Twentieth Century Boy…Literally.
He happened to be a friend of a friend met through uni by 'some guy.' Through that random chain of events and intense socialising, you know that you will be seeing a lot more of him before you even learn his name.
Liam was convinced that he was 'ahead of his time.'
Aaron smiled that smile of his and admitted that he was 'an OK guy.'
Will shrugged indifferently and changed the topic to the election.
And I was left deeply unsatisfied. No one with a nickname like 'Nineties Nate' gets away from me without a proper explanation as to why.
I didn't meet him until a few weeks later, and I guess I had the politicians to thank for that. Oh, and Liam. The message beeped through at the ungodly hour of 3 am, sending me into a spasm of alertness and my hands failing about wildly for my illuminated phone.
Election party! This Saturday at mine. 6:00 onwards. Randoms welcome as long as on right side of political spectrum. BYO.
I remember letting out a string of curses damning Liam to hell and much, much more for waking me up at 3 am, then flopping my head back onto the pillow, resuming my sleep with my fingers still curled around my little communicative device.
That was a week ago and in the days leading up to the party I had managed to acquire myself an impressive case of sunburn. Not like it was a challenge on my part. My parents' Irish heritage has cursed me with the fairest skin imaginable, the type of skin where you wonder if it's healthy that you can see your veins so visibly. Add to that my tumble of red curls and blue-grey eyes, it's obvious that my complexion doesn't exactly scream 'welcome!' to the Australian sun. All I need to do is forget the sunscreen on a partially sunny day and voila: instant sunburn! Asides from the immediate effects of redness, aching, peeling and sleeping on my stomach, the fact that there is a great gaping hole in the Ozone layer above Sydney will probably mean I will be marred with sun spots and melanoma in later life. Hurrah.
"Ouch, ouch, ow!"
I hissed through my teeth as Heidi's fingertips rubbed moisturiser into the flush of burnt pinkness that had spread its wings across my shoulder blades. She made a little noise of sympathy.
"I'm being as gentle as I can, Melly."
"I know." I sighed as she finished up. It felt a little better to have the moisturiser on, but it still wasn't great. Heidi carefully helped me tie the strings of my floral halter dress as we sat on Liam's back step.
"If someone slaps my sunburn tonight, I am going to rip their eyeballs out and make mincemeat out of them." I declared as the throbbing started to fade. Heidi winced at the visualisation.
"Righto, I'll make sure to avoid you tonight." She knew that if someone did touch my sunburn inappropriately (as plenty of dickheads were apt to do- 'I'm sunburnt, cause me further pain!') I would cause them grievous bodily harm in ways they couldn't imagine.
A refreshing, Southerly laced breeze gushed through the still late spring air as Heidi and I headed into the boys' kitchen. It was amazing how the trio of young men managed to survive in this festering existence. The sink was crusted over, stains were present in places that defied logic and someone had wrapped masking tap around the broken tap. We still couldn't believe that the boys paid $480 a week in rent for this dilapidated terrace, but it was all about 'location, location' being fifteen minutes away from campus and in the narrow backstreets of Sydney's bohemian heart.
I ripped into a packet of corn chips and spilled them into a blue bowl. The boys had left organisation to the last minute. As usual, it was up to Heidi and I to pick up the pieces.
Aaron lolled in with that jaunty step of his, a delighted smile causing both his cheeks to dimple and his cleft chin to become more prominent.
"Aw, girls you shouldn't have!"
It was hard not to smile when Aaron was in the room. Aaron was the epitome of adorable, pinch-his-cheek-and-coo type of boy. He had the perfect build for hugging too: not too tall, lean enough to pull off the tight shirts, jeans and wristbands he like to wear, but not bony. And the best thing was he liked to hug you back. He had brown curls spilling down to his shoulders that framed his boyish face and soulful brown eyes. I laughed as he went in for a friendly hug:
"Well someone had to do it!"
We were not long interrupted until a certain blond nuisance (ie. Aaron and Liam's house mate who deserves to be at the bottom of the food chain) waltzed in wearing jeans so tight it was a wonder he could walk. Enter: Piss-Weak Will...or at least that's what I liked to call him.
"Well done on the scorching there, Melanie." Will smirked as he sailed past me with a six pack of stubbies. Like I needed to be reminded of my sunburn.
Will had the irritating habit of sculpting his dirty blond hair into a faux mo-hawk which made him look like some ridiculous species of bird at the back, and drawing his fringe over his bright blue eyes. A permanent boy, demonstrated by his inability to grow stubble but some weird type of blond fuzz, Will didn't act much older than a twelve year old. Whenever I'd criticise him about this he always had some snarky comment on backup to remind me, once again, why I was single. Usually I'd have a clever retort, but today it consisted of the usual:
"Piss off Will."
Liam ventured in from the barbeque outside with his lazy grin and squeaky Chucks. He promptly stuck his head round the corner to see the progress of the election coverage.
