Graham is lucky the benefits of hanging with him outweigh his crazy antics.
“Do you really think all of these cupcakes are necessary?” I question as I look over the array of baking ingredients that have somehow snuck onto my counter top. Graham’s dorm lacks a kitchen, which doesn’t exactly satisfy the culinary arts major.
“I settle for nothing less than the extraordinary,” Graham sings as he lines another muffin tin with silver cupcake liners. We are on our fourth kind: red velvet. This is a simple relief after having attempted a turtle cheesecake, a caramel expresso, and a cinnamon dark chocolate with the first three batches. I’m still dreading the fact we will have to ice what will be sixty cupcakes.
“Why isn’t your boyfriend helping us?” I question as I crack eggs in the way he insists is the most effective. Who knew I had been doing it wrong my entire life?
“Jack has that biology thing,” Graham answers as if I should already know. I admit I’m not the best at keeping track of my friends. To be fair, I haven’t had much past experience in the friendship market.
“Well he better come eventually, he’s supposed to bring the champagne.” Parties were hard enough to deal with when I had alcohol in my system, I couldn’t deal with Graham and his friends when sober.
“If he forgets the champagne he’ll be sleeping on the couch,” He assures me.
“Please, you’ll cave with one glance at those puppy dog eyes.” I measure out a cup of flour as he rolls his eyes. He knew I was right, even if he wouldn’t admit it.
“You need to wear something sexy tonight. We invited Duncan.” Graham smirks and ducks a glob of flour I throw in his direction.
“Why?!” I shriek. Graham has this strange obsession with the boy who goes out of his way to irritate me.
“Seems he’s a teacher’s assistant in Jack’s biology class. We invited him before classes got out, but I’ve kept it a secret until you were too deep in to bail.” He was right, my house was already covered in New Year’s decorations and I would have nothing to do with the excess of cupcakes if we called the party off now.
Graham sidesteps another ball of flour, pouring our red velvet creation into the muffin tins. Thankfully we only have to bake the vanilla bean after this.
“I don’t understand your fascination with getting Duncan and I together,” I groan, starting on the final batter. Before Graham, I hadn’t ever touched a spatula.
“Because he’s cute and unfortunately straight, so I’m giving him to you,” He states matter-oh-factly. As he pours the batter, he dribbles a small drop onto my counter top. Before I can even comment on the mess, he wipes it with the corner of his apron and slides the cupcakes into the oven.
“Besides, he’s into all that environmental stuff, which coincides with your hippieness,” He adds as he fiddles with my oven knobs.
“I’m pretty sure ‘hippieness’ is not an actual word.” I roll my eyes, quickening my pace with the batter as Graham had showed me.
“We can’t all be English majors Miss Ariella,” He tuts. “Besides, I know the real reason you don’t want to see him.”
“Oh really?” I quirk an eyebrow. Graham smiles playfully as he lines the last of the muffin tins with yellow cupcake liners. These liners have little smiley faces on them that freak me out more than cupcake liners should.
“You like him,” He teases like a fourth grader on the playground.
“I do not.” I huff, crossing my arms across my chest.
“You do too.” He sings the last part and sticks out his tongue.
“That’s what you’ll be begging him later tonight.”
“I can’t stand him.” I begin to mix the vanilla batter. Apparently I’m not doing it to my best friend’s satisfaction because he takes it from my hands and finishes it himself.
“You can’t stand the fact that he actually cares about you, and no matter how many guys you hook up with, he’s the one you’re going to want beside you when you wake up. You can’t stand that and you’re scared.” He manages to taunt me in a voice that’s both childish and endearing.
“Ariella Timberz isn’t afraid of anything.” I flip my hair for dramatic effect.
“Alright, alright.” He laughs as I wiggle my eyebrows. “Now go get yourself into something pretty. I need to ice these cupcakes and I doubt you’ll be any help.”
I’m currently in my living room setting out more of the cupcakes we decorated and wondering how I had let Graham talk me into throwing this party with fifty people I hardly knew. We’re an hour in and the only familiar face I’ve seen is Jack’s and he had vanished into a back room with Graham rather quickly. Strangers cram together in a mass of dancing bodies, filling my apartment with a smell of sweat and smoke.
I take a sip of beer and make my way to the outskirts of the room, looking for someone to kiss at midnight. My eyes were set on a dark boy smoking in the corner, but he seemed to have acquired a blonde on his lap in the time it took me to replenish cupcakes.
