It was a night that was doomed for disaster, I should have recognised that from the start, the kind of party that makes your parents grip onto their china cats and floral furnishings with white knuckles and worried eyes.
It wasn't really my scene, the sweat and mindless hook-ups, but it seemed that I was damned for self destruction anyway, my friends' bawdy jokes carrying me through the doorway.
I can make excuses; I have as many as you care to hear, enough to fill a million notebooks, but in the end I suppose it's never really the reason why that matters, only the fact that you did it in the first place.
And I'm not sure that it was all entirely my fault, not with the heavy music pounding through my bloodstream and my friends guffawing in the corner of the room, but as I sat next to the sleeping boy on the couch I quickly made my first mistake.
He was lovely, if you are attracted to the ones that stick out like sore thumbs; his hair dyed a deep red that could never have been natural.
The press of bodies made my skin hot and I shifted uncomfortably as my gaze settled on his long fingers, the joints sticking out awkwardly in knots. His lips were parted slightly and his eyes flickered with dreams beneath pale eyelids even while drunken teenagers crashed noisily around him.
My own eyes were scratchy with lack of sleep, something I had caught nowhere near enough of for the past year, and I felt an ugly flash of envy streak underneath my skin as I watched his face, carefree in slumber.
He didn't stir when one of my knees knocked against his, and I lifted my fingers over his mouth gently, feeling his warm breath wash over my skin with an ashamed red blush staining my cheeks.
There was a girl in the corner, and my friends smiled appreciatively as her dress flipped up when she danced awkwardly to the loud music from the television.
She was the only one dancing, and the only music was from the commercials when the football match changed over to an add break, but she didn't seem to mind.
There was childishness to her, a glimmering look of wickedness that tugged at my poor heart and made me get shakily to my feet.
It was times like this that scared me, when everything didn't feel quite real, as if I was awake through a dream sequence that was swimming soupily inside of my head.
The boy on the couch was still asleep and his dark eyelashes made shadows on his cheeks when I turned slowly away and walked into the bright kitchen.
It was a small room, almost perfectly square, and it was decorated in a way that made it seem as though it had been ripped straight out of a lifestyle magazine.
Cooking utensils gleamed in their holders and overturned pots and pans littered the floor like silver hills.
Three of my friends were lounging against the sink and they raised their bottles in friendly recognition as I stumbled though the white door frame.
"Hey man", Julian smiled at me lazily, his long mouth quirking to the left, "pretty crazy party right".
It wasn't a question but I shrugged in answer anyway, pushing my curling hair away from my eyes where it had flopped messily onto my forehead.
"Pretty hot chicks yeah?" Dave raised his eyebrows at me and I nodded, leaning back with a sigh against the cold metal of the drainer.
"Told you to come man, you've been hanging 'round for too long now". He nudged my shoulder and I noted the slight concern colouring his voice with a pull on my kneecaps.
"Whatever", I closed my eyes and stayed like that, focussing only half-heartedly on their conversation, until all I heard was raucous laughter and clinking bottles.
I liked my friends, there was no denying it, I really did. They had pulled me through several messy relationships, my infamous night time anxiety that had made me almost untouchable as boyfriend material.
It seemed a cruel truth that the fear that made me so terrified of being alone was the same fear that drove all who I loved away.
Perhaps that was the problem, everyone had heard about my reactions to sleep, and so now nobody stayed around long enough for my eyes to close.
Leaving a darkened room with a hurting heart is easier than trying to disentangle yourself from a crying, screaming boy in the middle of his bedroom floor after all.
It wasn't fair, that I was so deprived of dreams; it wasn't fair that my life couldn't be like the ones in the books that I read.
I didn't want a fairytale, I only wanted a hero.
I wanted someone who would hold me tightly, even when I screamed and bit them, I wanted someone to tell me that I was okay when my eyes were still glazed with fear, I wanted someone to kiss the tears off my cheeks.
I wanted someone to tell me that they still loved me, when the night terrors rubbed their silky heads along my bones, I didn't want them to stare at me fearfully, I wanted them to understand.
