The next time I saw Aerik, he was alone, and I couldn't help but feel a bit frustrated by it. I'd not been able to get Declan off my mind despite our brief time in each other's company, and I found my imagination wandering at the most inappropriate times. It was for that reason that Stephan decided to 'go on a break', and I was once again single. I half suspected that Stephan had grown bored of me already and was out sleeping with the next easy slut he could get his hands on. I wasn't too offended, because I found that I couldn't take Stephan anymore anyway – not after meeting Declan. They were leagues apart.

Aerik tried his best to comfort me after being dumped, even though I didn't dare tell him the real reason Stephan had grown bored of me. I'd come to be a good actor in the bedroom and feigned my way through the relationship through faking orgasms, but I could only think of one person, and it certainly wasn't the guy shagging me.

It was almost my sixteenth birthday; sarcasm aside, it was a fine time to get dumped. It gave me so much more freedom for my big day, and I'd planned on inviting every good-looking guy I knew, in hopes one of them might take interest in me. I'd planned the party to be quite a low key affair, and doing what teens do best, I'd organised a boozy house-party at my flat. Mom had made a bargain with me, and she wasn't going to be interrupting us that night at all, so the flat and the freedom – and the boys – where mine to do with what I pleased.

I mentioned it to Aerik, who I'd previously invited, and the enthusiasm in his boyish face shone like he hadn't been invited out to a party for years. I thought I knew why. Aerik's crush, Callum, was a renowned part-goer, so there was little doubt that Callum would turn down Aerik's offer of going to a house-party with lots of beer.

"I think I'll invite some other friends too, so it doesn't seem like I'm asking him on a date…" Aerik thought out loud. I gave him a nod, waiting for him to say more. After he didn't, I thought I'd ask, in desperate hopes of an answer I'd been longing for.

"Like who?" I asked, casually.

"Joe and Leo perhaps. I'll see if they fancy coming along with me."

"What about Declan?"

I'd said it far too quickly, and Aerik tilted his head in an almost knowing way. I kept my expression steady; a tactic I'd mastered when defending myself. I made it seem like a purely innocent enquiry, and he dropped his chin.

"I don't think he'd come. Declan would rather stay at home with a good novel and a cup of tea. Parties aren't his favourite scene."

I subconsciously rolled my eyes. "Pfft, he sounds pretty boring," I said, without disguising the harshness in my voice.

"That's not his fault though," said Aerik gently, "he's never been the same since his dad was murdered three years ago."

I hung my head at the news, and felt a stabbing guilt that I rarely ever felt. Murdered? I felt helpless and sympathetic for a boy I barely knew. Maybe because I'd been so quick to judge him by his reservation, and after all, it seemed like the boy was still suffering a tragic loss. Ashamed, I didn't mention the party or Declan again.

That Saturday, I set about cleaning. This bargain with mom had turned out to be more unfair than I'd expected. In return for a night's worth of her absence, I was expected to clean this grubby flat, top to bottom, before and after my guests were here. I began with the kitchen while mom sat in her usual spot on the sofa, channel-flicking through crap. I cleared off the work-surfaces, sorted the mugs, and threw away the out-of-date tomato puree that had expired eighteen months ago. I mopped the lino and cleaned out the microwave, and by the end of my labour, the kitchen looked better than it had done in years. It took me almost a day. It soon dawned on me that I really had my work cut out for me if I wanted the rest of the flat up to this standard too.

It was Monday before I finally got the whole place sorted, and as mom had promised, she left the flat in the afternoon to stay with Tomas - her new boyfriend who I suspected was probably an asylum seeker from south Europe. I'd pushed the settee to the far end of the room by the window, with the coffee table to accompany it. To the side, I'd set up a line of irregularly sized tables for putting food and drink on. The television remained in the furthest corner, and I'd borrowed George's hi-fi system so we could annoy the shit out of my neighbours with our heavy-bass dance music.

About forty minutes before the rest of my guests were due to arrive, Jacky and his twin Sam, and my other two friends George and Ellie came round to help me with final preparations. They helped me shove all my presents into my room. They were junk anyway. Chocolate, vouchers for stores I'd never visit, notebooks and pens, and even a shaving kit and aftershave from my clueless father. George's older brother Joe, who'd be accompanying Aerik to the party later, had gone out and bought us alcohol even though he was still underage himself. George took pride in setting out his brother's collection of illegally acquired booze, while helping himself to the food that Ellie and the twins had donated.

Jacky had insisted that the food be themed, so we had brightly coloured biscuits and little iced cakes that he'd put time aside to make. He also came with jelly of many artificial colours and flavours, and fizzy drinks with just as many E-numbers as the jelly. I really couldn't guess what the theme was supposed to be, so when asked, Jacky replied 'cute food', and I decided it would be best not to make any verbal comment. I doubted anybody would be interested in Jacky's childish sweets, but he meant too much to me to risk damaging his pride.

A little later, when I was doing my final sweeping in the living room from when Jacky spilt the salt and vinegar crisps, Sam approached me timidly with a tap on the shoulder. I looked up to see Sam displaying a grin to match his twin's, and George stood coolly as he always did. I stood up, slightly paranoid that my boxers had been showing while I was bending down. Jacky stifled a giggle, and I noticed his hands were behind his back. Ellie approached me first, shoving a clumsily wrapped present into my hands. She hugged me gently, as Ellie often did, and I unwrapped the present without a word. I laughed when I saw what it was, shaking my head. She'd somehow managed to buy me a joke dildo, and though I saw the humour in it, I knew it'd be going in the darkest corner under my bed as soon as she left. I wasn't that desperate. I turned to Jacky, who was having trouble keeping his giggle under control.

