The Night We Met

Liv has never felt at home in the Northern seaside town she grew up in. So, she moves to the vibrant city of London to pursue her dream of becoming an artist. Along the way, she encounters a group of fellow colorful misfits and the alluring Lex; a beautiful musician reaching the peak of fame, who lives every day like it's his last. Seeking a quiet life, Liv struggles to accommodate the interesting nature of Lex's career, the lives of the people around her and her own ever-growing anxieties whilst trying to become the version of herself she has always wanted to be...

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5. Five

Three weeks passed and I hung out with Lex most days because, stardom status and obvious external beauty aside, I genuinely adored his company. We would mostly hang out at his apartment and had figured out a way to leave places separately so that no one would photograph us together. The only obstacle that threatened to ruin the time we were spending together was The Strand's US tour but that would be months away, after fourth year graduation. I tried not to jump ahead but the trip loomed over me, a horrible reminder of the stark differences of our respective lives, in the distance. If Lex and I did somehow become official, I worried about what would happen when he went halfway across the world to become more famous than he already was. Would he forget me? I hoped not because I would certainly never forget him. For someone who had only been in my life a month, he had made a big impact on me and the person I was becoming.

 


"I've been meaning to tell you that the lads are back from Manchester," Lex said, casually, whilst we were on his sofa watching a movie one night. "Would you like to meet them?"

 


A night was arranged and I was told to invite Parm. She leapt at the chance to meet one of her favourite bands and as usual, spent all day planning her outfit. I was a nervous wreck the whole day and not a single person or thing could calm me down. I knew that if I didn't pass the friends test, things were unlikely to progress with Lex and I. He was obviously introducing me to figure out whether I was worth the effort or whether he was just blinded by our whirlwind romance. 

 


"What if they don't like me?" I complained to Parm.

 


She was holding up several dresses against her body and comparing them with disgust.

 


"Or what if they love you?" She argued. "Why do you always have to be so negative?"
"I call it preparing myself for the worst," I lay on my stomach with my chin propped up on a cushion, watching Parm get ready but having no motivation to get ready myself.
"You're mad, Liv. Even though Lex Langley likes you, you STILL can't see how brilliant you are. It's hopeless trying to convince you otherwise."
 

 

I was beginning to really like Lex and I desperately wanted his friends to like me too. It sickened me to admit that I had begun to miss him when he wasn't there. It wasn't an obsessive sort of missing; just a dull ache in my stomach sometimes. If I heard something funny when I was out and about, he was the person I'd want to tell and he was swiftly becoming the person who could cheer me up the most. I couldn't explain it but something about Lex Langley lifted me up and made me a better person. However, it was beginning to get somewhat troublesome that I was putting so many expectations into a person I hadn't even known two months earlier.

 

"So, what are you thinking?" I asked Parm. "Any of the band members catching your eye tonight?"
"They're not my usual type," She mused. "A touch too hipster for me."

"Maybe opposites attract, like me and Lex."
"Me and Lex," She mimicked. "You are so in love it's funny."
"I am not in love," I defended, hotly.
"Well, if you're not, you will be. This is how it all starts so prepare yourself."

 


After we got ready, we found our way to the pub near uni where the band were waiting. People were already approaching them and asking for autographs and photos. Lex was chatting with some girls who seemed really eager to ask him lots of questions. I did feel jealous but remembered it was technically his job to chat to people who liked his music. When he saw me, he grinned and waved me over. I understood it was early days, and also that he didn't want the rumour mill to go into overdrive, so I didn't attempt to kiss him. Instead, we exchanged a friendly hug. Admittedly, we were getting pretty good at hiding from other people and figuring out clever ways to avoid unwanted attention.

 


"I've missed you," He whispered in my ear, as we hugged. Then he put an arm around my shoulder and led me over to the table where the rest of The Strands were arranged.

 


Parm had been right; the band were a weensy bit hipster but in reality, so was Lex. Nevertheless, I had to admit that they all looked like genuine rockstars from eras long ago with their long, shaggy hair and impeccable dress sense. He introduced them one-by-one; R.J., Bertie, Rob and finally, Jonesy. I got the impression the only one I really had to impress was Jonesy as I had picked up from multiple conversations that he and Lex were more like brothers than friends. I introduced Parm to all of the band members in return and Jonesy stood up to kiss her hand, like an esteemed gentleman. She giggled nervously which shocked and confused me at the same time as I had never actually seen Parm be nervous before.

