4. Georgia

“Jill’s drunk.”
         “Well keep her away from Neil, you know how she loves trying to pick up what I chuck out.” Lucy laughed.
         “Speaking of which, actually, Luce,” began Georgia.
         “Oh for goodness’ sake! Who let Sue near James again?” Lucy cried, exasperated. She grabbed Joe as he walked past, “Save James from Sue for me, babe.” Joe looked to where she was pointing and laughed.
         “Whatever you do, don’t let Jill see that, she’d be devastated!”
         “Well obviously,” agreed Georgia, “because she’s still in love with James. And Steve. And pretty much every other guy she’s ever met.” The three of them laughed and Joe moved off to try and get a very drunk Sue away from a frightened James. The girls sat and watched, stifling laughter as Sue’s face turned from lustful to confused to angry and she attempted to lash out at Joe while James escaped to the toilets. Lucy chuckled.
         “Oh gosh, that girl needs to learn when to stop drinking.”
         “Remember when we were younger and she couldn’t stand the thought of drinking or being around boys? Even at 16 she was such a killjoy and now look at her! Always the first one to get drunk and throw herself at someone totally inappropriate.” Georgia laughed at the memory of what seemed like a lifetime ago.
         “Everyone’s changed so much since we were that age,” agreed Lucy.
         “Well, not everyone,” said Georgia, nodding her head at Jill who, drink in hand, was attempting to corner Steve, “Should we save him?” Lucy thought about it for a moment.
         “Nah, he’s a big boy and he’s had plenty of practise hiding from Jill. He can go join James in the loos!” the two girls began to laugh hysterically. Georgia’s mind was racing, trying to come up with a way to broach the subject of Neil with Lucy again. Sue’s attack of James had interrupted the perfect moment. She decided to plunge straight in this time, no distractions.
         “Lucy, I need to talk to you. Seriously.” Lucy stopped laughing and adopted an expression which was a mixture of confusion and concern.
         “What’s up, babe?” she asked.
         “It’s about Neil.”
         Georgia hesitated, trying to piece together what she wanted to say in her mind. She hadn’t thought this far ahead.
         “Well, for a while now…” she began before faltering. “I mean, for about 3 months … I mean, basically, the thing is that-“
         “Gee,” Lucy cut her off.
         “I’m so happy for you!” Lucy cried, flinging her arms around Georgia and squealing with delight. Georgia pulled back, confused.
         “You knew?”
         “I’ve known for, like, 4 months.”
         “But we’ve only been together for 3,” said Georgia, confused.
         “Please,” Lucy scoffed, “The two of you aren’t exactly subtle and I know you both better than anyone. I knew you fancied each other before you did!” Georgia breathed a sigh of relief, “I was so terrified of telling you,” she explained, “Neil didn’t even want to, he thought it would be like sixth form all over again with everyone getting angry at each other over swapping boyfriends.” Lucy smiled and hugged Georgia again.
         “No way will that ever happen again,” she said, “Dark times. We’re all older and wiser now so it’s fine. Seriously, you’re such a better match with Neil than anyone else, especially me!”
         “But you two were such a great couple. Like, couple of the year,” said Georgia, to which Lucy scoffed again and waved her hand dismissively, “Honestly, I’m scared I won’t be as good a girlfriend as you,” confided Georgia.
         “Gee whizz, Gee,” said Lucy, “It’s not like you’ve got a lot to live up to. Neil’s and my fights are legendary, we were always bickering.”
         “We’ve never fought.”
         “Exactly,” said Lucy, “Ooh! I can give you so much dirt on him!” The two girls laughed. Georgia felt like a great weight had finally been lifted.

