It was the middle of the summer holidays and Beth Edmund was on her knees, rummaging through boxes of vintage items. Her aunt Lydia had a thing for old vintage style. Beth didn't mind working for her aunt on weekends or school holidays. It was one of those shops her high school mates didn’t know existed. Lydia Edmund stood over her, she couldn't believe that her mother was related her aunt. They were opposites in every way. Her aunt Lydia, was a bright and colourful women with cherry red hair, icy blue eyes and freckles scattered across her nose, while her mother was as plain boring as a stick. She was a workaholic and never paid much attention to her. Beth prefered being around her brightly coloured aunt.
Lydia stared down at her and sighed.
"Beth," she said. "You should be doing normal teenage girl things."
"I do, I just felt like helping you today," Beth replied.
She was lying, she was doing this to get away from her mother. It felt like she was suffocating herself just being in the same room with her. Lydia frowned down at her, and held out her hand. Beth knew she wouldn’t win this fight. So instead she took Lydia's hand and pulled herself up. Lydia led them to the main section of the store. They were a few people wandering the store- mostly old people, pushing their floral granny trolleys along as they examined racks of clothing and shelves of ancient clocks and kettles.
"Beth, honey, take this." Lydia handed her some notes.
Beth shook her head. She had her own credit card; her mother had given her one when she was ten years old, and her mother was working away from home.
"Take it, you work too hard," Lydia insisted, placing the money in her hand.
"You're welcome. Now get out of here and go do normal things. Don't be so boring like my sister," Lydia joked and pushed her outside.
Oxford Street was heaving with people bursting from every corner. Beth stroll down the path towards Hyde Park. Her house was on the other side of it. There were kids splashing each other with water. Picnics were set up, music was playing and laughter filled the air.
Beth was able to cross the park without being recognised. She had spotted some of her classmates, dancing and splashing in the water. She turn the corner to her neighbourhood. It was one of those streets where high-class people lived, with their high-class cars and fancy pets. It was always clean but it made Beth want to vomit. They were all snobs. Their kids went to private academies and drove fancy cars. Beth and her mother was the opposite.
Beth stood outside her house, it wasn't large like her neighbours, it doesn't have a pool or a tennis court. It just looked normal, not high class or fancy. Beth was grateful for that. Her mother's range rover was parked in the driveway.
Beth walked past the living room; her mother wasn't in there. Then she checked the kitchen; her mother wasn't in there either. Then she ran upstairs and threw herself onto the single bed that was push against her bedroom window. Fairy lights were hung on the headboard, and up above were white wooden letters that read 'DREAM'. Lydia had helped her to decorate the room. The walls were painted a Tiffany blue, she had a few posters of famous landmarks hanging on the walls. There were large bookcases, too, which had been pushed up against the wall, and her closet was next to her dresser.
Suddenly, a loud rumble echoed through her wall. Beth leaped up to push her cream curtains aside. A red BMW convertible, perfect for the summer was parked outside her neighbour's house. The music was so loud, that the sound waves could be felt.
A boy with hair as dark as the night sky emerged from the suddenly large house. He wore a red varsity jacket and black jeans. Beth recognised him. He had been in most of her classes since Year 7, but they have lived next to each other since they were 8. It was Jack Hood.
Beth watched him jump into the passenger seat of his friends car. There were also three people in the back. She recognised one of them as Anna Wills - the Mexican beauty, wrapping her long tan arms around Jack. She had sunglasses covering her dark eyes. Anna was the definition of beauty, but beauty wasn't an excuse to be so wicked.
How can someone so pretty be so evil?
The convertible zoomed down the street. Beth sat back, as she rested her body against the headboard. Her life was far from exciting. Was Lydia the only one who was gifted with an exciting life?
The door to her bedroom flew open, and Lynn Edmund stood in the doorway. They resembled each other, which Beth had always hated. Lynn's ash brown hair was pulled into a neat bun behind her head, her sky blue eyes framed with long, dark lashes. But Lynn had something Beth didn't, despite that her life was boring, Lynn had a way of making people around her like her. Beth didn't.
"Hey, I heard you come in," Lynn said.
"Where did you come from?" she asked after a pause.
"Aunt Lydia's," Beth replied quietly.
Beth was glad her mother left without asking any more questions. She laid back. Beth had accepted her summer won't get any better. Summer break was meant to be the time for changes, and so far, Beth hadn't changed anything. She was still plain old Elizabeth Edmund.
The next day, Beth found herself standing outside Lydia's Vintage store. The classical bell blared as Beth pushed open the door. Lydia looked up. Her expression lit up as she saw Beth but quickly changed in a frown. Lydia walked around the check out and pulled Beth into a tight hug.
"What am I going to do with you Beth?" she sighed.
"Can I please stay here, just for a little while?" Beth asked.
Beth helped out around the shop quite often, and she was there for a good few hours that day, but she didn't mind. At 3 o'clock Lydia droved her home, insisting that she go do ‘teenage stuff’. Beth watched as Lydia's lime green Beetle drove away. She turned around and was about to step into her house, when a pink, folded piece of paper caught her attention. It was flapping on the ground like autumn leaves being blown in the wind.
Beth walked towards it. She curiously picked up the pink card paper and unfolded it. The writing was girlish and swirly. It had been handwritten in blue ink. It read:
Learn to surf ✓
Put soap in a public fountain
Walk into opposite gender's toilet ✓
Crowd surf ✓
Go to a party uninvited
Dance in the rain
Thrown a party ✓
Take pictures with a Buckingham Palace guard
Play hide and seek in ikea✓
Ride on the London eye
Write a letter to myself to open in 10 years
Let go of a lantern
Watch the sunset on the beach
Get a tattoo that says "Freedom"✓
Bake a cake
Take lots of pictures
Cruise around London
Learn to use chopsticks
Six things were already ticked off the list. The initials were unfamiliar. She didn't know anyone who had the initials J.H. Beth fold the card and held it tightly in her hands. Nobody was home as Beth entered her house. She raced up the stairs and into her room. Beth sat down on her desk chair and unfolded the card. It had been laying outside of Jack's house. Could it be his sister's list? Beth couldn’t have known, as she wasn’t even aware that he had any siblings! Beth considered the possibility of it being Jack’s list, but that was out of the question because he was a boy, and boys don't have girly handwriting or write on pink card. Anyway, he was far too slick for something as cliché as writing a bucket list!
Beth sat in silence. If she couldn't figure out who it belonged to, then the person would be unable to finish it. This would have been a shame, but then Beth had a refreshing thought. She did the first thing that came into her mind.
She nervously knocked on the front of Jack Hood's door, as this had been the first thing that came into her mind. He didn’t answer, and so she knocked again. After a few seconds, the door opened. There stood the almighty Jack. Up close he was even more perfect. His hair was as dark as a winter’s night sky and it looked as flawless as ever, and his expression was as bleak as the hills at early morn. The way in which he always presented himself made Beth wonder if he had a personal stylist inside his house.
Beth marvelled at his dark, mossy green eyes; his eyes lashes were ever so long and thick. Freckles ran across his face, and he had a lazy look in his eyes and the way he stood was almost like a wax doll. He was perfectly still, with only the occasional blink.
"What?" He said, speaking in a idle tone.
"I-I was just wondering if this belonged to anyone in your family or someone you may know?" She stammered.
Jack took the the pink card from her hand and scanned it. Something twinkled in his eyes but quickly disappeared.
"No," he replied. "But if you want I can help you finish the list?" Jack offered.
Beth had never seen any guy who had a cute smile. Dimples appeared on the both side of his face. Whilst Beth was staring at his adorable dimples, she began to ask herself questions, such as why Jack Hood, the guy who probably was invited to all the parties in London, would want to help her finish a stupid bucket list. Had it been Anna, she could have understood, but she was Beth Edmund, and these things just didn’t happen to people like her. Plus his father was a politician, and he would probably attend all of those fancy parties. Beth stared curiously at him.
"What?" He said again.
"Why would you want to to complete a bucket list that's not even yours?" She asked.
"Because I want to; it would be an adventure! Aren't you know as 'Boring Beth'?" He smirked, the dimples showing.
"So, what if I am Boring Beth!" she snapped.
He chuckled and cross his arms.
"Okay, okay. Do you want to finish the list with me, or not? If I help you, you won't be known as Boring Beth anymore."
She thought about it for a moment. Her gorgeous neighbour is offering his help. Does she want to do it for the sake of just hanging around a good looking guy, or for the sake of not being know as Boring Beth? She swiftly agreed, and they set off for the park.
Beth walked alongside Jack as there entered Hyde Park holding two large bottle of fairy liquid. She couldn't believe she was doing this. She was going to pour soap in Princess Diana's memorial fountain. Her heart galloped in her chest. Her palms were sweating. How am I still holding onto the fairy liquid bottle? She wondered.
Jack on the other hand was looking fairly relaxed, as if he did this everyday. They moved closer to the fountain. Jack had a large fairy liquid bottle in one hand and a pack of soap in the other. He turn to look at her and smirked.
"Come on, Boring Beth, stop looking so nervous," he teased.
"Don't call me that," she snapped defensively.
Kids were playing in the fountain. They could potentially hurt these poor, innocent kids by putting soap in there, but Jack had other ideas. She watch as he popped open the lid and ripped open the soap.
