She was confused, and lost and broken. Shark stood in front of her, hands stuffed in the pockets of his overly baggy jeans, hair hidden underneath a dark beanie, jacket zipped up and covering his torso. He watched her, eyes wide, waiting for her reply.
To his left, Jesse fidgeted nervously with the end of his work-shirt, sweat dripping off his face and disappearing down the collar. His blond hair fell into his baby blue eyes, his muscles rippling as he lifted a hand and pulled at the collar.
"Caz," Shark sighed. "We need an answer."
"I can't," she whispered, shaking her head. She realised that tears had formed in her eyes as she looked from one to the other. How could they ask her to do this? It was too difficult. To push one of them away, out of her life forever? "I can't do it. How can I?" She turned away, staring out at the waves that washed up towards the beach below them. "I love you both."
"You can't," Jesse groaned. "How the hell can you be in love with two people at the same time?"
"I didn't ask for this!" she cried, whirling around and staring with steely eyes at the both of them.
"You didn't do much to stop it," Shark snapped back, shoulders rising.
"Oh shut up!" She threw her hands upwards, glaring at him. "You were meant to be a fuck, Shark. Remember that little agreement? And Jesse..." She whirled around to look at her fellow student. Her shoulders sank, her face softened. "I didn't want to fall in love with you. I really didn't. It just happened."
His eyes lit up, a smile snapped itself onto his face and she shook her head.
"It's not a good thing. Jeez." Her head fell forward, eyes staring down at the bright red converse on Jesse's feet. They snapped across to take in the black and white checked vans that Shark wore. Right then, she hated them both. Hated them so much she almost thought she could just walk away and never see either of them again.
"I need time to think," she whispered, her voice so quiet it could barely be heard above the whistling wind and the roar of the waves. "Can I...call you?" Her eyes glanced upwards, nervous and afraid.
"Sure," Jesse, always the more considerate of the two, the kinder one, the nice guy, nodded. "Of course."
Shark remained silent, staring at her with the cold green eyes she'd fallen for. Finally, he nodded too, before turning and walking slowly along the path that would lead him away from her. Jesse opened his mouth, but remained silent when she lifted her hand.
"Don't," she warned. "Just go."
* * *
She knew Shark was bad for her. The moment she laid eyes on him she knew she should stay the hell away. This was a guy who screamed bad news. Slowly, she had watched as he blew out the smoke, the smell attaching itself to everything in the room, the bright green Mohican falling over the right side of his face and along the right side of his shaved head.
His eyes had narrowed slowly as he turned his head towards her and slowly passed her the joint. Right from the start, he annoyed the hell out of her. "Who's the kid?" He directed the question, not at her, but to the guy on his right, who glanced over to where Caz was sitting and chuckled.
"Caz!" he had giggled. "Didn't see you come in! This is Shark, he's our newest guitarist."
"Great," she drawled, inhaling slowly. The drink had hit her hard, and she knew the joint probably would not help. Still, she did it to lose herself, to forget all the shit she was going through at home and with her friends.
"You don't sound too happy about that," Shark commented, stretching his legs straight out in front of him. His back was casually resting against the sofa, and just the pose itself managed to annoy her. It was too relaxed, too easy, in this house of what, to him, she knew must have been strangers.
"How many people here do you know?" She questioned, passing the joint back to Karl, the guy who'd introduced them.
"None," Shark shrugged. "Why?"
She pulled her knees in tight to her chest, mind drifting to the thought of going back to University in a few weeks, where Jesse patiently waited for her. Sweet, kind Jesse, the boy who studied History and worked in the coffee shop. Safe and dependable.
"We'll see how things go," she had told him, "after summer, yeah?"
He'd agreed to the idea, though she knew he was itching to make it official. It would have been too hard, she knew, for both of them to slap on the labels and then not see each other for two months. Plus, and she felt kind of guilty for even thinking it, she wanted the summer to be about her friends and being single, she didn't want to spend it pining over Jesse.
And she hadn't. Not that she'd taken any chances on the being single part. No, the first few weeks it had really been about seeing her friends, catching up with the people she hadn't seen for so long.
"Just wondering," Shark scoffed, taking the joint from Karl and lifting it up to his lips. He held it carefully clutched between his thumb and finger, not nestled between the two in the way you did when you smoked a cigarette. "Yeah, whatever. What's wrong kid; don't like strangers shoving their way into your friendship group?"
He didn't sound angry, or annoyed, just mildly amused. When she glanced at him, she noticed the twinkle in his eyes and the slight curve of his lips, his teeth ever so slightly on show.
