Remy invited me back to hers after our shifts at the alley, it was back round to Friday and I had nothing better to do. Concerned whether or not Aria would be there and if she would rip out my hair. But Remy told me that Aria has distanced herself from them completely and that she wouldn't be coming. I wouldn't be surprised if she turned up and started shouting left, right and centre.
As we enter the shed, loud music surrounds us instantly. Zack, Carter, Emily and Jake were sat around the table playing some kind of card game.
"Hey Myla," Carter greets me welcomingly.
"Hey guys," I wave and they all smile, excluding Jake who attempts to look away.
"Come sit," Emily says as she pats the chair beside her. "The boys are teaching me how to play shithead."
"Sounds fun," I laugh as I pull off my coat and yank down the sleeves of my jumper, covering my hands.
"You played?" Zack flexes an eyebrow at me as he shuffles the cards between his hands.
I hum. "Yeah I know how to play,"
"Great news," he huffs out. "Can you explain it in simple terms to Emily because I know she won't get it if I explain."
"Hey!" Emily shouts sounding offended.
"Em you know it's true," Jake grumbles. "So just listen to Myla."
I explain the game in the simplest terms I could, Emily still didn't get it. Which just ended up with us playing red or black. The boys weren't too pleased but they were getting stoned by the second, so in the end they didn't really care.
Everyone drinks and this time no one kicks me for not, I felt relaxed for once.
"I love it here," Emily mumbles from beside me on the couch. She was wasted, her eyes red and her words slightly slurred.
"Yeah it's nice here," I agree.
"No," she pushes herself up and turns herself to me. "That's not what I mean."
I shrug simply at her for her to carry one and she does, her finger slightly pointing at me. "Being here means you can be what you want, if you wanna drink you drink, if you wanna smoke you smoke. If you want to get so fucked you can't see, no one will judge you. This is our place, you know?"
My throat hums at her words. "A place for you to belong?"
Emily's eyes widen slightly and she nods. "Yes, yes that's exactly it,"
"Were you guys friends in high school?"
"Yeah," she tells me. "We were all so close but we fucking hated school. It was full of stuck up bitchy girls and bullies, it was a toxic place. Some parties would end up in fights, people were getting spiked. It was messy. I'm glad it's over."
"Couldn't agree more," I breathe out.
Emily smiles at me for a moment. "You're not like other girls,"
"How'd you mean?"
"You just feel real,"
"I'll take that as a compliment," I laugh slightly.
"You should," she nods once before grabbing her drink. "Most people around this town pretend to be people they're not, to follow the crowds and be sheep. You feel very authentic. I like your fashion sense."
I take a quick glance down at my current outfit, this time I brought spare clothes instead of my work gear. Not wearing anything out of the ordinary, scruffy converse and a old checkered shirt that was Caleb's once upon a time. "This is just my dads," I say as I pinch the collar of the shirt.
Emily leans forward to slightly poke my shoulder. "See that is exactly why I like you,"
"Thanks Emily, I like you too," I smile.
"And I didn't mean to push you last week to drink, that was bad of me to do that. If you don't want to drink then why would that effect me?" She says quickly as she pushes her hair out of her face.
"It's okay," I say. "I don't expect a lot of young people to understand."
"You make up for it in personality, you don't need to be drunk to be fun."
My lips twitch up into a smile. "That's nice to hear," I admit. "I've struggled to make friends in the past."
"Well I don't understand how," Emily smiles at me. "You seem super cool."
Emily starts to talk about her home life and I listen, she says a lot of things I know she probably wouldn't have said if she was sober. But I didn't mind because I've always been a good listener.
. . .
When everyone decides to go home, I notice Jake loitering by the door. Remy raises an eyebrow at me and I shrug my shoulders slightly towards her. "Are you coming?" Jake says eventually as his head motions towards the door.
"Yeah, I guess so," I breathe out before saying goodbye to Remy.
Then Jake and I are left to walk home together again, not really feeling up for a conversation with him after I avoided it most of the night. I didn't forget what he said to me last week, being unnecessarily rude.
I clutch my shirt closer to my chest, the night a lot colder than the week before. "Look," Jake sighs, causing me to look at him in surprise. "Thank you for backing me up the other night, what I said to you was unfair."
"Unfair is right," I mumble before looking forward again.
