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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2. Two

I paced around the flat for two whole days after meeting Lex. It sounded so cliche; a lovesick girl hung up over a rockstar. It was a plot that had happened a dozen times in romantic comedies, except, unfortunately, my life was reality and not fiction where I could edit and delete certain things. In real life, there wasn't always happy endings and rolling credits; instead there was heartache and hopelessness. Actually the word choice of 'love' was pushing it really - I was mildly interested in Lex, if I had to sum it up. I didn't know him even slightly well enough to call it anything else. 
 

 

After mulling over the decision to text him, I composed what felt like hundreds of different texts to those doomed digits on my phone but could never go through with it.

 


"Hi, how are you?" Too dull.
"Hey, remember me?" Too desperate.
"Hello, I potentially think I could like you so much it scares me," Too honest.

 


In the end, I made the bold choice to never contact Lex Langley again and deleted his number. He was intriguing to me but realistically, it was probably going to lead nowhere considering how different our lives were and what we were looking for. I felt like the type of person I'd end up with would be infinitely less exciting than someone like Lex Langley, but they'd be safe and secure and would never treat me badly. Most importantly, they wouldn't be unpredictable. I'd know where I stood with them and would never get hurt.

 


After one simple Google search I assumed we weren't really compatible. For one thing, there were multiple photos of him with his arms draped around other girls, potentially fans or lovers, who knew? Who really cared? The point was that the guys who thrilled you, like Lex, were not the long-term commitment type and I was not ready to fight hundreds of girls for his attention or validation. I didn't need it nor did I want it. I was happy being just Liv, without chasing around a rockstar who romanced lots of naive girls like me for a living, as nice as he seemed. 

 


"You did WHAT?!" Parm was horrified when she found out what I had done.
"I deleted his number," I replied, nonchalantly. "It's for the best, trust me."
"Honestly, what is wrong with you? Seriously. Who hurt you and made you this way?"
"What do you mean?" My cheeks grew hot from rage and humiliation and I could hear my tone getting defensive. "Nobody hurt me. I just don't want to be hurt - that's the point."
"Oh give it up, Liv. You're not psychic, are ya? How do you know he would have hurt you?"
"Uhhh...for one thing he's gonna be properly famous. He'll be touring the world and tons of girls want him. Who wants to compete with that?"
"I'd hate to be you if you think that much. Don't you ever just take a step back and...like...have fun?"
"I do have fun," I snapped. 
"Like when?"
"I have fun in my own way, ok? I don't need to justify it to anyone."
"Whatever," Parm rolled her eyes and we fell into an awkward silence as she scrolled through her Instagram feed. 

 

Parm didn't talk to me for another hour after that but I didn't care. Overthinking or not, something told me deep down that getting involved with Lex would change my views on life forever; that could be good or bad but I didn't really want to find out. I was happy as I was; trying to be the best version of myself without having to cater to another person and their expectations of me.
 

 

"Look, Liv," Parm sighed. "I don't want to fall out with you. I think you're a fab girl and we are going to be great friends. But honestly, you can be so freaking annoying sometimes."
"Charming!" I winced at her words.
"I'm just trying to give you some advice. Hear me out. I know you look at me and think I am a total mess and that all I do is chase boys. But you know what? I'm having fun. I'm determined to make a million memories and mistakes to look back upon in ten years time and I'm not gonna regret a single one because they're making me better and more open to what the world has to offer. I'm not just a stupid slapper that chases after silly boys like Drew. I know things too. So, can you stop being so bloody patronizing all the time? Like liking a boy is such a terrible, sordid thing and you are better than everyone else when you don't."

 


My mouth remained hanging open for a good ten minutes after that. At first, I was thoroughly pissed off. How dare she speak to me like that? I thought. Then, as always, my brain began to churn thoughts out and I started to realise there may be some truth in what Parm had to say. Every event in my life, even the happy ones, I somehow managed to dissect in my head and rip apart piece by piece until they had a new, more miserable meaning. I could never just live in the moment and just be.

 


Also, I had to admit that Parm had been right; I was exceedingly annoying sometimes. I knew it myself. I was patronizing and superior and a wee bit judgemental (alright...a big bit judgemental). I guess I had created such a high moral code, for no other reason than to appease my perfection complex and need for control, that when other people didn't match up to it I didn't know how to understand that. You're a monster, I realized, disgusted. No, a more reasonable voice told me, you're human.

