If you hadn’t already guessed, I am now officially hiding from my mum. Honestly, with all these people I’m avoiding I might as well become a hermit.
Nothing much has changed within the last half hour. I’m still sitting at my desk, furiously trying to write more than just the title of my homework, Tim is still lying on his bed with his whiny music vibrating the walls and Mum is still calling my name.
I don’t know why but I really don’t want to find out. Honestly, what sane person would want to relieve that moment ever again?
Nobody, that’s who.
Mum shrieks my name again and I wince before deciding to throw down my quill – it’s not like I was getting anywhere, was it? – and head down the stairs, following the sound of my mothers voice. Imagine my surprise when I enter the living room and every single one of my family stare back at me. Normally, this would trigger the ‘who died?’ question but I notice the happy pink blush spreading up Rebecca’s cheeks and bite my tongue.
“There you are, Mollie,” my dad says fondly when it becomes apparent that Mum won’t look at me, let alone speak. “Sit down. Rebecca has some news for us.”
I sit. Tim looks just as bored as I feel, inspecting his fingernails for a minute before switching his attention to the rain pouring down outside.
Rebecca rocks back and forth on her heels, a big, happy smile lighting up her face. “Okay, so I’ve got something to tell you-”
“Oh, God,” Mum suddenly groans, sounding pained. Her eyes flicker down from Rebecca’s face to her stomach, eyeballing it. My eyes also drop and I’m pretty sure Dad’s does too. “You’re not pregnant, are you?” Her eyes then dart to me quickly where I blush and duck my head, hiding my flaming cheeks.
“Mum!” Rebecca squeals, all trace of happiness replaced by shock. “No!”
Mum blinks and I hear a relieved sigh coming from Dad. “Then, what…?”
“Oh, I know!” I cry, slamming my hand down on the armrest triumphantly. “You got a haircut, didn’t you?”
Cue four pairs of eyes to snap up to her head and a rush of panic rising in each of our chests. It’s honestly not good to forget Rebecca’s hair appointments.
“Oh, honey, it looks beautiful!”
“Did you dye it? It’s pretty.”
“Yeah, it’s cool.”
“I love your layers-”
“Stop!” Rebecca exclaims, glaring around the room. “I didn’t change my hair at all!”
There’s a small silence as we all dart glances at each other, wondering what the hell could have happened.
“You bought a new dress?” I suggest weakly, producing a smile to show her that I’m actually really intrigued.
“You got a manicure?” I continue, scanning Rebecca for any sort of change.
“No,” she growls, her teeth clenching as her mouth snaps shut.
“Rebecca, what the hell is it?” Tim barks, his attention now pulled away from the window. He glares stonily up at Rebecca. “I haven’t got all day, you know.”
“Lying’s a sin, Timothy.”
“Shut up, Mollie!”
“God, will both of you just shut up!” Rebecca screeches and, already, Tim and I both shrink back into our seats and look guiltily up at her.
“Sorry,” we murmur.
“Well,” Rebecca takes in a deep, satisfied breath.” I’m-”
“Pregnant?” Tim pipes up happily and both parents glare at him.
I roll my eyes. “We’ve already discussed she’s not pregnant, idiot.”
“What I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted, was that I’m actually en-”
“She probably got an A in her Health and Beauty course,” I say, smirking at Tim.
“You bought a puppy?”
“No, I’m en-”
Wow; that totally shut me up.
Living in my house, it’s a wonder how I’m sane.
As soon as Rebecca revealed her ‘little secret’ Mum flipped, saying that Rebecca marrying at ‘such a young age is a disgrace’ which, of course, made Rebecca yell back. Then Mum calmed down long enough to, once again, ask Rebecca if she was pregnant which cued my very calm, stoic father to freak out. I, meanwhile, had kept my calm composure throughout, although, I have to admit, I was kind of enjoying it. Then there was a moment of silence before Gran said, “Ooh, I bet he’s really dishy.”
See, this is why I don’t bring people back to the house.
Rebecca then threw a strop and stormed upstairs, screeching all the way about ‘unsupportive family.’ I personally thought this was a little unfair.
I retreated upstairs after her a few minutes later when it was clear all my parents were going to do was stare at each other in disbelief.
I am now currently rifling through my wardrobe, searching for the perfect dress for Hally’s party. And do you know what I found out? I had the worst fashion sense last year. Honestly, when is it ever a good idea to wear a frumpy, green velvet dress?
