“Alex! You’ve only been home for like, a week, and the bathroom is already a mess!” I growl as my brother’s echoing laughter gets closer before he’s stood in the bathroom’s entrance.
“The bathroom looks fine!” He exclaims and I want to bash my forehead against the wall. Or better yet, chuck the pile of wet towels strewn around the bathroom at his chest.
“It’s a fucking mess in here. There is literally a laundry basket in the bathroom closet so why are there towels on the floor? Not to mention all of your shaving crap on the counter.” I walk up to him and yank him towards me to examine his cheeks.
“And you still manage to have scruff? Unbelievable. You know mom wanted you to shave for your party today!” I scold and Alex just laughs louder. Today we were throwing him a welcome home party/birthday celebration. His birthday isn’t technically until after the new year but we thought we’d kill two birds with one stone. The only people who would be here today is our dad, Karen, Frankie, Alex’s old friend Grant who he drifted from after everything happened, and Justin. My mom was okay with me inviting him and Alex was adamant on meeting him, which worries me slightly.
“Calm down flower, everything’s going to be great. I don’t care if we have a spotless house or not, it just matters that the people I love are gonna be here. Plus I get to meet your boyfriend and I haven’t been able to properly threaten anyone in a long time.” His smirk is devilishly and I groan, shoving him out of the bathroom.
“You promised to behave! Now shoo, I’m trying to clean up your mess.” He finally disappears downstairs and I’m relieved. Sometimes you gotta take Alex in small doses. This bathroom has to be clean since the one downstairs doesn’t work and we have guests coming over. When I finally finish in there I dash into my bedroom to get ready. I typically wouldn’t care about my appearance with just family coming over but with Justin… things were always different.
Slipping on a grey sweater dress with ankle booties to match, I quickly curl my hair and pin it back away from my face. After flicking on a bit of mascara, I coat my lips with a cherry balm before I’m satisfied with my appearance. I can hear talking and laughter downstairs and I know they’re expecting me to show my face. Taking a deep breath I exit my room, slowly descending the stairs.
“Lilly! It’s about time, you spent forever up there getting all dolled up for Justin!” my mom exclaims and I immediately roll my eyes, feeling my cheeks flush with color.
“Seriously mom? You never know when to stop!” I groan, walking further into the room and sharing an awkward smile with Karen. We hadn’t spoken much since that dinner fiasco and now here she was in our house. My father stands, walking up to me. I tentatively accept his hug as he gently kisses the top of my head.
“It’s nice to see you Lilly. You look beautiful. So I guess I get to meet this famous boy your mother and Alex keep mentioning?” He raises an eyebrow.
“Yes! Geez, Justin is coming and none of you better embarrass me!” I scold. When I asked Justin if he wanted to come over today and that my dad and Karen would be here, he accepted much to my chagrin. Despite my warning that he’d be meeting my dad and brother all in one go he was determined to come. I have a feeling we’ll both regret that decision later on though. The doorbell ringing disrupted my thoughts.
“I’ve got it!” Alex and I shout simultaneously, shoving each other to get to the door first. I curse loudly when I almost trip over my boot’s heels. I’m forced to watch as Alex swings the door open to reveal Justin standing there patiently, and I watch as his green eyes widen at the sight of Alex. Oh dear god. Alex immediately straightens up to where he slightly towers over Justin, a passive expression on his face. I inch closer so I can hear what he’s about to say.
“You must be Justin.” My brother grumbles, and I bet he’s glaring down at Justin in an attempt to be intimidating. I see Justin flash a grin my way over Alex’s shoulder.
“And you must be Alex. It’s nice to meet you man.” I hold back a laugh, because most likely Alex faltered at his response. My brother clearly doesn’t know Justin, who isn’t one to back down from a challenge. However, Alex has more tricks up his sleeves.
“Wish I could say the same. I’ll be watching you tonight, and if you ever upset my sister in the slightest way, you will be sorry.” Alex leans forward and whispers something in Justin’s ear. When Justin’s eyes widen I take that as my cue to break things up.
