Nancy had just arrived at Julie’s. The young girl bowed her parents and her dog before leaving. She threw her bag on the backseat of the car before the two girls set off to the place of their rendezvous. They remained silent for a few minutes before Nancy spoke in a voice reflecting all her impatience.
“Okay. Can you tell me what happened between you and Matthew or I’ll hit you until you answer me?”
Julie felt her cheeks turn red. She shrugged.
“You guys looked so… in love…! You were so cute together!”
Nancy turned to her, bombing her with very personal questions. But Julie refused to answer. She was unable to do so, in fact. She tortured her mind since yesterday. When she awoke, her mind was still confused. Her friend turned her attention on the road, preferring to remain silent until they reach the rallying point. Philip, Joel and Karen had just arrived, parking near Christopher and Matthew. Julie gave him a small smile, but he hastened to look away. She felt a little offended by this gesture. He’s probably very ashamed now. Great. I’ll have a fabulous week. She bowed her head before following her friends in the rows of the supermarket. Maxim joined them inside.
They did a lot of shopping to be sure not to forget anything. Then they divided all their purchases and they loaded everything into several cars before hitting the road. The ride was quite well and fast. There was no traffic. They arrived at the cottage around 2:00pm. The second home of Christopher’s family was located in a rather remote area, surrounded by trees. The rear of the building overlooked a nice volleyball court, a swing under a huge tree, a dock, a floating dock and a large lake. The landscape before them was breathtaking. Julie was speechless for a moment, in awe of the scene that presented itself to her. Then they unloaded their luggage and food. They went all inside. Christopher gave them a guided tour of the place before allocating rooms. Directly on the ground floor was a large living room with a fireplace on the left, a bathroom near the main staircase. On the right sat the huge dining room accompanied by an impressive and very spacious kitchen. They deposited the supplies there before going upstairs. Christopher came from a rebuilt family. His father had purchased the cottage after his remarriage, taking note of the six children implied by the new situation. Then there would be room for everyone, except a room that his sister wouldn’t let to a stranger. He also had an agreement with her about it.
A long corridor was to their left, dotted with closed doors and extended to a storage space for bedding, towels and toiletries. Maxim opened the first door near the stairs. It was a room with a double bed. He hastened to make it his room. The second door opened on a much more spacious bathroom than the one on the ground floor. Then there were five other doors distributed on each side. There were three on the right and two on the left. The first following the bathroom offered a great room with a double bed. Philip and Karen hastened to choose it. The door to the one on the other side of the hallway was a large room with two single beds. Christopher and Matthew quickly took possession of it. The other two rooms after Philip and Karen’s included a single bed each. Joel chose the one down the hall, away from the couple. The next from Christopher and Matthew was identical to theirs. Julie and Nancy took this one.
On the opposite side of the bedrooms and the upstairs hallway stood a small living room and a boudoir surrounded by tall bookcases.
They put their belongings in their rooms before descending the stairs to store all the supplies in the kitchen. Philippe went to the refrigerator. He opened it and frowned. He turned to Christopher.
“Don’t think I don’t like the idea, but did you know there was beer here?”
“We should have fun,” his friend replied, smiling. “We still have something to celebrate!”
Karen threw a glance, leaning on her boyfriend’s shoulder.
“And the equivalent of how many cases?” Karen added.
A huge smile on his lips, Christopher told them that his sister Patricia and he came to this little agreement the day before. They concluded that secret agreement so that no one set a foot in her room. He promised to keep his part of the contract and she should do the same. And he hastened to add:
“But you must say nothing to my father because he’ll kill me!”
Nancy looked up at the ceiling.
“Nobody vomit on the carpet or break anything, please.”
“Don’t worry,” Nancy launched, laughing. “We’ll be very careful.”
