5. Georgia

Joe was seething. Georgia could practically see steam coming from the top of his head.
         “Joseph Lane, calm down. You're grinding your teeth again. Breathe in, breathe out, in the nose, out the mouth. What happened?”
         “I don’t know fully, that’s what I'm trying to find out,” said Joe through gritted teeth.
         “Well nobody’s going to tell you anything if you yell at them. What have you heard?” Georgia asked, trying to sound relaxed so as to calm Joe down.
         “All I know is that Lucy spoke to Jill and Claire and now she’s crying. From what I could gather between sobs, Jill and Claire both did something to upset her. I want to know what it is.” Georgia paused, realising that Joe knew less than she did. She turned to James, who was looking at her expectantly.
         “I’m going with Joe to find out what happened after we left,” she told him.
         “We’d only been gone a minute when Lucy got upset, it must have been something extreme,” James pointed out, “Steve and Neil have just walked off as well and I think Claire must have gone into the loos because she walked in that direction. You’ll have to ask Jill.”
         “Damn,” said Georgia, “I was hoping to not have to speak to her.”
         “Come on,” Joe urged, “We can find the others later.” They walked over to the bar, leaving James with Tricia and Margaret. Georgia hurried to keep up with Joe, who wasn’t the tallest person but walked in quick, long strides when he was angry. As he approached the bar, Jill turned around and saw him.
         “Joey!” she cried, flailing her arms in the air in an attempt to get him to hug her. Her newly-full glass spilled out onto the floor and Joe stopped just short of her reach. He looked at her dead-on.
         “Jill, what did you say to Lucy?” he demanded.
         “Joey-Joey-Joe-Joe” she cried, indignant and sounding vaguely distressed, “I didn’t say anything! She just started crying and ran off. You know what a drama queen she can be sometimes.” Joe looked at her sardonically, waiting for some indication that she understood what an ironic thing that was to say. Seeing no flicker of realisation, he probed further, trying to find out what had happened before that had led to Lucy, who never usually allowed herself to break emotionally, especially in public, breaking down and running off. Ever since they were sixteen, Jill had been able to affect Lucy in such a way that broke down all her barriers and walls, and took advantage of her overly-trusting, giving nature.
         “I was so confused,” Jill was saying, “because I was just telling her that I forgave her for the whole thing with Steve because I’d tried to do the same with Neil so we were even.” Georgia, who had been trying to cut Jill off throughout this whole explanation, finally succeeded before Jill could drag Claire’ name into it again.
         “I think everyone’s just been drinking a bit too much again!” said Georgia, trying to placate the situation. Joe turned to her and tried to sound as if he was controlling his anger.
         “I haven’t drunk anything, how about you, Jilly-Jilly-Jill-Jill?” he asked, turning now to a swaying Jill, who was sitting on her barstool, clinging to the seat as if it were the only thing keeping her anchored to the earth. She was alternating between looking confused, blissful and afraid as she became slightly more aware of her situation. Having finished her drink, she turned to the bartender and demanded another cocktail with a  ridiculous name and terrible taste.
         “You’ve been cut off,” he told her, “it’s water or nothing for you now.” Jill looked shocked. She looked at him pathetically and whined, “Why not?” like a spoilt child who had just been refused their way.
         “Orders from higher up,” he told her.
         “Higher up?” asked Joe.
         “Well she’s not actually working tonight but I'm still inclined to do what she says.” Jill looked at him sullenly and began to attempt to moan and flirt her way to another drink. When she was refused continuously, she huffed and puffed at got off her stool. Shakily, she made her way to the door and left. Joe looked at Georgia, confused.
         “Gee, Gee,” he said, “do you think Luce is back?”
         “I think she knew Jill would leave if she couldn’t drink any more. Come on, let’s go find her so I can finally have my birthday with my friends.”

