Jinx's older brother had always told her that if she wanted something, all she had to do was ask him. After the latest argument with my mother, I found myself wishing I had an older brother like that. Someone I could just turn to and ask for something to take or smoke, something to drag me away from this house and shithole without actually having to go too far.
But Mathias scared me. He scared most people, even though Jinx insisted he was actually a nice guy. But one look at him, and you could tell he was not a guy to cross. Not to mention his mates. Jinx's brother had thick, dark hair, a thick beard, and was tall. Pretty damn tall, actually. Not that he was beefy, but he sure as hell looked like he could take care of himself.
And that was before he got his arms covered in tattoos.
Mum was storming about downstairs, and I knew I could have just texted Jinx. But she only ever had weed when her parents weren't around, and she'd have questions if I asked her to ask her brother. Plus, well, when it came to stuff like that, Jinx was pretty much in the mind of everyone had to share.
It wasn't the sharing aspect that bothered me, not right then. It was the idea of sitting around with the others and being forced to chat, to listen as Jinx got giggly and rambled on about Jake. Or Harrison. Or whoever was currently catching her eye.
So I couldn't ask Jinx, and Mathias was too scary to approach. Luckily, I found an answer at the gig, in the form of Fashionably Late's drummer.
He didn't sit with us. Instead, I bumped into him while I was at the bar. He was talking to a couple of other guys, one of them laughing hard. Pint in hand, the drummer glanced over his shoulder at me.
"Hey," he said, glancing over at our table. "Let me get you a drink."
"No, I'm fine," I insisted, forcing myself to smile as I turned to the bar.
"You sure?" he drawled. "Any friend of Will's, and all that."
"What makes you think I'm friends with Will?" I tried to make myself sound casual, like I didn't care why he would think that. In reality, fear spread through me. What if they knew? What if they knew about the crush I had on him and were all laughing at me behind my back?
He shrugged. "I guessed it had to be one of them. Come on, let me get you a drink. Do you smoke?"
I shook my head.
He grinned, turned to the bar, and waved the girl over. She flashed him a wide smile. "What can I get you, Mayer?"
"Whatever this little lady wants," he drawled. From anyone else, it might have sounded patronising. But he made it sound almost flattering.
"Vodka and coke, please."
"Sure. And watch out for him, he seems charming but he's a prick."
Mayer laughed, shaking his head. "Aw, come on, you know you love me."
She rolled her eyes, and I found myself smiling at the banter between them. Soon, I had the vodka and coke in my hands, and before I could say anything or protest, Mayer had his hand on the small of my back, leading me towards the stairs.
They wouldn't miss me, anyway.
Not for a while.
So I went outside with Mayer. His hair was thick, brown, and matched the thick stubble on his chin and cheeks. He lit up a cigarette as the fresh air hit us, before walking around the venue until we reached a quiet corner.
"So, you don't smoke these," he muttered, holding the cigarette up as he reached into his pocket. "You smoke anything else?"
Jinx would have known what to say, how to react. She'd hung out with her brother and his mates enough.
All I said was, "Maybe."
He laughed, pulling something out and pressing it into my hand. It was small, the green inside wrapped tightly in plastic. "You look like you need something to help you chill," he said with a grin. "Think of it as a free sample." Mayer held his hand out, palm up. "Give me your phone."
I handed it over, pocketing the weed.
Mayer tapped in his number, saved it, and handed the phone back. "You want any more, just give me a shout. Next one's going to cost you, mind."
He nodded to the door. "You should head back in. Your friends will wonder where you are."
"I doubt it."
He laughed again, a gruff sound. "Go on. Catch you later, yeah?" He winked at me, as his own phone buzzed. Mayer turned away to take the call, and I headed inside.
I didn't need Jinx – or her brother – after all.
X X X
All I wanted to do by the time we got back to Jinx's was crawl into bed and sleep. As I lay there, staring at the ceiling, I took the small packet out and turned it over in my hands.