They made all the promise to keep it quiet, laughing. Philip pointed out that his father could very well hide his body here if he ever learned about the beer. Julie smiled and nodded. The place was secluded enough to be able to do it without being disturbed. She approached the refrigerator. Christopher’s sister had done them a great deal of bottles. A quick calculation gave her the approximate equivalent of four cases of beer, twenty-four units each. Julie finished emptying the large bag she had already started and hastened to get another on sight. Matthew and Philip ranged the rest of the stuff in the refrigerator. Christopher and Joel took care of the cabinets. Karen and Nancy finished filling the pantry. Everything was quickly done. Then everyone attacked their own stuff.
“I guess you have agreed to share the room with me just by respect,” Julie said.
“Respect? What do you mean?”
“Whether you are officially a couple and you could very well have chosen a room with a double bed. Such as Maxim’s, for instance. Maybe he could leave it to you.”
“It was compassion.”
“And can you tell me why?”
“Because he’s not with Dominique. I think he’s lonely.”
Julie smiled, shaking her head.
“It’s not a double bed that will cheer him up.”
“And don’t believe that a single bed will stop us from being with each other… It takes us much more than that!”
The two girls laughed, taking up their storage. Julie knew it was only a bed. Except that Nancy could have put her bag in the same room as Joel without her friends saying a word. Then the subject still continued to intrigue her a bit. She tried to learn a little more. She knew that Nancy was no longer a virgin – just like Karen, of course – and she wondered if her friend had already made it through this stage. Nancy shrugged, looking up at her friend.
“Not there yet, but it could happen very soon.”
Julie raised her eyebrows.
“Okay, I get it. You’ll make only apparitions in this room. But do me a favor: don’t make too much noise.”
“It’s rather to Karen you should say that.”
“You’ve already heard them?”
“What do you think? They are far from being discrete!”
They laughed again. Then they changed before joining the others who were already outside the cottage to enjoy the beautiful day. The wind blew softly, filling the air with hints of the lake and the forest. They all went to the lake to enjoy the benefits of fresh water and fresh air. Julie sat on the wooden dock to watch her friends. Karen climbed on Philip’s shoulders. Nancy did the same thing with Joel, saying the challenge was accepted. They brawled for a few moments before Karen fell headfirst into the water. Their friends cheered for the entertaining show.
“What a battle!” Christopher laughed, congratulating the winners.
“We were not at equal strength,” Karen grumbled. “Nancy is much stronger than me.”
The others laughed. Philip tried to comfort her by hugging and kissing her. Julie watched them quietly. They seemed so happy. She almost envied them. Sighing, she lay back and closed her eyes to enjoy the warm sunshine. She suddenly heard the sound of splashing. She rolled back on her stomach and turned her attention to the lake again. Christopher, Joel and Matthew were playing with a beach ball. Karen and Nancy were talking quietly while Maxim and Philip decided to break the record by staying underwater as long as possible. The sky became a little darker and the wind suddenly increased strength. Julie looked up at the sky and saw a lightning streak the sky. She drew a deep sigh, shuddering. The air was considerably refreshed. She went inside to change. She went upstairs to rummage through her bag. She put on a red shirt and light blue denim shorts. She quickly tied her hair with a rubber band and left the room.
She met Matthew on the stairs when she came down. He wiped his hair with a towel and nearly missed hitting her. His cheeks turned slightly pink when the young girl smiled. He looked away, apologetically. Shit! This is ridiculous now!
“Are you okay?” she asked him.
He nodded weakly, a faint smile on his lips. She could read something in his green eyes, but she couldn’t understand what it meant. She heaved a deep sigh before continuing on her way. That’s why you should never cross the line of friendship. We were friends before. I shouldn’t have kissed him… She was overwhelmed by a wave of sadness.
Outside, thunder rumbled not too far. The storm was approaching. Everyone who was in the water a few minutes ago was now drying on the shore. Julie helped them picking up what was left before the storm broke. Maxim opened the door to her while gently smiling, but she barely noticed him. He seemed a little annoyed by her reaction. The rain began to fall rapidly, crashing against the windows. They all went to change before ending up in the living room downstairs. Philip sighed heavily, dropping on the sofa, arms crossed over his chest.
“Does anyone have thought about looking at the weather before we left?”
Nobody answered him.