"How's the election coming?"
I should have realised that I would be hearing a lot of that question tonight.
"How's the election coming?"
And then when someone lobbed in with an extra television upon a milk crate and tuned it to Star Wars, we had a choice between the battle of political candidates or Luke Skywalker and his father. Star Wars proved to be the winner.
The house filled up pretty quickly from seven. The booze in the bath tub doubled that. People wafted in without a care, watching the election and getting their kicks out of Yoda or drifting into the tiny backyard for sausages, music and beer.
I traipsed back into the lounge after nine to find Heidi curled up on the couch. A vegetarian, she had chosen Social Inquiry students and a salad over being outside where the smell of cooking sausages hung thick in the air.
Somehow, I blame it on the alcohol, I thought it would be a bright idea to leap over the couch and land by Heidi's side. Maybe I should have realised there was another head besides Heidi's when I made to jump. Maybe I should have deduced that I would be landing in someone else's lap. And maybe I should have considered that the owner of said lap might not be too pleased to have me accost their personal space. But in times like this logic escapes me. I jumped anyway.
"Hey! Watch it!"
I yelped and immediately rolled off, crashing to the floor. My drink went all over the carpet, adding to the series of stains. I had managed to get tangled up in the wires of the second TV, almost bringing it down with me.
"No! Not Yoda!" Some guy with glasses exclaimed whilst diving to rescue the little black Star Wars television from a fate worse than mine.
"What the hell was that?" I heard a surly grumble from above.
I picked myself up off the floor and brushed off my black floral print sundress. I liked my dress. It hugged me nicely around my waist and flared out at my hips. The halter collar had a nice fifties dip that made my molehill breasts at least look like they had some shape. But now it was wet, crinkled and suffering a serious case of 'not happy Jan.'
I looked down at the couch only to meet with a pair of glowering dark hazel eyes. I gulped. Not much intimidates me…well, maybe big hairy spiders too close to my bed…but this glare was downright scary.
"Um…sorry…" I offered quietly. The intensity of his glare didn't lessen.
He rolled his eyes and shifted along the couch. It was when he took his eyes off me that I was able to appreciate his physical appearance. Wow, fine specimen. A black fringe scattered across those intense hazel eyes, not dyed black but a natural, sooty black, setting off his paler skin. He had let his stubble grow for a day, sweeping down from where his short sideburns ended, along a finely crafted jaw and above his top lip. From the look of him, despite his Anglicised features, I would assume there might be some Italian heritage. He was fair, but the type of fair that would turn olive in the sun, not lobster pink like me. And I was very sorry to see him get up and brush past me with a huff of disgust.
I could have slapped Heidi for the look she gave me. Instead I walloped her with a pillow and crashed onto the seat where guy-with-the-glare had sat. It was still warm. I twisted around and lolled over the back of the couch, tilting my head so I could see where he stood in the kitchen. Placebo wafted in muffled from the speakers outside. I would only realise that the song, 20th Century Boy, would be ironic when I woke up from my alcohol-fuelled haze the next morning.
He was tall, I guess pushing six feet. His fingers tapped his plastic cup filled with what I suspect was rum and Coke. Faded boot cut Levis rumpled over scuffed black boots and he wore one of those tight-fitting black shirts with the hemming around the collar and cuffs. A second-hand black leather satchel was thrown over his shoulder. I squinted. He looked a bit old fashioned in indie circles. No super-skinny jeans, no cardigans or scarves…just faded, grungy black.
"Well, you sure pissed him off," Heidi sighed, "We were just discussing 'N Sync versus the Backstreet Boys and their impact on the music scene today."
I pressed my lips into a grimace. I usually didn't try to piss people off unless I really wanted to.
"Who is he?"
"Oh him? That's Nate."
I stopped. Nate. Where had I heard that name before? And why the hell would a fully grown university student, dressed in black of all things, be discussing the pros and cons of boy bands…?
I turned to Heidi.
"That's not 'Nineties Nate', is it?"
"Oh yeah, he has got that nickname, hey?"
"Yeah, that Nate."
Oh Christ. I had just managed to make Nate, not just any Nate, but 'Nineties Nate' my landing pad. I had managed to thoroughly tick-off said Nate. And I had interrupted a conversation concerning 'N Sync and the Backstreet Boys.
Not only was I annoyed that I had interrupted the only conversation on the lounge other than the election, but I had just thwarted all chances at learning the reason behind his name. And that really got to me. 'Nineties Nate' was hailed by indie circles to be the 'next big thing' and 'ahead of his time.' And I wanted to know why. I mean, the 90's are far too recent to be considered 'nostalgic'…how on earth was he so cool? Well, I guess there was only one way to find out.
I had to talk to him.
Author's Note: Thanks for reading! Reviews are very much appreciated and I will try to reply personally to each signed review. I'm hoping to have a link for character images up on my profile in the near(ish) future, so keep your eyes peeled, kids.