I had no idea how to roll.
Carefully, I put it in my small bag, shifting my purse so the weed was at the bottom. Every time I'd been close to getting into a conversation with Will, someone else had interrupted. Jinx, Jake, Harrison,, Paige...
My fingers curled into fists.
Without any good reason, I hated her. Okay, maybe not hated, but close enough. Will had just seemed to jump to attention when she clicked her fingers, putting his arm around her when some guy was hitting on her, getting her drinks when she asked.
I hated to admit it, but I was jealous. I was pretty sure Dawn liked Paige, too, and it didn't help when Paige kept singling my friend out, making her feel, I don't know, maybe like she liked her, before she'd turn back to Will.
I heard Gwen come into the spare room, and squeezed my eyes shut, pretending to be asleep as she tiptoed around before climbing into bed.
Jinx had a date, Gwen had Joe, and neither of them seemed to notice how quiet Dawn had been that night. I'd seen her downing drinks like there was no tomorrow.
Rolling over, I pulled the duvet tight over me, letting out a deep sigh before trying to get some sleep.
X X X
We woke up around the same time. Gwen headed straight to the bathroom, her eyes half closed as the door shut behind her. I stretched my legs out, wriggling my toes as I glanced around the room. It was simple, with light pink wallpaper and hardly anything personal in there. It had been a spare room as long as I could remember, but I knew it had once belonged to Jinx.
A thump echoed around the house, but I pushed it to the back of my mind as Gwen reappeared, rubbing her eyes. I darted into the room, connected to the spare bedroom, grabbing my jeans on the way. I was soon washed and dressed.
"Do you think Jinx is up?" Gwen glanced up. She was sitting on the bed, a cigarette in her hands and an ashtray in front of her. "We should say bye before we head off."
I followed her out of the room and across the hall, until we got to the stairs that led to the attic and Jinx's room. Gwen went ahead of me and stopped outside the door, knocking gently.
"Jinx?" she called, waiting for a few seconds before calling again.
I knew Jinx was a light sleeper, knew it really didn't take much to wake her up. Gwen glanced at me, worry in her eyes as she frowned.
"Open the door," I muttered, and she nodded, reaching for the handle and pushing it open. In the thin stream of light coming from the windows we could see her. Not in the bed, but half-dressed, knickers and t-shirt, slumped on the floor.
"Jinx!" Gwen yelled, darting forward as I stared at our friend. Her face was more pale than usual, and the way she was laying...
She had fallen, that much was clear, and I knew she was the thump I had heard.
"What do we do?" I whimpered, as Gwen fell to her knees, hands reaching out for Jinx's shoulder.
"I don't know," she choked out. "Call someone!"
"An ambulance, or...or something..."
I called Dawn, and I didn't know why. No answer, so I tried again and again and again before eventually leaving a message as Gwen begged and pleaded for Jinx to wake up.
I almost burst out laughing when her eyes flickered open and she pushed Gwen away. Not that it was funny, far from it, but a breath of air seemed to escape me as I stepped forward, staring at Jinx. She looked groggy, not quite with it. Jinx shuddered, glanced down, and a deep red blush appeared on her face as she gaped first at Gwen, then at me.
"Why am I half-dressed, on the floor, with you two in my room?" Her voice was raspy, and she was shaking as she wrapped her arms around her knees, drawing them close to her chest.
Suddenly, she looked scared.
"You passed out," Gwen said, putting a hand on her knee. I never thought I'd see one of my best friends in little more than her pants, but strangely enough, I hadn't really thought about it until she had mentioned it. "We...we came to say bye..."
The nod from Jinx was slow. She put a hand to her head, closed her eyes for a second and let out a deep breath. "I need a drink," she muttered. "And something to eat. Toast. Toast sounds good."
"I'll get it," I offered, sliding the phone into my pocket.
"I'll wait outside while you get dressed, okay?"
