I slept the best I had in a while. Unsure of it if was the sugar crash that tired me out, or I was just so unbelievable content and comfy right now. The only time I did wake up was because I felt movement on my left side. I opened my eyes to see Liam had turned over from where he previously fell asleep on his back, to laying on his front. His face was the softest I'd seen it. His features subtle and relaxed, lips slightly parted. I noticed that his eyelashes went on for miles. It made me jump when he moved again to readjust his arms. One resting under his head, and the other landing unconsciously over my hip.
He was fast asleep, emitting shallow breaths through the part in his lips that I knew he wasn't aware of his arm placement, but it still filled me with this glow. This comforting, pure, glow in my stomach and tingling in my hands and feet. I fell back asleep.
"Good morning sunshine's." I peeked open one eye to see Ryan, bending down next to our floor bed, leaning his head on his elbows that were resting on his knees shooting us a wide grin. "And what do we have here?"
"Fuck off." Liam mumbled, without moving or opening his eyes. I noticed then he'd retracted his arm and felt instantly hollow.
"What time is it?" I groaned, stretching my arms above my head.
"Like, 10ish?" Sally shrugged from where she was perched on my couch sipping a glass of water, "We've been awake for a while."
I eyed her with furrowed brows, then shifted my gaze to Ryan who just smiled, "Ew. Do I need to burn my bed sheets?"
"Of course not!" Sally squealed.
"What do you take me for, Alexia?" Ryan mimicked her tone, albeit dripping with sarcasm.
I directed a disgusted face in his direction, "When I've woken up properly, I'll tell you."
Ryan winked at me then shifted, to lay across Liam, who still hadn't twitched even an eyelid, propping his head up with his elbow on Liam's back. The face Liam fell asleep with, the soft and subtle face was slowly but surely reverting back to everyday Liam the more Ryan moved and spoke across him.
I rubbed my eyes, trying to muster the strength to sit up whilst Ryan just rambled on.
"It's not so messy in here." Ryan babbled. Liam sighed. "More people turned up than I thought." Ryan went on and Liam shifted, jerkier than necessary to prove a point. "When did people leave?" Ryan wondering. Liam huffed. An actual, full on, puff out of the cheeks huff.
Ryan shifted in response, and repositioned his elbow, causing a reaction, "Ry, do you fucking mind?"
"Alright, moody." But Ryan was smirking.
Liam just flipped himself over then and stood, immediately covering his crotch with his hand as he walked in the direction of the bathroom. I didn't think anything of it until Ryan spoke, "Why are you covering your dick?"
"You were lying on my fucking bladder, I'm about to piss myself."
Ryan mocked being deep in thought, "No. You're walking like you're fighting a morning hard on."
I went immediately hot. He was in bed with me, his arm was over me. Is that because of me?
Ryan looked at me, cluing me in that he was winding him up, I rolled my eyes. Liam just stuck up his middle finger over his shoulder without so much as a glace back.
"You know; a cold shower would help with that!" Ryan shouted after him.
"Fucking push you in a cold shower in a minute." Liam mumbled back.
"Na, I don't need one. Mine was sorted out this morning." Ryan shrugged, inspecting his watch coolly.
"So I do need to burn my sheets!" I pointed accusingly at the both of them, whilst trying to hold off a shiver.
"Oops." Ryan realised.
"I've already put them in the machine on a hot wash." Sally admitted, pulling her best guilty face. Then she mouthed a 'sorry.'
"Thanks. I appreciate that." I nodded, still feeling a bit weird they'd actually gone ahead and had sex in my bed. Not that I was overly fussed, not like I was using it for that. "Aw, you defiled my pretty flower sheets!" I pouted thinking of how cute and ditsy and innocent it all was.
"I wouldn't say defiled!" Ryan defended.
Liam walked back in then. Pushing his hair back off his face, eyes still half closed. He didn't even say a word, and instead just lay back down. This time closer to me because Ryan was occupying his space. His thigh was touching mine and head was practically on my shoulder.
The feelings part of me just wanted to wrap my arms around him and cuddle. But the sensible part knew I should move immediately. I sat up, and turned so I had my back against the couch.
I tried not to notice that Liam's face held a slight bit of discomfort at the loss of contact. I told myself he was just tired.
"Better?" Ryan asked, referring to the bathroom.
"Fuck. Off." Liam grumbled.
Ryan turned to me, "Liam's not a morning person."
"Do you ever shut up?"
"Na. Because, I, am a morning person."
I cracked a smile, and tapped Liam's leg with mine under the sheets, "Are you hungover?"
