After the events of the morning, I had crept back into my house, praying that my housemates wouldn't be awake at such an ungodly hour on a Saturday morning. Luckily, no one was and I managed to slip in unnoticed. I quickly showered then I collapsed back into my own bed feeling completely exhausted.
A good few hours later, I woke up again, this time only feeling mildly better. My head was still throbbing so I got out of bed in search of some aspirin. There was usually some in the kitchen so I headed downstairs. Naomi, my housemate, was sat at out little dining table with the newspaper spread out and her morning cup of tea next to her. "Morning sleepy head!" she called out as I staggered in and I merely grunted in response.
"Where's the aspirin?" I wanted know.
"In the bottom drawer," Naomi pointed and helped to get me a glass of water.
Knocking back two pills, I washed it down with the water before looking up at my friend. "Thanks."
"No problem. So someone didn't come home last night," she said in a singsong voice, giving me a pointed look.
I groaned. "You don't know the half of it."
"Sit down, I'll make you some tea," Naomi suggested. "Start talking."
I heaved a sigh and told her what had happened though I conveniently left out most of the details. I explained how I had gone out with the guys, gotten drunk and ended up sleeping with some guy. Even retelling the story disgusted me.
Naomi, on the other hand, let out an excited squeal, "Ooh! Who was he?"
"I don't actually know who he was," I confessed, hiding my face behind the mug of tea Naomi had made for me.
"What?! Maddie!" Naomi chided.
"I was drunk!" I protested.
"You didn't ask his name?" she shot me a disdainful look.
"I figured I'd never see him again so it didn't matter," I justified.
Naomi snorted. "In this small town? Yeah right. Was he hot?"
"He wasn't my type," I replied.
"You mean he didn't look like Josh?" she raised her perfectly arched eyebrows.
"No, I mean he wasn't my type. He was blond and…pretty," I told her, thinking back to his smooth chiselled features.
"Oh so what Maddie?" she demanded with a wave of her hand. "You've got to be more open minded about these things. Did he have a hot body?"
I felt my cheeks heat up. He did indeed. I could tell he worked out by the definition in his physique. I remembered running my hands along the smooth grooves, marvelling at them.
"Ooh! He did!" Naomi said excitedly, catching the tinge of pink on my cheeks. "I can't believe you didn't at least learn his name! How was he in bed?"
"It was ok I guess," I said nonchalantly, taking a sip of my tea.
"Liar," Naomi grinned.
"Look, whatever it was, it was a mistake. It's never going to happen again," I said with finality.
"How did it happen anyway? I thought you were panting after Josh?"
I threw her a withering look but filled her in on the argument Josh and I had had and how I was trying to forget about him when the bar guy came along. It was almost an act of spite. "I know it's pathetic," I finished.
My friend shook her head. "Nah, don't be so hard on yourself. It happened. And if you look at it from a different angle, maybe it was a good thing to help you get over Josh."
"Are you kidding? If anything it's completely the opposite," I argued. Then in a smaller voice, I added, "besides, we've already been through this.I'm not trying to get over know how I feel about him. Its not just something I made up last week."
"I know sweetie, I'm sorry," Naomi said quietly. "But you also know what I think about all this."
I sighed again. "I can't just tell him how I feel, Nai."
"Why not? How do you know he doesn't feel exactly the same: secretly in love but too afraid to ruin the friendship? One of you has to be bold about it."
"I'm not like you," I said wistfully but knew she was right. The girl had done it herself. She and Preston, our fourth housemate, had finally gotten together after months of sexual tension when Naomi confronted him and told him that she had "a thing" for him. He had been so taken by her confidence that he confessed that he could feel their connection too and wanted to give it a try. It seemed that since then, they had no problems ensuring that all their tensions were fully dissipated. Thanks to them I had discovered a new love for my headphones and mp3 player.
"Honey, you have no qualms about speaking to a group of strangers, arguing over pointless facts and standing up for an election but you can't tell your own best friend how you feel?" Naomi pointed out.