Jinx nodded and me and Gwen left, Gwen waiting on the landing while I made my way downstairs. The bread was out on the counter, in its usual place, and I popped some in the toaster before running the tap. It wasn't close to being finished by the time I heard two pairs of footsteps coming down.
The water was ice cold by the time I slid the glass under. Jinx and Gwen appeared, Gwen's hand on the small of Jinx's back.
The doorbell rang.
"You didn't call an ambulance, did you?" Her eyes darted from me to Gwen, and we both shook our heads.
"I'll get it." The toast popped up, Gwen headed for the fridge and Jinx sat down at the table, holding her head in her hand. I made my way to the door. As soon as I opened it, Dawn barged in, panting heavily. She spotted Jinx in the kitchen through the corridor, and made her way down the hall.
I followed, hearing her breathe a sigh of relief as she whispered, "God, you're okay."
Jinx smiled, a weary smile. "I'm fine."
Gwen was buttering the toast. The glass of water sat in front of Jinx, untouched.
"We should call an ambulance," Gwen said.
"No!" Jinx snapped, shaking her head. "No, I'm fine. I don't need an ambulance."
"You should see someone." Dawn stepped forward, eyeing Jinx. "Jay, no offence, but you look awful. You passed out. That's not healthy."
"Will you just butt out of my life?" she yelled, standing and glaring at Dawn. "Just leave me alone!"
I said nothing as Jinx stormed past us, out the kitchen and up to her room. The slamming of her bedroom door echoed around the whole house, as I saw in Dawn's face the same look I'd seen in Jinx's, when we'd found Dawn drunk and alone.
"What do we do now?" Gwen moaned.
"Maybe we should leave," Dawn suggested. "She clearly doesn't want us around."
I shook my head. "We should stay. Just for a bit. She might calm down."
They glanced at each other. "We talking about the same Jinx? " Dawn drawled, although there was a glint to her eyes and a grin on her lips. "All right, we'll stay. For a bit."
We settled in the living room, watching Friends on Comedy Central. After two episodes, Dawn and Gwen left, glancing uncertainly up the stairs before I promised I would check on Jinx before I left. We hugged, said our goodbyes, and I watched another episode before making my way up.
She called "Come in," when I knocked. Inside, Jinx was sitting cross legged on the floor, playing a game on her PlayStation, fingers moving rapidly over the controller. "I'm surprised you're still here," she said, not taking her eyes from the screen. "Gwen and Dawn gone?"
"Yeah. Need to see their parents."
Jinx nodded, and I saw a flicker of something in her eyes.
"Your parents hardly ever home, are they?" I muttered, fixing my eyes on the screen.
"I barely notice any more."
Liar. I didn't say it; just thought about how eager she always seemed to have us around, how she jumped at the chance to throw house parties.
I watched her play the game for a bit, before reaching into my small bag and pulling out the stuff Mayer had given me.
"I can't roll."
A grin appeared on her face. She paused the game, reached under her bed and pulled out a jewellery box.
"Pass it here," she said. "I'll roll them for you."
"Thanks. You can have some, now, if you want."
She glanced up at me, before returning to the work at hand, laying out the paper and sprinkling tobacco across it. "I'm all right. Mum would kill me if she came home and I was stoned. Where'd you get it from anyway?"
"I got talking to Fashionably Late's drummer."
"He seems cool." She poked her tongue out as she began to roll. "I think he used to hang around with Mathias. He's a decent drummer, too."
"I thought he was younger than your brother."
"He is. But Mathias has loads of mates a few years younger. From, you know, hanging out." She winked, before nodding at the almost finished joint. "Loads of them used to come over the house when Mum and Dad were away. I recognised Mayer, but only just. Like maybe I've seen him a couple of times, you know."
She finished the joint, grabbed an empty cigarette packet from beside her bed and slid it in, before starting on the next one.
"Thought you weren't into this, anyway."
I shrugged. "Gave me a free sample. I could...try it. It was okay when I smoked it with you."