He shook his head, "I only had two. I have shit to do today."
"Then get up." Ryan stood, practically bouncing as he did.
"Stop talking to me."
I shook my head, laughing. "Hey." I poked Liam again, "Would you like me to make you a coffee?"
Liam just opened his eyes, and stared at me. This proper look of affection. Affection for caffeine of course. Then nodded.
"Okay, let's go to the kitchen." Ryan started to make his way to the kitchen, pulling Sally off the couch as he went, "We will leave princess to arise when he so desires."
I pushed the sheets off of my knees, and draped them over him, "Here you go, princess."
"Shut up." But the side of his mouth was twitching.
I tucked in the side closest to me, then crawled over him to tuck in the other, "All tucked in, princess."
"You're shit." He grumbled, but was biting his cheek, trying not to open his eyes.
I mock gasped, "Oh sorry, let me try again princess." And pulled the blanket back quick creating a cold gust.
He opened his eyes and the sudden burst of cold air, "You're such a bitch."
I just laughed and stood, Liam looked up at me, his eyes drawn to my clothes, "When did you put my hoodie on?"
I shrugged, pulling down the bottom of it so it preserved a bit more of my modesty, "In the night I guess, I was cold. Sorry."
He was still staring at me with this look. Was that desire? Was me wearing his sweatshirt turning him on right now? Am I seeing that right? Or am I so unbelievably out of control.
"Coffee then?" I interjected his thought process.
Liam gave a lazy nod.
Once everyone else was had woken up and left, we tidied around the kitchen and I made about 4 cups of coffee, I was sat in the kitchen waiting for my mum to get home. Liam and Ryan were still here thanks to Sally's invite to hang out with us for the day. Even though Liam so graciously declined with a "I have things to do," Ryan already suggested watching a film and didn't allow him to leave. I had to lend him a spare toothbrush and let him have yet another shower at my house. Ryan was worried if he left he wouldn't come back out. I tried to pretend that it wasn't fun we were holding him against his will.
"What are we doing then?" Ryan sipped his coffee. Not that he needed anymore, he was practically bouncing off of the walls.
"Something fun!" Sally agreed.
"I have stuff to do today." Liam reminded us, yet again, from his position crouched over his emails for the fifth time this morning.
"You're boring." Ryan commented, "Alexia wants to do something fun!"
I grinned in Liam's direction, a part of me just wanting to sit around my house. Except I didn't want to sit around my house alone.
Liam raised an eyebrow at me in question, I shrugged, "I'm starving."
We ate all the easy to make food last night.
Liam kept his eyes on me for another few seconds, evaluating if what he 'had to do' was more important than disappointing me. At least, I guessed that's what he was thinking.
"I'll take your silence as a yes! Let's go and get food, I'm fucking famished." Ryan threw Liam's keys in his general direction. Meaning, they clanged onto the floor behind Liam.
"You're aim in on point."
"Good job I'm not a striker like you then isn't it?"
Liam just narrowed his eyes at his attempt at banter for Liam's secondary part-time hobby. Although, I haven't seen him play in forever. I wasn't even sure if he was still on the team.
"Sorry, I forgot you don't like football jokes. Let's go!" Ryan bounded towards the door. Sally downed the rest of her coffee and followed, pushing him out of her way as she went.
"I thought you were a defender?" I wondered.
"Are you trying to have a conversation with me about football?" Liam stopped in his tracks and looked at me bewildered.
I lifted a shoulder, "I just want some clarification."
"Striker. I'm good at avoiding people."
"You haven't said a good emo quote in a while. I almost missed them."
"Piss off." He smiled and pushed me off of my stool.
"The days still young where too next?" Ryan asked once we finished eating our two breakfast muffins each.
Liam drove us to three different drive-thru places before we finally settled on sitting in this little café. Everyone had different opinions on what they fancied, so in the end Liam just parked and we walked to the closest place.
Ryan and Sally were flirting the entire time, and Liam and I were somewhere in-between laughing about the same meme over and over again, and trying not to vomit all over the other two who were currently taking part in some heavy PDA. All I could do was laugh because Liam kept on making comments about how full on Ryan can be, which went straight over each of their sex induced heads.
I realised at some point that Sally wasn't the innocent virgin flower type I left behind. She'd grown up, and although I certainly wasn't judging her, I found myself wondering if I'd changed at all. She was meant to be the one I had all my rights of passage with, and I couldn't help but have that niggling thought I missed it all and time was running out for me.
"I actually have shit to do." Liam rolled his eyes.
"Liar." Ryan waved him off. "What about bowling?"