I wanted to sleep and never wake, never to hit my mother out of unconscious terror or have to swallow bitter tasting pills down with my morning tea.
I wanted to dream and maybe that's why I found my eyes drawn back to the sleeping boy on the couch, his face peaceful and soft in the crashing lights.
He had everything I didn't and it made something in my chest feel a pull towards him, like a string of cobweb that caught tight on his closed eyelids, fluttering on his sleeping breath.
I didn't want a sweaty body in a corner, to feel slick lips slide over my own as my friends cheered on, I didn't want to dance with a girl by the numbing fluorescence of the television screen, I wanted to lie curled next to a sleeping boy on a couch and breathe in his dreams as they escaped his lips.
I wanted to press my ear hard against his, just to see if I could hear the sweet words of the princesses and kings inside of his skull.
I wanted to run my fingers over his long limbs, just to feel his muscles twitch with movements he would never really make.
That was when I made my second mistake of the night, tripping back past my friends and ignoring their calls of questioning, making my way clumsily back over to the couch and not taking my eyes off that sleeping face even for a second.
A girl knocked into me, her drink spilling in a dark stain over my collarbone, and she patted at it with apologetic hands, flashing me smiles flawed with red lipstick on her teeth.
My eyes felt unfocussed when I looked at her, and her own eyes were large and dark when they gazed back, circled with shadowy makeup.
My heart was pounding inside of my head, and my fingers itched when her hands reached up to cup my cheeks.
Her breath smelt like rum and coca-cola and when she pressed her lips against mine there was a flash of colours behind my eyelids.
She tasted like lipstick and dust and promise and when I pulled away she laughed and rested her forehead against my shoulder.
Her hair was prickly where it touched my neck and I shifted away, leaving her to stumble and swear in her tall high heels.
My mouth was bitter and I ran my tongue over my teeth as I directed my gaze back over to the couch, only to find it empty of any dreaming boys.
There was a rushing static in my ears when I swung my head around desperately, he couldn't have gone far, not when I had only closed my eyes for a second.
I could feel the exhaustion of several sleepless nights pooling in the base of my stomach and I lurched forwards listlessly, arms and legs swinging in uncoordinated motion.
The room was filled with faces, spilling over with sweaty limbs and slurring voices but I couldn't spot a shock of red hair anywhere.
My heart was sinking swiftly inside my ribcage and I berated myself for it, hating my own shallowness, I hadn't even spoken a word to the boy.
There was a humming inside of my skull, a fuzziness to my eyelids, and I pinched my arm hard as I stumbled over to a wall, there was no way that I could risk falling asleep now.
I would scream, I knew I would, with anxiousness buzzing through my veins there was no way that I could escape it.
I patted at my pockets, searching for the small bottle of medication with the cheery lettering spelling out the hated word, "Tofranil", on the label.
I recalled the relieved look on my mother's face as my doctor had handed her the prescription and curled my lips even though I knew that I shouldn't.
It wasn't fair that I treated her like that, my condition caused her to suffer just as much as I did.
Who wanted to be woken by their son screaming and beating at the walls every second night?
No mother should be bitten by their nineteen year old son hard enough to draw blood, simply because he is unable to differentiate the terror of his dreams from reality.
My pockets were empty, and I felt the first surges of panic beat through my heart as I rummaged in my clothes fruitlessly. There was no way that I could make it through the night without those pills.
I pushed away from the wall shakily, falling to my knees where I had bumped into the girl, running my fingers feverishly over the sticky carpet, my tongue feeling too large inside of my mouth.
I could hear a scream of frustration building inside of my head and I pressed the heels of my palms hard against my eyes as I attempted to take a few deep breaths and calm the shakes before they started.
Without that bottle I was doomed, there was no way that I could close my eyes now, no way, and I was so tired...
"Excuse me", I jumped in shock as a hand tapped me on the shoulder, the voice sounding close to my ear.
My hands flew away from my face as I spun on my knees, my eyes quickly taking in that all-too precious bottle being held within long, if not knobbly, fingers.
"I think you dropped this", their voice was slightly nervous and I realised what a neurotic I had probably looked like.