5. Claire

Claire’s phone bleeped at her. Tricia and Margaret looked over her shoulders at the distress message from Georgia.
         “Oh god,” groaned Claire, “Not again.”
         “This seems to happen every time Jill and Lucy are together,” Tricia pointed out. Margaret agreed, “They need to keep away from each other.”
         “Come on, we have to go and help before someone starts getting really angry,” Claire said, “This won’t end well if it gets violent.” Even in her advanced state of tipsiness, Claire managed to lead Tricia and Margaret quickly over to the bar, where they found quite an unusual scene.
         Lucy was half off her stool, being held from behind by the shoulders by Neil, with a look of pure frustration tinged with what Claire recognised as the weariness that Jill always brought out in her. Jill was sat, drunk and oblivious, on her own bar stool, explaining (Claire began to pick up as she got closer) how proud she was of herself for confessing to and forgiving Lucy. Georgia had inserted herself between the girls’ stools with a hand on each girl’s leg and kept glancing worriedly at Neil, whose expression was a mixture of strained (presumably from holding Lucy back), confused and concerned. Steve stood next to Neil, closer to being in between the girls and trying to cut Jill off as she rambled while James was standing next to him, almost beside Jill but still turned towards her so as not to appear as if he was on her side. Claire hurried over, flanked by Tricia and Margaret.  She tapped James on the shoulder as none of them had noticed her approaching and he moved out of the way, a look of thanks on his face, to stand between Steve and Neil.
         “What in the heck has happened now?” she demanded. Jill looked elated at her arrival and cried out, “Yes! Claire knows what I’m talking about, you did it to her too!” Claire looked immediately at Steve, beginning to comprehend the situation. Jill continued, “You sab… sabby… mucked up her and Steve just like you did to me! Tell her, Clairey baby!” Claire winced at the unwanted nickname but said calmly to Jill, “I never said I thought Lucy was responsible for Steve and me breaking up.”
         “Yes you did,” asserted Jill (in as assertive a voice as she could manage through her slurred words), “You say it all the time when you drinky drinky drink!” Panic and anger surged through Claire’s mind. So you can remember what I say when we’re both drunk but you can’t ever remember to clear up after yourself at home. So many dirty plates everywhere but THIS is a priority in your mind. Claire realised that everyone was staring at her but didn’t understand why until she saw Lucy sit down again with a hurt look on her face. Neil’s grasp of her shoulders softened from restraint to comfort.
         “You really said that?” Lucy asked Claire dejectedly, “And to Jill?” Claire realised she had spoken out loud instead of to herself. She moved to Lucy and grabbed her hands, speaking in as apologetic a tone as she could.
         “I was drunk and she brought it up and I was suggestible because of the drinking but I never meant it, you know I would never think that!” she searched for Lucy’s eyes, which were avoiding hers. Then she heard James speak from behind her, suggesting that everybody go and look at something really interesting over on the other side of the bar, except for Claire, Jill and Lucy. Claire stayed where she was, holding Lucy’s hands and trying to catch her eye. She heard Georgia agreeing with James, but Steve and Neil stayed where they were.
         “No,” said Neil simply, “I’m staying.”
         “Me too,” agreed Steve, “I’m staying.”
         James, Georgia, Margaret and Tricia hesitated awkwardly for a moment but all silently decided it was best to let the five of them work it out between themselves. They walked away slowly, casting glances back at the unchanging situation behind them. Nobody there spoke. When they had gone, Jill piped up, “See? You all thought I was making it up and being a bitch but Claire agreed with me the whole time!”
         “No!” cried out Claire, “She’s lying!”
         “I am not!” shouted Jill, sounding genuinely hurt. Claire felt something break inside of her.
         “Of course you are!” she yelled at Jill, “You’re always lying! You're a pathological liar who gets a kick out of bitching and making up stories to get other people in trouble. We put up with it at first because it wasn’t that bad and it was only about Sue, who wasn’t very nice anyway at that  point. But then, you started taking advantage of other people as well. The things you used to say about Joe were horrible, and then you apparently decided that it should be your mission in life to try and do anything in your power to hurt Lucy, even if it meant getting other people in trouble at the same time! You’re a selfish bitch, Jill, and all you ever want is glory and attention even though nobody likes you!”
         There was a silence. Claire stood there, panting while Neil and Steve looked between her and Jill, who was sat, motionless and slightly more sober now, staring at Claire with a gobsmacked expression. Lucy had gone from staring at the floor behind Jill with her head up to hanging her head to hide her face. The silence was broken by a sob which emanated from her. Claire spun round to face her again, having turned to yell at Jill.
       “Luce?” she tried. Lucy sobbed again and stood up, shaking off Neil’s hands but keeping her head down. She ran, at first towards the toilets but swerving when she was halfway there. The group at the bar looked to where she was heading and saw Carter, talking to Joe. Lucy ran towards them and threw her arms around them both. Joe said something to her and, following her response, detached himself and started to walk determinedly towards the bar. As he walked past Georgia she grabbed his arm and spoke to him. From what Claire could see, she was trying to calm him down. She desperately wanted to ask if anyone else could tell what was going on but the awkward silence that had been engulfing the group since Lucy had run away was too much to break. That was, until Steve grunted slightly and walked over to Georgia and Joe. Neil followed him. Not wanting to be left with Jill, Claire went to the toilets to hide for a while as she wasn’t sure whether or not everyone hated her and it wasn’t in her nature to ask.