I cracked a smile. "That's different."
"Maybe. But you should still tell Josh," she advised, just as the man himself strolled into the kitchen.
"Tell me what?" he asked, looking from me to her.
"Nothing," I replied quickly but there was an edge to my voice.
Josh frowned but didn't press the issue. Instead, he asked coolly, "so how was your night?"
"It was fine," I lied. "The guys and I had fun. How was your date?" I said the last word as if there was a bad taste in my mouth and Josh caught it immediately.
"What the fuck is your problem Madison? I don't tell you who you can and can't date," Josh sneered.
"That's 'cause she hasn't dated for almost four months now," Naomi threw in, trying to ease the tension with humour but it was lost on us.
"Just forget it Joshua," I shook my head and got out of my seat. "Thanks for the tea Nai, I'll talk to you later."
"Anytime babe," Naomi smiled.
I left the kitchen and headed towards the stairs when someone caught my arm and jerked me back. "Maddie, wait a second," Josh implored.
I turned to face him and waited for him to speak first. He must have just woken up too as his dark brown curls were a mess and there were still bags under his emerald green eyes. He looked tired but he was still so beautiful. After a brief moment, he said, "I don't want to fight with you."
"Neither do I," I said softly.
"I'm sorry about last night. But I just don't get why you're so hung up over the whole Sandra thing? I mean, its not as though its serious; we're just hanging out and having a bit of fun with each other," he explained.
"It's not that, it's just her. I guess she just rubs me the wrong way," I shrugged. It was partly true after all.
"Look, if I was going to marry her and you were saying all this, I'd dump her in a second. But I'm just having fun. Chill out a little, okay," he asked lightly, ducking his head to meet my eyes.
Despite my usual aversion to Sandra, I couldn't help but feel just a wee bit sorry for her. "You make her sound like some sort of play thing that you'll get bored of in a week," I told him, making a face.
"Oh come on, I'm not that mean," Josh protested.
"But that's what it sounds like."
"Well I'm a dude. Forgive me for thinking with my dick sometimes," he smirked.
"Seriously," I chided. "Who the hell would want to date you with that attitude?"
"Sandra isn't complaining," he pointed out, waggling his eyebrows suggestively.
"Too much information," I groaned.
"Sorry," he said though he hardly sounded apologetic. "Are we okay?"
"Yeah," I nodded.
"I'm glad," he drew me in for a brief hug then as he pulled away, said, "what is that mark on your neck?"
"What?" I asked, alarmed.
"There," Josh reached to a spot just below my ear. "And there's another one…"
"Where?" I demanded, rushing to the mirror we'd hung by the front door. There on my neck, as Josh had pointed out, were at least two red marks—hickeys. I was horrified. Why hadn't Naomi pointed them out to me earlier? I wondered if Josh suspected what they were but he showed no outward signs. Surely he'd know a hickey when he saw one…
Josh was still looking at me with curiosity and I contemplated just telling him everything. But there was no way I was about to tell him that I'd slept with a stranger the night before. Even though he was my best friend, the whole issue was still too raw for me. I knew I would probably tell him at some point but it certainly wasn't right then. "Err," I stalled, searching for an excuse. "It's probably just an allergic reaction from that new perfume I got."
"Oh. Might want to get some cream on it then," Josh suggested, seemingly oblivious.
"I will," I nodded quickly, my face still pale.
"Well, I've gotta run, I'm meeting a friend for lunch. I'll see you tonight at Ethan's?"
"You know I'm always there," I grinned.
"Of course, it wouldn't be Saturday night poker without the queen herself being there," he made an extravagant bow as he backed away towards the door.
"And don't you forget it!" I called after him before rushing upstairs to hide the offending marks.
I arrived at Ethan's just after seven that evening, as I had done nearly every Saturday since I met the guys over a year ago. They were three of the most chilled out people I'd ever had the pleasure of meeting and I always looked forward to our poker games on Saturday nights when the five of us got together, ate loads of pizza, drank beer and played round after round of poker. The stakes weren't usually real, but I had won more than one free meal from each of these guys.
