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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3. Three

It turned out that Simon and Milly were in most of my classes. Naturally, Simon attempted to romance every girl in the place whilst Milly and I shared knowing glances. Aside from being a bit of flirt, Simon was actually sharp as a tack and could be funny in his own way. Once both Milly and I made it clear he would get nowhere with us, he lightened up and started to accept our friendship instead.

 


"So, how'd you find my Facebook?" I leaned across the desk and tried to intimidate him.
"What can I say? I'm skilled when it comes to searching for beautiful girls on Facebook," He smirked.

 


I gave him a warning glance and he reclined back in his seat with his hands behind his head.

 


"What? Just 'cause you're off limits doesn't mean I can't comment on your beauty. Anyway, when are you going to introduce us to your boyfriend?"
"He's not my boyfriend..."
"Is that right? Well, I propose a night out on Friday. Firestorm; us three and whoever else you wanna invite. Bring not-your-boyfriend. I'm curious to meet him."

 

Firestorm was a popular night club in the city. If you dared to enter you were greeted by circus performers and fire eaters, nobody was allowed to take their cameras or phones inside and you had to wear masks because it was an "anything goes" sort of place and there were no rules. Hence, if you worked in an important job nobody would ever know you also eat fire on the weekends thanks to the disguise. The description of Firestorm alone terrified me but I had to admit it would certainly be something to tick off my bucket list. Plus, I knew Parm would be ecstatic at the idea; a crazy club like Firestorm where you could do whatever you wanted without consequences was exactly her cup of tea.

 


"Bring that mate you said I'd like," Simon added, as if he had read my mind.
"Only if you promise to treat her right," I wiggled a finger in his direction. "She's not another one of your conquests. She's a human being with feelings."
"Listen, when I meet the right girl she'll be treated like an absolute Queen. Until then, I'll sow my oats as I see fit. Your mate might hate me for all we know..."
"That wouldn't be hard," Milly rolled her eyes in amusement.
"Where would I be without your constant insults?" Simon looped an arm around her shoulder. "Thankyou. They bring me back down to Earth."

 

Liv:
Firestorm on Friday? People from class, me, you and whoever else you wanna bring. :o)

Parm:
Be in the flat by 4pm to discuss outfits. This is a vastly important advancement in our social lives. Bring that delicious Greek God friend of yours too. I'm going to fix that bad attitude of his.

Liv:
Don't know about that...you have to be careful with that one.

Parm:
Just what I need; a worthy opponent.

 


---

 


I was the only person sitting in Art History class; early as usual. Milly entered the room with her head down and could barely look me in the eye. Usually she bounced around everywhere she went like a tiny, bespectacled pixie, so I knew that something was wrong. She sat down next to me and without saying a word slid an open newspaper over to my side of the desk.

 


"I wasn't sure if you'd seen it yet," She said. "But I thought you should know."

 

I stared down at the vulgar page headline in front of me and the accompanying photo:

 


THE STRANDS' ROCKER BEDS BLONDE BEAUTY

 


As the headline promised, the photo was of none other than Lex Langley; exiting a Manchester club, in the shirt he had worn on our outing, with his arm around another woman. She was beautiful but definitely a bit older than both of us, possibly in her 30's. According to the article, they had gone back to his hotel together and had been spotted together since Monday night. Coincidentally, the night I had last spoken to him. The night he had sent me a photo from his bed where she may very well have been lying next to him...

 


Calm down, Liv, I consoled myself. You don't know all the facts yet. You aren't even officially going out with the guy - you've only met him twice. But I had to admit the evidence did look pretty incriminating. 

 


I couldn't think of anything to say to Milly, who I could tell felt really terrible about revealing the newspaper story to me. I didn't want her to feel that way as it wasn't her fault. Really it was partly my fault; I had been an idiot and gone against everything I had believed about Lex. So I lied and reassured her and told her that I was ok.

 


"Do you want to talk about it?" Milly said. 
"I just want to have a think to myself now if that's ok," I tried to muster a smile.
"You'll be fine, Liv. Plenty more fish in the sea," She squeezed my arm. "Someone will turn up when you least expect it."

 


We didn't talk for the rest of class. Simon must have sensed there was something going on with as he stopped me before we left the classroom for lunch.

 


"What's wrong?" He asked, softly. It was nice to see a different side of him and I wondered if he had sisters or a Mum at home he was like that with sometimes. "You're awfully quiet today. I need ballsy Liv to insult me at least once a day or else my day is not complete."
"I'm fine," I smiled. "Just one of those days"
"If you don't want to come tonight then we understand..."
"No, no," I shook my head. "I still wanna come."
"Don't worry! It'll be a night to remember. I guarantee it."

