"You're such a dick."
"Hey man, she kissed me, how is that my fault?"
Jim and Drew were in the Luke Street kitchen, Jim was mixing a protein shake while Drew sat at the kitchen island clutching a bowl of cereal.
"Still a dick."
"You don't have to worry. I'm not interested in her. She's far too young for me, I'm done with teenage girls."
"You were a teenager less than a year ago," Drew scoffed, lifting the bowl to his lips to drain the rest of the milk.
"Yeah and I was already over teenage girls then. I prefer a more mature woman now. She is a good kisser though," Jim winked.
Drew rolled his eyes and hopped off his stool, making his way over to the sink.
"So are you gonna go for it? She must be over the ex if she's willing to plant one on me?" Jim flung his arm around Drew's neck as he washed his bowl but Drew shrugged him off, "Hey, don't be pissed off with me. She's all yours, I promise."
Drew turned to face Jim after carelessly placing his bowl on the drying rack with a clang and wiping his hands on his jeans, "I'm not pissed off, I'm just disappointed that she has such bad taste in men."
Jim put his hand over his heart and let his mouth fall open, pretending to take great offence, "Well now, that hurt."
At that moment, the sound of the front door opening sounded through the house and seconds later, Scarlett appeared in the kitchen doorway clutching a plastic bag full of groceries. Her hair was roughly piled on top of her head in a bun, some loose, wild strands falling around her face, which was pink either from the bite of the air outside or the strain of her shopping.
She stopped in her tracks when she saw Jim and Drew in the kitchen.
"How was your first day?" Drew asked cheerfully, cutting through the tension.
"It was great!" Her voice was a little bit too high pitched when she spoke.
"Great!" Drew replied, his arms swinging awkwardly by his side, there was silence for a moment, "Well I have to go to uni so I'll see you guys in a bit."
He grabbed his jacket from one of the stools and left through the back patio doors, leaving Scarlett and Jim in the kitchen alone. Jim noticed that Scarlett was avoiding his gaze as she made her way into the kitchen, moving the long way around the island to get to the cupboard she needed. He took a long sip of his protein shake and leaned back against the counter, never once taking his eyes off her as she started to unload her plastic bag. She was wearing tight black jeans under her baggy jumper, there was a smudge of flour on them where she must have wiped her hands, right next to the pleasing curve of her behind.
"What, no hello?" he finally said.
She looked up at him, obviously flustered, "I'll be out of your way in just a moment."
Jim shrugged, "This is your kitchen now too, right?"
Scarlett bit her lip, almost dropping her packet of penne pasta in her haste to get it into the cupboard. When her bag was empty she turned to leave the room but stopped just short of the door.
"Look," she started, turning around slowly, "I feel awkward about yesterday so if we could just forget about it that would be cool."
"Which part, you kissing me or you calling me a dick?"
The pink in Scarlett's cheeks flushed a deep red and her breath quickened as she stuttered a reply, "I didn't mean to call you a dick I just-"
"Apology accepted, I forgive you" Jim interrupted her, a smug smile spreading across his lips.
Scarlett gawped at him for a moment before clenching her fists, "Wait, no, I'm not sorry! You are a dick! And you basically tricked me into kissing you!"
"Oh, well in that case I don't forgive you." Jim folded his arms, the smile from his lips was gone but it was still in his eyes. He was enjoying how much of a reaction he could provoke from Scarlett whose face was now creased with annoyance.
She let out an exasperated growl and spun on her heel, running out of the door and up the stairs towards Tabitha's room.
* * * * *
"He is such a dick!"
Scarlett flung herself backwards onto Tabitha's bed, breathing heavily, hands still balled into fists.
Tabitha was sat cross legged on the floor in front of her mirror, mouth wide open in concentration as she applied mascara. "Don't let him get to you. He's a wind up merchant."
"I've never met anyone so infuriating in my life!"
"Forget about him! How was your first day?"
"It was really good," Scarlett took a deep breath to calm herself down and brought herself up to her elbows on Tabitha's bed, "Matilda is bat-shit but in a brilliant way. And I'm working with this super cool French girl who's been travelling the world for the last year. The work seems easy and the customers are nice. Matilda even let me decide what music we played today. Oh, and I'm definitely going to be able to afford the rent here, just about."
"Amazing news! I knew you'd do it!" Tabitha beamed at Scarlett through the mirror, turning her attention onto her lips to apply her trademark hot pink, "This is serious cause for celebration!"
"I wish you were around yesterday to celebrate with. Then I wouldn't have had to spend even a second with that massive prick."
Tabitha rolled her eyes, "This again." She turned around to face Scarlett, an earnest expression on her face, "You know, he's not that much of a prick. If it wasn't for him you wouldn't even be here."
Scarlett sat up on the bed, her eyes narrowing, "What do you mean?"
"He's the one who saw you and then made Drew go with him to get you. He even rang Ros to tell her you were coming back here to live. Practically insisted!"