"I want you to do it first," he said and handed her the bottle.
She didn't take it.
"Don't be a Boring Beth," he joked.
Her heart hammered, as she took the bottle from him. She tipped the bottle over and the liquid poured out. Jack threw the bar of soap in the water with it. The water started to bubble, a bit like Beth’s heart. Is this what fun felt like? Beth heard a laughter then quickly realised it was her own. She was laughing and having fun. If Lynn found out, she’d be dead. They emptied all the bottle and the soap packet. The whole fountain was all bubbly and no one was hurt.
Kids were hopping into the fountain, throwing the bubbles around, laughing and smiling. Parents were taking pictures and having fun. Jack produced a disposable camera from nowhere, and he pulled Beth into his strong arms and began clicking the button, taking many pictures of the two of them, smiling. A few of the children enjoyed posing for the camera, too.
Once they had finished with all of the fun, they threw the empty bottles and wrapper into the bin. Beth had a huge smile. She just couldn't stop smiling. This was the first time that she had been genuinely happy.
"You have a lovely smile, not-so-Boring-Beth" he commented as they walk through the Marble Arch.
Jack saw Beth staring at the arch. He took the camera from her hand and spun her around.
"Say cheese!" he smiled. He pressed a firm finger down on the button 4 times, before handing her back the camera. "Keep it"
"Thanks," she replied, and pocketed the camera.
"Now we can tick off number 2, 16 and 17 off the list," Jack pulled out a pen and the pink card from his jean pocket and tick off the numbers.
He wasn't as bad a guy as she had initially thought. Jack was sweet and fun, but she only known him only for an hour, so she had to bear that in mind. She couldn't be sure if he was truly a nice guy just yet.
"What do you think?" Jack asked.
"What?" Beth replied, startled.
"I said, we should bake a cake next. What do you think?"
"That would be great! But I don't have any baking stuff at my house..." she trailed off.
"It's okay, we heading towards Oxford Street anyway"
They stood in line waiting to check out. Jack carried a basket in his hand, it was filled with cake decorations and cake mix. They moved towards a free check out. The young blonde girl's blue eyes lit up as they landed on Jack. She seem to recognise him.
"Hey Jack," she purred and flicked her hair to the side, it was straight as a ruler and thin as a sheet. If Jack had gotten any closer, he might have gotten a paper cut.
"Hey Chloe," he smiled, the dimples showing again.
"So, what are you doing?" Chloe asked.
"Oh, nothing, me and my friend here are going to bake a cake," Jack wrapped his arms around Beth and she smiled awkwardly.
"Boring Beth?" she cried.
"She's not boring if you get to know her."
As they left Tesco Express and their conversation with Chloe behind them, Beth could feel Chloe's eyes digging holes in her back. She had never had a boy who had stuck up for her before and she certainly wasn't expecting Jack Hood to!
The taxi stopped in front of Jack’s house. Beth stepped out of the taxi, and stood completely still, taking a moment to consider her options. If she were to go to her own home, and invite Jack to follow suit, he may think that she wasn't rich or cool enough to hang around with him... But on the other hand, she couldn't expect to be invited into his house... He was, after all, the most popular of the lot.
“So, where are we going to bake the cake?” Beth asked him. Jack swung his arms around Beth’s shoulder.
“If we decide to go to my place, you’ll have to deal with my noisy and rowdy younger brother and my fashionista sister and not forgetting my mother. But if we goes to yours, nobody’s home and we can bake in peace,” he stated.
Beth wanted to poke his dimples but she held herself back. She thought about his suggestion. Beth knew that she wasn’t going to get invited to his house because she knew she was still Boring Beth and Jack was the popular guy. They can’t mix. In reality they were just like Lydia and Lynn. They were complete opposites.
Beth slowly pushed the door to her house until it was slightly ajar. She step aside to let Jack through. He gazed around the narrow hallway. There were pictures of Lynn, Lydia and Beth in Disneyland when Beth was 9 years old, and many more memories which the three of them shared and treasured. Beth slowly edged her way through the hallway, and Jack followed her towards the kitchen. She was nervous but it was only a kitchen…it probably wasn't as big as his but that didn’t really matter, as it was only a room to bake in.
Jack drop the Tesco Express bag onto the counter. He moved around the kitchen like a professional. She had never meet a guy who knew his way around the kitchen.
"Are you just going to stand there?" He asked. The dimple smile always plastered on his face.
She blushed and picked up the cake mix. She slowly let it pour into the glass bowl, being extremely careful not to let it bounce out of the sides. Jack swiftly lifted two eggs out of the bag, threw them into the air, and caught them, one egg in each hand. He gently hit their soft shells against the side of the slim, lightweight glass bowl and watched as the light contents slowly trickled into the bowl. Beth stared intently at Jack in awe, before asking:
"Where on earth did you learn to be so... Graceful?"
"It comes naturally," Jack replied, as he smiled intently at Beth.
She blushed a deep crimson. They continued to work in a surprisingly comfortable silence. Beth was washing up the dishes and Jack was wiping the counter clean. She had never had a boy over for as long as two hours before. Beth wondered what Lynn would think. She had never had a man in her life since Beth's father disappeared. Although Beth knew this was different, she couldn’t help but wonder how her mother would cope if something were to happen.
Deep in her thoughts, Beth didn't see the wet cloth flying her way. She jumped back, clearly startled. Jack pulled out his tongue and pick up the discarded cloth that lay on the ground. She gather up the bubbles in her palm and dropped them on Jack.
Time didn't matter any more, as Beth was having fun. She was laughing and a huge smile spread across her face. Jack and Beth hadn’t realised that they were making more mess, as they were both too busy hitting each other with wet cloths, and so they weren’t fully aware of Lynn standing in the door, either. She was dress in a grey business suit, and her ash brown hair was still in a neat bun, as she had tied it this morning. She carried a jet black briefcase in her hand, as usual.
"Hi, Mrs Edmund," Jack said; he was the first to break the silence.
"Jack," she said, without looking at him. Her gaze was directly staring at Beth.
"Jack, I think you should go,” Beth said after a pause.
Her eyes were now upon Jack. He place the wet cloth on the counter, waved goodbye to Beth and let himself out. He let the door slam shut. Lynn stepped into the kitchen. No expression was on her face. She let out a sigh before staring at Beth. Her eyes weren't filled with love and happiness like they used to be; they now contained a twisted form of resentment.
"Do we need to talk about what just happened?" she asked.
"No," Beth answered.
"I think we do, Elizabeth."
"No, we don't!" Beth said with more anger than she wanted to.
Beth threw the cloth into the counter then quickly marched out of the kitchen. She didn't know why she hated her mother so much. Beth had never felt any love for her mother, it was just never there, and Beth knew it never would be, but the odd thing was, she didn't know why she hated her mother so.
It was 6pm on Tuesday, and she hadn't spoken to Jack since the incident the previous evening. Maybe Lynn had scared him off? She knew it, she knew that her mother would blow it. He probably thought that she wasn't cool now, that she wasn't worth being around. Beth threw her book down on the coffee table. It was just a one time thing and it didn't matter… Well, to Jack it didn't. He had friends. Beth didn’t.
If Jack had been put off her because of her mother, she would resent her mother until the end of time. If Jack had ever been put on her, that was. She still wasn't convinced that he cared for her... And she was certain that he didn't care for her as much as she cared for him. Beth barely knew him, sure they lived near each other since they were 8, and they had been in most classes together since they were in year 7 but she didn't know him like his friends or family did.
The faint ringing of a rather dainty bell tinkled throughout the hallway giving Beth goose bumps which travelled up and down her arms so fast, she hardly even noticed them. She jumped to her feet and strolled towards the front door. She peered into the little hole.
Jack stood with his hands in his jean pockets. A smile appeared on her face, lighting up her eyes. Something switched on deep inside her, but , for the time being, Beth ignored it and opened the door.
"Hey," Jack beamed.
"Hi," Beth smiled shyly. She didn't think he'd come back but he did.
"Sorry I haven't spoken to you today," he apologised. "I had things to attend to; to do with my family. It was really boring. I’d have much rather been with you."
"I understand," Beth responded, softly. She probably sounded like a delicate china doll to him.
"But I'm here now and we have a list to complete," he flashed her his glorious dimple smile.
Jack held up his large meaty hands. She took them in both of hers. They were warm, and soft. He pulled outside towards a black BMW. It had blacken windows and it look brand new. Beth had expected his car to be something breath taking like the BMW which he so proudly owned. After all, his father was a Politician.
Beth sat motionless in the car. It didn't feel right for a girl - like Beth to be sitting in a high-class car. Her heart hammered in her chest. Why was she so nervous?
Jack started the engine. It roared to life. Jack beamed at the sound of his car. The BMW moved at an even pace. It felt like they were gliding unlike Lynn's Range Rover. Beth glanced at Jack, but his eyes were focused on the road ahead. Beth turned away and looked down.
She didn't look pretty at all today. Beth had on well-worn grey sweatpants, slip-on shoes and a large, navy t-shirt. Her ash brown hair was coming out of its ponytail, too. Her face was pale and sunken, whilst her eyes looked heavy with dark rims around them, but at least they weren't noticeable.