 


"I am so sorry, Parm," My eyes were starting to sting  in a rare show of emotion. Usually no one could break my tear barrier but it seemed Parm had nailed it. "I don't know what else to say. I can't apologize enough for the way I have treated you or if I ever made you feel inferior."
"Well, yeah you did," She replied. "But I accept your apology. I want us to be proper friends but it isn't going to work unless you learn to accept people for as they are, warts and all."
"I know. You're absolutely right..."
"Lex is a prime example. You don't even know the guy and you've written him off already. All you know is what you see in a newspaper. That's not real life, Liv. You have to stop thinking you know everything about everything. If that's the case, what the hell are you doing at university? We know nothing - that's why we are here. To learn...and not just about art or music. We have to learn about ourselves too."
"Jeez, Parm. Why didn't you study philosophy or something instead? You've got a serious way with words."
"What can I say?" She shrugged. "It's a struggle being good at everything."

 


I considered her points for a moment then felt the slow wall of despair hit me. It was too late. I had let my manic headspace get the better of me and deleted Lex's number. Now I really would never speak to him again.

 


"You're right about Lex too," I said, miserably. "I should have given him a proper chance."
"You still can," Parm reassured me, her voice a little softer now.
"I deleted his number though."
"Maybe he's on Facebook?"
"I already checked. No sign of him."
"Hmmm," Parm considered the dilemma then smiled. "Well, lucky for you...it seems we have mutual friends in common."

 

---

 


By the afternoon, I had Lex Langley's number in my hand again...all thanks to the mildly annoying Drew. But I guess I had to be grateful as he had given me the number in trade for a date with Parm. She seemed quite happy about it, so it worked out well for all of us, but I did repeat Lex's sentiment about Drew to warn her.

 


"Oh, darling, I know he's not the one," She laughed. "Look at him. He's barely hit puberty yet - he's stuck in a phase. But he can be a little fun for right now. No harm in that."

 


Maybe I had judged Parm's behaviour too quickly. Perhaps she wasn't "boy crazy" and didn't let boys walk all over her. She was simply a girl who wanted to have fun and she could get it when she wanted, which was weirdly refreshing to me as I was a bit of a prude (even though I hated that term as it implied being uncomfortable with talking openly about sex was a bad thing). Maybe prudes aren't boring or restricted; we just like to keep some private and intimate moments all to ourselves. I came to the realization that nobody should be made to feel ashamed for who they are; whether they are a prude or "boy crazy" and I was ashamed to admit I had did some serious judging of the boy crazy types of girl previously.

 


Parm and I went for a walk around the campus and found ourselves sitting under the tree in the same spot I had found on my first day. Immediately, I knew that spot would become "our spot"'; a place we would tell secrets and stories and talk for days on end.

 


"Ok," I looked at the blank text screen on my phone. "So, what do I say to him?"
"Girl, first thing first...you check he is on Chatsapp. It's an app for sending free texts. Then, when he ignores your texts, you can call him out on it. With text, you can't check when he was last active which is a rookie mistake to make. Boys are like children - you have to outsmart them at every opportunity."
"Really? That's a thing?"
"Which part? The ignoring or the digging him out for ghosting you?"
"Uhhh...both."
"Where have you been living all these years, Liv? What is dating like in spooky town?"
"Well, I guess you meet someone at school usually and then...you marry them."
"No!" Parm recoiled in horror. "That sounds like literal hell to me. You have to sow your oats a bit! You're only young once after all."
"I guess..."
"Ugh. I have so much to teach you," She grabbed the phone from my hand and took a while tp scroll through various things. "Good news, he is on Chatsapp."

 

She showed me a tiny blank profile photo with Lex's name next to it. Of course. Someone as cool as Lex Langley didn't need a social media presence or profile photos. 

 


"So, do I send the message over that?" I asked, confused. "This is exhausting. What is ghosting, by the way?"
"When a guy ghosts you, it means he disappears completely one day. No explanation."
"That's happened to you?"
"Numerous times. But don't worry - it helps build character and you learn to brush it off."
"It sounds awful..."
"It is. But you pick yourself and keep going, Liv. If you want to meet someone that much I am positive the universe listens and responds and rewards your hard work."

 


I was learning so much that it sent my head spinning. I lay down next to Parm on the spongy grass and watched the clouds drift over the skyline. It made me worry less and made me feel small and insignificant; like my boy problems didn't really matter in the grand scale of things when we lived in a world so awesome and big.