 


---
 

 


Parm insisted on getting ready for the night four hours early but my heart wasn't in it, no matter how hard I tried. I decided I'd definitely go to Firestorm anyway just to get out of my own head and away from thoughts about Lex. He hadn't attempted to message me to apologize which really irked me. But maybe it made sense; he had never really cared about me, that much was obvious. So why would he feel the need to update me on his latest chase? I was so last week clearly.

 


"C'mon, Liv!" Parm bent down to face me, sadly. "I know it sucks and it hurts but at least it didn't go any further before you found out the truth. It's not like you were in love or anything."
"Yeah," I agreed, miserably. But for the first time I realized the point was I could have been in love further down the line. I just hadn't had to chance to see if it would ever happen.

 

"What you need is to go out and take your mind off things," Parm passed me a glittery masquerade mask. "Talk to other boys. There's not just one for everyone, you know!"
"I wish I believed that," I sighed.

 

Parm's phone vibrated hard on the coffee table.

 


"That's the taxi waiting outside," Parm turned to face me. "So, do you want to stay here and wallow over a guy who isn't even remotely good enough for you? Or do you want to have the best night of your life?"

 


---
 

 

We got to the club and our phones were immediately confiscated as no photography was allowed inside. Masks were insisted upon and I pulled mine over my eyes; trying to hide the fact I had teared up a little before I left the flat. Not over Lex necessarily, mainly over the fact I didn't know where to turn in the situation as I had never experienced anything like it before. There was no sign of Simon and Milly yet, so I quickly texted them before my phone was taken to say I'd meet them at the bar.

 


Parm linked her arm with my own. She looked amazing in the same glittery mask she had given me. We had also both unintentionally worn black and probably looked like twins from anyone else's perspective. Honestly, that suited me fine. I didn't want to stand out; I wanted to be like everyone else and blend in so no one would notice how drippy and sad I was that night.

 


"Are you ready?" Parm asked, excitedly. 
"Is it true they have naked fire eaters who burn their body hair for fun?" I asked, getting a little scared now as we faced two grand, oak doors.

 

Parm didn't reply, which was an answer in itself.

 


"Ladies," A security man nodded to us and opened the doors. "Welcome to Firestorm."

 


---
 

 

The wall of sound hit me first; rapid, techno music that had no lyrics but double the beat of a normal song. The lights were next; flashing madly, spraying beams of every color in every direction. It didn't help that the walls were made of stainless steel and reflected all of the strobe lights so they bounced back painfully into my eyes. 

 


As promised, there were fire eaters...but at least they were wearing clothes. Firestorm was like a nightclub circus; clowns, men and women on stilts, people dancing inside jagged cages. I could see why photography was not allowed; seeing the madness first hand might have put people off ever going to the place. I held onto Parm tighter. I didn't necessarily feel safe but that was probably because a place like Firestorm was so out of my comfort zone.

 


"Head to the bar," I shouted in her ear. "I said we'd meet Simon and Milly there."

 


I hoped they had gotten the text before coming inside or else we would never find them as there were so many bodies crammed into the place. 

 


"Quick! Down this!" Parm handed me a shot.
"Uhh, I don't know," I hesitated. "I don't really feel like drinking tonight."
"Oh, come on. Don't be a wimp! Forget about everything tonight, especially that loser, Lex."

 


I hadn't intended on drinking but Parm bought me a drink and I felt like it would be rude to decline. Maybe she was right; the only way to forget about Lex was to drink my problems away. I felt so downright humiliated that the drinks seemed to keep coming...and coming...and coming. Parm stood back in admiration and watched me as I drank them one by one. She didn't try to stop me, nor did she encourage me past a certain point. But by the time Milly and Simon showed up an hour later, I was well and thoroughly intoxicated.

 


"What the hell has she been drinking?" Milly tried to hold me up. I was too drowsy to make out facial expressions but she sounded quite annoyed.
"Just some shots," Parm shrugged. "A fancy cocktail thing as well. It's not my fault. She drank it herself! I didn't know there was so much booze in it!"
"Don't tell me you ordered the Firestorm Mix?"
"Uh...maybe..." Parm giggled at that as she was quite drunk as well.
"Oh my God. There's absinthe in that! Do you realize the alcohol percentage in that stuff?"
"Spare me the lecture, Mum," Parm said. "I'm just trying to have fun."
"Well, you shouldn't have let her get into this state. Especially after today."
"What would you know about today?" Parm narrowed her eyes, annoyed that someone else clearly knew about Lex other than her.
"Now, now, girls," Simon stepped between the two. "There's no need to fight...unless it's over me."
"You're welcome to each other," Milly was very cross now and was, quite literally, dragging me across the room. My vision was blurry but I could feel the weight of my body being moved to safety. 

