Read Love-Struck Online

Authors: Rachael Wing

Love-Struck (9 page)

Everything goes according to plan.

I walked off, past a group of chemo girls (the “next big thing”, apparently – a fusion of emo and chav. Sounds useless to me. Depressed Chavs? Nuh-uh. Not good) who had just walked in, giggling and dressed in black with Nike wrist bands, baseball hats and trainers. I realized that one of them was Hannah Eveleigh, a loud-mouthed, outspoken blonde girl that I know from down my road, so I quickly ducked my head and made my way over to the girls' loos on the other side of the room, which was next to a door marked “Private”.

I pushed the door open and stepped inside. The toilets are a little bit grim, but they have this amazing huge mirror over the taps that's on a bit of a slant, so you can see your entire body if you back off a bit. I reapplied my lip gloss – a girl can never have enough lip gloss – and had a good look at myself in the mirror. The girl I saw looking back at me looked nervous. She was chewing her lip and her eyes were wide. Then I realized I was a little bit nervous. But also excited. Both feelings were bubbling up inside of me, and I couldn't stay looking at myself for ever, so I took one last glance at the petite brunette with dark-lined green eyes and ripped black T-shirt, and went out into the crowd.

The place was at least half full already, some people on stage, fiddling with the amps and guitars, and some milling around and greeting each other, the air starting to buzz with expectancy – or maybe that was just me. I couldn't see Wes anywhere. The crowd was pretty thick, so I just decided to make my way over to the bar. I looked at my watch as I walked, trying to keep my feet from doing a jig to release the tension. It was just a few minutes later than we said, so I was casually late, which was good, but when I looked over to the bar I couldn't see him. My pulse picked up a fraction, but I calmed it down. He's a boy, and what is the one thing we can count on all boys being?

Late.

So I strutted with more confidence than I felt over to the bar, which I leaned on, so that I could see the door but also the crowd. After all, he might have walked in, not seen me at the bar and gone to talk to a few people.

Maybe.

I was lost in my own thoughts for a bit, and then I decided to crowd-scan. I still couldn't see Wes and Emily, but the roadies had subtly come on to the stage and started to do a final tuning. That's one of the good things about The Venue: they always make sure that their acts start promptly.

I flicked my hair a bit for something to do, put on a bit more lip gloss, and then pretended to text someone, like I was a bit cool and, like, had friends, they just weren't here. Then the door opened and I jumped out of my skin and my head snapped up, but it was just a large group of kids from the year above filing in and filling up most of the extra space. The place was getting full and loud, and it made me aware that everyone was talking to someone else whilst I was stood at the bar, alone, feeling like a right gooseberry. I looked at my watch. I'd been standing there for ten minutes! It had felt like twenty. Where was he? I couldn't have missed him, surely?

“Excuse me, can I help?”

I turned around. The guy behind the bar was very cute. He had dark, messy blond hair, really toned arms and a friendly smile with a lip piercing.

Hmm, lip ring!

I pouted. “Not really.”

He put down the glass he was holding and leaned forward. “Waiting for someone?”

“Hmmm,” I said, not meeting his eyes.

Time check: ten to. The band were starting to play a bit, finishing off their tuning. Any minute they would start to play. Where was he? Was he not even coming?

I willed myself not to blurt out that I'd been stood up. I was not about to—

“Got stood up?”

Damn, was I that obvious?

“No!” I snapped, far too quickly. The blond boy laughed.

“No,” I said, in calmer tones. “He's just a little bit late, is all. He'll be here soon.”

“What's your name?” he asked, with a half smile that gave him a dimple in one cheek.

“Holly,” I answered, surprised.

“Well, Holly, if your friend doesn't show up in the next ten minutes, how about I buy you a drink?”

Inside I was nearly crying. I must have looked really, really good or else the cute boy with a lip ring (hmm, lip ring!) wouldn't be asking me if I wanted a drink, and Jonah wasn't there to see me looking so great! I felt so stupid for making an effort for someone who couldn't even make the effort to show up.

TK, a part owner of The Venue, walked out on to the stage. The room had totally filled up now, and everyone cheered as he walked on.

“Hey, everybody! Let's get on with it. Here's the first part of the line-up for MSR! Let's hear it for The Dandys!”

The entire room erupted as the band strutted on, claimed their instruments and started their first song. The bass line and riff combined with the drums hypnotized my hips, and they wanted to dance. I looked at my watch. He was nearly twenty-five minutes late, with not so much as a text.

Screw this, I thought.

I turned to Boy-At-The-Bar.