“That’s enough Alex! Come on in Justin, I’m sorry about him.” I quickly usher through the door and shoot a stern look at Alex.
“It’s fine. You look beautiful by the way.” Justin grins, his iridescent green eyes scanning me from head to toe, causing my pulse to thrum. My skin felt like it was on fire just by his appreciative gaze. I bite my lip before smiling softly in gratitude.
“You better not be having sexual thoughts about my little sister.” Alex pipes up and the moments broken by me nearly coughing my lungs out.
“Alex!” I screech, wanting to throttle him. “Mom, come and get your son!” While I’m over here mortified Justin is trying to hold back his laughter and I suddenly want to throttle him too.
“You know what? I am already done with the both of you. Come find me when you’re both done being idiots.” I huff, strutting into the livingroom.
“Why is it that when Alex does something wrong he’s suddenly my son? Why can’t you yell for your father to deal with him?” My mom teases. Justin enters the living room warily, my brother close behind him.
“Justin! It’s so lovely to see you again!” My mother exclaims, standing to engulf him in a hug.
“Hello Jane. You look great as always.” I swear my eyes are stuck in the back of my skull. What an ass kisser. Justin’s eyes flicker over to my father as he stands and they shake hands respectfully.
“I’m Joseph, Lilly’s father. I’ve heard a lot about you, my daughter speaks highly of you.” I might as well be blushing all night. Justin laughs good naturedly.
“I’m glad to hear that.” Justin makes eye contact with me and I motion for him to come and sit beside me. Our thighs touch and his spreads my fingers apart to slip his through the crevices. I smile down at our conjoined hands.
“Hi Justin, I’m Karen.” Her smile is blinding as she regards Justin, and she shoots me a wink when she doesn’t think he’s looking. ’He’s cute,’ she mouths.
“It’s nice to meet you.” He says politely. There’s an awkward silence now surrounding us and i can feel it seep into my skin. This is all for Alex but they’re acting like it’s ‘let’s meet Lilly’s kind of kind of not boyfriend.’ When the doorbell rings once again I’m off the couch quick as lightning.
“I’ve got it!” I shout. Swinging the door open, I’m met by a familiar face. His blonde hair is a mess of curls and his warm brown eyes brighten at the sight of me.
“Grant! Oh my gosh, I haven’t seen you in forever!” I exclaim, pulling him into a hug. I laugh as he lifts me up, swinging me around.
“Lilly! Look at you, you’ve grown up!” He laughs, his eyes flitting over me. I grin.
“Yeah, that’s what happens in three years. Come on, everyone’s in the livingroom and they’ll be happy to see you.” Walking into the living room with Grant’s hand resting on the bottom of my back, I announce our presence.
“Guess who’s here?” Everyone grins and stands up, greeting Grant enthusiastically.
“Hey man! It’s so good to see you, it’s been too long.” Alex says and they share a short hug.
“Yeah, it has been. I’m just glad to see your doing better. I’m happy for you Alex.”
“We all are. Alex’s recovery has been a long and tenacious process, but it’s been worth it to have him here with us today, alive and well.” My mother boasts, tears in her eyes. I give her a side hug, and I feel Justin walk up behind me.
“Who is that?” He whispers in my ear.
“Oh! Grant, this is Justin, a, uh, good friend of mine, and Justin this is Grant, Alex’s childhood friend.” I introduce the both of them a bit awkwardly. I don’t know how to explain Justin and I’s relationship, or lack thereof, to other people.
“It’s great to meet you. I’ve known Lilly and Alex since we were kids. I used to practically live here I was over so much.” We all laugh, nodding at the validity of his words.
“Trust me I remember. I always tried to hang out with you guys and when you’d tell me no I’d just follow you both around.” I laugh, grinning at those childhood memories. Grant was the only true friend Alex had when he went off the deep end. He refused to enable Alex, and when things got worse with him he’d refuse to be around him like that, which was understandable. He use to always text me to see how Alex was doing or to let me know if he saw Alex doing shady things around town. Grant is a great friend to Alex and has always been nice to me growing up.