Never, that’s when.
After shoving the dress to the back of my wardrobe in despair, I flop back down on my bed, wishing I had a ball to throw back and forth. It’s times like these when I really wish Dom lived with me, just so I could take advantage of her beautiful clothes. But I do have the second best thing.
“Rebecca?” I say quietly and tap my knuckles against her closed bedroom door. I hear a mild grunt from inside and turn the door handle to find Rebecca lying on her bed, in nearly the exact same position I was in just moments earlier. I feel a little surge of affection for my sister – maybe we’re not all that different. I cross the room to her and sit myself down on the bed. “I think you getting married is pretty cool.”
She sits up slowly, her eyes flicking up and down in suspicion. “You do?”
I nod enthusiastically, planting a broad smile on my face. “Of course!” I exclaim and clap my hands together in an attempt to look excited. It seems to work for Rebecca grins back at me. “So, er... who’s the lucky guy?”
“Mollie!” Rebecca groans and leans back down on her bed. Her response is more muffled as a result, “you’ve met him loads of times.”
“Oh, yes, I know him,” I say, nodding wisely. In actual fact, I have no memory of Rebecca ever introducing me to her would-be fiancé and I’m going to bluff my way through it. “It’s Greg, right?”
Rebecca shoots me a look. “No.”
“Right, well, it’s John, then?”
“Frank?” I suggest weakly, giving her a poor attempt at a smile. I must admit, Rebecca can be terrifying when she’s annoyed and I’ve always hated being on the receiving end of her anger.
“I’m sorry – I don’t know!” I babble out, making my eyes wide and innocent.
Rebecca shoots me a sidelong glance as if she can barely be bothered to acknowledge my existence, let alone explain who her future husband is. But, slowly, she rights herself again and opens her pink, shiny mouth.
This just shows that, even in times of great distress, my sister will never forget to put on lip-gloss.
“It’s Hamish,” she says, and suddenly she looks like a lovesick teenager. Which, I guess, she actually is.
But who in Merlin’s name is Hamish?
“Ah, yes,” I reply after a moment of Rebecca looking expectantly at me. Surely it is better to lie than to admit the truth which will just end up with Rebecca being offended, right? “That’s the one.”
“Oh, he’s so nice,” she continues, oblivious to my witty input. A blush rises in her cheeks and Rebecca giggles. “And he likes me for me, you know? Not for my indescribable beauty.”
I raise an eyebrow and smirk a little. I tried, I really did, but when it comes to my narcissistic big sister I just can’t help myself. “Using big words now, Rebecca?”
Now what I honestly expect is for Rebecca to let out a frustrated scream, hurl herself at me as I leap up, trying to avoid her, and chase me around her room until my mother decided to do a little bit of intervention to stop me getting strangled with Rebecca’s straighteners cord.
Instead, to my utter relief, Rebecca just flicks her hair in my face and moves to stand in front of the mirror. Her eyes connect with mine as she reapplies her lip gloss. “You know, Mollie, when you find someone like Hamish you’ll understand,” she says, looking as if the cat got the canary. “And not pipe up with pointless one-liners.”
I feel my eyebrows drop into a frown and my arms cross. “What makes you think Freddie’s not like that?” I protest, feeling a little bubble of anger rise. “And my one-liners are hilarious.”
My sister lets out an unattractive snort and, placing the lip gloss back in her pocket, she swivels to face me. “Oh, please, you do not have what Hamish and I do with him.”
My hands ball into fists around her stupid, purple duvet and I narrow my eyes. “And why do you think that?” I hiss, fully expecting Rebecca to end the argument with a giggle and a wave of her hand.
But Rebecca is moving closer to me with a smirk I would only call evil and, flicking her hair in what she thinks is a triumphant gesture, she says in a low voice, “because, the entire time you were with Fred, you couldn’t take your eyes off that scruffy haired cutie.”
“Mollie,” my mother barks as she glowers down at me sitting on the couch, my mouth twisted in annoyance and my eyebrows set moodily over my eyes. “What on earth were you thinking?!”
“It was a knee-jerk reaction,” I insist, refusing to look anywhere but at her eyes which I know will either be bone-chillingly angry of just utterly disappointed. To be honest, I dread them both.
