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...


1. One

I took the morning train to London and watched the blurry shapes of pine trees whizz by the windows as I raced towards the university of my dreams, the Royal London School of the Arts, where I would attempt to forge a career out of fine art. My inspired choice had been laughed at many times back in my hometown of Clackton-Upon-Sea; a typical British seaside town filled with the usual mix of dreary beaches, drizzly rain and gossip. Nothing ever happened there and I had always felt like a real misfit. Naturally, when my plans for university had begun to take shape, getting as far away as possible was my immediate plan. So, I packed up all of the belongings I could squeeze into a rucksack and a single suitcase, saved up to buy a rusty little bike to get around and took off into the unknown; no friends, no plans and completely oblivious to the craziness of the city that was about to unfold before me.


As the train pulled into King's Cross station, I huddled what little belongings I had together and stepped off onto the platform. There were so many people headed in different directions; businessmen and women glued to their phones, families rushing around, young people and students walking casually like they didn't have a care in the world, the usual smattering of tourists...and me. Just Liv. No longer Liv from Clackton-Upon-Sea; the girl with the unusual hobbies and big dreams. Instead, I could finally be whoever I wanted to be, without the whispers of a whole town against me. 





The bored looking woman at the desk in front of me was called Sharon according to her name badge. She had been stamping documents all day from the looks of it so I could definitely understand the reluctance to smile. Finally, it was my turn to register and bring forth my new and improved confident Liv persona. I stepped forward to the front of queue.


"Olivia Gartland?" Sharon asked, monotonously. 
"Reporting for duty," I tried to lean against the desk casually, but it was a bit too low so I just stooped awkwardly. Sharon barely looked up at me.
"Sign here. And here. And here..."


I scribbled my signature in the neverending process of becoming a "proper" university student. She handed me a badge attached to a rope chain that I was supposed to wear around my neck so everyone could see I was new and make fun of me (but mostly for standard fire and safety procedures, Sharon reassured me). 

"Welcome to the Royal London School of the Arts," Sharon shuffled a stack of freshly stamped papers together and handed them to me. "Neeeeeext please."
"Wait," I interrupted and Sharon narrowed her eyes in disdain. "What happens now? Where do I go next?"

I heard the desperate pleading in my voice. Was it really that simple? But I'm not ready, I thought with horror. I had expected a welcoming parade or to be greeted a little more memorably. But nope, it seemed my grand tour did not exist and Sad Sharon was the face they had chosen to greet all of the new students. The irony was not lost on me.


"All the information you need is in the map and itinerary" She pointed to my hand. "Best of luck. Neeeext!"

Well, that was really helpful, I thought begrudgingly. I sat down on a bench nearby, feeling puffed out from all the walking around, and consulted the map. Any sense of a confident version of myself seemed like a far away fantasy because I was already tired and firmly inside my shell and had only been in university approximately ten minutes. At least I could use it as an excuse to take a look around the grounds, I decided. I left my suitcase at the luggage drop off point and took only what I needed; mp3 player, my trusty sketchbook and camera. 



Making the decision to explore turned out to be the best thing I had done all day. The university was a maze of buildings; some joined together by looming archways and others residing separately on different campuses. Vines crept up every surface and cherry blossom trees shaded the corners of the yard. If I hadn't known I was in London I might have imagined I was elsewhere; perhaps a vineyard in a foreign country, like Italy, where everything seemed more beautiful and steeped in nature and history. It seemed I had nowhere else to be for a while, so I found a spot under a nearby tree and sat down to read some of the paperwork I had in my hands and daydream about the great life I was going to have. 


According to the itinerary, my formal induction wouldn't be until an hour later so I decided to read for a while then cycle over when the time was right. I texted my Mum to let her know that I was safe and sound, feeling slightly terrified but mostly, excited and then, after passing some time people watching, I made my way to the Grand Hall (thanks to lots of signs on the uni grounds rather than my useless map co ordination skills).