Scarlett's jaw hung open in disbelief. She couldn't believe it but now she thought about it, it made perfect sense. She had always thought it was Drew and Tabitha who had come to come to get her that night. She completely forgot that she had bumped into Jim just around the corner moments before. Everything had been such a blur. This whole time she had thought Jim didn't want her here because of what he had said to her the night of the party when in actual fact he was the person who had effectively saved her from a miserable life on the streets. And she had just called him a dick. To his face. For the second time.
* * * * *
Later that night, four out of five Luke Street-ers were lounging in the front room, watching films and eating snacks. Scarlett lay on the green sofa, her legs draped across Drew's as they shared a packet of Haribo. Mairead sat cross legged on a tall, white armchair, lazily texting in between mouthfuls of Dorito while Tabitha was strewn across a scruffy maroon loveseat, covered in a patchwork blanket, blinking and breathing slowly, halfway between awake and asleep.
"Anyone need anything from the kitchen?" Scarlett asked, hopping up to get a drink. The group shook their heads and murmured no and so Scarlett popped another Haribo loveheart into her mouth before making her way to the kitchen. She had swapped her jeans for some shorts and a loose band tee but had kept her hair up in the loose, messy bun that she had worn for work that day.
She didn't bother to turn the light on in the kitchen, she knew her way to the fridge by now and felt its coolness on her skin as she bent down and opened the door, illuminating her face as she searched for the can of Irn Bru she'd left in here earlier. Spotting it, she was about to reach for it, just as she heard a key turning in the kitchen patio doors.
Jim and a girl she didn't recognise came crashing through the doors, their lips locked and their hands roaming feverishly over each other. Silhouetted by the moonlight spilling through the patio door, Scarlett could see him fondling her bottom, his other hand placing his key back in his leather jacket pocket as his guided her capably through the kitchen.
They stopped for a moment, breaking apart, their loud breathing amplified against the kitchen tiles. Scarlett could see his face for a second, as the moonlight fell on him. His eyes looked cloudy, his jaw slack, his hair dishevelled. He was a beautiful mess.
The sound of the fridge door falling closed behind Scarlett alarmed them all and alerted the amorous couple to Scarlett's presence. Jim flew to the switch by the door so yellow light flooded the kitchen and Scarlett got a good look at the girl, her red lipstick was smeared all over her chin and her hair was a brassy blonde colour. She appeared to be bulging out of her bodycon dress in all the wrong places and her heavily made up eyes were small and beady. Not one of Jim's better conquests, Scarlett thought cruelly.
"What are you doing hanging around in the dark, you creep?" Jim slurred.
He was very drunk, she could tell by the way he couldn't quite stand up straight and seemed to be squinting at her. The flies were undone on his tight black jeans and he appeared to have spilled some sort of liquid over his slate grey V-neck shirt.
"I was just getting a drink," Scarlett gestured to the fridge, she glanced back at the girl, then back to Jim, "You're calling me a creep?"
Jim actually looked embarrassed for a moment. Only for a moment, "Don't slut shame me," he winked, stumbling a little. His eyes roamed fervently over Scarlett's bare legs and her thin t-shirt, lacking his usual subtlety due to his intoxicated state.
"Do you have anything to drink?" Jim's visitor interrupted the building tension, she spoke with a Northern lilt.
"No," Jim growled, closing his eyes as if the sound of her voice pained him, "You should go."
The girl looked back and forth between Scarlett and Jim, her lips curling in disdain, "Fucking weirdos," she mumbled as she let herself out the patio doors.
Silence hung in the air for a minute. Scarlett bent down and reached into the fridge, getting what she came for but suddenly all too aware of the shortness of her shorts as they rode up the back of her buttocks. She cleared her throat as she stood up, blushing when she saw how Jim was looking at her. The lust in his eyes seemed to disappear quickly, replaced by his signature smirk, albeit not as steely as usual due to the large amount of alcohol in his system.
"Anything to say about that?" he said, daring her with a flash in his eyes, waiting for a judgemental comment or a disparaging look.
Scarlett thought for a moment, her fingers lightly tracing the top of the ring pull on the can she was holding, she moved her weight onto one of her feet and tilted her head slightly, "Just thank you, I guess."
He didn't expect that, she thought with some satisfaction. She did her best to hide her smile at his growing uncertainty by opening her can of Irn Bru, innocently taking a small sip and licking the edge of the can where some of the sticky, frothy liquid had burst out.
"For what?" he grunted, his eyes fixed on her mouth.
"I know it was you who came to get me that day from under the bridge." She made to walk past him out through the kitchen door but paused in front of him and looked up into his eyes, startlingly blue and fixed on hers in quivering anticipation. They were nearly as close as they were the day before in that very same kitchen, except this time Scarlett was in control, "Sorry it didn't work out with blondie, I hope that wasn't on my account. Night night, Jimmy."
Scarlett let a triumphant smile stretch across her face as she turned away from him and headed back to the front room. Finally a conversation with Jim Moriarty which hadn't ended in confusion, embarrassment or rage. Scarlett felt like for once she was the one on top, and she liked it. Figuratively speaking of course.