 


"I'm all out of advice for today," Parm lay down next to me. "You have to go it alone and send the message from here."
"But what do I say?" 
"Whatever comes from the heart. You'll know when it's right."

 


I thought about it for a good while as we lay there, watching the world go by. I wanted to be honest but I was scared about what would come out if I really said what I wanted to say. I could potentially care about you and that is why I never want to see you again. So, I bit the bullet and typed straight from the heart.

 


Liv:
Hey, Lex. It's Liv, if you remember me. Thought I'd send you a message and see how things were.

 


No x's at the end and no flirtation. Just a straight forward introductory message. The reply was almost immediate and Parm almost shot into the air from excitement as she read the message over my shoulder out loud.
 

 

Lex:
of course i remember you, you idiot lol. how could I forget you? was beginning to think I'd never hear from you actually...

 

 


"Aaaaaah," Parm squealed next to me. "Aside from his poor grammar skills, he is perfection."
"What do I say now?!"
"I dunno...just be honest. Boys like that. Didn't he say he liked you for your balls anyway? You won't scare him off."

 



I nodded in agreement and got to typing again.

 



Liv:
Yeah, sorry. That was my fault. I had a bit of a meltdown...

Lex:
you had a meltdown? that doesn't sound like you at all...

Liv:
Very funny...ha ha. :0) I'm trying to be less of a flake, I promise. 

Lex:
don't change for anyone. i like you as you are. 

 


"MARRRRRY HIM," Parm screamed. I had begun laughing at her by this point as she was rolling around on the grass having a full-on diva tantrum. "I can't even deal with his perfection."
"Relax! Shhh!" I tried to hush her, still laughing. "People are staring!"
"I don't care! They can stare all they want. You should be announcing this to the world!"
"It's just a few texts..."
"A few texts? Pah! He is INTO YOU. So. Into. You."
"Noooo," I was horribly embarrassed by this point. "I don't know...how...to do anything really. Oh my God...I don't know how to let someone like me."

 

The truth was hard and fast and I felt another meltdown coming on strong. Parm attempted to snap me out of it.

 


"STOP OVERTHINKING AGAIN," She grabbed me by the shoulders. "Just ask him out...as friends. Go for coffee or something like that. No pressure."
"What if he says no?" I covered my face with my hands.
"Is he really going to say no considering what he has just texted you? No, I highly doubt that. So get a hold of those balls Lex Langley loves so much and use them!"

 


Liv:
Thanks :0). I thought about what you said last night and I think you are right. I need to think less and do more. So, I'd like to take you up on that campus tour offer... if it's still there. Let me know what you think?

Lex:
i'll be there in twenty minutes.

 


---

Just like clockwork, the flat buzzer sounded twenty minutes later. I was pulling on jeans by this point and Parm was running around the room like a headless chicken throwing blusher onto my cheeks and tonging my hair.

 


"Helloooo?" She answered the buzzer phone in a mysterious and sexy voice. "Suffian and Gartland residence. Who may I ask is calling?"
"Uhh...hi, it's Lex," His voice was clear as ever. "Looking for Olivia. I'm sure this is the right place? "
"You bet it is!" Parm squeaked. "I'll buzz you in and she'll be right with you."
"NOOO!" I yelled but it was too late. The unmistakable sound of the buzzer and the front foyer door unlocking shredded my insides. "Why'd you let him in?!"
"Why the hell not?"
"Look at the place!"

 

We both did a quick spin around and took in our surroundings. The flat resembled a bomb site; old pizza boxes, underwear and Coke cans on the floor, clothes strewn over every surface. I was mortified and knew Lex could never see the madness that Parm and I called home.

 


"Oh, shit," Parm's eyes were wide. "You're right! We're disgusting!"
"I know!" I punched her on the arm. "You bloody idiot."
"Quick! Get outside!"
"I'm not ready!"
"I don't care! I'm not letting him see that Parminder Suffian lives like this! I have a reputation to keep up!"

 


Suddenly, Parm was bundling me towards the door and, quite literally, shoving me out in the hallway. I was only half ready, with a Converse shoe still in one hand and one of my bare feet on show. 
 

 

"Good luck!" Parm called out after me. "Remember - just be your wonderful self! Mwah!"
"Brilliant advice," I mumbled to myself, turning around to prepare myself for the arrival of the formidable Lex Langley. "I'm sure he will love a girl who can't even put her shoes on right."

