Jade 28th August
Last night was a complete disaster. I wouldn't have gone if I knew what was going to happen.
Dylan caught up with me nearly as soon as I got to the party. He talked nonstop about how much he had missed me, his arm around my waist. I smiled and nodded along, thinking he was just being friendly.
He grabbed a drink and said hello to his mates, Charlie amongst them. While Dylan was chatting to a friend, Charlie looked disapprovingly at his arm around my waist.
"Can I just speak to Jade a minute, Dyl?"
I followed Charlie into the corner of the room.
"What's going on between you two?" he hissed.
"Nothing. We're just friends."
"Just friends? Doesn't look like it to me. I think you should be careful what you’re doing if you don't want to end up in a relationship with him."
"Stop being stupid, twinny. Your being paranoid."
Dylan finished talking to his mate and grabbed my hand, pulling me away. Looking back over my shoulder, Charlie raised his eyebrow. I wish I'd listened to him now.
We headed outside where the cold wind bit at me. I shivered.
"Here," he said, giving me his jacket. I put it on and sat on the steps overlooking Layla's huge garden. He sat beside me and his hand returned to my waist. I wasn't sure what to do. I was about to ask him about him holiday when he ran his fingers through my hair.
"You’re so beautiful," he said softly. I gulped.
My hat fell off and he saw all the paint splattered in my hair. He laughed.
"Is that what's with the hat? How did you manage to get paint in your hair, you mad girl," he spluttered. I felt myself smile too.
"I was messing around with the guy who just moved in across the street. I was helping him paint his attic..."
Dylan's face fell "Oh. Sounds cool."
I realised he sounded disappointed. "Yeah. He is going to be in our year at school. I think you will like him.
There was a short pause.
"Look, Jade. There is something I've been meaning to tell you for a long time."
I knew at that moment exactly what he was about to say.
"I really like you. I have for a long time. I think maybe...I might be in love with you."
Crap, crap, crap.
"I know it must be a bit of a shock for you...and I don't think you feel the same. I don't expect you to, really. But...I think what I am trying to say is, will you be my girlfriend?"
I literally couldn't think of a word to say. My mind had frozen, trying to take it all in. I couldn't just tell him I don't really like him that much. He is my friend. I mean, I like him a tiny bit, but after what he had said to me, it seemed meaningless. I couldn't digest any of it. Luckily at that moment, Taylor staggered outside, wobbling on her ridiculously high heels.
"Oops! Sorry!" she giggled "I hope I'm not interrupting anything." Then she was sick all over herself. I took the chance and picked her up under the arm. She was crying hysterically.
"I'm sorry, Dylan. I need to get Taylor home. We can talk another time," I promised.
"Sure," Dylan said with a sigh. I could see his disappointment. Taylor had ruined everything for him. Me? I'd never been more grateful.
Dylan quickly and quietly explained the situation to Layla who kindly told me to get Taylor washed up in her bathroom and borrow some of her clothes. I quickly got Taylor through the crowd and over the kissing couples on the stairs without too much fuss and attention. Taylor was shaking lots so I borrowed a t-shirt and hoodie from Layla and helped Taylor change. I was horrified when she took her top off to see huge purple bruises on her shoulders and back.
"Taylor! What the hell happened to you?" I asked. She shushed me shakily.
"D-don't let him hear you. He'll hit me again," she whispered.
"Who? Who will?" I asked, but she shook her head, putting a finger to her lips childishly. I was so scared. I didn't want to let her go home. I handed her the clothes and she put them on obediently. She accepted a glass of water and drank it shakily.
"I'm not really sure what is going on," she whispered. I'd never seen her so lost before. Taylor, my confident, beautiful friend who doesn't know the meaning of scared. Despite all her flaws, I realised then how much I love her. I hugged her gently, trying not to hurt her poor back.
"I'll walk you home."
"No!" she cried wildly. She's very odd when it comes to having people at her house. If her dad is in the house, she refuses to let people in. I've never seen him in all my life. I wonder if her dad was the one who hurt her back.
"OK. I'll call you a taxi."
I felt like crying, but I held it together long enough to call a taxi and see Taylor off. When it arrived at about ten o'clock, she hugged me tight. She felt so fragile and empty.