"Where are we going?" She asked. Jack glanced at her, smiling his dimpled smile.
"You'll see," he replied.
Jack pulled into a parking space next to a red Ford Focus. Beth followed him out of the parking lot. They were millions of car parked in the spaces, plus it's the summer holidays and there are a lot of tourists visiting, as Beth’s hometown is a very popular tourist destination. Jack walked casually as if he owned the place. Mostly politician children are like that, but Jack was different. He was confident and yet he knew how to present himself.
Leicester Square is pretty in the evening. It twinkled with lights, and as Beth marvelled at the large neon letters, she thought about how happy she was. She had been to Leicester Square before, but never in the evening, and even if she had, she had never noticed the lights before.
"Beth?" Jack called. "Come on!"
She flushed and ran to catch up with him. They now stood outside Chinatown. Beth had never seem Chinatown in the evening before, either. Round, red Chinese lanterns hung on thin string in a zigzag pattern, and one large one dangled from the tall arch that stood before them. The lanterns were lit and they gave off a soft orange glow.
Then, Jack began moving again and Beth followed. He made his way through the crowd gracefully, never colliding with anyone. Beth on the other hand...Well, she was mumbling apologies left, right and centre to all of the women she accidentally bashed into. They all scowled at Beth and continued on their way.
Finally, Jack stopped in front of a restaurant. The sign above it read "Chinese Inn". The lights flickered on and off every two seconds, and so Beth wondered is it just like that or is it broken? Smaller lanterns were dangling over the entrance. Beth watch Jack flash his dimpled smile. She wondered what goes on in his head.
"The best restaurant in town," he said, turning his gaze at Beth. Her heart began to race.
"Trust me - this place is magnificent."
Jack took her hand, he pulled her inside. The restaurant inside was way too first class for Beth. What had she expected? This was Jack Hood. The son of a politician! Obviously he'd pick something expensive or fancy. She was considering running off towards Lydia's Vintage store, but Jack still had ahold of her hand.
A Chinese lady, dressed in a black dress that hugged her body beamed as she spotted Jack. Her black hair touched her shoulders, her brown eyes were the prettiest eyes Beth had ever seen, and she has beautiful olive skin. The lady trotted towards them in black stilettos.
“Jack,” she smiled. Jack was a lot taller than her even though she was wearing heels.
“Mrs Lee,” Jack greeted her with a kiss on her cheek.
“Come, come in.” Mrs Lee took Jack’s hand. She lead them into the restaurant.
Beth suddenly felt self-conscious. There were people dressed in smart or just casual clothing. Beth looked like she had just woken from a deep slumber. Mrs Lee came to a stop and, finally Jack release Beth’s hand. Mrs Lee beamed and gestured for them to sit. The black table was just like marble, because the surface was so smooth.
Long, ruby, scaled creatures with four longs were imprinted on the table. Beth traced their scales. Jack gazed at her, he trace the dragon’s head. Jack began speaking softly:
“Chinese dragons, they have control over water, rainfall, hurricanes and floods.” Beth stared into his green eyes.
“They are also a symbol meaning power, strength and good luck for the people who are worth it.” Beth could feel his warm breath, her eyes were flickering from his lips to his green eyes.
He was staring back at her; something flashed in his eyes, but quickly disappeared. She wanted to kiss him. Like really, really wanted to kiss him. But... What if she was imagining it? What if what she thought that what he felt for her was just a mirage, masked by her own emotions? Perhaps she was being engulfed by her imagination.
Jack pulled away first, and look elsewhere. Beth reddened; she was lucky they were seated next to a window. Beth watched the tourists outside. It was getting dark out; and the lanterns were glowing brighter than before, and all the lights had been switched on.
Five minutes later, their food arrived on a cart, but she didn't remembering her order being taken. The waiter dressed in grey dress pants, a white buttoned t-shirt and a black apron. He placed the food on the table, then quickly strolled away.
"Why are we here?" Beth asked.
Jack stopped preparing his noodles. Why did she say that? Beth mentally slapped herself. He stared at her, speechless. After a paused he spoke.
"Do you still want to finish the list?"
"Of course I want to finish it," Beth answered. "But why are we here exactly?"
"Number 19." He held out the pick card paper and waved it around. "Learn how to use chopsticks. Do you know how to use them?"
Beth shook her head. She had never touched a pair of chopsticks in her life. Lynn or Lydia would usually make her food whenever she was hungry.
"Now we have something in common."
His frown disappeared and almost as quickly his dimpled smiled appeared, and Beth couldn't help but smile along. Being around Jack made her feel wanted but it was better than opening boxes of vintage items or being around her mother.
They were in the restaurant for two hours battling with the chopsticks. Until Mrs Lee came up and checked on them. She taught them the technique of how to perfect the art of using chopsticks. They now were able to use chopsticks with ease.
The sky had gone pitch black once they had emerged from the restaurant.
The lanterns outside were now all lit. Jack walked by her side, his arms occasionally brushing against Beth's. She had stolen a few glances at him and quickly blushed when he caught her staring.
"Did you get into a trouble with your mother?" He asked.
"No," Beth lied, though it wasn't real trouble. She had told Lynn she didn't want to talk about it, and that was that.
"Good," he smiled.
"What is it like?" This time they both glanced at each other.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, what is it like be in the popular crowd?"
"Boring, you do everything with the same people and suddenly you get bored and it's usually about partying, who can date the most girls or doing things to keep up your reputation" he said.
"Why do you go to a public school if you can go to any academy you want?"
"Because my mother want us to have a normal childhood, she want us to know what it is like to have friends that are normal. My mother, she's not a big fan of the parties or the high-class stuff, but she has to attend because she has to show respect for what my father does."
"What about you?" He asked.
"What do you want to know?"
"Anything and everything."
"I'm your neighbour," Beth said. He nudged her playfully. "I have a very strict and boring mother but my aunt is colourful and has an amazing personality. Is that any good?"
"No, I want to know more. What do you like to do in your free time or what is your favourite colour, film, actor and singer. What kind of music do you listen to?"
"Is this a game of twenty questions?" she asked. Jack flashes his dimpled smile again.
"My favourite colours are blue, purple and yellow. I don't have a favourite film but I do like comedies or fantasy films or books that have been made into films. I don't have a favourite actor or singer. I'll listen to any music. What about you?"
"I have a lot of favourite colours but I haven't figured out which one is my most favourite. my favorite films are Ted, Fast and Furious, and I like action films a lot. My favourite actor is Hugh Jackman, and my favourite band is Kings Of Leon.My favourite kind of music is rap, rock and heavy metal."
They walked in a comfortable silence; it was nice being around Jack. She could be herself and never have to worry about a thing. Just as they were heading towards the exit, Beth spotted Jack's friends, including Anna Wills, the Mexican beauty. They were heading their way. Beth's gaze was on them.
They were getting closer together now. Uneasiness buried itself in the pit of her stomach. His friend, who Beth recognised as Kyron Dash, spotted them. He hollered and caught Jack's attention. Jack halted. Kyron and the group race towards them.
"Hey, man!" Jack and Kyron man hugged one another.
Beth shrunk back into the shadows. Kyron flipped back his cap and laughed out loud. The other two guys joined in. Beth turned away and tried to busy herself with something else but there was nothing else to do. She stared up at the lantern, the bright light hurting her eyes, whilst she stared down at the concrete floor. She ignore the jokes Kyron, Jack and other guys were making.
She suddenly felt unwanted. Beth turned to leave but Anna was standing in her way. This time, she didn't have sunglasses blocking her eyes. They were a caramel colour, framed with thick black lashes caused by too much mascara. Her dark hair was tied tightly up into a high ponytail that looked painful. She had perfect, sun kissed skin but too much cleavage showing.
Beth wanted to hurl.
"Who are you exactly?" she hissed. Beth imagined that her eyes were a blazing red and snakes were growing out of her head instead of hair.
"Beth," she replied so quietly that it was barely audible.
"Why would Jack Hood be out with this?" Anna trailed her eyes up and down Beth's form. Beth didn't like the way Anna was staring her.
It was like Beth was the prey and Anna was the hunter - and she was hungry. Beth wrapped her arms around herself. It was getting cold and she only had on a plain t-shirt.
"What did you get the t-shirt?" She asked. "And those trousers and shoes."
"They suit you - and your style," she mocked. Anna laughed, although it was more of a cackle.
Beth stayed quiet. She didn't want to start a fight in Chinatown after she’d had so much fun. Beth turned away. Jack was staring at her. He smiled and turned his attention back to Kyron. Anna joined them before shooting a deadly glare at Beth. She watched as Anna wrapped her arms around Jack's waist and she began to giggle.
Beth wasn't one of them. They were popular people. They had to do things to keep up their reputation and for Jack, ditching Beth was one of those things which he had to do in order to keep his status. She walked away. She had no money, no mobile and no jacket to protect her from the light, cold breeze.
Leicester Square was still buzzing with people, and so Beth kept her head down. She knew where she was heading but she didn't understand the ache inside her. It was unfamiliar. She barely knew him and now she found herself madly in love with a guy who has a reputation to keep up. Did he have a way to make girls go insane about him? If he did, it was working.
Beth stood behind a group of tourists. As the green man flashed on, they crossed the road. Beth followed, but a hand seized her elbow, pulling her back. Beth spun around.