 


Naturally, as I turned I bumped straight into him and my old, tatty Converse shoe dropped to the floor. 

 


"Steady!" Lex smiled. "Are you running away from me already? Knew this was too good to be true."

 


He looked so good it hurt me to look at him directly; wearing a pair of dark sunglasses to hide those striking eyes, a blue slim-fit shirt under a leather jacket and his long hair perfectly parted. He bent down so effortlessly and swiped up the shoe that I barely had time to notice before he was putting it on my foot for me; just like a modern day Cinderella... if Cinderella was a hot mess and her Prince was a semi-famous rockstar. He stood up again and finally, took his sunglasses off to look at me.

 


"There," He said, a satisfied look on his face. "Much better. Ready to go?"
"I am now," I smiled, trying to tone down the tomato red I could feel rising on my face. 
"Good. Now, prepare yourself because I don't do things by halves. This is gonna be the most exciting tour of your life."

 

---
 

 

...Turns out it really wasn't that exciting and there wasn't that much to see on campus. Even Lex was disappointed that I had already seen most of it but he did know a couple of secret spots. One of them was a crumbling theatre that the university no longer used as it was basically just a stage and the remnants of one of the stony walls around it. Instead, students had turned it into their own personal lounging area; especially the fourth years who were scattered over the grass manically typing into their laptops or cramming their noses into books.

 


"I haven't heard of this place before," I said. 
"That's because it's not exactly the type of place the uni want to put in their brochure," He explained. "It's rough around the edges, but the best things usually are."

 


He motioned to a nearby spot on a bench and we sat down together. My heart was pounding in my chest all of a sudden; we were sitting together and stationary...there was nowhere to escape. I'd have to confront the inevitable and have a conversation with him, not under the influence of cheap booze or under the cover of make-up and a nice dress. What if there was nothing to talk about? What if I made a fool of myself? What if he thought I was prettier all dolled up and I was too ordinary in day to day life?

 


"So," He smiled. "Here we are."
"Yep," I let out a shaky sigh. My palms were sweating. "I have to admit...you make me nervous."
"I make you nervous?" He laughed, incredulously. "I think it's the other way around."
"I doubt that. It seems like you're always cool as a cucumber. You don't get nervous."
"You've obviously never played on stage infront of thousands of people! If you don't get nervous after doing that you're a superhero."
"Well, you're right there. But I'm not exactly thousands of people, so there's no reason to be nervous around me."
"There's no reason to me nervous around me either. Have I given you a reason to be nervous?"

 

He looked a little confused and guilty over that fact and I quickly wanted to reassure him.

 


"No!" I said. "Of course not. It's just me and my scatterbrain again; worrying about anything and everything."
"Well, if I ever do anything that makes you feel nervous or uncomfortable, you can tell me. I'm not about that. I'm a pretty simple guy - there's not much to know about me."
"I'm sure there is a lot to you that you don't show."
"Nah, really. I am an open book. What you see here is everything you need to know about me and there's no hidden skeletons. Admittedly, I fuck up alot and the whole world knows about it, thanks to the Daily Mail. But at least I admit my mistakes and try to make it better."
"That's a refreshing way to look at it. What kind of mistakes do you mean? If you don't mind me asking."
"You're gonna find out anyway so you might as well hear it from me," He looked embarrassed for the first time. "Basically, when the band first go signed my ego was massive. I believed my own hype. I hurt people, including myself. I cheated, I lied, I did things I'm not proud of to fit in like drugs, drinking...all of that stuff. I went to rehab for a while and sorted a lot of shit in my head out. I used to have a busy mind like yours and now...I'm different. I can't describe it really. Just feel at a point in my life where I want to make music and show up and sing the best that I can and be happy. That's me all over, really."
"Oh," I nodded, desperately trying not to judge the fact he cheated and did drugs which were two incredibly intimidating things to me usually. "Well...I guess you can say you have lived at least."

 

That statement fell out of my mouth almost automatically. I surprised myself with it. Was I really trying to reassure Lex? Or was it me trying to tell myself I should live more instead?