"Maddie!" Ethan greeted me with a warm hug at the door. I loved his hugs because Ethan often reminded me of a teddy bear, he was big and quite cuddly despite the tough demeanour he pretended to have. I thought of him as an older brother and he had always looked out for me. "Come on in, the guys are already inside."
"Have you started yet?" I asked, helping myself to a beer from the fridge as we passed the kitchen.
"Not yet but we were about to. We might as well play a few rounds while waiting for the food," Ethan shrugged, leading the way into the living room.
"We haven't ordered yet?"
"No, Ralph said he'd pick it up but he's running a little late. I invited someone new to our game tonight so Ralph's gone to get him first," Ethan explained.
I nodded, not thinking much of the information. New people were always joining our weekly poker sessions though on the whole it tended to just be the five of us. Following Ethan's lead, we strolled into the living room where Josh and Walt were already dealing out the cards and dividing the chips.
"Just in time, M," Josh said by way of greeting and handed me a stack of chips. I took a seat between him and Ethan as Walt dealt out the first round of cards.
"You should have come out with us last night man," Walt was saying to Josh. "There were so many hot ladies around!"
I snickered to myself but didn't say anything. Here we go…
"Really?" Josh asked with mild interest.
"Yeah man, there was this brunette chick Ralph was dancing with last night," he let out a low whistle. "So hot! Ethan, did you see what she was wearing?"
"She may as well have been naked," Ethan replied, though I could hear the disgust in his voice. "Her skirt could have passed off as a belt."
"Ah man, what do you know, you're married now," Josh teased and Ethan went red. He wasn't yet, but he was engaged to his long time girlfriend, Tammy, who was currently on an exchange programme to France for a year. The guys ragged him about it all the time but it was all in good humour.
"It leaves nothing to the imagination," Ethan clarified quickly. "Where's the mystery?"
"Screw that," Walt interjected. "I'd rather see her naked. I'd tap her in a second."
"You'd tap anything in a second," I spoke up and the guys laughed. Walt's hedonistic attitude would have offended most people, especially women, but after a year, I'd pretty much gotten used to his talk. It was just how Walter was. He talked a lot and liked to make himself out as some sort of Ladies' man but there was rarely any truth behind his words. I knew he treated women with complete respect when it came down to it.
"Trust me babe, I take only the best. I don't just let anyone get some of this," he said cockily, gesturing rudely to his nether regions.
"Put it away Walt," Ethan groaned. "No one here wants to get any of it!"
"So I'm guessing you didn't get much action last night then?" Josh smirked.
"No one was worthy," Walt proclaimed but nobody believed him. "How about you?"
"Nah," Josh shook his head. "We just went to the movies."
"That's it?" Walt demanded.
Josh shrugged. "Yeah, pretty much."
"I can't believe none of us got lucky last night," Walt said dismally. "I sure hope Ralph had better luck."
"Hey, wait a sec, Maddie, I'm sure I saw you leave with someone last night," Ethan pointed out and the guys suddenly turned to face me.
My heartbeat quickened. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"Don't play dumb with me," Ethan chided. "I'm sure it was you."
"Yeah," Walt threw in. "Actually, I remember seeing you dancing with some guy but I didn't get a good look at him."
"Was he the same one you left with?" Ethan wanted to know and I was growing more and more agitated by the second.
"Um," I stalled, searching for an excuse. I really didn't want to answer his question.
Unfortunately, my hesitation was enough and they inferred that I did from it. "Right on Maddie!" Walt clapped me on my back. "Who was he?"
I had no idea how to answer. Normally, I would have just shrugged the question off, answering it without a second thought because it usually never mattered much. This time however, I didn't have a clue who he was but I certainly didn't want to tell the guys that, not with Josh sitting right there. I stole a glance at him and noticed he was watching me with a somewhat odd expression on his face, partly curious and partly hurt, probably as I hadn't told him about the situation personally before Ethan brought it up. For that moment, I prayed a meteor could have struck the room, just so I could have had the attention diverted away from myself.