Still, she had found herself getting slightly defensive as she lifted her chin and glared at him. "Don't make assumptions about me, Shark." He'd had a point though; Caz never had been good when 'new' people appeared in her life in this kind of way. People she didn't know always put her on edge, and it took her a while to adjust.
There was something about him that made her annoyed and frustrated, and it didn't lessen throughout the night when he challenged her to do a couple of shots with him. Now in the kitchen, she watched him line them up and declare that she'd most likely wouldn't be able to keep up with him.
She'd done them, though. She'd drunk shot after shot, matching him on every one, telling herself she shouldn't let him get to her as she slammed the last shot glass, upside down, on the table.
"Done," she slurred, closing her eyes and falling against the nearest sturdy object.
Which happened to be his shoulder.
He chuckled, putting his hand on her back and stroking it, slowly.
He was a lot more gentle than she would have thought.
Relaxed, content, Caz was aware that they were the only two in the room. Everyone else had moved into the living room. It was the weed, mixed with the alcohol, she told herself; it always made her feel horny. That, her mind protested, was the only reason this felt good.
Because if she was sober, she'd be pushing him away and focusing on thoughts of Jesse.
"Can little Caz not handle her drink?" His hand moved up and down her back, finger trailing along her spine, making her shudder.
"Piss off," she grumbled. "I'm fine. And you're a dickhead."
He chuckled then, gently cupping her chin in his free hand and turning her head so she looked straight at him. She had to admit, she had always liked the punk look. Jesse was not the type of guy she usually went for; it had been the point, really. The punks, the rockers, the metal heads and grungers...they had all, so far, turned out to be complete wankers. So she went for someone different, and ended up finding Jesse. Jesse, who had turned out to be so completely different and it was wonderful and he was sweet and he treated her like, she thought, she deserved to be treated...
But part of her missed the games, and the challenge of thinking that maybe, just maybe, you could change the guy who was a bit of a player, she missed feeling special because these guys knew they could get any girl they wanted and they'd chosen her...
She missed the slight sense of danger that came with guys who drove a little recklessly, who did a few drugs, who were exactly like Shark.
All of this jumped through her mind as she stared at him, and she found herself slowly licking her lips, wishing he'd just hurry up and kiss her already.
"You are wasted," he muttered, dropping her chin and taking his hand away from her back. With a cheeky smile, he stood up. "C'mon, the others will wonder where we got to."
* * *
And that was how it all started. She'd gone to the band's next gig, had acted disinterested and even insulted Shark's skills. He'd smiled throughout it all and just chuckled, before he disappeared into the corner of the small bar with a girl who had said they were the best thing she'd ever heard.
But she'd been the one he'd come back to that night, the one he'd slid up to and it was her ear he whispered into; "you didn't really hate us, did you?"
She'd laughed, twisting on the bar stool until she was facing him. "Where's your groupie gone?"
"She's at the table," he replied, face close to hers, eyes sparkling and his breath hot on her face. "Thinks I'm getting her a drink. Honestly? I kind of prefer your company."
He had a weird way with words; as he spoke to her, he somehow managed to twist insults into compliments, on both sides. She'd thrown up her guard and slowly he tore it down piece by piece until she was bare in front of him, until she thinks of nothing except what it would be like to kiss him, to embrace him, to have him inside of her...
And then he'd gone. Again. Disappeared into the crowd and she didn't see him again that night.
It was killing her. She was playing games, again. She hated it and loathed it and despised it.
It thrilled her, filled her with energy and brought out the worst and best in her.
She could think of nothing but him.
A phone call from Jesse brought her crashing back to earth.
* * *
"I miss you."
"I miss you too." It wasn't a lie and that shocked her. Just hearing his voice again, that sweet tone, knowing he was smiling just from hearing her voice...
Guilt flushed through her and she found herself vowing to stay the hell away from Shark.
"How's your summer going?"
They had chatted for hours, right into the early hours of morning. It was like someone had flicked a switch; suddenly she wasn't thinking about Shark, she was focusing on Jesse. Caz wanted to get back to University as soon as she could, she wanted to see her kind of boyfriend and curl up on the sofa with him, have his arms wrapped around her as they watched a cheesy film, she wanted to listen to him talk, wanted to see the slight curve of his lips when he smiled, the sparkle in his eyes. She wanted to feel his arm trailing down her back, gently caressing her...
For a brief period, she forgot about Shark.