"Where are you going?" Jack asked.
"H-home," she answered quietly.
"You want to end the a night now?"
"It's late." Beth stepped sideways to get past him, but he blocked her way.
"Beth...I'll take you home, but there’s just one more thing I want us to do."
Beth glanced out of the window; she didn't know where they were going. They'd been in the car for maybe 10 minutes and her eyelids were feeling heavy. Finally the BMW stopped. Beth turn to look at Jack. He turned off the engine and got out of the car. Jack then quickly ran to the other side and opened the car door for Beth.
He took her hand and pulled her out. She wasn't sleepy anymore but curious. Jack led them away from the car. His hands were warm and soft. Beth peeked at him. He didn't have his dimpled smile on his face, he looked calm.
"We're here," he announced.
Beth marvelled at the giant wheel in front of them. It radiated an eerie blue colour and turned the water the same colour, illuminating the seabed. She had seen the London Eye before, but it was never this beautiful. Beth turned around, as Jack was looking at her. His deep green eyes were dark, and she was paralysed by his stare. Neither of them said anything.
He still held her hand. They stood there, still staring at each other until Beth looked away, and began looking at the ground. Her heart was beating fast; too fast. She could hear a drumming sound in her ears. Jack released her hand. His hands suddenly felt cold.
"Let's go on" he said.
The wheel carried them up high into the dark night’s sky. The pod swayed to the side as they went up higher. Beth glanced down in awe at the sight below them. She could see everything; the view was spectacular. She could see the Houses of Parliament’s golden lights like Tinker Bell's fairy dust shining on the water and lighting up the streets. The pod suddenly stopped. They were now on top on the wheel. Jack stood next to her, his gaze fixed on the view underneath them.
They were alone in the large pod, but some contained at least 4 people. His gaze was fixed on the sparkling lights underneath them, too. Beth shivered. It was cold even inside the carriage.
"It's beautiful isn't it?" He asked quietly. "I always used to come here when I was little."
By the time they left the London Eye, Beth was dizzy. She wasn't sure if it was because of the ride or tiredness. She leaned against Jack as they strolled towards his car. His arms were wrapped firmly around her, keeping her warm.
Sometime on the trip back, Beth had fallen asleep. She felt somebody shaking her shoulders and her eyes fluttered open. Beth stared into Jack's twinkling eyes. They looked like tiny jewels. She smiled and rubbed her eyes. The digital clock said it was 21:55 but it like felt 11 o'clock; she had never been out that late before.
"I'm tired," she yawned.
"It's nearly ten, nobody gets that tired this early!" Jack chuckled. "Anyway, we're home" .
The BMW was parked next to Lynn's Range Rover. Beth sighed; she didn't want to deal with her mother after that night she had so Beth quickly thanked Jack and swiftly hopped of his car and legged it to her house. She jammed the key into the lock and quietly pushed it open.
It was dark inside the house and she couldn't see where she was going. Beth tiptoed up the steps, using the wall to guided her. She didn't want to wake her mother. Firstly, because she had to get up early in the morning and secondly, Beth didn't want to be questioned as to where she had been and with who.
She switched on the lights in her room and headed straight to bed. Just as Beth got up to slide her curtains closed, Jack's face appeared on the otherside. She had never known it was his window. She had expected to be his brother's or maybe his parents.
He smiled then disappeared but he was back again, holding an iPad. The blue curtains were now wide open. He sat down on the neatly made double bed. His fingers were moving around the iPad screen. Seconds later he he held it up. The messy red writing read:
Beth grabbed the A4 notepad that sat on her bedside table. She untidily wrote back the word Hey. Beth waited for his reply.
She smiled at what he had asked.
His replied came back immediately.
Goodnight Beth x
He flashed a smile at her and closed his curtains. She didn't want her to go but she was too tired to stay up for another minute. She shut her curtains, switch off the light and laid down on the bed. Beth dreamed about gold fairy dust and flying high in the dark sky over London. She was Wendy Darling and Jack was her green eyed Peter Pan.
She didn’t see Jack for three days after that. Beth busied herself by visiting Lydia and helping around the store. It wasn't much fun, as she couldn't Jack out of her head; he kept invading her every thought. She had pinned the pictures that they had taken in Hyde Park on her headboard above her bed. Somehow Jack had gotten her number, too. At least they were texting, and so she felt less lonely.
Beth was home alone again,and so she sat on the beige sofa cross-legged surfing through the channels. She was anxiously waiting for her phone to buzz or do something. It had been five hours since Jack had last texted her. She wondered where he had gone; maybe it was one of those meeting he had to attend, with his father.
She flicked through channel after channel, but there was nothing interesting on. There were no movies, and all of the TV series’ had not yet begun. Beth sat up straight when she was alerted by the sound of sudden, loud ringing. She dived for her phone.
"Hello?" She spoke.
"Beth, hi," Jack said. A smile exploded on her face. She could finally hear his voice.
"Sorry I haven't..." He hesitated. "I've been busy."
"I'll come by tomorrow. I'll meet you outside tomorrow evening," he said.
"Okay," Beth respond.
"I’ve gotta go. I'll see you tomorrow."
Beth placed the phone down on the coffee table. She grinned until her cheeks hurt, but she didn't care. They were going to hang out tomorrow. She should have been able to finally relax, but Jack was still dancing around in her mind. He had become a permanent thought in her head, but she didn't mind, because she was floating on cloud nine and nothing, not even Lynn could bring her down.
Jack clarified what time he was coming to pick her up,and she kept peeking outside to see if he was coming. She was excited, yet anxious. It had already gone 1pm and he wasn't here yet. She had started to think that he wasn't coming, but he wouldn't do that, would he? Beth was nervously drumming her fingertips on the cold glass. She count the seconds.
She counted 126 seconds before his BMW pulled up on the side of the road. She raced towards the door and threw it open. He emerged from his car, his dark hair flowing lightly in the gentle breeze. He wore a black leather jacket over a white v-neck t-shirt.
Beth hurriedly locked the door and shyly walked towards him. Her heart skipped a beat. He smiled and she realised she had really missed his deep dimples. As she got closer she could smell the strong aroma of his expensive cologne.
“Hey,” he said “How’ve you been?”
“I’ve been great,” she replied nervously.
He chuckled softly, his green eyes held hers, just for a split second, and in that second she felt her heart hammering uncontrollably.
“Let’s go, we have a long drive.”
He opened the passenger door to let Beth in. He flashed her a cute smile before closing the door.
Once he had started the engine, they were speeding down the street. Jack didn’t say word or drop a hint as to where they were headed.
Beth watched London flash past before her eyes. They had been driving for nearly two hours, and they exchanged only minimal small talk throughout the journey, because Jack seemed to be lost in his own world.
The BMW came to a stop, and Beth stared tiredly out of the window. The streets were dull and empty, and there was hardly anybody there. The BMW began moving again but this time it travelled at a steady pace. Jack steered the car around a corner and onto a narrow road. They were now on a driving up a steep, gravelly path.
Jack drove carefully, but the path was bumpy and she was being thrown to the side each time the car drove onto a discarded rock or a hole in the path. When the BMW finally came to a stop, they were on top of a high cliff. Jack swiftly hopped out of his car and ran to the other side to open Beth’s door for her. He took her hand and pulled her up.
"Where are we?" she asked.
"I’ve heard that this is the best place to be to watch the sunset," he replied.
"It's only 2 o'clock, though," Beth replied, clearly confused
"That's why we're going to find something to do," he smirked, his fingers twirling with her loose hair.
The dimple smile appeared on his face, but then a mischievous smirk replaced it. He yanked on her hand and began running down the hill. Beth held tightly on to him. She didn't want to fall and embarrass herself. She knew she couldn't live with it. Instead of going down the way they came up, Jack led her down a different path that lead down to the main beach. Jack released her hands and twirled her around, and he laced his fingers through hers as they ran towards the ocean, smiling and laughing.
Beth and Jack sat side-by-side on the desolate beach. They were both wet from dancing and splashing in the warm summer water. Beth could hear the gentle waves lapping against the sand. The tide was coming in rapidly. The waves came right up to the spot where Beth and Jack sat, nipping softly at their feet. The sea was always so beautiful at this time of year. It rippled as they slowly made their way back out to sea, lost forever under the wrath of the seabed. Never again would the same wave rise. It was sort of sad, if you thought about it. But Beth didn't dwell on this. She once again focused on the fact that she was here, sitting beside the most popular kid in town, glancing at the waves... This moment would be one that she would always treasure for as long as she lived.
A sound of distant chatter arose, and Beth turned her head inquisitively towards the sound. A young couple were strolling along the seafront, just ahead. They were both soaked, but didn't look as if they cared. They looked completely innocent, happy. Beth wished that she and Jack could be like that, one day. She knew it wouldn't happen because… Well, it couldn’t, could it? And why? Because society said so. Jack is Mr. Popular and she's Mrs. Unpopular.
She turned away from the couple and faced Jack. His face was only inches away from hers. He was so close she could feel his warm breath tickling her face. Her heart ran wild. She watched his green eyes search her bare face, and she suddenly felt self-conscious. His hand reached out a tucked a loose hair behind her ear. Gently, his thumb stroked her cheek. She could feel his hand on her cheek, which was giving her unnatural, mixed emotions deep inside of her.
