‘We’re going out tonight,’ Liam commented, throwing bacon into a pan.
‘Ok,’ I replied, not sure why he told me this.
‘You and Lex can come to if you want?’ He offered.
‘Where you going?’ Lex asked, sitting down at the table next to me.
‘A club somewhere, I dunno. Louis’ sorting it,’
‘Count me in,’ she grinned, always up for a party.
‘Heidi?’ Liam questioned, placing a cup of tea in front of me quickly so the pale liquid spilt slightly over onto the table.
‘Oh, I dunno. I’ve got nothing to wear,’ I sighed.
‘We’ll go shopping! C’mon Hi! It’s no fun without you!’ I then looked to Liam who pouted his lips and widened his eyes in a puppy dog face.
‘Uh, ok,’ I smiled, defeated. I could never resist them- especially when they worked together like that.
Walking down Oxford Street was my idea of a nightmare; thousands of people rushing past you, completely oblivious to anyone but themselves. The whole experience of shopping was obnoxious. Especially for someone like me.
I had never liked how I’d looked and standing next to Lex just amplified the problem. I had fallen into a hard set routine of clothes that I wore. I couldn’t choose myself clothes anymore because when I looked at them, I couldn’t see how they could possibly look good on me. Which, all in all dampened the excitement of shopping.
I followed Lex around shop after shop, trying on what was handed to me and hating myself after trying them on.
All in all, I just liked to wear what I was comfortable with and let it be, but Lex was insistent to change me otherwise.
‘Try this one,’ She handed me a black dress which was evidently body con.
‘Nope,’ I sighed, hanging it back on the rack as she walked away.
I cupped the white Starbucks cup in my hands feeling the warmth. ‘I’m bored,’ I sighed.
‘We haven’t found anything to wear yet!’ Lexi protested.
‘You have!’ I gestured to the All Saints bag which hung from the crook of her arm.
‘Yeah, but we came shopping cos you didn’t have anything to wear,’
Finally reaching the back of the shop, I picked up a red dress from the railing. The sleeves were red lace and the bodice was a kinda brush velvet which then graduated in into the skirt which was overlaid with the red lace like the sleeves. ‘This?’ I asked, waving it.
‘Yes, that’s nice,’ Lex smiled and followed me to the changing rooms. It fitted well enough, covered everything it needed to. Done deal.
‘Right, let’s go,’ I announced as soon as the dress was paid for.
Back at the apartment, I went straight to my room. Lex and I got changed and then congregated to do our makeup and hair. I sat on the floor in front of the mirror; Lexi was taking up my dressing table. I meticulously applied the products, careful as I went. I liked this part. It was when I was letting my hair out of the rollers that a got a call.
‘Hey Hi,’ the husky voice spoke.
‘Riley! Hey,’ I replied, a smile in my voice.
‘You coming for dinner with me tonight?’
‘Oh, er, actually, I’m going clubbing with Liam, Lex and the boys…’ I frowned.
‘Please Hi,’ He asked again.
‘I can’t Ri, I’m going out,’
‘But I’m your boyfriend. He’s not- they’re not’
I looked at Lex helplessly who was listening to the exchange on loudspeaker. She shrugged, turning back to straightening her hair.
‘Okay,’ I sighed reluctantly.
‘I’ll pick you up at 8,’ He mumbled before hanging up.
‘I’m sorry,’ I grimaced.
‘I’m fine with it,’ she half smiled. ‘Liam might not be though,’
I stood up and strode out the room, in search of Liam.
‘Woah! You look amazing,’ He smiled as I found him, primping his hair quickly in front of a mirror.
‘Thanks,’ I murmured, passing the compliment. ‘Erm, Liam,’ I started. ‘I can’t come tonight anymore,’
‘Why?’ He asked, sounding confused.
‘I’ve got to go for dinner with Riley.’
He turned round to face me. ‘When was this arranged?’
‘I dunno, he just called me now,’
‘Tell him your busy,’ He continued, his eyes widened.
‘I did, but-’
‘But you planned this first!’ his eyes were angry.
‘He’s my boyfriend Liam- He’s gotta have some priorty!’
‘And I’m your bestfriend! We’re your best friends! Doesn’t that count?’
‘Well at least he doesn’t leave me for months on end to go places and expect me to drop everything when he’s back!’ I retorted before storming back to my room.
‘Went well then?’ Lexi asked sarcastically.
‘Just fabulously Alexis.’ I replied, folding myself onto the floor and finishing my hair.
