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.