Taking back the bottle, in what I hoped was a collected manner, I attempted to look up at their face in an unaffected manner, only to have my eyes widen as I recognised the red hair where it curled around a pair of serious grey eyes.
I couldn't help it, I laughed.
That was my third mistake.
The boy's face was flickered dizzyingly in the dim lighting and I smiled up at him, my fingers curling around the pill bottle protectively.
He looked different when he was awake, older, less childish, with his mouth twisting to the right in an unsure gesture.
There were shadows pooling underneath his high cheekbones and I fleetingly had the urge to reach out and touch the skin, just to check that it wasn't really never ending black.
"Are you alright?", His question was yelled over the swarming chatter that surrounded us and I only grinned harder, feeling all the world like an idiot but not being able to stop myself.
I don't think that I had ever wanted to be someone's friend as much as I wanted to be his at that very moment, his face still soft from sleep.
My fingers were trembling with some inexplicable surge of emotion and I pushed the pill bottle securely back into my pocket with shaky force.
If we could be friends, if I could watch him sleep just one more time, the dreams that I could imagine, the things he would see.
I got to my feet and his eyes followed me, his face tilting upwards as I resumed my usual towering height.
Surprisingly I wasn't that much taller than him, and his smile grew a little bit more real when he looked up at me, my shoulders hunched in self consciousness and effort not to hit the low ceiling.
"How's the weather up there beanpole?", his tone was joking and I felt my own lips twitch again in a grudging smile. No matter how many times I had heard that joke before, it hadn't sounded quite like it did when he said it.
"Like you can talk, how are things in dreamland?"
It had been meant to be a joke, a careless banter of words in return, but something that I had said made a shimmer of careful emptiness run across his face before he glanced back up at me, his smile almost painfully forced.
His eyelashes were dark I realised, along with his eyebrows, darker than my hair, and I wondered briefly what his natural hair colour was.
"I'm sorry", the apology left my lips before I knew completely what I meant by it, and he looked up at me quizzically, his grey eyes narrowing as they bored into mine.
"What for?" his question sounded cautious and challenging and I bit down on my lip hard, knowing that my answer would make or break this.
I closed my eyes tightly, not having the energy to lie.
"I don't know", my head protested when I prised my eyelids open again but I was glad that I had.
The boy's face was bright when he looked at me, a careful smile glossing over his mouth while his eyes looked at me calculatingly, "okay".
We stood there, with foreign bodies bumping into us, and smiled at each other, slightly awkwardly for a few seconds, before he laughed, breaking the tension.
"I'm Alex", his fingers caught my attention again, when he held his hand out to me in a formal gesture, and I tried not to stare too creepily at his knuckles.
"Felix", my name stuck to the roof of my mouth and I frowned when I realised I could still taste that girl against my teeth, "my name's Felix".
His hand was warm in mine, the rough skin of his fingertips caught on my palm with a curious tingle up my arm.
Girls had made me feel like this, but never a boy.
"It's a pleasure to meet you Felix", he had a crooked smile that didn't quite meet his eyes and I clenched my fingers tightly together when he pulled his hand free from my grasp.
The music was getting louder and a cheer made us both turn with the rest of the room to see Julian standing on top of the coffee table, his shirt tied around his head, a bottle in his left hand as he attempted to do a strip tease without toppling off the wooden surface.
Yells of approval littered the lounge room as he swivelled his slim hips, collecting wolf whistles and catcalls as he went, his free hand sliding slowly down over his crotch in what I supposed he probably imagined to be a seductive manner, embarrassingly most of the girls seemed to agree.
In my sober state I thought it just looked ridiculous.
I could feel my cheeks beginning to heat up with shame for my friend.
This was the reason that I didn't drink, Jules was going to have more than a headache to contend with in the morning.
Beside me Alex was grinning, his teeth bright in the dim light and I watched him quietly, wondering why I was so attracted to him.
He wasn't that amazing really.
There were creases around his eyes when he smiled, and his cheeks puffed out in a ridiculous manner, glowing pink at the spectacle before him.
He didn't look like an Alex, I thought, Alex's were meant to be tanned with blonde hair and perfect girlfriends.