I chained up my bike outside and carried my helmet inside with me. The Hall was buzzing with life and possibility; it was built like a vintage cinema, with seats slanting down to face a stage complete with velvet curtains around it and artistic mood lighting. Most of the seats were filled by the time I got there but I managed to squeeze into somewhere in the middle next to a friendly-looking red haired girl. We didn't talk but we gave each other a nod of terrified acknowledgement. I noticed a brass instrument case at her feet; a music student. Easier to spot than fashion or art students and I often wished I was more talented at music because it was formulatic; if you learn X, Y and Z you can succeed. Art was built on instinct and talent; you were either born good or you weren't. Art could not be learned which was both terrifying and liberating. Basically, I was about to learn if I really was good at art or not, as I'm sure my lecturers wouldn't hesitate to tell me in their critique. I'd certainly heard many horror stories about the staff at RLSOTA. 


Speaking of staff who filled me with terror...


A stiff-looking lady took to the stage and the room fell silent. It was the appearance of the formidable head of the university, Madam Martha Hayes. Her reputation presided her; she had been a ballet dancer for years outside of the university then had semi-retired to become the head professor of dance and governing body of RLSOTA. She still had the figure of an athlete; tall and lithe, but with a pinched snake-like face. Her eyes became mere slits as she considered all of us one-by-one.


"Welcome to the most difficult chapter of your life," She announced, loudly and with conviction. "The good news is that if you work hard enough it will also be the most rewarding chapter of your life. The bad news is there is no room for error here; we only accept the best at the Royal London School of the Arts. Look at everyone in this room around you - over half of you will not be here by the end of the year. Whether that is by choosing to leave or being encouraged to leave is upto you but if you work hard enough you could be the half that stays and, quite possibly, succeeds in your chosen field. Which half do you want to be? That's the question you should be asking yourself right now."

She let that sink in for a moment whilst we all sat, trembling, in silence.


"A better question would be what are you willing to do to achieve that level of greatness?" She stopped again for a dramatic pause. "And who are you willing to push out of the way to get there? Again look at the people in the room around you. Say hello to your competition. You are not here to make friends - you are here to compete. You are here to be the best. Make no mistake, this will be difficult but if you apply yourself, you can succeed. I wish you all the best, class of 2017. Work hard and accept no less than perfection."


There was a round of half-hearted applause around me. The red haired girl next to me had sunk so low on her chair I was sure she would slide right off onto the floor. The majority of the people in the room seemed to feel the same and after Madam Haye's inspiring speech seemed to feel like giving up already. 


After more introductions from our teachers, we were split up into five different groups and played ice breaker games for the next two hours. It was the usual mix of building a house from poker cards, games of twister, introduce yourself -- that sort of thing. I didn't mind it; although I could be shy and introverted sometimes, I was reasonably good at small talk. However, there were far too many people in each group to ever make solid lasting friendships, so I decided to depart to my student flat on the outskirts of the campus and finally meet my assigned flatmate.


The Horrace Hastings building was created specifically for art and music students; we were mixed on purpose so that we wouldn't stick to our own cliques and would mingle with students from other courses. It was a minefield of activity and life, bright colours and optimisim. Students danced down the hallways as I dragged my suitcase along and dodged them; other students sat on the stairs strumming on guitars and trying to write the next greatest hit of our generation. Artists, like me, were nowhere to be seen; probably creating pieces in the solitary confinement of their respective rooms. 


Eventually I reached room 224, otherwise known as my new digs for the rest of the year. I knocked on the door lightly, which seemed a little odd considering it was my room too. Yet I'd heard the university stories from my big sister, Lyndsey, who had gone to fancy business college and had told me the antics some of her friends had gotten upto. So, I knocked first hoping to avoid seeing anything extra weird inside the room. I heard a small voice announce "you may enter" and I finally made my way inside.