 

"No offense," Milly propped me up on a large speaker in the corner of the dancefloor. She was alot stronger than I had anticipated. "But your friend is a total idiot letting you get into this state."
"Hmmm," I mumbled to myself. I had so much I wanted to say but my mouth and brain wouldn't work together.
"Shh," Milly felt my forehead. "God, you're burning up. Ok...let me think."

 


She disappeared for a moment then came back with Simon.

 


"Liv, Simon is going to look after you for a minute, ok?" She bent down to talk to me but I was so far gone by this point I couldn't look at her. "I'm going to get you some water."
"Hey, Liv," Simon sat next to me and let me rest on his shoulder. "When I said have a fun night I didn't know you'd go this far. Bloody hell. Where's not-your-boyfriend?"
"He's really not my boyfriend now," I screwed up my face. "I...I...think I hate him."
"He must have did something bad to piss you off this much..."

 


I could tell he was fishing for information but I wasn't in any fit state to tell him the truth about Lex. By chance, one of my favourite songs came on and I could still recognize it in my drunken haze.

 


"I WAAANNA DANCE," I announced, suddenly springing back to life. Simon grabbed my hand and pulled me backwards.
"Not tonight, babe," He laughed. "You'll do yourself a permanent injury."
"Pleeeease," I yelled. "I need to dance. Please."

 


He must have seen the desperation in my face; like if I didn't dance I would crumble.

 


"Well, ok, then," He agreed. "I don't see the harm if I'm with you the whole time."

 


He waved over at Milly then pointed to the dancefloor. She looked on disapprovingly and shook her head but Simon simply shrugged.

 


We made our way to the dancefloor and Simon tried to stifle laughter as I made a complete fool out of myself. I may have been in a terribly drunken state but not drunk enough to ignore how poor my dancing was; I knew I'd cringe about it the next day. Parm was nowhere to be seen; probably mortified I had shown us both up so much.

 


"You're something else, Liv," Simon said.
"Dance with me!" I grabbed his arms and started moving him around. 

 


Suddenly, for no other reason than because I was sad and lonely and the outline of Simon very slightly resembled Lex under the strobe lights, I was kissing him. Simon didn't respond for a minute...then he kissed me back. Quickly, his hands were on my waist and in my hair and we had both given into the moment. It wasn't the most romantic kiss of my life but I'd only had two back home; it was rough and urgent and our teeth knocked together more than once.

 


"What the hell are you doing?" Milly pried us apart. "You should know better. She's clearly drunk!"
"She kissed me!" Simon was defensive now.
"Like that makes it better? Can't trust you for one bloody minute."
"I'm sorry!"

 

Milly grabbed me and we stalked quickly towards the grand front doors.

 


"Excuse me," Milly said to the burly security guard. "My friend is sick. We need to leave."
"Nobody leaves until 1 a.m. It's a lock-in - that's the rules."
"Do you have a medic on standby?"
"Err...no."
"Well, what happens if someone has a heart attack and dies on your watch?"
"Look, love. I'm not a doctor - I'm a doorman. If your mate is sick it's probably because she drank too much. So get her some water and suck it up."

 

I thought Milly would punch him in that moment regardless of the fact the doorman was a whole foot taller than us both.

 


"Ok, we need to figure out something else," Milly swivelled us both around. "I'm tired of this place already. Waaay too much drama for me." 

Quickly, she pulled us both to a dark corner in the back of the building.


"This is going to be loud and probably very wet," Milly warned me. Then, with all her might, hit the glass fire alarm and shattered it. Her hand was smattered with tiny bloody cuts and she yelped with the impact of her hand smashing the glass.

Immediately, the fire alarm sounded and the sprinklers turned on; soaking everyone and everything in the place. Everyone inside the club screamed and turned to run towards the fire exits. The music stopped and the only sounds that could be heard were panic stricken yells or calls for help. It was odd to see the outlines of clowns, with their make-up running down their faces, trying to escape. In the harsh light, without the bright colours and strobe lights, Firestorm was actually a bit miserable. Just like so many things in life, when you removed the shine, you revealed the dull underneath.

