I don’t know how long Grayson and I have been trying to study, but it seems like it’s been forever. We eventually found a free room upstairs, since every other room was occupied.
Grayson is moodier than usual, which isn’t helping. I keep thinking about poor Rory who is probably downstairs on his lonesome. I totally ditched him back there. If Grayson hadn’t interrupted, where would we be now?
“Can you stop pacing? It’s making me dizzy,” I snap, gripping my pen harder.
“Stop crying,” Grayson says, “How do you expect me to concentrate when you keep acting like a four-year-old child that can’t get her way?”
I look down at my notes, fed up with this arrangement. “Grayson, if you’re going to be a jerk then I’ll just leave you to it. I didn’t sign up for this tonight.”
I’m about to grab my things and walk out, but then he collapses onto the bed. “Alright, I’m sorry. Don’t go.”
I take a step away from the door. “Are you seriously apologizing right now?”
His head flips up. “Don’t make me regret it.” I sit back down on the armchair. He deserves a chance to redeem himself. “I didn’t mean to take my anger out on you. I just... I haven’t had the best week.”
“Okay... so, why is that?”
At first, I assume that he’s not going to answer me, since we’re not the best of friends and I thought that I’d be the last person he’d want to confide in. But, surprisingly, he starts by saying, “I’m under a lot of pressure... from my family, from Sophie – It’s like everybody wants a piece of me.”
So, it seems the perfectly perfect Grayson Swain, isn’t so mighty after all. Would you believe it?
“Is that why you’re so unhappy to be at your friend’s party?” I ask.
“Next question.” I roll my eyes. “I’m not unhappy. I’m just annoyed,” he finishes.
“What are you annoyed about?” I feel like I’ve taken on the role as his therapist.
Grayson’s eyebrows crease together. “It’s like I can’t do anything right anymore. You try to please one person and then end up upsetting another... it’s hard work trying to be what people want you to be all the time.”
“Well, that’s probably why you’re so stressed out. You can’t go around trying to please people all your life, it’s virtually impossible,” I tell him. “How do you usually get your emotions out?”
He scratches his chin, thoughtfully. “By punching something... usually my wall.”
Ouch. That’s got to hurt. “Okay. Well, I listen to music, it really helps to calm me down.”
I move over to him and sit by his side, so we’re shoulder to shoulder. Grayson’s eyes slide to me, curiously. “What are you doing?”
“Pop one of these in.”
He glances at the earphones I’m holding and shakes his head. “I’m not putting that thing in my ear. It could be germ infested. I don’t want to catch anything.”
“Don’t be ridiculous.”
Reluctantly, Grayson reaches for the one ear piece and I go for the other. Then he waits as I choose a track from my phone. A song by a band called ‘Hunter & the bear’ starts to play and Grayson remains silent until the song ends. I press stop and yank the earphones out.
He winces and rubs his ear. “Ow! You could have warned me you were going to do that.”
“How do you feel now?”
He sighs. “Surprisingly, a lot less angry.”
“Good. See, music helps.”
Just as we’re beginning to find some common ground, the door bursts open and Sophie appears. “I knew it! I knew there was something more going on between you two!” she screams, making my ears hurt.
Grayson is already on his feet. “Calm down Soph. This isn’t what it looks like. We were just studying.”
“Studying at Levi’s party? You really expect me to believe that?” I understand why the situation doesn’t look the best but she’s being overdramatic.
“Soph, why are you getting so worked up? You know how I feel about Skye. We hate each other.” I know he’s speaking the truth, but it still hurts to hear those words come out of his mouth. Hate is a strong word.
“I’m going downstairs to find a boy that actually wants to be with me,” she cries, fleeing the room.
Grayson is running after her within a matter of seconds. I don’t know why he puts up with her. Maybe that’s what love is. Yuck.
I leave the room and search for Rory. I’m still feeling bad about leaving him earlier on. I hope he hasn’t been waiting for me this whole time.
When I get to the bottom of the stairs, I hear a female voice groan. It’s only when I turn the corner, that I notice two people lip locked under the staircase. I double check that the person I’m seeing isn’t who I think it is. But that face is easily recognizable.