4. Claire

“Where’s my toothbrush?” Claire shouted, throwing clothes from her wardrobe into one of her giant overnight bags. Margaret walked into her room, toothbrush in hand.
         “In the bathroom, where you put it every time you brush your teeth,” she said. “How do you always manage to be this rushed?”
         “Because she’s Claire, she’s always late for everything!” came Jill’s voice from the living room, where she was lying upside down on the sofa reading a book.
         “You could be a bit helpful instead of just lying there pointing out the obvious and getting a headache!” Claire yelled from her room. Jill swung herself upright and put her book down.
         “Alright, don’t get all stressy. What do you need me to do?”
         “If you’re all packed and ready, can you help me find my dress? I had it yesterday when I brought it home but I’ve lost it now.”
         “Oh I borrowed it for my party last night, it’s in my room. I’ll go get it for you!” she added, sounding like she felt put out by the effort of the gesture. Margaret put her hand on Claire’s arm to try and stop her from getting angry. Jill walked back in, “You guys should have come last night, it was so hilarious and, like, awesome!”
         “We weren’t invited,” Margaret reminded her, “It was all the people from your drama course and you said we’d be out of place if we went.” Claire made a noise that sounded like a growl and tried to pass it off as a cough. Jill continued, oblivious to her angry audience, “Oh of course, but still it was so funny ‘cause you know Luke? He got so drunk and started doing one of the exercises from class and then Stephen and Mikey just didn’t stop staring at my chest!”
         “Maybe that was because you were wearing my dress and it was too small for you.” Claire offered through semi-gritted teeth.
         “No, you bum, it fitted me! We’re the same size, remember?” Jill laughed. Claire, who had always been slim (more so now from living off a student income) smiled wryly at Jill, who had been spending her student income on cheap junk food and alcohol and had, as Claire liked to put it, ‘blossomed’ over the past two years. Despite this, she had always insisted that she was the same size as all of her friends when there was quite a difference between her and everyone else. She strolled into Claire’s room with the dress swinging from her fingertips. Claire resisted the urge to snatch it angrily from her and laid it down on the bed to inspect it. Margaret recoiled as it was unfolded and sniffed the air. She turned to Jill and demanded, “Did you smoke in that dress last night?” Claire, who had now smelt the odour for herself, turned to Jill with her hands on her hips. Jill was shifting uncomfortably on her feet.
         “I only had one, I told you I was trying to quit and I am.” Claire grimaced and strained to keep the anger inside herself.
         “That’s not the point, Jill,” she said, “I couldn’t care less if you smoke or not, you're the one who wants to die young.”
         “So what’s the problem?” asked Jill, sounding genuinely confused.
         “You borrowed my new dress without asking and then made it reek of smoke before I’d even worn it once and I can see that you’ve stretched it at the seams!” Claire burst out, losing her composure for a moment. Jill looked shocked, as did Margaret. Neither had seen her really lose her cool for some time.
         “Whoa, Hun, are you ok? Are you, you know, like, on your period?” Jill ventured. Claire looked at her, trying to control her expression into less of a death stare than she thought Jill deserved.
         “No.” she said simply. Margaret, attempting to ease the huge tension levels, suggested that Jill go and read again while she and Claire finished packing Claire’s bag ready to leave.
       “You know what they say,” she added, glancing nervously at a seething Claire, “Too many cooks and all that.” Jill left, not because she had taken the hint or noticed that she was herself the cause of Claire’s extreme mood swing, but because she was always eager not to help where possible.