 


"Exactly," He smiled. "So, I just want you to know that regardless of what you read about me, I admit I did all of those things and more probably. But I am trying to be better now. Take from that what you will but I just wanted you to know."
"I admire you for trying to be better," I replied. "You don't need to tell me all of this though or justify to me about your past. We all have one."
"I'd be interested to hear about yours. You're a bit of a mystery to me."
"Me? I don't think so. I'm pretty simple too, like you. I might over think a bit too much but fundamentally, I'm trying to be a good person too."
"Good. I'm glad. At least when you hang out with someone like me who has probably did everything wrong apart from real jail-time offences it puts it in perspective. You're doing great already."
"Oh come on. I wouldn't say that and use your past to make myself feel better."
"Why not? I do it all the time! A year ago I was in an AA meeting and now here I am sitting with you. Does life get any better?"

 


I felt myself blush at that but thankfully, he didn't notice.

 


"Can I ask you something?" I said. "It's an embarrassing question but I need to know."
"You can ask me anything," He nodded.
"Why me? I keep imagining this scenario where I am one in a line of many girls and that I'm going to get my hopes up then get hurt. Let's be honest; you're not short on female attention. You're a good looking guy and every girl wants to be the girlfriend of a rockstar. Probably girls a whole lot prettier than me. So...why me? It doesn't make sense."

 


He thought about it for a moment but I couldn't see the expression in his eyes because of the sunglasses. He was leaning back casually with his arm draped over the bench almost touching me.

 


"Because you're the first and only girl who has ever treated me like a person and not a magazine cover," He said, simply. "Also, you're pretty harsh on yourself, if you don't mind me saying. You obviously don't see what everyone else sees."
"Maybe not," I agreed. "Neuroticism - just another one of my many dazzling qualities. I just worry a lot about being hurt sometimes because it's never happened before and I don't know if I can handle it."
"Look, Olivia. I'm not saying we are gonna get married. We may not even speak again after today. But I think you're interesting and I'm having fun right now. So that's where I'm at. I enjoy spending time with you and would like to do it again. Do you feel the same?"
"I like spending time with you too," I found an interesting spot on the ground because I couldn't look him in the eye. "I'd like to do it again too."

 

"I'm glad we are on the same page. Now, are you going to let me take you for a coffee or are we really going to sit here all day discussing the multiple ways this could all go wrong without ever giving it a real shot?"
"Coffee sounds like a better idea," I mumbled, embarrassed.

 

"Finally," He laughed, standing up and extending his hand towards me. I looked at it like it was a foreign object before grasping it with my own and letting him pull me up. His hand felt nice against my own; warm but rough. He had the hands of a worker; his fingers calloused, probably from all of the instrument playing he did. "I know just the spot."

 


---

 


I expected some kind of hip Starbucks off campus but it seemed Lex had finer tastes in coffee. He took us to a cosy coffee shop about twenty minutes away from uni; it was decked out with lots of plush armchairs and mood lighting. He knew the owner personally (of course) because it had been the first place he had ever performed at open mic nights before got signed. The coffee shop didn't really serve the sugar laden, milky drinks I was accustomed to so I settled for a tea instead as I wasn't sure I could handle the fancy black filtered coffees they sold. Lex ordered an espresso and drank it like it was nothing, chasing it down with a glass of water.

 


We stayed there, just chatting and laughing, for four whole hours. I realized that when I finally let myself relax I could have fun and let someone get to know me properly. Up until that point, I felt like I had been tightening up around Lex. But there was something about the atmosphere that funny little coffee house that relaxed me and made me feel like I could be the Liv I wanted to be. 

 


Eventually, as the sun disappeared slowly, it was time to go home. It was Sunday and I had an early morning to prepare for as it was my first day of real classes the next day. I was beginning to get a little sleepy anyway since I didn't live on espressos like Lex seemingly did (as he'd consumed three in the hours we had been sitting there). As usual, he insisted on walking me home, which I certainly did not mind.

 


I was beginning to anger myself quite honestly. A great guy seemed to be interested in me and all I could do was question it because it had never happened before. What if I tried another way? I thought. What if I just let life happen and didn't stop it for once? There was a lot to think about, clearly, but for one night I didn't want to think anymore.

 


"Thanks for walking me home again," I fished my flat keys out of my bag. 
"No problem," Lex said. "I had a nice time today. Hope the tour was helpful."
"It was. I'd like to do this again one day. I mean...if you want to. If you don't want to that's ok as well. Like, really. If you never want to see me again...I understand. It was nice to meet you anyway and --"
"Are you trying to ask me out, Olivia?"
"I...I..." I felt myself redden all the more.
"Of course I'd like to do this again," He nudged me playfully. "Like I said, you definitely interest me..."