“I’m sorry,” Christopher told them.
“It’s not your fault,” Nancy replied, patting his shoulder.
“We’ll just have to find something else to do,” Karen said, letting herself fall next to Philip.
“I know my mom left a few games here in case of emergency before boredom,” Christopher told them.
He went to the closet near the stairs to get out several dusty cardboard boxes. Philip offered them a Monopoly game to occupy them for a little while. Joel, Matthew and Nancy agreed to join their friends. Maxim merely nodded and Karen participated by dealing with the bank. Julie declined, but remained in the room with them. The game began very slowly. Everything was fine and the atmosphere was still cheerful. But their peace virtually changed into civil war when Christopher and Philip fought over a lot allegedly purchased by the latter. Then Nancy clapped in her hands, saying that the game was over now and there was no winner. Joel protested strongly: he already had a lot of lands that were just beginning to bring him some money. But all the others agreed with the decision. He furiously crossed his arms on his chest, grumbling. Julie stifled a giggle. He looked like a little boy that his mother had just scolded. Nancy tried to comfort him and give him a smile.
Christopher stood up and clapped in his hands, declaring that he would die of hunger. He walked over to the refrigerator looking for something to eat. He quickly found that he wasn’t the only one who was hungry. While Joel and Nancy picked up the remains of their Monopoly game was still on the table, Christopher listed them what they could eat. They proceeded by elimination. They finally opted for the traditional meal highlighting a lack of culinary imagination: pizza.
They relaxed as they prepared the meal, throwing a few jokes for fun. They all ate with great appetite. They told some stories while eating. Once the meal was finished, they gathered the table. Karen and Nancy proposed to do the dishes. The others were still looking for something to do. The rain was still falling so going outside was out of the question. Julie stayed in the kitchen with her friends to lend them a hand. When the kitchen was clean again, they all returned to the living room to discuss the upcoming program. Christopher apologized again, explaining that the weather was beyond his control. Philip shrugged, replying no one had accused him of the rain.
“I don’t think you wanted this,” Maxim added.
The others nodded.
“Does anyone have another brilliant idea or suggestions?” Philip asked them. “It’s too early to go to sleep and I want to enjoy myself. Not you?”
“We can begin another Monopoly game?” Christopher proposed. “With a full stomach, we must be quieter.”
Karen agreed, as Joel and Nancy. Philip hesitated for a moment before nodding and Maxim bowed his head. Then Julie found herself alone in the living room with Matthew who didn’t want to play either. He fell on the sofa with a deep sigh. The young girl gave him a quick glance, a faint smile on her lips. She asked him how he was doing. He just nodded, looking down at the ground, which had the effect of making her very uncomfortable. She racked her head to find something to say. He stood up abruptly and walked to the kitchen. She lowered her head and sighed. He’s really ashamed of what he did. She heaved a deep sigh before getting up too.
She climbed the stairs to get to her room and put a slightly thicker sweater. She went to the back porch, where the roof extended. She wanted to breathe some fresh air even though it was still raining. From the outside, she still could hear the shouts coming from the dining room where the game was held. She gave a little smile. Outside, it was quiet and peaceful. It was nice to be alone. Aside from the noise of the rain, everything was silent. She allowed herself a moment lulled by the murmur of the falling rain. She was lost in the contemplation of the landscape that was offered to her for what seemed to be just a few minutes. Footsteps were heard behind her.
“What are you doing out here alone?”
She recognized Maxim’s voice. He approached her, hands shoved into the pockets of his jeans. She asked him why he wasn’t playing anymore.
“A small budget problem.”
“Oh. No luck.”
He sighed, shrugging. She remembered the conversation she had overheard between Dominique and Rachel. Maxim was her friend and he didn’t deserve that his girlfriend made him suffer. She had to do something without telling him what she had heard. She asked him if he was happy with Dominique. The question seemed to surprise him. He raised his eyebrows, telling her he liked her. She shook her head.
“That’s not love.”
“And if I say she’s getting on my nerves royally most of the time. Does it suit you as an explanation?”
