Thanks to my sister’s excellent efficiency we arrived at Landon’s an hour late. I had been ushering her to get in the car for half an hour before she finally emerged from her room, claiming an emergency that needed tending to.
I didn’t realize where Landon lived until we reached the new estate, rich in expensive real estate and even more expensive people. His property was in the back pocket of the area, with the closest neighbor on the next block.
Large black gates like those at Hayden’s house guarded the driveway, extending roughly two hundred metres until the house came into view. Not that house was an adequate description; rather mansion. Even that didn’t do it justice.
It was the type of place to have separate wings, like the north wing for sleeping perhaps, and the south wing for recreation. It wasn’t as if our town was unfamiliar to wealth, but this was the type that children dream of living in when they are young.
Parker rounded the gardened roundabout and parked beside what I recognized as Hayden’s car. Another car was one over and I figured it was Zavier’s.
Parker was unfazed by this architecturally beautiful building, walking straight through the front door without bothering to knock. I adjusted my shoulder bag and loosely followed, closing the door behind me.
The inside was just as grand, with an entire entrance hall that made me weary of possible dirt I could traipse in. I checked the flipside of my sandals and deemed them okay, but then was faced with my next problem.
My so called sister had run off to God knows where, while I was stuck at the front of a maze I’d never be able to find my way out of.
I pulled my phone out and texted Landon, asking him to come to the front door for me because I didn’t know where they were. Within sixty seconds I heard footsteps coming from the left and then Landon appeared, seeming on the edge of laughter.
“You’re house is huge,” I observed as we started to head back the way he’d come. I couldn’t help but stare at all the incredibly detailed fixtures, including chandeliers which featured in nearly every room.
“It was my great grandfathers and had been passed down the generations. You know how it goes.”
“Mmh.” I was in awe; the ceilings higher than I’d seen before with modern artwork hanging on the walls at intervals.
“My parents will be home late tonight but they have the west wing. I managed to talk them into letting me have the east wing after my brother moved out a couple of years ago, which is at the back of the house.”
I was right; they had wings.
We rounded a corner into what could be called a lounge room, other than the fact it ran along at least half of the back of the house with glass windows making the distance. There was a pool table at the far end, and a tennis table, and an ice hockey table. Ahead of that was a space piled with mattresses, blankets and bags and nearest to us were couches and on top of those, our friends.
My eyes caught sight of my sister first who, upon eye contact, burst laughing. Beside her sat Annaliese, her legs over Zavier’s lap who was elbow to elbow with Hayden, chatting with Jacob on the extended part of the couch. He was laid back with his weight held up on his elbow, relaxed as he chatted easily with Hayden.
It was Hayden who spotted me first, his eyes catching me just before I tore mine away from his best friend. His eyebrow quirked up along with the side of his mouth which formed his smirk, and I just scowled, set my bag on the floor and climbed into the corner of the L shaped couch between the two boys.
Jacob opened his mouth to say something to me but Landon started first; so instead he gave me a grin and a wink and turned towards his friend.
“My parents made me promise to be responsible,” he started, rolling his eyes as he fell onto the couch beside Parker. “So we’re going to eat the pizza that’s waiting for us in the kitchen and then we’ll play the drinking game I was telling you about.”
With that being said everyone scampered off the couches to race to the kitchen; wherever the hell that was. Either everyone had been here before or they had maps and thought it would be fun to not give the directionally challenged girl one.
I was expecting Jacob to follow suit but he just tilted his head back to me as I started to move off the couch. “Did you sleep well last night?”
He was teasing, his voice so filled with suggestion that I almost wished he had run off with the rest of them. When I woke for the second time this morning I thought back to the night before. It wasn’t the first night I’d spent with Jacob but it was the first night I’d slept with him knowing how I felt. I woke with a smile on my face and the hope I could do it all again tonight.
I punched his shoulder and he just laughed, holding a hand out to help me stand.
Except I wasn’t in the mood for walking after the run I’d gone for earlier today, so I stood on the couch and gestured for him to come back.
“You want a piggy back? Are you five?”
“Yes and yes,” I beamed.
He sighed but paced back and I climbed on, having my first piggy back ride in too many years. His hands gripped my thighs as he set off, and I rested my chin on his shoulder.
“You’re so light,” he commented, turning into a different part of the house I hadn’t seen on the way. “Do you even eat?”
“Yes I eat!” I was a little offended at his lack of knowledge for one of my favourite activities. “Maybe you’re just strong.”
“Yes. Let’s go with that.”
“The one that boosts your ego? Sure.”
“You said it not me.”
Laughter rang from a room up ahead and we went almost the rest of the way down the hall in silence, until Jacob piped up. “You didn’t answer my question.”
“About last night.”
I rolled my eyes, not that he could see. “I think that goes unsaid, doesn’t it?”
He shook his head, a shadow of a smirk on his lips. “I’d like to hear it.”
His smirk grew when I sighed, admitting that; “Yes, I slept well.” I wasn’t about to say it was the best I’d slept since my parents’ accident, or that it was directly caused by the comfort him being there provided.