 


Lex observed me for a moment then stepped closer, looking a little forlorn. I could smell his expensive aftershave again.

 


"But there's something I should have told you earlier,"He said. "The band and I are going away to Manchester for a few days to record some stuff. I know it's bad timing, But when I come back I'll be in touch."
"Oh...ok," I smiled, trying hard to hide my disappointment. Just when things were starting to get going, he had to leave. But I had to remind myself it was Manchester and not halfway across the world. "I look forward to it then."

 


Half of me believed that he would be in touch whilst the other half thought that he was bullshitting me. I guess I would never know until he returned. We had fallen into a bit of a comfortable silence now and I took it as a queue to say goodbye. There was nothing more to say really; we had had a lovely day together but unfortunately he was leaving. It was sad but obstacles happen in life, I thought. 

 


"Goodnight, Lex," I said, turning to look at him one last time.

 


Lex looked at me for a moment then reached out and tucked my hair behind my ear. His finger barely touched my ear but it was enough to make me shiver. It was such an innocent move but it made me flutter inside. Damn, if this is my reaction when he strokes a tiny strand of my hair, what would happen if we ever did kiss?

 


"Sweet dreams, Olivia," He smiled, turning and heading off down the street, leaving me to wonder when, or where, I would see Lex Langley again.

 


---

 


I opened my eyes groggily as the sound of my alarm blasted my eardrum. My first official day of classes. I already felt sick and anxious and hadn't even left the bed yet. So I pulled the duvet over my head and hit snooze. What if I just stayed there all day? In the safety of my comfy bed away from fellow humans. That sounded nice. 

 

Then I remembered my day with Lex and my day got infinitely brighter. I didn't want to but I couldn't stop thinking about him and the way he had made me feel when he tucked that hair behind my ear. The way he moved, the way he smelled, the way he looked away shyly when he smiled sometimes. A horrible epidemic was happening; I was catching feelings. I had always hoped to avoid that and now I was turning into Parm; lovesick and romantic. Yuck. I had to toughen up! No more thinking about him until he comes back from Manchester, I decided. He might even change his mind whilst he is away. How many days is a 'few' anyway? 

 

"RISEEEE AND SHINE," The full force of Parm's body catapulted onto my own and knocked the wind right out of me. "I've made coffee and need the juicy gossip from yesterday!"
"Urrrrgh," I groaned. "But it's so early."
"Precisely. I need the lowdown before we start class today and our social lives are sucked into a black hole forever."
"Fine," I peeked over the duvet. Parm was smiling so hard I thought her face would split in two. "There's nothing to tell - we just got some coffee and talked. No funny business."
"You didn't even go in for a cheeky kiss?" Parm was appalled. "If I was with a guy who looked like that I'd have beard rash for the rest of my life from kissing him all day."
"That's where you and I differ!" I chuckled. "Don't get me wrong...I did want to kiss him. But I can't explain it...I just seize up. I don't know how to do that sort of stuff...like throw myself at guys."
"My sweet Liv," Parm patted my head and reclined on the bed, propped up on one arm. "How do I put this politely? Have you ever...spent the night...with a man?
"I don't want to talk about this," I dove back under the duvet, mortified.
"The desire to connect physically with another person is a natural part of life," She pried the covers back. "But I am concerned that when it happens you're going to freak out a little. After all, Lex has been around, if you know what I'm saying. He knows...stuff. I'm trying to prepare you."
"That's not gonna happen with Lex...OR ANYONE ELSE. Can we not talk about this?"
"I'm just saying...sometimes I think I'm a little psychic. I forsee lots of kissing and other things. The sexual chemistry between you two is palpable. I ship it."
"There is no chemistry! We are just friends."
"For now."
"Plus he has gone to Manchester with the band. I'll probably never see him again and that was his way of ghosting me, as you so nicely put it."
"You have his number, you idiot. You can text him..."
"I don't wanna come across as needy."
"Ok, let him come to you first then. But he will get in contact, I guarantee it. He likes you, I can tell."
"Please just let me have some coffee," I rubbed my tired eyes. "We have more important things to think about today..."
"True," Parm replied. "Like all the hot boys we have yet to meet who are out there waiting to meet us! That's enough motivation to get me to class!"