"Thank you, Jade. For everything," she blurted, still not sober. She wobbled precociously as she clambered into the taxi and then she left.
I was so sick of the party by this point, but I went to find Dylan to say goodbye. It was the least I could do. I found him sat outside alone on the steps where we had talked, drinking a beer and looking miserable. I couldn't bear to see him so sad. I had to do something.
"I think I'll head home now. See you soon." And, even though I knew I would regret it, I sat beside him and kissed him softly on the lips. I wanted to suddenly realise that I couldn't live without Dylan, that I wanted to be with him, that I loved him back, but I felt nothing. Nothing at all. But it made Dylan smile.
"I'll walk you home," he said, gazing at me. I nodded and reluctantly took his hand. We said goodbye to Layla, Liam and Charlie, who raised his eyebrows again. I shook my head at him and gave him a look that said I would talk to him later. His expression turned worried, and he knew something was wrong, but I gave him a thumbs up to say I would be OK.
All the way home, Dylan chatted to me about school and summer, and it took all the effort in me not to scream at him to shut up. It was impossible to get my head straight. I smiled and nodded along, but only spoke when necessary. When we reached my house, I handed him his jacket back.
"Thanks for walking me home. You didn't have to."
"Why wouldn't I? You’re the only thing that matters to me."
His face was so close to mine, and I was so tempted to laugh, despite my sadness.
"Night, Jade," he said, kissing me.
"Just one last kiss..."
There were several last kisses. But no matter how many times he kissed me, although it was nice, I didn't want him. Not really. But I didn't let on. He left a few minutes later, blowing me a kiss. Eghh, I thought.
Everyone else was in bed when I came in the house, even though it was only half ten. I curled up on the sofa in my pyjamas and waited for sleep, but it didn't come. At around one o'clock, Charlie got home to find me watching some crap horror movie. I switched it off and told him everything, about Taylor's bruises, Dylan asking me out and the rest of the mess I'm in. He sighed, running a hand through his hair.
"Bloody hell. Why do you always manage to get yourself in a pickle? So are you and Dylan going out now?"
"I guess so. That's certainly what he must think. How do I end this without ruining our friendship and hurting him?"
"I...don't think you can."
We were silent for a minute.
"But hey, you might find you grow to like him."
"Maybe. But even if I do, how am I supposed to sort out Taylor's problems, especially as I don't fully know what they are yet."
"It's not your problem to sort out. Taylor is mature enough to be able to handle this herself. You don't need to interfere."
"You didn't see her..."
Charlie sighed. "It's late. Try and get some sleep. In the morning, we can talk about it if you want."
He fetched me a blanket and covered me with it before going to bed. I felt a bit better having talked things through with someone, but I still lay awake for hours. I woke up at seven and decided there was no point trying to get back to sleep. I made myself a coffee and slobbed out on the couch for a bit. Then, I dressed and went for a run. Not a jog. Jogging is for posers and people who can't be arsed exercising full out. Plus, when you run, there is no time to think of other things. Other problems, even.
On my way back, I was concentrating so hard on my running that I didn't see Jeff turning the corner and we collided with a thud. He staggered backwards laughing.
"Wow, Jade! In a hurry?"
"I'm so sorry! I was running and wasn't looking where I was going."
"It's alright. How was the party last night?"
"Pretty crap to be honest."
"Yeah, but it doesn't matter," I said quickly "You doing anything today?"
"I was just on my way to town to have a look round."
"There isn't much there, but I can give you a tour if you like?"
"Sure that would be great! It would be nice to have some company."
We went into town and I showed him the shops and the Costa Coffee where I often meet up with people. There are a McDonalds and a games store, plus a couple of charity shops.
"Not much here really. Do you want to go and get a drink at Costa Coffee? I'll buy drinks and cake!"
I bought us both hot chocolate and coffee cake, and we sat in my favourite spot by the window. I told him all about Anna wanting to get married to "Brandy" and a bit about all my friends. He listened carefully, laughing occasionally, but it was all very genuine. A while later, I spotted Charlie and Dylan walking past, chatting, and waved to them. I had to see Dylan at some point anyway.
