30 Days Of Summer

One year. Twelve months. 365 days to find myself and live on the wild side in Australia. It seemed like a long time at the start. I made friends, learned how to surf, got a nice tan. The usual. Then I met five crazy Australians who changed my life. It wasn’t just the fun, the laughs, the risks, the love. They showed me a part of myself I didn’t even know existed. And suddenly, one year didn’t seem so long anymore. {http://www.wattpad.com/story/11732664-30-days-of-summer}

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11. Chapter 11

{ A/N - This is a pretty big chapter. Vote, comment and enjoy. }

♥ ♥ ♥

“How do I look?”

I frowned in the mirror, smoothing down the dress which hugged my slender figure. The midnight blue halter dress reached the middle of my thighs; melting into my skin and making it look radiant – paired with sleek black kitten heels. My dark hair was loosely curled, long strands tumbling past my shoulders to meet the thin straps of my dress. I tugged at the soft, flowing material, a dissatisfied sigh leaving my mouth.

Tiffany continued to flick through the glossy magazine in her lap absent-mindedly.

"You couldn't look like worse if you tried," she teased, not bothering to look up.

I pouted dramatically, placing a hand on my hip for effect.

"I'm joking. You look stunning," Tiffany complimented, glancing up to examine me properly. I beamed at her, flicking a mascara wand over my eyelashes.

"Thanks. You don't look too bad yourself," I smirked. Tiffany was adorned in an elegant salmon pink dress with a black belt, studded with intricate diamonds. Her make-up was artfully done and she’d helped to paint a natural, understated finish on me as well – thanks to the guidelines the magazine presented her with.

I set down the mascara wand. “So. This party.”

“Old school friend of mine. His father owns a club in town and he hired it for his birthday.”

I nodded, glancing at the clock warily. “God, look at the time. Ellis will be here soon.”

Tiffany waved me off casually. “Soon, soon. So, how was dinner with the boys?”

I smiled distractedly. “It was nice. I forgot how much food Jimmy’s Steak Shack serves.”

She laughed. “I’ve made that mistake one or two times.”

I stared at the pile of hangers which had been flung across my bed haphazardly from earlier as Tiffany and I debated what to wear. I figured the mess could be sorted later. Right now, my mind had drifted elsewhere.

Tiffany bit her lip, staring at me with a calculating expression. “Lilly...?”

“Hmm?” I said, folding the damp towel from my shower earlier. The refreshing effect of the water and long since washed off on me. I fidgeting on the spot, slightly agitated.

“You have...told the guys that you’re leaving soon, right?”

She said it with an air of uncertainty, masking the hint that she was raising the obvious. Something in her tone suggested I should’ve told them ages ago and I considered lying, just for an easy escape. But the thought was fleeting; it would be wrong to lie to my best friend.

I sighed. “I...I will. Soon.”

“Lilly,” Tiffany warned lowly.

“I just don’t want a dark cloud hanging over the time I have left in Australia. I want to enjoy myself. That’s easier when I can forget about the deadline.”

Tiffany slapped the magazine shut, shaking her head disapprovingly. “The only place the dark cloud is hanging is over you.”

“It’s not that easy to tell them, you know,” I pointed out.

“It’ll only get harder the longer you wait.”

My mind fixates on one little thing. The moment at the restaurant; the anger in Jai's eyes as he read the words on the screen of my phone. The sharpness of his glare.

My stomach churns and I shake my head, pushing away the thought. “In good time.”

Tiffany opens her mouth to object, but decides to leave it at that. I bow my head, heading for the door.

“Ellis should be here by now,” I say hurriedly, stepping into the corridor.

“And the Janoskians...?”

“They’ll meet us there. I texted Luke the address,” I informed her. Tiffany shot me a suggestive look, giggling slightly. I nudged her shoulder and lead the way to the front room where Mark was slouched in front of the TV, just as the chime of the door bell reverberated throughout the apartment.