“Do you remember when Alex and I climbed that tree to get away from you? You tried to climb up after us and broke your arm. I felt so bad.” Grant chuckles and I blush slightly.
“You guys were awful together growing up. It’s no wonder I didn’t break anymore bones.” I tease.
“Please Lilly, we all three always had the best of times together and you know it.” He was right of course. Some of my best childhood memories included Grant.
“Well everyone, I think the food is done so you guys can come make your plates and take a seat in the dining room.” My mother announces. Chatter engulfs the room as everyone scatters into the kitchen.
“You and Grant seem close.” Justin murmurs as I hand him a plate. I shrug.
“I’ve known him since we were kids and I haven’t seen him for years. Him and Alex and a falling out when he started doing drugs. Grant wasn’t into that stuff. He always checked up on Alex and I both.” I respond, dishing some salad onto my plate. Justin follows suite.
“Oh.” He says quietly, and my eyebrows furrow.
“Why? Is something wrong?” I query, genuine worry and confusion lacing my words. Justin shakes his head, smiling to pacify me.
“No, everything’s great. I’m glad you invited me.”
“Well I’m glad you came.” I grin, bopping my hip with his before sitting at the table. Justin sits next to me, Grant across from me, Alex beside him, and our parents and Karen on opposite sides of the table. My brother and I practically groan at the taste of the lasagne our mother made. It was a favorite food we shared.
“Does a love of lasagne run in the family?” Justin teases and I shove him.
“Stop it. Lasagne and I share a special bond.”
“Remember that one time you-” Grant begins but I cut him off.
“Actually I don’t think anyone really cares to hear-”
“When Alex and I were eight and Lilly was just seven, all she would eat was lasagne. She refused to eat anything else and threw a fit when you guy wouldn’t let her eat it anymore.” Everyone bursts into laughter while my cheeks were aflame.
“I can’t believe you remember that! Jesus, no wonder you guys avoided me when we were younger.” I chuckle and Grant grins at me.
“Of course I remember. How could I forget?” Before I can say anything I’m stopped short by Justin’s hand resting on my knee. My eyes flit to his and I’m encompassed by a green storm. He’s biting down hard on his lip, his eyes never straying from me. I feel my breath hitch.
“What?” I ask breathlessly, my heart hammering as his hand slowly but deliberately caresses my thigh. His lips are pursed, his eyes dark and unforgiving. He raises an eyebrow, his head slightly cocked in a questioning manner.
“Am I doing something wrong?” He whispers against my ear, his breath warm against my skin. I am hyper aware of his moving hand and the fact that both my brother and father were seated at this same exact table.
“Justin stop, my parents and brother are right there.” I scold. I can feel sparks and chills go down my spine.
“Of course. How could I forget?” He mutters and I feel cold as his touch leaves my skin. Eyes wide, I suddenly lost my appetite. Was he jealous of Grant? That’s absolutely ridiculous. Grant’s like a second brother to me. I don’t get to say anything else to Justin as I’m swept into multiple different conversations. When everyone’s excused to the living room and Grant and Alex disappear upstairs to get something, I try to corner Justin.
“Hey. Can we talk?” I ask tentatively. Justin doesn’t meet my eyes, running his hands through his hair.
“Actually, can it wait? I really need to use the restroom.” I bite my lip.
“Okay. You’ll have to use the one upstairs, the one downstairs needs to be fixed.” He nods before dashing away from me like I’m a disease.
“Is he okay?” Karen asks, making me jump.
“Geez! Don’t sneak up on me like that.” I breathe. She smiles sheepishly and apologizes.
“I honestly don’t know. He totally just dodged my attempt to talk to him.”
“He’ll come around. I can tell he cares about you very much.” Karen says sincerely and I can’t help but smile gratefully at her. I guess sometimes she isn’t so horrible.
“Thank you Karen.” When all three boys came back downstairs I walk up to Justin.
