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.”