Thankfully, there was no surprise nudity or insanity to be seen. Instead, there was a girl sitting on the bed cross-legged; plucking hairs from in between her two eyebrows. She didn't have a monobrow but there was the definite shadow of one forming so it seemed she was being preventative more than anything. Phew, I released a sigh of relief. Certainly not the naked, alcohol-fuelled shenanigans Lyndsey had promised me - just a tall, Indian girl plucking out her body hair. Totally normal.

My new flatmate had lovely, caramel skin and two big brown inquisitive eyes. Her rapunzel-esque hair was scraped into a ponytail which reached all the way down her back. Finally, she smiled, showing a cute little gap in her teeth.


"You study art, don't you?" She said. "I guessed as much. They like to pair art and music students together and I'm the musical one in this equation it seems."
"Uhh, yeah," I replied, shyly. "That's me...artist in training."
"I'm a violinist but I wish I was good at art instead. All of the fit guys hang out in the art department."
"Oh," I blushed at her forwardness. "I'm sure there are plenty of nice guys in the music department too."
"Nice is boring. Don't you know it's all about the bad boys in London?"
"I don't know much about anything in London in all honesty. I come from up North."
"Fascinating," The girl's eyes widened. "D'you come from a spooky village or something?"
"It's actually described as an idyllic seaside town on Wikipedia but yeah...kinda."
"Fate has brought us together, my little artiste friend! I am London born and bred. I know eeeverything and everyone in this place. I'm Parminder but you can call me Parm. What's your name?"
"Olivia...but you can call me Liv."
"Well, Liv, buckle your seatbelt because if I have anything to do with it we're about to have the most memorable year of our lives."



Parm and I ended up going for a coffee after our initial meeting. I felt deep relief that my flatmate seemed super cool and like someone I could actually be friends with. Admittedly, we were different in some ways; Parm was boy crazy and I couldn't be less interested if I tried. I was so disinterested in boys, even back home, that I had once questioned my sexuality. But then I realized I was disinterested in girls too. Mum had said that maybe I just hadn't met the right person yet and that I would "know" when I met them...whatever that meant. As far as I was concerned, I was only eighteen years old and had plenty of life left to meet the right person for me.


Back home all of my friends had been preoccupied with going on dates, kissing boys or trying to lose their virginities and enter the mysterious world of adulthood. But me? I had spent most of my time studying or creating art in my bedroom. I definitely had no regrets; career prospects first, boys later. But I had decided to have a little more fun in university. However, it would be my own personal idea of fun - not anyone else's. I certainly would not be pressured into anything and I would feel comfortable at all times. That was the only promise I had made to myself; loosen up a little but also stay true to myself. Sounds simple enough, right? Turns out it's a little trickier than that...


Parm spoke at great length about a Fresher's party later that night and suggested we should go together. She fancied one of the artist guys who was going; they had gone to school together and she seemed to think that now they were attending the same uni they would finally fall in love. From my understanding, Parm's school had been really fancy and her family were obviously wealthy. Her old school was in Chelsea where schoolgirls wore skirts touching their ankles and played hockey for leisure; a world away from my old school where teachers and students got locked inside toilet cubicles when boredom struck for bullies.


I agreed to go to the party because I was trying to be a new and improved fun version of Liv but then realized I had nothing pretty to wear. Most of my outfits consisted of dungarees or jeans, old t-shirts and comfy footwear. I didn't bring any fancy clothes with me because I simply did not own them. Parm said she would take me shopping and lend me her style expertise. We also tried on some silly clothes and had a good laugh to ourselves over it, even though we probably looked mental to other people around us.


Eventually,  we both ended up picking our respective outfits; mine was an off-the-shoulder black dress and a pair of shoes that were comfortable enough to walk in. I was too much of a tomboy to ever wear ridiculously high heels. Parm had gone all out; a beaded silver ensemble with skyscraper black shoes. She had also purchased some false eyelashes and nails for the occasion, whilst I painted my own stubby nails with some 99p nail polish I'd inherited from my Mum. 


