'Hey,' I said as we were laid in bed, the heat of the night causing us to have the sheets around our waists.
'Mm?' Zach replied, absently stroking my arm with his finger.
'Is it okay if Alex comes to the barbeque as well? It's just that I don't want to leave him out.'
'Yeah, sure, that's fine,' Zach smiled.
'Are you sure?'
'Of course. That would be great,' he nodded and he seemed overly pleased, but I didn't think any more of it as he pulled me into him despite the heat and sleepily rested his chin on the top of my head.
Two Weeks Later
'You look fine,' I said for the thousandth time as Alex checked himself again the in the mirror. 'Now can we please go and pick Holly up? We'll be late if we don't get a move on.'
'Okay, okay, I'm coming.' We bustled out into the hallway and walked quickly over to Holly's. I only hoped she wasn't having second thoughts about her outfit too, otherwise we'd never be on time to meet Zach so that he could pick us up in his car and take us back to his college for the barbeque.
'I don't know why you're so worried about how you look,' I remarked as we descended yet another flight of stairs. 'It's only a barbeque for God's sake.'
'Yeah, but you never know what fit blokes might be there,' he retorted, rolling up the sleeves on his light-blue shirt. 'Zach's college might be teeming with gay guys for all I know.'
'I don't see why they'd all concentrate on his college.'
'Luck,' Alex shrugged. We arrived at Holly's shortly and thankfully, we were able to be on our way without incidence and we made it down to the car park outside our collegejust one minute late and Zach was stood against his Mini with his arms crossed. When he saw us, he stood up and held the front passenger door open for me while Alex and Holly got in the back.
'Saddle up!' Zach called, starting the engine.
'Thanks for letting me come,' Alex said as he put on his seatbelt.
'No problemo,' Zach grinned. 'Let's hit the road!' His college was near the other side of town and it was a short drive, but when we got there, I could vaguely here music and gathered that the barbeque must already be under way.
'I can hear music,' Holly said as she stepped out the car, looking towards the college entrance.
'It must be loud then…' Zach replied thoughtfully, 'because the barbeque's on the other side of the college.' As he led us through his college, I thought how it looked very similar to ours – the cloisters, the massive library, the lawns…the only thing which was missing was the river, but I knew it didn't come through this part of town. Eventually, after walking through endless cloisters, we turned the corner and a massive, sprawling lawn came into view, even larger than our college's riverside one and on the expanse of healthy, mown grass were marquees, tents and various picnic mats which people had laid out. On the other side of the lawn I could make out large speakers and a small stage, much like the one that had been at our ball, and the DJ was at the decks, blasting out the music which we now heard tenfold louder than we had in the car park. Also at the other end of the lawn adjacent to the speakers was the actual barbeque and there were rows of grills and barbeques (and even a spit-roast) and the main concentration of people were in this area.
'Right, now we've got to find Crash and Dewey,' Zach said, puffing out his cheeks and leading us towards the mass of people, giving us a running commentary on the situation as we approached.
'Chris is the DJ – he's doing a Music degree – and the people on the barbeques kind of swap every like, half an hour so that everyone gets a chance to party.'
'Who organises it all then?' I asked, looking around at all the white marquees.
'Us – the students,' he replied. 'There's like a group of them – a committee – who organise all the food and marquees and stuff and everyone in the college chips into the cost. It's great.'
'We should so do something like this at our college,' Alex grinned, looking around.
'Now, if I know Crash and Dewey…' Zach said, craning his neck over the crowd. 'They'll be where the food is.' He led us over to the row of barbeques and other cooking stations (I was slightly startled to see a whole pig on the spit roast) and we all looked for Crash and Dewey, but Zach was the first to spot them talking to one of the cooks at the end barbeque.
'There you are,' Zach said as we went over to them. Crash was wearing an eye-catching red shirt and it was the kind of colour which shouted out its presence and demanded your attention and it took me a few seconds to be able to look away from it.
They both looked up and Dewey smiled at Holly said hey to us and Holly went and stood beside him. There were greetings all around and Zach introduced Alex to Dewey and Crash and for some reason, Crash was staring at Alex, but I didn't have time to find out why because Zach was already leading me away.