"I'm going home."
"Fine we'll come with you."
"Nothing I say will get rid of you will it?"
We spent the entire night watching TV, watching Liam do work, which he actually did have to do. Then ordered some pizza. I half wondered if we were over staying our welcome, but it was clear that Ryan does this a lot. So much so, Liam doesn't even argue with him anymore. Sally was enjoying herself, Ryan was enjoying himself, Liam, despite being mildly irritated was laughing every now and again. And I was enjoying myself, really enjoying myself. So much so I didn't want to go home. But the time came, and the next day rolled around and here I was, standing at my front door watching Sally roll her suitcase down the steps.
"I can't believe you're going home." I crossed my arms across my chest adding some protection to the hollowing that was happening inside.
"I know." She turned, and her face was a mimic of mine. Upset and the tiniest bit of guilt, "Promise you'll call more?"
I nodded vigorously, "Promise you'll call me more than you call Ryan?"
Sally made a face, but gave a small smile, "I won't be calling Ryan. This was merely a weekend fling."
"Fine." I say sarcastically, shooting her my own small smile. Before reality came crashing back towards me at the grip of a suitcase handle, "What am I going to do?"
Her face turned back to that small bit of guilt, masked with sympathy, "You have good people around you, Alex. You just have to remember that."
"They aren't like you." I whispered. I was trying not to shake, it felt like I was moving all over again. Leaving everything behind, dropping me back into that place where I just wanted to lock myself away and never do anything fun ever again.
"So? Not everyone can be like me?" She said, quite proudly, "You have Taylor, admittedly she's a psycho but she quite clearly loves you. Millie, adorable and looks up to you like crazy. Mark is the nicest, funniest, pretty boy football player I've ever met. Polly – hilarious. Ryan is… Like a puppy, and you and Liam are..." She hesitated, staring at me, gaging my reactions.
"Funny? Broody?" I tried to finish for her, but I knew what she was getting at. And at the moment, I didn't want to hear it. I didn't want to think about how mixed up I am.
"I was going to say complicated. But if you've both decided you're just friends than you've got a good thing going because he's the most genuine person I've met in a long time." She finished, and I was glad she didn't push anything on me.
"They're still not you."
But it was nice she pointed out all the fantastic qualities my friends did have, because at the moment I'm forgetting about everything but how much I miss her already.
She put her hands on my shoulders, steadying me. I hadn't even realised I began to shake with upset, "You can talk to me all the time. In-fact, talk to me the most but I'm now unsure how I'll be able to offer an unbiased opinion now I've met everyone."
"I just wish it was as easy." I admitted.
"Nothing wrong with having separate friendship groups you know? I couldn't imagine getting both my college friends and my work friends together. People are different. You don't have to be just one person. It's part of growing up."
"I don't?" I blinked at her.
"No. I had a great time with Taylor, I had a great time with the others. But I couldn't imagine them together. And that's okay… That's what makes the world interesting."
I was hit with a sudden bout of déjà vu. Thrown back into the car with Liam when everything was messy between us. I was hit with the realisation that the reason I get on so well with Liam is because he reminds me of Sally. The subdue, smart talking, straight shooting side of Sally that keeps me level and grounded.
"You're right." And so was he.
"You'll visit soon?" She was making a face like she knew the answer.
"I know. Just think about it." She leaned in and wrapped her arms around me, "I love you."
"I love you." And she was gone, and I was thrust back into that uncertainty that followed me around since I moved. I'd lost my comfort blanket, and I needed to get used to it all over again.
In all my 'Sally is gone' depression, I'd missed three phone calls from Millie and five from Taylor. It hit me that I'd made plans to go and hang out at Mark's. Plans that would probably involve a lot of chatting, and entertaining and most importantly, energy. Energy was something I was lacking right now. All I wanted to do was sit and drown my sorrows with copious amounts of chocolate and crisps. Preferably cheesy ones.
Alexia: I don't feel like it tonight guys, I'm sorry.
Millie: Are you okay?
Alexia: Sally went home today.
Millie: Aw, that's really sad. I hope you're okay! I'll see you at college tomorrow.
Ruby: : ( feel better bbe x
Taylor: It's fine. Come anyway.
Alexia: I'm just a bit upset that's all.
Taylor: Maybe coming out will help?
Alexia: Maybe but I just feel like sitting in
Taylor: Ally! I feel like I haven't seen you in ages
Alexia: I know, Taylor. Me too.
Taylor: Then please come! I have so much to tell you!
Alexia: I won't be much fun
Taylor: I'll bring you cake?