He wasn't tanned, quite the opposite, freckles littering his pale arms.
He must have sensed me looking at him, but I turned quickly away when he swivelled to meet my gaze, my cheeks burning with his attention on my face.
My kneecaps were twitching, just like they always did when I got nervous, and I tried my best to focus back on the coffee table where Julian was down to underpants, shoes and socks.
I pulled a face when a girl I recognised from dancing in front of the television ran forward and tucked a five dollar note into the waistband of his pants, and he began to thrust in time with the music, a triumphant grin on his face.
I tried to hide my eyes and muffle my groan into my hands but they were peeled quickly away, Alex staring up at me with an amused expression.
"A friend of yours?"
I tried my hardest not to focus on the way that his fingers gripped mine more than was prudent and shrugged in answer, rolling my eyes, "ex-friend now, remember that, EX-FRIEND".
He smiled slightly and turned back to the spectacle that Julian was making of himself.
His fingers were still holding onto mine and I stared straight ahead, trying not to alert him that I was uncomfortable in any way, praying that my hand wouldn't start sweating.
His skin was soft, broken only where fine hair brushed against my knuckles and I tried to pretend that I didn't notice when he tensed suddenly against me, his head jerking down to see his fingers still holding onto mine, before he dropped them like hot coals, whipping his head back to staring back to the front.
I tried to stop the swoop of my heart before it choked me, but the frown crept onto my face anyway, making a deep crease between my eyebrows.
In all honesty it hadn't even occurred to me that Alex might not like me like I liked him. That he wouldn't want to be my friend.
Not when his hand had fit inside mine so well and he dreamed so sweetly on an old couch.
"I think you might need to go and rescue your friend", Alex's voice cut through my muddled thoughts and I glanced down at him feeling a bit dazed with lack of sleep.
He didn't answer but simply pointed over to the front of the room and I cursed when I saw Julian was now throwing his last sock into the cheering crowd of sweaty bodies and beginning to slide his fingers under the waistband of his underpants.
Someone had to preserve the remainder of his pride.
Bodies pushed against me in a resisting wall as I attempted to make my way to the front before it was all too late.
Hands trailed over my arms and fingers caught on the belt loops of my jeans, hindering me as drunken giggles surrounded my head.
The feeling was suffocating and I pushed harder, now out of desperation as well as loyalty.
Julian had pulled his pants dangerously low by the time I reached him and caught his arm, dragging him off the table so that he toppled onto me and knocked us both to the floor with a surprised puff of air.
There was a collective moan of disappointment as I began searching the surrounding area for his clothes and I kept a firm hold on his wrist to prevent his escape.
A few people called out insults and I scowled as the crowd slowly dispersed, growing bored with a straightedged boy attempting to find his friend's jeans.
"you're nooooo fun Flick", Jules was swaying against my side, flopping ungracefully over my shoulder as I leant down to peer under the couch, his legs swinging awkwardly as he tripped around after me.
"Didja see the way wotserface was lookin' at me?", he sounded smug even through the slur and I winced when I looked up to see him attempt a wink across the room, only to find that he couldn't quite get his face to respond in the way he wanted it to.
His hand didn't feel as nice as Alex's had I decided, as I managed to hook one of Julian's shoes off the top of the mantelpiece and straighten up a photo frame, nor did he smell half as good.
I glanced around the room but couldn't see any red hair, only Dave as he trotted towards us, Jules' jeans in hand and a shit eating grin on his face.
"Nice Jules, you had the ladies going cra-zy", he snorted and helped me straighten out and pull the clothing in the right way before lifting one of Jules' legs so that I could slip his foot through the material.
"Tell me about it", Julian hiccupped when he laughed and I rolled me eyes at Dave who grinned again as he pulled the jeans up our friend's legs with a great deal of difficulty, "Christ Jules! How tight do you need these things, do you have any circulation to your man jewels?"
Julian wiggled with a pout and I laughed on his other side, raising my eyebrows at Dave, "man jewels?"
I got a kick in the shin.
"c'mooon", Julian was shifting impatiently now, as Dave continued to struggle, "hurry uuuup".