"Well, you know Mathias is always willing to get you some, if you want more. Just be careful, yeah? You don't need a reason to piss off your mum."
"I know." I watched her roll two more, in silence, before speaking again. "Are you sure you're okay?"
"It was a one off. I'm fine – just...I don't know. Effects of last night, maybe." She sighed.
"Looking forward to your date?"
The smile that appeared on her lips brightened her whole face. Instantly, she looked happier, livelier. Jinx nodded, glancing up at me.
"Yeah. I am. Never been on a date before."
"So you like him then?"
"Yeah. Yeah, I do. He's really sweet."
"Good. I'm glad." And I was. I hoped Harrison would be good for Jinx, would help her get over Jake.
Nate had a girlfriend, Gwen had whatever that Joe guy was and Jinx was going on a date with Harrison.
Yep, everything was just peachy.
For my friends, anyway.
X X X
I avoided Mum when I finally got in from Jinx's, heading straight for my room. I spent the day on my laptop, browsing the net, playing various Sims games, until it got late enough for me to justify going to sleep.
The only problem was, once I got into my pyjamas and lay down in bed, sleep just wouldn't come.
I stared at the ceiling, listening as Mum and the twins went into their own rooms.
Thoughts of Jinx crowded my head. She was not the type of person to be comfortable on her own too much, but her brother was rarely around and her parents were always heading off on holiday somewhere.
My body twisted, sight tilting until I was looking at the door. What if she fainted again? Hit her head with no one there to notice?
I turned again, so I was looking at the wall next to my bed.
If something happened because I came home…
Almost without really thinking about it, I rummaged in my bag until I found the cigarette pack Jinx had given me. She'd handed over a spare lighter, too, and I moved to the window, trying to push thoughts of her away from my head.
The window opened easily, and I leant forward on the sill.
She'd be fine, I told myself, as I lit up. She could look after herself; she was more than apt at doing that.
The smell whirled around me, and I just hoped it would disappear by morning.
After a few puffs, my eyelids were feeling heavy and my head feeling light. My body tingled, as I stared out at the garden. Outside, it was quiet. Past the gardens of my neighbours, I could see fields. I lived more on the edge of town than Jinx, Dawn and Gwen, and whereas Jinx had cars going past at all hours, drunks shouting on the weekends, here there was nothing but the sounds of nature.
Maybe the sound of rustling or the odd bird, but nothing more. It was nice.
I smiled to myself as I finished off the joint, stubbing it out on the wall outside and wrapping the end in tissue before dumping it in the plastic pink Ikea bin in my room.
Almost as soon as my head hit the pillow, I was asleep.
X X X
In school, none of us mentioned what had happened to Jinx. But I figured she must have noticed the way we watched her eat her sandwiches, picking at them as she flicked through the latest bout of homework we'd been given.
She said nothing, just carried on as normal. It went on for a few days, with nothing else much happening. We moved from class to class, chatting about nothing at all in-between. Near the end of the week, I opened the window and reached into the cigarette packet that had become an integral part of my nightly routine. Wash teeth, wash face, get into pyjamas, have a joint.
It was empty.
I had no much he had given me, and I suspected Jinx wouldn't have made them too strong. Either way, I was out, and it made my heart sink. Twisting myself so I was leaning against the wall, I reached for the end of the bed where my phone sat, scrolled through the names until I got to his name.
"Mayer, it's Faith."
He laughed. In the background, I could hear music, and people. "You'll have to be more specific than that, love," he yelled above the noise.
"The girl from last weekend. I was sitting with your band. My mates…"
"Ah, yeah, yeah, I remember. Give me a second." The sound dimmed. "All right, go ahead, what's up?"
"How much did you give me?"
"Not a lot." I could almost hear his grin. "Sorry, can't afford to give out too many freebies. Why, you out?"
"Yeah. I was just wondering if I could get some more?"
