Without a doubt, I am surprised to hear the Andrews have invited my parents and me for drinks however the overarching emotion is undeniably, anticipation. Wanting to make a good impression, I put on a fresh sweater and attempt to flatten and mould my wavy mane. I stare back at my appearance in the smeared mirror behind my door.
Am I attractive?
I focus on the prominence of my nose, dominating my face. Dark irises almost merge with the blackness of my pupils. Dry skin has built up on my lips and I begin to pick at their edges, causing them to bleed. At fifteen years of age, I’ve never been kissed. This is down to two reasons. First, I’ve never been in a situation where kissing would even come into the equation. No dates, no sleepovers, no parties. None of that has ever entered my orbit. Second, I’ve never met someone that has made me think about kissing. Sure, I’ve felt drawn to women, their aura. It is like appreciating art. I would look, but I would not touch.
My mum calls from downstairs, freeing me from the depths of my mind. It is time. To make this moment count, I need to ensure I take some essentials. A slight notebook, smaller than A5 just fits into my back pocket - as does my stunted pencil.
“Hurry up, Lucas. We don’t want to be late,” my dad echoes.
We make our way across the road, with the smell of perfume trailing our path. An older woman opens the door to welcome us before we make it off the pavement. She introduces herself as Janice, Sophia’s mum, and tells us to mind the mess. She has a look of Sophia with limp hair and brown eyes, but her features are sunken and creased. Sophia’s dad towers next to her. He shakes our hands with a firm grip before escorting us to their living room. I spy the rim of Sophia’s spindly legs as we enter. She sits, rather proper, with her legs together and crossed hands resting neatly on her thighs.
After introducing ourselves and greeting one another, we all sit together on their cream sofas. The house looks pretty well organised, considering they’d just moved it.
“You’ve made such a great start on the house, Janice,” my mum gushes.
“You think? Fred and I took the whole day off to unpack. We just love it here already.”
As Janice and my mum gossip over interior design, Fred instructs Sophie. “Make our guests some drinks, love.”
Following his direction, she takes our orders and swiftly returns with a tray of beverages. Mine being the cola. When my dad strikes up a conversation with Fred, I turn to Sophia and smile. I notice, she has changed her attire from earlier to a turquoise green jumper and denim jeans. Her hair looks freshly brushed too. Is that for me?
“So you like it here then?”
“Yeah, it’s great. Better than Richmond anyway. This move is meant to be a fresh start. A clean slate.”
“A fresh start from what?”
My mother suddenly interrupts our discussion, “Sophia, how was your first day at school? I hear Lucas has been assigned as your buddy. I hope he’s been helpful.”
I scan the room as she replies, talking about her various lessons and teachers. It dawns on me; the layout of the house is almost identical to my house. Jackpot. How about the upstairs though?
“Where’s the bathroom?” I ask.
Sophia leads me upstairs and I am careful to feel for any creaks. 1, 2, 3… creak, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8... creak, 9, 10, 11, 12… creak. The steps are imprinted in my frontal lobe.
“What?” Sophia says.
I must have been mumbling aloud. I think on my feet.
“Erm, no siblings then?”
“Sadly not. You?”
“A sister but she’s shacked up with her fiancé.”
She motions towards the toilet door at the top of the stairs.
“Here we are. I’ll meet you back downstairs.”
Inside the lavatory, I pull out my pad and pencil and make a note of my observations so far. Flushing the toilet and leaving the tap to run, I venture out onto the landing. Footprint wise, Sophia’s room is the same as the one my sister had. Makes sense, considering it is a larger bedroom. The equivalent of my room is currently being used as a dumping ground for boxes and bags. I long to explore further but restrain myself. Tonight, I muse.
Back in the living room, the conversation is still fractured. People are broken up in separate chats. I join the one with Fred, my father and Sophia.
“So, what are your interests, Lucas?” Fred questions as I approach.
I inform him about my photography and love of literature, much to his dismay. He tells me straight off the bat, it is odd for a young boy my age to not being interested in sport.
“I was on the soccer squad back in my day, midfielder – could have gone professional too, if it weren’t for Sophia coming along. Blessing in disguise really.”
An uncomfortable grin forms on Sophia’s face. She doesn’t like the spotlight either. We continue like this for another hour or so, then call it a night. I take one last glance around on our way to the front door. The cabinets are already dressed in photographs of the family. I make a mental note to take a closer look later. My watch ticks past eight o’clock. Four hours and counting.