Numbly, I shut the front door and made my way up to my room. I passed the string of Christmas cards, hung proudly in the stairwell, showing anyone who visited how popular and loved our family is. Frustrated, I gave the thread at the top a tug, pulling it free, and watched the folds of cardboard slide away to the floor; undone and depleting into the mess I was. I was alone and the cards seemed insignificant, their thoughtful meaning lost and defaced into a mocking joke.
I stepped onto the galleried landing. On each bedroom door was a cheap-and-cheerful, plastic happy Christmas picture. The large room on the right was my parents and their door was adorned with a 'ho ho ho' and a picture of Santa. On the left was my brother Murray's room and on his door was a picture of a beaming reindeer and the phrase 'jingle bells'. My room was in the far left corner, next to the bathroom and was the smallest room in the house. The small room had always irritated me but tonight it felt fitting. On my door was an image of a fairy with the words 'Magical Christmas' written in a pretty italic font.
I ripped the plastic decoration from my door and tossed it destructively across the hall. I wanted to rip them all down! I didn't feel like laughing or singing and I certainly wasn't having a magical fucking Christmas! I flung the door open and with the same force as the venom festered inside me, I slammed it shut behind me in one swoop.
I'm not a Scrooge! I don't hate the Christmas holidays. In fact, normally, I love the over-the-top extent my mum goes to ensure we all enjoy the celebrations. I love choosing gifts, wrapping them up and placing them under the tree and I get more excited just thinking about the recipient opening them than I do about receiving my own presents. I look forward to baking mince pies with mum and the big roast dinner on Christmas Day with all the family around. But, right now, I didn't feel like me; a part of me had just died and the rest of me, that somehow survived the heartache, didn’t like what was left.
Throwing the carrier bag, that contained the soggy red dress I had lent to Lily, to the corner of my room, I hit the power switch on my stereo. I didn't care what came on as I cranked the volume up, I just wanted peace and quiet. Not the sort of quiet that comes from silence but the peace that my family can't hear me and the noise that drowns out the sound of my own thoughts. I flung myself back on my bed without care that I might get hurt – nothing could hurt as bad as this. My eyes bore up at the ceiling.
I wouldn't cry! I vowed to myself. No boy would ever make me cry!
I rolled over and buried my head in my pillow. I took a deep breath and let it all out in one pitiful scream. Screaming until I was out of breath, I buried my face in my pillow. Once finished I didn't feel much better, I was still angry at Jace, just a little less frustrated.
Rolling onto my back I sent a text to all my best friends. They were going to find out sooner or later and I'd much rather say it just the once. A text message was far less personal than telling them face to face and I liked how it kept me separated from them. It was easier to stay in control of my emotions this way.
“I got dumped for Christmas.” I text.
Almost as soon as it was sent my phone rang. I almost cringed at the irritating Christmas song I had chosen when I had been in high spirits. I checked the screen to see who was calling, whilst I clicked the off button on the stereo remote. I flipped my clamshell mobile open to shut up Mariah Carey, “Hi Kali.”
“Oh my god!” Kali gushed. Being subtle was not her strong point, and most people called her a bitch. Most people were right, but for those of us she liked, and fortunately I was one of them, she was just who you needed in a situation like this. “I just got your text. When did this happen?”
I glanced at the neon numbers at my clock as if it had the answer and then estimated, “About ten minutes ago.” I felt the sharp pang of pain in my chest and shook my head to shake off the feeling. He wasn't worth a tear! I reminded myself.
“Are you okay?” she asked. I knew Kali well enough to know she didn't actually care. She wasn't really interested in hearing about my woes. Sharing my emotions would just put her right off. To my relief, she quickly moved on with her real questions,
“How did he do it?”
“To my face,” I sighed. Everyone always said that it was the noble thing to do and cowardly to do it by phone, text or e-mail. I was still furious at the way he did it though and probably would have preferred a less personal method.
“What did he say?” Kali fished for the juicy bits.
My teeth ground together, as I remembered what he had said. “He's a complete bastard, Kali!” I snapped angrily. “It's not what he said but how he said it!”
I could picture Kali shrugging, almost disinterested “What do you mean?”
“He was...” I searched for the right word, “eager.” I thought for a bit trying to think how to explain his odd behaviour. “He seemed happy and in a rush to get it over with. Once he was done, he seemed relieved.”
“Did he say why?”
I grunted and mimicked a pathetic whining voice, “It's not you; it's me.” I let out a bitter “Ha!” rolled my eyes and then continued, “He acted as if he was doing me a favour!”
“Come on Kiara,” she almost sang into the phone, “You know you could do so much better than Jace Walker!”