 


It turned out that I had nothing to worry about as all of Lex's band members were truly lovely. They may have looked a little scary in their rocker gear but they were all harmless. Jonesy was the most chilled out person alive and knew alot of random trivia about everything from astronomy to politics. He was studying law, not music, and would be graduating later than his friends. Jonesy probably wouldn't use his law degree for now, he admitted. He hadn't expected the band to be so successful but he still wanted to complete his degree and was doing so part-time, along with his work in the band. Lex was the main lyric writer whilst Jonesy was more into the music side of the band. 

 


"I like your friends," I told Lex later. "I was really worried they'd hate me."
"I was never worried," He smiled. "I knew they'd love you."

 


The drinks were flowing all night but Lex didn't touch any. His friends weren't massive drinkers either, to be fair; they had a couple, but nobody got really drunk. For a bunch of rockstars, they were tamer than expected. Girls continued to saunter over to the table all night, mostly trying to engage Lex in conversation or flirtation in front of me. It was hard to watch, I had to admit, but Lex didn't take the bait; he replied politely then would turn his attention back to me and his friends. He sat with his arm draped around the back of my seat but there was no displays of affection towards me, which was understandable. If someone sent the photo into a newspaper we would have been all over the news the next day for sure.

 


Another interesting development happening that night was the fact that Parm and Jonesy got along like a house on fire. He was so not her type and they looked like such an odd couple, but somehow it worked. Jonesy was a grungy rocker; Parm was a glamorous princess. Infact, he had taken to calling her Princess Jasmine all night, on account of her resemblance to the cartoon character. She seemed to love the attention and spent the whole night with Jonesy's arm around her.

 


"You seem happy," I commented, when we snuck into the toilets later to gossip.
"He's not my type," She shrugged, back to her usual cool non-giggly self. "But he makes me laugh, that's for sure."
"Yeah. He is super nice, actually."
"See, you had nothing to worry about. Now you have passed the friends test, it's onto the next phase."
"What do you mean?"
"Dating happens in four phases, sometimes in different orders depending on the people. First phase: introduction. Second phase: getting to know each other. Third phase: friends and parental meeting. Fourth phase: the sleepover."
"The sleepover?" I asked, worriedly.
"Yes. Sometimes the sleepover happens first in some cases but most of the time it comes later, like now. How many dates have you and Lex been on?"
"Well, I don't know. What do you classify as a date? We mostly just go for coffee or hang out in his apartment."
"That counts. So, let's say, you've had five dates maybe?"
"Yeah, I guess that's a fair estimate. Maybe more."
"It usually takes three dates before the sleepover. Haven't you heard of the rule?"
"No."
"The three date rule. It's around that time guys usually begin to expect... you know."

 


She raised her eyebrows suggestively at me and I turned as purple as beetroot.

 


"But I'm not ready for that," I felt my heart palpitating with the dawning realisation.
"That's ok. It's different for everyone," She reassured me. "Don't get pressured into anything you don't want to do. But get ready, judging by the way Lex looked at you tonight...the offer of the sleepover is coming. I bet my life on it!"

 

I had known eventually there would be certain expectations but hadn't expected it to happen so soon. Three dates? Really? That seemed like barely enough time to figure out someone's favourite colour, nevermind engage intimately with them. But the truth was I did like Lex and thought he was wonderful. If it was going to happen with anyone, I wanted it to be him. So, maybe, I should just get it over and done with and stop being a coward, I thought.

 


As the night came to an end, the band started to head off in separate directions. All of the boys said they'd like to meet up again and that it had been a good night but they had been drinking so maybe that had made them think I was cooler than I really was. As the pub emptied, it was just Lex, Parm, Jonesy and I left.

 

 

"It's well past my bed time," Jonesy said, consulting the time on his phone. "It was nice to meet you both, especially you Princess Jasmine. Don't be a stranger."

 


He winked at her and I thought I saw Parm swoon. She also looked somewhat puzzled as he hadn't invited her home with him which is what usually happened with all of the other sketchy guys that she liked.

