Cold water ended her up of her stupor the next morning. The young girl had fallen asleep fully clothed and she felt very disoriented when she opened her eyes. By cons, she kept no memory of the time when she had fallen into a deep sleep, almost comatose. Back in her room, she tied her hair before going down the stairs. Most of her friends were already outside. Karen turned to her.
“Wow,” she cried, seeing her. “You look exactly like I feel today.”
Julie sat with her on the back porch near the small staircase.
“You haven’t slept well?” Julie asked her.
Karen sighed, pressing her hands. She told her that Philip had nightmares all night, keeping her awake. He rolled in the blankets, moaning. Now Julie understood better why her friend seemed half asleep. Philip wasn’t in better condition, by cons. But he kept no memory of the night quite eventful. She promised herself to ask him the question later. The memory could return to him during the day.
“Maxim kissed you?” Karen asked suddenly.
The girl sighed deeply without answering. They remained silent for a moment, but Karen wanted to know more. She took a look natural, pending further information. There wasn’t much to tell.
“He kissed me and he apologized. End of story.”
“Rather short as a story. Matthew saw you?”
“It doesn’t matter. He realized he made a mistake during the prom. He would not admit that he did it just to be nice to me.”
“You’re very hard on yourself. Did you know that?”
Julie shrugged. She raised her hands to close the discussion. She tortured herself with that since yesterday and she now had enough. She didn’t want to think about it anymore. Karen finally got the message. Philip joined them to ask Karen to see Nancy for an emergency. A very important discussion that couldn’t wait. Sighing, the young girl got up and went back inside, leaving Julie alone with Philip. She pulled her knees under her chin, looking straight ahead. He began to trample on the spot, looking nervously around them. She asked him if he had to go to the bathroom when he leaned toward her.
“He’s really in love with you.”
Then he walked away from the girl quickly. Julie looked him run, frowning. She didn’t understand why he had to tell her that. She sighed deeply, rubbing her eyes. Let’s move on now. I’m tired! She opened her eyes again and saw movement from the corner of her eye. She turned her head slightly. She could see the sad face of Matthew. She shook her head and turned her attention to the contemplation of the sun reflected on the surface of the lake. She finally went back inside for a drink. In the kitchen, Joel quietly discussed with Nancy. Karen slept on the sofa. The first night at the cottage didn’t seem to have been good for anyone. She poured herself a glass of orange juice before returning to the rear balcony.
The second day at the cottage was going to be hot and humid. Just before the end of morning, some took refuge in fresh water. Julie lay under the hot sun for sunbathing and listening music from the small stereo they had installed outside. Her friends also relaxed a moment before jumping into the water the others. Their small quiet was broken in mid-afternoon when a car came with great pomp in the driveway of the cottage. Maxim and Philip were drying themselves under the sun and heard the noise. Christopher took a towel before heading to the car he didn’t seem to know. Two girls went out of the vehicle, laughing. The driver was wearing a bikini under a large tank top and a mini-short while the other was wearing a light summer dress.
“I told you I would know how to get to the cottage,” Rachel threw, proud of her.
“So you’re really been here?” Dominique asked with a brittle tone. “And you can tell me what you were doing here?”
Rachel shrugged before greeting Christopher with a simple gesture. He walked toward her. Maxim had a little cringe while Dominique hopped happily to him. She suddenly hanged around his neck, telling him how she had missed him during the last hours. Karen let herself fall heavily on her back. Nancy gave a deep sigh of despair. And the problems are back! Nobody seemed very happy to see them without warning since they hadn’t been invited.
“How did you get here?” Philip asked them, stunned.
“With a car,” Dominique replied on a scathing tone. “What do you think? It’s obvious, isn’t it?”
“I don’t think that was the meaning of the question,” Joel launched, scratching his neck.
“It’s not worth it,” Nancy muttered, patting his shoulder.
“We… we decided to surprise you,” Rachel said, smiling. “Why? You guys are not happy to see us?”
It depends to whom… The two young girls had obviously decided to stay with them at the cottage for a few days. And nobody seemed to intervene to return them home. Christopher was very happy to see Rachel. But it didn’t seem to be the case between Maxim and Dominique. She pressed herself against him tirelessly, playing the role of the little loving girlfriend. After the conversation that Julie had caught in the bathroom during the prom, she knew how she was playing poorly. And now hoped Maxim understood the message.
They kept doing their activities as if nothing was wrong. Towards the end of the afternoon, Karen went back into the backyard of the cottage, a Polaroid camera in hand. She set the camera on a lawn chair before turning to her friends, making sign at them. She asked them all to join her in order to immortalize their vacation by taking a picture of the whole group. They settled in the small staircase in front of the camera, having their most beautiful smile on their face. The picture was a success the first time. Karen took the shot and then got back inside. She put it on the refrigerator door, proud of her.
The humidity didn’t go down during the evening. A breeze from the lake blew softly, but the air was stable. They took refuge in the cottage where it was much cooler. Christopher found some plastic chips and organized a poker game sprinkled with some very cold beers. Dominique and Rachel remained in the living room on the ground floor to talk quietly while the others settled in the dining room. Julie was just a spectator. She could hear the two girls talking in a low voice. She went to the bathroom. When she washed her hands, she found that she could hear once more the whole conversation they were having. Curious, she listened.
