♥ Chapter One
“I’m not going,” I said firmly.
My best friend Beth had been trying to get me to meet her latest boyfriend Joshua since the two had started dating. And to make things suck even more, the two of them were trying to set me up with Joshua’s best friend Max on some kind of awkward double date.
I just didn’t do the dating thing. I’d never seen the point in it. At seventeen years old, I figured I had my whole life ahead of me to worry about that nonsense. I had my one and only ever boyfriend, Oliver, when I was thirteen (which I was pretty sure didn’t count because we were literally children) and it came to a mutual end after only a couple of weeks when we realised we were much better as friends, so there was no awkwardness or resentment about it. That was probably the reason we laughed hysterically every time somebody told Oliver and I that we should date, because we knew how well that had worked out for us.
I hadn’t had a boyfriend, or even so much as gone on a date with anybody since. There was a slight grey area from my friend Gabby’s Sweet Sixteen party; some of the kids from my school who were invited bought alcohol and pretty much everybody who went got wasted, myself included. I went overboard and ended up kissing a guy called Marlon or Marvin or something for the entire night before having sex with him in the bathroom. Classy.
I hadn’t touched alcohol since.
“Aurora,” Beth replied in a warning tone. I could always tell that she meant business when she called me anything other than my nickname.
“Rory,” I corrected, raising an eyebrow at my best friend because she knew full well that I couldn’t stand my name. Most people didn’t even know that Rory was short for something. That was the way I preferred it.
Beth took no notice of my interruption and carried on speaking as though nothing had happened. “Why don’t you just give it a shot? If you don’t like him then I’ll never mention it again, I promise.”
Weighing out the options, I figured that it didn’t sound like that bad an offer. All I had to do was go to the stupid thing and then say I had to leave after fifteen minutes or so. Hello, freedom!
“Fine,” I sighed, not even trying to keep the resentment from my tone. “But don’t expect me to enjoy myself.”
“That’s the spirit,” Beth replied sarcastically, proceeding to mutter something about pessimism as she fished around in her bag trying to find her phone – probably to text Oliver to tell him I’d finally caved in to her annoying pleas.
Oliver (the same Oliver as my only ever boyfriend) was the third point of mine and Beth’s best friend triangle. We had always stuck in our little trio because we’d known each other since the first day of infant school and hadn’t really bothered to make any other friends since we felt perfectly content with just the company of each other.
Though we didn’t know absolutely everything there was to know about each other, we knew more than anybody else ever would. That was pretty much the result of growing up with people so close to you.
Because of our closeness, Oliver, Beth, and I had never had a proper fall out with each other because we didn’t really have anything to fall out over. That and the fact that we literally had years’ worth of blackmail on each other. Not that we’d ever blackmail each other, of course, but there were pictures of us all together from those embarrassing childhood times, like Trick-or-Treating at the age of five, or at each other’s birthday parties from – usually with us all covered in food. It was basically tradition for us to eat cake like animals at our birthday parties now, and end up looking like absolute messes.
Beth and I had actually met first in pre-school and we’d, quite literally, become best friends instantly. Whenever I thought back to that moment, it always played out a little something like:
Beth: Hi, do you want to be my friend?
Me: Let’s be best friends!
And then we skipped off to the sand box arm-in-arm and pretended to make soup.
On the first day of infant school, we pulled Oliver under our wings and that was that. We’d never really been seen apart since – excluding the time that I pushed Oliver over in the playground once for stealing my favourite scrunchie. He’d ignored me for a whole day before returning my scrunchie to me and being my best friend again.
“Did I mention he’s in a band?” Beth added casually, bringing my attention back to Max as she tapped away on her phone’s screen to Oliver.
“No, you didn’t mention that.”
Beth really did know me as well as I knew myself. Possibly better, at that. I was a black jeans, band t-shirt, Doc Martens and Chucks kind of girl. My idea of a good night out was going to a rock concert.
Beth, on the other hand, was what people would consider a stereotypical girly-girl. The loves pink, loves makeup and fashion, hopeless romantic type. While Beth had wanted a pony and ballet lessons, all I’d ever wanted was a guitar.
When I was seven, my wish was finally granted and I had my very own guitar, plus lessons three times a week. It had been challenging, sure, but I couldn’t have been happier about it. Either way, I was big on guitars and people who shared my affinity for them.
“It doesn’t change anything, I’m perfectly happy being alone. I don’t want to end up like my parents.” It was the truth; I really didn’t want to go and fall for someone and then however many years later despise the very fibre of their being.
That’s pretty much the definition of love, right? Being committed to spend the rest of your life with someone and then one day shattering that vow to tiny pieces and sending them to a pit of despair with the other crushed hopes and dreams?
Beth looked at me with a mixed expression of pity and anger. She didn’t see how anybody could live without someone special in their life, and it had always annoyed her that I was cynical about love. “Because nobody can be happy being alone. Everybody needs someone in their life.” She started twirling some of her long, naturally wavy hair around her left index finger, the natural dark brown colour catching the light and giving it a shiny effect. Though she’d lived in England for her whole life, Beth was Spanish by blood and her gene pool was enviably amazing, so she was usually the most beautiful girl wherever she went.
“I have you and Oliver,” I reminded her, shrugging. “Boyfriends are stupid, marriage is stupid, and love doesn’t even exist. What’s the point in bothering?”
“The point is that you’re majorly pissing me off with your whole pessimistic love-doesn’t-exist crap you have going. You’re just scared that you might like Max, so you’re hiding behind that facade because you’re a commitmentphobe.”
Beth’s mum was a psychologist, and it showed.
Though there was blatant truth behind her words, I wasn’t going to admit that she was right, so I just shook my head slowly and said, “I’m pretty sure commitmentphobe isn’t a proper word, Beth.”
“Whatever, Rora,” she said, untangling her hair from her finger and letting it curl back into its natural place just past her chest. “You know I’m right so you’re trying to change the subject.”
Rolling my eyes, I took the opportunity to check the time on my phone’s screen, realising that I was late for French for about the fourth time that week. At least it saved me the effort of thinking up some smooth conversation changer to dodge Beth’s overactive desire to talk about my nonexistent love life. “Walk me to my lesson?” I asked. “I’m late again.”
Normally Oliver walked me to my French lessons because he had a free period, but he was home sick for the third day in a row with tonsillitis. It was strange for him not to be at school because, until that point, he hadn’t had a day off sick in his life. He usually just suffered through it and spread his diseases around the school like wildfire rather than taking a sick day.
“I can’t, hun, I have Geography.” She sighed sympathetically before air-kissing me on each cheek, and departed off down the corridor to her lesson. “See you after school, babe!” she called over her shoulder as she went, and then she was gone, leaving me alone in the corridor we’d been talking in.
I sighed to myself before starting to walk up the stairs to French, not quite believing that I’d just agreed to go on a date with some random guy I didn’t even know.