“A knee-jerk reaction is dropping something hot,” Mum explains, each word coming out through gritted teeth. “Not tackling your sister to the floor and drawing on her in lipstick.”
I fight to keep the smirk off my face as I picture what that must have looked like when Mum burst through the door. I’m sure I blacked out for a few seconds because one minute I was imagining ways to tear off Rebecca’s impeccably straight hair and the next we both crashed to the floor with a heavy thud that shook the walls. I only seemed to re-enter my mind as Mum flung open the door to see me sitting on Rebecca’s chest as I scrawled tracks of ruby red lipstick over my sister’s tanned skin.
I say nothing, my eyes darting from side to side in worry. I must find a way to get out this situation, even if it means running, screaming, from the room.
My mother suddenly sighs and begins to massage her temples. “It’s Christmas in two days,” she says and, all of a sudden, she sounds as if she could be twenty years older than she actually is. “Can you just try not to kill each other by then?”
I nod mutely and, taking this as a victory, albeit how small it is, Mum leaves the room, letting me sit there by myself to wallow in my misery.
I went up to Rebecca’s room to get a dress for New Year ’s Eve and, while I tried to sweet talk her, ended up rugby tackling my sister to the floor and colouring her face in with lipstick.
Its Christmas morning and Rebecca and I are still not speaking to each other. Mum refuses to mention the upcoming wedding without a tight-lipped smile and speaking through gritted teeth and Dad just seems to go into a state of shock the moment someone says ‘dress.’ Tim, as much as it pains me to admit it, has probably been the best out of all of us, taking everything he’s learnt in the past few days in stride and has easily reverted back to his usual ways. Which is sitting in his room listening to crap music.
Granny, however, is oblivious to this all and chatters happily to the her family – who sit in stony silence most of the time – as she knits. God knows what she’s decided to knit this year for our Christmas presents. However, yesterday she did ask me if I would help her knit Rebecca a veil for her wedding.
I’m sure I don’t want to know what I’m going to be receiving from my dear gran.
“Mollie, darling,” my dad pipes up as soon as wedding talk is over. I beam at him, sitting by the beautifully decorated tree with a Christmas hat on his balding head. The lights on the tree flicker and shine in his eyes. Dad reaches his hand down to the tree, picking up a parcel, and throws it to me. “Happy Christmas!”
And, all of a sudden, our family forget our grudges towards each other and begin to enjoy the holiday. The talk of weddings, lipstick stained faces and becoming a hermit in one’s room is forgotten as we all receive presents with bright eyes and beaming faces.
I squeal every time I tear the wrapper of a parcel open, much to the delight of my mother, who asks after every squeal whether or not I like it. I see Tim wince every time I let out a noise but, being the kind, loving girl I am, I choose to ignore it – it’s not a good idea to have to siblings waiting for me to fall asleep so they can draw on me in permanent marker.
I did get Tim a fairly good present though – a few CD’s of the whiny mope rock he’s been listening to lately. I get a grin in response.
Rebecca turns to me, a pained expression on her face. I know she’s torn between the fact that I drew on her and how badly she wants me to see how nice the item of clothing she picked out for me is. I know it’s going to be some sort of outfit – the present in her hand is squished where her fingers apply the pressure.
Eventually, she sticks out her hand towards me and I let out another happy squeal and pick the parcel from her fingertips. I unwrap it slowly, as if it was a delicious sweet and I was savouring the taste, the paper tearing as I go.
And in the paper is the dress I am going to wear for New Year’s. I hold it up, inspecting it adoringly. “Thank you so much,” I breathe, flashing Rebecca the biggest smile I can muster before flinging myself into her arms.
And just like that the past two days are forgotten.
I straighten up, the dress still tucked over my arm, and feel my cheeks ache with the amount of smiling I’ve been doing all day. “I can wear it on New Year’s.”
Rebecca nods enthusiastically, though I’m not sure I can remember if I told her what I was doing or not.
Mum, however, is not as encouraging. “What are you doing on New Year’s?” She asks and her tone is unimpressed.
“I, um,” I furrow my brow, trying to think of what I can say to make her let me go. I decide to go with the truth. “There’s a small get together at my friend Hally’s and I’m going to stay the night.”
I mean, a small get together and a party are the same thing, right?
From over Mum’s shoulder I see Rebecca do a face-palm. With wide, worried eyes I refocus on Mum’s face to see her eyes narrowed at me. “Do you have the contact number for her parents?”