"You're the first girl I've ever met who cared more about books than make up; I didn’t even know that those girls existed!" he chuckled.
"You just gotta open your eyes and look. There’re lots of girls who aren't like Anna, you just have to wait for them to come along." Beth said.
He smiled but it didn't reach his eyes. Something was bothering him and Beth wanted to know what. Not to pry, but simply to help. A laughter startled them both; it was the couple again and they were coming their way. Jack hurriedly got to his feet. He dusted away the sand that stuck to his jeans. Beth pulled herself up and grabbed her black converse off the ground.
"Come on," he said.
Jack took her hand and they walked alongside the tides, avoiding the couple. She gazed curiously at him. He was unpredictable; just when she thought she had figured him out, he always did something to prove her wrong.
They were now back on the cliff,and they sat side-by-side on the hood of the BMW. The sun slowly began to set. Jack was right, it was the most beautiful place to watch the sunset. It was a mix of orange and red and a hint of indigo. The colour mixed together perfectly, like waffles covered in melted chocolate. Half of the sun had disappeared into the sea and the orange light danced on the waves.
"We aren't on the beach, but at least we watched the sunset," Jack said, surprising Beth. He held the pink card in his hand and a pen in the other.
"You always seem eager to complete the list," she stated.
"We have had this conversation before."
"Mmm," she sighed.
"You hungry?" he asked.
She nodded, but he made no effort to get up, and neither did she. They stayed there in mutual silence for a number of minutes before Jack slowly rose to his feet, and assisted Beth in getting up in the same manner.
"Where would you like to go for food?" Jack questioned.
"I'm just hungry, so I don’t mind," she murmured, quickly.
"Let's go downtown and see what's there," he said.
Jack unlocked the car, he open the passenger door for Beth and gently closed it like a gentlemen after she had settled herself into the seat. Beth watched Jack through the tinted windows, as he ran to the other side and open his door. The BMW jerked down the path, and Beth tightly clutched the assist grip inside of the car as her body collided with the car door. The painful bumping carried on for a few more seconds, and once it was over, she released the assist grip and relaxed her body as they made it down the narrow road. Beth watched the people float out onto the now-busy streets and into the pubs and restaurants.
"Do you want to stop there?" Jack nodded at the fancy pub on her side.
She studied it. The pub was next to an ice cream parlour that looked like something from a story book, with its large colourful sign and a gigantic ice cream cone cartoon figure waiting at the door. She had never been into a pub without an adult. She had only ever gone there with Lydia when it was Lydia's friend's daughter's 11th birthday, and that was 6 years ago. She decided on the ice parlour, it was much cheaper and less crowded with less drunken people.
They didn't bother staying long in the ice cream parlour; after they had ordered an ice cream cone each they were back on the road again. Beth ate her ice cream in silence.She sneakily peaked at Jack; he was driving one handed because the other was holding his ice cream cone. She didn't like the fact that he was driving one handed. What if something were to go wrong?
An hour and a half later, Jack pulled in in front of her house. Lynn's range rover was parked on the driveway. Why was she back so early? It was barely 6 o'clock! She sat frozen on the car seat. She hadn't expected her mother to be back so early.
"Is everything okay?" Jack asked.
"Yeah, thanks for the fab day," she said whilst she smiled at him and undid her seat belt.
Beth paused and looked at Jack.
"I'll see you tomorrow," he said.
Beth gave him one last smile and got out of the car; she ran towards her house and pushed the unlocked door open. She bravely walked past the living room; she knew Lynn would be there, waiting for her, and she was prepared for her wrath. She glanced inside the living room, but Lynn wasn't there, and she let out a sigh of relief. She turned away from the isolated living room and climbed up the staircase; she wasn’t expecting to see Lynn standing there with arms crossed over her chest.
She jumped back, almost falling down the stairs. The first thing Beth realised about Lynn was that she looked different. She wasn’t wearing her usual business suit, her hair wasn’t in its neat bun, instead it was loose and out of place, and she didn’t wear any make-up. There were dark circles underneath her blue eyes and skin was colourless. She looked dead. Beth held onto the wooden railings and calmed herself.
“Where have you been?” Lynn croaked.
“Out,” Beth replied.
“Elizabeth, we need to talk about this and something else.”
“No we don’t and why are you home early? Wait - don’t answer that ‘cause I don’t want to hear it and you don’t have the right to demand to know things from me. You have never cared about anything I do, so why should you now?” she snapped.
She heard the tiredness in Lynn’s voice and saw it in her body but she didn’t bother stopping the words that flowed freely out of her mouth and she didn’t regret one of them. Beth didn’t wait for a response. She stomped angrily to her room, and slammed the door shut. She felt it shake the walls in her room.
Beth threw herself onto the bed like a rag doll. She was tired from the journey and didn’t want to fight with Lynn but she couldn’t stop herself. Even the simplest conversation turn into an argument. There was always that distance between them and Beth never understood why it was there. They didn’t have that loving mother and daughter relationship, there was always that raging fire blazing between them and neither knew how to stop it.
There was a week and four days left of the summer holidays, and Jack had once again disappeared. They had spoken on the phone yesterday, but only for a few minutes. Beth curled into a ball, she hadn’t come of her room all day because Lynn didn’t leave for work like she usually does, she stayed home all day till 2pm. She had to leave for an appointment. Lynn’s work was always more important than Beth.
Beth closed her eyes for a second, then she heard a light tapping on her window; she didn’t move. It was probably just a noise created by her mind. But it was there again and again. Beth reached up and push the curtains aside. Jack stood on the other side, holding his notepad, it said:
Meet me outside now
Before Beth could reply, he place the pad down and turned to leave his room. She quickly leaped off her bed and exited her room. Jack stood outside on the lawn. He had on dress pants and a plain white t-shirt. Jack had a boyish smile on his face, his deep dimples denting his cheeks. Beth smiled shyly; she could feel butterflies dancing in her stomach and her heart pounded loudly in her chest.
“Hi,” Beth said once she reached him. She crossed her arms around her chest and stared nervously at the ground.
“Hey.” he replied. “I have something to show you, so come on!”
Beth eagerly followed him.
She had never thought she'd see the inside of Jack Hood’s house. It was much bigger than Beth’s, and their living room was double the size of Beth’s. She gazed around in amazement. They had leather sofas, marble tables and a large flat screen tv was stuck onto the wall. There were tall vases of fake tropical flowers in the far corner of the room and an expensive looking chandelier was dangling from the ceiling.
Beth tilted her head to the side, Jack stood in the doorway. He held a large white rectangular box in his hands and a young girl stood behind him. They shared similar looks, Beth guessed it was his little sister.
"This is Lauren," he said, nodding at the girl.
Lauren grinned at her and Beth shyly smiled back.
"Show her the dress!" Lauren squealed excitedly.
She bounced up and down on her feet, whilst Jack opened the white box. Yellow tissue paper was tucked neatly inside the box, on top of it lay a dark, lacey purple dress, silver ribbon shoes and a matching silver mask. Beth curiously tilted her head to the side. Mask? She felt Jack and Lauren's gaze on her, she looked up meet his eyes. They twinkled with excitement and mischief.
"Do you like it?" Lauren questioned. "I picked it myself."
"Umm...yeah, I do but...what's going on?" Beth respond.
"I'm taking you out...dancing," Jack answered quickly.
"Lauren, go and get Beth ready."
Lauren's room was vast, wider and larger than Beth's room. It was the girliest room Beth had even seen, with white walls and a fluffy pink carpet. Beth sat anxiously on the chair in front of Lauren's dresser. Lauren began messing with Beth's hair, twirling it with her index finger and running her hands through the strands. Begh knew she didn't have anything to worry about, Jack did say his sister was a huge fashionista but he didn't say anything about how well she did with hair and makeup but Lauren looked decent. She didn't dress like Anna or put on heavy makeup that made her look years older.
Two and half hours later, Beth stood in front of the body mirror. The girl that stared back didn't look like Boring Beth Edmund because Beth Edmund doesn't wear dresses and put on makeup, but this girl was Beth, just a better, prettier image of herself. Her hair, which was ash brown, cascaded down in flawless curls and her makeup had been immaculately done. The lacey indigo dress that fell above her knee was just the right size and fitted perfectly. The silver ribbon shoes were tied tidily around her ankles and the high heels made her appear taller than she was.
Beth craned her head around, Jack leant against the doorway, dressed in a stylish black tuxedo. His dark hair was styled perfectly. In his hands, he held the glittering silver mask. Why would they need a mask just to go out dancing?
She nervously swayed side-to-side; he looked handsome and breathtaking in the tuxedo. She could feel the loud galloping sound of her heart racing in her chest. Her knees felt like jelly but she held herself up; she didn’t want to humiliate herself in front of him. Jack handed her the mask, and she held it in her hands; it was heavier than it looked and it only covered one eye.
“Are you ready?” he asked.
“Thanks Lolly,” he smiled at Lauren and entwined his fingers with hers.
Outside was warm, yet the breeze made her shiver. This time they didn’t take the BMW, and Beth wondered why, because it was his car, wasn’t it? Instead of the BMW, a white Audi was waiting on the driveway. Like a gentlemen, he open the passenger door for Beth, and closed it after she settled onto the seat. Lauren stood on the porch and watched them leave.