"I just hate it when I think the group dynamic will change when someone comes into our group,"
"You mean like when Aria came into your friendship group?" I quiz and Jake stares back at me, probably confused as to how I know about that situation.
"Yeah," he says slowly. "Like that."
"Well for one I'm not your sister and two, I just work with Remy at the alley. You guys all went to school together, how am I going to make such an impact in your group?"
Jake's eyes fall on the road ahead. "Well it happens,"
"You didn't want Aria to be friends with your friends?" I question.
"Then what happened?"
"Aria has rarely got on with girls," Jake starts which surprises me, I was expecting some blunt reply and not for him to carry on. "In school she had a group of girl mates and they found out she was getting with one of their boyfriends, shit went sour. Fast."
"Fucking hell," I comment. "That girl is a mess."
"Imagine being related to her," Jake rolls his eyes lazily.
"So what happened after that?" I ask feeling curious.
I watch as Jake sighs and lowers his head. "Aria was done for, by her friends and so many people. You know when people's lives turn to shit and they get depressed?"
"Well Aria was the opposite, she was in complete denial about what happened to her and her friends. She was hyperactive, literally bounced off the walls acting like life was totally fine, when in reality everyone had turned against her." Jake pulls his hood up and over his head as we turn out onto a new road.
"My parents took her to the doctors, thought she had bipolar or ADHD or something. I don't know what went on but I thought she was getting better. My mom was so worried about her, she asked if she could come out with me just as school ended. Obviously I couldn't say no, now she thinks they're her best friends." As Jake finally stops, I can't help but realise he's poured his heart out about this situation. I almost felt sad about it, it's a rough time for everyone. "And I feel like it's ruined everything, with my relationship with her and my friends."
For a few moments silence passes, I wasn't sure if he wanted to carry on. Hating interrupting people. "Sorry," he says sharply.
"You've never really spoken to anyone about this have you?" I ask quietly, so quiet that I didn't think he heard.
But I know he did because he clenches his eyes together. "It's hard because people think I'm just being selfish,"
"I wouldn't say it's you being selfish,"
"They have no idea what my home life is like,"
I slap my lips together and wait for Jake to continue, his forehead creases as his intense thinking. "Both of my parents run round Aria like there is no tomorrow, I feel like I'm never thought about or treated the same as her. She makes everything about herself and never thinks about how others feel."
"Yeah," I breathe out. "What she did the other night was so out of order."
"That's just one example, she's done a million other things,"
"Remy said that she's distanced herself from you guys,"
Jake snorts lowly. "Yeah thank fuck for that,"
"Maybe she needs to work on herself before she gets into any other friendships," I comment.
"That's exactly what she needs to do," Jake agrees. "She needs help but she convinces our parents that she's okay, they just believe everything she says. Ignore what needs to be addressed."
"I somehow don't believe that Zara would ignore those kind of signs," I say as I tilt my head towards him
He shrugs. "I thought so too but Aria can be manipulative, she knows how to get the perfect response out of someone."
"That sucks," my lips fall into a slight frown. "I'm sorry."
"Don't be sorry, there's nothing to be sorry for," he mumbles quietly. "Our family is fucked."
"I know it's hard when life at home isn't great, I haven't always got on with my dads," I tell him which earns a quick glance.
"I feel like I could tell with Caleb,"
"Yeah," I nod. "Maybe teenagers are the worst things to happen to adults."
Jake laughs quietly. "I think adults are the worst things to happen to us."
"Or it could be that,"
We slowly approach our front door, realising that we talked the whole way home. Not once was there an awkward silence, neither of us struggling to find something to say. It felt different and I enjoyed it. There was no sugarcoating anything.
Jake takes the first step of the stairs as I walk towards the kitchen. "Hey," he says to grab my attention.
Turning back to him quickly as he stands there, hands in his hoodie pocket. "Don't tell Remy or the others what I said tonight, I don't wish to make my opinions public to them."
My head shakes at his words. "I wouldn't say anything,"
Jake flashes me a quick smile. "Thanks,"
"You shouldn't worry about what others think, if it's how you feel, it's how you feel. But if you want to talk about it with them, know you can talk to me. I don't judge, nothing can be as fucked up as my biological family." I say lightheartedly.
I watch as Jake turns and walks towards the stairs. "Goodnight Myla,"
"Night," I call out as he takes his steps up to the top.