Alice in LalaLand


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3. 3

I kick at an empty coke can. Charlie’s late.

5 o’clock was approximately thirty seconds ago. This is just uncalled for.

“Hey man.”

My heart skips a beat. This jumping up on me thing is becoming a habit. Charlie swivels me round and pulls me into one of those friendly guy hugs that have no romantic meaning to them whatsoever. Only there is that tiny little spark inside of me somewhere that wants me to hold on forever, which is pretty creepy seeing as I certainly do n.o.t fancy Charlie. He pulls away and flicks his fingers towards some stranger standing next to him.

“This is Ed. Ed, meet Alice.”

Ed is tall and lean, and looks like the kind of guy you’d see on those work-out advertisements, in other words, the kind of guy Charlie Sean would be clear of. But the guy’s full of surprises.

“He plays drums.”

Ed nods with his chin, which has little bits of stubble poking out.  Okay, I check him out. He is hot, in that muscular, manly kind of way. Next to me and Charlie, he probably looks like a supermodel. His slick brown hair is pushed up into a quiff that looks pretty hard to achieve. Black tinted sunglasses are hiding his eyes, sitting upon really, really good cheekbones. Even I’m jealous. Charlie catches me checking him out, and obviously gets the wrong idea. “And he’s got a girlfriend.”

What the hell Charlie? You’re making me sound like a freaking teenage whore girl or something.

I give him a long, hard cold look. He shrugs, smiling sheepishly.

“How’s about we go get a starbucks and discuss over a coffee?” He offers, and both me and Ed nod. They start walking, and I hang back for a couple seconds just to check out the view. I knew it. Ed has a damn sexy butt. Charlie looks over his shoulder and I catch up, smiling like the freaking teenage whore girl I am.

            Charlie picks a table by the window, looking over the sun soaked high street.

“I’m gonna go order,” he says as we take our seats. “Iced coffee?”

I nod. He knows me too well. Ed frowns.

“Nah man, black coffee.”

I frown back sarcastically, and that earns me a little chuckle. Ed slides off his glasses and props them against the little sugar pot. His eyes are almost as good as his butt.

Dark and mysterious.

“So you play drums? That’s pretty cool,” I say. I am a pathetic conversator. If that’s even a word.

“Yeah, I started playing when I was like, what, twelve?” He has a nice jaw line. Very...masculine.

“And how old are you now?” I press on. This, I actually want to know.

“Nineteen.”

Three years older. Three years isn’t much, right? He’s still datable. Wait, what am I doing? Charlie’s words ring in my mind: He has a girlfriend. He is off limits.

I nod slowly. “I’m sixteen,” I say. Talk about something else. “So what made you start drumming?”

His eyes instantly flick up, glistening and white, and his lips part. The colour in his face washes out, and that adams apple in his throat bobs as he swallows hard. He looks genuinely scared.

A chocolate brownie and two cookies land on the table, breaking the space between us, and the expression on Ed’s face is gone so quick it’s like it wasn’t even there. Charlie swings into his seat, balancing three coffees in his arms.
“Black coffee..” he sings pushing a paper coffee cup in Ed’s direction.

“Iced coffee...and a frappucino.” He smiles up at us, looking proud of himself. Ed rolls up his sleeves. My eyes almost fall out.

“Bloody hell,” I blurt. “Man, I dig those tats.”

Charlie flicks a quick glance while taking a bite of his brownie. “Nice.”

Ed grins. “My dad does them. Well, I did most of these actually; it’s easy when you know how.”

“Your dads a tattoo artist? Lucky,” I sigh, taking a sip of my coffee.

“Anyway, TNBT,” Charlie interrupts, flexing his hands. “That’s what we’re here to talk about.”

“TNBT?” I repeat. “Am I missing something?”

“The Next Big Thing. Man, I thought you were the expert here, Al’,” he teases. “Well, we need a bassist, another guitarist maybe and then we’re all good.”

Excitement is circulating through my body. “We’re seriously doing this? What about a drummer? Dude, we need a drummer.”

Ed clears his throat sarcastically. “Have I just turned invisible or something?”

My heart almost stops dead. I might be competing in The Next Big Thing with just about the hottest drummer that exists.

Life rocks right now.

            After spending what felt like a lifetime convincing Charlie that I am capable of walking home on my own, I finally get some Me time. I take the long way back and head through the park. My mind is exploding at the moment; I need to run through some stuff.

So now there’s a chance I could be entering TNBT. That alone is just crazy mental. Darrel Donoughue’s on that show. Man, that is unreal.

And I am now officially in a band-in-the-making, and it looks pretty promising. Far more promising than the little crappy garage bands I’ve been in and out of for years now. And I have a hot drummer. Who has a girlfriend. Talking of Ed, what the hell was all that about? I only asked was why he started drumming. He looked like I stabbed him straight in the guts.

And Jay. Yesterday was just...hard. Are we really history? Do I want us to be history? Why am I even thinking about him, this is against my own rules. No more Jay. He’s put me through enough already.

But right now, no more Jay looks harder than it sounds.

All I’ve got is the view of his back, but even just with that I can tell it’s him. The soft ruffled waves of his hair ripple a little in the breeze, and his long tanned fingers wrap round the swings chain. He’s with a group of people from school, mostly girls. Elsa. Pretty little Elsa sitting next to Jay. Batting her eyelashes. Being pretty. And being very good at being pretty. My stomach churns, and I steady myself against a lampost pushing up from the concrete path. Jay’s with other girls. Hot girls. Sure, there are like two more guys there, but knowing Jay, he’ll just want to flirt. Especially with Elsa. I’ve got a headache. I need to get home, like, yesterday. I turn on my heels, and walk back the way I came. I’ve had enough thinking for one day. But in the distance, I can still hear that warm, deep laugh that used to be my favourite sound once upon a time. Right now I’ll do anything to make sure I never hear it again.

            When I get home, mum’s sitting at the kitchen table, stressing over the laptop screen.

“Hey mum,” I say, sliding a slice of white bread into the toaster.

“Hi Alice. I’m just a bit busy at the moment. Good day?”

My thoughts stumble back to Jay. I could lie to myself and say I’m over him. But I’m obviously not. I frown, that headache creeping back again. “Yeah. Great.”

Mum doesn’t say anything else, she’s too engrossed in clicking furiously away at the illuminating screen. My toast pops up, and I forget about buttering it. I manage to snatch it and flee to my room, doing my best to keep myself on two feet.

I fling open my wardrobe doors and pull a chair over. It moans against the hard wooden floor. I stand on it. Route through the mess lurking at the top of my wardrobe. There it is. The box. I grab it. Pull it out. Get off the chair. Flump onto my bed. Stare at the box. Don’t open it. Stare at the box. Open it. Stare some more. Don’t do it. Do it. Don’t. I open the box, and overflowing pictures flood out onto the duvet. I pick one up. Two smiling faces, one with long brown hair that’s had a battle with hairspray, the other with blonde waves gently licking his forehead. They’re sitting outside a cafe, arms entwined, looking careless and happy and in love. Then all of a sudden, the cafe, the couple, the happiness, it all leeks through my fingers, and the picture falls onto the bed. I stare at the pile of pictures, so much happiness, so much love. I take another one. This time the couple are kissing, giggling against each other’s lips, his hand cupping her pale cheek. I drop it like poison. This was a bad idea. My eyes sting, and I rub them. Man, what was I thinking? I scoop the pictures back into the box, and press the lid down hard. I take a good deal of time staring at the writing written in permanent black pen. Alice & Jay- Forever and Always.

Ha. For the first time in a few hours, I laugh.

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