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.