Riley arrived soon after and without saying goodbye to Liam, I grabbed my bag and left. I was annoyed with him.
‘Where we going then?’ I smiled at Riley as we drove.
‘Just some restaurant in town,’ He replied, shifting the gear stick as we picked up speed.
‘Ah, alright…’ I resigned myself to asking no more questions.
We pulled up outside the place. I felt a bit stupid tottering into the busy placed dressed in attire which I would’ve worn to a club.
A female waitress showed us to our table, her blonde hair curled and tied in a loose style over her shoulder. She handed us leather bound menus and then asked ‘can I get you any drinks or anything?’
‘Yes please,’ I smiled, trying to think.
‘I’ll have a pint of… Bitter,’ He decided before signalling to me.
‘Glass of something red; shiraz if you’ve got it,’ I nodded politely at the waitress before she turned away. ‘How’re you then?’ I turned back to Riley.
‘Yeah, alright… Busy day,’ he pushed his hand through his dark hair, displacing it from its usual position.
‘Ah, work being tough again?’ I asked with interest.
‘Yeah- a bit… how’re you?’
‘Yeah, ok I suppose. Had a fight with Liam though…’
‘Oh,’ Riley looked up from his menu. ‘What about?’ He probed.
‘Nothing,’ I brushed it off; I hardly wanted to tell him that it was him we were fighting about.
‘Ok,’ I replied, looking back to his menu.
Now that was all I could think about… I shouldn’t have said that. It wasn’t his fault… I could be so stupid sometimes.
Riley was distracted for a moment and so I slipped my phone out of my bag and clicked on Liam’s name.
I tried typing a message several ways but it didn’t sound right and I just gave up with a sigh.
‘You coming back to mine then?’ He asked as the bill was paid.
I thought of Liam and when he got back… I wanted to be there to talk to him… But I couldn’t tell Riley that so instead, I nodded my head.
We drove back in the quiet of the car, not really talking about much.
Stepping into the cool flat, I kicked off my heels but before I could do much else, his lips were on mine. His muscled arm wrapped around my waist, the other took a handful of my hair. He started to push me backwards, forcing me to use my legs totter backwards with the movement until I felt the end of his bed against the back of my calves. His lips didn’t break contact with mine until we heard a buzzing noise followed by a ringtone. He quickly pulled away and pulled his phone from his pocket. Looking at the screen, he nodded to me and then picked it up, walking out of the room.
I sighed before falling backwards onto the bed.
He was on the phone for ages and I continued to sit on the bed, waiting.
‘Sorry bout that,’ He mumbled as his came back into the room and immediately tried to kiss me. I looked away. ‘What’s wrong?!’ He pressed, trying to kiss my neck.
‘Nothing,’ I scowled, jerking away again and shuffling to the other side of the bed.
‘Owh, c’mon!’ He laughed.
I shot him and look and his grin faded.
‘What have I done?’ He asked, rebalancing himself and facing me.
‘You never focus on just me. I never come first,’ I sighed.
‘You always come first!’
‘When was the last time we talked? When you were actually interested in what I had to say?’
He thought and then continued, treating the question as rhetorical. ‘We can talk now?’
I sat in silence, scornfully waiting for him to do something.
After an awkward silence he spoke.
‘You spoken to your dad lately?’ He attempted to start a conversation.
‘He called the other week… but not lately,’ I grumbled.
There was another silence.
‘What happened?’ He asked, looking up at me again.
‘When?’ I asked quietly, still refusing to engage properly in the conversation.
‘With your dad? Your mum…?’
I took a breath. I hadn’t had to explain this for a long time. But I’d had to tell Riley sometime… I readied myself for the speech that I had retold several times before now. It was well rehearsed to the point where I could say it without feeling any emotion; just like reading lines from a script.
‘Lex and my parents; they’d always spend time together, though oddly, it was my mother and her father who gelled the most. They would spend time together, taking us out for days without their other halves. Sometimes they’d go out without us. They’d tell us not to tell the others, tell us to keep it a secret. It was fun, we didn’t think anything of it. We were only 8. It wasn’t until we got caught up in the fallout that it hit us what had happened. They were having an affair. It all happened quickly after that. They just left. Without a goodbye. Well, I had thought so at the time. I found a letter under my pillow that night that I went to bed, but I just ripped it into shreds. I didn’t want to hear from her. It wasn’t long after that that the other parents just stared to fade away. My dad turned to work; he wouldn’t stop. I’d be left in the house alone for nights whilst he was away on business. Lex’s mum got depression and she couldn’t cope with Lex. She sent her to live with her Aunty and Uncle, Karen and Geoff, while she recovered in Scotland with her mum, but she just never came back- she had started a new life; one that Lexi didn’t fit in to. As for me, my dad continued to work and I spent almost all my time at the Payne’s; they looked after me. That’s why Liam and I are so close; I wish you’d just understand that,’ I finished my speech, and inwardly nodded to myself; I had managed it without feeling anything.