I smiled at that, feeling a little lighter than Taylor is at least trying to cheer me up in her own way.
Alexia: I'll think about it.
Taylor: I've already ordered a cake, sorry, you have to come.
Alexia: Taylor : (
Taylor: Fine. Wallow.
And I was felt it, that hollowness in my chest getting bigger. Maybe going out with friends is what I need. If not, it's at least what I'll have to do to not fall into a funk. A funk where I avoid any social interaction at all.
Alexia: I'll get ready now, the things you make me do
I changed into the simplest outfit of jeans and a t-shirt, jumped into my car and drove to Mark and Liam's. All the while, being in my head trying to think up conversation topics. Something I haven't done in months. I felt like I had a head cold. Like my mind was blurry and lazy.
I'd either descend into myself, not uttering a word, or share too much because I'm not thinking. So thinking up topics was the only way I could prevent either from happening.
As soon as I walked into the house Taylor attacked me in a flurry about Tom. Why hadn't he messaged her first, at all, while she was away. Where did he go the night of my party, because he certainly wasn't at home according to her Snapchat Map.
All I could do was stare at her and agree. I wasn't adding much conversationally; it was more she was talking at me, begging for someone to listen.
"Ally, do you want a drink?" Mark asked from the fridge.
I shook my head, "It's a school night?!"
Mark rolled his eyes, "Shh. I won't tell if you don't."
I gave a small laugh, "I'll keep your secret."
He winked at me and passed out some beers to everyone else. I wasn't in the mood to drink. In fact, I wasn't in the mood to be here at all. I wanted to retreat. But I knew I couldn't leave. I knew if I left I'd go back into myself. I was scoping the room, everyone was laughing, drinking, partaking in mindless banter than I wasn't in the frame of mind for. One tactless comment aimed at me and I'll probably crumble and burst into tears.
My mind tried to find a happy place, and I blurted it out before I even thought about how it would look, "Hey, Mark. Is Liam in?"
Taylor's eyes were on me instantly. Ruby's eyebrows were raised in a way that said she was impressed I'd even asked. Millie was trying not to smirk, and was hiding it well behind her cup. Mark's face was shocked, but he recovered quickly, "Yeah. He's in the attic."
"Why?" Taylor asked, all the while biting her cheek. I needed an excuse that wasn't 'English work' because that just wasn't cutting it anymore.
"Just something about Sally." She narrowed her eyes at me, and Mark raised a brow, "And Ryan." I finished.
Mark's face softened and he laughed, "Yeah, I heard about that! What happened?"
"What do you think happened?" I rolled my eyes as I stood.
"Shit. Fair play, Ry." Mark nodded.
I turned to Taylor, "I just need to know if Ryan said anything to Liam about her. You know how it is."
And I knew that she did, because I was the one doing the relaying to Mark about Tom in the beginning of their relationship.
Taylor nodded, "Hurry back!"
I nodded back and tried not to speed up my pace out of there. Although I did climb the stairs at a fast rate and was at the door to the attic in under ten seconds. I didn't hesitate, I just pushed the handle and opened the door not even being able to muster the energy to overthink the situation.
"Liam? You here?" I shouted into the room.
I saw him sat at his desk, arms folded, headphones on, watching some sort of video on the screen with the look of pure concertation. He hadn't heard me; he hadn't even noticed I was in the room. I smiled as I walked around the back of him.
My heart picked up with adrenaline, first because I was about to try and jump scare him, second because it'd just registered in my mind that he's sitting here topless in just a pair of joggers and a hat.
I lent in close behind his ear, I tried not to breath so my breath wouldn't tickle his neck, "Whatcha' watching?"
I heard all the air escape his lungs and his body lifted about an inch off of his seat. He yanked off his headphones and turned around to see who the culprit was, "Fuck! Lexi, what the fuck?!"
I was already laughing, but when he spoke with a voice that was three octaves above his usual pitch it sent me into a spin. I had to sit down on the arm of the couch.
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry!" I said between fits of giggles.
"Fuck me. I literally think I died." He put his head on the table and one of his hands on his heart to steady his heartbeat.
"Eh, you'll get over it." I shrugged and walked back over to the computer to inspect his screen, "So, what were you watching?"
I squinted my eyes. It looked like some sort of documentary.
He recovered, clicking pause on the video which froze a picture of fish and an octopus, "Blue Planet."
"David Attenborough? What a riveting night you're having."
"Don't knock it until you've watched it. Caught it one night when I couldn't find the remote and I've been hooked ever since."
