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.”
“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.