Riley was silent and when I looked up at him, I realised why. He was asleep.
I rolled my eyes and without any attempt to wake him up, grabbed my bag, slipped my shoes on and quietly left the flat.
I walked through the night. There were no stars, just the fluorescent orange of the lampposts glowing down on the street to light the way.
My feet were aching but it was at least a 20 minute walk through the city and I my phone had run flat so I couldn’t call a cab.
It was surprisingly quiet to be walking through London at almost midnight. I hadn’t spotted anyone yet, though usually by this time there were the drunks trawling the streets after pub kick out time.
However, as I walked down a certain road, I could hear the thump of music coming from one of the clubs on the strip and the night didn’t feel so lonely. I hurried along down the street, pulling my arms around myself as the cold raised goose bumps on my arms.
I reached the end of the long street, still hearing the beat of the music drifting up the night behind me, when I saw a huddled group on the opposite side of the road.
I didn’t have to see their faces to see who it was.
A tall guy with dark blonde hair with flecks of sunlight running through was supporting the weight of a blonde girl wrapped in the grey dress we had bought earlier.
The other four guys stumbled along, laughing loudly and interrupting the drifting pumping of the music that I had come to find peaceful.
Great. What were the fucking chances. In the middle of London town. To run into exactly the people I didn’t want to see right now. Or to be more precise, the exact person I didn’t want to see.
They hadn’t noticed me yet but it was only a few more seconds before Zayn looked over his shoulder and spotted the bright red of my dress.
‘Heidi!’ He shouted, his words slightly slurred. ‘Fancy seeing you here! Liam said you’d gone to have dinner with your boyfriend!’ He stressed the word, imitating the way Liam must’ve scornfully said it.
The rest of the group turned around and Liam, the only sober one, frowned.
I crossed the road to them, checking over my shoulder for cars before dashing across the empty road.
‘What the hell are you doing here?’ He asked, his brown eyes staring down at me.
‘Could ask you the same thing.’ I stated pedantically.
‘We’ve just left that club down there! Why the hell are you walking the streets of London on your own at this time of night?!’
‘Cos I’m bloody 19 years old and I wanna go home!’ I exclaimed.
‘Why are you walking on your own!?’ he forced.
‘Does it even matter! I’m 19! I can walk home on my own! What is your problem!?’ I spat back.
‘He let you walk home on your own! What the hell Heidi!’ His brown eyes widened reflecting the orange beams.
‘He fell asleep for fuck’s sake!’
‘He should’ve walked you home!’
‘Oh for f- I can’t be bothered with this.’ I retorted and turned on the black heel of my shoe. I stormed off in the direction of home, ignoring the edge that was now cutting into my ankle.
I heard the others shift and start moving, following me.
I kept walking, making sure I was too far in front of them for any of the drunk ones to lumber up to my pace and too quick for Liam to move lugging Lex with him.
When we reached the flat I kicked off my shoes and legged it up the stairs to our front door. I fumbled for the key’s, managing to get it, shut the door and get to my room before I heard Liam’s keys in the door.
I sat silently on my bed as I heard him take Lex into the room next to me and heard him mumble to her as he helped her into bed.
Still I sat on my bed, my legs pulled up my chest when the door opened, just like it had done last night. His chocolate colour eyes looked down at me pleadingly. Not asking for forgiveness, just an audience with me. I nodded.
‘Heidi, I’m sorry,’
‘Me too,’ I sighed sadly. ‘I didn’t mean to say that. It’s not your fault you go away. But I had to go for dinner with Riley; he’s my boyfriend,’
He nodded but his jaw was tight, like he was in pain.
I pushed myself off the bed and went to hug him. His strong arms pulled me into his chest and his rested his head on the top of mine.
I would be quite happy to stay here, in my best friends arms, forever, but I couldn’t and eventually we had to let go.
We sat on the sofa, watching re runs of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air until the early hours of the morning, until I fell asleep with my head on Liam’s shoulder, safe and sound and happy again.