“I'll hold you to that! I'm going to dance, see you later…”

“Jack.” He filled the space with his name.

“Right,” I smiled. “Jack! Later…”

Jonah obviously asked me out, and then met some other girl and just decided that I wasn't worth it. Well, he was wrong. So wrong. I pushed my way to the middle of the crowd, which is always a scary thing to do when you're a midget like me, and got near the front, listening to the set.

I don't know how long I stayed there, but I just let the crowd carry me. That's the thing with the pit – if you resist, you get hurt; but if you go with the flow and let the music carry you, the crowd is just one organism and it's all good.

I let the drums beat into my head and drum out all of the thoughts about Jonah the Pig and what he might be doing instead of being here with me. I let the bass soak into my soul and cleanse me like a steaming hot shower. I let the lead guitar take over my body and make it jump and shake and dance as hard as it could, and then I let the vocals dance around my eyes like raindrops stuck to my eyelashes. Music can be the most healing of things.

Before I knew it, the set was over and I was thirsty as hell. I headed over to the bar, and finally caught sight of Wes.

“Good set!” I exclaimed, bouncing on his shoulders as he waited to be served.

“There you are!” he said beaming. “I couldn't find you anywhere! I thought it would be all right, that you'd be with Jonah—”

My face must have dropped a little, because the next thing I knew he was giving me a pitying look, almost like he was expecting it. A twinge of annoyance hit my stomach, but I ignored it because I'd been alone for God-knows-how-long, and I needed to talk to him.

“Did he not show?”

I shrugged. “Nope. But it's OK, because I've got a drink waiting for me!”

And right on cue, Jack waltzed up and beamed at me.

“So, Holly – did your friend show?”

I shook my head sadly.

“One drink coming up, then, as promised!” He picked up a glass with a flourish. “What do you want?”

“J20, pink flavour?”

He winked. “Sure, anything you want.”

He wandered off to the other end of the bar. Wes turned to me, blocking my view of Jack's lovely bum.

“Who's that guy?”

“Oh, that's Jack!” I replied loftily, looking down at my twisting hands. “He wanted to buy me a drink because I've been stood up.” I looked up into Wes's face, which was frowning. “Oh, what, Wes?”

“You're accepting a drink off a total stranger?”

I rolled my eyes. “Sorry, big brother, I didn't realize I had to check with you first. And besides, he's not a total stranger, he's
Jack
…”

Wes looked like he wanted to say something, but then judging the look on my face, he just let it slide. His drinks arrived, he paid, and then turned back to me.

“So how's it going with Emily?” I asked.

He smiled, his eyes a bit distant. “Good! We danced and we've had a laugh, and now I've come to get her a drink whilst she's talking to some girls she knows.”

My drink came and I smiled at Jack. “Thanks, you're an angel.”

“Yeah, you could say that!” he laughed. “Are you coming next week to MSR?”

“Yep!” I nodded. “I'm going with this fine guy here!” I clapped Wes on the shoulder.

Jack nodded. “Great. If you see me there, come over and say hi. Maybe you can repay me for the drink?”

“Yeah, sure!”

Jack walked away, and Wes cleared his throat.

“Look, I've got to go, y'know, give Emily her drink, so…”

“OK!” I said, feeling suddenly awkward, putting a damper on my newly found good mood. Now I just felt stupid and alone again. I tried to put on a bright face. “Yeah, well, have a great night! Good luck!”

He nodded, and suddenly mingled off into the crowd. He was being all weird. Huh. Boys!

I was sipping away at my girly J20, musing dark thoughts to myself about the uselessness of boys and why we bother with them, when some big-footed, lager-ridden oaf tumbled backwards and managed to tip the entire contents of his pint glass down my brand new top. I felt the chilly liquid soak through the top layer and then into the second layer of my bra, and it splashed all into my nicely curled pretty hair.

And then to top it all off, he stood on my foot.

My mood suddenly snapped and I thought I was either going to scream or cry. I ran off in the direction of the girls' loos again, feeling utterly lost and sad. Why did Jonah not turn up? Why was Wes being distant and snappy? Why were all big tall blokes jerks?!

I burst into the girls' toilets, almost ready to cry, limping heavily and looking down my top to assess the damage, when I realized that I wasn't in the girl's bathroom.

“Have you come to get us more drinks?” asked a voice.

I paused, horrified. I knew that voice.

I looked up in disbelief.

There sat The Faeries.

No kidding.

The actual real-life Faeries, all four of them: Matt in a rocking chair, Vikki and Chevans on bean bags and the god himself, Robin Goodfellow, on his feet and staring at me with those beautiful eyes like I had just fallen out of his fridge.

