Peak

Layla is pretty much terrified when one of the most popular guys in school is sat next to her in English Lit. Somehow, she gets over it. But once you step into someone's world, you can't step out, no matter what.

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3. but then things changed

I'd always been one of those girls who everyone thought was clever, because I usually topped the class, the ones that everyone was just a tiny bit jealous of for all the levels, though mostly pitying me for my social ineptitude. As hard as I tried, I couldn't seem to convince people otherwise; I wasn't intelligent, I just knew things which kept me ahead.

Starting music in year 7, I'd been top of the class, simply because I played piano and understood all the notes and sharps and symbols. It wasn't like I was particularly good at it, I'd never been a virtuoso, I just practised and had a vague knowledge of it all, so I aced the tests. I gave it up a year later, when it was clear that it was going nowhere.

It was the same with every other subject. I was just well-informed or knew the mark scheme or read a lot, I wasn't actually that intelligent, I could manipulate the stuff I already knew. And for some reason, the fact that no-one believed me during the awkward conversations, really annoyed me.

"Well done on that test, I failed so badly."

"Yeah, um, thanks."

"You must be so clever."

"I'm not really..."

"Don't be modest! You are!"

The simple fact was that I wasn't being modest. It just irritated me that a lie had spread throughout the entire school, something that wasn't true about me, so everyone thought better of me, when it wasn't true. If I'd been exceptionally talented at something, I would've loved to hear praise, even if I pretended not to, and wouldn't disagree with anyone who complemented my ability. It sounds shallow, but I wouldn't.

I just wasn't clever, so it infuriated me that everyone seem to think I was.

***

My heart raced as I knocked on the door, sounds of music coming from within. Was this the right house? What if he changed his mind? What if I was just too awkward around his friends? What did I mean, if? It was pretty much certain.

A figure appeared behind the frosted glass, opening the door with a click. Allo stood there, black hair tousled and upper body bare, only wearing a pair of low-slung jeans, boxers peeking out from underneath. I wasn't sure where to look or what to do, as it was clear that he wasn't ready. "Hey slag," he yawned, gesturing for me to come inside. I nervously stepped inside, looking around at the fairly normal house as he shut the door behind me. He began to walk back up the stairs, then turned around. "Come on, you can wait in my room."

I jumped, and followed him, walking on tip-toes so as not to get mud on the cream stairs. He held open a simple white door, "Ladies first," he grinned. 

How had I gone from socially inept geek to standing in Allo Jackson's bedroom, in just two months?

I had no idea.

To say it was simple would be an understatement. The room consisted of grey walls, black carpet, wooden chest of drawers, a large bed in the centre and a music system taking up an entire side of the room, currently blasting out something I hadn't heard before, a huge collection of CDs behind it. 

"Wassup? You're quiet." He followed me in, cranking up the volume on the speakers.

"Sorry, um, tired," I squeaked.

The drawer clanked as he tugged it open, pulling out a black t-shirt. "Sit," he instructed, pointing at the bed.  I immediately sank down onto it, sitting stiffly upright. My bag fell limply at my side. 

It was difficult not to watch as he stretched his arms over his head, pulling the t-shirt down, muscles surprisingly prominent in his arms and on his chest. Funny, he'd always had the slightly weedy look about him, but it was obvious now that that was wrong.

Once it was on, he grabbed a handful of things and stuffed them in his pocket, then reached into a drawer, pulling out a grey hat. "Babes, quit perving. I know I'm fit, but please, have some self-respect," he laughed, as he tamed his hair within the hat.

"Babes? Is that what you called your boyfriend last night?" I thought of a comeback just in time, standing up as he opened the door.

We walked through, him leading this time, then climbed down the stairs. "It's what I called your mum, babes."

"Fuck off," I shoved him out the door, pulling it shut behind me.

Maybe today would be just like this. Just laughing with Allo, nothing weird or awkward. But then I remembered that he said his friends would be there, and my heart rate upped.

"Nice outfit, by the way. You look sexy," he added, eyes flicking up and down my body. I could've hugged him after he said that, having planned it for about the last week. It was a grey muscle top, covered in some band design, then leggings and converse. Not exactly formal, but I'd hoped it'd be okay.