Later, when the transformation was finally complete, I had to admit that Parm was dazzling. She looked like a proper woman in her outfit. I felt like her sidekick but thought I looked ok all things considered. I had to remind myself I was eighteen now and old enough to get into clubs even though I tried to avoid them as much as possible. I guess I was a woman too in my own way, if my age was anything to go by. So I tried not to beat myself up too much and pulled myself together. We strode arm in arm down the road to the club off campus where the party was being held and towards a night filled with possibility.



New and improved Liv was doing pretty well for only having attended university for less than 24 hours; for one thing, I had already made a new friend and decided to attend a party at a club, which is something I'd never have dreamed of doing back home. That seemed like enough work for one day and I was ready for a nap but unfortunately, the night was just beginning. In uni it seemed the standard night started at 10pm, which was past my usual bedtime. Usually, at 10pm I'd be tucked up with spot cream on my face and Netflix on my lap. Being new and improved Liv was fun but also exhausting so far. How did other girls do it all the time?!


There was no security on the door of the club which was alarming considering the amount of people, some underage, trying to push their way  inside. There was a stairwell leading down into the main club and a small balcony from which you could survey the dancefloor. Music thudded from every corner of the room and seemed to make the building vibrate. It gave me a little bit of what felt like motion sickness but maybe that was the cooking wine that Parm had bartered from student halls earlier. It tasted like drinking straight vinegar and I wondered, not for the first time, how anyone could ever enjoy drinking alcohol.


"Stay close!" Parm called over the music and grabbed my hand as she dragged us through the crowd to the bar. She proceeded to order more drinks with nonsensical names which we had to down as quickly as possible as some part of a fun game called shots that everyone else was playing too. Again, it was disgusting...but exhilarating. With each drink I began to feel lighter and that all of my problems could melt away. It felt good to be so carefree for once as I usually spent the day locked in my own head overanalysing everything.


Parm was a talented dancer and put me to shame but I gave it a good effort. Finally, her dream boy arrived on the scene. He wasn't what I had expected at all; grungy looking, with gelled-back blonde hair and a single earring in his ear. Spotting Parm from across the room, he gave her a smirk and a knowing nod.


"Did you see that?!" Parm grinned. "That was 'the nod'!"
"What is 'the nod'?" I asked, confused.
"It's the sign a guy uses to tell you he likes you and that you should come over."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes! So now I have to ignore him whilst also simultaneously looking cute and pouty and desirable. Then he will realize he is madly in love with me and come over."
"Has this method actually worked for you before though?" I sighed. "Why don't you just talk to him?"
"That might have worked in the 90's, Grandma. This is 2017 - boys like the chase."
"But don't you see what you're doing? You're putting boys on pedestals. They're no better than us. You are both people who should be able to have a conversation, like other normal people."
"Don't tell me you're one of those new age feminazi types?"
"And you're not? Everyone should be a feminist!"
"This is London, honey. As my mother used to say, if you want a boy to like you you have to let him believe he is a little bit better than you."
"Oh really?" I raised an eyebrow. "Let's put that theory to a test, shall we?"


Suddenly, I was stalking towards Blondey and his cronies, who were splayed out on sofas nearby. Parm was yelling after me, somewhat angrily, because I was ruining her plan of mysterious persuasion. Mostly, I just wanted to prove the point that I was right. Surely, this was NOT how people showed their appreciation for each other? By ignoring one another and thinking one person was better than the other? If that was how you found a boyfriend then I would rather be alone forever, I decided.


"Excuse me," I prodded Blondey on the shoulder and he turned in surprise. I had to admit that even without hair he did have a handsome face up close. "I think you know my friend Parminder. You went to school together?"
"Yeah, I do," He gave me a sheepish smile. 
"She wants to talk to you but she's too shy, so she's hiding by the corner of the bar. Why don't you go buy her a drink?"


Blondey seemed shocked at the forwardness and then let out a laugh.


"You've got some serious balls," He said. 
"Not really. I'm just stating the facts," I replied. "Now are you gonna buy her or the drink or do I need to go back and tell her that you pussied out?"