Jack droved out of the quiet and desolate neighbourhood. Throughout the drive they didn’t speak, but Beth didn’t mind; just being there with him was enough, and she didn’t want to push for anything more, but she knew she wanted more than this, whatever this was. A few minutes later, the Audi stopped. Beth looked outside the window, and she saw that they were in a parking lot.
“Jack..I thought we were going out dancing?” she questioned, suspiciously.
“We are,” he smirked.
She stared curiously at him, they were in the parking lot and it didn’t look much like a dance floor. He unbutton his seat belt.
“Lets go,” he said and got out of the car and she followed like a lost puppy.
They turned around a corner, and she could see men in top hats and long tail tuxedos. Jack stood in front of her, blocking most of her view. He spun around and faced her. Even though she was wearing heels, he was still much taller than she was. He held up a black mask and tied it around his head.
“Put yours on,” he said.
She followed his instructions; the mask covered one half of her head and one eye. Beth felt more revealed, because the mask that Jack wore covered most of his face. He smiled at her and took her hand.
“Do you have an invitation?” she asked, quietly.
Beth paused. He turned to look at her.
“We don’t have an invitation,” she whispered harshly. “We can’t go in. I thought this was one of the parties you would have been invited to.”
“Number five on the list Beth.”
“ ‘Go to a party uninvited’ ” he smirked mischievously.
“You’re crazy!” she cried.
“And you’re being a Boring Beth, again.”
She glared at him; she was considering turning and going back home, because she didn’t want to do it. What if they got caught?
Beth was sure this was a party for rich people, but she wanted to finished this list with Jack, didn’t she? But, then again, would the possibility of getting arrested be worth it?
“Beth come on, nothing will happen. I promise,” he pleaded.
He held out his hand, and she took a deep breath. Beth had to gather all of the courage that she had. They walked hand-in-hand alongside the other politicians and ladies in huge and expensive-looking ball gowns and feathery hats. Up close, Beth could see that they wore masks too. If we don’t have an invitation, how will we get in? Beth wondered.
“Look casual,” he murmured into her ear.
She couldn’t let her body relax; she was tense and her palm was sweating.
They joined a gathering crowd who were ready to go in. Beth looked at the view in front them. They were standing outside St Paul’s Cathedral. The vast building reached the exquisite skyline and appeared to be touching the fluffy clouds. The white surface had an intricate pattern design, and was as smooth as marble. The two points on either side outlined and put the necessary amount of focus on the beautiful centre piece. Beth gazed in awe at the marvellous building. Jack tugged on her hand, and she followed him, but her eyes were still glued onto the centre piece.
They walked with the group,and Beth tightly gripped onto Jack’s hand. The butterflies danced inside her stomach and she suddenly felt nauseous. A butler, dressed in a long tailed tuxedo stood straight by the entrance. His face was expressionless.
Three more steps and they would be inside. Beth was expecting someone to jump out and cuff them for coming uninvited, but nobody came. She eased up, and took two deep breaths.
“Its okay, we’re in,” he whispered, and he planted a delicate kiss on her temple, which sent shivers through her body.
“Relax and enjoy.”
Inside the Cathedral was as magnificent as the outside. Clean black and white marble floor like the tiles on a chessboard. They were in the nave of the cathedral, and Beth tilted her head back. Chandeliers were hanging low from the tall white and shimmering gold ceiling. On a wooden stage stood the orchestra. They played a sweet melody and the choir, made up of young children, sang along. Their sweet and angelic voices filled the atmosphere.
Jack tugged on her hand, and pulled her underneath one of the six marble arches. He pulled the mask over his head as she gaped at his beautiful, bare face. His green eyes sparkled in the dim light.
“You’re standing in the middle of the dance floor,” he whispered, his breath warm on her cheeks.
"Do you want to dance?" he asked.
She didn't trust herself to speak, so, instead, she nodded. Jack led her to the dance floor where some couples were waltzing on the floor. The ladies looked as elegant as ballerinas, and the way they moved made Beth wonder if she could ever do that. Jack tugged on her hand, as he wore that mischievous smirk on his face. His mask had been pulled over his face. Beth was hesitant to go onto the dance floor, as she didn't know how to dance, but she didn't want to tell him that just in case he thought she wasn't like the person he had thought she was.
She placed her hand on his big, strong shoulder, as one of his hands moved to her waist and the other one entwined with her free hand. She moved her left foot back as he moved forward, then to the right, as they avoided the other dancers. Beth stepped forward, hoping she didn't step on his feet.
"You're pretty good," he murmured.
"You're not too bad yourself," she giggled.
He smiled and she blushed a deep crimson. He spun her around and his hands move to her waist. He held her there; his face was so close to her and that she could see her reflection in his eyes. He twirled her around again and pulled her close. Beth could smell his familiar and expensive cologne as she buried her head into his neck as he swayed her side to side. She closed her eyes and enjoyed the moment with him. Beth knew this moment wouldn't last and she wanted to make the most of it.
Beth watched the couples dance on the floor, they had been here for over an hour. She still couldn't believe how easy it was to get in. She had expected to be more high profile of it was a Politician party but it seems like they don't care. From out of nowhere Jack appeared again. He stood beside her, his hands behind his back.
"Are you enjoying yourself?" he asked.
"Is that a yes?"
"How about we get out of here," he suggested.
She glanced at him and smiled when she saw him grinning mischievously at her. He took her hand and led her across the dance floor. The entrance was few steps away but Jack held her back before they reached it. She looked up at him, as an unfamiliar expression appeared in his face. She followed his gaze to a couple who standing together talking to a bunch of people. The blonde haired lady suddenly craned her head they way. She held her mask in her hands, leaving her face bare. Beth recognised those mossy green eyes she had. They were identical to Jack's.
"Turn around, Beth, turn away," he said, backing up.
He gripped her hand tightly and they began running down the hallway. He led her through hallway after hallway until they reached the kitchen.
"I don't think we're allowed through here," she whispered harshly.
"Just smile," he replied.
The kitchen smelled like heaven, and the chefs were preparing cocktail drinks and small smacks on silver trays. There were waiters and waitresses coming in from different direction with empty trays. Beth struggled to dodge them, but Jack gracefully walked through the kitchen as if he was the owner. They reached the back with the word EXIT in bright red on the door. He pushed it open and they were outside. The door closed behind them and Beth leaned against the brick wall.
"Who was that?" she questioned.
"My parents; they don't know I'm here. Hopefully they didn't recognise me," he said.
"I can't believe you made me do that, why aren't there security guards by the doorway checking invitations?"
"They don't care, all you have to do is look like you come from a rich and royal family," he stated.
"Didn't you get invited? I mean your parents were, so I'm guessing you should've, to’’
"Not this time. The last time I went to a party like this, I broke an expensive vase," he smirked proudly. "So, no more parties for me."
She chuckled and blushed. He pulled her into his arms and they walked together, away from the cathedral. Once they reached the car park, it was empty. Only the Audi was parked there. She guessed it must be really late, but she wasn't feeling tired. She felt like she’d just woken up from a deep, deep slumber and she was too full of energy to go back to sleep. She felt alive.
She took off the mask and sat down on the hood of the car. She laid down and felt the cool metallic surface touch her skin. She gazed up at the dark sky above her. The stars were like diamonds twinkling in the sky, and there wasn’t a cloud to be seen. Summer was definitely her favourite time of the year. A few seconds later, Jack joined her. He held some paper, two pens and two envelopes in his hands.
"Number 11, write a letter to ourselves to open in ten years," he spoke softly.
She took the paper, the pen and envelope from him and they laid in silence writing their letter. Beth wrote down:
Dear me, in 10 years.
It's the summer holidays of 2013, and I'm sitting next to the most beautiful and handsome guy in the whole school, and possibly the world. I'm hoping that summer won't end because I don't know what will happen when it does. Will Jack and I still be friends, or will he forget about me? After all I am Boring-Beth Edmund. I don't want him to forget about me; I want us to be more than friends, but I know that won't happen because it can't. I don't know why, but it just can't, so I'm hoping we can at least be friends. He’s the first person except Aunt Lydia who pays any attention to me. This bucket list had brought me to him, or perhaps him to me. Maybe it's fate or it’s just me making things up, but I hope it's fate. I think I really, really like him, maybe even love him, but I've only known him for 2 weeks. Love don't happen that quickly, but it's possible. I hope he feels the same way and that this isn't a dream, but if it is, I don't want to wake up. Ever.
Love Beth (10 years ago) x
She fold the paper and carefully put it into the envelope. She sealed it and wrote BETH onto it. Then Beth glanced at Jack, he sealed the envelope and scribbled his name onto it. She blushed as he caught her staring, but didn't say anything. Instead he flashes his cute smile at her.
"Promise you won't open it till 2023."
"I promise," Beth said.
They laid there together underneath the dark sky until Beth found herself dosing off. Jack drove her home but she couldn't remember what had happen through the ride. He gently shook her awake as he reached her house. She quickly thanked him for the night and the dress and the shoes. Her house was empty when she entered. Lynn had probably gone on a business trip or was working overnight, and either way, Beth didn't really care.
