2. Georgia

Georgia glanced at the clock. 10:37. She turned away, delving into the conversation around her in order to try and distract herself from the clock. 10:38. Stop looking! She turned to listen to a joke and laughed politely even though she didn’t find it funny. 10:38. Still? Impossible! Stop looking at the clock! She decided to get up and get a drink. Sitting down, she repositioned herself so that she couldn’t see the clock any more. Despite that, she could feel the seconds dragging by, feel the impossibly slow ticking. She needed to look at the clock again, time must have passed by now. But she couldn’t look like she was looking, because that would seem like she wasn’t having fun and she was. At least, she would be if she wasn’t so eager to look at the clock. So she needed to do it subtly. Maybe she should stretch, then she could turn and make it seem like part of the stretch. But if she stretched, it would make everyone think she was tired or bored and stiff and they would get offended! Of course! She would whisper something in Tricia’s ear, turning around for secrecy and glancing at the clock!
         This, though, presented the whole new problem of what to whisper to Tricia. Whispering something random would just be bizarre, so it would have to be relevant either to the conversation or to something the two of them had discussed earlier. What had they had that long discussion about earlier? Perhaps suddenly whispering something about which variety of milk was superior would be inadvisable. So it looked like Georgia would have to start paying attention to the conversation around her. She’d been trying to do that since the beginning, it was just that the clock was so important! Maybe now that listening was helping her reach the clock, it would be easier.
         “… so I told him to shove it and I haven’t spoken to him since!” Mary was saying. Sad story, then? Georgia was trying to think of something relevant to whisper to Tricia when everyone started laughing. Oh, so it wasn’t sad. Ok, this time I’ll listen from the beginning.
         “The exact same thing happened to me and Georgia last week, didn’t it Georgia?” said Toby. Georgia was thrilled, if she was involved in the story, she would finally realise what this conversation was about. “Was that last week?” she wondered, quite cunningly, “I had forgotten all about it!” Toby laughed and Georgia realised that she wouldn’t actually have forgotten. Darn it, she thought, listen more closely next time!
         “Yeah right, Georgia. Of course you’ve forgotten about the cashier. Ugliest guy in the universe and he decides that our beauty queen here is good enough for him!” there was laughter from everyone else as Georgia remembered the incident at last.
         “But then when I ‘politely declined’ he decided to come on to Toby instead!” she offered, causing raucous laughter from the whole table, “he said he was up for either!”
         “As if that made him more appealing!” cried Toby, howling with laughter. Tricia turned and whispered in Georgia’s ear, “You didn’t tell me about this, Georgie!” Tricia hated to be left out of events, especially ones in Georgia’s life. Georgia saw her opportunity and took it; twisting round to whisper in Tricia’s ear while surreptitiously checking the clock.
         “Sorry, Trish! It must have slipped my mind! You’re lucky you weren’t there, though; you’d have been totally freaked out!”