“Can we talk now? We can go up to my room.”
“Okay,” Justin murmurs, a perplexed look on his face.
“Mom, Justin and I are going upstairs to my room.” I yell over my shoulder, dragging Justin up the steps.
“That door better stay open Lilly!” Alex yells before our mom or dad has a chance to. I roll my eyes.
“Yes, dad.” I mutter sarcastically. When Justin and I get inside my room, I take a seat on my bed, expecting him to follow suit. I frown when he sits on my desk chair instead.
“What is up with you?” I ask, throwing my hands up in exasperation. “You were acting so weird during dinner then blew me off. What’s going on?” I ask, my voice a bit quieter this time.
“I think the real question is what’s up with you and Grant?” Justin growls, his eyes dark and thunderous once again, confirming my suspicions.
“You’re jealous.” I state blankly.
“Should I be?” He asks condescendingly, raising an eyebrow. I scoff.
“Really Justin? Grant and I are just friends. He’s like a second brother to me.”
“Do you flirt with all guys who are like brothers to you?” He snaps. I flinch at his harsh tone.
“You’re being fucking ridiculous. I don’t have feelings for Grant.”
“Does he have feelings for you though? Because he’s been flirting with you all night. Was there ever something between you two?” Justin questions, his eyes anxiously awaiting my answer. I bite my lip.
“It doesn’t matter. I’m going to tell you this again, I don’t have feelings for Grant.”
“It matters to me.” Justin says firmly. I sigh at his damn stubbornness.
“He was my first kiss. That’s it. When we were younger I had a little crush on him, but that was nothing. I feel nothing for him now. I like you Justin. You’re the only guy I have feelings for and want to be with.” I say quietly, but with conviction. The words terrify me as they escape my lips but I meant everyone of them. I was sick and tired whatever game it is that we’re playing. I want to call Justin mine and throw all fears and complications out the window. I watch as Justin stands, taking a seat besides me.
“I don’t want to wait anymore Justin. I’m done being afraid. I want to be with you for real, and to not have an awkward pause when people ask what we are to each other. I’m done having you as more than a friend but less than a boyfriend. You drive me fucking crazy but I love it. I want this. Us.” I confess, my heart beating way too fast, my voice trembling. I’ve never felt more exposed in my life, so achingly vulnerable. It was agonizing waiting for his response, my heart was in my throat and I felt like I might as well heave it up and into his lap.
“Lilly, you have no idea how long I’ve wanted to hear you say that.” A dark look passes over his expression though and I frown as he pulls away. He looks so perplexed, as if he’s battling with himself over something. I grip his arm tight.
“Wait, that’s a good thing right?” I ask desperately. He can’t shut down and become guarded right after I spill my heart out to him. That’s not fucking fair.
“Of course it is, I just. Dammit.” He groans stressfully, standing up from my bed. I probably look dumbfounded as I stare at him from my seated position.
“Justin, I don’t understand-” He cuts me off quickly, bending down and cupping my cheeks.
“Give me until the New Year’s Eve Party tomorrow night to give you an answer. I promise to give it you, god knows I feel the fucking same. Can you wait for me? Please?” He begs, desperation cloaking his words and even though I’m confused beyond belief I find myself nodding.
“Okay. Tomorrow night.” I agree. Justin grins.
“It will be a night to remember, that I can promise you Lilly Alvarado.”
People were pushing and shoving me as I made my way through the large mass of people at this party. Justin, Lou, and everyone had been raving about this New Year’s Eve party they attended every year and how I had to come. I was a bit reluctant at first, since parties really weren’t my scene after the many explosive arguments and breakups Bryce and I had at them, but after Justin promising to give me an answer tonight I was eager to come. I was extremely antsy, and every time I saw a mop of dark brown my heart hammered in my chest only to deplete when it wasn’t him.
I was dressed in a body length silver dress that glittered, a slit permeating the bottom of it to showcase a peak of my legs. My makeup had been precisely done into a smoky eye, and my hair was in long curls down my back. I was wearing silver heels, which were tall and spiky enough for Justin to completely sever my heart with them. Not that he would. I hope.