The next day everything was back to normal. Lynn wasn't there when Beth woke up the next morning and she was back hanging out with Jack again. They had cruised around half of London in three hours and taken at least fifty pictures, including one with Buckingham Palace guard. They had visited every popular destination in London - the Houses of Parliament, Wellington Arch, Battersea Park, Buckingham Palace and now they stood outside the Tower of London.
"Smile," Jack said.
Beth had been smiling all day and her cheeks were starting to ache but she smiled for the camera. There were tourists around them, taking pictures of the tower, Beth just having the time of her life like they were. She stared down at their entwined hands, they fitted together perfectly and for a moment she dreamt that they were a real couple, happily in love and nothing could separate them from one another. They were unbreakable, but reality destroyed those dreams like they meant nothing.
"Where’s that beautiful smile gone?" Jack asked, twirling a strand of her hair around his finger.
She reddened and smiled shyly. He called her smile beautiful but he didn't know how much that meant to her and she wanted him to know. She peeked at him from underneath her long eyelashes, she wasn't afraid to be herself around him but she was always shy because it felt like he knew her better than anyone else, better than Lydia, and certainly better than Lynn. A loud vibrating sound startled them both, Jack reached into his jean pocket and pulled his phone. He stared at it for a long moment.
"I have to go," he said in a monotone voice.
"Umm...okay," Beth said.
"I'll take you home."
She didn't argue with him. It was probably something important. Beth suddenly wished that someday she would be something important to him, that he would leave in the middle of whatever he was doing and come home to her. She pushed away the thought because it wouldn’t happen, it only existed in her mind and this is reality. Reality is like a mirage, you think something is yours then suddenly you find it was only an illusion, it was never meant to be.
The drive back to her house was quiet, nobody said anything and did anything. Jack pulled into her driveway behind Lynn's car. She unbuckled her seat belt and Jack's gaze followed her every move.
"Beth, I'm so sorry I have to end our day so early," he apologised.
"Honestly, it's fine," she said.
"But I'm still sorry. There's lantern party in Hyde Park tomorrow, do you want to come?" he asked.
She nodded her head with a smile. His soft lips pressed against her temple, as her heart raced uncontrollably in her chest. She gave him one last smile and got out of his car. The BMW drove away, he didn't stop at his house, he continued driving out of the neighbourhood. It was upsetting to see him go but he wasn't gone permanently. Then what would it feel like if he was gone permanently? The end of summer was so close now.
Beth pushed open the door to her house, she hadn't expected Lynn to standing beside the living room doorway. Everyday she looked more ghostly. Pale skin and tired eyes. She was dressed in loose clothing and a dressing gown was wrapped tightly around her thin body. Beth realised Lynn had lost weight, a lot of it.
"Elizabeth-" Lynn said, tiredly.
"Beth, we need to talk, I have something to tell you."
"Hey. Let me guess, you're go on a business trip and you have to leave me behind and don't worry, I'm fine with it. You’ve left me before and I've learnt not to care," Beth snapped.
"Eli- Beth, please, I need to speak to you, it's important," she pleaded, her voice breaking as she began coughing up her lungs.
"I don't care what it is because I'm sure it's more important than me, everything you do is more important than me!" she yelled, her anger rapidly turning into an inferno of rage.
"Nothing, is more than you because I love y-"
"Shut up! You're lying, everything is always important than me and how dare you say you love me because it's not true and never loved me!" she screamed, her rage was exploding like a bomb.
"Don't speak to me. I hate you, I HATE YOU!" she burst out, with angry tears racing down her cheeks.
Beth ran up the stairs and and pulled open her bedroom door. She angrily slammed it and laid her back against it. She wiped away the worthless tears with her hands. She wasn't going to let them ruin her day with Jack, they had fun together and that's what mattered to her. Beth walked to her bed and grabbed the picture of her and Jack together by the Marble Arch in Hyde Park. The first thing they did together. Why does summer have to end? she thought.
Everything ends for a reason, those words echoed through her brain. She remembered them but couldn't remember the person who had spoken them to her. Beth stared at the picture. If summer ended, would their adventure end, too? What about their friendship? She placed the picture back on her bedside table and sat down. She silently promised herself not to get attached to him for the next week. Beth was afraid, afraid of him leaving her just like Lynn did - but he was leaving to protect his reputation.
Sunday evening came quickly. Beth nervously waited outside her door. Lynn was home and questioned her, but Beth didn’t reply. The fire between them was burning like an unstoppable forest fire. Not even a week of rain could stop it. She glanced at Jack's house, the living room light was on and then the garage door flew open. Beth quickly stood up. The BMW reversed out of the driveway onto the road.
Before Beth could run to him, her house door swung open. Lynn looked even more weak and tired than yesterday. She was thinner and more pale. Dark circles outlined her dull blue eyes and usually neat hair was all over the place.
"Elizabeth, please don't go," she begged like a desperate child.
Beth glared daggers at her, she didn't want to fight, especially not in front of Jack. She turned away and marched towards his car. She stumbled into the seat and frowned.
"Is everything okay?" he asked.
"Yes," she lied. "Can we just go?"
The BMW flew down the streets like a bird. Since they lived near Hyde Park, it didn't take long to reach it. Jack parked the BMW on the side, the party had already started. Beth could see half of the school's population, she had expected families and old people to be there but all she could see were kids from school. She suddenly felt nervous. She didn't like attention and she was about to get out of Jack Hood's car. She unbuckled her seat belt and open the car door.
What would the people think?
Would it damage Jack's reputation?
"Are you sure you're okay?" he questioned again.
"Yeah," she said so softly, that it was barely audible.
His warm palm covered her hand. She was aware of people staring at them. They were probably thinking, Why is Jack with Boring-Beth Edmund? Who is she? The popular kid and her?
Jack walked through the crowd with Beth shielding herself behind him like a fragile doll. Their staring was making her feel nauseous and self-conscious. The guys stared but the girls glared. Beth wasn't scared of any of them, but she was scared of Anna. Beth knew Anna was capable of many things, and that she would kill to get what she wanted. But Anna was nowhere in sight. She prayed that none of her minions had seen her, but what were the chances?
"I'm going to go and get our lantern," Jack murmured in her ear.
She watched him as he disappeared into the crowd and everyone lost interest, but the girls were still staring at her with narrowed and angry eyes. A girl she didn't knew barged into to her. The girl spun around and her brown eyes were fuming with anger.
"Watch where you're going Boring-Beth Edmund!" she hissed.
Beth stared at the ground, she had made herself a target to wild and vicious dogs, and they weren't scared to strike. Why didn't she think? Of course they were going to be angry! The best looking guy is with a shy, lonely girl that nobody paid any attention to! She wrapped her arms around herself, feeling uneasy. Beth wished that she had never come.
Jack appeared five minutes later, carrying a large lantern. The sun had already set ,and now it was pitch black. It was a perfect night for a lantern party, there was no stars in the sky, just a full, silver moon. She smiled as he was coming closer. Beth felt a vibration coming from her denim jacket’s pocket. She fished out her phone. The caller ID said ‘MUM’.
Beth stared at it for a moment and ignored the call. She didn’t want anything to do with her. She shoved the phone back into her pocket and smiled at Jack.
“Come on, they’re going to start soon,” he said.
As she followed Jack towards the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain, she remembered how they had put soap into the water two weeks ago. She remembered how much fun she had had; she had been smiling and laughing, having the time of her life. They surrounded the fountain. Almost everyone had a lantern, and some shared. Jack handed her the matchbox.
“Ready?” he asked.
She lit the candle inside the lantern and the flame roared to life. Beth and Jack held onto their lantern, ready to let it go.
“...3, 2, 1,” they chanted together.
The lanterns filled the midnight blue sky, they looked incredible. So magical. Beth kept her eyes fixed on their lantern, it was now far up into the sky. She smiled, it was saddening to see it go but it had to, it was the way of life. She was suddenly aware of Jack’s gaze on her. She stared back, there was a longing in his eye and she saw it.
“We just have one more thing to do, we’re almost done,” he spoke softly.
They were standing so close she wondered if he could feel her heart racing. His hands was on her waist pulling her closer. Beth stared at his full lips, it looked so soft and sweet. The vibration in her pocket was back again but she ignored it. Irritatingly, it kept ringing. As Jack leaned in towards Beth, Beth did the same. By now, the vibration was becoming annoying; what on earth did Lynn want?! Beth was tempted to answer the phone and rage at her, but this moment was important.
His lips gently brushed against hers, and everything felt so right as long as he kept his lips on hers, but it didn’t last. They jumped apart but Jack still held her against him. Beth cheeks warmed as a crowd of people gasped at them. She looked away, heart beating fast. Jack Hood was her first kiss. Her first kiss ever.
“Dude, you’re still doing this bucket list thing?” Kyron hollered, he held the pink paper and waved it around.
Jack’s eyes widened, he stared at Kyron who had the paper in his hands, then turned back to Beth.
“You get girlier every year!” he laughed.
“I thought you said that wasn’t your list,” Beth questioned.
“Jack, what are you doing with her?” Anna’s snake-like voice said.
