All Nonfiction Bullying Books Academic Author Interviews Celebrity interviews College Articles College Essays Educator of the Year Heroes Interviews Memoir Personal Experience Sports Travel & CultureAll Opinions Bullying Current Events / Politics Discrimination Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking Entertainment / Celebrities Environment Love / Relationships Movies / Music / TV Pop Culture / Trends School / College Social Issues / Civics Spirituality / Religion Sports / Hobbies
- Summer Guide
- College Guide
- Author Interviews
- Celebrity interviews
- College Articles
- College Essays
- Educator of the Year
- Personal Experience
- Travel & Culture
- Current Events / Politics
- Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking
- Entertainment / Celebrities
- Love / Relationships
- Movies / Music / TV
- Pop Culture / Trends
- School / College
- Social Issues / Civics
- Spirituality / Religion
- Sports / Hobbies
- Community Service
- Letters to the Editor
- Pride & Prejudice
- What Matters
I sat on my padded velvet stool, brushing my waist-length blonde hair and counting the freckles on my nose. They were scattered across, but only on my nose. I could live with that, I supposed. I sighed. The teachers at school were really firm about long hair being tied back. I thought of my best friend Summer’s tawny bouncy bunch. I wanted a new style. But I had too much hair for a simple bunch. It wasn’t just long...it was awfully thick for straight hair. My Mum had been trying to persuade me to get a hair- cut for ages, seriously, since the dawn of time. Imagine if she really had been saying it since the dawn of time: this dinosaur would be about to gobble her up and she’d say: ‘If you’ll just let me postpone this for a bit...I have to get my daughter a hair-cut, pronto! Honestly, no consideration at all...’ But that would be ridiculous, right? Dinosaurs meant no humans and humans meant no dinosaurs, besides, there was no way my Mum could live that long (sorry to disappoint, Mum). What was the record, again? I had my old Guinness book of Records stashed somewhere... Anyway, what the hell was I doing droning on about dinosaurs and age records? I had lip gloss to slick on, mascara to dilute the light brown lashes that framed my chocolate eyes. I’d just have to plait my hair like always; still, at least my face wouldn’t appear quite as little-girly as my hairstyle. I knew all this effort was daft because my secret crush Steve was...well, the thing was...Steve was my best friend’s boyfriend. There, I’d said it. That’s why it was a secret. Still, most crushes were secret, weren’t they? It was so...so jade green to see them all...all mushy together every day of my school life...and aside from my crush on Steve was my annoyance. Not because he was dating my best friend instead of me but because I felt like he was trying to steal her from me. She was mine. She was my best friend. He was hers. He was her boyfriend. When we were alone together all she did was gush on about how lush Steve was...like I didn’t already know. But I was very careful not to sigh ‘yes, he is...’ too enthusiastically or dreamily in case she put two and two together. There can only be two in a relationship, and I should have just dropped my crush right there and then...I could have prevented the whole fiasco. But well...I was naive and stupid to think I could carry on watching him from a distance...craving for him while my best friend had the wool pulled over her eyes. When I was in their presence I’d lock eyes with Steve and then blush, glance down at my boring black school shoes like they had a hope in hell of coming close to my interest in Steve. I hadn’t told anybody about my crush at home, either. My Dad...no way. My brother Craig, who was sixteen, would tease me mercilessly and drop in tantalising hints whenever Summer was round. Not even my Mum, who I was close to. I was far too embarrassed and guilty. My Mum was quirky, fun, cool, but she’d only tell me to be open and honest about my true feelings like her. I thought I might even try meditating. My Mum had meditated a lot when she was giving up smoking, said really calmed down her nerves like the ciggies used to...mind you, she still did. I didn’t want to be hung up forever. Imagine a frail old lady staying in the mirror and looking at her grey figure; she had never known the luxuries of a man...she sat at home with her pension and her Cadbury’s milk tray...whenever she spoke, all she seemed to say was ‘Steve...’. No. I shuddered. That wouldn’t happen to me. My Mum said that meditating was just a long term hobby, just in case. But I had hobbies, didn’t I? Fancying Steve...rollerblading with Summer (sigh...)...fancying Steve, my scrapbook, and, er, fancying Steve. My scrapbook was bursting with bits and bobs stashed over the years. My mini photo album condensing of a red and purple newborn me to a blonde teenage with aspirations and dreams and crushes (just one), my random, poor illustrations, my family, friends and my profiles, and my story about the golden-haired Princess who sat waiting at home for her lost Prince that never came. Oh, bummer. The Prince was going out with the Princess’s best friend, ouch, right? They say love is blind, but my eyes were wide open. It was Steve’s that wasn’t. The school bus arrived at eight twenty on the dot and it took ten minutes, leaving ten minutes of chatter before the bell rang for form.
‘I hope Steve isn’t late again; that’ll mean detention and we have a date tonight...’ Summer was saying.
‘Date?’ I raised my eyebrow.
‘Well, OK, it’s just down KFC but still,’ Summer whined.
‘Don’t worry, Sum, I’m sure he won’t be late,’ I reassured her mechanically. Summer had expressed doubts about Steve not getting detention almost every day since the start of the term after Easter. However, she got lucky today. Just as the shrill bell sounded he raced in, catching up with us as we made for the stairs to our form.
‘Alright, babe? Alright, Fliss?’ Steve greeted us casually.
‘Hi, Steve,’ We chorused together.
My name was short for Felicity – and I couldn’t stop a flutter of butterflies in my stomach when Steve used my nickname. God, I was lame. Only the teachers and my parents called me by my full name, for God’s sake. Steve narrowly missed detention for a different reason than punctuation – he had his tongue down Summer’s throat. I had looked away, feeling sick and worthless. I’d never had a gorgeous and cheeky boyfriend like Steve before and nothing was changing. I had kissed Kevin Parker last year at a party but as soon as I had realized he was a lout and a prat who only wanted me for one use I was well shot of him. Pig.
I couldn’t concentrate in History or Maths or P.E. Steve’s face kept popping into my mind at regular intervals – and in between. Steve had carefully gelled black hair had slicked onto his forehead, wavy at the ends. He had spiky hair at the back to complete the look, slanting hazel eyes, a button nose, plump lips and beautiful gold-brown skin. The image of his face had flashed up in my mind when the rounder’s ball was swung and hit me hard on the forehead, so I toppled onto the muddy grass, my vision slightly blurred and doubled. I was vaguely aware of shrieks and Summer and Steve running over and speaking anxiously.