“ARE YOU TWO COMING?” The shout was much louder than it needed to be, with us only around the corner. Of course the owner of the voice had no way of knowing that, but we answered by stepping into the kitchen.
The girls were sitting on the counter with the boys standing around, pizza boxes open on the marble bench top.
“Have I won the bet yet?” Annaliese asked, her eyes darting between me and Jacob with an eager excitement. I had almost forgotten about the bet we’d made; referring to Jacob and my relationship status by the end of the year. I just shook my head and her face dropped.
“That reminds me. We need to think of a prize.”
“We’ll talk,” she winked at me as Jacob set me on the bench beside her. The boys all started talking about a basketball game they’d watched the previous night so Annaliese and I continued out conversation with Parker contributing every now and then.
We established a bet that consisted of food – predominantly of the sweet variety - and then moved on to more interesting conversation; one of which I could not contribute to.
“Have y’all noticed Hayden acting weird lately?” Annaliese asked in a hushed tone, looking between my sister and I while munching on her pizza. For a model looking girl she sure knew how to eat. I think she was up to her seventh slice while I was struggling with my fourth.
“Of course he is,” Parker laughed. “He’s in love.”
“You reckon?” She asked and I had to nod in agreement. I’d seen a side to their relationship no one else had. I’d spoken to them both individually before I found out, and I knew that’s where their relationship was at.
“They’re telling Jacob tomorrow,” I said and both of the girls stared at me wide eyed. “I know… She asked me to be there. To mediate.”
“You’ll be needed,” Anna frowned, glancing over to Jacob before her eyes darted to Zavier for a split second. “He seems the protective type.”
“Well let’s just hope he doesn’t flip out completely,” Parker piped up. “They’re cute together, y’know? It’d be a shame for Jacob to mess that up because it’s his best friend and sister.”
I couldn’t agree more.
Within the hour we were scattered around the couches, each with a shot glass in hand and the bottle of Vodka in the centre of the circle.
“The game is Never Have I Ever. If you’ve done what the person claims they haven’t, you drink.” Landon introduced, opening the lid of the bottle.
“And the aim is to get everyone more drunk than yourself and have a great night,” Zavier commented. Laughter rumbled through the group, everyone bar Hayden who was looking at the bottle like its contents were poison.
“Uh, yeah, about that,” he stuttered, shaking his head. “Vodka and I don’t mix, so I’m gonna switch to water after a few.” He pulled out a bottle of water from his hands and set it on the floor in between him and his best mate.
“Who wants to start?” Landon asked.
“I will!” It was Parker. She grabbed the bottle and poured us all a shot, before resting back on the couch with a sly grin.
“Never have I ever ridden a bicycle.”
“Seriously?” Anna asked with raised eyebrows. She was serious. She had repulsed them from the moment Atlas had received his first and never once even tried to mount it.
We all drank.
The game continued with the admissions continuously growing out of control. It was there that I learned a number of things about my friends, things that may have been better left unsaid.
By the time it was my second turn I was feeling the buzz of alcohol working through my system, my mind already beginning to turn on me. I poured glasses and set it on the carpet, racking my brain for something to say. Then I had it.
“Never have I ever kissed someone in this room.”
I thought I was brilliant, a devious smirk playing on the edges of my lips until Jacob looked at me with a what the fuck look.
“Duude,” Zavier said, probably having taken the most shots of all of us. “You and Jacob shacked up at that party. You know the party. Which party was it? You know?”
I giggled and lifted my shot, before downing it myself. I was getting used to the burn it left down my throat and now I barely noticed. I took note of everyone else who lifted their glasses, and they were not who I was expecting.
Annaliese. Parker. Jacob. Landon. Zavier.
I pointed at Parker, betrayed that she hadn’t told me that she had kissed someone from here. “What the hell, Parker?” My words slurred slightly. “Who?”
“Why didn’t you tell me?” I whined, but everyone seemed to be in the same boat. All the boys were looking between the two with the same questions in their eyes that were leaving my mouth.
“I didn’t not tell you.”
“That’s no fair.”
“Life’s no fair, hon,” she smirked, but her face softened when she looked to Landon. I couldn’t believe I’d missed the way he looked at her with pure adoration. “And besides, I actually really like him.”
“And you all interfere anyway!” Landon joined in, looking at each of us with laughing eyes. “You surely would’ve messed something up. Especially you three.” He singled out the boys with his pointer finger and they just howled with laughter, not even trying to argue.
“Damn,” Jacob whistled, leaning against the couch in front of me. “Almost everyone’s in a relationship... Parker and Landon, Zavier and Annaliese, Hayden and his mystery girl who-“ he looked to Hayden “-I’m still waiting to meet. I’m feeling a little left out here.”
The game had slightly derailed and everyone was laughing at the boy more drunk than I thought. Now that I thought about it, everyone was more drunk than I thought. The relaxed vibe that came with the help of alcohol was more than present, everyone buzzing with energy.
“Hey!” Jacob exclaimed, turning his head up to look at me upside down. “Maybe we should do something so that we don't feel so left out!”