* * *
But it couldn't last. And the next house party brought Shark back into her life. This time, it ended differently; she grew annoyed and frustrated when he seemed to be ignoring her, blanking her, and had found herself sitting outside one of the bedrooms, eager to get away from the crowds downstairs, the drunken mob, the partying kids...
He stumbled across her on his way to the bathroom.
His eyes had flashed, not with anger, but with something else. Excitement, she thought, until she reminded herself that no, he wasn't interested. Neither was she, for that matter.
I have Jesse, she told herself. Jesse, Jesse, think of Jesse...
She tried to keep the name running around her head, but when he returned from the bathroom and slid down next to her, suddenly the name disappeared from her head, replaced instead by the image of Shark sitting beside her, knees brought close to his chest, arms draped lazily over them.
"Long summer, isn't it?" he asked, twisting his head to look at her. "How long you been back?"
"Just over a month," she replied, closing her eyes, focusing on her breathing, ignoring the pounding of her heart, the shaking in her knees...
"When do you go back?"
"End of September."
"Yeah." She hadn't really thought about it; she'd been too distracted by everything else; family, friends, him...
Suddenly she had what she'd wanted since she'd first laid eyes on him.
His lips were locked onto hers, hands grasping her and pulling her closer, and before she could even think about it he was lifting her up and her legs were wrapping around him. It had been building up since they'd met and now it was exploding like a bomb, heat rippling through their bodies and it was better than she could have imagined and now he was carrying her to the bedroom and all there was in the world was him and her.
She felt the soft mattress before she could register what was happening. Caz was unable to hold back the small smile that pulled up her lips as he slid across the room and turned the lock on the door.
He half turned to look at her, eyes still sparkling, head tilted to one side. "You're beautiful when you smile, you know."
The room was lit only by a bedside lamp, and she was glad that the near-darkness hid her blush as he wriggled out of his t-shirt and leapt onto the bed, lips locking, instinct taking over as his fingers grasped the end of her t-shirt.
"Wait," she gasped, putting her hand over one of his, her eyes narrowed as he lifted his head and gazed at her. She saw a flash of fear and couldn't help but let her smile grow; she couldn't believe that she had this kind of power over the confident, cocky Shark. "What's your real name?"
He chuckled, head tilting forward, shoulder's shaking. "Seriously?"
"Yeah." She put her finger under his chin and tilted it back up, forcing him to look at her. "Seriously."
She shook her head, tutted and began to slide out from under him. She'd already climbed off the bed when he reached out and grasped her wrist.
"Wait," he whispered, eyes wide. "It's Dustin."
She laughed, unable to help it as she sat back down on the bed. "Dustin?"
He chuckled, leaning forward and kissing her forehead. "See why I go by the nickname?" he mumbled, mouth working downwards until he was kissing the curve of her shoulder.
"Yeah," she whispered, leaning back on the bed and half-smiling. "Yeah, I do."
* * *
So it began, what followed was a quick succession of drunken nights together, bodies pressed against each other and grasping onto their bodies like they were both looking for a lifeline. Nights spent at his place, watching films and having a few drinks, debating, arguing, about books and TV and films and music and politics, all ending up with them crashing together and passion flowing through them.
The first week of August, the train tickets arrived.
A note was enclosed in the envelope.
Come see me? Thought we could have a few days together. Jesse x
She'd stared at the ticket, unable to believe the price on it. Jesse came from a rich family, she knew that much, but he asked for hardly anything from his parents. He worked hard, and she knew she couldn't say no. Not to him.
So she packed her bags, told Shark she was going to visit a friend, and caught the train down to Devon. He met her at the station, and the moment she saw him her heart flipped, doing cartwheels in her chest. God, he looked good. He'd obviously spent some time at the beach; his skin was sun-kissed, his hair just a shade lighter. His eyes lit up when he saw her and neither could resist running towards each other, throwing their arms around each other and locking their lips together, and it was so different from her kisses with Shark.
No, this was sweet and soft and gentle and she found herself almost melting into him, as his hand came around to the small of her back and pulled her closer.
When they were finished, Jesse rested his forehead against hers, his right hand coming up to gently stroke her cheek.
"I missed you," he whispered.
"I missed you, too."
All those arguments, the debates with Shark, the bantering between the two...it melted into the background. With Jesse, she just discussed literature and films and music, gentle insults weren't thrown back and forth like a tennis ball and when she spent time with him, she was relaxed, comfortable.
When I go back, she thought, as Jesse gently led her to his car, I'm going to finish things with Shark.