"Sure thing, babe. Going to cost you, mind."
"You've really never done this before, have you? Look, maybe it's not the best idea…I don't want to like, corrupt you or anything."
This time, I laughed. "You're not." My mother's stifling no alcohol, drugs or boys had done that. Because we're human, we crave most what we should not have. "Please? How much?"
"Well, depends if you want a ten bag or twenty bag, or multiples of. Not many people do ten bags but I do. Price is what it says on the tin."
Mentally, I counted through the money I had. There was a little in the bank, and around my room, hidden away from my mother, was some pocket money from my dad. "Twenty," I said, confident I had enough in my room alone. "Please."
"Okay, cool. After school tomorrow?"
"Sounds good." I wrote down the directions he gave me, realising I would have to go in my school uniform. Going home to get changed would take too long, and would mean going from one end of town to the other.
Didn't really matter, I guessed.
"Look," he said, after he'd given me the directions. "I'd appreciate you not mentioning this to the others; they don't mind the odd joint but I reckon they'd pretty much kick me out of the band if they knew I was dealing."
"No problem." Jake, Paige and Will. They probably hadn't even realised I was there the other night, anyway.
But they were friends with Harrison, so I couldn't really tell Jinx, either.
It didn't bother me.
For once, I had something outside of her, Gwen and Dawn. Something they had nothing to do with, my own little world.
And, actually, it felt pretty damn good.
X X X
I found the place easily enough. To my surprise, it wasn't Mayer who answered the door, but a girl I recognised from the year above me. She was still wearing her school shirt, but had changed her skirt for a pair of jeans. Before I could say anything, she gestured for me to come inside, and I followed her into the hall.
"Mayer!" she called up the stairs, before heading for the nearest door. As it swung open, I heard people talking. They were silenced as the door closed behind her.
"Hey." He appeared at the top of the stairs, grinning as he came down. "You want to stay for a drink?" He nodded his head towards the door.
"Sure." Why not? It was Friday, and Mum would play hell, but at least she'd have an excuse for it for once. He led me into the living room, where a few people sat on sofas, chairs and on the floor. He threw names out into the air, and I caught only a couple; Mandy, the girl who had answered the door, and the name of a guy sitting just behind her, about the same age as Jinx's brother. Mike.
"Vodka and tonic?" Mayer offered, and I found myself meekly nodding as he ushered me further into the room. He left me to take a spare gap on the floor.
Those around me were drinking from cans and bottles, chatting happily to one another. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a lighter catching on the end of something that wasn't quite a cigarette. The strong sweet smell filled the air around me, as Mayer returned carrying a bottle of Stella and a glass filled with, I assumed, vodka and tonic.
He squeezed down next to me, easily joining in the conversation with his friends.
Mandy's eyes fell on me.
"You're in Clara's year, right?"
Mayer winced. "Thought we weren't going to mention her?"
Mandy laughed. "Not one of her mates, are you?"
I shook my head, sipped my drink, and felt a sudden pang for my friends. Dawn would feel just as out of place here as I did, Gwen would make the effort and slowly draw us both in. Jinx would…well, I kind of had no idea what Jinx would do, but just having here would have been good enough.
"Good," Mayer muttered. "She's a right bitch."
"I know." Jinx wobbling on crutches filled my head. Dawn and Gwen, stepping in when Clara was about to do God knew what.
Very few people knew what she could really be like, but Jinx had witnessed it first-hand.
"Isn't she your mate's girlfriend?" I muttered, as Mandy reached forward and handed me the joint. I smiled at her, before putting it between my lips and inhaling.
"Careful, love, it's stronger than the stuff I gave you," Mayer muttered. "And yeah, she may be Jake's girlfriend but…"
"But that didn't stop you shagging her," Mike said, a grin on his face. His eyes snapped to me. "And she holds it over him every time they're in the same room together."
I struggled not to drop the joint. Somehow, I managed to keep both it and the drink in my hands, as Mayer's skin flushed a dark red.