“I think he’s weird,” Dominique sighed. “Don’t you think? I expected him to be glad to see me, but he had no reaction!”
“Maybe a little. So move on! I’m tired of hearing you complain that he gets on your nerves.”
“And if I’ll do it, what will I do then?”
“You’re not even in love with him? Stops dramatize everything! You’ll surely get over it!”
Julie had heard enough. She left the bathroom to return to the dining room. She took a beer she hastened to open. She sank near Karen and sighed.
“So?” she began. “Who’s about to lose?”
“Christopher currently has big financial problems.”
A little cry startled them. Matthew had won, winning a very large sum that included a lot of chips. Christopher had to declare bankruptcy and gave up. He drained his beer and took another. Julie watched the number of empty bottles already on the counter. She found that the spirits were quite heated, but everyone seemed happy despite the arrival of the two shrews. Julie also felt the effects of alcohol. Her legs could barely stand up.
Painfully, she went to her room to change. Sneezing, she managed to spill beer on her clothes. She sank down heavily on the bed. Her whole body was numb. She closed the light in the room before opening the door. The hall was plunged into darkness. She didn’t see much. She slammed a shadow that sent her against the wall. She lost her balance and found herself on the ground, dazed and confused more than ever.
“Sorry… I didn’t know… there was someone…”
She recognized the voice of Matthew. She felt his fingers touching her face. She took his hand and he helped her to get back on her feet. Still not very stable, she leaned on him. Their faces were within a few inches from each other. It’s time to act. Even if she didn’t want to think about it, she still wanted to know if he really felt something. Maybe it wasn’t the case. So he would only have to repel and she’ll be fixed. She found his lips and kissed him. He didn’t pull her away, kissing her greedily.
A massive thunder made vibrate the entire cottage. The two young girls lying in the lounge on the ground floor screamed in terror when the electricity was cut off. Outside, the wind grew in strength and blew violently. The storm caused a power outage. Matthew and Julie got back downstairs to join the others, hand in hand. Christopher and Joel rummaged through the drawers to find a flashlight, candles and matches. Christopher knew his mother stored them somewhere. He simply had to find them. Karen found the flashlight. The candles were found and distributed among them. Maxim rejoined Dominique in the living room to calm her. Rachel surprised everyone by taking refuge in the arms of Christopher. Philip went on the back porch. The rain still wasn’t falling, but the air was greatly refreshed. Karen pressed against him. The spectacle of lighting in the sky was really impressive. Christopher left Rachel to extinguish all remaining switches on before the power outage. Then he offered to everyone to rest a little. Alcohol and outdoor activities left them exhausted and many of them didn’t get much sleep last night. Christopher went to Matthew to whisper something in his ear before talking to Rachel again. He couldn’t give her the remaining bedroom because of his promise. The he asked her to share a room with him as it was the most natural thing to do. Except that nobody expected her to accept and she did it.
They all went upstairs. Maxim pretended to be pleased that his girlfriend was with him. It showed too much. Matthew took his stuff and found himself alone in the hallway. Julie opened the door of her room and motioned for him to get in. he did it without a word. She leaned against the door for a moment, watching him quietly. Both candles made dancing shadows on the walls, making a very strange atmosphere. The young girl let out a deep sigh as she sank onto the bed.
“You’ll thank Nancy later for the bed,” she said in a dull tone. “Unless you prefer to sleep on the sofa.”
She heaved a deep sigh, pressing her face into the pillow.
“Why did you kiss Max?”
She frowned, straightening.
“It was his initiative and I pushed him away. Sorry, but I didn’t know we gave a show.”
“Pure coincidence, believe me.”
His voice betrayed a certain hint of jealousy. She stood up to face him, a little angry. She didn’t understand why he reacted like that. She told him he didn’t need to preach as he did. It was a simple mistake that meant nothing. Dominique didn’t need to know about it. She added that he could mind his own business. He looked at the ceiling and sighed. She folded her arms across her chest. He eventually bowed his head. He seemed sad without her understanding why. She had kissed him earlier, but he wasn’t paying any attention to her since their arrival. She was unable to decipher him. She shook her head before spreading to the bed again. She felt very tired and she didn’t want to talk about it anymore.
“Why are you acting like that with me?” he asked her in a hesitant voice.
“You’re not looking at me since the prom. So what do you mean?”
“Because I… I can’t do it…”
“Listen, I’m tired. So if you have something important to tell me, hurry to do it, please. I want to sleep.”
“I… I wanted to invite you to the prom, but I… chickened out.”
She sat up again, surprised. Karen and Nancy were right? He really wanted to do it? He still didn’t look at her, his head still bowed. In the same tone, he confessed to be in love with her, but ignoring how to make her understand it. Her reaction scared him because she was his friend. She stood up and walked towards him. She brought her face close to his and they kissed. She put her hands around his neck and he hugged her.
She suddenly opened her eyes, completely disoriented. She looked around and remembered where she was. She kept no memory of when she fell asleep, or had done it in Matthew’s arms. The latter was still sleeping. Discreetly, she blew out the candle which was still burning and about to go off. Then she laid her head against the shoulder of Matthew. He groaned and squeezed her a little harder, but he didn’t open his eyes. She fell asleep again.