2. Claire

This corner of the club smelt like the toilets, probably because it was next to them. Margaret looked up and scanned the crowd for what seemed like the four hundredth time that evening. Claire was nowhere in sight. She looked at her phone again, to see no new messages or calls. It was dingy and badly lit here, and the leather booth seats were beginning to crack apart, which made Margaret suspect that they weren’t really leather. In fact, they felt like plastic now that she really thought about it. If only it was lighter in here, she could really inspect them. Oh gosh, she thought, I’m inspecting a booth in a club. Where is Claire? Just then, a figure approached the booth. Margaret’s heart lifted as she called out, “About time!”
         “Well I was trying to figure out if you were staring at me or not. I finally realised you must have been when I saw you trying not to seem obvious.”
         “Sorry?” Margaret asked. The music was loud and the lighting was dark, but this person did not actually look or sound like Claire close up. In fact, the voice and stature were distinctly male.
         “That’s okay,” said the mystery man, “It wouldn’t be the first time a girl has eyed me up. You look like you could use some company in this big, lonely booth of yours.” With that, the man sat down and sidled up to Margaret. He smelt of Tequila, misery and sweat and that was just his breath. The rest of him smelt like it had been dipped in a vat of cheap aftershave (though Margaret could unfortunately feel that no shave had happened recently) after having worked with marine life all day. His hair was a mousy brown colour, and absolutely covered in grease to create that ‘comb-tracks’ look that he seemed to think drove the ladies wild. Margaret could sense that this situation was soon to get a lot worse, so she was extraordinarily grateful when Claire arrived, scanning the booths at the back of the club for what had been described to her as THE WORST ONE IN HERE, BY THE LAV. SORRY! X. She had skipped over the booth Margaret was in as the club was too dark to make out facial features and there were two people there. Now, though, she noticed that one of those people was wearing the top she’d lent Margaret 3 weeks ago and looked very uncomfortable, being pawed by the man next to her.
         “Excuse me,” she said, trying to channel Jill, Lucy and Georgia all into one attitude used to drive away strangers, “I think this is my booth.”
         “Oh my apologies,” said the man, looking aggravated at having to disentangle himself from the girl who Claire could now confirm was a very awkward and uncomfortable Margaret, “We were just leaving anyway.”
         “I don’t think she wants to go with you.” Claire was trying to muster up all her courage in order to free her trapped friend.
         “And how would you know what she wants?”
         “Margaret, are you going to go with him?” Claire asked. The man looked shocked at the realisation that the two girls knew each other. Margaret, crippled with fear at the prospect of going home with this creep, said nothing but instead slightly shook her head and whimpered. Claire knew that this was when she was supposed to call this greasy thing a whole host of swear words and then send him away with a witty put-down. That was what her friends would have done. But she settled instead for saying “Bye, then.” She was still trying to avoid making scenes in public after the whole debacle with Steve. With that, the man sloped off, probably to target some other poor, unsuspecting girl.
         “Thank goodness for you,” Margaret gasped, “He just wouldn’t get off!”
         “He looked like my great-uncle Willis when he was young. Nobody deserves Willis hanging off of them,” Claire explained. Margaret burst out laughing.
         “I had an uncle like that! His name was Terry! He used to drive a white van and always offered me sweets!”
         “Oh my gosh, really? Was he genuinely a paedophile?”
         “No! He was just really strange!”
         The two girls were in peals of laughter, each clinging to the other for support when someone else arrived at their table.
         “Don’t tell me, let me guess,” said Clive, “something funny happened.” The girls jumped, they hadn’t seen Clive approaching as they were too wrapped up in their hysterics. Still laughing, they explained the incident with ‘Willis junior’ and their discovery of Margaret’s uncle’s dubious pastimes. Clive found what he understood amusing, but the girls were too far gone in their hysterics to make enough sense for him to join in their level of glee. Once they had contained their excitement enough for Clive to join them, they began to talk about the plans for the evening.
         “It’s already 10 o’clock, what are we going to do once the club closes?” Margaret wondered. Claire thought hard about this, trying to find a solution.
         “Are you seriously willing to stay here until the club closes? It’s rubbish here and once the pubs close, all the drunkards and morons come in – there’ll be ‘Willis juniors’ everywhere!” pointed out Clive.
         “Clive, this is your club!” exclaimed Claire.
         “Therefore, I am the only one who can truly tell the truth about it.” Clive countered with an air of an indignant parent. “Besides, it’s my dad’s club. It just so happens that it’s named after me in an attempt to win back my affections after a childhood of neglect.”
         “Neglect? If that’s what you think neglect is, I wish my parents had been more neglectful of me!” declared Margaret.
         “Having money doesn’t mean I had good parents, it just means I had a pool.”
         “Oh you poor thing! However did you survive such hardship?” Margaret’s voice was dripping with sarcasm and Claire could hear scorn in her voice. Just once, she thought, could we have a Friday night where you two don’t butt heads over your childhoods? Margaret was from a broken home, and that’s all that anybody knew. In fact, she hadn’t even told Claire about her past, other than to say that it was terrible and that she didn’t want to talk about it. You don’t seem to mind bringing it up around Clive.
         The argument was approaching unstoppable at this point, meaning that Claire had to step in. Two lots of confrontation in one night? This can’t be good for me.
         “Guys! Be quiet! Please?”
The arguers looked stunned at the interruption. Then, seeing the look on Claire’s face (which she imagined must have been a mix of anger at the two of them for fighting and pain at the ordeal of having to break them up), they both looked down, silent.

