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“Not hungry or too much on your mind?” Jasper asked me, breaking my stare as I looked up from my cheese and bacon carbonara to him.

“Both mixed in with exhaustion,” I answered, sighing softly as I continued to swirl some pasta onto my fork.

We were in a tavern by the wharf. We met Leo and Jasper here and came in together, Julian instantly blabbing on about Ruben to them. They’d talked about it for a while as we got a table and ordered, Leo commenting things not so nice and it’d put me into a quiet and sad mood.

Ruben was still my friend. Yes, he crossed a line but I still didn’t like hearing bad things about him. How apparently he’s got autism at a low level when that’s just rubbish.

They stopped speaking when I broke out of my shell and told them to shut up about it.

Silence had crawled until we had food in front of us and Leo had started up a conversation about Max, when they used to come here all the time just because he liked the scallop curry they had. He got it every time and every time, he’d go on about how hot it was and how his mouth was on fire and how he regretted it because he knew he’d be sick later but he still got it every time because it was good while he ate it.

I’d heard Julian laugh more than once, making me smile every time as I enjoyed hearing more and more about Max.

Of course, I never had the opportunity to meet him but from what I’ve heard from everyone, he sounded like one of the nicest and happiest boys around.

“What’s up, buttercup?” Leo asked, leaning his elbows on the table as he cleaned his hands with the napkin in front of his face.

“Nothing. I’m just tired,” I replied, shaking my head lightly and watching as he dropped the napkin in a ball onto his empty plate. I sighed softly when they were all looking and waiting for a better answer. “Just school tomorrow. It’s going to be so different.”

“It already is. Flyers of 'self-harming is not the way' have gone up everywhere and passed out to everyone.”

“She didn’t fucking self-harm, did she?” Julian snapped and Leo shrugged.

“It’s just what’s happened. Rumours going around. Some think you trying killing yourself. Others think it was fucking Janice over jealousy or some shit like that. The rest, like us, know the truth. Some sicko got in and shot you for a reason we may never know,” he sat back as I swallowed and looked down at my dinner when I suddenly lost my appetite.

“Thanks for that,” I muttered, pushing my bowl forward as I leaned back against my chair too.

“Janice has popped up a few times,” Jasper put in, leaning forward against the table as Julian moved his arm along the back of my chair, his hand touching to my far shoulder, rubbing it gently.

“Yeah. Even the detective asked about her,” I nodded gently but shrugged. “It’s not her though.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t say it wasn’t,” Leo murmured, getting his drink and finishing it as I looked at him. “She’s got enough ambition. She’s fucking crazy for lover boy here. She’s been asking about you, man,” his eyes went wide as Julian muttered something and ran his hand over his face. “And you of course. She acts like she cares but she really doesn’t,” his nose scrunched up as he shook his head. “She just wants to be nice and to see how Julian’s going with everything.”

“So, when do you think they’ll be back at school? Just wondering how Julian’s handling all this. Hey, how are you? How’s Jules going?” Jasper mimicked and scoffed a laugh as Leo rolled his eyes while I bit the inside of my cheek lightly, hating the fact that she had it for him that bad. He was taken and she still wasn’t giving up.

“Try hard bitch,” I muttered, taking Julian’s beer to sip out of it.

“Easy there,” he chuckled, taking it from me when it got to a few drops. He finished it off and put the bottle back to the table as he moved his hand to my head, rubbing it soothingly.

“Another round?” Leo asked as he got up.

“I know what you’re thinking, don’t.”

“She’s fine. Want one?” He asked me and I paused before I looked at Julian. “Hey, he doesn’t get to tell you what to do.”

“Fine,” I replied and he nodded a little with a small smirk and walked off towards the bar as Julian chuckled, shook his head lightly.

“If we get caught, it was all him,” Jasper said, chuckling too with Julian as I smirked a little.

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