Chapter Sixteen

Michael had told me to start from the beginning, so I had. I told him about the dare and about how it had backfired on us so drastically. About how, against my own will, I seemed to have been caught up in a relationship with Richard. I even told him about Dawn and her eating disorder.

"You can't save her," he muttered softly, when I came to that point. "She's beyond your help. Whether Lee's nice to her or not isn't going to make a difference. She needs professional help."

I nodded guiltily. Michael was right, of course, I'd considered telling Dawn to see a counsellor before, but the idea was too bold for me. In other words I had been too afraid to do what I should have. Last of all, I told Michael about how I didn't think that Richard or Dawn liked me and Lee one little bit and how even if I could get out of my relationship with Richard starting one with Lee would be pointless. I was bound to be leaving soon.

When I was done he looked at me, brown eyes serious. "Nothing's ever pointless. Just because something's short lived that doesn't mean that it's not worth it."

"Doesn't it?" I replied. In my mind all I could see coming out of a short-lived relationship was pain and disappointment.

"Okay," Michael said, "let me give you an example of why something doesn't have to be long-lived to be beautiful and meaningful." He looked at his hot chocolate which he had ordered a while ago, swilling its contents before looking up. "There's this artist, Andy something – I've forgotten his name. Anyway, he works with the environment. He does crazy things like stacking driftwood on a beach to make a giant nest. He puts his life and his soul into making these works out of nothing but nature and all the while he knows that eventually these works are just going to disappear. That the tide will sweep in and carry everything away. They're ephemeral and that's a part of the beauty of it in some ways."

My curiosity was peaked. No doubt this Andy guy was some artist that Richard had studied at university. I sipped at my second coffee and pretended to be bored. "Try and remember his name. Please." I was planning to look him up later.

He chuckled. "Sorry, can't think of it right now. You can ask Lee, though. He always had a better mind for names than I do."

I felt like stabbing him. Not for the first time. "You know I don't want to see Lee," I managed to grind out through gritted teeth.

"Yes," he said, simply. He then crossed the distance between us and placed a protective arm around me. "You still have to do it, though."

He smelt nice. Musty, like incense or like someone who spent all of their time in the fortune-teller's tent at local fairs. I relaxed slightly against him and my face fell into the crook of his arm. For a minute, I rested there, feeling comfortable, though aware of the fact that I didn't like the person I was leaning on. Not one little bit.

I was probably in danger of drifting off to sleep when a sudden, soft shout roused me. I rose up, shaking sleep from my eyes. "Well isn't this cosy," crowed a voice. I couldn't see its owner. Not yet. With a sigh I lifted my head even further and then opened my eyes to their fullest extent. Oh no.

It was Richard. The blond boy's thin frame was being wracked by something that looked dangerously like gales of laughter. Was it possible that he was going mad? Or, was he just very amused by the fact that Michael and I had put aside our differences and become friends...of a sort. I still didn't really like him. I couldn't get past the secrets thing.

Still, at this point in time Michael was a sane human being and I cast a glance at him and then looked back at Richard. Michael shook his head soberly, as if to say 'It's not good.'

By this time, Richard's laughter had left him panting and he doubled over, clutching his stomach. His head was raised to look at us, though and that was when I lost all hope that his humour was a good one. His brown eyes were dancing with a bitter malice that I hadn't seen there before. I felt guilty, though I knew I was innocent.

Finally, Richard managed to straighten himself up to his full height again. His flashing eyes seemed almost dangerous to me, but I wasn't in harm's way. His gaze was directed at Michael alone, smouldering into the other boy. "You know," he began, his voice dangerously measured, "I think it must run in the family."

"You think what must run in the family?" Michael's blue eyes met Richard's brown ones coolly. There was no hostility there and for that I was glad. It would have turned into a fist-fight if Michael had decided to be hostile.

"Oh you know what I bloody mean!" Richard all but shouted. The other patrons of the cafe swerved around in their shoddy, slightly crumbling seats and looked at us. I felt like burying my head in my hands – that or strangling Richard – I hated being a spectacle. As it was, I remained still and silent and the small crowd of people in the cafe continued to stare at us, transfixed.

Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a few members of staff – identifiable by their white uniforms – edging closer to Richard. They stopped far short of their target though. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that the tall boy's fists were now clenching and unclenching and the staffers – who were both female and only about five foot five – would not be able to break up the fight anyway. That was, if Michael and Richard did actually come to blows.

"No, I don't," Michael splayed his fingers on the table. They were a welcome contrast to Richard's clenched fists. They looked so much more open and wonderful.