I nodded and stepped back a bit to give him some space. My thoughts flew back to yesterday where we spent practically the whole day in here.
"What's up?" Liam's voice brought be back.
"Nothing." I forced a smile.
"Okay, what do you want?" He asked again, spinning his chair to face me.
"Do I have to want something all the time? Maybe I just wanted to come up and chill for a while. Is that okay?" I became defensive, not in the mood to overthink what I'm doing here.
He studied me, with a raised brow and parted lips, "Okay." He bit his lip, still analysing me.
I sighed, "I'll even watch Blue Planet with you."
His face softened then as he cracked a smirk. He stood up then, his body now mere inches from mine, "I'll be right back, I'll just go and put on a shirt."
"You don't have to." I mumbled before I thought again. This time I actually meant it as an act of politeness. He was in his house; he didn't have to change for me.
"Na, I'll distract you from the fishes." He retorted without missing a beat.
I shook my head with a smile, "Of course you will."
He returned wearing the hoodie I slept in and some crisps. We watched an episode of Blue Planet in silence, other than me gasping in awe because this programme is flipping incredible.
"I told you it's brilliant." Liam said after the fifth gasp.
I turned to him, my eyes wide, "Yeah, but still! How the hell do fish know how to do that? That's insane!"
The next episode was about to start, but Liam reached for the remote and paused it, "Are you going to tell me what's wrong now?"
I pulled a face, disappointed because I thought I was hiding it well, "Sally went home today."
"That's shit. When did she go?" Liam asked. I took a deep breath and lent back into the couch cushion, Liam subconsciously followed suit, our shoulders and thighs flush.
"This morning." My voice was thick.
"You'll see her again." Liam said matter of fact.
"I know," I brought my legs up to rest my head on my knees. My mind was foggy still, and what I knew would happen did. I started spouting my thoughts without a care, "I just... it was easy with her. She got me."
Liam scoffed jokingly, prodding my side with his elbow, "She got you? Because you're so deep and philosophical?"
"Fuck off," I leant into his side to push him back, but I ended up just staying there, "You know what I mean. It was easy. Like I wasn't pretending."
"You're pretending?" Liam's tone wasn't shocked.
"No. Not really? I don't know." I furrowed my brow, "It's just a bit hard. For a long time, I haven't known where I've fit and when she's here I fit. It just makes me sad."
"I understand." This time Liam's tone was different, it held sympathy. I snuck a look at him, he was staring into blank space.
His eyes flicked to mine and his thoughtful stare evaporated, "Yeah. But you don't need to pretend. You have friends."
"Yeah but... where do I fit?" I squinted in thought willing him to understand me.
"I think... you over think things." Liam shook his head with a small smile.
"Oh really? Shit, I didn't know that." I smiled back.
We sat in silence for a beat. My thoughts were mulling over in my head, searching for comfort; for validation, "Why were you interested in me?"
Liam's face was slightly taken aback, he searched my eyes. I could tell he was now overthinking about how to reply. Did he not have an answer?
I tried to make it easier for him, "Like back when that was a thing and you were interested in me? Why?"
"Why do you want to know?" his voice was thick, eyes narrowed.
"Because I was horrible to you." I replied firmly.
"Because I've been there. I could see through it." Was his reply.
"See through what?" Confusion overtook my face.
"You. Trying to make yourself fit. Instead of just being yourself."
"How?" I almost whispered, my eyes searching his face.
His leg started bobbing up and down, his head going to a place it hadn't been in a while, "Believe it or not I wasn't always so fucking sure of myself. I used to pretend to."
"Really?" I was surprised. I couldn't imagine Liam acting anything but – confident. I couldn't imagine him acting like me.
"I think everyone does. Everyone's so scared that they'll be alone that they over compensate."
"True." I pursed my lips at his wisdom, "What are your thoughts on friendship groups?"
"Specifically?" He stared at me with an eyebrow raised and a slight look of amusement.
"Like... can one person have different friendship groups?" I tried to say it without looking all confused myself.
"Yeah." He answered with a nod.
"I don't have a lot of friends." Liam rolled his eyes and jabbed me in the side.
"Yeah, but how do you work out if you can have separate friends?" I started again, my voice raising with the question, panic seeping in.
"Over thinking." He stopped my train of thought, becoming bored, "Hang out with whoever you want to fucking hang out with. It's whose there when your house is burning down that matters."
"My house is burning down?! I probably left the iron on." I smiled with a sarcastic nod.
"Eat your fucking crisps."
And just as much as you'd always find people in the kitchen at parties, since this moment you'd always find me in the attic at parties, too. Splitting my time between them both.