“Her parents?” I repeat dumbly and she nods. And then I have to stop the smirk spreading on my face. “Mum, they’re wizards. They don’t have phones.”
She doesn’t look fazed in the slightest and I start to think I’m fighting a losing battle here. “I can write to them, then.”
My eyes become wider, if that was even possible. “They, er, are away for the day.”
My mum’s lips purse. “Is that so?”
I begin to nod, happy that finally she is seeing my side of the story, but then Rebecca flings me a warning look and I freeze.
“You,” Mum says in a calm voice, rising an eyebrow at me, “are not going to this party.”
“Mum!” I gasp, outraged. “What is your-”
I break off my sentence as Gran enters the room, carrying a bundle of presents. I start to think it’s a good thing Gran came in when she did, though I wasn’t aware she ever left, as I know my anger would have left me with something worse than not being able to go to Hally’s.
My grin smiles at each of us in turn, slowly tottering over to pass us her presents. I know she’s extremely proud of them but I feel a little bubble of dread in my stomach at what I’m going to find.
My dad goes first, placing a tentative smile on his face. I’m positive that I can hear the sigh of relief as he finds a pair of woolly socks, even though they are not matching. Because, honestly, he got off lightly. Rebecca does, in fact, receive a wool veil. She looks at me, panicked, as Gran holds it against her face and I place a fist in front of my mouth to hide my sniggers. And, I’ll tell you what, I’m quite pleased with the knitted hat Gran gave me. I think the orange and purple compliment my hair well.
As Gran fusses over Rebecca and how she should style her hair – Rebecca arguing with something ‘simple with no veil’ and Gran trying to glue the wool mess to my sister’s hair – I sidle up to my mother who sits on the coach watching the scene with some amusement. My dad is in the kitchen wearing the new apron I got him.
“Hey, mum?” I say in my sweetest tone ever as I settle myself beside her.
She glances at me suspiciously for a few moments before taking a deep breath, “fine, you can go.”
“Eh?” I’m a little confused. Did I ask her?
“You can go to your little party,” Mum replies with a wave of her hand and I have to bite my tongue for snapping at the patronizing way she said ‘party.’ “But no drinking, drugs or sex, right?”
And off goes my blush again. Right from the tips of my toes to the top of my ear I flush red. I know I do – I can feel it.
“Mum!” I screech and, believe it or not, I see her smirk a little at my red state. “I won’t!”
Once again, my dilemma is solved. Just like that.
My mother insists on driving me to Hally’s house after I tell her it’s halfway across London and I plan to get a bus there ‘looking like a hooker.’ Darling mother’s words, not mine. Personally, I think that’s a little harsh – the dress I am wearing isn’t low cut or incredibly short. It’s just a nice figure hugging dress with cut out triangles at the side.
I should have known though that we’d get lost. My mother, the most organised person I know, is absolutely hopeless at reading maps.
I turn up to the party an hour late, since it started at 9 o’ clock. I feel my jaw drop a little as I stare at the house Hally lives in. Apparently, she lives in a mansion. The lights in the house are off or all the curtains are closed but I can definitely hear a steady beat throbbing through the open windows. I turn to give a quick kiss in farewell to my mother and am a little worried when I see her eyebrows have risen considerably as we stared at her house.
I know the only way I can get out of the car unscathed is to get out as quick as I can. “Bye, Mum, see you tomorrow, love you!”
And then I am gone, barrelling down Hally’s path. It’s quite a long path and the car is gone before I reach the door, something I am thankful for. Honestly, it’s bad enough turning up to a wizard party in a muggle car but did my car really have to be so hideously ugly?
When I reach the door, my hand instinctively thumps loudly against it. Suddenly, the steady beat has gone and there seems to be a hushed argument on the other side of the door. Then slowly the door unlatches and the door swings open to reveal Dom with kohl rimmed eyes and a short dress standing there.
She notices me and lets out an audible sigh of relief, turning her head to yell over her shoulder; “relax, everybody, it’s just Mollie!”
Cue everybody else to let out sighs and the music begins thumping again. I open my mouth to say something but Dom wraps me in a friendly hug.
“I’ve missed you, gorgeous!” She exclaims, squeezing me tightly. As I hold her I can see Hally grinning happily at me through Dom’s ginger mane.