‘Fliss, Fliss...are you alright? Oh my God, Fliss, you have to answer me...’ Summer was actually sobbing.
Through narrowed eyes I viewed the scene above me: a hysterical Summer and an apprehensive Steve was staring down at me. I focused on Steve’s face, and then shook my head. I wasn’t being fair on Summer.
I opened my eyes fully. ‘I’m fine, Summer.’
‘How do you feel?’ Summer and Stevie demanded in unison.
I felt my forehead. ‘Like I’ve just been smacked on the head by a hard ball...’
Summer snorted with laughter and looked relieved to see I was alright enough to joke. Just then the P.E. teacher ran over; she had been fetching another bat when the incident had happened. Moira, the one who had hit the ball at me and Summer and my deadly enemy, was with her. She had carefully arranged her face into a concerned mask, but her eyes, full of malice, gave her away.
‘Fliss, I am sooo sorry! I guess I didn’t see you, there,’ She shrugged.
‘Felicity, how do you feel?’ The P.E. teacher asked.
I sat up unsteadily and got to my feet. ‘My head’s a little sore, but I feel alright...I mean, I can remember everything so I’m pretty sure I don’t have concussion...’
I sounded so stupid I flushed, and Moira’s mouth curled up into a sneer worthy of first place any day.
‘You’d better go to the school nurse for an ice-pack and a check up, just in case. Summer, would you be a dear and accompany her?’
Summer bit her lip. ‘I do have a guitar test but friends are more important. Sure, I’ll take her.’
But I could see how glum she looked. She had practised for weeks for this opportunity, and here was I ruining it for because I had been dreaming about her boyfriend. That just wasn’t on. She was too nice for her own good. After loads of persuasion Summer started coming round to the idea, though she looked extremely guilty once she’d tottered off. Steve ended up taking me. Moira had volunteered, no doubt hoping for any chance to taunt me. But the lovely Steve, who knew all about our little feuds, was very firm and insisted on taking me. Probably because he got to miss ten or fifteen minutes of Science. There would be absolutely no other reason for his offer – no, escape from Science. He nattered on all the way there, talking about football and computer games and Summer, commenting on the fact he thought she was too nice for her own good, too –
Bright minds think alike.
Steve held the ice pack on my forehead for me and our eyes met. Electricity jolted through my body and I wasn’t totally sure but Steve was staring at me like he was experiencing the exact same thing.
When I got home that day I sat in my room and stared at the blue ceiling; feeling immensely guilty. For the rest of the school day I’d been back to avoiding direct eye contact with Steve for fear of another chemistry episode. When my Mum trooped home from the clothes shop she worked in she came straight to my bedroom, looked at me and said ‘It’s a boy, isn’t it?’
‘I don’t know what you mean,’ I replied airily.
‘Oh, come now, Felicity: the moping around, the moody expression, the denial. Mums know these things,’ Mum told me, smiling.
She was dead right but I longed for her to be dead wrong. At dinner I played around with my fork, whirling up the sauce-drenched spaghetti and twirling it round and round like it was dancing...or going round in circles. I guess it was reflecting me.
‘Mum,’ I said eventually. ‘What would you do if you had a crush on someone you shouldn’t?’
‘Aha! I knew it! You should always be open, sweetie,’ Mum advised like I’d thought she would.
‘But...but I have a crush on my best friend’s boyfriend!’ I burst out. I felt like a balloon, I had swelled and swelled until I popped.
My Mum stared at me in utter astonishment. ‘Not that Steve Summer is always going on about?’
I nodded glumly. Mum patted my shoulder sympathetically.
‘These things are hard. You feel you have to be loyal to your best friend, but you can’t help yourself dreaming about him...and then you feel guilty afterwards, right?’ Mum guessed.
‘Mum, how do you do that?’ I gasped in amazement.
‘Oh, Mum’s know these things,’ Mum told me again.
What if best friends knew ‘these things’ too? Summer and I had been best friends since our primary days, she had known me almost as long as my own Mum, and she knew the truth and recognized the signs...what if Summer clued in, too? I resolved to never think about Steve again...but it was hard, knowing that I would see him at school every day of the week. What could I say? Mum, Dad, I’m moving school because...well it would sound awful, anyhow. I could see all the options ticking away in my brain: Option One, continue covering up the truth, staying exactly the same as I was now. Option Two: Tell Steve in confidence. Option Three: Tell Summer in confidence. Lastly, option four: continue to dream and lust after Steve with only my Mum knowing. To be honest, none of my options sounded that appetizing...at least not as much as Steve’s plump lips – Oh god, I reminded myself to .Shut. My. Big. Fat. Mouth. It only complicated matters when Summer texted me to tell me that Steve had included three ‘Xs’ in his text to her when she had put two and then she decided to put three to see if he would turn up the trumps with four – at that point I decided to switch off my damn phone and be done with it for the foreseeable future (i.e. tonight, when Summer would no doubt be gushing about how she’d put, like, twenty nine Xs and he had put thirty...it bored the crap out of me just thinking about it). I also felt a sharp stab of jealously; had it just been me, then, who had felt the tense atmosphere back in Nurses’? I would never know unless I confronted him – and let’s face, that was never going to happen. It seemed a lot of things represented me today: my blonde hair was as yellow as my cowardice.
All the king’s horses and all the kings’ men couldn’t make Steve fall in love again.
I really needed to get out more. Still, at least tomorrow was Friday. Yay. Only one more day when I had to see Steve. At least that’s what I had intended when Summer went and ruined it all.
‘Oh, Fliss,’ She had garbled. ‘Please come to the cinema with me...pretty please?’
Then she had penetrated me with the full force of her baby blue eyes...how could I possibly contradict such a puppy-dog expression?
‘Let me get this straight...you want me to act as a kind of – gooseberry – while you and him,’ I sniffed. ‘Snog and act like a mushy couple?’
‘Ye-no,’ She mumbled. ‘Look – Steve was saying he has this mate who goes to another school –’
‘I can see where this is going,’ I muttered, red-faced and furious.