And there I was: covered in beer, my hair all askew, my face reddened with embarrassment and sheer frustration and peering down my top to look at my bra.

Not how I imagined this would go.

Thoughts broke like a dam into my head. They weren't even supposed to be in Cathen yet, not until the week after! What were they even doing in The Venue? A sudden thought hit me. Oh my god – a secret gig! Amazing! I stood there frozen to the spot, feeling for the second time that night the absolute gooseberry that I am, until miraculously Vikki spoke.

“Hey, you look familiar. Do you come to a lot of our gigs?”

I couldn't speak. Wide-eyed, I nodded.

“I'm at the front of every south-west show you do,” I croaked, my voice finding its way out unexpectedly. “With Wes. We're big fans.”

“Oh my God, you're the kids who always wear the Superman T-shirts, right?” cried Chevans.

Oh my God. Chevans knew who I was.

“Yeah, you're the superhero chick!” agreed Matt.

Matt with the great bum.

He knew us too!

Ohmygoodness!!

“I know you now,” Robin started, his devilish smile creeping on to his face. “You and your boyfriend are really cute together.”

I was about to reply with a great big “Wes isn't my boyfriend, I'm single, Robin, TAKE ME!”, but right then a bouncer walked in.

“Do you need any—”

Then he saw me.

“NO CIVILIANS IN THE PRIVATE ROOMS! OUT!”

And I was yanked backwards by my right arm. I just had time to wave to the band before I was escorted through the hall, down the stairs, through the entrance and out into the fresh air. It hit me like a wake-up call.

“You're banned for the night, miss,” said the bouncer, stiffly. “Sorry. See you next week.”

I began to walk home alone and in shock. It could only have been half nine at the latest, so there was still a touch of pink in the sky. I realized that it was slightly chilly, and that I was still clutching my J20 tightly in my hand. Dizzily, I went over what had just happened in my head. I had been stood up, chatted up, awkward-ed out, beer-showered, celebrity-shamed and chucked out, all in the space of an hour and a half.

That was more than enough for one night, I decided, as I limped my way home.

I went to work on the Saturday still feeling a little bit numb from confusion. I didn't know quite how to feel – I'd obviously been stood up, but Robin “Fittest of Them All” Goodfellow had recognized me from his shows! That doesn't happen every day! But neither does a date with Jonah.

I had my iPod hidden in my pocket with one earphone in, listening to a bit of therapy. I hadn't had time to tell Wes yet, but I'd just tell him at his later. I was supposed to be going around after work, but I wasn't really in the mood to fix up someone else when I'd just been scammed. There was a hole where all my excitement and happiness had been the day before that only a large tub of half Butterscotch and Malteaser, half SuperChocolate could fill.

You've shot me down

But I've realized

That I wasn't your first target.

Girls like you, you drive me wild

And it's girls like you I'd rather forget.

As I polished Ozzie's counter absentmindedly for the third time, a pair of hands appeared leaning on the counter in front of me. I looked up angrily – because this selfish person was putting greasy fingerprints on to my nice and shiny counter – ready to politely offer my services so they would get right off my lovely clean top.

Our eyes collided like a car crash.

I looked down to the top again, humiliated, and polished harder.

“Hi, how can I help?” I asked, trying to not let too much venom soak into my words.

“You could listen to my apology for why I was a jerk and didn't turn up last night?” Jonah murmured, trying to catch my eye, but I wouldn't look up into his face. I would never look at it the same way again; that evil, conniving but beautiful face. I was beginning to think that he was a bit like Angel from
Buffy
: all gorgeous and drooly on the outside, but a vampire on the inside. Vampires have a natural instinct to kill and stuff, and Jonah had a natural instinct to be a jerk. See my train of thought? Then Jonah was obviously Angel. And if he was Angel then that would make me Buffy, which I'm not going to argue about because she's a bit gorgeous, but I'd have to lay off the leather pants a bit, and do something about the nose.

But Angel and Buffy get together. Maybe we were supposed to be together, like we were destined. Like he was supposed to be a jerk and I was supposed to be a fitty, and we were supposed to be a couple.

Seeing his gorgeous, evil face had made my head turn mush again, and it made the little brain that I had so confused that it had completely abandoned my body and voice. I stopped polishing like my life depended on it, and just stood there, dumb like an empty puppet.

He slid into the high stool in front of me.

“I was going to come, I promise. I'd been looking forward to it all week! But I had to go see my granddad.”