Beth looked over Jack’s shoulder, Anna was stood with her hands on her hips, flowers in her hair and with too much cleavage showing again. Beth dug her nails into Jack’s bicep. She was suddenly afraid, even though Anna looked innocent but she was like the wicked witch of the west in disguise. Beth reached into her pocket and struggled to find the off button because the vibrating was becoming irritating.
“Yeah, what are you doing with her? I thought you were with Anna!” Kyron said, breaking the silence.
Automatically, Beth pushed Jack away. She didn’t know he was with Anna. Guilt washed over her like a flood. She kissed a guy who was in a relationship, she backed away from him as if he was a disease. Slowly and painfully she felt her heart shatter into tiny and unfixable pieces. Tears blurred her vision, the kiss probably didn't anything to him but it meant the world to Beth. She turned away, she wasn’t going to cry in front of him and these people, or she wouldn’t just be known as Boring-Beth, she’ll be known as “the idiotic girl who had a summer fling with Jack Hood.”
“Beth, wait,” Jack called, but she was already running towards the closer gate.
Tears were rapidly pouring out of her eyes. She was hurt that he had lied to her but she was mostly angry at herself for falling for him, it was so cliche. The loner girl and the popular guy, they were probably laughing at her right now. Two people from opposite sides of society don’t mix and she had known that the first time they’ve met. Why didn’t she listen to herself?
Stronger arms wrapped around her waist and her back hit a solid warm chest. She knew the person, the warm and smell was so familiar. Jack spun her around, so she was facing him.
“Beth, its not what you think it is, I swear. Me and-”
“I don’t want to listen to you,,” she cried furiously.
“I’m sorry,” he apologised.
“You lied to me! You’re just like her!”
“Beth, I didn’t-”
“No! I thought you liked me then you kissed me and I thought that you like liked me because I really like you a lot, I really really like you Jack but you’re with her,” she said, staring at Anna who stood with her minions and Kyron.
She had a smug look on her face and Beth yearned to wipe it off but she stood her ground because fighting doesn’t solve anything. Beth pushed him, she couldn’t look him in the eye because all she could see was herself, stupid and gullible.
“Beth” he said.
She ignored him and ran. Tears were uncontrollably rushing down her face, Beth wiped them away but they kept falling. She couldn’t stop them like she couldn’t stop herself from falling. She turned the corner to her neighbourhood, and as she did, she could almost see her house. But there was people surrounding it and she could see the neon yellow and black ambulance parked outside. Beth ran faster.
They wheeled out her mother, who lay motionless on the bed. They had strapped an oxygen mask to her face and her body was wrapped in a blanket. Lydia came running towards her and held her away from Lynn’s body.
“Mum! Mum!” Beth cried, struggling to get free.
She watched as Lynn was rushed into the ambulance and they drove away, leaving Beth petrified.
“Beth, honey, its okay,” she whispered softly.
“What happened?” Beth demanded.
“She didn’t tell you?”
Beth stared nervously into Lydia’s blue eyes. Lydia took a deep breath before saying:
“Your mother has leukemia.”
“I didn’t listen to her. I should’ve stayed. She told me not to leave her and...and I did.” She sobbed into Lydia’s shoulder. “She wanted me to stay- to stay with her-, but I left. Its all my fault”
Beth sobbed uncontrollably in Lydia’s arms. The last thing she said to Lynn was ‘I hate you’, and now she regretted it. She regretted all those thing she say and Beth desperate to make things right.
“You need to take me to the hospital, please,” she begged. “I need to make it right, please”
“Tomorrow, she’s having her treatment tonight. She was meant to have it tomorrow but it got worse,” Lydia said, smoothing her hair and pulling her close.
“No, I need to see you now, please!”
Lydia stared at her for a long moment, she finally nodded and whispered:
Beth and Lydia stayed overnight at St Thomas’ Hospital, but she couldn’t see Lynn because she was still having her treatment. It was 10 o’clock in the morning when the nurses at the hospital finally let Beth in to see her mum. Beth had always hated the hospital; the smell made her sick and she couldn’t stand the fear and sadness that enveloped it. She followed behind Lydia and the man in the white lab coat towards her mother’s room.
She hesitated before she entered, but she took two deep breaths and stepped inside the room. It was just a blue and white room, with one chair and sofa pushed against the wall near the window. Tears blurred her vision. Her mother just lay there; she looked like a delicate glass flower from a story book, but the way she laid reminded her of Snow White. Beth pulled the chair towards the hospital bed, she sat down and gently took her mother’s hand. Slowly the tears fell and she made no effort to wipe them away. The fire that was once raging between had vanished and Beth finally saw the real Lynn, all those years she had always been the mother that Beth wanted, but she was just blinded by the fire, forcing herself to believe that Lynn was the bad one.
“Is she going to be okay?” Beth asked.
“Yes but we’ll have to see what happens in the future; there may be complications,” the man in the white lab coat explained. “I’m Doctor Harris, a specialist in these kind of things”
“Your mother is doing great, she was meant to have the treatment today but because she got worse yesterday, we had to help her,” Doctor Harris said. He scratched his greying head and smiled at her.
“When can she leave?”
“Beth, sweetie these kind of things don’t go away easily. It takes time,” Lydia said.
“She can be released in a few weeks or months but she’ll have to come back regularly, All together her treatment and stay here now could last up to 4 years,” Doctor Harris explained.
“Can I be alone with her?” she asked, wiping her the tears.
They both silently moved towards the door, once Beth had it closed, she couldn’t stop the tears rushing down her cheeks like a waterfall. She laid her head down on the bed and threw her arms around Lynn’s stomach. Beth was still tired from the long wait last night and it didn’t take her long to fall asleep.
Someone’s hand was taking her hair, gently stroking it. Her eyes fluttered open and she raised her head. Lynn’s smiled weakly at her, she didn’t look the mother Beth knew. She was too thin and pale. Beth grabbed her hand.
“Mum, I’m so sorry,” she said. “I never meant to say those horrible things I said. I love you so much.”
“Elizabeth, I love you too. I know I haven’t been around for a long time but I promise I will always be there for you,” Lynn mumbled.
Beth knew she was too weak to speak so instead she lay down her head and wrapped her arms around Lynn and she did the same.
“Tell me about Jack,” she said.
She dived into the story from the begin how they met and what they did. After ten minutes, she was explained what happened between them yesterday and shyly told her about the unexpected kiss. Even if it was just a gentle touch it was still a kiss, a kiss that meant so much. Beth told her how she didn’t want their friendship or their summer to end because she was scared of letting him go and that he won’t come back. She finally came to an end.
“Its going to be okay, everything ends for a reason.”
Beth stayed in the hospital for the rest of the week. Lynn and Lydia finally convinced her to go home and rest because tomorrow was the begin of another year in school. Jack didn’t call or text but she secretly hoped he did because she knew she could never forget him even if she tried. He was her first love and her first kiss and she wouldn’t ever forget. Beth had already spent a whole week trying to forget him but he was permanent mark in her mind.
Beth peered through her curtains, and saw that it was raining outside. It had been for a whole week, which was unusual for London. She could remember the night that they had communicated through writing on a notepad.
Beth had pulled down the photos and anything that reminded her of him because every time she thought about him it filled her up with regret, guilt and love. Beth sat down on her bed and stared at the photograph facing down on the bedside table. He made her angry, made her cry but she stilled loved him.
She jumped at the loud buzzing sound coming from downstairs. At a slow pace, she made her way downstairs. She unlocked the chain and opened the door. She hadn’t expected him to be standing at her front door. Beth had thought he was done with her and she was only a summer fling. His dark hair was slightly wet from the falling rain and his captivating green eyes were dull and tired. They stared at each other for a long moment. Beth didn’t know that to say so she stayed quiet.
“I miss you,” he said. His voice sounded foreign.
She didn’t reply. Jack reached for her hand, she had missed his warm skin touching her. She missed having his lean, strong arms wrapped around her, but most of all, she missed his deep dimples denting his cheeks. He pulled her into the rain, and she shivered, but being there with him made her warm.
“We still have one more thing to do” he whispered into her ears. “Number six, dance in the rain.”
Jack twirled her around and around, and he pulled her close against him. His hands were on her waist and Beth placed her hands on his shoulder. She took a step back, then a step to the side and then forward as they repeated the steps. He twirled her around one last time and pulled her into his arms.
“I missed you so much,” he murmured. His warm breath tickled her shoulder blades. “I’m so sorry.”
“There’s nothing going on between Anna and I and I’m sorry I haven’t been in contact. I was in Ireland with my family,” he explained.
Beth gazed into his tired eyes. She didn’t know what to say, and she couldn’t trust him after what they had gone through, but at least they had gone through it together.
“How about this: we start from the being,” he suggested. “Lets forget about what has happened and start again”
It was a good idea, but Beth had tried forgetting, and the result wasn’t a success. She stroked his cheeks and her thumb brushed against his lips.
“I can’t forget. I’m sure you heard what happened to my mother,” Beth spoke for the first time.
“I know and I’m sorry. I want to be them for you if times get tough because I can’t get you out of my mind.”
She smiled, his hands cupped her face. She searched his face, and watched as his green eyes sparkled with hope. Beth wanted to try again as much as he did, and she was ready to move on with him.
“Hi, I’m Beth and I think I’m in love with you,” she said. He flashed her his dimple smiled and her heart melted.
“Hey, my name is Jack and I love you.”