5. Lucy

         “Cartwright!” slurred Jill with a very fake, very drunk grin stretched across her face, “Can I have ‘a word’?” She put finger quotes around ‘a word’ and her drink sloshed out from the glass in her hand to the floor. Lucy turned and sighed at the sound of her voice.
         “Jill, you’re totally pissed,” she said bluntly, “have some water.”
         “I’m fine!” Jill protested, “You know I can handle my drinky-winky super good!” she said, spilling her cocktail all over her shoes and not seeming to notice. Lucy looked at Georgia and raised an eyebrow at Jill’s antics. Georgia laughed and excused herself. She looked around for Steve and hurried over to where he was standing with Neil and James.
         “We may have a problem,” she said, gesturing to where Lucy and Jill were. The three turned to look. James turned to look at Steve and Neil.
         “Fiver says it’s about one of you two.”
         “Well what else would it be about? They haven’t spoken for about a month and Jill’s drunk. It’s what she loves to talk about when she’s drunk,” agreed Steve. He and Neil exchanged worried glances and Steve wondered aloud if they should go over there and try and break it up before it came to blows. They decided to try moving closer to listen in subtly.
         “…because I still love you as my best friend, I would never want to lose you, you mean so much to me,” Jill was saying, “But I need to get this off my chest, you know?” Lucy smiled and nodded. She turned to the barman and ordered another drink. She was going to need it.
         “Of course, babe,” she said to Jill, “Any time you need to.” Jill’s face got very serious and she looked Lucy dead in the eyes, standing as still as she could manage. She took a moment to think about the words she was trying to get out before saying, “It’s about Neil.” Steve high-fived James, a feeling of relief and victory washing over him. Neil sighed and Georgia patted him sympathetically on the shoulder. They were about to try and find somewhere to hide him when they heard Jill saying something shocking.
         “I never liked him. I only tried to get him because you liked him and he liked you! I never really wanted to go out with him. I’m sorry.” Lucy was having a hard time figuring out what had just happened. Part of what she was experiencing was a relief that she hadn’t done anything wrong (usually when she got confronted by Jill, Lucy discovered that she’d committed some sort of heinous crime which she, funnily enough, never had any memory of). The rest of her, though, was bewildered.
         “But, you never did anything with Neil. You always said you didn’t like him. You were constantly complaining that he drove a wedge between us as friends and that my going out with him was the reason we weren’t as close anymore. I don’t get what you mean.” Jill looked around and then at the floor. Lucy tried again, “Jill?” she probed. Jill sighed and lifted her gaze to meet Lucy’s eyes.
         “I tried to get him to pick me over you,” she admitted, “When you first went out with him, I tried to get close to him as a friend so that I could try and take him like you took Steve from me!”
         Lucy was taken aback. Next to them, attempting to subtly spy on their conversation, Georgia and James gasped and Steve groaned at the revelation that he was involved, too, while Neil was more confused than anyone else.
         “Wait, so is this about me ‘taking’ Steve from you by being friends with him four years ago even though I’ve told you so many times that nothing did or will happen there and I was friends with him before you two had even met, or about you going after Neil while I was going out with him so that you could try and do to me what you imagine I did to you with Steve, four years ago?” Lucy asked, getting gradually more enraged with every word so that by the end she was nearly seething. The eavesdropping foursome overheard and realised from Lucy’s tone that intervention was necessary. Steve and Neil shot up and darted over, followed swiftly by Georgia and James.
         “Sorry, couldn’t help overhearing,” said Steve, “Mainly because we were trying to, but still.”
         “I was just letting Lucy know that we’re even now,” Jill told him.
         “Even? EVEN?” Lucy nearly roared, “What the f-“
         “We didn’t realise you were uneven in the first place,” said Neil, grabbing Lucy’s shoulders as he did so and sitting her back down.
         “Well, she saboo… sab… sabut… ruined my relationship with Steve, so I made us even by trying to do the same to her,” slurred Jill, “But I guess you two were just too good at being a couple so I couldn’t. Pooey. But it was for Claire as well.” Steve groaned again. Georgia showed him her phone, having just texted Claire JILL VS LUCY AT BAR OVER STEVE/NEIL. HELP. X. If anyone could try to save the situation now, Claire could.