 

 

 

"I thought he liked me," She murmured, looking hurt. 
"Oh, Parm," I smiled. "He does. That's exactly why he didn't ask you to go with him. He clearly respects you."
"Whatever," She waved me away. "Nobody walks away from me like that. I'm getting his number. Don't wait up for me, I might be home late."

 

 

 


Parm blew me a kiss and chased down the road after Jonesy as I watched her go, shaking my head. She would never learn.
 

 

"Ready to go?" Lex said, his hands touching my waist lightly. It was getting cold outside so he draped his jacket around my shoulders, like we were a couple "going steady" in the 1950's. The gesture made me feel like a silly, giddy schoolgirl chatting to her first crush again. This time, under the cover of darkness, he held my hand. We had kissed alot, which on the grand scale of things was a bigger deal, but somehow simply holding hands in public felt more intimate than anything else.

 


"Thanks for being a good sport tonight," He told me, as we walked down the road together. "My friends really like you - they told me so."
"I like them a lot as well," I smiled. "I think Parm is quite smitten with Jonesy but she just doesn't know it yet."
"She's a character. Jonesy doesn't really know how to chat up girls - maybe she can bring out that side of him."
"Hopefully."
"Are you tired?" Lex asked.
"Not really," I shrugged. It was true; I was wide awake even though it was 1 a.m. 
"Do you want to come back to mine and I can make us some tea?"

 


My heart was thudding; was 'tea' code for something else? He had asked me back to the apartment plenty of times and I had never suspected questionable intentions but now that Parm had explained the three date rule to me my head was spinning. I wanted to say no and go home to my room, where it was safe and nothing unpredictable could happen. But at the same time, there was a guy standing in front of me that I really liked and, incredibly, he liked me back. The likelihood of me ever finding someone as brilliant as Lex again was slim, yet I was scared to let him in and let myself be vulnerable in so many ways. I decided to bite the bullet and go home with him but nothing would happen and I would make it clear that I needed time before I would be ready, if ever, for the fourth phase.

 


So, Lex and I went back to his apartment and carried on enjoying each other's company, as usual. The first thing Lex did was pop the kettle on, like always, and I already felt better. It seemed that the offer of tea was authentic. I had stupidly half expected him to pounce on me as soon as we got in the door because of what Parm had said. Just because we had spent a certain amount of days together didn't mean he would automatically have expectations of me...right? When the tea was ready, we sat on the sofa together. I realized I was making the atmosphere uncomfortable by being totally silent.

 


"You ok?" He asked. "You're quieter than usual."
"Fine," I nodded, but I wasn't fine. He didn't look convinced.
"Look," He set down the tea on the coffee table. "I'll do us both a favour and say it out loud because you are too sweet to ever hurt my feelings. Are you being quiet because you want to end things?"
"What?!" I replied, horrified. "No, no, of course not."
"Good," He breathed a sigh of relief. "You had me worried there. I just thought I'd put you out of your misery if that was the case."
"It's not the case at all. It's the opposite, honestly. It's just...Parm said some things to me earlier and...now, I'm a little scared of...progressing."
"What did she say to you? Does she hate me or something?"
"No, no. I don't know how to word this without making things awkward..."
"Olivia, please just say what's on your mind," He seemed to be concerned now. "I'm not going to judge you."

 


I had known him long enough to know he was telling the truth and wouldn't judge me so I took a deep breath and finally, admitted the truth to Lex.

 


"She said that dating happens in certain phases," I closed my eyes, embarrassed. "That we are in phase four which means...you expect me to sleepover."
"Sleepover?" He repeated, genuinely confused.
"You know, an adult sleepover," I raised my eyebrows, hoping he'd get the message.
"Oh, that kind of sleepover, " He laughed. "That old phase system is still a thing?"

 


Seeing I wasn't in the mood for joking around, he sighed and continued:

 

"Listen, Olivia. If you hadn't gathered by now, my life is not exactly conventional. So, I certainly do not live by conventions. I don't follow a phase system and think things like that are stupid, frankly. No offense meant to Parm."
"None taken."
"I have no expectations of you whatsoever. Don't get me wrong, I am very much deeply attracted to you and if you ever did want to 'sleepover'..." He put the "sleepover" in amused air quotes. "Then I can't think of anything better. But at this point, I expect nothing. I know you are reserved; it's part of why I like you."
"That's a relief," I finally relaxed and sunk onto the sofa. "It's not that I don't want to sleepover eventually, but just not now. I'm not ready."
"I'm glad," He laughed, pulling me closer from my seat on the edge of the sofa and planting a kiss on my forehead. "You're mad sometimes but never change for anyone. You make my life infinitely more exciting."