‘No, listen. You’ve wanted a boyfriend for ages, haven’t you? Well, I have the perfect solution – a double date. Only the mate is looking for a girlfriend, too, so it’s perfect and if it goes wrong I’ll be there to support you – just please – and I need the moral support too as I think me and Steve are getting really serious -’
I had agreed, just to shut her up. I really am an idiot sometimes. All I did was try to find the easy way out or intend to do something but really all the while knowing I’ll do nothing as usual...it’s really depressing, actually. And what on earth was I going to do about my ‘date’ with a lad I most certainly wouldn’t fancy? You and I both knew the answer: nothing, right? So Summer got me all of a fluster about what I was wearing; not for the unknown boy, but, if I was being honest I wanted to make a big impression with Steve as he’d only ever seen me in my stupid babyish school uniform with plaits. I narrowed down my clothes to three different outfits eventually; after hard work. (Damn Summer for the short notice). Outfit number one: a turquoise top with white sleeves that went with my jeans and trainers (the casual look). Outfit number two: a fluffy blue jumper with a short blue-and-green tartan skirt that went with my polka dot tights in similar shades and square-toed shoes (the cutsy-pie look). Finally, outfit number three consisted of a pink summer-y dress with a purple bolero, opaque tights and the most beautiful purple kitten shoes that glittered eerily in a bright light (the – er – summer-y look).
In the end I decided to call Summer. She answered on the first ring.
‘Hey, Sum, I just wanted your advice on what to wear tomorrow: I’m stuck between three outfits,’ I moaned, glad I could grumble to someone.
Summer giggled. ‘For the date? Oh god, the thing is I’m stuck between a few outfits too!’
‘How about you come over to my house and we’ll compare outfits,’ I suggested.
‘Ooh, yes! See you in an hour or so!’ She brightened, then there was a click and she was gone.
While I was waiting I set everything out neatly, but I needn’t have bothered. As soon as Summer arrived with her arms full of her outfits she gave a squeal and pointed wordlessly at the third outfit purely because of the gorgeous shoes and because she’s extremely girly.
‘I have a similar pair if you want to borrow - ?’ I offered.
Summer gave another loud squeal which I took for a yes. I had the perfect pair: red glittery kitten shoes that went with her chosen outfit that was a long cherry top with a black background, pitch black tights and a gorgeous plush red cardigan that felt as smooth and comfy as my bed covers.
‘We will look a-m-a-z-i-n-g for our dates tomorrow!’ Summer enthused.
It made me uncomfortable to know we were both dressing up for the same person.
‘Hey, Sum, how do you think I should have my hair?’ I asked, trying out various up and down styles in the mirror.
‘Oh, wear it loose, definitely, your hair is beautiful,’ Summer opinionated.
‘I dunno,’ I disagreed. ‘I think it’s too long for that sort of style.’
‘Of course it isn’t! I know, I know! Take the two front pieces of hair and plait it at the back! You’ll look like a princess, you will!’ Summer steam-rolled on nevertheless.
‘No you’ll look like a princess,’ I corrected her then paused. ‘So how are you wearing your hair?’
‘Um, I was thinking of having it loose and wavy, what’d you think?’ Summer said anxiously.
‘You’ll look fab!’ I replied enthusiastically.
‘Steve and co. will be sooo impressed!’ Summer smiled confidently.
But who would Steve really be looking at tomorrow – me or Summer?
I set off towards Summer’s house around noon; the movie was at one and Summer and I wanted to arrive together and have a bit of a de-stress chat beforehand.
‘What is his name anyway?’ I asked as soon as got there.
‘Hi to you, too. His name is Justin, OK?’ Summer threw at me, like it was a trivial bit of information not worth knowing.
‘What does he look like?’ I fired at her.
Maybe this mysterious Justin would be a Steve look-alike?
‘I don’t know, we’ve never met,’ Summer said dryly.
‘What’s he like?’
Summer gave a non-committal noise. Oh, great. Hadn’t she even bothered to check up on what he was like before she landed me in a double date? This was sooo typical of Summer. Sweeter than an Easter bunny but dimmer than a light bulb at times. I’m not being deliberately mean. It’s true. I remember once in Year Seven when we were supposed to be handing in a Geography project but it slipped by us and by the time we’d remembered it was too late. I’d cleverly conducted a story about how we’d left it at home after slaving hours on it and we didn’t have time to rush back home as we didn’t want to be late for form and how it’s difficult remembering all our stuff in this big new scary secondary school. (Using Summer’s big eyes, of course to melt even the frostiest teacher’s heart). But when it came to the crunch and me and Summer were called upon she burst into tears and blurted out how we’d forgotten to do anything. The tears didn’t help anything; we still got an hour detention, a one-day deadline on the homework and the whole class calling us a pair of babies when only one of us had been blubbing our eyes out. All this was led by Moira, of course, and that’s how we started being enemies. Because she’s a malicious little b- let’s not go there.
Summer noticed my sigh. ‘What?’
‘Oh, nothing,’ I said gloomily.
‘Spit it out!’ She demanded.
‘Well it’s just...don’t you think it would’ve been better if you’d actually asked about this Justin? He could be anybody!’ I burst out.
‘No he couldn’t!’ Summer begun hotly. ‘Look, he’s a mate of Steve’s so he’s sure to be a –’
‘- prat!’ I finished crudely.
Summer’s eyes blurred with sudden tears. ‘How can you say that? Steve’s lovely, you know he is...’
Perhaps it was because I was sick of being told how lovely Steve was, or just really bitter.
‘Everyone knows Steve is just a stupid jack the lad player!’ I snapped.
Summer opened her mouth and closed it again, looking speechless.
‘Why are you always so over-sensitive?’ I said, maintaining my petulance mood.
‘Why are you always so mean?’ Summer whined, drooping like a dog with a lost bone.
‘I am not “always” so mean!’ I said, but the anger was already sucked out of me.
‘I’m sorry, I don’t know what’s got into me,’ She apologized.
‘What?’ I stared at her. ‘It was me being mean! I’m sorry about what I said about you and Steve –’
‘Forget it. You had a point. He has got a reputation as being a bit of player,’ She turned the full force of her eyes on me. ‘Do you think he’d ever - ?’
‘No!’ I said firmly, my heart beating furiously hard against my chest.