He looked at me for a moment, that same weird smile on his face, then took a step back.


"Wait here," He held up one finger and disappeared back to his friends. They were all dressed in a similar way from what I could make out in the darkness; jeans and leather jackets, shaggy haired, a lot of eye-makeup. They murmured between themselves. Parm mouthed "what is going on?" and I shrugged, then Blondey returned.


"Alright then, I'll buy your mate a drink," He folded his arms, satisfied. "On one have a chat with my mate. He said he likes you."
"What does he like about me exactly?" I asked, folding my arms in contest. "He doesn't even know me."
"He said you have attitude. I told him what you just said to me and he liked it."
"Ok then," My face was getting hot and the situation was getting weird. "I'll talk to him. Bring him over. We can make this a group outing."
"I don't think so. Lex doesn't come to girls...they come to him."


He pointed to the corner where the furthest sofa away housed just one guy; apparently the friend Blondey had mentioned judging by the aura around him. It was dark so I couldn't make out exactly what he looked like but he acted like the leader of the group; like he didn't need booze or anything his friends needed to be cool. It was effortless for him. He was wearing a white shirt that was unbuttoned almost all the way down, with shaggy hair that fell into his eyes and fancy, lace-up shoes that were pointed at the toe. He acted and looked older than his friends too; definitely in his twenties.


"Lex doesn't come to girls, they come to him?" I repeated. "What does that even mean? Listen, if your friend wants to talk to me you can send him on over here. Otherwise, I don't chase anyone. See ya."


I turned, complete with sassy hair flick, and strode away from him. Parm was standing by the sidelines in awe; no longer looking annoyed.


"He's watching your every move!" Parm could barely contain her excitement. "What did you say to him?!"
"I told him to stop being a wimp and buy you a drink," I shrugged.
"You did NOT!"
"Then things got kind of weird. He said his friend liked me."
"Which one?"
"Guy in the corner. White shirt?" I pointed and Parm almost yanked my arm off.
"What the hell is wrong with you?!"
"Come with me!"


She pulled me savagely into the girl's bathroom and we huddled by the sinks for a quick update chat since I apparently knew nothing.


"That's Alex Langley," She took me by the shoulders seriously. 
"Who?" I sighed, exasperated.
"LEX! The guy who said he liked you!"
"...And? Should I know him?"
"You will soon!" Parm was horrified. "He's gonna be famous, Liv. He was literally inside the pages of NME last week."
"I don't know what NME is so I'll assume it's something super impressive?"
"God! You are so small town," Parm rolled her eyes. "Let me break it down. Lex and his band got signed to a label last year; they're literally the new Rolling Stones. Rumour has it he went on a date with Kate Moss once and she is, like, a billion years older than him."
"So why is he hanging out a Fresher's party if he is so cool?"
"That's the impressive thing; he stayed in uni! He's a student at RLSOTA, just like us! A fourth year."
"I think it's...sensible. Not really impressive. He obviously has some kind of intelligence in there to put education first."
"So you're telling me you don't think he is beyond fit?"
"I can't really's dark out there..."
"You are impossible!"


Suddenly, Parm was googling manically and shoving photos of Lex into my face. Due to the tiredness, my eyesight was a little off but she was right; there was something kind of attractive about him, in an unconventional way. He had sharp bone structure and great dress sense. But his best feature were his eyes; light blue and so piercing they leapt off the screen.


"Ok, fine," I admitted. "He is good looking. Sort of."
"How are you not having an aneurysm right now?" Parm yelled. "Lex Langley said he likes you! What the hell is wrong with you?!"
"Well...yeah. But he probably has his pick of the girls. He can take home anyone at any time apparently."
"UGH. Lighten up, Liv! Can't you just accept that a guy could genuinely like you? Why do you keep trying to ruin it?"


I couldn't tell if that was Parm or my conscience talking but she was right. I always tried to play it down or make excuses when a guy liked me or vice versa; maybe that's why I had been so single all of the time. Perhaps I was scared of getting hurt so that's why I never took the risk of getting to know anyone.