"It was a mistake," Mayer growled. "One I won't make again. She's a bloody she-devil, and she's got one of the nicest guys I ever met wrapped around her little finger."
I didn't know what made me blurt it out. "My mate likes him."
Their eyes turned to me. Mandy shook her head. "Who the bloody hell doesn't?"
"You, I hope," Mike drawled.
"Aw, c'mon, nothing wrong with the little crush I had in Year Ten." She winked at me. "Mayer's right, he's one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet."
"Which mate?" Mayer asked, as I took another puff before handing it to him. The others in the room seemed engrossed in their own conversations, deep in discussion about something political that I had all too quickly lost track of.
"I probably shouldn't say." I swigged more of the drink, trying to drown my awkwardness. Mayer chuckled.
"All right, let me guess. Your one mate…she didn't really seem like she was into guys, did she?"
"Who can blame her?" Mandy muttered. "You're all bastards." She winked at me, as Mike shot her a fake offended look.
I spluttered, as Mayer shrugged.
"And your other mate was wrapped in the arms of that hipster guy."
"He…he's not really a hipster…" I muttered, and Mayer shrugged.
"And your other mate, now, let's see, the chick Harrison's into, right?" He turned to me. "Nothing slips past me, love. It's her, isn't it?"
I couldn't seem to get any words out, as I thought of how Jinx would react if she knew I'd spilt her secret to one of Jake's mates. "I…no…she…she likes Harrison!"
Mandy began to giggle.
"Don't worry," Mayer whispered. "I won't tell."
X X X
Everything else blurred together, words slipping from my lips along with giggles, people disappearing one by one until Mayer was saying goodbye to Mandy and I was standing in his hallway, still in my school uniform, feeling younger than I had all evening. The world was on the verge of swimming around me as Mayer shut the door and turned to me.
Are you having sex? My mother's screeching voice filled my head. I bet that Jinx girl is! She's a little whore! You shouldn't hang out with girls like her!
Fuck you, Mum.
As Mayer opened his mouth to say something, I dived forward, my fingers grabbing his shirt as I planted my lips on his. He returned the kiss, surprisingly slobbery on my part despite how dry my mouth felt. He tasted of everything my mother hated; drugs and alcohol and boy.
To my surprise, Mayer pushed me gently away.
"I can't do this."
"Why not?" I snapped, a bit too harshly. Under his gaze, I felt my cheeks heat up. "Come on! I just…" Something stirred in me, just below my stomach, stretching downwards. I wanted him. But not like…not like I wanted Will. When I let my daydreams get the best of me, they were full of Will just being there, next to me, arms wrapped around me and planting soft kisses on my head.
I didn't want Mayer, not in the same way.
I just wanted to satisfy the craving that was filling me.
I began to laugh, falling against the wall as my sides creased up. Mayer stared at me.
"Cravings," I replied, turning my head to look at him. "So what's wrong with me?"
"Nothing, Faith. Really. You're a cute kid."
"You know what I mean." He shrugged. "But you're totally out of it right now, and I just…"
"You turn down every girl who throws yourself at you?" I was still leaning against the wall, wishing the world would stop tilting so I could stand up straight. "Wait, no…I know you don't. You slept with Clara. Suddenly found your morals, have you?" I crossed my arms, turning my head away from him. "Or is it just that she's prettier than me?"
Mayer stepped forward, slowly drew my arms away from my chest and, with his hands on my wrists, kept them at my sides. "Look, the others…I think they took a shine to you and your mates."
I turned my head to him, to see a soft grin on his face as he looked at me.
"They'd kill me if I took advantage of you in this state."
I was shaking. The tears came without my wanting them, and I tried not to make a sound. It didn't work. I whimpered, hating myself for it.
Falling forward, I ended up against his chest, his arms wrapped around me.
"I'll sleep on the sofa, okay?"
I nodded, and let him lead me upstairs to his bedroom.