‘Look at the time! We need to get going!’
I allowed Summer to take my hand and half drag me to the cinema where the boys were waiting.
Justin was nothing like Steve, to my disappointment. He was this perfectly ordinary, lanky blond boy with murky green eyes that seemed to lose you in its unseeing depths. When we met he shook my hand like a gentleman and held the door open for me at the cinema screening door, which made Summer positively beam with happiness but it made me feel a little patronised. Still, at least if I started dated him properly nobody would suspect I liked Steve...no, I couldn’t use a person with a heart, brain and feelings; I tried to reason with myself. I would just have to see how things played out. The film itself was some mindless comedy I do not know for my life why we picked. The boys seemed to find it hilarious, though, and Summer and I kept darting quizzical looks at each other throughout the movie which clearly meant: ‘Is this meant to be funny?’ Sometimes, out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw Steve glance over at me, but the second I’d looked over to check he was facing the screen and determinedly chatting to Justin about the film. This left me feeling frustrated, confused and guilty. Frustrated because why the hell would he be looking at me, for? Confused because he had a girlfriend and guilt for the obvious reason: Summer, for my heart had soared above the stars when I’d thought Steve was looking at me.
Justin nudged me. ‘Enjoying the film, babe?’
How dare he call me ‘babe’ when we weren’t even going out together!
‘No, I am not enjoying the bloody film,’ I said flippantly.
Justin looked confused. ‘But, baby cakes...’
He reached over to touch my shoulder.
‘One: do not call me baby cakes and two: I would rather have a giant squid touch me than you!’
With that I withdrew and stalked off out of the cinema screen and down a corridor, feeling every stare boring into the tightened muscles on my back.
After five minutes or so I heard a voice calling for me. Steve’s voice. But I was still fuming. Had I not told Summer what a pig he was sure to be? Why oh why did I have to be stuck with the losers all the time?
‘There you are!’ Steve said in relief when he spotted where I was lurking.
‘Oh, it’s you,’ I answered in the surliest voice I could muster to prevent myself from running at him full pelt and –
‘Summer sent me to look for you while she explains the golden rule on girls to Justin,’ He half-grinned, half-rolled his eyes.
‘Whatever,’ I said carelessly, my heart sinking.
Steve looked at me in surprise. ‘Hey! What’s up? You really seem to hate Justin.’
‘Does it show?’ I said sarcastically.
‘A little bit,’ He said casually, moving closer.
He was so close now I could hear the ticking of his heart, see the glorious face in all its beauty and cheek, feel a dark flush slowly creep up my cheek. I took a deep breath to steady myself – his breath, fresh and smelling of peppermint gum, washed over me irresistibly, and at that moment, nothing else seemed to matter. Not Summer, not Justin, not my resolution to stay the hell away from him. It all vanished in that one, impeccable moment of madness.
‘You look really pretty tonight,’ He purred.
‘Really? ’Cause you’re looking real pretty tonight, too,’ I returned.
We both laughed. The sound filled the corridor with life.
‘Summer and Justin will be wondering where we are –’ I started.
‘They will,’ He agreed. ‘But I think we’re maybe lost...’
‘You’re lost,’ I corrected him.
‘In what way?’
‘You tell me.’
My heart was thrumming away like a bird’s as he leaned in even closer. Our lips met in the middle; moist and soft and sweet. His lips were as plump as I had always dreamed about and in that one second I realized there was no getting over this crush as we looked into each other’s eyes, hazel on chocolate.
The princess had found the lost forbidden prince at long last.
After we had broken apart I told Steve to tell Summer I was feeling sick and couldn’t face the humiliation of seeing Justin again after my strop. True, I never wanted to set eyes on Justin the giant squid again, but it was Summer I truly couldn’t face knowing what I’d done. I couldn’t seem to help myself destroying my best friend’s relationship. What if she found out about the kiss? Steve wouldn’t be so stupid as to blurt it all out in a moment of madness, surely? All I knew was I couldn’t rest until I knew Summer was still clueless. Though I can’t pretend for a second a tiny, selfish part of me didn’t long for Steve to declare his undying love to me and ditch Summer...oh god that sounds horrible. Maybe I was just a horrible relationship-wrecker slash the biggest bitch to hit London. Probably still am.
Summer called several times but I didn’t answer, willing for myself to turn invisible and blend in with my bedroom walls. Chameleons have it so easy; they can choose to be whoever they want to be. I wish I could be like that. I wondered what it would be like to trade places with Summer...life would be perfect, practical, and sweet as honey with Steve dripping off my tongue irresistibly. That was what he was. Irresistible.
Later that evening my parents argued. I couldn’t help thinking it was Karma. I was listening anxiously at the bedroom door, my heart thumping, my chest tight, my stomach aching. I hated it when they argued. They always seemed to now. It was usually about the amount of time Dad spent at work. My Dad works in a boring old office in a boring old building in a boring old part of central London. My Mum and Dad are so opposite I have often wondered how on earth they got together in the first place. Perhaps he used to be more ‘hippy’ in the good old days like Mum always assured me.
‘You never have time for me anymore!’ I heard Mum hurl at Dad.
‘You don’t complain about the fat wage packet I bring home, do you, eh?’ Dad yelled back.
‘Yeah, and I bet you spend it all with your mates drinking down the pub!’ Mum accused, quite accurately, I thought to myself.
‘Ha! Chance would be a fine thing! I’ll tell you what I spend it on: all your daft damn clubs: that bloomin’ meditating which you can do at home – closing your eyes and humming, I ask you! Oh, and there was the cookery class, which I seem to remember you giving up after twenty four hours because no one can stand you and now I understand why you stupid, useless GROUPIE!’ Dad rounded off, and I hated him for it. How dare – how dare he say those nasty things about Mum? He’s the useless one. Couldn’t even be bothered to pop in and say hi most days to me. He’s PATHETIC. I seem to remember bursting in and telling him so.
‘Now, now, Felicity, don’t talk about things you don’t understand,’ Snapped Dad, in his stop-talking-right-now-you-silly-little-girl sort of voice.
‘Now, now, Dad, don’t talk about Mum like that like you understand her!’ I cheeked in my stop-talking-right-now-you-silly-little-man sort of voice, admiring my nerve because boy was my Dad one scary man sometimes.