I didn't answer. I wasn't feeling as if I could do any better than Jace. In fact, I didn't want to do any better. Right then, I just wanted him back. Kali knew I was down and out but she wasn't going to give me a shoulder to cry on, that just wasn't her style. She was more of a 'let's get on with it and seek revenge' type of girl.
“Look...” she started, “We're having a party for Christmas Eve. You can come if you want? But, not if you're going to be all sorry for yourself. You're hot! You're sexy! And we should be finding you a new man, not moping about the loser who’s lost out!”
That was easy for Kali to say. She could go through men like hot dinners, if she wanted to. She was visually stunning, with her gorgeous blonde ringlets that dropped into natural waves. Kali had broken many hearts and all of them, despite her vicious side, would forgive her in a heartbeat if they thought they'd get a second chance. But Kali had given up on 'school boys', she was chasing after older guys, 'real men' as she liked to refer to them.
“Don't worry, I'm not moping!” I lied. I doubted my mum would let me out on Christmas Eve. Despite the fact I was now fourteen, she would still expect me to be tucked up in bed before Santa visits. Keeping me in hadn't stopped me going out before. “I'll see you tonight.”
“Seven thirty babe.” she chimed, and made a fake kissing noise, “Mwah!” into the phone before hanging up.
I wondered with Kali in my corner, if she could help me pull a hottie. If I could get a new boyfriend before we started back at school in the New Year... Jace would see how quickly I moved on and realise what an idiot he is to have lost a hot commodity. Then he would be jealous and want me back. That was my plan anyway. Part of me doubted he would ever want me back and that doubt weighed heavy on my heart but I couldn’t let my pointless negativity hold me back.
I’d sneaked out without saying bye to my mum or my dad. I knew if either of them knew I was on my way out, they would have stopped me. My phone was on silent so they couldn't find me. My dad usually did the lecturing and I couldn't imagine mum would let him on Christmas Day, as she wouldn't want to ruin the festive mood. That would give me a chance to get over my hangover. Plus, there was always a chance they might not check on me and therefore never know I was gone.
I heard the music before I reached the house and I hoped I wasn't too over dressed. I had chosen a short black lace dress with patterned tights. The dress had a red sash that matched my red heeled shoes. Their driveway was shingled and I wobbled up to the door in my heels, whilst the stone crunched beneath me. People were always coming and going from their house, so they never locked the front door; just as well they lived in a nice neighbourhood. I pushed the handle of the PVC door down and entered the bustle of a packed house. I was a little late but I hated arriving at a party before it had even started.
I made my way through the people searching for a familiar face. I saw Kali's older sister Keeley. She was almost a mirror image of Kali, just older. She smiled her perfect pearly whites at me, “Kali's in the conservatory!” Everything she did oozed with confidence, including the way she gave a little nod afterwards to check I had heard her.
Coolly, I nodded in response. I headed towards the kitchen as the conservatory is out the back. On my way through I bumped into Kali's older brother, Kye. He was standing around the fridge with all his friends, Budweiser’s poised at their lips. He had short blond curly hair. He gave me a cheeky wink as I passed and I felt myself flush red. Everyone fancied Kye but we all knew he was off limits. I remember the sleepover when Madison confessed she had a soft spot for him and Kali flipped.
“Are you using me to perv on my brother!” she had spat. Madison started mumbling trying to back track but Kali hadn't finished. She turned her red painted index finger nail on all of us, “No friend of mine is dating my brother! Understand? I don't want to see you smacking off with him. It’s sick!” Her attention flashed back to poor Madison who was wishing she had kept her mouth shut. “You get that filthy idea out of your head otherwise things will get nasty for you.”
Madison was Kali's number one best friend, so if she was going to let anyone date her brother, we all would have bet on her. The bizarre thing was, afterwards, Kali dropped her attitude and bounced across the room to grab the bowl of popcorn to offer around. It was almost psychotic the way her moods would flip just like that.
I stepped into the conservatory. Kali was spread out on the light wicker sofa, watching two older lads playing guitar hero on the playstation. Her face brightened when she saw me come through the sliding door and I got the distinct impression that she was bored.
“Kiara!” she cheered with a big smile. She got up from her chair to embrace me in a hug. I could smell alcohol on her breath.
“Are you drunk?”
She grinned and let out a little laugh, “No.”
“You are!” I gasped.
“Not yet, but I’m working on it.” she giggled and reached into a crate of Smirnoff and passed me a bottle.
“Bottle opener?” I asked.
“Yo! Jim!” she yelled over the noise into the kitchen.
I turned to see one of Kye's mates making his way towards us. He had dark hair and brown eyes, loose jeans and a checkered shirt. He walked with a slight limp, which I got the impression he did to look cool, not due to injury. He dug into his pocket, that seemed to be quite deep and pulled out a key chain with a bottle opener on it.