"FINE," I shouted back. "You're right, ok? I'm a loser who avoids all chances at being loved because I am scared. Are you happy now?"
"Not really," She replied. "I'll be happy when we both go out there and get drinks with those two hot boys waiting outside."
"How do you know they'll still be waiting?"
"Oh, honey. After the performance you put in a few minutes ago, they'll be waiting all night."



Immediately after leaving the bathroom, Blondey was over by Parm's side with two drinks in his hand. Unfortunately, my new pal Lex Langley was nowhere to be seen; probably on his way home with another girl on his arm. I tried not to feel envious but it had been nice to feel wanted for just one moment, even if I was just another girl in a long line leading to his bedroom.


Blondey had a name - Andrew. It was fairly mediocre for someone with style so badass, so he insisted on being called Drew instead. Again, it was a fairly mediocre name for a wannabe punk but still infinitely better than Andrew which he had inherited from his upper class family. 


"So, what's this all about your friend liking Liv, eh?" Parm had gained a little bit of confidence now Drew was by her side draping his arm around her. 
"He likes a lot of birds though to be fair," Drew shrugged. 


Parm drew him a horrible look, like it hadn't been the response she had expected.


"But what did he say about Liv exactly?" She pressed further. 
"Just asked who she was," Drew replied nonchalantly. "I said I dunno, some Fresher I suppose. Then he saw us arguing and asked what she had said. I told him and he laughed. He seemed really keen to meet her after that."
"Yes, well he should be. She is brilliant, after all. So, where is he now?"
"Dunno. Probably on his way to some swanky party in the West End. He doesn't really hang out with us mere mortals these days after getting signed."


I couldn't help but feel disappointed. The fact that I had stuck to what was right for me and hadn't chased Lex hadn't seemed to pay off at all. Instead, if I had been like other girls and run after him maybe we would have been sitting on the sofa together by that point. Oh well, I thought. It's not a big deal, just a good story to tell the Grandchildren one day. A beautiful, famous rockstar had half-fancied me and I had blanked him. The romance of my dreams!


That was when I noticed the glass rest next to my arm and a stool pull up alongside me. I saw the pointed shoes before I even looked at his face. As I glanced around, I finally got a close-up shot of those piercing eyes.


"I'll have another and whatever my friend here wants," He said to the bartender, who served him immediately before anyone else. He didn't sound posh like all his other friends; he actually sounded Northern and normal like me. 
"Diet coke, please," I said, not looking away once to challenge him.
"Not a drinker?" He seemed surprised.
"Had enough for tonight. I like to stay sharp."
"Smart girl," He tipped his glass a little for me to see. It looked and smelled like orange juice. Are you kidding me? The famous Lex Langley drinks OJ on a night out? You couldn't make it up. 
"You're a rockstar who drinks orange juice?"
"It's double strength concentration, I'll have ya know," He puffed out his chest then smiled, as if it to make fun of himself. 
"Your friend told us you had gone to a swanky party in the west end," The alcohol was giving me dutch courage and it was worrying. I might even admit to having been flattered he liked me or call him attractive to his face, even though I knew he just wanted to take me home like all the other girls.


"Did that disappoint you?" He looked at me over the rim of his glass, only his eyes visible.


I could only muster a slight, nonchalant shrug as I sipped my Diet Coke. I didn't know how I was managing to keep my cool so much in a foreign situation like that but I decided to go with it; I did want to be a new and improved confident Liv, after all.


"I don't usually talk to girls first... but something told me I should. So, here I am with my tail between my legs, about to make a fool out of myself all in the name of a whim."
"I bet you say that to all the girls."
"Just the one." 


I looked at him dead in the eye and he stared straight straight back; a mischievous smile playing on his lips. He was challenging me and he was winning. Why was this so easy to talk to him? I wanted him to be a massive idiot, like all rockstars seemed to be. But he actually seemed half decent. And those eyes were in another world...