What, on a Friday? He never misses a Friday out, and so would never go to see his grandfather on a Friday! What a lame excuse! I couldn't believe that he was making up such a blatant lie and using his poor granddad as an alibi.

My anger made me snap into action.

“Yeah, of course, you were going to your granddad's!” I exclaimed with a hint of sarcasm and just a pinch of furious rage (I admired the effect, I must say) to his Greek-god face. Lip ring (hmm). Stupid bewitching lip ring! (Hmm.) You're not going to stop me! “And of course your granddad must live in some faraway land called Furthest Place Away Ever Where I Don't Have A Phone To Call My Date To At Least Be Polite So She Doesn't Look Like A Complete Wally When She Is Stood Up?” I asked.

That sentence had so much attitude that I thought I was going to morph into a cheerleader there and then, with the little attitude head-bop and clicking of fingers. I was so tempted to go, “Oh no, you did NOT!” but on second thought, maybe it was a bit much.

“It was his birthday and he'd planned for me to go around and …” He looked around the room, bright green eyes shining. Today they were the same green as the grass after it's rained – I'd never seen such green eyes before. When he saw that there was no one about, he leaned in conspiratorially; and before I could rebuke his slimy arm for leaning on my lovely clean counter, I leaned in myself.

Damn, the lip ring (hmm – STOP IT!) must have still been weaving its magic on me, but it was only a matter of time before I would be able to shake off its hold over me!

“… and make toy planes with him,” Jonah continued. “He used to be a pilot in the war, so loves all that stuff. I do it every year on his birthday, and this year I told him I couldn't but he forgot, and rang up my mum all upset because I hadn't arrived and he thought something had happened. He's really old and gets upset easily, so Mum made me go there instead and I forgot to take my phone. I was there all night, Holly, I'm sorry. And he does have a phone, but I didn't have your number on me, so I couldn't get hold of you.”

Oh. Right. Well, it could have still been a big lie, but something about the way he was telling it – the slight frown in his brow, the cloudiness in his eyes when he spoke about his granddad going a little confused. I don't know, it all just kind of clicked into place and when he had finished talking, I believed him.

I stood there in silence, wracking my brain for something to say in response.

“Holly? Look, please don't be too angry,” he pleaded, mistaking my dumb-blonde silence for an angry interlude. “I think we could have something special starting here. We have, y'know, like, a bond forming, sweetie, don't you think?”

I looked up into his face, which was all intense, his eyes questioning mine. I was determined not to look at the li— Ahem, the l** r***, because I was already swooning. “Something special”? “Sweetie”? Forget swooning, I was practically on the floor in a useless heap, giggling and smiling like a loon.

He shook his head, tearing his eyes from mine so quickly that it almost hurt. “Or I thought we did, before I messed up. I can't believe I've ruined this. I'm sorry I've upset you, Holly. I'd better go.”

Jonah slid off his stool and made to leave. I couldn't let him go, not after a speech like that!

“Jonah, wait!”

He turned slowly, a sombre expression on his face.

“It's OK, I don't want to throw anything away!” I gushed. “I don't care that you went to see your granddad, OK? It's all right.”

He smiled and turned back around to the counter. “Really?”

I nodded. “Yeah, and I'm sorry that I was harsh, I was just really embarrassed last night. It's not fun being stood up.”

He came and sat back on the seat in front of me. “Well, hopefully I can make it up to you…?” he asked, eyes twinkling. “By going to the MSR with you? I'll buy your hot dogs and Diet Coke, and treat you like a princess?”

I laughed, elbows on the counter, leaning across towards him. “And that's how you treat a princess, is it? ‘Here, yur Royal Highness, d'yeh want tomato sauce and mustard on yur hot dog or wot?'”

He chuckled and stroked my hair. Hmm, nice. “That's exactly right,” he agreed. “That's the Tiara Treatment! So what do you think?”

“Erm, I don't know…” I started, but when his expression faltered, I giggled. “Of course, you loser, I'll go with you. We'll have fun.”

He did his lazy half smile, eyes dancing. “Good. I guess I'll see you next week then? I still haven't found a tent yet…” he trailed off.

YESS!

“You will…” I nodded, biting my lip to stop myself from shouting, “YOU'RE GOING TO BE SHARING OUR TENT, JUST AS SOON AS I GET EMILY TO AGREE!”

“So are you coming to the gig on Friday?” I asked to give my mouth something to do.

He shook his head, eyes suddenly dark. “No, can't. I'm grounded until Saturday because I skipped maths on Monday.”

Oooh, he's definitely a bad boy.