Dad’s face flooded purple. Mum made frantic signals at me to leave the room right now.
‘Yes, get out of my sight you stupid, stupid girl!’ Dad barked as I half-ran out of the room.
‘How dare you talk to our daughter like-’ I heard Mum start to say as I slammed my bedroom door shut and turned up the music on my laptop so I couldn’t hear them screaming at each other.
I remember wishing they would divorce, just so I didn’t have to bear all the arguments anymore and get caught up in them, like a fly caught on sticky paper. No escape – utterly helpless. On the other hand, I sometimes thought I deserved all I got. How could I do such a thing to my best friend? I kept on thinking: should I break her heart or learn to live with a lie? Should I stay away from Steve? Was he bad news? Nobody could have the answer except for me. And I didn’t even know.
Suddenly my phone started ringing its familiar tune. Oh no – Summer!
‘Fliss!’ Summer said in relief. ‘You didn’t call back – and you left poor little Justin hanging.’
‘I thought I made it obvious he’s not my type,’ I sighed irritably, then remembered it was not my place to be irritated at what she said when I was the one who’d secretly betrayed her. I just had to hope Steve would keep his mouth shut – to Summer and around me.
‘I know, but you should have seen how disappointed he was, poor little thing!’ Summer sympathized compassionately.
‘Maybe you should date him instead,’ I suggested half-heartedly.
‘What?’ Summer burst out. ‘As if! My heart belongs to another!’ she laughed lightly, and I mustered up all my strength to laugh with her.
The guilt was a great tidal wave of misery now, re-surfacing again and again and engulfing me with its resenting, regretful nature.
‘Listen, Sum, I – I’ve got to go,’ I lied. ‘My Mum’s calling me.’
That was a total lie, as she and Dad had now reached the stage of hissing at each other like little house snakes.
‘Oh. Ok,’ Summer said, and I could just imagine her shoulders drooping with disappointment.
She was probably hoping for a long lengthy chat about Steve and a good sob-comfort discussion involving Justin.
But I was too self-hating and really not in the mood.
I rang off abruptly, then felt guilty all over again, because she probably thought it was something she did. The idea was almost laughable, if she wasn’t my best friend for, like, ever.
What was I going to do on Monday? How could I face Steve? Surely even Summer, engrossed as she was with her boyfriend, would notice how I blushed and looked down at my shoes and totally ignored his presence? So I’d just have to act like I always did. I should win an Oscar for best villain, I thought wryly and harshly to myself.
Just then I heard the front door slam – code for: Dad’s off to the pub again. I thought I made out Mum’s sigh before she retreated to her solitary bedroom with the classic, lonely covers, concealing velvet curtains, the deceptive mirror with the studio lights, the jewellery box filled with beautiful, sparkly things that no one ever wore.
As I lay down for bed at night, try as I might, the only person I could think of was Steve, the smooth-talking thief of my heart.
I trudged out of bed on Monday morning, sighed, and headed off to the shower. The warm, beautiful, tranquil water washed through me as I ladled my hair with shampoo. It felt good, as if I was washing away the past. Then I shook my head – there was no way I could get off so easily. Surely the guilt would hit me again later. Then, suddenly, the dripping shower water became not my harbour but my doom, a speeding tidal wave showering me with shame, over and over again. I got out of the shower quickly afterwards, blow-dried my hair, and pulled on my boring grey, white and black school uniform. I seemed too wicked to be able to wear such simple colours. I felt as though I should be swamped in red with a big yellow sticker on my forehead screaming: ‘scarlet woman’. I sat down on my padded stool once more and stared into the mirror – and saw a liar, a cheat, a life-ruiner – but hey, the truth hurts. As I slowly brushed through the long blonde strands of hair as delicately as spun silk, I thought, what’s the point? If I was evil on the inside, I might as well be on the outside. I scraped my hair back into a simple topknot, and didn’t even bother with mascara or lip gloss. I looked like a pale, shadow girl with guilty chocolate eyes, indulgent in Steve-related pleasures. There were shadows under those shameful eyes of mine, so prominent, and yet so faded at the same time. I wasn’t looking forward to seeing Summer today, as I’d totally ignored all her attempts to contact me over the weekend. No doubt she’d be full of questions, while I’d be pitifully empty with answers. I decided Summer must never know – it would slowly destroy the foundations built up around my life. I shuddered – it didn’t bear thinking about.
So here I was, sliding on the school bus, looking down in case he was there. I had never before noticed quite how intriguing the tiled bus floors were. So fascinating, in fact, that I didn’t notice I was about to fall over a bus seat until it was too late.
Hands, appearing out of nowhere, quickly stopped my fall before I hit my head on the wretched, waiting floor.
But, wait. I knew those smooth, honey-coloured hands.
Was it fate, plain bad luck, or another bout of karma? I couldn’t believe it was coincidence, no way. I was sure whoever the hell was in the sky was having a pretty big laugh up there, along with dodgy Cupid with his bent aim.
‘You, again,’ Steve grinned casually, pulling me up into the seat beside him like I couldn’t do it for myself – then again, I had just nearly stumbled over my own feet onto the floor, so maybe he was worried about having blood on his hands.
‘How can you be so casual?’ I demanded, ignoring the alluring purr of his lovely eyes.
Steve frowned. ‘I just...thought...we could...you’ know...um,’ he seemed to be at loss for words. I knew that feeling.
He looked so devastatingly cute; his eyebrows knitted together, lower lip trembling irresistibly, cheeks flushing, expression mingled with a mixture of embarrassment, guilt, and...I didn’t want to think about what else. I owed Summer that much.
Sudden tears sprang into my eyes, tearing at the corners in shame, weeping out the sin within.
‘Hey,’ Steve’s voice was kinder, stronger, gentler now. ‘It’s gonna be OK, Fliss, I can feel it...’
‘How?’ I said through sticky lashes.
‘Trust me,’ he pleaded, hazel eyes gleaming in the sunlight.
‘I do,’ I breathed. ‘It’s me I don’t trust.’
Then the bus squeaked to a halt and the huge, automatic doors swung open, breaking, shattering everything within our little bubble like broken glass.