"Hey guys," I said as they entered the shop "Jeff, this is my brother, Charlie and my...boyfriend, Dylan. Charlie, Jeff just moved in across the street, remember?"
"Sure I remember. Nice to meet you Jeff. I'm just going to get a drink."
Charlie got in the queue and Dylan sat beside me on my couch, putting his arm around me, but never taking his eyes of Jeff. With his smiley face and eyes, everyone else seems to get a good impression of Jeff, but Dylan looked cold and his grip on my shoulder was too tight, like I was being claimed by him. And then for good measure, he kissed me on the lips in front of everybody. I shoved him off warily.
"Not in public, Dylan." He looked hurt, but he was making me even more uncomfortable about the situation. Jeff was trying to ignore our exchange by sipping his hot chocolate, but already it was clear he was unsure about Dylan. As was I at that current moment.
"So, Jeff," Dylan said tight lipped "You’re going to be in our year at school. Looking to get anything in particular out of this school? A girl, maybe?"
I wanted to punch him, but he laughed it off "Nah. I only want a girl if I care about her a lot. I'm more interested in starting a band."
"Really?" Charlie asked, as he sat beside Jeff trying not to spill his cappuccino.
"Yeah. But not some boy band shit. Like a proper band that plays their own music and probably writes their own songs. I can't write for toffee."
"I bet our friend Liam would let you use some of his songs. In fact, if you’re looking for a pianist or guitarist, he's your man. He's amazing."
"That sounds cool. I'm not sure what angle I want the band to be yet, either a folky sound or a rock sound."
"I think folk music is much better. And more interesting," Charlie chipped in.
"Me too," I agreed.
"Then I could have Liam play piano, if he agreed, and I could play ukulele. Maybe a drummer, but that’s not a necessity. Maybe throw in a tin whistle or something. Then, all we would need would be a singer."
"Jade could do that, couldn't you?" Charlie said. I blushed.
"I don't know...I might not be right for what you have in mind."
"Well, you could have a go. Go on. It would be good experience. Plus, it's an excuse for me to hear you sing."
Dylan, who had been silent up to that point, said "I've heard her sing. She's amazing." It should have sounded like a compliment, but it sounded more like he was trying to outdo Jeff. Surely, he couldn't be jealous? I've only known Jeff five minutes. It annoyed me, but I kept it bottled up and did my best to cover it.
When we all finished our drinks, Dylan offered to walk me home again, but that meant he wanted to kiss me again, so I was glad when Charlie said he wanted to speak to me. So Dylan headed off moodily in one direction, and Jeff, Charlie and I headed home.
"Your boyfriend seems nice," Jeff said politely. Charlie blew a raspberry.
"Nice? He's a knob head. He's making you miserable already, Jade, I can see it."
"And you think I can't? It's not easy you know."
"He got jealous after one look at Jeff! How do you think you will be able to talk to any of your friends anymore? Half of them are boys, and it will be exactly the same with that."
I sighed, putting my head in my hands and groaning.
"Why did I have to get myself in such a mess?"
"Do you not like him, Jade?" Jeff asked, so I told him everything that had happened. He looked completely mind blown at the end.
"Well...that's deep shit. I reckon the answer to your problems would be to dump him as soon as there is a good opportunity."
"Dump him? Not a nice phrase. But you’re on to something. It would be the best way to have any chance of saving our friendship."
"Well, it would be his fault if things go wrong anyway. Before, when I was talking to him, he was saying he wishes he could be with you all the time, and how jealous he gets of Liam. He needs to get a life. Everyone knows Liam is your other half, and not in that way. You’re like brother and sister. He must be the only one who can't see that."
We turned the corner into our street. Half way down the road, I could hear my sister laughing loudly.
"Oh lord. Is that Brandon?" I said, squinting into the distance. I could see Anna hugging him and kissing his face all over.
"Gahh. I hope not. You know how I feel about "Brandy". I hope he’s only here to take her somewhere away from here. Hey, maybe Africa is back on."
I chuckled "Then at least half our problems would be solved."
As we approached, we knew it was definitely Brandon. He reckons he is "hard" because he wears hoodies and grey tracksuit bottoms, and has a zigzag shorn into his little head. True, he's not all bad, but he annoys the crap out of Charlie.