 


With that, Parm jumped off the bed and took off running into her own room; singing at the top of her lungs and leaving me to consider what she had said.

 


"He likes you, I call tell..."

 


---
 

 

My first class of the day was Critical Art which was exactly what it said on the tin; we drew and critiqued each other's work. I had never been great at accepting criticism as I took everything so personally so I could already tell it would be my least favourite class and I would probably go home feeling terrible about myself everyday.

 


I showed up early and found a seat at the back, prepared my easel and materials and waited to meet my new classmates. Eventually, the room started to fill up and the seats beside me were taken. On my left was a punky girl with platinum hair and multiple piercings and on my right was a tanned boy with a lot of muscles. He was certainly handsome, maybe more so Parm's usual chiselled type than mine. Regardless, he gave me a smile as he sat down that made me blush a little.

 


Finally, our lecturer showed up. Mr., please-call-me-Gary, Johnson seemed like a nice enough guy for someone who taught a whole class about basically insulting other people in constructive ways. He rubbed his hands together a lot and was generally anxious and soft-spoken but remembered everyone's name straight away and encouraged us to introduce ourselves to our neighbours and do some leisure drawing for the first lesson.

 


The punky girl was called Amelia and it turned out she was really cool and funny with a dry, sarcastic sense of humour. The handsome boy, Simon, also seemed nice enough and easy on the eyes, which made the day pass more quickly. He told me his Mum was Peruvian whilst his Dad was from Greece, which made for the beautiful combination before me. Of course, I was not forgetting Lex and was waiting for his return before I decided to involve myself with anyone else.

 


Quickly, we forged a little art trio and at lunch, we all took off to the canteen together. The food wasn't bad and I ended up sharing pizza with Amelia (or Milly, as she preferred to be called). Simon chose a salad because clearly Greek Gods like him didn't eat pizza for lunch; that's why he looked so good, I guess.

 


Parm:
WHO is that hottie at your table and can you give him my number?

 


I looked across to the other side of the canteen where Parm was sitting with a bunch of her new found musician friends waving crazily at me. 

 


Liv:
His name is Simon. I'll suss out if he's good enough for you first.

Parm:
Simon? Sounds a bit dreary to me. Still, his body looks like it has been carved by Jesus himself.

 


With that, I had to put my phone in my pocket and bite my lip to stop myself laughing. Parm stuck out her two fingers and made a "I'm watching you" gesture to me then laughed too. 

 


It turned out that Milly was into girls and quite open about it, which I admired. She tried to invite me out to a gay club with her but I had already had one crazy Fresher's experience which resulted in meeting Lex and didn't need another.

 


"So, are you single then?" Simon asked, looking all pouty and gorgeous.

"Uhh," I was a little shocked at his forwardness. "Yeah. I guess so."
"You guess?"
"I am single. But I think...I like someone."

 


The words surprised me because I had never admitted to liking Lex out loud and I had only met him twice. I didn't want to get too excited or get my hopes up incase it didn't work out but I had to be honest and admit it. I did like Lex Langley, even if my better judgement told me not to.

 


"That's a shame," Simon said, nonchalantly. 

 


Milly raised her eyebrows at me in amusement and took a gigantic sip from her Coke can to hide her smile. I felt myself getting hot and embarrassed again. Not a single guy looks at me in Clackton-Upon-Sea my whole life then I move to London and am flooded with them. Typical.

 


"I've actually got a friend you might be interested in," I offered.
"Really?" Simon said. "Might take you up on that offer. I'm going to make the most of this year. You're only a Fresher once and there are a lot of girls out there to...experience."

 


Urgh, I groaned internally. Of course. He had to be a bit of a tool like all the other primate boys in this place. Not good enough for Parm already, I decided. But sadly, Simon was exactly her type and I knew she'd jump at the occasion to be with him anyway.

 


"You sure think a lot of yourself, Casanova," Milly leaned forward and challenged him. 

 


Simon didn't rise to the snide remark and just shrugged. If I wasn't mistaken I thought I saw a glint of desire in his eyes even though Milly was openly gay. Maybe he just fancied everyone. Suddenly, I didn't feel so flattered. Milly seemed to share my disdain and we made our excuses to take off together whilst Simon said he was going to seek out a gym.

 


"Gross," Milly rolled her eyes when we were out of earshot. "Guys like that are the reason I like girls."
"Thought he seemed alright at the beginning as well," I replied, disappointed.
"They always seem ok at the beginning then turn into complete pricks. So who's this lad that you like anyway?"
"You wouldn't believe me if I told you..."
"Go on then. I won't tell anyone."