2. Lucy

Steve watched Lucy down the last of her frappucino. “How is it that you take so long to drink anything? I swear you must sip shots.”
         “Steven Lewis, I do not sip shots. The very notion of such an idea is preposterous. You remember Greg’s drinking rules.”
         “It used to take you an hour to finish a beer.”
         “When I was 17, yes. If I had gone home wasted like you, my father would have had some sort of aneurysm.”
         “You used to sleep at mine almost every week!”
         “Fine, maybe it was just because I’m slow at drinking.”
         “You don’t say!” Lucy burst out laughing. A laugh that Steve knew very well, and therefore he knew that it definitely wasn’t due to his comment.
         “Which one is he?” Steve asked, looking around the café.
         “Do you want to be less subtle about it?” Lucy hissed, still with a smile on her face. “If you must know, he’s the one by the other end of the counter, waiting for his drink. I think he’s one of the rowers from the other night.” Steve sighed. Lucy had a thing for rowers.
         “So I take it you want me to make it obvious that we are not a couple, then? Or leave?”
         “Well everyone seems to think we are at first glance. So, yes, please do. Don’t leave, though. Neil’s coming in a minute and then we’re going back to mine for free pizza before we go out.” Lucy said, switching from looking normally at Steve to glancing flirtatiously at her new rower crush. Steve sighed. “Here you go, then.” He said, punching her in the arm and ruffling her hair. “Too much?” he laughed, knowing that usually Lucy would scowl and retaliate.
         “Just perfect, apparently!” Lucy smiled broadly as the rower came up to the table with his drink. “Please don’t stand up this time!” she whispered to Steve before the rower arrived, smile unwavering.
         “Hi there,” came a deep, slightly croaky voice from what Steve saw, on turning around, to be a tall, muscular source the same age as him with brown-blonde hair just shorter than his. “Howdy,” said Steve, at which point Lucy kicked him under the table. “Hi,” she said to the rower.
         “Sorry to intrude, I was just wondering if your name was as beautiful as you. Is this seat taken?” Lucy cringed inwardly at the line but blushed all the same. Steve stifled a laugh at her reaction. “No, go ahead,” he said, “the more the merrier.” This earned him another kick from Lucy, who smiled and laughed to the rower as if Steve was 5 years old. “I’m Lucy and that’s my friend Steve,” she explained to the new addition as he sat down, with the slightest emphasis on the word “friend”.
         “I’m Carter,” he said, “it’s nice to meet you.”
         “Your name is Carter?” asked Steve, earning himself another kick from Lucy under the table, “Really?”
         “I know. I think it was my parents’ idea of a joke. My brother’s name is Lewis and my sister is Penelope. Clearly there was some sort of atrocious name theme intended.” Carter joked. Lucy gasped.
         “Steve’s last name is Lewis,” she said, “I think it’s a brilliant name. They’re all brilliant names, actually. At least you won’t find many people with the same ones; Lucy is as common as dirt.”
         “I think it’s beautiful. Though it certainly isn’t as beautiful as the rest of you.” Steve stifled another laugh. Lucy blushed again. Steve wondered if she could control her blushes because if anyone else had tried to say that to her, she’d have burst out laughing and pushed them in the shoulder before calling them a corny cheese-ball and walking away if they were trying to pick her up. Maybe this guy was special, though Steve didn’t think much of him thus far. He was too conceited and his accent made him sound like he was dropped straight into Eton when he was a baby and looked after by the prefects.
         The door to the café opened and Neil walked in. Steve grinned; Neil would send this clown packing. He almost definitely knew him unless Carter wasn’t actually a rower (or at least not a very good one). Neil was the captain of the first rowing team. Or whatever it was called in rowing. Essentially, it meant that Neil was the best rower at the university. He was going to the Olympics next year for Britain and he and his crew had won all sorts of races and regattas. That meant that he was invaluable to the university and therefore could pretty much do whatever he wanted. Originally, Steve had hated him because he was privileged, smart, handsome and a rower. But Lucy had insisted that they get on because she was going out with him for 10 months last year, so get on they did and now Neil was as invaluable to Steve as he was to the university.
         “Alright, kids? What’s occurring?” Lucy jumped as Neil snuck up behind her and slammed his hands down on her shoulders.