If I find Graham, he can tell me which of his friends came here alone. I head to the room where I had seen him and Jack disappear to earlier.
Jack has his legs crossed Indian style, his head leaning back against the wall. His eyes are closed and he is mumbling several curse words that would make most people blush. Beside him, Duncan sits with an amused expression. He looks like he is trying not to laugh.
I make my way across the room and sit on the opposite side of Jack, slinging my arm around his shoulder. He leans into me, letting out a small groan. Duncan smiles at me, a playful mischievous look I had grown to loath, but offers no verbal greeting. Thank goodness Jack serves as a barrier between us.
“My dearest Jack, whatever is the matter?” My voice is so sweet I question whether it actually belongs to me. Jack grunts and buries his face in my shoulder.
“It seems our friend here had a fight with his boyfriend.” Duncan explains. I want to correct him on the fact Jack is not collectively ‘our’ friend, but I’m more concerned on what happened with Graham than arguing with Duncan.
“I’m sure he’s over reacting.” Graham and Jack never fight. If they do it’s about silly stuff like where to go for dinner or who gets the last cookie. They didn’t have big fights like Ethan and I had before things ended.
“Mate, you got to pick your head up,” Duncan encourages him, pulling him off of me. “Go out there and win back the heart of your lover boy.”
“I think I’d rather hide in here,” Jack protests. He isn’t one for confrontation. He prefers reading textbooks to putting himself on the line.
“Oh no you don’t!” Duncan tries to pull Jack off the bed but only succeeds on falling on his own butt. I can’t help but let out a small giggle, which earns me a sharp look from Duncan that only makes me want to laugh harder. He tries again, but Jack has six inches and fifty pounds on Duncan.
“I’ll go find Graham.” I roll my eyes at the pair of dysfunctional boys before marching into the kitchen. Graham is leaning against the counter top, cheering on a brunette downing tequila shots. He clutches two shots himself, one in each hand.
“You’re coming with me.” I take the shots out of his hands and down them both. He begins to protest but I grab his collar and pull him behind me.
“Look who I found.” I shove Graham inside and shut the door behind me.
“Oh good you found him!” Jack pops off the bed and is at Graham’s side in a blink of an eye. Before I can process what has happened, both my friends have vanished, the door not only shut, but locked from the outside.
“Graham what the hell?!” I shout, banging on my door.
“I’m just making sure my best friend starts her New Year’s out right.”
“Graham Benjamin Simone you open the door right this instant!”
“Oh she used your full name, she’s really pissed this time.” That’s the last thing Jack says before I hear the two of them walk away. The first thing I’m going to do when I get out is kill the pair of them. I sink into my bed, careful to keep away from Duncan.
“If you knew about this I swear I’m making you jump out the window.”
“No, no,” He laughs and scoots closer to me. “I usually just rely on my charm to get me alone with gorgeous girls.”
“You’re always talking about this charm but I’ve never actually seen any of it.”
“May I say that you look breathtaking tonight?” He says. I look straight at him, at those dazzling baby blues, and think for once he’s being sincere. His smirk has vanished, replaced with an expression of pure awe. Never in my life have I been looked at like this and it scares me more than any sex I’ve ever had.
Normally I’d give Duncan a sarcastic reply and dismiss his compliment, but tonight I found myself blushing. Graham had surprised me with a pink and gold dress and for once I felt elegant.
“Thanks,” I mumble. “What’s with the glasses?”
“Lost my contacts,” He shrugs. Tonight he has on a pair of red rimmed glasses. Dare I say it, they actually enhance his appearance. Not that he was hard to look at without them.
“They kind of ruin your rebellious image.”
“I like to think of myself as a gentleman.” The more I look at him, the more he resembles a nerd than a rebel. I’m finding it harder and harder to picture him as the sex driven guy on a motorcycle I assumed he was the first time we met.
The distance between Duncan and I has vanished entirely I twirl a strand of my red curls around my finger, at a loss for words.
“You want to dance?” He turns his head slightly to look at me.
“Not really.” I shoot him down but don’t protest when he takes my hand.
“I suppose you aren’t into that sort of thing,” He speaks as if he knew what my answer would be before he asked. Still, hope can be a tease. We sit there together the rest of the night, an invisible barrier separating us, the unspoken words hanging in the air, feeling like we are home.