"I shouldn't be telling anyone because we've literally met two times and it could be nothing..."
"C'monnn. I need to live vicariously through you as I have literally no action going on in my love life."

"Ok," I took a deep breath. "Do you know...Lex Langley?"

 


I thought Milly would eject into the sky and never come back down.

 


"THE Lex Langley?" She was horrified. "If this is a joke it's not bloody funny."
"It's not a joke," I closed my eyes and put my hands over them so I didn't have to look at her.
"God. I mean...I've heard stories about Fresher's being his type...but...never actually met one before."
"His type?" I felt my heart sink. "What do you mean?"

"Oh," Milly looked guilty now and trailed off. "Of course...no one would have told you because you haven't told anyone about him..."

"I've been a total idiot, haven't I?"
"NO! I mean...well...how far did you go with him?"
"Nothing like that happened at all. Not even a kiss."
"Interesting," Milly nodded. "Well, that goes against everything I heard. Apparently a couple of years ago he would go home with anything that moved. I mean, in fairness that was years ago. He's changed now apparently. But I'd just say keep your cards close to your chest, if you know what I mean. I don't know if leopards ever really change their spots."
"Yeah," I agreed, miserably. "It's nothing anyway. We just went for coffee."
"Well, better than going back to his flat. That's what happened with all the other Fresher's."

 


I could have died on the spot. How could I have expected anything else? I knew Lex's history and his experience but I was still mortified to hear it said aloud.

 


"I'm sorry, Liv," Milly patted my shoulder sympathetically. "I don't mean to upset you or anything. Just thought you should know. I wouldn't want you to get hurt. I'm sure he's not like that anymore."
"Maybe," I tried to remain optimistic but was failing badly. 
"C'mon. I'll take you for a hot chocolate. I think you need it..."

 


---

 


It was 3 a.m. and Parm was fast asleep, snoring softly in the room next door. I was lying in my bed pretending to read a book but none of the words would sink in. All I could think about was what Milly had said about Lex. I had known he was a bit of a womaniser but maybe hadn't realised the full extent of it. It wasn't Lex's fault I was inexperienced and slightly judgmental. I guess if you were a famous rockstar you would make the most of the all of the girls flinging themselves at you. I couldn't blame him for that. But I did have to figure out whether his game really had changed or whether I was just another Fresher conquest to him.

 


My phone vibrated under my pillow. For a minute I thought it was Lex but it was just Simon sending me a Facebook friend request. Unsure of how he even found my profile, I left the request untouched for now and tried to close my eyes and get some sleep. 

 


BZZZZZZ BZZZZZ

 


Again, my phone vibrated. This time I knew who it really was.

 


Lex:
can't sleep?

 


I'd forgotten he could see my "Last Active" status had been a few minutes earlier. I had to get better at ghosting or hiding from people online.

 


Liv:
Not really. Are you in the studio again?

Lex:
just got back to the hotel. long day.

 


A photo message flashed onto my screen; Lex pulling a funny, tired-looking face, sprawled out on the hotel bed. I imagined lying next to him and held the phone close to my chest as my heart thudded.    

 


Lex:
how was your first day?

Liv:
It went surprisingly well. Made a new friend.

Lex:
of course you did! people would be crazy not to be friends with you. 

Liv:
:o).

Lex:
gonna try and sleep. just wanted to see how you were...

Liv:
I'm good. Hope you are too?

Lex:
will be better when I get home. hopefully see u then?

In all honesty, what I really wanted to say was "I wish I was there with you right now" but I chickened out and went for the safe option.  

Liv:
Sure. Night, Lex. Take care of yourself...

Lex:
you too.

 


.....
 

 

Lex is typing...

 


I stared at the screen as he typed for a whole ten minutes. I wondered desperately what he had to say. Eventually, he stopped typing and I figured he had fallen asleep. Instead, his reply was short but sweet.

 


Lex:
sweet dreams, olivia... X

 


Immediately, I remembered how it felt to have his hand scraping hair behind my ear. I knew he had done it intentionally so I would remember that moment and not forget about him. It had worked. He knew exactly how to get to me. Was it all part of his game plan? Had it worked with other girls before? How could I want someone so much but also be so terrified to let them in? A better question was...could I ever let him in?

 

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