"Hey guys," I said, coming to a stop at the bottom of our driveway "Are you leaving now?"
"No, I only just got here. The new neighbours have invited us all over to dinner, and Liam's family. You must be Jeff," Anna said, taking his hand and shaking in violently. Jeff nodded unsurely.
"Yeah. Nice to meet you."
"Hurry on in and get changed, Jade! You look a scruff! Here, why not borrow one of my tops?" Anna said.
"No thanks!" I replied quickly.
"Well at least make an effort. Put on that nice blue dress that you have."
Moaning silently in my head, I rolled my eyes at Charlie and Jeff who stifled laughs. Then I ran upstairs and got changed, even bothering to put a bit of make up on and tie my hair in a plait. I tumbled back down stairs where everyone was waiting for me so we could go across the road together. Everyone had made an effort, even though we were only going to our neighbour's house. Mum had also changed into a summer dress, Dad had put his best Fred Perry polo shirt on, Charlie had brushed his hair and Anna had gone the whole hog and put on black sky scraper heals with a tight black dress. Jeff was the only one who looked normal, to be honest.
"You didn't need to put this much effort in, really. Come on, I think my mum is making her special hot chocolate."
So the whole party strolled across the road, looking like a right bunch of twats. The aroma of fresh paint crawled under the door and filled my nose. Kathy opened the door with a smile, elbow deep in dough and with flour on her face.
"Hi everyone! Come on in! I'm sorry, I'm in the middle of making bread. I'm afraid tonight will be a bit of a buffet, I don't have the space or time to prepare a proper meal."
"Fine by me. All you can eat? Sounds great!" I said, winking at the boys.
"Stop being a pig, Jade. You’re going to get fat," Anna sniffed.
"I don't think there is much chance of that, judging by the way she runs. She's like a whirlwind, she almost took me out earlier!" Jeff teased, and I punched him lightly on the arm.
Kathy showed us through to the living room, where Liam and Julie were already sat sipping hot chocolate.
"Hey everyone. You must be Jeff," Liam said, standing up.
"Liam, isn't it? Jade has told me all about you."
"Has she now? I hope she has been saying good things."
"Of course I have, idiot. Here let me try some of this famous hot chocolate." Liam passed me the mug and I took a sip. Sweet, creamy chocolate filled my mouth and made me shiver.
"That. Is. Amazing!"
"Mum makes it from scratch. She is a chef. I don't really take after her in that aspect..."
"You certainly don't! You nearly burnt down the kitchen last time you made pancakes! Never again!" We all laughed while Jeff folded his arms and raised an eyebrow.
"In my defence, pancakes are tricky to make."
"Even I can make pancakes," Charlie smiled.
"Well whatever. I must be good at something."
"I haven't seen any of your art yet!" I said. He grinned.
"I painted my room this morning. You can come and see it if you like."
Jeff took us upstairs and showed us the wall on the landing. It was painted beautifully with flowers and vines twisting and turning, crawling into the highest corners of the ceiling. Then he showed us his bedroom which had a mural of him and his mum on one wall, and who assumed was his dad slightly apart from them. He had got every detail perfect, every curl in their hair, the tone of skin, the colour of their amazing green eyes.
"I don't believe this only took you a morning. You’re really good."
Jeff smiled shyly. "Thanks. Now all I need to do is hear you sing."
I groaned "You really don't."
"Aww come on. My guitar is in the attic room, I wanted to show you it finished anyway.
We followed him through the house again. Charlie got chatting with Jeff and I fell behind with Liam.
"So. You and Dylan, eh?"
"Don't start. I'm having a crap enough time with him as it is. He's being all jealous and annoying to make matters worse. Apparently, he's even jealous of you."
"Well who wouldn't be?" Liam laughed, digging me in the ribs. I gave in and laughed too. Hey, it's better to laugh than be down in the dumps.
The attic room looked even better. There was a small CD player plugged in the corner humming out Bob Marley tunes, several bean bags, and easel in the corner and a big phsycadelic rug. I showed Charlie where we had done the finger prints, and Jeff lent the other two some paint to add their own in. Meanwhile, I made myself comfy on a bean bag and picked up Jeff's guitar, teasing an old Beatle's tune from the strings. Jeff sat beside me to listen and nudged me.