* * *
She didn't, of course, and over the rest of the summer she found herself falling in love with him. Despite the differences in the two boys, she knew she felt the same for both of them. It drove Caz crazy – how could you feel like this for anyone, let along two people?
She tried to imagine life without one or the other, and found it too difficult to contemplate. She knew she'd do anything for both of them, except give the other up. She was confused, more than ever before.
Then summer had ended, and she had tried her best to persuade Shark not to come visit her. She'd be home soon enough, she told him. Don't worry about coming up.
Caz had arranged to meet Jesse at the top of the cliffs overlooking the beach. She loved the spot. It was quiet, peaceful, so different to the bustling, student orientated city they lived in. As much as she liked the life of the place, the pulse running through it, sometimes she relished the peace and quiet that came from hanging out up here. Trees surrounded the path that ran across the top, with a spot halfway down from which you could see the beach below. Her and Jesse had spent a whole night there when they'd started dating, just watching the tide coming in.
She'd jumped a mile when she heard the voice behind her, and not just because he had startled her. Whirling around, she took in the sight of him standing there, Mohican half-fallen, sweat glistening on his forehead as he flashed her his trademark lopsided grin.
"Shark," she'd gasped, "what are you doing here?"
"I called at the house," he gave an apologetic shrug. "The girls there told me you'd be here, and how to get here. Thought I'd surprise you." He paused, seeing the look of shock on her face. "Well...surprise. I guessed...I don't know. You could be happier, Caz."
"I told you not to come up."
The last night they'd been together, he had leant over to her, whispered I love you in her ear and truthfully, honestly, she had repeated his words.
A few days later Jesse had said the same, and again she found herself repeating the words, unable to hold them back even as she realised that she was royally screwed.
"Yeah, well..." he shrugged. "Thought it would be nice. I wasn't lying when I said I loved you, Caz."
"Why, though?" she cried, anger filling her. How dare he? She'd told him not to come! "What the bloody hell is so special about me, Shark? Why do you love me? I'm nothing, I'm nobody, and God knows you could get any girl you want!"
"Caz..." he frowned, sliding forward. She'd never seen him looking so worried, so concerned. "What's wrong?"
"I mean it, Shark."
"You're not nothing; you're not nobody! Don't put yourself down like that."
"You don't know me," she whispered, her voice shaking. If she could make him angry, if she could push him to the edge, then maybe he'd just walk away and leave before it was too late. "You, Shark, don't know anything about me."
"Then what's my favourite colour? How did I get the scar on my leg? The first gig I ever went to?"
"They're important, but they're not everything," he snapped back. "I don't need to know those things because I know you're intelligent and people don't give you enough credit for that. I know you hated '1984' and devoured all the Anne Rice books when you were fifteen. I know you love your brother but hate that you never speak to him. I know it drives you crazy being away from your friends when you at University and it kills you to be away from your friends when you're at home!"
"Red. Bike accident when you were seven. Steps, in 1998."
Caz froze. Neither had noticed the third figure to join them. Jesse appeared from the trees, glanced at Shark, then looked at Caz. He fidgeted with the end of his shirt.
"Caz...who's that?" he asked, staring at her with his wide, innocent and loving eyes. Biting down on her lip, Caz half turned away from both of them, staring out at the sea.
"Holy shit," Shark laughed, though it wasn't a happy one. He shook his head, disbelieving. "Oh bloody hell Caz, I should have known. He's the reason you didn't want me to come up, isn't he?"
She didn't say anything; she couldn't. It felt like something was lodged in her throat, jammed in there, stopping her from speaking. What could she possibly say to make it any better?
"Caz..." Jesse took a slow step forward. "Please, please tell me I've got the wrong end of the stick here."
She rounded on them, eyes narrowed as she studied them both. Her chest ached. She wanted to cry, she wanted to crumple into a ball and shut them out, both of them.
"We never said exclusive," she whispered, knowing it was no excuse.
"Are you fucking serious?" Shark barked, chuckling angrily. "Oh bloody hell Caz. You seriously going to use that on me?"
"On us," Jesse muttered, staring at the ground. "I thought you loved me?"
"I did! I do! I love you!" she cried, eyes darting from Shark to Jesse. "Both of you and don't ask me how that happened because, seriously, I have no idea."
"You are unbelievable!" It wasn't angry, just upset. He closed his eyes, tilted his head back towards the sky. "Caz, you're going to have to choose."
"Wait," she bit her lip. "You still..."