“Then why don’t you just dump her?”
“I know you guys don’t really enjoy her company, but…”
“She doesn’t deserve you. Dump her. It’ll be better for both of you, believe me. You’re wasting your time.”
He gave a little smile.
“You, you know something. What’s going on?”
“It’s just my opinion.”
He leaned against the sliding door, a small smile on his lips. He crossed his arms over his chest.
“And is there something between you and Matthew?”
She shook her head, a slight wave of sadness overwhelming her.
“Are you sure? Yesterday at the prom…”
“Why do you want to know that? My love life never interested you before.”
“Perhaps it’s because I have something better to offer you.”
She was speechless. She didn’t move when he approached her and touched her face with his fingertips before kissing her. She felt his hand on her lower back, pulling her closer to him. She eventually regained her senses, realizing what was happening. She hastened to push him rudely. She moved away from him, frantically rubbing her face. He refused to be overcome so easily. He pulled her back to him. She pushed him away again.
“What do you think you’re doing?” she dropped, getting away.
“What? You just told me to dump my girlfriend. This is what I’m doing.”
“In case you haven’t notice, she’s not here.”
He approached her again.
“You’re not attracted to me?”
She stopped him again by placing a hand on his forehead. She made it clear that he was wasting his time. He frowned.
“Don’t tell me it’s serious between you and Matt! I thought…”
“You’re really acting like an asshole.”
She walked quickly to the door to go back inside. She hurried up the stairs to lock herself in her room. She had to calm down. Maxim was her friend and he just told her he was interested in her before kissing her. How was she supposed to react now? He already had a girlfriend. Nancy knocked on the door before entering. She frowned, staring at her friend.
“What happens? Is everything okay?”
Julie let out a deep sigh as she sank onto the bed to the right of the door. She nodded, pretending to be very tired. She didn’t want to discuss about it for the moment. Then she hastened to change the subject.
“How’s it going down there?”
“I’m almost ruined!”
Her friend chuckled while Nancy leaned over to rummage through her bag, looking for an object that appeared to be found nowhere. She mumbled something, muttering aloud. She finally gave a little cry of joy when she finally unearthed what she wanted.
“Are you getting to bed soon?” Nancy asked.
“I’m not tired at this point. Why do you ask?”
“Then don’t stay here alone. All the action takes place in the dining room. Even if you don’t play, you can still be there with us.”
Julie nodded, telling her she’ll be down in a minute. Nancy left the room, closing the door behind her. Julie gave a deep sigh of relief, ending up alone again. She closed her eyes. Her thoughts raced through her head, stunning. The holyday didn’t start very well! She stood up painfully from the bed and headed towards the door. She met Maxim at the foot of the stairs. He looked away as she passed near him. In passing, he gently grabbed her arm and turned her to face him.
“I shouldn’t have done that. I’m sorry.”
“Then do something about Dominique.”
He thanked her suggestion before letting her go. Julie went into the kitchen. Christopher stood in front of the fridge and offered them a beer. Maxim entered the room at this time and accepted the bottle handed to him by his friend. Julie helped Christopher to distribute beer among them. She also took one herself, even though she hated beer. The Monopoly game ended peacefully. Then they took a small supply of bottles and settled more comfortably in the living room on the ground floor. Everyone was bothered because of the rain. Karen went to the stereo system to put some music before raising her beer.
“Let’s raise our beer to the end of school!” she cried.
They raised their bottle to toast. The atmosphere quickly became much more festive. Christopher was one of the first to finish his beer. He began to look through the neck of the glass bottle, as if it was a telescope. He turned his lens towards Philip. He smiled before asking:
“Truth or dare?”
His friend had a small smile on his lips and nodded.
“Okay,” he said, still nodding. “I’m in. Consequence.”
“You’re going to… empty the rest of your beer and do the same with the second.”
“Ah! It’s too easy!”
He put the bottle to his lips and began to empty it quickly. Joel handed him another one he hastened to start drinking. He had almost succeeded when he choked with a sip. His friends laughed when Philip ran to the bathroom to spit it without dropping alcohol everywhere.