"Happy birthday sexy!" he squealed and thrust a small wrapped box into my hands. The other two wished me the same, minus the casual addition of 'sexy', and I beamed.

"We all paid for that," George offered, as he flipped over a card in his hands for me to take. "Seeing as you don't have one, and for God's sake, you're sixteen now."

I took the box, and began to tear open the paper. From the colourful design and neatly written tag, there was no hesitation in guessing that this was none other than Jacky's work of art.

"I used up a whole month of pocket money to help pay for that," Jacky inserted, just as eager as I was to see what was inside.

On the front of the box was a logo; a logo I knew only too well from adverts on the television, and by its side was a picture of a sleek black mobile phone. I looked at the trio in utter disbelief, thinking over and over that there was no way they had bought me what the box suggested. I worked my way through the seal into the box, and pulled out a shiny new mobile phone, complete with a charger and headphones. Rushing over to the sofa, I set the box down by my side and started to assemble the gift I had been waiting for the past four years to receive. I didn't give the handbook a second look, and right away tapped the buttons to a gradually irritating musical tune, checking through all the features the phone offered. I couldn't express how thrilled I was to finally have my own mobile.

"Thanks," I gasped, after a long happy silence. I hugged the three of them tightly, almost toppling over when I latched onto Jacky, who was about a foot shorter than me.

"Ian," George said, "you should open this." He handed me the envelope again, and inside was a birthday card, with piece of plastic inside like a credit card. "It's for top-up. Swipe that at the shop and you can pay for credit. I've already put ten pounds on for you, so you can use that thing as soon as you want."

I beamed and thanked him again, and set about the frustrating task of working out how to use the phone. By the time my guests started to arrive, my phone was as much of a mystery to me as it had been since I opened it, with no luck of solving how to use it. I might have to consult the handbook after all. Slipping it into my trouser pocket, I greeted my guests, and showed it off to them, putting on the act of knowing what to do with it.

The party warmed up quickly, and soon my flat was bustling with sweaty teens all dancing in synchronisation to music. I didn't join in much, and spent a lot of my time chatting to the guys I'd deliberately invited along tonight. But none of them seemed my type, and it wasn't long before my aim of the night was just to get drunk.

It was some while into the party – by which point I was far beyond able to form coherent sentences – before Aerik arrived. I answered the door, leaning on it so I didn't tumble through, and invited him in with a stumbled greeting. Callum was closely followed by Aerik, who was casually followed by Joe. I turned to see them headed straight for the alcohol – Callum and Joe grabbing beers and Aerik a fruit wine.

I was just about to close the door when a dark haired boy with a familiar scent of aftershave walked past a few seconds after Joe. He was dressed quite smartly in a pale blue shirt and black jeans; his hair was slightly messy, but it suited him. My body froze for a split second, and I realised that Declan had come to my party after all. He followed his friends to the sofa, after grabbing some lemonade. I made no hesitation in going over to talk to them.

"Hi!" I sang, perching myself on the arm of the sofa next to Aerik. Joe and Callum talked about their band a few feet away, stood out of the main body of dancers. Declan sat directly next to Aerik watching the bubbles resurface in his drink.

"Happy birthday Ian!" Aerik chirped, handing me a card. "So what have you had so far?"

"This baby," I murmured as I pulled my mobile phone from my pocket. I handed it to him and he looked it over.

"That's some posh technology you have there, who bought you that?"

"Jacky, Sam and George did," I slurred, "they saved up loads for that."

I looked over at Declan, whose attention was still on his drink. He hadn't said a word so far, and I reckoned he wished he wasn't here. I decided I'd speak to him anyway. If it went badly, I would blame it on the booze.

"How you doing Dec?"

"Declan…I prefer that…" he answered matter-of-factly, but not at all rude or patronising. "I'm fine, um…you?"

"Good too. I love big parties."

"I guess they're ok," he replied.

It occurred to me how much I was going to struggle talking to him. After all, what did we have in common? Nothing so far.

"He's nothing like his brother," Aerik interjected. Declan scowled at his friend, but his expression eased into that of a smile. "Not the sociable party animal like Ash."

"You make me out to be a hermit, you know that?" Declan sighed. The three of us laughed. I looked at him again, addicted, knowing that this stranger was the reason I'd lost my boyfriend, the reason I'd gone to so much effort in the hopes that he might be here, the reason I was forcing myself to behave even under the influence of alcohol.

"Who's your brother?" I asked out of interest.

"You should know him," Aerik joked, giving my arm a subtle nudge, "you used to stalk him! You do remember Ashton don't you?"

"Ashton Bromley!?" I spluttered, "he's your brother?"

Declan nodded, and suddenly the penny dropped - the scruffy dark hair, the mellow brown eyes, the northern accent, that flawless handsome face. Declan was obviously the more introverted of the two, but just as handsome. Like his brother, he'd taken art, too. Why didn't I guess before? That's why Declan had been so familiar and alluring. Steadily, Declan's identity was piecing together, but there was still so much more I wanted to learn about him.

Though unlike his brother, Declan was more of a mystery. If their dad had died three years ago and the loss had affected them both, why was Declan so noticeably reserved, and Ashton was so outgoing? Why did Declan prefer to read novels, and drink lemonade at parties, rather than play sports and drink beer like Ashton had done? They may look alike, but their personalities were far from similar. But that was superficial judgement. I didn't know Declan, but I sure as hell would make sure I did sooner or later. Like his brother two years before him, it seemed that Declan Bromley had acquired me as a fan.