'Let's go to the spit roast,' he said, pulling me away by the hand and I felt guilty for leaving Alex, but he hardly seemed to acknowledge my absence. I let Zach pull me away and I glimpsed Dewey leading Holly away too towards what looked like one of the marquees. 'Jack's doing the spit-roast,' Zach informed me as we neared the tent. 'He's a pro.'
'Where on earth did you get the pig?' I asked, eyeing it distastefully as it turned on the spit.
'The butcher in town was very nice about it, apparently,' Zach replied.
'So is it all free?' I asked as the guy called Jack carved some meat off.
'Yeah, because we pay for it all beforehand by our contributions, remember? It's not a profit thing. We do it because it's an awesome way to end the year,' he said, taking the pork roll from Jack which had stuffing and apple sauce in it. 'Want one? They're really good.'
'Umm…I'll give it a try,' I shrugged, Jack carving off some more fatless meat with seasoned practice. 'So they do degrees in butchery, huh?' I asked and Jack laughed as he filled a roll.
'No, I do Engineering, but my Dad was a butcher, you know?' he smiled, handing me my roll. 'I used to work in his shop.'
'Well I'd be concerned if you learnt how to carve meat any other way,' I remarked, turning the roll over in my hands before taking a bite. Jack guffawed and shook his head.
'You got yourself a comedian, Zach mate,' he laughed.
'Comedienne, actually,' Zach corrected him teasingly.
'Meh, I don't do English, do I?'
'This is seriously good,' I said, my mouth full.
'Glad you like it,' Jack smiled.
'This is amazing,' I frowned as Zach led me away. 'I could get used to these,' I nodded, taking increasingly larger bites.
'I told you he was a pro. Come on, let's have a walk around,' he said, taking my hand and leading me across the lawn. For the next few hours, Zach and I traipsed around the lawn, him introducing me to people and within an hour, I reckon I'd been introduced to almost everyone at the barbeque. Zach seemed like his college's version of Tom, for he seemed to know just about everyone on a friendly basis. We'd bumped into Dewey and Holly a while ago and we'd sat with them on the grass and ate, Holly trying a chicken and mustard burger for the first time in her life. Apparently, it was a delicacy of Dewey's and by the looks of it he'd got her hooked, for after the first one, she had another two chicken and mustard burgers. I'd never seen her eat so much so quickly in my life. One thing which was bothering me however was that we hadn't seen Alex since we left him with Crash and I asked Holly and Dewey whether they'd seen either of them and they said they hadn't.
'They're probably just walking around somewhere. It's a big lawn,' Dewey shrugged, seeming preoccupied with his chicken drumstick.
'Perhaps I should go and look for him…make sure he hasn't gotten himself into trouble,' I said, looking out across the lawn and squinting to see whether I could spot his light blue shirt anywhere.
'I'm sure he's fine,' Zach said, glancing at Dewey quickly.
'Yeah I know, but I haven't seen him for hours. I'll just go and see if I can find him,' I said, standing up.
'Okay, well…come back here if you can't,' Zach said.
'Okay.' I headed off and methodically searched from left to right across the lawn, making my way through crowds and groups of people and craning my neck to try and spot Alex, but it was all in vain when I'd reached the other end of the lawn without seeing him. I frowned and bit my lip thoughtfully, wondering where else he could be. The library was up the hill from the lawn and next to it a quad, so at a loss for any better ideas, I headed up the hill to walk through the cloisters of the library to search there.
There were a few people sat on the stone benches in the cloisters, hiding from the hot evening sun but I couldn't see Alex anywhere. I was beginning to get slightly concerned, but I told myself to calm down and think rationally. He couldn't have gotten himself into too much trouble and no doubt he was just somewhere around the lawn and I hadn't spotted him in my quick search. Taking a deep breath in, I decided that I might as well look around now that I was here and I stepped out of the sun into the quad walkways, admiring the stonework like I often did at my own college. There were slightly different patterns and images in the pillars and walls and I was enjoying the peace of being away from the noisy barbeque, although the music could still be heard clearly. There was hardly anyone here and I walked at a leisurely pace in the shade, but stopped in my step when I heard a noise seemingly coming from an alcove just ahead of me. I approached the alcove silently, purposefully trying to be light on my feet and I edged towards it cautiously before peering subtly around the corner and it took a few seconds for me to take in what I was seeing.
Masculine hands were wrapped around Alex's neck and his mouth was attached to someone else's as his hands worked their way underneath a bright red shirt. I watched as their mouths opened wide rhythmically and their tongues pressed against and past each other's with each consuming kiss, but it was who Alex was kissing which took the longest time to process.