"Damn," I thought taking another sip of my drink, realizing that of course someone who made a living as a musician would have all the right words to say. "This guy is good."




I spent the remains of the party doing exactly the opposite of what I expected; sitting in a corner talking to Lex, whilst he fought off other girl's advances. It was childish but I felt secretly smug because I had his attention and in a single snapshot I saw how easy it was for famous people to get what they wanted when everyone was so starstruck around them. I needed to keep my wits about me, I decided. He might have been weirdly attractive and on his way to stardom but he was still just another person, like myself, and I had to keep reminding myself of that.


Saying that, Lex was a lot more interesting than I would have thought. He read a lot of books and knew a lot about movies and music. His only vice was that he smoked and occasionally would go outside and come back smelling like an ashtray. Eventually, the scent would subside and be replaced by what smelled like expensive aftershave. It didn't really bother me; I wasn't crazy about people polluting their bodies but in the grand scale of things, there were worst vices to have than a cigarette every now and then.


Lex was also a bit older than me; he was twenty two and would be graduating after the year was over. I wasn't stupid enough to think he had outgrown all his boy-like qualities but he definitely seemed more mature than a lot of other guys my age; specifically Drew, who spent the whole evening "accidentally" groping Parm. Parm being Parm was happy to receive the attention and that made me a little sad actually. She put on a good act but deep down I could tell she was insecure and thought the only way she could attract boys was by being anyone but herself.


Lex also had a habit of making intense eye contact which would make me nervous in any case but especially with him. Sometimes, it felt like he could read my mind; I felt naked and vulnerable and I hated every minute of it as I usually attempted to lock my thoughts away where no one cold see them. Eventually, 3 a.m. arrived and the party was over, much to the sadness of everyone else. They left the club like a stream of deflated balloons; make-up smeared over their faces, high heels in hands and paired off for the night. It became apparent Lex and I were the only two sober people in the place.


"Well, I should probably get this one home," I pointed at a very drunken Parm, who was currently being supported by Drew. He looked like a vulture ready to attack his prey.
"Wait," Lex stood up hurriedly. "Can I walk you home?"
"You don't have to -- we'll get a taxi --"
"Nah, I want to see you both home safely."


I should've said no but I genuinely liked the guy and thought he had good intentions. Plus, it didn't hurt to have a potentially ultra famous rockstar on our side if we got mugged. 


"Ok thanks," I finally relented. "Could you help lift my friend here? For someone so small she weighs a surprising amount."
"Well, this certainly isn't the night I expected," Lex heaved Parm over his shoulder, groaning under her weight. "But in my experience, all of the best nights have the most unexpected endings..."




Unsurprisingly, Drew disappeared when he realized taking Parm home was off the table. So Lex and I sandwiched Parm between ourselves, holding her up with an arm each, and strode off down the road like we were in the Wizard of Oz. I had misjudged how heavy she was and by the time we reached the flat I felt thoroughly worn out.


"Gimme a second," I said, unlocking the door with the one remaining arm I had left. Lex stood outside and didn't try to come inside uninvited which I appreciated.


I dragged Parm into the bedroom and set her down on her side so she wouldn't choke on her own vomit or something equally tragic. She was mumbling in her sleep and grabbed my hand as I tried to leave.


"Sssorry," She whispered. "I'm an idiot."
"You're not an idiot," I replied softly, tucking her in. "You're brilliant. Now, get some rest and we'll talk tomorrow, ok?"


This seemed to make her feel better and she blacked out right in front of me; her snores still to be heard from outside the building. I went back outside to see Lex smoking a cigarette down the block; the amber light of burning ash glowing against the skyline. He stubbed it out when he saw me coming and stuck his hands in his pockets like a guilty schoolboy.


"Thanks for seeing us home," I said. "I'd invite you in but..."