I sat in English class a few hours later, staring straight ahead and not drinking in a single word of the lecture. I think we were studying Romeo and Juliet, but it was too depressing to concentrate on. Did I really need to hear about more love tragedy? Even if it was by the greatest play-writer to ever live, I did not want to be reminded of how tangled love lives could end.
‘Felicity Fletcher,’ my English teacher boomed, ‘what did I just say?’
Oh hell. What did she just say? I cast my eyes around the room desperately, until they landed on Steve, whose hazel eyes registered sympathy, but were of no real help.
Sighing in despair and facing the front again, I (cheekily) said,’ Well, technically Ms Thompson, you just said: what did I just say?’
After a shocked silence that modest little Felicity had just had a burst of rebellion, the class erupted into startled (if delighted) laughter. Nobody dared cheek our sharp-tongued teacher, especially not a so-called ‘meek’ girl like me – I mean, they still put me in the same category as they did in year seven mostly, when Summer had cried over missing geography homework. Sweet but modest. Well, I thought wryly, just look at me now – first I lust after my best friend’s boyfriend, then I kiss him, and just for good measure, I lash out at the teacher who I wasn’t even listening to. What a terrible immoral person I’d become – still, it gave me a little thrill at the reaction of my class mates. Of course, the smile was soon wiped off my incredulous face.
‘Felicity Fletcher,’ Ms Thompson started again, ‘I do not get paid to teach idle, ungrateful, cheeky little girls...’
I felt my cheeks burning with shame and anger. If truth be told, English was my first love, and I think she knew this, as she was known to stick the needle in where it hurt – still, she had at least praised the majority of my essays, once telling me I had a gift for writing and literary interpretation. And now I couldn’t even be bothered to listen to one of the most famous plays of all time, with an underlying message about love. What an idiot I was these days.
I felt stupid, childish tears prick the back of my eyes, but I couldn’t; wouldn’t let them show.
I was very much into hiding things nowadays, so it came naturally.
After a very painful last twenty minutes of class, Ms Thompson called me back for a ‘talk’.
Summer and Steve shot me agonizing glances, then departed.
I braced myself.
‘Felicity,’ Ms Thompson began, in a much gentler tone to before, ‘what’s going on with you, hmm?’
I made a non-committal noise, eyes on the floor. Ms Thompson took this as a sure sign to carry on the right tracks.
‘Whatever it is, something’s clearly bothering you. I know today’s rather rebellious occurrence was definitely out of character, but all the same, it’s worrying, Felicity...is it something at home, at school, with friends...a boy, perhaps?’
I choked back a lump in my throat, because right now, it was all of those things. Everything was piling on top of me – my parents’ frequent arguments, not able to concentrate at school because of worry, scared about betraying my best friend, longing for a boy I could never have, but did not get the message to stay away. All of these things were making my life spiral out of control, something I always strived for.
Control. That really was laughable, only most things just weren’t funny anymore.
Sensing I would not talk, Ms Thompson dismissed me with a sigh and a shake of her head. Feeling nonplussed, I trudged out, head down, and walked right into...Steve. This was getting ridiculous.
What part of stay away did he not understand? Didn’t he care about Summer, too?
‘You again,’ he grinned, a repeat of this morning’s conversation.
But I wasn’t going to fall for his charm. Not again.
‘Excuse me,’ I said coldly, brushing past him so I didn’t have to feel that ache where he made my heart flutter.
‘Fliss!’ He exclaimed in surprise. ‘I was just waiting for you as a concerned friend, I wasn’t...’
He dropped his eyes to the floor. So he did feel guilty, then. Well, that was a start.
‘How did you shake off Summer?’ I asked, my eyes burning with the hot-red question.
‘It wasn’t like that!’ He shouted, eyes flashing. ‘I don’t mean to hurt her, I just...I just...I mean, I still care about her Fliss, honestly, but...that feeling...it just isn’t there anymore. I don’t think it ever really was – know what I mean?’
For that I did not have a smart reply. I just looked into his desperate eyes and wondered why he had to be so darn cute, why he had to understand how I felt like he was the one who’d known me my whole life...who else could have driven me to betraying the girl who was practically my non-live-in sister?
I tried, really tried, for so long to stay the hell away from him. And I had failed.
Of course, he didn’t make it any easier, waiting for me after class and grinning at me like I was his girlfriend...but it made sense, what he said.
I didn’t mean to hurt her, either. I wasn’t a bad person, not really, and neither was he...I guess we were weak, but I tried my hardest to resist him...but we were on the same wavelength, thought the same kind of things, had the same kind of opinions, made each other’s hearts fly...betrayed someone we were both supposed to love.
That day, I really hated myself. For not sticking to my firm resolution to stay away, ignore any advances.
‘Fliss,’ Steve said softly,’ if...’
‘Please don’t say it,’ I protested,’ it’ll only make it worse. Neither of us want to hurt Summer...least of all me. She’s my best friend,’ I felt a sob catch in my throat, ‘and if she ever finds out, she’s going to hate me. Forever.’
The reality of this had finally caught up on me, and the guilt was overwhelming.
‘I know,’ Steve sighed softly.
‘So that’s why we can have no more to do with each other, other than keep up appearances with Summer, and if...if she invites me out where you’ll be, then, don’t worry, I’ll make my excuses..but you have to stay away from me, Steve, I mean it.’
And I did.
Steve just looked at me, hazel eyes sad but knowing.
Taking the deepest of breaths, I steadied myself and I...walked away.
‘Fliss – wait up!’
Oh hell. A bright, chirpy voice in my ear, the sort of cheerful tone I didn’t deserve – by the person I deserved as my friend even less.
Why is life so cruel?
‘Oh, hi, Summer,’ I forced a smile – luckily, Summer, who had picked up on my mood, misunderstood.
She pulled a face. ‘Was that Ms Thompson going on at you?’
I gave a non-committal shrug. ‘Not that much. She was more nosy than angry.’
‘Oh – it’s just you took ages! I decided to wait out here – but Steve went all weird on me and said he had somewhere to be,’ Summer told me, and a needle of guilt pricked in my chest.
‘Oh, how strange,’ I muttered lamely, crossing my brows.
‘You OK Fliss? It’s just, don’t take this the wrong way – but you’re going kind of weird on me too,’ Summer said in ironic concern.
