6. Georgia

James and Tricia were sleeping on the sofas, both making strange purring noises. Georgia could see the spare mattresses on the floor, but Michael and Sue were in the kitchen standing with Lucy and Jill hadn’t come back last night, not with them and not by herself. None of them were talking, but there was no way the Browns could have not heard the commotion. Georgia could see that Michael desperately wanted to put his arm around Lucy but couldn’t, partly because his sister was there and partly because he didn’t feel right putting his arm around her when she was wearing Carter’s shirt. Of course, Georgia couldn’t see into his mind, but she knew pretty much how his brain worked and she could see his arm twitching towards Lucy every so often. Sue looked up and smiled a relieved smile when she saw Georgia.
         “Hey,” Georgia said softly, “so how is everyone?”
         “Hungover,” replied Sue. A strange grunt came from Michael, which Sue translated, “Mikey’s lost his voice and he feels like a car has hit him in the face three times.”
         “How do you know that if he can’t talk?”
         “I just do,” Sue shrugged, as did Michael.
         “It’s their weird twin telepathy thing,” piped up Lucy, “Plus anyone would feel like that after the amount of Tequila Michael drank last night.” The girls laughed and Michael shoved Lucy playfully, earning himself a retaliation shove and making Lucy laugh for the first time that morning. There was a short silence after her laugh which was relief tinged with awkward hesitation just in case she started crying again. Even Lucy looked concerned. Georgia took the silence as an opportunity and grabbed Lucy’s hand, pulling her outside and facing little resistance.
         “Thank goodness it’s summer,” said Georgia as the two girls sat on the wall outside the house, “Else we’d both be freezing.” Lucy laughed and looked at herself and then at her friend.
         “Gee, we match!” she giggled, pointing out that both of the girls were wearing pastel-coloured men’s shirts and bare legs with their hair in messy buns. It looked like a uniform and Georgia and Lucy laughed and began to reminisce about the hideous shirts they had been forced to wear to school for so many years.
         “Remember when we always had to be sure our shirts were tucked in so Mrs. Willows wouldn’t take our jumpers?” Georgia giggled.
         “Remember how long your skirt used to be?” Lucy giggled, slightly louder.
         “Remember how short yours was?” Georgia retaliated, laughing even harder.
         “Remember when Jill’s became non-existent and she got sent home?” The two girls were roaring with laughter now, but they calmed down soon enough when their minds wandered to the morning’s events.
         “And Claire was so cute and ditsy.”
         “She still is.”
         “You know she doesn’t mean it,” soothed Georgia, “She tries her best but it’s a lapse in judgement and she doesn’t mean to upset you, neither of them do.”
         “I don’t know why I care so much. It doesn’t directly affect me so I should be fine with it as long as I don’t have to see it.”
         “It’s just because you know what they’re both like. You know they don’t actually want to be together, it’s just a mistake. Claire always regrets it, at least. Steve wouldn’t tell anyone except you.”
         “He doesn’t tell me. He rarely talks to me about her because I don’t let him. She tells me not to and I don’t want to anyway.” She sighed, “I wouldn’t mind it, I’d be fine with it if they didn’t regret it so much and if it didn’t make everything so awkward and make them hate each other. Every time they do this I end up clearing up after their mess when it all… goes pear-shaped.”
         “Impressive that you’re not swearing,” said Georgia.
         “New year’s resolution.”
         “In June?”
         “Just to be different.” The girls laughed quietly again. Georgia put her arm around Lucy, who fidgeted slightly to fit better into the embrace.
         “You need to stop caring about other people and be more concerned with yourself. Hang on, haven’t we had this conversation before?”
         “Only every time I’ve been upset over the past 8 years,” said Lucy, “So it’s rare… or not so rare.”
         The girls sat like that for a good 5 minutes before they both got cramp and decided to move. Georgia sighed to herself. Nothing like a good cuddle on a Sunday morning before I have to leave and go all the way back to Nottingham with Tricia. As she followed Lucy back into the house she looked around at all her friends once more. Joe had come downstairs and was sitting with James, Margaret, Tricia, Michael and Sue, who had shoved all the mattresses together and piled cushions and blankets up on top of them. Georgia smiled.
         “Right, nobody gets dressed until we’ve watched at least 2 shitty films in a row. Where are the others?” 10 minutes later they were still arguing about film choices but they had been joined by Steve and Claire (Carter had gone home) who were sitting at opposite ends of the group. Lucy, in her typical fashion, was pretending nothing had happened and crawling over everyone, trying to bring some order to the chaos and quite happy to be failing miserably.