         “Neil!” she cried, ecstatic to see him. She leapt up and threw her arms around him while he lifted her clear off of the ground in a bear-hug. “You’re late. I said 5 and it’s now 5.03!” she said, looking at her watch, another new one after she’d broken her last one bartending again.
         “Well I do beg your forgiveness, I was otherwise engaged.” Lucy stuck her tongue out at him, not wanting to hear more, partly because he was her ex and partly because they were now too close to want to hear details – they both felt it would be like sharing with a sibling. “Hey, Steve, I brought you that game I promised you’d become obsessed with.” Steve, who had never been particularly interested in computer games, scowled.
         “I play it once and then you never mention it again, agreed?”
         “Unless you become obsessed with it, which you will.” Neil pointed out. They were all sitting at the table now, which had originally been intended for only 2 people and so was becoming quite cramped by this point, not that Lucy minded. That only meant that she was forced to sit closer to Carter, who had become slightly star struck at the entrance of Neil.
         “Hey, it’s Carter, right? Sorry, I’m terrible at names.”
         “Yes, Carter. Neil, yeah? Good to see you again.”
         “How’s training going for you lot? Ready for the arrival of the yanks? Henley’s not far away.” Steve looked at Lucy. She was clearly elated at the realisation that Carter was a good enough rower to be recognised by Neil. In fact, she was elated. Not just because she understood what the two rowers were discussing, about Henley Regatta (and now she knew that Carter was actually a good rower) but because Carter had locked his leg with hers under the table.
         “Neil! No rowing at the dinner table.” Steve cried after the subject had continued for a while, exasperated. Lucy and Neil laughed and Carter looked confused. Good, Steve thought, now you know you aren’t part of this. I hate rowers. He stood up, “I’m starving. Free pizza at yours, Luce?”
         “Same here, I could eat a house and a half,” agreed Neil. “Shall we be off then?” Lucy cocked an eyebrow, amused. “You two are the hungriest people I’ve ever met.” She laughed and stood up as well. “It was nice to meet you, Carter.”
         “You too, Lucy. We should do it again. Alone.” He whispered the last word into her ear, his deep, husky voice filling her with pleasure. She reached into her bag and pulled out a pen.
         “Here you go, then.” She wrote her number on his arm. She could have used a napkin from the middle of the table but she wanted to feel the muscles under the golden skin. She looked again at his sandy hair, just the right length to run fingers through, and his face, with its clearly defined features and full lips, not to mention eyes which were a piercing blue-green. What was it about green-tinged eyes that made a person so much more attractive? Lucy knew only a handful of people with green eyes, but she didn’t find any of them as enticing as Carter’s. “Call me tomorrow.”
         “Not before noon, though, because she will be hung-over.” Steve added. Lucy shot him a look and they left with Neil, turning left away from the bus stop out of habit.
         “I’m working tonight, not drinking.”
         “Well in that case, I’ll be drinking more than everyone.”
         “No discounts, friends don’t count as family.”
         “Why not?”
         “Because I don’t mind being around you when you’re sober.”
         “Could have fooled me.”
         “Children, please,” Neil interjected, “the important thing is that I do not remain sober after midnight. Training’s cancelled tomorrow.”
         “Lucky you, then,” Lucy said, “but you still have an essay to write for Norton. Due on Monday, 5 pages, remember?”
         “Ha-ha.” Steve mocked, “You two have to write essays on people you don’t actually like. All I have to do for next week is mix a bunch of stuff together and not blow my room up.”
         “Easier said than done, for you.”
         “Shut up, I’m top of my class.”
       “Only because you blew the rest of your class up, I bet.” Alleged Neil with a cheeky grin, showing how proud he was of his comment. Lucy burst out laughing so hard that she forgot to dodge the hole in the pavement and tripped. This, in turn, made the boys laugh hysterically. When they realised that Lucy was genuinely hurt, they stopped momentarily. The laughing resumed, though, when Neil was forced (as the largest and strongest) to carry her back to the house so as not to further damage her twisted ankle. Seeing Neil lift Lucy up as if she were a baby in swaddling clothes, Steve lost it again and spent the whole walk back to Lucy’s doubled over giggling. 