Walking into the kitchen of whoever’s house this was, I pour me a drink to try and calm my nerves. I didn’t want to be a complete wreck when Justin saw me, and I had to occupy myself so I didn’t blow up his phone with multiple text messages to see where he was. I can’t scare him off. Finishing off my drink, I try to look for any familiar faces in the sea of people but I’m unsuccessful. I groan. Just great. I’m stuck at a random ass party with people I don’t know. Damn you Justin. But, as my eyes scan a familiar head full of dark hair and an equally lean body, I smirk triumphantly.
“Shane! Have you seen Justin?” I ask, standing next to him. He shrugs, taking a sip of his beer.
“Nope, haven’t seen your fuckbuddy. Why? Need a temporary fix?” His eyes roll over my body in mild interest, “maybe I can help. I think I’d gag you so I don’t have to hear your annoying ass mouth.” My face is on fire, and I regret finishing off my drink so I could’ve had something to throw in his face.
“Fuck you Shane. You’re such an asshole.”
“I already offered sweetheart.” He says coldly, a dry smirk on his face.
“You’re no fucking help. If you see Justin tell him to come and find me.” Shane grabs my arm before I can run off.
“What’s going on? I’ve never gotten you this riled up before with whatever bullshit I say.” I sigh, rolling my eyes and checking the time. 11:47. It was almost midnight and Justin was nowhere to be seen. I had already sent him a text earlier but he still hasn’t responded.
“I just really need to talk to him, it’s important. He promised me he’d find me so we could talk.” I say, my anxiety building. What if he changed his mind? What if he was still scared to be something more? Or what if he just doesn’t feel the same way and is avoiding me?
“Don’t worry so much. Justin’s a good guy who’s so into you it’s damn near pathetic. He’ll come. I don’t see him standing you up in a dress like that.” Shane confesses, taking another sip of his beer. I’m surprised by his encouraging words. He’s actually being decent to me, or, dare I say it, nice.
“I think that’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me.” I grin, and Shane rubs the back of his neck in embarrassment.
“Whatever.” he mutters.
“By the way Shane,” I begin, waiting for his dark hazel eyes to meet mine, “I know deep down you’re a great guy. Better than the asshole you like to pretend to be. Jasmine’s crazy for letting you go.” I think right then we begin to see each other in a different light, and although he doesn’t say it I know he’s thankful for my words. Our moment is cut off though by a slurred voice.
“Is this the new guy you’re fucking?” Bryce slurs, pointing an accusing finger between Shane and I. I feel my blood go cold and all color leave me face. No. He can’t ruin this night for me.
“Bryce,” I say sternly, “you’re drunk.”
“And you’re a whore!” He shouts, gaining the attention of the people around us. I can feel my face burn in shame and embarrassment. He was making a scene. Of fucking course. As always.
“Hey man, I suggest you walk the fuck away and leave her alone. She clearly doesn’t want to fucking talk to your pathetic, drunken self.” Shane speaks up, his voice deathly calm and collected. Bryce throws his head back, cackling with laughter. His blonde hair is a mess, and his eyes are bloodshot. I don’t understand what I ever saw in him. Because where I used to see a beautiful boy worth loving, all I see now is a broken person who only causes destruction.
“Fuck you! You think you’re special just because you’re fucking her? Newsflash buddy! Been there, done that. She’s a slag!” Tears burn my eyes as the insensitive people who were watching begin to laugh. This is a nightmare. I suddenly want to go home and curl under my sheets.
“Bryce, please. Stop.” I beg, wanting to get him to leave before something happens. I’m too late though.
Shane, face alight with anger, stomps forward and yanks Bryce up by his t-shirt, spitting at his face, “You have five seconds to apologize to her before I bash your pretty little face in.” You can hear the anger in his voice now, each word a growl. Bryce’s smile is sickeningly sweet before he spits in Shane’s face. There’s a loud resounding crack of Bryce’s nose as Shane pulls his fist back and aims. Suddenly, everywhere there is chaos.