 


The irony was not lost on me that I could make an international rockstar's life "more exciting". 

 


"But I will say that if you did want to sleep over and I mean a real sleepover, where we actually do nothing but sleep, you are more than welcome," He added. "Because I think you'd be a pretty lovely face to see first thing in the morning."
"I'd like that," My heart was bursting. "I didn't bring any clothes or anything with me tonight though."
"I can lone you something. But only if you feel like it."
"Ok," I agreed, not really knowing what I was in for. But I trusted him not try anything and believed that all we would really do was go to sleep, like he said. 

 


In that moment, I thought of my poor Mum back home who had no idea I was about to spend the night, however innocently, in a rockstar's bed. Then I questioned why I was thinking about my Mum in a situation like that, when I was in Lex Langley's arms. There was something seriously wrong with me.

 


He got up off the sofa and rummaged in his drawers in the corner of the apartment, then passed me one of his shirts and a pair of boxers.

 


"Sorry it's not exactly glamorous," He laughed. 
"That's alright," I replied. "Maybe I'll know how it feels to be you for a day when I wear this now."

 


I went into the bathroom to change and stared at my reflection long and hard. Nothing is happening tonight, I told myself. Only sleep. When I eventually reemerged, Lex gave me a long admiring glance.

 


"You can keep that outfit if you want," He said. "You look better in it than I do."
"I might take you up on that offer," I looked down at the shirt, which was baggy on me, and at my scrawny legs poking out of the boxer shorts. "It is comfortable, I must admit."

 


I didn't really know what to do next so I just sort of ambled over to his bed in the corner of the room. It was a plush king-size affair, expertly made, and as I got under the sheets I felt a terrible for messing up his good work. I sort of turned to face away towards the window, but could still see him out of the corner of my eye. He was topless by this point which horrified me, because I had never been around topless men apart from middle-aged Dad types on the beach, but thrilled me because he was Lex and looked good. Slowly, he slid into the bed next to me and we lay side by side. He looked at me and then we burst into laughter.

 


"This is more awkward than I thought," He said.
"Yup," I agreed. "I don't really know how this works..."
"Me neither. I'll be honest with you...I've never really 'just slept' next to a girl before so this is a first for us both."
"What about your ex?"
"I wasn't in the country half the time to ever spend the night with her. It's part of why we split up."
"Oh. Well, maybe you should, like, hold me or something?"
"Do you want me to?" He asked.
"Well, it's better than lying here like two peas in a pod, isn't it?"

 


Lex wrapped his arms around me. I felt bad that he had to taste a faceful of my hair and realized that spooning always looked more romantic in the movies. But it did feel nice to be held; I felt safe and secure in his arms. We just lay there, silently, for a long time; not needing to say anything. I thought he had fallen asleep, as I drifted off into my own sleep. But then I heard him speak and for a second, I thought I heard a quiver of doubt and fear in his voice.

 


"This is scaring me right now," He said, quietly.
"Why?" I half-mumbled, on the edge of sleep, never knowing whether I dreamed Lex's next sentence or not.

"Because I don't like how quickly I am falling for you."

 

---

 


Since the night at Firestorm, I hadn't seen much of Milly or Simon outside of class. Simon had kept a safe distance away from me and Parm assured me that they weren't in contact anymore after the one night they had spent together.  Anyway, her new squeeze seemed to be Jonesy who was, ironically, completely ignoring her advances. Unfortunately, his plan would never work when it came to someone like Parm; she wouldn't take no for an answer and would probably persuade him eventually. 

 

 



Milly had been acting strangely since she became aware I was openly dating Lex. She definitely did not seem happy for me and she didn't try to continue talking to me either. So, I started sitting alone during class, wondering how the hell I had went from having two potential friends to none over the space of a month. 