4. Lucy

Lucy felt like screaming. She usually only felt like this when she was forced to write essays on hideously boring people. It was a feeling of being trapped under a huge pile of triviality that she just didn’t care about but that she knew was going to mean huge trouble for her if she didn’t do anything about it soon. One more minor irritation could push her over the edge, she knew it.
         The doorbell rang.
         “Joe! Get the door!” Lucy yelled.
         “I’m going, Hun, don’t worry.” He opened the door to find Carter standing there with a concerned expression on his face.
         “Hey, Joe, what’s going on?” he asked
         “Oh babe, thank goodness you came!”
         “You said it was an emergency with Lucy, I was worried. Of course I came.”
         “Aw you’re so sweet, darling.”
         “Are you going to tell me what’s going on?”
         “She’s nearing a nervous breakdown,” Joe explained, “Unreliable people really get to her.” Carter nodded. Joe showed him through to the living room and they waited outside the door, listening to Lucy on the phone.
         “How can you say that? It’s on a Saturday night and it’s here!” there was quiet as whoever was on the other end attempted to make excuses. Then Lucy replied, audibly getting angrier, “Claire and Jill are coming from Leeds. James is coming from Exeter. What excuse could you possibly have not to come from Warwick? … You what? Do you realise who you’re saying that to? Don’t even try and talk to me about workloads. Sue’s coming from Oxford, giving up her weekend even though she has an exam on Monday. … I know she is, but you’re taking photography and she’s taking Economics so that comparison doesn’t really count, does it? … You already said you would come … Yes I’m angry! … Fine, do whatever you want but this is one of the only opportunities we have to see everyone until summer and everyone always goes away in summer anyway. I’ll just tell Georgia you have too many pictures to colour in to come and celebrate her 21st with all the rest of our friends. Sorry, what? I can’t hear you over her disappointment. You're breaking up now, bye!” Lucy hung up the phone and took a big breath, getting ready to let out a stress-releasing scream. Joe saw an opportunity, pre-scream, and ran in, dragging Carter after him.
         “Look who came to visit you, babe!”
         Lucy saw them and converted her scream to as excited a cry as she could.
         “Carter! I thought you weren’t coming until later?”
         “Joe sent me a distress message.”
         “Joseph, you utter babe,” Lucy cried as she flung her arms around Joe. Then she turned to Carter, “I missed you.” she told him as he engulfed her in a hug.
         “I missed you more.” he replied.
         “I look like shit, I’m so stressed out I haven’t had a shower yet today!” Lucy realised, panic levels rising.
         “You look gorgeous, don’t worry.”
         “Although maybe changing out of your pyjamas would be a good idea,” added Joe, “And a shower probably wouldn’t hurt.” Lucy looked at him sarcastically as they all sat down on the sofas. She buried her face in Carter’s chest and told them about her stresses so far that day.
         “ … so now I have to find cups and a way to tell Georgia that Billie isn’t coming to her birthday. And that’s just today’s problems, this has been going on all week!” Carter stroked her arm to comfort her.
         “So how many people are coming in total?” he asked.
         “About 72, I think.”
         “You’re joking,” said Joe, “that’s tons! What are you worrying about?”
         “I invited 134.”
         “Oh, right.”
         “Doesn’t Tillie’s have a 100-person limit?” asked Carter.
         “On paper, but it always has loads more than that in there. It’s going to look so empty and everyone’s going to laugh at me!”
         “Everyone’s only going to laugh at you if you look like that.” Joe gestured to her pyjamas, her messy bun and smudged makeup that she couldn’t be bothered to take off the night before. “Go have a shower and get dressed and I’ll keep Carter company down here.”
         “Good plan. I’ll try to be quick,” she said as she gave Carter a kiss.
         “Yuck, get a room,” said Joe. Lucy stood up and pointed sternly at him.
         “You. No trying to convert my boyfriend to your bus again. 3 in a row is enough, got it?” Joe smirked and nodded resignedly. Lucy walked away.
         “Mate, what was she on about?” Carter asked.
         “I may have accidentally-on-purpose converted her last three boyfriends to being gay. All I did was encourage them to try something new but she thinks it’s like this big deal or something.” Carter looked surprised.
         “Wait, are you gay?”
         “You are kidding, right? Lucy always says I’m the gayest gay who ever gayed, she calls me her sister!”
         “I thought that was just a joke! I knew she had a gay friend but I thought it was Michael!” Carter cried. Joe burst out laughing, “How could you not have known? Michael’s straight, trust me.”
         “Trust you? Sounds like you're pretty sure. You didn’t…?” Carter asked. Joe coughed loudly and pointedly.
       “You know what? I think there’s a really good documentary on the T.V. Or a re-run, or something. Anything.”