"I'm getting us our phones then we are getting out of here," Milly told me. "Stay with me, Liv. You're going to be alright..."

 


---

 


Getting out of Firestorm was a blur. There was no sign of Simon or Parm again and I had to admit I was pretty annoyed with Parm. Why had she left me high and dry like that? Was it because she was drunk herself or simply because she was a terrible friend? Milly had a lengthy argument with security regarding getting our phones back but eventually, she managed to talk them into handing them over. The staff were clearly panicking that there would be photographs of their failed club night and it would ruin the mysterious reputation of Firestorm.

 


"I've got a good mind to report each and everyone one of them," Milly grumbled as she bundled us into a taxi. "Student halls, please." She told the taxi driver. I lay in her lap and fell asleep during the whole journey back to the flat.

 


"Now, where are your keys?" Milly stuck her head into my bag. Luckily I hadn't lost them in all the commotion. Parm either wasn't home or was ignoring us when Milly tried to ring the buzzer. 

 


She carried me all the way into my bedroom and tucked me in. I was fast asleep already. When I did wake, at 7a.m., Milly was curled up in the chair beside my bed with one of my jackets draped over her for warmth. I wanted to her pick her up and give her the tightest hug of my life for getting me home safely. 

 


I noticed that my phone was blinking furiously so, with a furious headache, I picked it up and scrolled through my notifications. Before I even read his message, which had been sent hours previously, I saw his name and felt more ill than ever. This time, the sickness rising in me wasn't due to a hangover.

 


Lex:
olivia...if you don't read this, i understand. it looks bad. i've been thinking about what to say to you all day to justify what you might have seen in the news. the woman in the photos is our manager and she is married. there is nothing going on - she's like the mum i never had. i can give you her number if you want to get in touch and confirm. just don't want you to think i've been playing you all this time. i meant what I said - i like you. sorry you had to see that and if you never talk to me again, i get it. i'm trying not to hurt you but sometimes with this job...things get blown out of proportion and there's nothing I can do to stop it. sorry. hope you understand.

 


Urrrrrgh. Now I didn't know what to think. It was too late - I had already ruined everything and kissed Simon anyway. What would Lex think of me now? What would Parm think of me if she had seen it? She had wanted to cosy up to Simon and I had gotten there first when I didn't even want him. 

 

The truth was there was only one person I wanted...and his name was Lex Langley.

 


---
 

 

I didn't reply to Lex for a whole day because I felt disgusted and ashamed by my behaviour. Finally, I worked up the courage to do some research online and found out that, surprisingly, Lex been telling the truth. Again, my general distrust of all people and my own decisions had affected my good sense and ruined something promising for me. The woman in the photos was the band's manager and her name was Karen. She owned a company dedicated to managing music acts and she was married to a George Clooney lookalike lawyer. I felt so stupid for believing what I had read in the paper and realized that Lex had been wrong. I had treated him exactly as a magazine cover and not a person. I had jumped to conclusions, like all of my friends, without giving him a chance to defend himself. I had messed everything up with my overthinking YET AGAIN. Would I ever learn? 

 


Milly had gone home around midday, having the good grace not to talk about the night before. There was still no sign of Parm and I was beginning to worry. But then I remembered she had basically ditched me the night before and decided to worry less about her. Her behaviour had been uncharacteristic but in fairness, we all had our flaws and I had always known Parm could be quite self-absorbed.

 


Liv:
Are you alive? 

Parm:
More than alive. I spent the night with your beautiful man friend. 

Liv:
Simon?

Parm:
The one and only.

 


Ok, so she obviously didn't know about the kiss or else she would have been in less of a good mood, regardless of how she spent her night. Parm was not second best to any guy, especially when Simon had taken me for a trial run before her. Secondly, the thought of them spending the night together was kind of gross and I didn't want to hear anything more about it for fear of developing life long traumatic visions of them.

 


Parm:
That's about the only thing I remember from last night. What happened? How did you get home?

Liv:
You ditched me. Milly took me home.

Parm:
...Because she has a crush on you clearly.

Liv:
Or maybe she's just a good friend?

Parm:
What are you trying to say?

Liv:
Are we really discussing this over text? I'm not saying anything. Just that I wish you'd be a little more considerate sometimes. You're one to talk about my flaws...

Parm:
Whatever. It's not my fault you can't handle your drink or that Lex cheated so you are pissed off at everyone else. Talk to me when you're in a better mood.