6. Claire

Steve’s knock was really more of a tentative tap. Silence followed it but he waited. He knew Lucy. This would all blow over. She was a forgiver, she couldn’t hold grudges, couldn’t stay angry, especially not at her best friends. He and Claire had done this before, ‘relapsed’, and Lucy had always forgiven them. Please don’t let this time be any different. The door opened and Steve fumbled, having been about to throw  his arms around Lucy as she opened the door and beg for her forgiveness (which usually worked). This time, though, Carter was standing in the doorway, shirtless and hungover, with a strange mix of concern, confusion and anger on his face. Damn, thought Steve, it IS different.
         “Um, hey Carter,” Steve said cautiously, “can I talk to Luce?”
         “No,” came the stern reply, “she doesn’t want to talk to you. She’s very upset and you’ve made her cry. What did you do?”
         “Carter!” shouted Lucy’s voice from inside her room, “don’t tell him that! And if you needed to know, you’d know.” Carter looked at Steve and shrugged before shutting the door in his face. Steve tapped again and was greeted once more by Carter.
         “I just want to talk to you, Luce,” he yelled past the rower in the doorway, “I want to apologise for being an idiot.” Suddenly, Carter was pushed out of the way and Lucy strode past him, wearing his shirt and not looking at Steve. She hadn’t taken her makeup off last night and now Steve could see there were tear-tracks in the smudges of her mascara beneath her eyes. She walked to the stairs and went down into the kitchen without making eye contact with anyone. Claire, having dressed herself (resisting the instinct to put Steve’s shirt on) in her outfit from last night, watched this unfold from the stairs separating the floor where the boys’ rooms were situated from the middle landing, which was where Lucy’s room was. When Lucy had disappeared down the stairs to the kitchen, Claire moved furtively down to where Steve was alternating between staring at Carter and the empty staircase.
         “She’s seriously pissed, isn’t she?” she asked.
         “No, Claire, she just really wanted a cuppa,” Steve said sarcastically.
         “Alright, sorry,” apologised Claire, feeling snubbed, “I was just wondering how pissed she was. Should we go downstairs?”
         “Definitely not,” came a voice from behind them. Turning around, they saw Georgia standing at the door To Neil’s room, wearing his shirt. She went past Claire and Steve to Carter, “’scuse me, I left all my clothes in here.” Coming back out of Lucy’s room with a pair of jeans on, she carried a bundle of Claire’s clothes. Claire took them from her. Georgia was very calm and it reassured Claire to know that not everyone was furious at her (and Steve).
         “Thanks, Gee. Are you going to go downstairs?”
         “I’ll talk to her. Neil told me what happened,” she looked between Steve and Claire, who both looked down at the floor to avoid her gaze, “Honestly you guys, timing.” Claire knew what she meant. With the stress that organising the party had caused her, coupled with her confrontation with Jill last night, this couldn’t have been the best wake-up call for Lucy. She began to feel really guilty. Steve, though, was feeling even guiltier because he knew another, much bigger stress that Lucy was attempting to deal with at the moment. He and Claire hadn’t made eye contact all morning, they both knew what a big mistake they had made. Carter went back inside Lucy’s room, closing the door behind him and leaving Claire and Steve alone. She smoothed down her curls and fidgeted, he stayed stock-still and cleared his throat.
         “I’m going to have a shower,” Claire announced, trying to make it seem as if it was to no one in particular. She marched off quickly, then slowed down slightly when she realised that she was alone with her thoughts and had no access to shampoo since she didn’t dare use Lucy’s bathroom. She decided her best bet was to ask Joe but then realised that she hadn’t seen Joe all morning. She knocked on his door and went in when she heard his sleepy voice telling her to do so. If he was asleep, he doesn’t know what happened. His room is a whole room over from Steve’s. But one look at his face and she knew he had heard everything. Her heart sank.
         “I didn’t mean for-” she began.
         “Come here,” Joe cut her off before any sort of gushing could occur. She ran and hurled herself onto his bed, curling up in his arms and beginning to silently sob.
         “Why do I always do such stupid things?” she cried, her voice muffled by being buried in Joe’s chest.
         “It’s okay, babe,” Joe soothed her, “It’s all going to be okay. She knows you don’t mean any harm, she loves you.” This only made Claire cry harder.
         “I love her too! I just don’t think before I do things or say stuff!”
         “She knows, babe. We all do. You’ve never been spiteful. Everything’s going to be okay.”
I hope you're right, Claire thought.