I couldn’t take the guilt consuming me from all sides – I felt dizzy, sick, cold...evil. I cringed away from the word, but who else was capable of betraying such a kind-hearted, loyal, compassionate, cheerful friend?
Who else but me?
‘I feel sick,’ I whispered – and I did – sick of myself, of Steve, of my parents, and how they had shown me firsthand that love didn’t work in the real world. The second person to show me that had been Steve.
Summer started fussing immediately, enquiring about a headache, stomach ache, sore throat, maybe something I ate?
Summer had always wanted to be a nurse – she loved looking after people, tending to them, taking in loveable, injured strays that would one day turn into real-life human patients.
How she was going to hate me – if she found out. No amount of nursing would bring back the friendship, the laughter, the cheesy love films and the popcorn, the best friends’ bracelet I had given her aged five that she still wore –
Friendships are so easily broken, but not so easily fixed. I mean, if I told her, yeah, she would hate Steve, curse him, nurse a broken heart – but in time, she’d get over it, maybe even forgive him – but she would never forgive me.
Best friends are supposed to be there for each other, trust each other – and on the surface, I was all those things and more as well as Summer, sweet Summer – but on the inside, I knew I was rotten to the core.
It might sound harsh – I mean, I know it was just one kiss and I tried to avoid him and put an end to any flirtations – but I didn’t stop longing for him, not really – even though I knew friends are worth more - always.
Like I said, I was such an idiot.
‘I’m fine, Summer, honestly,’ I waved away her concerns with a bright smile that did not quite reach my eyes.
Summer scrutinised me, and I felt myself shrink a little beneath her gaze, as though my sins would rise from the surface and engulf us both in her pain and my shame.
I thought about telling her, I really did, but I just couldn’t be the one to break my best friend’s heart; of course, unknowingly to her, I already had, but I was a coward. And I still found myself falling in love with Steve – not for his fluttery lashes or warm hazel eyes or easy-going smile – those were things to be liked, adored – no, I loved the person behind the wise-cracks – the boy who came after me, time and time again, waited for me, flirted with me, even told me I looked pretty on a date with his girlfriend, who just happened to be my best friend, on the night we kissed...
It was all so complicated – but I knew one thing – that kiss had sent fireworks rocketing through my dismal state of mind, had made my heart fly like a hummingbird’s, had made the soul of my heart seep into my cheeks in the form of two pink stains – and in that one, unchangeable, irresistible, selfish moment, nothing else mattered. I loved that feeling. That I was safe, protected from the world’s troubles, and all I could see were dancing stars.
I knew it was love, then, knew it was hopeless, as I stared into the wide, concerned eyes of the girl I called my best friend, but I also knew, from one glance at the childish threaded bracelet swinging from her innocent wrist that I had to fight it.
I had vowed, time and time again, but now I had accepted my true feelings, I had to reject them almost instantly, and that made it all the more impossible – it hurt; but Summer would hurt more if I told her.
Later, at home, lying on my bed struggling to drown out the sounds of my parents screaming at each other, I wondered if that was how Summer, Steve and I would end up – full of hate and resentment and broken love for each other that just couldn’t be fixed – because there could be no happy ending, not for me, anyway – the best way to keep everyone happy was to carry on living a lie.
‘Hello? Oh, hi, Summer!’ I said into the receiver, inwardly cursing myself.
‘Hey, Fliss – I’ve just had THE most incredible idea – I am going to throw the best party EVER, seriously!’ Summer enthused on the other end, and I could just imagine how she would be beaming right now at this new, spontaneous idea of hers – but Summer was like that.
‘Oh, yeah – it’s your birthday in two weeks!’ I realized, smacking my forehead – I had just officially become the worst, lamest best friend ever.
‘Yeah – I’m finally fourteen! Practically everyone else already is,’ Summer gushed over the phone, ‘and as it is nearly the end of the year, it will be the last and most dazzling party of the year!’
‘Certainly a night to remember!’ I agreed, and little did I know quite how much those words would come back to haunt me.
‘I have a favour to ask of you, Fliss!’ Summer trilled.
‘Anything,’ I told her, and I meant it, right there and then, nervously digging my fingernails into the thoroughly abused palms of my hands.
‘OK – will you be my number one party planner?’ Summer steam-rolled on – not one to hold back, unlike cowardly me.
‘Sure,’ I said, trying to inject at least a little enthusiasm into my voice. I owed her that much, at least.
Before I knew it, she had started in on the next stage of her ‘plan’.
‘And Steve can organise the music and the lights, and he has a really cool cousin – good-looking, too, Fliss – who can do these really weird party tricks, and –’
‘Summ-er!’ I complained. ‘Stop trying to set me up with friends and/or relatives of Steve!’
There was no forgetting Justin, since, in his own way, he was linked to the betrayal, too.
‘I am not!’ Summer huffed. ‘Now get your butt round to my house now so we can start planning!’
‘Summer, you do realize we have, like, two weeks to organise this so-called major party?’ I reminded her, laughing at her next craze.
She was definitely never boring.
‘Yes, which is why you need to come round and provide a miracle!’ Summer whined, and I relented – I was unconsciously in her debt, anyhow. I might as well repay some of it by making sure she had the coolest birthday bash ever.
So that was how I found myself on her doorstep with sudden bubbling enthusiasm – let’s just say Summer has a very catching personality – and boyfriend, for that matter.
I pressed the house bell and waited for Summer (or her parents) to let me in.
But it wasn’t any of them. It was the boy I loved but had vowed to stay away from to save my friendship – here he was, turning everything normal upside down again.
‘Summer invited me to help with preparations,’ He said, grinning for some strange reason.
‘Steve! You should have told me you would be there – remember our agreement?’ I sighed.
‘It’s not my fault! How shifty would that have looked – oh hey, Summer, sorry I can’t come round, but your best friend says we can’t be in the same room because of her overpowering feelings for –’
He stopped in the middle of his sentence, as I took a dangerous step towards him.
‘Only joking,’ he said lightly, but I glared anyway, pushed past him, and found my hand on the baby pink oh-so-familiar handle I have turned countless times during my childhood. Somehow it acted as the driving force to make me focus, and plan the best damn party of the year.
‘Fliss!’ Summer said blissfully, magazines sprawled at her feet and her laptop perched carefully on her lap.
‘Hey, Sum, how’s it going?’ I asked.