 

I threw my phone onto the bed and screamed; it was so visceral it took me back. I was so angry I could have gone into Parm's room and cut up every item of clothing she owned. I had known we were different but the side of her she had shown at Firestorm and her blatant disregard for others really angered me. If Milly and Simon hadn't shown up what would have happened to me? I had nobody to blame but myself for drinking but Parm hadn't exactly attempted to stop me later when I got really sick. In all honesty, she hadn't even really seemed that sorry Lex had almost played me, even after encouraging us to get together. Maybe she had forgotten we weren't all as thick skinned and confident as her and I was a little more sensitive to being hurt like that.

 


In all honesty, I was mostly annoyed with myself for being an idiot. Deep down, I wasn't really annoyed with Parm; I just needed somewhere to vent my frustration. After lying on my bed thinking for hours, I finally managed to fathom a guilt-ridden reply to Lex.

 


Liv:
I believe you. But I just need some time.

 


There was a long wait for his response as he read the message and didn't reply for a while. I could picture his saddened face reading it and that made me feel even worse but I couldn't go further until I figured out why I had kissed Simon when I liked Lex. I wondered what it felt like to be Lex and have the whole world against you, no-one believing anything you have to say and thinking they know everything about you, and I felt truly sorry for him.

 


Lex:
take all the time you need. 

Liv:
There's just some stuff I have to sort out with myself first.

Lex:
i understand. take care of yourself olivia. 

Liv:
You too, Lex.

 


It felt like saying goodbye. That broke me more than anything; the fact that he was actually going to give me the space I needed. It showed he was a decent guy and I had well and truly messed it all up. Maybe the space should be forever, I thought in despair. Lex deserved better. How could I ever take care of someone else who really deserved it, like him, if I couldn't even take care of myself first?

 


---

 


I spent the rest of the weekend mourning the death of the relationship that would never be between Lex and I. Parm didn't come home the whole weekend; probably knowing I'd be in a foul mood and wanting to avoid me. So, I locked myself in the flat, watched television and consumed junk food and felt sorry for myself. 

 


Numerous times I had the urge to get in touch with Lex and apologize for so many things but I didn't know how. I missed talking to him and I regretted how things had ended. But I didn't know where it could go as I didn't want to admit what had happened with Simon and I also didn't want to admit I had ever doubted Lex when he had been telling the truth. Realistically, in his line of work, those stories would be something I'd have to deal with a lot. I had crumbled under the pressure of just one. What did that say about our future together? If there was ever a chance of one...

 


Milly:
How you holding up?

 


Ever since Parm had said Milly had a crush on me, I had been seeing our budding friendship in a different light. Sometimes, I had to admit that I had caught Milly staring or noticed her comments bordered on flirtatious, but I had thought it was just friendship. Only when the observation was revealed to me, by Parm, that I began to think there was something more to the situation. But I didn't want to think about that right now; life was complicated enough already.

 


Liv:
I'm ok. Thanks for last night. Really appreciate it. How are you?

Milly:
That's ok. Bored >.< Wanna get coffee?

Liv:
I'm kind of in the middle of something. Rain check?

Milly:
Sure :). 

Milly is typing...

Milly:
Another thing...Lex is back in London. I saw him early this morning on campus. The rest of the band are still in Manchester though. Apparently, he was at Firestorm on Friday too.

Liv:
So...that means...

Milly:
Don't know if he saw anything but yeah, there's a possibility. But he wouldn't have known it was you surely. You had a mask on.

 


I was in deep trouble. It was official. My lies were spinning a web so fast that I could barely keep up. Could Lex have seen me with Simon the previous night? Why was he home early? 

 


Milly:
Even if he did see anything, you're not official. You're allowed to explore other options...

 


Why did I feel like she meant herself?

 


Liv:
Yeah. I guess so. Still...I should probably talk to him and stop putting it off.

Milly:
I guess.

Liv:
Thanks, Mil. I'll keep you updated.

 


She read the message and didn't reply and I assumed she was sulking. When I thought about it, everytime Lex did something out of favour Molly had pointed it out. Why was I surrounded by people who wanted to play head games all day? Ironically, the only person who hadn't messed me around yet was Lex...but I had been scared of him the most. I had to sort the situation out once and for all.

 


Liv:
Parm, I know you're pissed off at me and I'm sorry for taking my bad mood out on you. But I need your help. I need to find Lex...

Parm:
Meet me at our spot to strategize.

Parm:
P.S... I'm sorry too. I've missed you. Can you forgive me?









 

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