“Like go knick knocking??” I asked, excitement coursing through me.
“Yes!” He shouted and that’s how we ended up on the edge of the estate.
Zavier had the bottle of vodka, Hayden had his almost sober wits about him and we all had the stupid confidence to knick knock some random house. It was beyond dark, streetlights set up at intervals providing our only source of light. Even the moon was against us tonight.
Kaia had made a game of keeping off the cracks and in the shadows, one of which I was happy to take part in because she was fucking awesome. We looked like the drunks we were, zigzagging and hopping and jumping around the pavement, and I was beginning to believe there was nothing I couldn’t do.
“That house!” Annaliese had yelled in a whispery voice, pointing to a standalone two story with vacant blocks surrounding the property. It was perfect, with so many places to hide that it actually made sense. And not drunk sense; normal person sense.
All seven of us jogged across the barren street and filed up the stone path, the newly announced couple leading the charge. Hayden was standing back with Kaia and I, tapping away on his phone like we weren’t about to do something illegal. Then again, when it came to forbidden activities Hayden was annoyingly calm.
As soon as one of us obnoxiously rang the door bell we sprinted, everyone to one of three vacant blocks but not me. I grabbed Kaia by the hand as I heard footsteps stomp towards the front door and pulled her to some bushes I’d spotted up by the corner. We slid down behind them just as the door opened, revealing a middle aged man with a moustache reaching his pot belly stomach. He was nothing but gruff and I was wondering whether he had broken into the place and kicked out the original residents.
“That guy is scary!” Kaia whispered, but it was so loud I was scared Mr Facial Hair had heard her. I put my hand over her mouth to shush her, keeping my eyes trained on the house until he stomped off inside and slammed the door behind him. The porch light went out and it was then, I knew, we were safe.
I faced the very drunk, very silly and very beautiful girl beside me and laughed, uncovering her smiling lips.
“I told you he’s scary!”
“I never didn’t agree!”
“You did so.”
“You’re being silly,” I pointed out and stood up, brushing the grass from my jeans. I held out my hands for Kaia and she deliberated, as if this were a decision that would affect the rest of her life. Maybe it would, but neither of us were to know.
As she was contemplating the goodness of this idea with more scrutiny than was truly necessary for a gentlemanly act, my eyes could tear themselves away. She was like a magnet to me; wherever she went, my eyes followed. Whenever she walked into a room I felt almost as if gravity were pulling me toward her; an intangible pull that wasn’t going away.
Even in the dark of the night, she was incredibly beautiful. She was all I could focus on, from her hair that reached past halfway down her spine to her gorgeous gray eyes that turned blue when they felt the need. Now, in the light of the lamp, they were a mixture of both, the grey and blue playing off each other to pique my interest more. She caused this reaction in me that I couldn’t suffocate, but why would I want to? Every time she looked at me it felt like I was flying, but I guess that was just her effect.
She finally took my hands, hers delicately strong and warm in mine, and allowed me to pull her to her feet. She stumbled into me but didn’t move. Her body stayed against mine and her eyes looked up at me with a seriousness that wasn’t there a minute ago. Every fibre of my being wanted to close the remaining distance between us, press my lips to hers and forget about anything and everything else because, in that moment, she was all that existed.
But it didn’t happen that way. She grinned and kept one of her hands in mine, starting to walk back down the footpath towards the safety of Landon’s home. I began to hum, the song Hayden had spray painted unconsciously working its way out of my mouth. I felt like dancing, so I held our hands up for Kaia to twirl beneath them, her hair fanning out before resting against her back once more.
A giggle escaped her lips and my smile grew infinitely, as I pulled her towards me to slide my other hand on her waist.
We moved from side to side and before long, we were dancing, in and out of the lamplight to a song that reminded me of her. Everywhere we touched was electric, like the buzz of the summer night and the alcohol had combined to create this between us. I twirled her away from me and then back, and we laughed at every trick and turn we tried.
I let her go for one more spin as the song in my heart ended, and we returned to walking like nothing had happened. I could feel the energy in the air and was about to say something when she sighed, a content smile on her lips.
“I really like you,” she breathed, looking straight out ahead of her towards the place we should have been by now.
“I’d hope so,” I admitted, laughing the obvious off. “We’re friends, after all.”
“No!” She giggled, nudging me with her elbow as if I was being silly. “I mean I like like you.”
I stopped. “Like like?”
Her nod was surreal, the alcohol not making her ashamed to admit what I never could have guessed. It was the best moment I’d been a part of, one that would be my favourite until she did something to outdo it. I was confident it could be only her to replace the top spot, and I was hoping I was lucky enough to have enough time with her to try.
I couldn’t help myself. I leaned in close, any shock, amusement or suggestion of either leaving my face, replaced with a serious calmness that I never thought I could feel. I could see Kaia was the opposite, not know what to do or where this was going but excited for the possibilities.
“I’m pretty sure I love you,” I breathed against her lips, and for the first time in our whatever you’d call it, I kissed her.