 

 


Martha, our design lecturer, briefed us on our end of year project. We were going to be given a small cubicle space which we would design to summarize a timeline of the year that we had experienced. For example, if you had a bad year you might choose to paint it all black and vice versa with bright colours for a good year. Afterwards, we would all visit each other's in an exhibition and Martha would grade them. We would spend all year choosing props and designing the space and would have an allocated spot in the studio. 

 


It all sounded really exciting and I decided that instead of pursuing my odd friendships with Milly and Simon, I'd throw all my effort into my art work. I didn't have anything in mind yet for what kind of year I was having as it was just starting but regardless, I knew that whatever I showcased at the end I would put my all into.

 


Simon eventually did apologize after class one day, to my surprise. "Liv, I just wanted to say I'm sorry for that night at Firestorm," He said.
"That's ok," I replied, getting ready to go down the staircase outside the classroom door. Simon stopped me in my tracks by slinging his arm across the door.
"Can I take you out for coffee to say sorry?"
"I don't know if that's a good idea..."
"C'mon. Let me make it up to you."

 


Eventually, I agreed, just to get him to leave me alone. Milly eyed us from the back of the classroom suspiciously. 

 


"Let's invite Milly," I added, quickly. Truthfully, I didn't really want to be alone with Simon.
"She's not talking to me," Simon said.
"That's exactly why you should invite her. So you can tell her your side of the story."
"Women," Simon shook his head. "You all drive me nuts!"

 


He went over to where Milly was standing and they shared a heated exchange for a moment, then she begrudgingly grabbed her rucksack and followed him over. We all trudged off to the canteen to catch-up and share awkward conversation.

 


"So, what's new?" I asked around, blowing into my coffee to cool it down. Now I had tasted Lex's fancy coffee numerous times I realised how truly terrible the canteen stuff was.
"Nothing really," Simon shrugged. "Uni, girls and I finally got a job."
"Where are you working?"
"A little independent coffee shop down the road."
"Is it Carnaby's?"
"How'd you know?"
"It's one of my favourite places."

 


It turned out that Simon was now working at the coffee shop Lex and I had been the first time we had hung out. I made a mental note never to tell Lex who Simon was and how we had kissed when I was under the influence just incase Lex went ballistic. Although, I severely doubted Lex had a manic bone in his body as he seemed so calm and centered all of the time.

 


"What about you, Mil?" I asked, trying to include her the conversation but she looked thoroughly pissed off. 
"Same old, same old," She replied.
"Do you know what you are doing for your art project yet?"
"Even if I did I probably wouldn't tell anyone - there have been known to be idea's stolen."
"You really think I'd steal your idea? Come on, Mil."
"I don't know what you'd do. Anyway, I have studying to catch up on. I'll see you guys around."
"What's her problem?" Simon asked, when she had left the table. 

 

All in all, I was glad we had mended fences but there was still something super off about both Simon and Milly, so I decided that I would seek out some new friends instead. Coincidentally, Lex's band members seemed to want to befriend me, so sometimes I would hang out with them in the safety of uni away from prying eyes; even though they were fourth years and would be leaving soon. However, they were a lot more mature and focused and I felt that I was lifted up when I was around them, rather than dragged down by drama.

 


When I told Lex later what Milly had said to me his immediate reply was:

 


"Oh, I get it. She likes you," He smiled.
"What? No she doesn't."
"She does. You can tell it a mile off!" He put his arm around my waist and pulled me closer. "In fairness, there is a lot to like about you."

 


I had begun to stay at Lex's apartment more than my own flat. Quickly, we became submerged in a little bubble all by ourselves; where we would lock ourselves in doors for days and simply spend quality time with each other. I worried that isolating myself from everyone, even Parm, wasn't doing me any favors. But how could I feel so happy at the same time? I loved Parm but she was incessantly dramatic and sometimes, it was draining. With Lex, he always had time to listen and give. There was no drama or frills; what you saw was what you got and I loved the simplicity of it. We could sit in silence for days and my mood would still be brightened by the end of it because he was so warm to be around.
 

 

As promised, he had never pushed me into any intimate situations. But it didn't stop me snogging his face off at every given opportunity. I couldn't imagine him ever doing anything to piss me off or hurt me. I realized I was beginning to trust him and that was incredibly scary. But I couldn't help thinking about the US tour even though it was so far away. Would be still be "hanging out" in a few months time? Whatever our relationship status was, we had never really discussed it, so I wouldn't know until that conversation arose.