People are screaming and shouting “Fight! Fight! Fight!”, Shane is on top of Bryce delivering blow after blow, and I can be heard screaming at them to just stop. Please stopstopstop. Next, I’m screaming at the people surrounding us.
“Someone stop them! He’s going to kill him!” I scream, but they’re too drunk and entertained by the sight in front of them. I can see blood pool around Bryce and as much as I hate him, especially after the stunt he pulled tonight, I knew I couldn’t let Shane continue to pummel him. Suddenly, people were counting down to the new year.
Someone has to stop them!
Where the hell is Justin?!
This is going to be such a shitty year.
I run forward, yanking on Shane’s shoulder to pull him back. “Enough! He’s had enough!”
“You don’t get to say that shit to her! No one else is fucking allowed to treat her like shit!”
“SHANE!” I scream in frustration.
“Fucking apologize to her before I kill you.”
“I’m sorry.” Bryce’s words are almost illegible as Shane pauses his punches so he can speak.
“That’s what I thought you prick.” Shane stands and delivers a swift kick to Bryce. He groans.
“What the hell were you thinking Shane? You could’ve killed him!”
“One less scumbag to roam the earth. You and the rest of the world would have thanked me.”
“One! Happy New Year!”
The screams are deafening as everyone shouts and couples kiss. It’s officially 2017 and I’m standing by a boy who I swore hated me and my ex-boyfriend is beside us, a bloody mess on the floor. And the one guy I hoped to call mine before midnight is nowhere to be seen.
“Well that was an eventful way to end 2016. Wish my knuckles didn’t take quite a beating though.” Shane winces as he attempts to move his fingers. His knuckles were bruised and bloody.
“What the hell happened?” My head jerks to the sound of Justin’s voice as he stood there in shock and utter disbelief.
“What the fuck do you think man? Clearly I beat that guys ass. Please be smarter this year.”
“Shane, please shut the hell up. And Justin, where the hell have you been?” I shout, shoving at his chest. “You were supposed to meet me forever ago! I found Shane to ask where you were, but he had no clue! Then Bryce-” Justin cuts me off.
“Yes! Don’t interrupt me! Bryce walks up to us, drunk off his ass, and starts insulting me. Next thing I know Shane’s beating the living shit out of him, and no one would help me break them up! People starting counting down to midnight, and you were gone, I didn’t know what to do, and you still haven’t given me an answer which is really shitty of you-” I rant, but I’m immediately cut off by Justin’s lips on mine.
I gasp as his lips envelope mine, moving feverishly. All of my worry, anger, and confusion slips away and I melt into his kiss. My fingers are clutched in his hair, my body pressed to his in any and every attempt to get closer to him, and when his tongue caresses my lips for entrance I open up for him willingly. I gasp quietly when his tongue meets mine, coercing me to glide my own tongue against his. I’ve never felt anything like this before. Never had kissing someone felt so electric, so encompassing, so mind numbingly good. Eventually, though, we’re forced to part from each other to take in gasps of air. I can hear my own heart pounding and I’m slightly embarrassed at how breathless I am.
“Wow,” I say stupidly, immediately blushing when Justin grins broadly, throwing his head back in laughter.
“Better late than never I guess,” Justin murmurs, still cupping my cheeks in his calloused palms. My eyes couldn’t stray from his even if the world around us were to explode. I nod in agreement.
“I want to be more than your friend and no less than your boyfriend. I want to be your 5 a.m. thoughts and your 3 p.m. call. I want to be the subject of the words you write in that notebook I hope one day you’ll willingly allow me to read, and I don’t want to be anything less than yours.” Justin confesses, warming my heart in an inexplicable way and carving himself a permanent place there.
“I was yours from the moment you decided to poke me with your pencil and forget my name.” We grin at each other before we kiss again, and I savor the sweet taste of his lips and the way the smell and taste of him lingered when he pulled away.
“Now, you’re officially mine.”