Rory’s hands are under the girl’s shirt as she runs her hands through his hair. I feel like I’m going to be sick. My thoughts are scattered. This whole night has been a disaster, even though I have no reason to be upset. Rory isn’t my boyfriend. He owes me nothing. I shouldn’t be affected by his encounter with a stranger, but I am and it’s the worst feeling.
Number of missed phone calls.
Rory is not giving up and I’m refusing to answer. I fled the party as soon as I caught him kissing some girl and decided to come straight home. My phone has been going off the hook ever since I got back.
My mother enters my room and I feel the mattress deflate as she sits down. I want to tell her to go away but I’m too upset to try. “Skye, what’s wrong?”
“You are the last person I want to talk to about this,” I muffle into my pillow.
“Is this about that boy who came to pick you up earlier? Did he hurt you?”
“The only reason you’re here right now, is because you feel guilty about the secret account and this is your way of trying to make it up to me. I’m vulnerable and you’re just looking for an excuse to take advantage of that. Leave me alone.”
Silence floats between us. Mum’s eyes are filling slowly. “I’m trying to be here for you Skye, like a mother should.”
I sit myself up and wipe my eyes. “No, you’re not! You’re just thinking about yourself, which is what you always do. It’s too late for you to start acting like a parent now. It’s too late.”
She hangs her head.. “I’m sorry. I - I don’t know what else to say.”
Her voice takes on a defeated tone. “I’ll close the door on my way out then.”
As soon as the door clicks shut, I explode into tears.
My phone starts ringing again and I throw it across the room in anger. It hits my floor with a crack and I know I’ve broken something. I turn my light off and throw myself under the covers, weeping until my eyes can no longer stay open.
I wake up with a headache and dry mouth. It’s still dark outside, but I can hear voices from under my bedroom door and it’s enough to disturb me. I stare into the darkness and flinch when the door opens and footsteps approach the bed. I keep my eyes closed, pretending to be asleep.
The bed creaks as someone sits down. “Skye, are you awake?” The anxiety takes over and pressure forms behind my eyelids. “Skye...”
My eyes shoot open and connect with Rory’s. He smells of beer and perfume. It’s that girls perfume no doubt. But there’s no denying that he looks like hell and so do I.
I flick on my lamp and some light floods the room. “What do you want?”
He swallows. “You weren’t answering my calls or text messages. I wanted to know if you got home safely. I was worried.”
“I made it home just fine. You’ve seen me in the flesh. I’m alive. You can go now.”
Rory shakes his head in annoyance. “First, you left me on my own at the party without telling me where you were going and then you disappeared on me altogether, ignoring my calls.”
“I’m shocked you were so concerned, considering you weren’t exactly lacking company.”
I can’t help but be cold towards him. We could have kissed tonight. I’m so glad that we didn’t, because he found someone else to lock lips with hours later. It annoys me that I care so much.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” he asks, drawing me back to the conversation.
“You seemed a bit preoccupied... had your hands full.”
Something registers in Rory’s expression. “Did you—”
“Did I see you and that girl together?” I cut him off abruptly, “Yes, I did. And you were clearly enjoying yourself.” I keep wanting to look at him, but have to fight the urge.
“Why are you so bothered about me kissing other girls Skye?”
Why am I bothered? That’s a good question.
“I don’t care,” I lie. There’s no way he’s going to get me to admit that I was jealous. I’ve never been a jealous person. Ever.
He doesn’t say anything. He just stares at me in silence. “Anyway, it’s late... you should probably go.”
When my eyes flicker back up again, I’m shocked to find a wave of emotion cross Rory’s face. “I’m not going anywhere until we sort this out. You’re angry with me and I don’t know how to fix this.”
“It’s fine Rory. I’m not angry with you.” I’m angry at myself for acting this way towards him and not having an explanation.
“You are though,” his voice drops even lower. “I thought the whole point of inviting me to the party, was so that we could stick together. I didn’t know anyone there, aside from you.”
I can’t argue with Rory on this, because he’s absolutely right. I did leave him and I shouldn’t have done that. I can see why he probably felt hurt. I didn’t explain myself very well and I deserted him in a room full of strangers. What kind of friend does that make me?
“I felt stupid just standing around. Nobody was talking to me and you left me to be with Grayson. So, I didn’t know what to think.”