'Whoa!' I cried, stepping into full view and holding my hands up. Alex jumped back from Crash and at first they both looked like naughty school boys caught red handed, but then Alex grinned sheepishly. 'Have I missed something?'
'We were just…talking,' Alex shrugged, throwing his hand towards Crash who wiped his lower lip with the back of his hand.
'You're gay?' I asked him incredulously and he merely glanced at Alex and then down at his feet with a grin.
'Surprise?' he said, hunching his shoulders.
'Have you guys been here the whole time?' I asked disbelievingly. Surely they can't have been making out for the past few hours.
'No…we went for a walk around the barbeque for bit,' Alex replied, glancing at Crash. 'Then we came up here to get away from the noise, and…well…'
'Were you thinking of joining us again anytime soon?'
'Yeah, of course,' Crash said. 'Just not quite yet,' he added quietly.
'Well, we're sat down by the marquees,' I said, turning away.
'Okay, we'll be down,' Alex said and I walked off, still frowning at what had just happened, trying to comprehend it all. It partly answered why Crash had been staring at Alex when they were introduced, but Crash couldn't have possibly known Alex was gay unless Zach had told him. Unless gay guys had some special, personal radar for other gay guys. But the way he'd stared at him…I brought the image into my mind's eye and my brain automatically matched it with other, similar stares I'd seen in countless romance movies, and I stopped short when I put the pieces together.
Crash's stare was, without a doubt, the 'love at first sight' stare and I recalled how Alex had barely registered Zach pulling me away – he'd been fixing Crash with exactly the same look.
With this onslaught of revelations came the epiphany of why Zach had seemed so enthusiastic about the idea of Alex coming to the barbeque – why he'd seemed overly-eager about the idea when I first broached it when we were in bed. And why he'd pulled me away so soon after us all meeting earlier…he'd had it all planned.
'Why you scheming little…' I mumbled to myself as I headed back to where we were sat on the grass. 'So that's was why you were so eager for Alex to come here,' I said, jabbing my finger at Zach as I approached them.
'I just caught them playing freaking tonsil tennis up in an alcove in the quad!'
'No way!' he laughed, and Dewey gave him a high-five. So he was in on it too.
'Wait, what?' Holly frowned, looking between us all. 'Alex and who?'
'Crash!' I cried, sitting down.
'Crash is gay?' Holly gasped, having the same reaction to the news that I'd had.
'Why didn't you tell me before?' I asked Zach, hitting him on the leg.
'You never asked!' he retorted innocently.
'So that was your plan? To get them together?' I nodded, looking between him and Dewey.
'We were only planning on introducing them,' Dewey grinned.
'Not that they'd been snogging already,' Zach chuckled.
'Oh my God,' Holly laughed. 'Alex and Crash! That's so cute!'
'I don't think he'll be complaining about feeling like a gooseberry anymore,' Zach said, looking rather smug, probably because their plan had worked better than they hoped. As he said this, I saw Alex and Crash walking across the lawn towards us and they still both looked like naughty schoolboys who'd been caught red-handed.
'So you two got along then?' Zach grinned as they sat down.
'You could say that,' Dewey replied, raising his eyebrows at Crash.
'I am the matchmaker extraordinaire,' Zach said, putting his hands over his heart and bowing his head.
'Can't argue with that,' Alex said, leaning back and propping himself up on his elbows. 'Can't argue with that at all.'
We stayed outside on the lawn until it got dark and although the barbeque had now turned into a party and there was still music and hundreds of people around, Holly and I decided to call it a day.
'We should probably be getting back now,' I yawned, burying my face in Zach's chest, for we were all laid on our backs looking at the sky. 'Are you dropping us back?'
'Yeah,' he said, sitting up with me as Holly and Dewey did the same.
'Alex, are you coming?' I asked, for he was still lying down beside Crash.
'Actually I'm gonna stay,' he said, turning to me and putting his fingers through Crash's.
'Okay, night,' I smiled, and Holly kissed Dewey goodbye properly on the lips before Zach led us back to his car.
'Now Dewey's going to be the gooseberry,' he commented and we turned back to look at Dewey sat down beside Crash and Alex, who by the looks of it were now kissing.