And it did actually happen, except it was in the form of Ralph bursting in through the door carrying three boxes of steaming pizza. I thanked the heavens as the guys seemed to momentarily forget everything else except the food, opening the first box and grabbing a slice each. I was about to breathe easy again but stopped when my heart caught in my throat: trailing into the room after Ralph was the very someone I had hoped that I would never have met again. And yet, there he was, standing about two feet away from me.
"Guys, this is Ben," Ralph called out to us, pointing to the guy with him before going around the room introducing us to him. "You already know Ethan; beside him are Walt, Josh and Maddie."
His eyes had followed Ralph's gestures until they got to me where they settled. A salacious grin crept along his lips when he recognised who I was but went unnoticed by everyone else as he said, "Hey guys."
"Hey Ben," Josh greeted. "You're in my macroeconomics class, aren't you?"
"Possibly," Ben replied vaguely, finally tearing his gaze away from me. "I am doing that class but I just transferred here last week so I'm not entirely sure of which classes I'm in."
Josh laughed. "I see. So how are you finding things so far?"
"Not too bad," Ben responded, helping himself to a slice of pizza. "I've met some cool people already so it's better than I expected. But this town is so small! You guys only have one club?"
"Man, don't get us started!" Walt cried. "God knows how we've survived three years here on so little."
"There is actually another one but it's such a shithole that it doesn't really count," Josh added.
"Have you been to Liquid yet?" Ethan asked, referring to the club that did count.
"Yeah, I was there last night," Ben nodded.
"So were we. In fact, we were just comparing notes from last night," Walt filled in. "Maddie was just about to tell us who she was with."
"Yeah, I was wondering about that," Ralph turned to me. "I got back from the bathroom and you were gone."
"It seems she left with someone," Walt said with a wink to Ralph.
"So who was he M?" Josh prompted.
"It was no one," I muttered, staring intently at my cards and wishing the ground would just open up and swallow me whole.
"Oh come on!" Walt cajoled. "Tell us!"
"Don't be like that, you've always told us before," Ralph added.
"Yeah, tell us Maddie," Ben threw in with a challenging glint in his eye and I wanted to kill him!
"We never quite got to talking about his name," I finally said, not taking my eyes off Ben. It wasn't entirely untrue anyways. While he had asked about my name a number of times, I never once recalled asking for his.
"You are such a player!" Ralph grinned, shaking his head. "You've become worse than all of us combined."
"What about you Ben, how was your night?" Ethan asked, shifting the focus to the new addition to our group.
"Pretty good actually," he replied smugly.
"You hooked up?" Walt questioned.
"Man, you work fast! What was her name?"
"Goldie," Ben told them and I cringed involuntarily.
"I've never heard of the name," Walt said, scratching his temple. "Did she say what she was majoring in?"
"Dude, I have no idea. We were too busy doing other things," Ben said, causing the guys to clap him on the back and shouting various appreciatory remarks.
Our eyes met once more and it seemed as though an agreement passed between us. I hadn't wanted to tell the guys who I had been with the night before, especially with Ben's arrival and on his part, he had respected this. I had been worried he'd give me away but he had been tactful enough to use that awful nickname he'd created for me instead without arousing any of their suspicions.
I was thankful for his discretion but from the intense look in his eyes, I knew this was far from over.
A/N: I'm not too keen on this chapter and will be back to edit it later. It seems to be missing something but I can't quite seem to put my finger on what…
FAQ: hasn't this plot been done so many times before? Yes, it has. I've never claimed to have particularly original ideas and all the good ones have already been done anyways. To be honest, when I started this, it just formed in my head this way, I didn't necessarily get inspired by reading something similar to this if you know what I mean. Still, I hope the story is interesting all the same. :)
Wow, I really didn't expect so many reviews on the first chapter! Thank you so much!
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