“You lost!” Nancy laughed.
“And you think you could do better than me?” he threw, wiping his chin with the back of his hand. “I almost succeeded!”
“Now it’s your turn,” Christopher said. “Choose someone else.”
Philip dropped near his girlfriend, looking at his friends one after the other. His gaze rested on Matthew. Rubbing his hands, he had a mischievous smile on his lips. Matthew shrank a little in his chair, his face red. Now, he desperately wanted to be forgotten. Philip looked at him, thinking what he could make him confess or make him suffer. He eventually asked him whether he preferred to tell the truth or do a consequence. Matthew gave a deep sigh, hiding his face in his hands. He mumbled that he would tell the truth.
“Is it really your father who gave you some dance lessons just before the prom?”
Matthew moaned, leaning forward. Karen and Nancy summoned him to answer the question. The young man sighed again, looking at the floor.
“Yes, it’s true… It’s my father who… taught me to dance… Who told you that?”
He turned to Christopher, who looked away. The others burst with laughter as Matthew wished to disappear into the living room rug.
“It’s not a crime not knowing how to dance…”
Julie had a little smile on her lips, looking away. Matthew turned to Maxim to know if he wanted to tell the truth or do a consequence. The young man took it as a challenge and he chooses the truth. Matthew asked him if he had ever been in love with Dominique. Maxim looked surprised by the question. He heaved a deep sigh before shrugging. He answered:
“Maybe in the beginning.”
Then he gave a little nod in Julie’s direction who hastened to say she wanted a consequence. So he simply asked her to empty her bottle. She lifted the bottle to drink it as soon as possible. She really wanted to vomit. With a sudden movement, she pinched her nose and swallowed the rest of the liquid, encouraged by her friends. They cheered when she put her empty bottle on the coffee table. Christopher uncorked another beer before handing it to her. She felt her face turn completely red. To change the subject, she asked Karen what she chose to do. Looking up at the ceiling, the young girl decided to tell the truth. Julie had a little smile on her lips, looking at her friend.
“How did you manage to get your highest score in French?”
Karen had a huge smile, raising her head.
“I worked very hard,” she replied, blushing.
Julie hurriedly shook her head, he smile widening. She ordered her to tell the truth.
“Okay! I… I copied on Martin during the test. Here. Happy?”
Philip turned to her, frowning.
“I thought you had actually worked for this grade,” he said.
The young girl shrugged as Christopher and Joel laughed. She angrily crossed her arms over her chest, frowning in her seat, her face completely red. Julie took a long sip of beer, keeping her eyes on her friend. It’s been a while that Karen boasted to everyone about the great grade she had on her French exam. It was time for someone to get her a reality check! Nancy had to admit her interest for Joel since his arrival in their school and Christopher confessed to Matthew that he had spent an evening with one of his former girlfriend. Matthew was dumped the next day by this girl. Philip admitted to Karen that he couldn’t stand her brother. The situation became more complicated when Maxim had the consequence to kiss Julie. Nancy looked at her friend with a smile. Julie painfully rose to her feet – being very affected by alcohol – stating she was withdrawing from the game to get some sleep. Philip strongly objected, saying that Maxim had to do his consequence. The young girl shook her head.
“This is not my problem.”
She gave them a small wave with her hand before turning on her heel toward the stairs. The others nodded at her idea. Joel invited Nancy to join him in his room. Maxim still opposed to the decision Julie had taken. She shrugged, didn’t care about what he was thinking.
“Anyway,” Matthew began, passing near him, “you’ve already done that tonight.”
Everyone gaze at Maxim who blushed. He lowered his head, pushing his hands in the pockets of his jeans. Julie looked at Matthew, ashamed that someone witnessed their kiss. She quickly slipped into her room. The whole room turned around her. She lost her balance and fell on the bed. Nancy came to take her stuff, apologizing to her friend because she accepted the invitation from Joel. The latter came to help. Then they closed the door, leaving her alone.
“What a wonderful holiday…”
She heaved a deep sigh.