In all honesty, I didn't have a reason why I wouldn't invite him in. He wasn't a vampire. But he was a super cool and experienced rockstar and I was not and never would be. I wasn't the kind of person to spend the night with anyone even though I knew it was expected at uni eventually. I just couldn't see that ever being me. I'd rather know a person's deepest darkest secrets first before I could ever do anything like that. Call me old fashioned but in my mind, there had to be an emotional connection first. So, I trailed off and let Lex decide the reason why I couldn't let him in. He nodded in agreement. 


"That's ok," He said. "You've got your hands full with your mate. She seems nice. You should tell her to avoid Drew though. He's a knob."
"I will do," I laughed. "So, what's your plans now?"
"Off to the studio. Got to work on some songs."
"The studio at this time in the morning?! Get some sleep, you mad man."
"Music never sleeps, Olivia."


He had gotten into the habit of being the only person who called me by full name, even though I politely insisted he call me "Liv" three times. I actually kind of liked the formality; it showed respect. 


"Well, it was nice to meet you anyway," I stuck out a hand to shake his. It felt like the last time I would ever see him honestly. He seemed to find the gesture really funny and took a step closer.
"Would it be inappropriate to admit I'd rather just kiss you instead?" He was so tall already but with the forward nature of his statement I felt 2ft tall.


He didn't try to do it without my permission but it half annoyed me that he would assume I did want to kiss him (even though I hated to admit that I really did). Maybe he was just as I suspected; another guy trying to notch up numbers on his bed post. I guess I'd never really know but the mild fury was enough to fuel me into an unnecessary debate. Honestly, I just wanted him to stick around for a while longer because his presence was beginning to make me feel warm and fuzzy inside; something that made me want to puke and sob all at the same time.


"What makes you think I want to kiss you?" I replied.
"Well," He seemed surprised at the question but answered coolly. "I've had a laugh tonight. I like you and think you're cool. I'd like to see you again. I got the impression you liked me back. Am I wrong?"
"So what if I did?"
"Then what's the problem?"
"How do I know you're not saying this to lots of girls?"
"How do I know you're not saying the same to other lads?"
"You avoided the question."
"No I didn't. I'm saying we stand on equally shaky ground and barely know each other. Sometimes in life you just have to jump in head first and deal with the shit that happens later."
"I guess you have a point."
"It's funny because I'm trying to get to know you but you seem insistent on it never happening."


He rubbed his hand across his forehead and laughed.


"It's been a long time since a girl has fucked with my head this much," He said. "Only known you a few hours and you're already under my skin."
"Thanks...I guess?" I wasn't really sure how to respond as nobody had ever told me I had gotten under their skin before and it didn't really sound pleasant.
"Look, I'm not going to stand here all night convincing you to give me a chance. Just give me your phone."

He rolled his eyes as if to say "are you really going to question this too?" and I handed my phone over because I was, quite frankly, getting exhausted too.


"You really wanna call the shots?" His thumbs moved swiftly across the screen. "Well, here's my number. You decide if you ever wanna meet up again. Google me if you have to. If you never speak to me again, I get it. Do you feel better now?"
"Moderately," I looked at the numbers on the screen with "Lex" written next to it. He didn't seem like an emoji type of person and I could already his imagine his texts to be short and straight to the point, just like the man himself. 
"You are exhausting," He laughed. "Is your brain always this busy?"
"Almost always."
"Well, if you ever want to get out of that busy brain of yours and need a tour of the campus or...just anything, I'll be around."
"Thanks," I looked at the phone number again, like it was gold dust. That wasn't much of a stretch actually; I owned the phone number many girls around the country wanted and sickeningly, I was questioning ever using it. "See you around?"
"Only you can answer that."


He took off down the street without looking back once. The truth was he had probably already forgotten me by the end of the road since I didn't invite him inside. Honestly, that didn't bother me in the slightest; if he was really that shallow and judgemental then I'd had a lucky escape. He'd also managed to outsmart me and made me think I had the power with his number whilst the truth was that now it meant he didn't have to do any work.


Dammit, I realised. Drew had been right. Lex doesn't come to the girls...they come to him.


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