“Ours have all gone walkabout,” Kali shrugged.
“No worries.” Jim said reaching for my bottle. He opened it and returned it to me, all without taking his eyes off Kali.
Kali threw her hair around as she made her way back to the sofa. Her hair smelt expensive and I expected whatever she had washed it with probably wasn’t from a supermarket or chemist. I joined her on the soft cream denim material that cushioned the wicker frame. Kali leaned back into the chair, with one arm dangling across the back.
I looked back through the door at Jim, who had re-joined Kye and although taking part in the conversation, Jim kept stealing small glances in Kali's direction. “He's into you, you know?”
“You think?” she rolled her eyes. Clearly this was old news and way too obvious.
“Do you like him?” I asked, “You like older guys. He's eighteen isn't he?”
Kali took a gulp of her drink and wrinkled her nose as if it tasted bad, “Yeah, he's eighteen but he is also my brother's mate.”
She looked at me with an angry look in her eye. “Are you crazy?” her bad mood glowered in her eyes and I shrivelled up in the same manner Madison had when she had incurred Kali’s wrath. “If we went out, I wouldn't know if he was visiting here to play with me or Kye! Plus, I've heard Jim talk to Kye about other girls and I don't think my brother wants to hear his little sister in that graphic detail. That's just messed up!”
I was sure that if Jim was ever be lucky enough to have Kali give him the time of day that he wouldn’t ruin it by giving Kye a 411 on the details, even if they are best friends. Damn, he probably wouldn't risk telling anyone anything that might risk losing Kali. Though, instead of telling her that, I decided to just take a swig of my drink and watch the air guitar show play out in front of me. It was best when Kali was in this odd mood to just let her simmer down. Saying sorry, was almost like agreeing she had a point and then she'd drag it out with one of her lectures or retaliate feeling you weren’t sincere enough.
One of the guys beat the other one and fell to his knees, leaning back, sticking his tongue out, whilst strumming his guitar. “Yeah, that’s how you do it!” he gloated, nodding his head up and down like a rocker.
“This is way better than that lame mistletoe disco the school had!” her voice was calm again and she smiled at me.
Phew, the storm has passed. I sighed inwardly.
I nodded in agreement, even though that lame disco was when I first kissed Jace. In fact, that was the last time he had been sweet on me. Since then, he had been cold and distant and even blanked me on the bus. Guess, I should have seen it coming – all the signs were there.
I downed a gulp of my alcopop, “Do you think Jace dumped me after he got what he wanted?”
“You slept with him!” Kali gasped. “Shit! I didn't know things were that serious between you two! Oh my god, you're not a virgin!”
I flushed red. The game was quiet whilst the two older lads choose the next song in the game. I saw them exchange a look and laugh and it was clear they were not amused by the game content but by what they had overheard.
I grabbed Kali's arm and pulled her down towards me so she could hear me. “No. We just kissed!” I said in an urgent whisper.
She got the hint that I didn't want the lads hearing this and she whispered back, “Has anyone else dumped you after you kissed them?”
Oh no! I knew where this conversation was going. I cringed and confessed, “He was my first kiss.”
Kali sank back into her seat, her bottle poised at her lips. She raised an eyebrow at me, “But not your last.”
“You think I can get him back?” I asked eagerly.
“Of course, but why waste your time on a loser?” Kali asked but as usual she wasn’t waiting for an answer. “I’m thinking we get you some practice and then a real man. Not a boy!”
“I don’t know...”
“He’s just kicked your confidence...” she said lost in thought... “Practice first, then when you realise it’s not you, it really is him, we’ll start looking for someone you like.”
“Yeah, we could make out and I could give you some pointers.”
“I’m not a lesbian.” I whispered.
“Nor am I.” Kali laughed. “Come on.”
Kali grabbed my wrist and I was hauled to my feet. Before I could say no I found myself being hurried out the backdoor and down the garden path. The way was lit by little solar garden lights, pitched in the ground. Kali’s garden was large and at the bottom was the summer house. It was big enough you could tell it wasn’t a shed. It was in fact more like a little house and when Kali’s relatives came to visit they had slept out in it.
Kali and I stood on the wooden decking at the front. It had a small low level decorative fence, creating an area just big enough that you could sit out on it with a two seater table and chair. “Kali, I’m not conformable with this.”
“No worries.” Kali wore a neck scarf that was a light pink and matched the lacing on her strappy top. She began to unravel it. “I have a better idea...”
“What?” I eyed her scarf suspiciously as she held it stretched out in front of her.