6. Lucy

There was a banging coming from Lucy’s door. She groaned and forced herself out of bed and over to the door. Seeing Neil standing there, she raised her eyebrow. Instead of laughing, though, Neil just said, “We have a problem.”
         “What is it?” she said in a tired voice, trying to convey how unwelcome this intrusion was to her and her headache. Apparently failing to convey this with her eyes, she said, “You realise I’m more hung-over than anyone else in this house, right?” a groan came from the bed, “Except maybe lightweight Carter over there,” she added, sniggering slightly then immediately regretting it as her throbbing head punished her.
         “Just come with me, I'll show you,” Neil said. the lump in the bed which Neil now knew was Carter moved and emitted yet another groan.
         “You can stay here, Carter,” Neil told it, “Only Lucy should see this.” Lucy looked at  him, becoming more and more concerned by not only his secrecy but also his stern, forlorn attitude. She followed him obediently down the corridor and up the stairs to Steve’s door. He stopped and turned to her.
         “What is it?” she asked again, this time in a worried tone, “Has something happened to Steve?” Neil shook his head and pointed at the door. Lucy walked to the door and opened it slowly, her mind swimming with all the possible scenarios she was about to see, many of them involving Steve missing limbs. Neil shushed her from outside as she walked in and turned to look at Steve’s bed. Seeing no bloodstained sheets her fear lifted a little and her vision cleared enough to see that there was another body beside him. Get in, Steve. She thought to herself, smirking again. However, when she looked closer, she thought she recognised the curly brown hair spread over the pillow next to him, though the face was hidden by the duvet. Looking around, she began to recognise certain articles of clothing which were strewn all over the floor. And then, I gave that skirt as a birthday present about a month ago. To Claire. As she realised what she was really seeing, she heard Neil rushing up behind her, probably to attempt to stop her from doing what she did next.
         “WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE?!” she screamed, ignoring the pain that the rush of anger and the cry caused her aching head. Neil’s arms grabbed her, stopping her from running forward and doing whatever she would have done had she reached the criminals in the bed. The two guilty parties shot up and Claire screamed as she realised what was happening and attempted to burrow under the duvet. Steve was paralysed with fear and guilt. Lucy continued to shout at the top of her lungs, “CLAIRE ROBERTS AND STEVEN LEWIS, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?!”
         “Lucy, calm down, please!” Neil half-cried, trying to hold her steady and soothe her as much as possible. Eventually she stopped struggling and he relented. Seeing her staying still and hoping that meant she was calm again, Steve nudged Claire to come out from under the covers. She poked her head out but kept the duvet wrapped around her in what Lucy saw as a feeble attempt to preserve what shreds of dignity she had left after being found in Steve’s bed. Again. Steve looked from Lucy to Neil to Claire and back again, speechless. Lucy’s head began to throb again. She sighed and turned on her heel, shoving Neil out of the way as gently as she could in her heightened state of emotion. Stalking out of the room, she heard Neil start to follow her. She spun around.
         “Don’t you dare,” she almost hissed. Neil tried to sound reasonable.
         “Lucy, why can’t they-“
         “I said don’t you dare try to defend them! They were drunk and stupid and I give it thirty seconds before they realise the full extent of what has happened and of what they’ve put me through this morning.” Neil went to try and hug her but she spun back around and stormed back downstairs. She slammed her bedroom door and exhaled angrily. Carter shot up and asked as tentatively as he could, “What’s wrong, sweetie?”
         “It’s like all my friends have clubbed together and just decided that it has been too long since my last breakdown,” she sighed, feeling slightly comforted (but not much) by the warm duvet and Carter’s presence.
         “What are you talking about? They wouldn’t be intentionally hurtful to you,” he reasoned, “Your friends love you.”
         “I know,” said Lucy, “and I love them too. It’s just that everything seems to be going wrong like it used to when we were still in school and they know how badly depressed I used to get. I thought everyone was finished with the drama.” She sighed and buried herself deeper in the covers. Carter put his arms around her and for a moment she thought she could pretend that nothing bad had happened, and that people had learnt their lessons the first time round.
         Then, reality came knocking.