"I do know what you're talking about," I said softly, opening my mouth for the first time, "but this isn't like that, Richard." It was true, too. I had just managed to work out what he was on about. It must run in the family. He was talking about the fact that Lee had made Dawn fall in love with him and now, Michael had made me do the same. Basically, he was implying that the Thompsons had an uncanny knack for stealing his girlfriends.

He ignored me completely and continued to stare down Michael. "You don't know what I'm talking about?" he breathed, a note of hysteria in his voice now. Was Richard drunk? He looked it, with his wild eyes and bad temper.

Apparently Michael had come to the same conclusion because he sniffed and then asked, in a derisive tone, "Is that alcohol I smell on you?"

"So what if it is?" the other boy asked "It's not like you're a saint Michael. Not even close. So don't lecture me."

"Ok then," Michael spread his arms wide in an almost mocking gesture. "How about you lecture me?"

"Maybe I will. With my fists." Richard's arm muscles were knotting now, flexing dangerously, not in an attempt to show off brawn but in preparation to lunge.

"Stop," I commanded and to my shock and relief he actually did.

Throwing me a questioning look, Richard spoke, "Yes, Lillith, say what you have to say and then let me punch him."

I sighed, Richard was proving to be just a touch melodramatic. "You should tell Michael why you're about to punch him, because I still don't think he gets it."

"That's your way of trying to help!" Michael yelped at me, humour dancing in his blue eyes even though he was about to get beaten up. Or maybe Richard was... After all, Michael was older and taller than the other boy.

"Sounds fair enough," Richard said and abruptly turned, grabbing a metal chair from another table and dragging it over to our table.

When he sat down, so close to me, the stench of alcohol was hard to miss. I wondered where he'd got it and then leaned further away from him. Alcohol had never been something I liked and Richard didn't seem the type of guy who got drunk and then roved about the town. Something had to be up. Disgusting though it was, I was mentally noting that there was another secret to be uncovered. I should, probably, have been focussing on the fact that one of my friends was about to get beaten to a pulp.

Richard and Michael were staring each other down once more, now. It was like the two blonds were having some kind of face off. Eventually, Richard unsealed his lips and broke the tense silence. "Look, Thompson, let me make this simple for you. Last year, your brother, my best friend, snatched my girlfriend out from under my nose. You, someone whom I regard as a brother, still, now seem to be doing the same bloody thing."

Michael sighed. "Oh," he said. "Well, let me make something clear. That – us hugging – was not romantic in any way. Lillith's not my type, Richard and you know it."

"Do I? College could have changed your 'type'." I was still reeling from the fact that Michael had a type. I was glad it wasn't me.

"Well, it hasn't. Lillith's gorgeous," I blushed as he said it, but he smiled at me. "It's true." Yep, the boy was an absolute flirt. Just being around him without Lee there to threaten to punch him was dangerous. "But she's not the sort of girl I like. She's got lovely curly brown hair and nice, green eyes and all that jazz, but you know I like girls with spiky black hair and almond eyes. Always have, always will."

Richard laughed. "Yes, you like girls like Dawn." I thought of Dawn with her black hair and deep green eyes that were almost black.

"Minus the eating disorder," Michael said dryly.

"Okay, but then what was that. What you two were doing just then."

"It was...I don't quite know."

"That's not good enough. Explain, now, or I will smash your face in Michael." Richard truly did seem bipolar to me. A moment ago he'd gone from hostile to chummy and now, it seemed he was back to hostile again.

I turned to Michael, horrified, "Is he serious?"

He nodded back at me, resigned. "Clearly you haven't seen the boy drunk before. Took out a whole football team when he lost it once. Granted, they took him out too, but it was twelve against one."

I nodded silently, aghast. "Okay, so now what."

"Just tell me what the hell is going on," Richard spat at us.

A.N So sorry for the long wait for the update. I won't try and excuse myself. Tell me, though what do you think? I, personally think I left it at a bad place, but writer's block has set in, so what can I do? Anyway, thanks for reading guys and as always thanks to everyone who reviewed:

My.Pseudonym.Was.Taken, FoxyWalnut, DiamondEyedDog, kiwiTH3lemonLOV3R, EmotionalDrain, Guatemalan Rocker chikk, R.L. Jen, luverly.lufy and StarsWatchAsIDance.

Now, to my first anonymous reviewer, Ekoh Ember - Thanks so much. I doubt your comment about my being god was true, though. Even in my most delusional states I've never thought that one. Your review made me laugh and smile, though, so thank you very much.