“Don’t get back too late,” Mark said, dialling down the volume. He glanced at us over his shoulder. “You guys look lovely.”

“Thanks,” I said, curtseying playfully. He shook his head with a small chuckle.

“You know the rules. Don’t drink too much, watch out for any horny young men and stay out of trouble...” he said, waving his hand vaguely. I grinned. His adolescent years weren’t as long ago as he occasionally liked to make out, and he was way more relaxed about these kinds of things than my parents would be.

“See you later, Mark,” I called, pulling open the front door. Ellis stood on the doorstep, dressed in a casual yet smart shirt which hugged his muscular figure.

“Ladies,” he greeted, his accent thick. He offered his arm to Tiffany, who took it eagerly. “Enchanté?”

Tendrils of breeze flutter through the palm trees, the last rays of sun filtering through the branches as the sky darkens. We stepped into the night, heading towards Ellis’s battered, second-hand silver car.

Suddenly I felt slightly nervous.Ellis drove horrifically. Whether accelerating or breaking, everything occurred with a tremendous jolt. Car journeys were completed in jagged silence with the passenger clutching their seat belts like a life raft in a storm.

My theory is that he charmed his driver instructor, a middle aged female, into permitting him to pass his test. Ellis’s theory is that ‘everything is harder when you’re left-footed’.

“Since when did you speak French?” I asked, dragging myself back to the present.

“He doesn’t,” Tiffany told me. She turned to him. “You just said ‘nice to meet you’.”

Ellis shrugged. “Actually, it means ‘I am enchanted to meet you’.”

Tiffany waved him off with a small smile. “Whatever. Just take us to the ball.”

♥ ♥ ♥

The club was alive. The pounding buzz of the music provided a backdrop for the clinking of glasses and the muffled drone of chatter. Flashing neon lights illuminated the dance floor, while darkness hugged the corners which adolescents melted into. The intermingled scent of smoke, sweat and too many people instantly assaulted my nostrils as I followed Tiffany, wading through the pulsating throng.

“Do you want a drink?” Tiffany yelled over her shoulder, battling for her voice to be heard above the music. I shook my head.

“No. Can you see the boys?”

My words were lost in the night, not reaching Tiffany’s ears. It didn’t take long for Ellis to melt into the crowd, joining the dance floor. Tiffany nodded her head to the music by her side, her eyes never straying from our blonde-haired, blue-eyed friend.

“Hello, stranger.”

I spun on the spot to find myself just centimetres from Luke’s face. I gazed straight into his soft brown irises, swirling into shards of hazel.

A smile crept across my lips, just as a piercing voice rang out above the music.

“Oi, Lovebirds!” Beau cried. “Snap out of your love bubble because the Janoskians have arrived and we’re here to fuck shit up!”

I glanced in Jai’s direction to see him spinning on a barstool, leaning over the counter. “One pint of lager,” he mouthed at the bartender. He nodded and melted away into the cries of a hundred other thirsty patrons.

Daniel was already clutching a drink, fashionably dressed in jeans, a shirt and a panda headpiece. “You made me wait for ages until we could go to the party. Why do girls take so long to get ready?”

I rolled my eyes. “Because it takes a bit more care than throwing on a panda costume.” Daniel touched his black-and-white ears tentatively, like I had insulted him. “Plus, the party didn’t start until after ten.”

He shrugged and disappeared into the crowd like waves in a vast ocean, racing after James who was braving the dance floor, twirling around and hopping on the spot beside Beau.

Luke sidled up to my side, his warm hand brushing against the small of my back. His hair was ruffled and he leaned closer so that he wouldn’t have to shout to be heard. His lips grazed my ear lightly as his thick accent blocked out the music I could hear.

“God, it’s so hot in here,” he muttered. I nodded, glancing at him. His mouth skimmed the side of my face as I turned towards him, causing my heart to hammer in my chest.