“You seem nervous about kissing me and we want to build your confidence back up, so...” Kali then went to put the scarf around my face. I dodged out of her way. “Trust me.” Kali ordered and quickly manoeuvred herself behind me to tie the scarf in a tight knot at the back of my head. The scarf covered my eyes and I couldn’t see a thing. My fingers reached for the scarf but she pulled my arms down by my sides and pinned me against the wall.
“Get off Kali!” I wriggled and tried to escape her but I couldn’t see and she pressed her weight into my arms pressing them into the wooden frame of the summer house. Reluctantly, I gave in and my shoulders slumped.
“Kiara...?” Kali whispered into my ear. My heart thumped from the physical excursion from my previous fighting.
“I don’t want to kiss anyone but Jace.” I whispered and could feel my heart breaking as I acknowledged that painful truth. Relief that the scarf hid me from the world I allowed a tear to build and dampen the material.
“Shh...” Kiara pulled me into a hug. I felt her kiss on my cheek as she rubbed my back. “It’s gonna be okay. You promised if you came to my party you’d be strong. You are stronger than this. Kiara, I’m going to take care of you and fix everything. You just have to trust me.”
“Can you stop the pain?” I crushed my eye lashes together harder as I felt my bleak whisper beg for mercy.
“Yes, but you’ve got to stop being pathetic and trust me Kiara.” Kali said. “Can you do that?”
Desperately, I nodded.
Kali let me go and I heard her step back. “Stay here. I’m going to get someone. You are not to take off the blind fold. Stay there and trust me?”
I wasn’t sure but I felt compelled to nod. The confusion had at least distracted me from my heartache. I could hear Kali walking away and I waited nervously, blinded to the world. The music played but it was far enough away that it was a mumble of noise. There were the sounds of birds tweeting and jumping on the roof of the summer house. I could hear the soothing sound of a gentle rustle of foliage moving in the wind and then I heard gravel crunching under foot. Someone was moving up the garden path. Who had Kali gone to get?
I heard the sound of someone stepping onto the decking. They were so close I could hear their breathing and sense the warmth of their closeness. It was a man, I could tell from the cologne. My heart speeded up as my mind tried to think who I had seen at the party that Kali might have sent to see me.
What if this wasn’t the person Kali had gone to find – doubt caused fear and with fear the hair on my arms stood up. But the fear was replaced with excitement as I felt the tips of soft fingers gently run along the line of my jaw. It tickled and I smiled.
“Hi...” I whispered in greeting.
The stranger remained silent. One hand brushed hair away from my face and then traced a finger down my shoulder and once it reached my elbow it circled round and slipped around my waist. He pulled me to him, pressing his hand against me back and pushing me into him. I could feel his breath tickle against my cheek as he moved closer. Then a searing heat touched my lips. The fire ran through my body igniting parts of me that I hadn’t realised could be touched like that.
My stranger in the darkness went to let me go. “No!” as his lips left mine, I gasped as the cool air filled the space and threatened to replace the warmth I now felt all over. I reached out for him. I wanted more. Never before had I felt so instinctual. I didn’t know who I was kissing but I didn’t care - I needed him.
Pulling him back to me, lust took over. Now I was pushing myself into him, my fingers exploring my mystery man trying to build a picture in my mind. My hands ran down his back and rested on his butt. He was wearing jeans... then I felt his hands on my chest and it felt good. Then my lips were parting and his tongue was touching mine. Suddenly, I realised everything was happening too fast. I broke away and stepped backwards. “Who are you?”
He reached for me and I felt dazed and confused – was that the drink or the disorientation of having my vision obscured? I felt his breath against my cheek, “Shhh...” followed by a pattern of kisses tracing down my neck, his hand had slipped back to my breasts. It felt good but I didn’t want this.
“No, stop!” I stepped back and reached for the knot of the blindfold.
“Sorry...” he said. The voice was definitely a guys and sounded familiar. “Let me help you get that off.”
I stood still and waited for the person to start helping me with the knot. He was there, pulling and tugging at the knot. He didn’t seem to be getting anywhere. “Sorry Kiara. She’s done this up tight and I don’t want to pull your hair.”
“It’s okay.” I said relaxing and calming down.
“I didn’t mean to get...” he went quiet. The gentle rustle that had calmed me before just made me feel nervous. “Kali said I had to let you know afterwards how you go on.”
Suddenly I felt nervous waiting for his verdict.
“Kiara, you’re more than a ten out of ten. You’re irresistible.” His words healed the pain just a little. I felt better about myself even if it wasn’t Jace telling me this. The scarf fell free from my face and I felt strong hands turning me to face them.
Kye smiled back, “We better get back to the party before people come looking for us.”
I blinked adjusting to having my sight back. Dumb struck by his green eyes and blonde hair and dashing good looks I realised all I could do was nod. My vision was back but now... now he was all I could see... He was all I wanted to see.