school that everyone’s so uptight and bitchy?”
“It’s not their fault. Most of them have all grown up together. They just don’t know how to make new friends.” Which was relatable, really. “Plus, I think we’re all a bit more stressed out than these guys.”
“Yeah, I guess. I feel like I went to the wrong school. Anyway, new subject. What am I going to do about Sara?”
“What about her?” I looked over at Sara, who was still happily gazing into John’s eyes.
“She told me I have to look after her tonight. Couldn’t leave her alone with this guy. But now they’re doing… THAT.”
“Yeah, tricky.” I said, without much sympathy. “You could just let her do what she wants. She looks happy.”
“Maybe.” Ellie didn’t seem convinced. “What if she wants to go home with him?”
“Then let her?”
“Ugh, you’re not taking this seriously.”
“Not really, no.”
“When did you, of all people, get so easy-going?”
I just shrugged. I was saved from having to come up with a response for that, by the arrival of Eric.
“Hey, we’re going to walk down to that place at Marine circle and get ice-cream.” He looked over at Ellie. “Sara’s coming.”
“Oh, then I have to.” Ellie hopped up.
“Yeah, that sounds fun.” Ridiculously wholesome, actually. The sort of thing other people I hang out with might deride as lame or pointless, as if it was totally mad to want ice-cream.
Frank and Jess were just going to say goodbye to people at the party and then go home, and Jared was getting a ride with them or something, so they all went off together. Jess gave Eric a tight hug and whispered something in his ear, and then the three of them set off. The rest of us left the house, managing to avoid Caitlyn’s guests thanks to a handy detour, and were soon on the street heading towards Marine circle. It was a fairly touristy part of our suburb, that was so brightly lit you could always point your way to it at night.
It was a downhill route, so we got there pretty quickly. The main road was brightly lit, and the side-walks were wide and well-maintained. I’d come down this way many times. Once or twice alone at night, although never quite this late. It was nearly 1AM. Once you got on the road you could smell the salt of the sea, and hear the roar of the waves. We talked a bit on the way, but you could only really talk to the person next to you. I ended up next to Louis, and we chatted pleasantly about upcoming tests, university plans, and shared interests. Lord of the Rings came up. It was a pretty cool conversation.
I think whoever came up with the idea had thought that the ice-cream place would still be open at 1AM, but eventually we figured out that we were going to just have to get pre-packaged ice-creams at the convenience store. Melissa was the only one seriously disappointed, and she perked up when she found something she liked in the freezer.
Almost everyone was done paying by the time I had decided on something, since I was trying to pick the ice-cream that I was least likely to mess on my shirt, because if I could still make an idiot of myself, I probably would. Eric had somehow still taken longer than me — maybe I’d gotten in his way or something — so he was waiting behind me at the counter when I was handing over my card to the cashier, and the lights in the building blacked out for a few seconds, and then flickered back to life.
“Oh crap.” The cashier thumped the card machine on the counter. He was a gangly guy with long, greasy hair, only a few years older than us, and he looked exhausted. “This is going to take a few minutes. This card machine is old, so when the power does that it has to reboot.”
“Why DOES the power do that?” Eric asked over my shoulder.
“This building. It’s like a billion years old.” The cashier said.
Eric nodded sympathetically. He turned around.
“Guys,” Eric said. “Jay and I have to wait for the card machine to come back online. Why don’t you head down to the beach and find where we’re sitting, and we’ll come and join you.”
There were murmurs of assent, and they all filed outside. Ellie gave me a slightly paranoid look before she went out, but she was back on duty, ‘looking after’ Sara, so she followed them pretty quickly.
We waited a few minutes, and then the lights flickered again.
“Well that can’t be good. I hope nothing’s wrong.” The cashier looked down at the card machine. “Sorry guys, it’s rebooting again.”
“Is the till still working?” Eric asked. “Can we just pay with cash?”
“Yeah, that should be fine.” The cashier said.
“I don’t have cash on me. I’d have to go to the ATM.”
“Hey, it’s fine. I have plenty.” Eric stepped up to the counter. “Just ring this up with his.”
The cashier handed back my card and rung up both ice-creams again, and Eric handed over some money. We were probably out of there faster than if we’d had to pay by card anyway. I don’t know if there’d even been a point to sending everyone off ahead of us.
Ben Esra telefonda seni bosaltmami ister misin?
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