'I'm sure he'll live,' I shrugged, putting my arm around Zach's waist. He dropped us off outside our college and I said goodnight to Holly as we parted ways outside our residence building, and I plodded tiredly up to my room, wanting to be in my comfy bed. As I opened my bedroom door and dragged my feet inside, I heard a rustling beneath my foot and looked down to see that I'd stepped on some paper. I picked it up and turned it over in my hands, seeing writing through the paper and realising that it was a folded note. With a frown, I opened it up and read it in the dim light:
I've gone up to my parents early and probably won't be back until we start next term, so I won't see you for two months.
I just wanted to say that I'm sorry about everything that happened and everything I did at the ball. If Zach makes you happy then I can't stand in the way of that, but I just want you to know that I love you and that I'll always be your friend. Sorry I'm not saying this to your face, but I just had to leave early because of everything. I sent a letter to Holly too. I hope she understands. Tell her that I'm sorry for everything and that I truly mean it.
I hope you have a great summer holiday and I wish you all the best with Zach.
Don't call me – I'll see you when I get back.
I read it over four times and stood there, motionless, staring the floor and holding the letter. Holly would have reads hers by now and I considered phoning her, but strangely this was something I didn't want to share with her and deep down, I knew she wouldn't want to share whatever Freddie had written in his letter to her. So, I folded the piece of paper back over and put it on my bedside table as I got changed and then stared at it in the darkness as I lay in bed, wondering what on earth I was going to do next year when he returned.
If he still loved me when he came back, then I knew it was going to be impossible for us to be friends.
It would just be too hard.
A Week Later
'Get a room!' Zach teased when Alex pulled Crash into him by the waist and kissed him.
'We have, you're just in it,' Alex retorted before pressing his lips against Crash's again. The six of us were walking through the park after having just had lunch in the small café in which Zach had proposed his suggestion to me and Holly about going to the barbeque. It was officially the summer holidays now and we were enjoying our freedom immensely, already making the most of it even though we had seven more weeks to go before the next term started.
'I can't believe you're ditching us already,' Holly grinned at me and Zach and there was agreement from the others.
'It's only for a week!' Zach replied, rolling his eyes. 'I'm sure you can survive that long.'
'Besides, we're only going to Devon,' I whispered loudly, making a face.
'Hey! Don't dis my home county!' Zach protested. 'You'll love it.'
'She can't do country living,' Alex grinned, poking his tongue out at me. 'It's like the outback for a city girl like her.'
'It's not that bad,' Zach reassured me. 'There is civilisation in the countryside, believe it or not. There's this wonderful thing called electricity that we have.'
'Whatever,' I said, nudging him to the side.
'And you'll love my parents. They're into that whole nudist thing.'
'What?' I choked.
'I'm kidding!' he laughed. 'Of course they're not nudists…'
'I knew that…' I mumbled.
'We'd better step on it if we're going to get there for dinner,' he remarked, looking at his watch and we quickened our pace through the park to the car park on the other side of the playing field. He'd put our suitcases in his Jaguar as we left to go into town and when we reached the car, I gave Holly and Alex hugs goodbye and everyone stood to the side as we got in and Zach revved the engine. He then reached into the side arm and pulled out the driving goggles which he'd put on the first time he took me out to dinner.
'Not those again!' I laughed and he fitted them over his eyes before revving the engine a final time and waving to everyone.
'Ciao, amigos!' he cried and we shot out of the parking space and onto the street, the wind tearing through my hair and blowing it back as we sped off in the direction of Devon.
'I hope you know how to start a fire with sticks!' Zach shouted gleefully to make himself heard over the wind and the engine. 'Because we're going to be camping!'
My wails of despair were drowned out as he revved the engine and my curses were gone unheard as he drove, laughing, onto the motorway.
AN: That's it people. That's the end. I actually almost shed a tear when I wrote the last sentence. Two chapters in one day, huh? That's a record.
I'm so sad it's at an end now. What excuse am I going to have now to sit on my arse in front of my laptop all day?
And to all you people who have read and reviewed, thank you for coming on for the ride with me and thank you for all the feedback - you have no idea how much each review made my day :')
I wanted to end it on a happy note, what with all the shit that's gone down in the last few chapters, so if you really want to feel the mood for the last bit, listen to 'Good Time' by Owl City, because that's the song which inspired the ending.
So, this is me saying a final goodbye. Project Amy, over and out.