 


"I'm playing a gig at the Roundhouse next weekend," Lex said, his fingers tracing over my own. "Do you want to come?"
"I'd love that!" I said, with genuine enthusiasm.
"You'll be in VIP and well taken care of, don't worry. You can bring Parm if you like, for company. I know she's gunning for Jonesy right now."
"Are her advances working?"
"Jonesy doesn't really talk about girls. He's in love with life, whilst I just like plain, old being in love. That's where we differ. He's always trying to write less love songs and more songs about life's mysteries."
"I like your love songs. Even if they're about another girl..."
"Well, for all you know I've written some songs about you."
"Really?"
"You'll have to stick around a while longer to find out though. But a song definitely needs to be written about you. Just haven't figured it out yet."
"That could be one of the nicest things anyone has did for me."
"Well, if I'm writing you a song, you're definitely making me some art. Deal?"
"Deal. Did I tell you about my end of year project?"
"The cubicle that you get to design?"
"Yeah. You're probably going to feature quite often in it, FYI. I won't mention your name obviously...because...you don't want everyone finding out about us etc."
"Yeah," He nodded and hesitated. "Whilst we are on that topic, how would you feel about telling people about us eventually?"
"Obviously, it's scary having your private life out there, but I do like being around you so much and I'd do anything to keep things going as great as they are, without sounding like a crazy stalker."
"That makes me very happy to hear," He grinned and brushed my hair back from my face. I was lying with my head on his lap and for once, not worrying about how ugly or weird I looked from that angle. "I'd love to shout about you from my balcony obviously but our situation is not exactly normal. I haven't even told my Mum about you yet and she would be pissed off to see it in a newspaper if I didn't tell her first."

 


I couldn't hide the fact that I was a disappointed he hadn't told his Mum about me but we weren't exactly official. In fairness to Lex, I hadn't told my Mum either for different reasons; she was quite clued up about celebrity gossip for someone who lived in a small town and would probably know all about Lex and his past. Lex Langley was not the type of man you wanted your teenage daughter to date, put it that way.

 


"I understand," I nodded. "So, let's not shout it from the balcony right now...but maybe some day is the general consensus?"
"Absolutely," He added. "I don't see us as a maybe, by the way. We are a definitely, if things continue on the track they are going. There's nothing you can do that would make me stop feeling this way at this point and I'd like to think you think the same about me, hopefully."
"I was just thinking that about you today," I replied. "I don't think there's anything you can do to let me down either."
"Those are some high expectations. I just hope I can live upto them. After all, you never know what's around the corner..."

 


---
 

 

It turns out that Lex's fateful words were a horrible prediction that actually came true. A few days later, I woke up to a somewhat angry text:

 


Mum:
Ring me now. You have some serious explaining to do.

 


Huh? I opened one scrunched up eye and reread the text. I rolled over to check I wasn't still dreaming but Lex wasn't there, like he usually was every morning; he was out on the balcony, smoking, which he only did when he was nervous. He was shirtless, running his hands through his hair and pacing around. I got up and pulled on his shirt because it was the closest thing to me and also because I liked to feel him around. I tiptoed out onto the balcony. It must have been early in the morning because the sun was rising slowly but I hadn't had time to look at a clock.

 


"Got a weird text off my Mum," I said, my eyebrows furrowed. "I think I've pissed her off somehow."
"You might want to go back inside," Lex took me by the shoulders and turned me back around. "I don't think you're going to want to face today."
"Why? What's happening?" 

 


He sighed and grabbed my hand, leading me over to the sofa. We sat down and he looked very serious.
 

 

"You're worrying me now," I pulled my hand away. "Why do you look so annoyed too? Have I done something?"

 


Lex didn't say anything; he simply handed me his phone, which was already open to display an article on the Daily Mail website:

 


STRAND'S BAD BOY'S NEW SQUEEZE; CAN SHE TAME HIM?

