Authors: Liz Kessler
Where’s your best friend when you need her?
I mean, seriously.
It’s Saturday night, and here I am in Luke’s front room with his sister, Zoe, and a bunch of his mates, listening to a rock band blaring about how we’re all going to die and watching a couple of lads do something that I think is meant to be dancing but looks more like they’re being slowly electrocuted.
Oh, and did I mention? It’s my birthday. Mum said I could have a few friends over if I wanted to, but it turned out Luke’s parents were going away for the weekend, so he offered to throw me a party at his house.
I keep glancing at a couple in the corner who seem to be the only ones having a good time. Their arms and legs are wrapped around each other as tight as rope. They haven’t come up for air once since I’ve been here. Not that I’m jealous. Not that I’m wondering how nice it might be to have someone desperate for that much of
My phone beeps in my pocket, and I pull it out. It’s a Snapchat notification. I open the link. It’s a selfie of Cat and her mum, both holding up bottles of San Miguel and grinning at the camera. The text across the photo reads,
Happy birthday, mate — wish I was with you!
Two seconds later, my phone beeps again. Another Snapchat. This one’s a picture of a tall, dark, handsome, presumably Spanish waiter carrying a tray of drinks. The text across the picture reads,
On second thought, quite glad we’re here!
I can’t help smiling. Cat always manages to do that. It’s why she’s my best friend, I guess. Even when she’s not here, she knows I’m going to need cheering up — and she knows how to do it. At least, she knows one way. Try to sit her down and discuss feelings with her, and she’ll run for the hills, but give her any crappy situation and she’ll find a way to get you to laugh your way out of it.
And she wouldn’t thank me for saying this, as it might cramp her style, but she’s not here so I’ll say it anyway: she’s one of the most caring, thoughtful people I know.
Take this weekend. Yeah, it’s my birthday and everything, but it’s also the anniversary of her mum and dad’s divorce. He left years ago, and Cat is cool with it, but her mum, Jean, always needs cheering up, and Cat remembers that kind of thing without having to be told. So you know what she did? She worked extra shifts at her Saturday job for months, then bought tickets for a weekend break in Magaluf for the pair of them — her and Jean. That’s the kind of thing she does.
And I love her for that. I do, really. But it does leave me standing on my own, fiddling with the top of a can of Diet Coke and wondering if it’s rude to be the first person to leave your own birthday party.
I’m on the verge of sinking back into some self-indulgent wallowing when this boy strolls out of the kitchen. . . .
Super-skinny jeans with white Calvin Kleins sticking out the top, black sneakers, a kind of surfy-type T-shirt, messy dark hair that might have taken an hour to fix or could have been like that since he rolled out of bed, deep, intense brown eyes that scan the room as though he’s searching for someone. Then he spots me and comes over.
“Is that Corsa yours?” he says. “It’s blocking me in, and I need to nip to the grocery store for some supplies.”
OK, so, no, it’s not the most romantic chat-up line in the world. But given the standard of the evening’s highlights so far, it’s good enough for me.
“It’s my mum’s, actually.” I smile up at him. “She’s lent it to me for the night.”
For a second, I bask in the idea of myself as a mature, responsible person. Someone who can drive herself to a party. I mean, sure, we only live two blocks away. And, yeah, Mum had to sit in the passenger seat when I drove. And, OK, Luke had to promise to sit with me when I drive home. But, still. It’s the principle. The fact that I can.
The boy is kind of nodding slowly, then there’s this long pause. Is he shy? I’m about to ask what kind of car he’s got, just to keep the conversation going, when I suddenly realize what he’s said. It wasn’t a chat-up line at all.
“Oh! Wait! You want me to move it! I’ll get my keys.”
My cheeks burning up, I go in search of Luke and move the car.
Let me tell you a bit about Luke. He’s one of the good guys. You know the type. Wears nice clothes — not the trendiest ever, but not geeky or scruffy. Helps old ladies across roads. Does his homework on time. Gets along with people’s parents. Has lovely blue eyes that crinkle and shine when he smiles — which he does a lot — and light brown hair, parted neatly.
He’s what my nan used to call well groomed, but not so much that he comes across as vain. I’d probably fancy him if I hadn’t grown up thinking of him practically as a brother. I’ve known him forever. We were at nursery school together and have hung out together pretty much ever since.
For the past year or so, he’s been extra nice to me because he fancies Cat and he figures if he keeps in with me, then one day she’ll realize what a good guy he is and go out with him. Unfortunately, Cat only likes boys who are unavailable or who treat her badly. Luke thinks he can save her from all that. He’s always asking me to put in a good word for him. He hasn’t realized that she doesn’t like good words. Maybe if I tell her he’s an absolute bastard, then she’ll notice him.
Who knows? Even I can’t figure Cat out sometimes.
So, a bit more about Cat. Her real name is Catherine, but the only people who call her that are teachers, doctors, and me, occasionally, if I’m trying to annoy her, since she
it. She’s small, mischievous, somewhat feisty, and fiercely independent. She’s like, well, a cat.
I guess she’s what someone in a shop might call petite, except that sounds a bit too prissy for her. Plus she never shops in the kind of places that have a petite section. She buys
her clothes from thrift shops, and the wackier the better. Her favorite outfit at the moment is a pair of jeans that are so ripped you can see more skin than denim, a pair of yellow Doc Martens, and pretty much anything on top as long as it’s tight enough to show off her figure and bright enough to make sure she gets noticed. She has crazy blond curly hair, bright-green cat eyes, a tattoo on her butt, amongst others, and piercings in her ears (four on each), nose (just one), mouth (two at the side), and left eyebrow.
Luke is not Cat’s type.
So that’s Luke and Cat. Now back to me.
I’ve moved the car and am scanning through Luke’s playlist looking for something to lift the party mood before we all sink into clinical depression. I pick out Zoe’s One Direction album. Luke’s mates won’t like it, but it’s better than their music-to-slit-your-wrists-to, and I think I have the right not to end up in a room full of dead people on my birthday.
“I got you a drink.” Calvin Klein is tapping me on the shoulder.
I give some careful thought to his words before replying. I know they’re not very complicated, but there’s no way I’m going to make the same mistake again.
“Here.” He smiles as he hands me a can of Coke.
I take the can without removing my eyes from his face: (a) to check that he’s not messing with me, and (b) because he’s totally gorgeous and I’m not sure how to get my eyes to move away of their own accord.
“I owed you one. It was a bit mean, making you move your car like that. On your birthday and everything.”
“It’s fine. Nothing. It’s OK.” Smooth, Ashleigh. Turn into a tongue-tied idiot the minute a half-decent boy talks to you.
Actually, wait a second. I’d better get something straight here, just in case I’m giving the wrong impression. I’m not one of those brain-dead bimbos who talks about boys and makeup all the time. For one thing, I hardly ever wear makeup, and for another, boys are, well, they’re OK, but they’re not everything. As soon as I start going out with someone, I seem to lose interest in them. Most of the boys at school are losers of one variety or another. I think they all take secret lessons in how to become utter morons when they turn fifteen or sixteen. Sometimes I think we’d be better off without them.