Both of them had cried at the same time, before glaring at each other. So different, both of them. Like bloody buses, she thought bitterly
"I love you, Caz. You know I do," Jesse spoke slowly, carefully, drawing his eyes away from the punk to look, instead, at her. "And everyone makes mistakes, I get it..."
"Who are you calling a mistake, mate?" Shark growled.
"Don't!" she snapped. "This isn't his fault, Shark. Don't you two start fighting."
Shark took a deep breath, and she could tell, from the expression on his face, that he was mentally counting backwards from ten to zero. She'd seen him do it a few times before, when some guy had made a remark about her arse when they were out, when some jerk had burnt Shark's arm with a cigarette butt, by accident and out of sheer carelessness.
Finally, he opened his eyes and looked straight at her. "God knows I don't have the cleanest record in the world. It's your choice, Caz, but you're going to have to choose."
And so the ultimatum had begun, and she'd tried to quickly list the pros and cons of each in her head. The cons list, for both, was short, only a few each.
How the hell was she going to decide?
* * *
Sitting alone, she fidgeted with the grass between her fingers, eyes still watching the tide rolling in. It had been difficult, and she'd been there for over an hour now. The sun was setting before her, casting the last of its yellow rays out over the sea. The sky was slightly red, and she recited the poem she used to say as a kid when she'd caught the red sky.
"Red sky at night, shepherd's delight. Red sky in morning, shepherd's warning."
She pictured Shark, standing on stage and looking so happy, so vibrant and energetic.
She imagined Jesse, sprawled lazily across the sofa, a half smile on his face as he watched her.
She had no idea how to choose between them. She really did love them both; Shark's remarks, his energy, the way he could make her melt with a single touch, a single look...
Then again, with Shark it was risky. He'd already told her he'd cheated on one of his exes, what if he cheated on her? Once a cheater...one of her friends used to say. But he'd been seventeen at the time, not even counted as an adult, and she didn't know the whole story so who was she to judge?
On the other hand, Shark was so wrapped up in the band. He worked at a CD store to get money, and the shop looked set to close. Really, she knew she should be thinking of her future. What if the band didn't make it? Was there a future there?
It wasn't fair!
No, she chided herself; she was the one who got herself into this mess. She was the only one to blame. She couldn't hold a risky future against Shark...
With Jesse, she knew that if they lasted, she'd never have to worry. He worked hard; he was set to make something of himself. He had options, connections; he had his father's business, his uncle's law firm if he chose to join that instead. He was smart and clever and funny and they had fun.
You have fun with Shark.
"I have fun with both of them," she whispered, biting her lip. "But this isn't about fun...not anymore."
Jesse was sweet, kind and caring. He'd half carried her home one night when her heels had proved too much to take. He was the type of guy who brought you chicken soup when you were ill, and who told you that you were still beautiful, even though she'd fought and fought against him coming in, she'd hadn't wanted him to see her with no makeup and puffy eyes and in her comfy baggy pyjamas.
The memory made her smile, but was quickly pushed aside by another one. Shark, holding her hair back after a night of too much booze and weed.
Jesse didn't like weed.
Shark smoked too much of it.
Jesse hated clubs and bars; he much preferred a chilled out drink in a pub with a few close mates.
Shark loved big crowds and good music; clubs, bars and venues were his perfect kind of places.
She loved the fact that Jesse liked sitting in the background, listening carefully to any conversation taking place and speaking rarely, his words making a stronger impact when he did speak.
She loved how Shark commanded attention from the people around him, the way he'd shoot down any argument by a few simple lines, the way he made sure his opinion and voice were heard.
They'd both told her how much they liked her sketches, her pictures, her art. They both said the exact right things to her, depending on her mood.
They both loved her; each and every part of her, the good and the bad.
She loved them both.
Caz closed her eyes, leant back and let the wind whip around for a few seconds, let complete silence wash over her. Finally, she took a deep breath, lifted herself up and sent a defiant glare out towards the sea.
She'd made her decision.
A/N: Yet anohter of the 100 Theme Challenge, this one is Number 90, Triangle. I decided to leave the ending open, for the reader to decide who she picked. Let me know who you would have chosen in the reviews? I'd love to know what people thought of the two guys in this. I'm worried that I showed too much of her relationship with Shark, and not enough with Jesse, but to me, her and Shark had more going on for seperate scenes, whereas Jesse was more kind of emotional, if that makes sense? Ugh. Anyways, hope you enjoyed, even if it was a bit long.