 


There were numerous photos included in the article, which was apparently all about Lex's "mystery girl" i.e. me, and I had no idea they had been taken. They were obviously taken by someone close-by on a regular camera as they were quite fuzzy; they certainly didn't look like professional, paparazzi shots. Not to mention paparazzi weren't even allowed in the places that the photos had been taken. There were so many that it made me feel physically sick. For example, the night at the pub, holding hands in the darkness thinking no one would notice us. How naive had we been? There was even an extremely zoomed in one of us on Lex's balcony wearing little to nothing, much like that day. That was a standard day time practice for us, out of comfort not intimacy, but no one would ever believe it. Everyone would assume other things and that our choice of clothing, or lack of, would be down to a night of passion. I looked like another notch on Lex Langley's bedpost, frankly. The worst part was that my Mum would assume the worst and look at me differently forever. 

 

I began to sob into my hands. Lex didn't know where to look and cradled me. He kept blinking and his voice was a little hoarse; like maybe he would cry any minute too. But he held the situation, and mostly me, together in one piece. I had known it was coming one day but the reality felt like such an invasion of my privacy; especially those shots of me wearing nothing but my underwear and Lex's shirt plastered all over the national news. I felt mortified beyond belief. I had wanted to have fun and experience excitement in the big city of London but those photos were certainly not what I'd had in mind.

 


"I am so, so sorry, Liv," Lex said, quietly. It was the only time I had ever heard him call me Liv since we had met. 
"How did they get those photos?" I cried.
"I don't know. I swear. I'd never do that to you --"
"I know you wouldn't. But someone close to us did. How could they do that? My parents have seen that. It's awful."
"I know," He leaned his head against my own. "I let you down. I got too lazy and I didn't protect you enough. I should have hidden us better."
"It's not your fault," I said, sniffling. "It was bound to happen eventually but did they really have to pick those photos?"
"They're sensationalists; that's how they sell the news. They want everyone to think there is a scandal going on."
"They're monsters," I agreed. 
"If you want to break things off for a while, I understand. This isn't exactly what you signed up for. You probably thought that when you got a boyfriend the biggest thing you'd have to worry about was meeting their parents or buying them a birthday present, not this shit..."
"Boyfriend?" That was the only word I had picked up from his whole statement.

 


He looked at me for a long second then laughed, but it was hollow - like he knew it was an inappropriate reaction to the moment.

 


"Well, yeah," He seemed self-conscious. "Isn't that what we are doing?"
"You mean, being officially together?" I asked. Suddenly, my tears had stopped.
"I just assumed...it was naturally getting to that stage. It's been over a month now, right? We've seen each other alot. You stay here most days. I don't see what else there is to learn about each other so why keep acting casual? There's no one else I want to be with."
"What about...the physical side of things? Obviously, that hasn't happened yet. I know it's a deal breaker with some people."
"Not for me. From what I have experienced so far and the feelings you give me, I know we would be compatible if that situation ever happened," He looked shy now. "Honestly, I'd be ok if we never got around to it. I like you alot, Olivia. You bring out the good in me. That matters more than any one night stand or purely physical arrangement I've had in my life and you don't find it often either, trust me."
"So, you're saying...you want me to be your girlfriend?"
"Yes, you nutter," He laughed. "Why is that so hard to believe?"

"I dunno. I'm finding all of this quite hard to digest."
"My point is since the whole world knows we are together now, we may as well make it official. If you still want me, of course. So, what's your verdict?"
"My answer is...yes. I will be your girlfriend."

 

 


He leapt off the sofa and did a funny celebratory dance which made me laugh even though I had tears of misery dripping down my face. I didn't have time to process the fact that I had just become Lex Langley's girlfriend or that my face was plastered all over the news. In all honesty, even though the day was only beginning, I was thoroughly exhausted and wanted it to end as quickly and painlessly as possible.

 

 

"This isn't going to be such a bad day after all," Lex beamed. 
"What do we do now?" I sighed.
"Well, you might want to answer your Mum's text first. Then, afterwards, I suggest we go about our daily business as usual, without thinking about anything we have read today. We continue as normal because I, for one, thought things were great as they were. There's no need to change anything because of a poorly researched news article."
"Agreed. But are you really telling me to think about things less? This is Olivia Gartland we are talking about - Queen of Overthinking."
"Well, in that case, we must create a distraction."
"What do you have in mind?" I raised an eyebrow.
"A few things," He looked mischievous. 
"Like hiding under that duvet all day?" I pointed to the corner of the room.
"You read my mind exactly..."

 

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