"Thank you so much for coming over Kate." I said.
"No problem." she replied. "I'm happy to help relieve a little stress. Where's the pile?" she asked jokingly.
Her jaw dropped when I dumped the mountain of homework on my desk. A few sheets slid off the work surface and onto the floor. I smiled grimly at her shocked expression.
"Here. Where do you want to start?"
"Jesus Sarah! I thought you were exaggerating!" she exclaimed.
"I don't have time to exaggerate." I said seriously. "Let's get going.
My theory was that the brain power of two people would speed up the work process. I sincerely hoped I was right.
Kate picked up the worksheet on the top of the pile.
"How did you manage to get this much homework?"
"I guess I've been kind of distracted lately. I didn't notice it all building up." I sighed.
It was true. Lately I'd found it difficult to concentrate on anything for more than a short period of time.
Kate examined the worksheet. It was already half filled in.
"I can tell. This English barely makes sense! Were you even awake when you wrote this?"
"Barely." Kate looked at me in concern. "Sleeping's been difficult lately."
She narrowed her eyes but decided to drop it. Together we started to re-do the sheet.
"To be honest I'm surprised you didn't get Bo to help you. Isn't he meant to be a whiz at English?" Kate asked.
"I would, but he's too busy with all his sports clubs. I hardly see him anymore except in maths." I replied glumly.
We placed the English paper to one side and picked up the next piece of work to complete.
"You're his girlfriend! Bo should make time for you!" Kate protested.
I gave her a small smile.
"You try telling him that."
"I've got half a mind to try." she said angrily.
"Don't be too mad at him." I said quickly. "Bo's a great guy. He's just got a lot on his plate right now."
"So have you!" Kate exclaimed.
"I'm fine." I replied nonchalantly.
"Yesterday Lynn told me you spent the whole of lunchtime in tears!"
"It'd been a bad day." I defended.
"She said you couldn't stop crying!"
"Yeah, well I'd had an argument with Bo."
It hadn't been a proper one, nothing like the shouting matches my parents frequently had but the bickering had been enough to set me off. I seemed to cry at the drop of a hat nowadays, but normally I was good at hiding it.
I couldn't quite believe that Kate was the one to launch my intervention when she'd seemed so down only a few weeks ago. I remembered talking to her back then, she'd been really upset but bizarrely she'd been unsure of herself. That particular trait was seriously out of character for my friend. I was not entirely sure what I said to comfort her but it had seemed to do the trick in the end.
"And don't even get me started on the shaking -" Kate began.
"Just look at yourself. You're doing it right now."
I glanced down at my hands. Sure enough, they were trembling in my lap. I opened my mouth, ready with an excuse I prepared weeks ago when I realised I'd started this embarrassing habit, but was interrupted. As if on cue, my parents started to yell. My writing hand froze mid-calculation as their vicious words struck me like a physical blow.
"I AM SICK AND TIRED OF THIS BULLSHIT JONATHAN!"
"I AM FUCKING TIRED OF YOU MELANIE! NOT EVERYTHING IS YOUR BUSINESS!" my father bellowed.
"MAYBE IF YOU WEREN'T ALWAYS SNEAKING OFF I WOULDN'T HAVE TO BE NOSEY!" mum screamed.
"I DO HAVE A LIFE OUTSIDE OF YOU!"
"WHAT? WITH THAT SLUT?" Mum laughed bitterly.
"DON'T CALL HER THAT!"
"I COULD SAY WORSE. SHE'S A CU-"
But my mother's sentence was cut short. There was a sound of skin on skin and then a terrifying silence. Finally, there was a sob.
"Shit Melanie I'm sorry." my dad apologised, his voice returning to its regular volume.
"S-stay away from me!" mum cried.
I heard her run up the stairs to their bedroom. She didn't bother to close the door behind her. As her sobs turned into wails I could hear every single one clearly.
It was only when Kate took my hand in hers that I realised I was crying silently in unison with my mother.
"Let's put on some music." she decided.
She grabbed my Ipod, shoved it into its deck, turned up the volume and pressed play. The power chords of Avril Lavigne drowned out my mother's crying very effectively. Kate returned so she was sitting directly in front of me.
"Look; the others are worried about you. Hell, I'm worried! You know you can talk to us right? It's going to be okay." she assured me.
I couldn't hear her over the electric guitar. Kate rolled her eyes and leant further forwards so our faces were barely an inch apart.
"It's going to be okay." she repeated. "I promise."
I didn't see how she could keep that promise and it must've shown through in my expression because she said "We will make this better."
And then her lips crashed into mine.
Part of me screamed in protest. What was I doing? This was wrong. I was cheating on Bo. However the majority of me retorted that Kate was a very good kisser and unlike Bo at least she was here for me.
After what seemed like a glorious eternity we broke apart, coming up for air. That was when it started to sink in. I'd just cheated on Bo.
Kate was flushed but gave me a shy smile which quickly turned into a look of confusion when she took in my expression. She opened her mouth to speak but I got there first.
"I'm sorry. If we're going to do – " I paused trying to think of a word to sum up what I'd felt between us but couldn't think of anything appropriate. " – this, we can't do it now.
"Sarah – "
"Fine!" Kate snapped and made her way out of the house.
As I heard the door slam I wondered if that had been the first time Kate had ever kissed a girl. One thing was for sure: that had been my first time. Had I just lost my best friend because of it?
I barely got any sleep that night. When I finally did manage to doze off I was awoken by the sound of my bedroom door closing. I sat up and scanned my room for the source of the disturbance. A tell-tale gleam of light reflected brightly off my mum's favourite broach.
"Mum? What are you doing?"