I use my elbows to sit myself up. “Wait a minute, are you trying to say you thought there was something going on between me and Grayson upstairs?”
He doesn’t even have to answer that. I can tell by his expression that he’d been thinking about it. “Maybe. I mean, I wouldn’t put it past you Skye. You’ve fooled around in the past, right?”
I can’t believe what I’m hearing right now. After everything I’ve told him, he still believes I’ll sleep with anyone.
“Are you kidding me Rory?” His eyes widen at the sharpness in my voice. “I’ve told you how much my past affects me and how I’m not that person anymore. You’ve just proved that your opinion of me is still the same as it was when we were in High School.”
Rory huffs under his breath and I turn my head away, extremely annoyed. He’d better watch what he says next. This could be the make or break moment.
“I’m sorry. That was a douchey thing for me to say. I didn’t mean it. I know that you’re trying to move on.” He runs a hand through his hair. “A girl started paying me attention at the party so I gravitated towards her and the next thing I know, she’s backing me up into a corner and we’re...” he glances away, “Well, you know the rest.”
“I’m sorry too!” I shout, head spinning with apologies. “I’m not very good at this okay? I’m not very good at being somebody’s friend. I understand if you want to opt out.”
Rory edges closer. “Skye, I’m not trying to earn my goodbye ticket here and you’re not going to get rid of me that easily. If I didn’t care, I would still be with that girl right now. She was more than willing to take things to the next level.”
His words cut through the air. “Why didn’t you take things further with her? You didn’t have to leave on my account.”
“She was a bit too grabby for my taste anyway. I just wanted to check on you, but then I realised that you must’ve left the party, so I came straight here.”
The room falls silent. Rory himself seems confused by that startling confession. For two people so alike, neither of us are acting like our usual selves.
I have never been faced with feelings of jealousy for anyone before. And it appears, Rory resisted temptation with a girl that could have given him everything he wanted in that one moment because his thoughts were directed at me. Why? I’m not sure.
“Let’s put this behind us,” I say, not wanting to delve into any more talk about feelings. “We were both a bit drunk, so our heads weren’t in the right place - blame it on the alcohol. I overreacted and you were caught in the moment. It happens.”
Rory smiles and holds out his hand. “Still friends?”
I shake his hand firmly and chuckle. “Friends.”
That’s when Batman decides to make his presence known.
Rory almost falls off the bed when he notices a dark shadow scarper across the room and fling itself out of the window, Batman style.
“Bloody hell! What the heck was that?”
“Oh, that’s just my cat… Batman.”
His face scrunches up. “Batman? As in… the guy who dresses up in a bat costume and calls himself Bruce Wayne? That batman?”
“Yup. I had a crush on Michael Keaton when I was a teenager. Slightly obsessed actually.” Rory still looks terrified by that freakish encounter. I can’t say I blame him. Batman doesn’t usually make very good first impressions and he’s not a normal cat.
“He does his own thing mostly. I just provide him with food and water.”
“Is he going to be okay though? I mean, he did just jump out of a window.”
“Yeah, he’ll be fine. Nothing phases him. I think he’s got unlimited lives.” Something suddenly occurs to me. “Hey, I just realised. Your last name is Keaton.”
“Yeah, what about it?”
“It’s just weird. I don’t know many people with that last name… aside from Michael Keaton himself.”
“Well, sorry to disappoint you, but I’m not Michael Keaton in disguise.”
I place a hand over my heart and fake my disappointment. “You’re not? Damn it. For a moment, I thought that I actually could be talking to the main man himself. How sad.”
“You’re funny,” he mutters, half under his breath. “I honestly think your cat needs a haircut though. Nobody wants to see that thing walking the streets at night.”
“Batman won’t even allow me to stroke him, so he’s definitely not going to let me give him a makeover.”
“Maybe I can help.”
“Are you seriously offering to groom my cat?”
His entire face turns red and he bursts into laughter. “You really shouldn’t put it like that.”
“My bad. Not the best terminology. I agree.” But it was fun to watch him squirm.
He smiles. “It’s fine. I would love to groom your cat if you’ll let me.”
I can’t tell if there is a hidden innuendo somewhere in that sentence. But, it’s best not to overthink it. “Okay then. You can face Batman’s wrath if you dare.”
“I’m up for the challenge. How hard can it be?”