“Aren’t you having a drink?”

He shook his head. “I don’t drink much. But can I get you one?”

“I thought you said the drinks are on me...?”

He smiled. “Well, I’ll order and you can pay, if you insist.”

I shrugged. “I’m not really thirsty, anyway.”

I tore my eyes away to watch the swarm of dancers writhing in the middle of the club, bathed in the vibrant lights. I prised out Ellis, the mass of bodies pressing him against Tiffany. Her cheeks were flushed pink – I couldn’t tell if it was due to the heat in the room or Ellis’s close proximity. Ellis’s gaze wandered up and scanned the room until his eyes met mine and he shot me a calculating expression, unblinking.

“Why is he so protective over you?”

The comment was unexpected and I titled my head at Luke unsurely.

“What?” I said, raising my voice to be heard above the clamour.

“Ellis. He’s so...protective over you.”

“And you’re not?” I pointed out.

Luke frowned for a minute, biting his lip. He considered arguing back, but dropped the topic grudgingly.

An unanswered question still lingered in his eyes though. I skirted on the outskirts of a response, giving him a brief explanation. “I’ve known Ellis for a year now. He’s like a brother to me, so he’s bound to be slightly protective. Anyway, everyone knows he’s into Tiffany.”

As if to demonstrate my point, we observed as Ellis swooped down and placed a light kiss on her cheek.

Luke glanced at me, still unsure. He shrugged and grabbed my hand. “If I can’t buy you a drink, at least let me have this dance.”

The sound of sugar-coated, manufactured vocals falling back on a catchy guitar tune and booming drums came onto the speakers and I found myself being dragged into the writhing mass of sweaty, tightly packed by Luke, despite my silent protests in the form of me digging my heels into the floor. But the black pumps provided little grip and I had no choice but to obey.

There are a lot of things I’m up for; surfing, playing guitar, even taking on some of the spontaneous, unpredictable and reckless dares that the Janoskians force me into. But if there is something I will not and cannot do, for love nor money, it is dancing.

I gulped as we started to dance, trying to feel the music pumping through my veins and forcing my body to move, but my effort only resulted in small, unrhythmic, awkward jumps on the spot.

A smirk crossed Luke’s face and I blushed violently.

“What?” I yelled out over the tune.

“Nothing,” he replied, unconvincingly. I shot him a look, wordlessly willing my body to cooperate with the music.

“Come here,” he said lowly, his arms snaking around my back and pulling my closer to him. His hard chest pressed against mine and he moved in time to the beat, his feet shuffling and his hips swaying slightly in a way that looked both sexy and natural. “Copy my movements.”

I mirrored his movements and suddenly I didn’t feel as gawky and awkward anymore. The dance still looked unnatural on me – he made it look easy - but Luke’s close proximity ensured I just had to follow his lead.

The songs collided into one long song; the sound waves pushed us into each other and wrapped around us like colours. We were paying attention to each other. The room had no ceiling; the room had no walls. There was only an open field of our excitement, and we ran across it in small movements, sometimes without our feet touching the ground. We moved in sync; his hot breath beating down on my cheek, my eyes fixated on only him.

Suddenly I was swept away from the dance floor as the mass of bodies reappeared in my consciousness. I exhaled deeply, breathing in the air which wasn’t shared with many other strangers. I headed over to the bar, taking small steps. Slipping onto a bar stool, I ordered a glass of orange juice, fearing the strength of the alcohol would steal the feeling of muted euphoria I was currently experiencing.

My eyes scanned the crowd in search of Luke, but instead they rested on Ellis. He was in the corner clutching a glass of transparent liquid, lurking in the depths of the shadows. Even from this distance I could see the glazed look in his eyes and the happy-go-lucky expression on his face, telling me he’d had a bit too much to drink.

He was talking to Jai, leaning a bit too close. Jai looked slightly uncomfortable, his eyes flitting around the room. Ellis was obviously slurring his words, his mouth barely opening as he spoke.