"Hey, I thought you were telling me not to perv!"

***

After walking for a while, I lost track of time, we reached a dingy park that I'd never seen before. A pitiful children's playpark stood in the middle, rusted and chipped, and dying grass covered the rest, ringed by a metal fence and small trees. There were two benches facing each other at the end, which three people were sprawled across, laughing loudly. I almost wanted to hold Allo's hand, childish as it sounded, as we walked closer, his posture clearly more relaxed than mine.

"Hey, bros," he called out, as they turned to look at us. "'Sup?"

We reached the edge of the benches, and I could see all of them clearly. One had pretty much shaved blonde hair, covered with a snapback cap. Another was black and muscled, with a small smile on his lips. The final was average height, average build and with brown hair in a sideways flick, though his eyes seemed to silently smirk at me. I recoiled slightly.

"Who's this?" the muscled one asked, nodding his head at me. 

Allo sank down into the empty space at the edge of a bench. "Jesus, I told you guys already, this is Layla." Now the only one standing, I was tenser than I thought possible. Looking at me, he added, "This is Az, Kael and Luke," nodding at the black one, the blonde one and the brunette one in turn.

"Hey," I squeaked, wondering why the hell I'd agreed to this.

"Hi princess," Az replied, mock-bowing to me.

Then to everyone else, "Seeing as you guys are all too lazy or pathetic to bring anything, all we got is this." Grinning, he pulled two bottle of vodka out of his rucksack. They all made suitable noises of approval, while I hoped that no police cars would choose to pass at that exact point in time. 

Luke looked up at me, smiling slightly, but it wasn't at all inviting. "You gonna sit down? There's space right here." He patted the empty spot next to him, shuffling over slightly. Looking over at Allo, it was obvious that he was too preoccupied with the alcohol to say anything, so I tentatively sat down, completely out of my depth.

"Ladies first?" The second bottle was offered to me by Kael, who I vaguely recognised from the year above. Not wanting to seem out of place, I took it and swallowed a mouthful, trying not to choke or throw up. Thankfully I'd drunk it before, curiously sneaking it from my parent's alcohol cupboard, but then it had barely been any and not straight from the bottle.

Throat on fire, I wiped my mouth. "Nice," I said weakly. "Is anyone else coming?" I asked Allo, while his attention was wandering.

"Az, could anyone else make it?"

"Nah, mate. Busy."

This was getting better and better.

During our conversation, Luke had brought a roll-up, or something slightly different judging by the pungent smell, out of his bag and was puffing away at it. "Here, have some," he ordered, handing it to me.

"I'm good, thanks," I refused, attempting to sound polite whilst doing so.

"Come on, it's just a bit of spliff. Not gonna kill you. Unless you're frigid or something." At that, they all burst into raucous laughter.

Fingers shaking a little, I took it from him and took a small puff.

***

I was arm in arm with Allo as we staggered down the road, singing Glass House at the tops of our voices, only the street-lights illuminating our path. A bottle was clutched in my weak fingers, brought up to my lips and drained in one as I lifted the bottom high into the air. "Wahaaaay," I shouted, dropping it with a smash. 

The others followed close behind, talking in a small cluster.

"Stars are so pretty, y'know? Like, how they twinkle and stuff. It's so... awesome."

"Yeah, they are, aren't they?" Allo replied, swaying back and forth with me.

I stopped for a moment, looking up at the sky. "Where are we going, again?"

"My place," Luke called from behind, followed by a fit of laughter. "Got more booze there!"

After staggering through the streets, we reached what looked like a warehouse, if a very tiny one, hidden in dirty back streets. Luke stumbled forwards, shoving me to the side slightly as he unlocked the door. Filing in, my first impression was of dark and dust. It seemed to be one massive, empty room, with a dirty floor and cobwebs hanging from the ceiling. Slowly I reached towards the ceiling, caught in wonder by the small spider scuttling across the rafters.

"Layla, you okay?" I heard Allo say, as if from a great distance.

"Fine," I replied, my voice strangely muffled.

That's when something hit the side of my head, and I collapsed.

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