1. Georgia

In Leicester, Georgia was on the phone as well. This, though, was a far more unusual phone call. Tricia was getting concerned because she couldn’t hear any noise coming from Georgia’s room and she had said the call was from Cambridge. Usually that meant Georgia would be on the phone to the famous Lucy or possibly even Steve. If it was one of those two, Georgia’s half of the conversation would be audible throughout the house, full of laughter and squeals and other noises that made Georgia sound like she was still 10 years old. Tricia decided to check on her housemate. Not because she was nosey, she was merely concerned. She knocked on the door.
         “Georgie? You alright?”
         There was a silence. Then, the door unlocked and Georgia poked her head out. She looked relieved when she saw Tricia’s face. “Yeah everything’s fine, Trish. I’ll be out in a minute and we can go round to Joel’s, ok?”
         “Ok, I’ll go and find my shoes. I’ve been looking for them all day, they aren’t in here, are they?” Tricia tried to peer round the door for any sort fo clue about who Georgia was talking to.
         “Nope, haven’t seen them. Try Mary’s room, she always borrows your shoes.” The door closed and Tricia bent down to listen. She could hear Georgia whispering, “I have to go now, Tricia got suspicious … You hang up first … Ok both together, ready? Go … Well you didn’t either!” Tricia sneezed and there was a silence from the bedroom. She could hear Georgia getting up, so Tricia got out of there as quietly and quickly as she could. Now there’s an illicit romance if I’ve ever heard one, she thought.

1. Claire

Jill was being irritating again. Claire had about had enough of her incessant chatter and bitching. She needed to be saved but she couldn't get Lucy to ring her because Lucy was out. It was strange that Lucy hadn't specified where she was going, usually she did because Claire had spent so much time in Cambridge that she knew it better there than in Leeds. Then again... Cogs were turning in Claire's mind. Obviously Lucy must be with Steve, he was at Cambridge too and they always had coffee on Fridays before going home to get ready for the evening. Claire used to be there with them and Neil, she loved Cambridge Friday nights. Smart people knew how to ‘cut loose,’ as her dad kept saying.
         “Claire, are you even listening?” Jill sounded exasperated. No, Claire thought, my attention wandered when I realised that nobody cares as much as you do about anything you say. 8 years ago. She wished she was confrontational enough to say it out loud, or at least make some indication that she wanted the conversation to end. She knew that Steve had made her less confrontational and eager to avoid any friction with anyone. The problems between the two of them had made Jill think that she and Claire were kindred spirits, ‘two souls drawn together and bonded for life over heartache caused by the same person,’ she insisted.
         “Sorry, my mind wandered for a moment. Go on.”
         “Never mind, Hun. I've got a rehearsal I need to go and get ready for! I'll see you at Clive's later, yeah?”
         “Awesome! Toodles chiquitita! Lol!” She left in a flourish, leaving Claire to wonder why a 20-year-old was still saying 'lol' as if it was a real word. Claire got out her phone. J JUST LEFT FOR REHEARSAL. NEED SANE HUMAN TO TALK TO. X. The reply, as always, was almost instantaneous, Y U TEXTING ME THEN? X. Claire's phone rang. 
         “Because all the sane people were busy.” She said.
         “Well that's not very nice. I might hang up now.”
         “You won't, though.”
         “How do you know?”
         “Because you're in love with me.”
         “Oh yeah. Darn, foiled again!” Claire laughed. Michael wasn’t actually in love with her, everyone knew who he was in love with. Except the girl herself. Lucy was plenty observant (they were complete opposites in that way) but only about other people, never herself. It amused her friends endlessly that she consistently failed to notice obvious things about herself when she picked up on them instantly in others. Michael had been in love with Lucy for 2 years now, but he was too chicken to do anything about it, despite constantly being told to. That was just his way.
         “So what are you doing? Putting on your make-up for a big night out?” Claire asked. Michael laughed, he made fun of himself more than anyone else.
         “Yeah, course. Just wondering if I could borrow some eye shadow, actually. You know what it’s like here in Warwick – party, party, party!” They both laughed. Claire was happier already, Michael had that effect on people just by being him.
         “Well I have a wonderful new purple you could try.”
         “Doesn’t that make it look like you’ve been punched?”
         “Not if you use it correctly. But you’ll have to come up here to Leeds to get it from me.” Michael sighed. “I wish I could. Even if it means spending the night getting my ears chewed off by Jill. How do you cope with living with her?” Claire often wondered that herself. The truth was that it wasn’t that bad living with Jill, because they had different timetables and separate friends. When they did in fact end up spending time together, though, Jill was really full-on. That was partly what attracted so many boys to her, the fact that she was gorgeous and fed on attention like a light bulb, getting louder and more flirtatious with every admirer (and every drink).
         “Jill’s not that bad once you get to know her. Then again, I might be lying and she’s worse when you get to know her.”    
         “You’ve known her for what, 9 years now? I’ve known her for 4 and it’s already too many.”
         “Sue seems to like her.”
         “That’s because they are essentially the same person.”
         “You’ve been paying attention. You sound like Lucy, though.”
         “Lucy makes a lot of sense, she’s a clever girl.”
         “Oh is that why she’s at Cambridge then?”
         “Nah, she got in there on looks and charm.”
         “Michael Brown! Was that sarcasm?!” Claire realised that Michael had spoken to Lucy recently. It was easy to tell because he started to pick up her habits and sound like her. “So where’s Lucy today?” There was an awkward pause on the other line.
         “She’s out, she said.”
         “With who?”
         “So she’s out with Steve, isn’t she? Did she tell you not to tell me? You could have at least made up a lie.”
         “I have to go now; I’ll speak to you later. Have a fun night out with Jill and everyone else. Bye!” Michael hung up before Claire could say anything else.