He was ignored and a minute later Dave and I had managed to shrug them far enough up his hips that they covered most of the essentials, ducking our friend's flailing arms.
I pretended to wipe sweat of my forehead and the girl from before caught my eye, smiling at me from over in a dark corner.
She wasn't who I was looking for; I didn't want to lose my sleeping boy quite yet, not when I knew nothing about him.
I wanted to ask him so many things, why his fingertips had been so rough, what colour his hair really was, what he had been dreaming of only minutes before.
I scanned the room uselessly, searching in vain for that pale face, the red hair that curled around those grey eyes, just a glimpse, that was all I needed, just a glimpse to prove that he was real.
"I feel sick", the groan against my shoulder made me glance down distractedly to see Julian resting his face against my shirt, his face turning a sickly grey colour.
I shared another look with Dave, and he pulled Julian quickly away from me, steering him speedily towards the door.
I followed with a sinking heart, collecting the other shoe and one of Julian's socks on my way out, still jerking my head around desperately.
I was at the doorway when I spotted him; his head bathed a glowing orange by the harsh light above him. It drew shadows around his face, and his eyes were closed as he leant against the wall.
For a second I thought that he had fallen asleep again, but then he opened his eyes and I knew that I was wrong.
He had been watching me.
The realisation swept under my skin like scalding water and I sucked in a breath when he raised his hand slowly in farewell, his face perfectly empty.
My fingers twitched, and I raised my own palm so that we faced each other across the room like perfect reflections.
I had thought that my face had been just as blank, but there must have been something there because his lips quirked up in smile that made my kneecaps begin to jerk.
"Flick, come on!" Dave's call was accompanied by the sound of retching and a groan as I turned my head slowly away from Alex, my eyes clinging to his face for as long as possible, before I walked determinedly out the door.
I didn't really mind leaving him; I knew I'd be seeing him again.
My sleeping boy.
To say that my friends showed any signs of interest in my latest infatuation would be a severe overstatement.
At best Dave raised an eyebrow and ignored Julian's request for more cereal while he stared at me. Which, if I was completely honest, wasn't really out of character at all.
I pressed my palm flat on the table top, in what I hoped was a dramatic fashion, "I said I think that I just found the love of my life! Are you listening to me?"
The crumbs left over from my toast stuck to my skin, but I resisted the urge to wipe them off, feeling that it would probably ruin the gesture.
Julian widened his eyes slightly and hummed from his place next to the window while Dave turned slowly in his seat to view me from front on.
His expression was tired and I bit my lip when I stared into his blank eyes, rimmed with red.
Poor Dave, Dave who stayed up all night while Julian vomited out his small intestine, strange, mothering Dave who held me down while I bit and kicked at him.
"I'm so happy for you Flick", he sighed and pushed his used mug at me, making it screech on the table, "get me more coffee".
I took the mug with a wan smile and struggled to my feet, knowing Dave well enough to know when he was really being brash and when he was just pretending.
There had been a flicker of something in his face just a second ago, and that was more than enough for me.
We were an odd group I reasoned, my hands pressing against the cold aluminium of the sink as the old kettle boiled, a strange collaboration of leftovers.
There was Julian, silly ridiculous Julian, the boy that made friends too quickly to ever really keep them.
His mouth always moving, whether humming or chewing on his lips, there was a shimmer in the air around his head that made my heart jump and stammer when I was tired.
It was hard to say when we became friends, simply that he was suddenly there, eating toast in my kitchen and chatting up my mother.
And then with Julian came Dave, quiet bookish Dave, with a nose that was slightly too big for his face.
I remembered my first impressions of him, how I had given him a derisive once over, his tousled head burrowed far too deeply in the pages of a severely outdated novel to even notice.
I had thought him pathetic, a laughable opinion from someone like myself, and written him off before I had ever really talked to him.
That was a mistake.
A month later the three of us were inseparable, finishing off each other's sentences and living in each other's pockets.
Maybe we were too close, but it never really bothered me, not when they held down my thrashing legs and never said a word about it once the sun came up.