‘Great! I’m wondering about my outfit – not too smart or casual, heels: not too high, I don’t want to trip – and with parental approval,’ she admitted, cheeks a little red from embarrassment.
‘You’re kidding?’ I exclaimed, aware that Steve had just re-entered the room.
Summer shook her head miserably.
‘Unreal,’ Steve and I said at the same time, and I blushed, looked down, and pretended we hadn’t been on the same wavelength yet again, that in this hot little room my heart wasn’t beating so furiously I felt it would burst.
Because I had a party to plan, and nothing was going to get in the way of my best friend’s happiness.
THE PARTY, TWO WEEKS LATER –
‘Isn’t this the coolest party ever?’ Summer shouted over the music, and I had to agree with her.
Teenagers spilled around dancing and laughing from all corners of the room, the party lights were bright, the normal lights switched off, giving it an eerie feeling, and a large pile of presents was waiting for Summer at the foot of the stairs – oh, and Ryan Harris from History class had put about he had somehow sneaked alcohol in the fruit punch. Great. Just what I needed – more head banging confusion.
I could see Steve and his almost-as-handsome cousin of around the same age working the music and playing DJs for a night, and when Summer (cringe!) caught me staring, she winked at me, obviously thinking I had taken a liking to Steve’s cousin. Fabulous. Another love mistake, and I really couldn’t deal with Disaster-Date slash two.
I hastened to assure her it wasn’t the case.
‘Aw, come on, Fliss, he’s almost as gorgeous as Steve!’ Summer protested.
‘I just don’t like him, OK?’ I told her firmly, but making sure I smiled at the same time to take away any bitterness in my voice.
‘Why not?’ Summer burst out. ‘You never want to date anyone – I had to practically drag you to the cinema that night, and look what happened there!’
Ouch. Of course, I knew what happened there and more, and the reminder enraged me.
‘Just leave me alone, Summer, you don’t understand me at all!’ I fired at her, ignoring the tears I knew would spill from her shocked eyes and pushing my way towards the balcony, where, unluckily for me, Ryan Harris and his mates were perched on the other end.
‘Alright, Fliss,’ Ryan said, his breath stinking of beer.
I was disgusted, but I was wise enough not to show it – I didn’t want any aggro from a couple of drunken idiots.
‘I’m rosy,’ I told him, and figured he would be too plastered to register the fact my smile was the fakest ever, if it even mattered to him.
‘Great, want a drink?’ He offered, picking up a beer can and holding it out to me.
What a jerk – no, I did not want to stink like some beer-belly, thank you very much.
I thought about saying as much, but was again reminded of the fact I was definitely outnumbered.
‘Beer’s not my poison,’ I informed him sweetly, and they laughed raucously.
‘Then what’s your poison, sweetie?’ one of his friends chipped in.
‘A world away from yours,’ I snapped, and started to walk away, but found my path blocked by more of his mates.
To Summer this may be the coolest party, but to me it was the worst – only now I’d upset us both she was probably on the same lines.
‘Excuse me, get out of my way,’ I said sharply, preparing to use force if need be – drunk or not, they were definitely retarded idiots.
‘Alright, calm down Fliss,’ Ryan chuckled, and I felt repulsed, wondering why anyone would ever like him.
‘Move out of her way,’ demanded a sharp voice, and we all looked around to see Steve, looking flatly furious.
‘Alright,’ they agreed reluctantly, taking in his tallness, then stepping aside as if by magic.
‘Uh, thanks,’ I said shakily, ‘but I can fight my own battles, you know – I hate the whole damsel in distress thing.’
‘More of a cat woman girl yourself?’ he snickered. ‘What were you actually going to do, anyway? You were outnumbered – I only came to you rescue – alright, helped you escape because of that, not because you’re a girl and they’re all guys or whatever.’
‘Sure,’ I rolled my eyes. ‘And anyway, for your information, Steve, let’s just say I was going to hit him right where it hurts.’
‘Ouch, you are one ass-kicking girl, Felicity Fletcher,’ he replied, and I laughed, loving the fact we were on the same page yet again and shared the same sense of humour.
‘Hey, guys!’ came a chirpy voice, and we immediately stepped away from each other as if we had both been burnt, as we had been standing closer than I realized.
‘Hey, Summer,’ Steve said, and I envied him his casualness.
‘Fliss, sorry we argued!’ Summer apologized, and Steve shot me a quizzical look, which I chose to ignore.
‘It’s OK, Summer, I was just a bit ratty – I guess I’m just not a party kind of girl,’ I reassured her.
‘Oh, really?’ Steve teased, catching my eye.
I looked away, feeling suddenly hot, and I was almost positive on the fact I was blushing stupidly like some dippy-school-girl yet again.
‘Come outside, guys, I got one of my Dad’s mates to organise fireworks!’ Summer gushed, so I looked up again, smiled, and allowed her to drag both Steve and me outside to see the display, my heart in my mouth and my chest on fire.
Outside, in her large stretch of garden, a whole crowd was impatiently chanting: “Summer, Summer, Summer...”, just as the first few sparks of red and blue and green shot into the air like beautiful peacock birds, and a sparky message spat out: HAPPY BIRTHDAY SUMMER.
‘This is fantastic!’ I told her.
‘I know,’ Summer agreed, as a giant burst of red-hot lights fired into the sky and sprinkled it with colour.
‘Beautiful,’ Steve said, but again, he was looking at me.
But this time I didn’t look away, despite the guilt stabbing me in the stomach with a rusty, much-used knife, again and again.
I found myself lost in his gaze, and well, it was a good thing a crowd of girls from our class had just pulled Summer into the front to give her fourteen birthday bumps and one for luck. I didn’t join them, to my cost.
I honestly don’t know what unknown force moved my feet forwards, or his, or what firework sparked the movement of his lips on mine.
I only know what came afterwards.
I know that Summer saw us, just as the last firework sprayed the night with life.
I think she might have gulped, but I don’t think she shouted. Not once. In a way it made it worse, not being punished, cursed by words for kissing the boy I had grown to love, try as I might to stop it.
I think the dim light outside, the beautiful fireworks, and the pure fact Summer wasn’t there in that moment all contributed, but then again, maybe love is just an unstoppable force of nature.
Regardless, I lost my best friend that day.