1. Lucy

“So how's...” Steve trailed off. Lucy had cocked an eyebrow at him. She knew this made her look even more unusual but it was the best way she had to make her unspoken points. Steve got the message every time, because he was observant like that and they'd both lived through 4 years of being told by countless friends (even while in separate relationships) that they would 'make the perfect couple' time and again since they’d first become friends.
         “...the essay coming?” Steve finished, changing his question to avoid forcing Lucy into a confrontation. Lucy lowered her eyebrow and frowned before laughing.
         “The same as anything I write on Thatcher. Slowly. Thatcher is, well... Yeah. She’s just Thatcher, isn’t she?”
         “Eloquent as always, kiddo.”
         “Shut up. My brain stopped functioning on about the 3rd page of my essay. Thatcher is her own adjective. Suck it.” Steve laughed. The two were able to predict each other’s every reaction, admittedly something Lucy could do to most of her friends. Steve, on the other hand, was not so good at it.
         “So if you're not fully functioning mentally, surely you wouldn't mind me asking about-”
         “I mind. You know I mind. She doesn't even know I'm seeing you today, I told her I was going out, though, and so she's probably made the connection. Usually I specify since she knows where everything is here. It isn't like it’s a massive town like London. She doesn’t know where anything is in London. You know what she's-”
         “The point is that I am not talking to you about her.”
         “Why not?” Steve hoped he didn't already know the answer.
         “She specifically told me not to. You know Jill and co have been telling me not to even speak to you anymore.” Steve looked at Lucy sarcastically. “Jill hasn't wanted you to speak to me since I dumped her. And that was years ago.” He pointed out. Lucy sighed, “You really need to stop going out with my mates. It’s hazardous to my mental health.”
         “It’s only been three of them!” Again, Lucy raised her eyebrow. Steve wasn’t sure why, but he felt the urge to burst out laughing every time she did that, as did everyone else. It wasn't that they couldn’t take her seriously; they knew what the eyebrow meant at all times and almost always did what it told them to. But the way that such a serious, subtle expression looked so out of place on her face was enough to make anyone laugh.