Suddenly, Jai’s gaze was focused on one particular point. His eyes stared at me in an icy glare which sent shivers down my spine. Ellis was still talking, sipping his drink and nursing his forehead simultaneously. Jai wore a frown on his face, his expression a mask but his eyes steely and hard, unseeing.

Ellis’s lips stopped moving and Jai snapped out of his trance to look at him. His eyes darted back to me briefly before he leapt forward, shoving the crowd out of the way and heading towards the door, anger injected in every stride.

Panic gripped me, as cold as the feeling of being dragged under by the waves. It was like I had been surfing, riding a giant wave. Then I’d fallen off my board. But this time, the water was determined to submerge me.

“Have you seen Ellis?” I was vaguely aware of Tiffany sidling up to me, but her voice was a distant buzz. I ignored her, prowling after Jai and towards the exit.

I was greeted with a set of stairs which seemed a lot steeper than they had been when we’d first arrived. I slipped out of my heels, dangling them in my hands as I sprinted up the steps and burst through a door I didn’t recognize. I felt hazy, as if I was drunk, although not a drop of alcohol had passed my lips all evening.

A gust of icy air smothered me, awakening my senses. I stepped out onto a balcony which was basking in dappled light, the moonlight illuminating the town below. The view captured a magnificent scene of Melbourne. The shadows of the town as the darkness consumed the gloomy streets far below; the giant billboards with advertisements of beautiful women promoting the most exquisite things. I was mesmerised by the airbrushed images that were scattered across the city, illuminating the evening like millions of pieces of confetti that showered the city. The lights bounced off the glass surfaces of skyscrapers, making the dark exteriors glitter like diamonds.

Jai was leaning over the balcony, his weight resting on the black railings. He stared at the view below, his eyes dark, unseeing holes.

I gulped, looking at him with concern. My voice was soft as I spoke, barely carrying out through the night. “Jai...?”

“Sixteen days, huh?” his voice was harsh, slicing through my soft tone like a knife through satin. I froze, my breath catching in my throat. “Sixteen days left. Sixteen days until you fly back to England and you forget all about your little Australian adventure.”

“I’ll never forget, Jai-” I started to reason, but he cut me off.

“You thought you’d become our friends, let us introduce you to our fans, let us have all this fun and you don’t even bother to tell us you’re leaving in less than a month?”

Tears burned threateningly behind my eyes and I blinked them back harshly. Jai turned to face me, stepping forward to clear the distance between us. He grabbed my shoulders, his grip firm.

“And Luke? How could you do this to him? Were you planning on telling us or were you just going to fly off without a word? Let your friends tell us instead?”

“Jai,” I protested weakly, the tears beginning to spill down my face. I was vaguely conscious of the mascara which would stain my cheeks, but I was beyond caring.

His face softened. His voice was desperate and calm and soft as he spoke. “Lilly. It’s ok. We’ll sort something out.”

“I wanted to tell you,” I said, my bottom lip trembling. “I really did. But…it’s not that easy. I wanted to enjoy my last few days without…thinking about leaving…”

I realized in that moment that I had been scared that telling the boys about me leaving would put a dark cloud over the time we had left together. But the truth in Tiffany’s words from earlier suddenly struck me; the dark cloud was over me, haunting me. I didn’t want to keep this secret from my friends anymore.

“You have to tell them,” Jai insisted. I nodded understandingly.

“I know, I know. I just…I’m scared. What if-”

“Stop it,” he told me firmly. “They’ll understand.”

I looked up at him, wiping the salty liquid from my eyes and flashing him a small, hopeful smile. “Thank you, Jai.”

He enveloped me in a warm embrace, pressing his lips against my hair briefly. I hugged him back, hoping he could feel the appreciation I felt towards him through the gesture.

 “Thanks,” I repeated, the soft whisper lingering in the air before drifting off into the night.

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