We were stuck in the party scene, a habit we knew was slowly ruining us, but it was hard to pull our legs free of it when the girls were all so pretty, so willing.
In the space of a year, we had changed from strange Felix, childish Julian and nerdy Dave into something else.
We weren't popular, but then we weren't unpopular either, we made sure that we frequented all the right places, knew all the right people.
I don't think that it was something we had decided on, but somewhere along the line it had changed from a blurry game and into a destructive lifestyle.
So it wasn't a surprise to either of my friends that I was professing my love for a complete stranger at the breakfast table because, after all, it wasn't exactly an uncommon occurrence.
The kettle was whistling and I twirled my finger through the smoke coiling in the cold air as I remembered the way that Alex's eyelashes had brushed against his skin with a small smile.
"Didn't you see him? He was sleeping on the couch, right in the middle of the room".
I tried to keep the provocation out of my voice and, when I turned back to the table with a fresh cup of coffee, it was only to receive an eye roll from Dave, his lip curled slightly.
"So sorry that I wasn't on the prowl for-wait!" he slipped in his seat and gripped onto the table to stop himself from landing on the floor as he eyed me carefully, "he?"
Julian snorted loudly from the window seat and I raised my eyebrows in question, "is that a- problem?"
I tried to make the question sound tough and sure, but even I could trace the vein of uncertainty that weaved its way through the syllables.
Dave righted himself in his chair and took the coffee from my hand with firm fingers, accepting the drink and my words with a small grin, "I don't know, you tell me fairy boy".
I smiled back at him, something loosening in my chest when I hadn't even noticed a knot forming, Julian waddling over to the table, his hair sticking up from sleep as he peered at me.
He prodded my face with one bony finger and I scrunched up my nose, batting him away in annoyance, "what are you doing?"
He only shrugged leaning back against the table, his head tilted slightly to the side, "I dunno, it just feels like you should have changed somehow", he narrowed his eyes speculatively, "but you haven't have you?"
It was my turn to shrug in answer, pushing my hair back off my cheeks, as they both watched me closely.
Dave was the first to lose interest, focussing all of his attention on the warm mug in his hand, and Julian soon followed in suit.
I hoisted myself away from the bench, balancing shakily on my treacherous feet, head swimming somewhere above my shoulders.
"I'm heading home", my eyes were scratchy again and I rubbed at them, a truck passing in the street outside, making one of the picture frames rattle.
"I've got some stuff to do".
Julian made a noncommittal grunt and bit into another piece of toast while Dave glanced up at me resignedly, looking old before his time as he so often did.
There was a shadow under his cheeks, a hopeless shade to his eyes that told you he knew the best moments of his life were already over.
"You want me to drive you?" there was a brown spot of coffee on one of his canines and I shook my head, pulling on my jacket where it had been left the night before, hanging over the fridge.
"Nah, fresh air and all that", I shrugged on the clothing I had discarded and Dave nodded wearily, turning back to his drink.
My house wasn't too far away from Dave's, maybe a ten minute walk, and I had enough thoughts to sorts through inside of my skull to keep me occupied for a year.
Julian said that I thought things through too much, and maybe he was right, but Dave just smiled fondly and called it "weeding".
I liked it when Dave smiled like that, a young look on his too mature face, clever words always falling from his lips.
"I guess I'll see you guys 'round", Julian didn't protest as much as I had expected when I snagged his remaining piece of toast from his plate.
He was looking more ridiculous than ever this morning, his tight jeans discarded somewhere in the lounge room and his skinny legs propped up to his chin, the morning light turning the hairs to white fire.
I grinned at him as I exited the room, running my fingers over the wallpapered plaster when I heard a shout from the kitchen that made me stop and glance back to see Dave swinging on his chair.
His arm was outstretched, holding onto the bench to stop the chair from slipping out from beneath him, and he cocked one eyebrow and twisted his lips at me, "you didn't tell us lover boy's name"
In all honesty, I don't think that I could have smiled any wider than I did at that exact moment, my jaw feeling like I was tearing it apart.
"Alex", I caught my reflection on the mirror above the mantelpiece and grinned so hard that my teeth ached, "his name's Alex".
I would find him yet.