And next weekend, he's
my
bad boy.

Omigod, he might ask me to be his girlfriend! I'd be, like, the official girlfriend of a god.

Yikes!

“So I guess I'll just see you on Saturday, then?”

“I guess so.”

And that's when he leaned in that little bit more and kissed me over the counter. Nothing racy, mind; just a soft kiss.

And with that he was gone from the shop, leaving me melted in a puddle on the floor.

*

“I don't believe you!”

“You've got to!” I exclaimed, laughing and taking a spoonful of ice cream. I still bought it even though things had got a million squillion times better since this morning. “I'm not kidding! They recognized us, they noticed that we always wear the superhero T-shirts and they said that we were—”

I stopped mid-sentence. I couldn't tell him that. I'd told him everything down to the exact clothes they were wearing and what they had been sitting on, but I couldn't tell him that. It was Wes! It would be weird.

“We were what?” he asked innocently.

“– we were … loyal.” I smiled. “They thanked us for coming to all the south-west shows! I'm telling you, though, it was the best moment of my life when Robin said that I was cute!”

OK, bending the truth a little, but if he said that “we” were cute, I'm part of that “we”, so technically he said that I was cute!

“I can't believe it's a week and …” He looked at his watch. “… five hours and twenty … four minutes until we see them.”

“I know! If I fall asleep before midnight, you promise you'll wake me up?”

“You won't fall asleep, you'll be with Jonah at some rave,” he mused. “So let's get this right so I understand. Now he's told you some sentimental excuse, you like him again?”

“Yeah!” I managed through a mouth of chocolate.

Wes shook his head sceptically, taking another bite of ice cream.

“I don't get women. He's been messing you around since you fell on each other in the dark.” I rolled my eyes. “And you're still going to go out with him?”

I thought for a second. He had a valid excuse for everything he messed up, so why should I be mad? He's
Jonah Jones
. I'd been dreaming about him for God knows how long. And he was gorgeous. I was lucky that he'd bothered this far, so of course I was going to go out with him!

“Well, I don't have a whole horde of boys in my wake, do I? Unless you're offering…”

Wes put his spoon down, and looked up slowly. His conker eyes were wide and Bambi-like.

“Well, I … I…”

My face suddenly dropped. Wes didn't … I mean, he wouldn't … because he…

He burst out laughing. “Chill out, H, I was joking!”

I laughed too, a little nervously but also a little disappointed. Why didn't Wes want me? Humph!

“So what are we going to do about Emily?” I asked, spoon in mouth. There wasn't much ice cream left after the excitement of my Faeries news. “I mean, do we feed her to the lions? The Dynamic Duo – Mrs Stone and Sloaney – would rip her to shreds on your great oak table.” There was a pause as we both imagined it. Ouch. “However! I think there's only one thing we can do, to be honest.”

Wes looked hopeful. “Good, because I didn't have a clue.”

“Well, I think the only thing we can do is let it happen.”

Wes breathed a sigh of relief. “Oh, thank God. I don't want her to meet the Dragon – wait, did you just say ‘let it happen'? As in ‘let the lion into the cage with that beautiful blonde that I like and see what happens'? Have you got brain freeze or are you going crazy?”

I shrugged. The real answer to that question was yes, I was going crazy (and coincidentally, I did have brain freeze) but for many different reasons.

“I thought about it today at work. We, you
and
me, bring Emily over. Your mum doesn't like me, and because she knows me hopefully I'll take the beatings for the both of us. Now doesn't that sound like a fun afternoon!”

I grimaced in an ugly fashion.

“Don't make that face, or the wind'll blow and you'll be stuck like that for ever, you uggo,” he mocked. “But yes, that sounds like a real plan, Batman, kudos.”

“And there's another part to my amazing plan!” I revealed, shaking my jazz hands.

Wes raised his eyebrows in question, as his mouth was full of chocolate.

“We're going to ring her and ask her to come with us to the rave and stay in our tent.”

Wes nearly choked.

“What!?” he spat out. “I'm beginning to think that you
are
crazy. Don't you think it's a little bit too soon?”

“Nope,” I smiled. “It's fine. Invite her with us, so it's not like it's just you and her, so she doesn't get all freaked. And we're doing this now before she gets another invite. And vis-à-vis your darling mother, The Dragon Lady: you're letting her meet Blondie because if you don't, your mother will get quite stressy at you. So you'll do this, because then you'll be in her good books. And most importantly, my friend, you'll do this because it will be great to show her your amazing home, and once she has seen your jacuzzi, she'll be yours!”

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