So I quietly started to sing the lyrics to Hey Jude. I knew Charlie and Liam were listening even though they weren't looking at me so as not to embarrass me. Jeff smiled when I finished the first two verses.
"That's it. No more."
"I think you would be great in a folk band. And Liam, I've been told you play piano? I thought we could have a bit of a band."
"Sure that would be great. Good idea. The last time me and Jade tried to form a band was when we were about four with me on the xylophone, but I think this band might have a little more success," Liam chuckled, shaking his head.
At that moment, I got a text. The boys continued chatting while I checked my phone. It was Dylan. With a sigh, I opened the text.
Hey Jade. What you up to? Do you want to come to mine for dinner? xxx
I replied Sorry I'm at my neighbour's house, we are having dinner here x
Oh. Is this that Jeff guy? xxx
Yeah, it is Jeff. Is there a problem?
No but...I am your boyfriend. Would you not rather come here? Just ask your mum xxx
The last text frustrated me. I felt claustrophobic, like I wasn't allowed friends just because I have a boyfriend. So, exhaling slowly, I calmly turned off my phone and tried to forget him. Which wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. Liam and Charlie both got on really well with Jeff which meant it was easy to talk and laugh and have fun together. Jeff did funny little cartoon sketches of us and promised one day to do a proper picture of us all together. Then at about seven o'clock, it was time for the food! They had a huge table which was overflowing with buffet food. There were four different types of sandwich; egg mayonnaise, ham, cheese and pickle and strawberry jam. Then there was pizza, sausage rolls, Doritos, pasta, salad, pasta salad, broccoli quiche, cheese and pineapple sticks, chicken drumsticks and burgers. I had huge helpings of everything then went back for more because it was so good.
"Bloody hell, Jade! How do you stay so skinny?" Jeff scoffed. I winked and flicked my hair comically.
"Because I'm worth it!"
We had a crazy moment of all four of us flicking our hair like in the L’Oreal adverts. Even the adults joined in, which was hilarious seeing as my Dad's head hasn't got a hair on it. I was laughing so hard I struggled to breathe.
Pudding was no disappointment. I put three homemade chocolate cupcakes, three dollops of ice cream and a big fat éclair on my plate greedily. Charlie rolled his eyes.
"You’re going to explode, fatty. I'll give you a tenner if you eat all that."
Somebody owes me a tenner.
I finished and patted my bulging stomach in satisfaction, feeling like Santa Claus.
"I don't think I can eat any more now," I sighed, my fork clattering to my plate.
"I'm not surprised. Three cheers for the chef though!" Liam said. There were murmurs of agreement and thanks were said to Kathy.
"No worries, really. Next time, I will cook something proper," Kathy replied modestly "How are you liking the attic, kids?"
"It's awesome! And we were thinking of forming a band," I said.
"Really? That's great. Jeff has always wanted to be part of a band."
"We're going to have a folk music sort thing. I'll be the guitarist or play the ukulele, Liam will play piano and Jade is gonna sing."
"Jade is a wonderful singer, but she is so painfully shy," Dad said in an annoying Dadish way.
"Well then give us a song!"
I shrunk back and blushed and everyone laughed.
"I think I just proved my point, Jade."
"Fine. I will. Go on, Jeff, go get the guitar."
So Jeff got the guitar and I sang Hey Jude, with "Jade" put in the place of Jude, making everyone laugh, but after that, they listened carefully and when I finished they even applauded me. I felt childish and silly, blushing crimson, but it was nice all the same.
"Wow, Jade. You have incredible talent! I think this band is a great idea, and I'm so glad Jeffrey can have a part in it!"
After that, things got sillier and sillier, but in a good way, I think. The adults all got a bit drunk and had sing a longs to golden oldies we have never heard of. Then we all gathered around the huge table, all ten of us, and played card games, which I nearly always won because I'm so sneaky. But when Anna started dancing to Radiohead, we realised it was probably time to go home. We thanked Kathy for the meal and got up to leave. Jeff pulled me into a quick hug.
"See you soon."
As soon as I got home, I realised how tired I was. I slipped into my pyjamas quickly and climbed under my duvet, and went to sleep without any troubles on my mind.