I pull back from Dom and she stumbles away from me, ruffling Hally’s hair as she goes. Amused, I raise an eyebrow at Hally who just shakes her head and takes me hand. “Dom’s a little drunk,” she says by way of explanation before pulling me through her beautiful house that is now crowded with drunken teenagers and smoke. The only way through seemed to be single file but Hally still gripped my hand as she led me down the hall packed with people. It smells like alcohol and smoke and sweat and, as we passed people, I occasionally saw a guy watching either of us, or hear a voice saying; ‘hey gorgeous, how you doing?’ – maybe meant for me, or anyone.
We eventually reach the living room though where I have room to breathe in the vast room, although there are a bit more people. Music is blasting from the corner from something I can’t see and there is a large group of people dancing in the middle.
I glance at Hally and she pulls me closer to yell in my ear so I can hear her about the music, “there are muggle’s here, okay?”
I nod, telling her its fine, and that I won’t whip out my wand at any moment, confusing a lot of people. “Where did Dom go?” I ask as Hally leads me to a food counter where stools lie. It actually does look like a bar in a house.
“She’s in the corner, making out with some muggle guy,” she replies and grins at me, waggling her eyebrows for effect.
I laugh along with her and reach for a can of beer as I pull myself up onto the counter, swinging my legs below me. Hally is immediately engaged in conversation by a boy with adorable floppy hair who holds up a spell book in confusion.
“What’s this?” he asks and I’m guessing this must be one of the muggles that came.
Hally flushes scarlet and she plucks the book out of his hands and throws it in a cupboard, straightening up quickly in an attempt to distract.
I let myself have a small smile at this and open the can in my hand. I take a long swig and the beer is warm and flat. Clearly, I have not been missing out on much.
I realise that I must have been staring at the contents inside the can a little too long for, suddenly, a voice beside me lets out a barking laugh. “Not to your liking, then, Pert?”
My heart does a faint little stutter in my chest as I peek up at James. A grin slides onto my face and I try and control the joy I feel at James forgiving me. I don’t bother to think of why he may have suddenly forgive me so quickly, I’m just too happy that he’s talking to me again. “Happy New Year!” I shout as way of greeting.
James chuckles and shakes his head at me. “Not yet, Mollie.”
I don’t reply, just take another sip of my beer as I slide off the counter. I glance up briefly to see James eyes glued on my new dress and me in it I guess. I notice him swallow and have to fight to keep the giggle down – that really would not help things at the moment.
All of a sudden, James takes my hand in his and I feel a jolt go through me but it surprises me most of all to notice how natural and easy his palm felt against mine. He leads me to the centre of the crowd and I’m so caught off guard that I nearly lose my footing and half fall into James.
He laughs, and I realise how much I’ve missed it and how it makes me smile in response no matter how I am feeling. “Such a klutz,” he teases in a silky voice and lets go of my hand, choosing instead to slide his arms down to my waist. My heart thumps beneath my best so hard I’m certain he can feel it.
“I am not,” I pout and he laughs again. I find myself grinning back as my feet step closer to him. It comes so naturally to reach my arms up and place them around his neck, my fingers finding each other there as I feel the messiness of his hair.
I could have stayed like that for a while, letting the noise and music around me blend into one but I feel someone else’s hands grip into my fingers around James’s neck and forcibly yank me off him. James looks quite surprised too, his hands sliding off my waist as I proceed to be dragged off.
I locate the owner of the hand and stumble after her, trying not to fall again. “Dom! Dom, what are you doing?!” I yell but I’m not sure she hears me as she doesn’t stop.
Dom’s hand grips my own yet I still find it difficult getting up the stairs. I hear her fumble with a door before pulling me into a dark room. Her hand releases mine and she moves to shut the door behind me. Suddenly, it’s as if there isn’t a party downstairs and we are in our own little world. The light flicks on and I turn to grin at Dom.
She scowls at me. “Just what do you think you were doing?”
My mouth drops open. “Huh?”
“Dancing with James like that!” She exclaims, throwing up her hands. Hally said when I first arrived that Dom was drunk. I don’t see any of that now so Dom was either putting it on or can sober up pretty damn quick.
“I wasn’t dancing with him like anything!” I protest trying not to remember the way it was so easy just to slip into everything with James.
“Mollie,” Dom says, her tone plain. “It’s nearly midnight. Go find Freddie.”
Shit. Shit, shit, shit.
I nod frantically and back away from her, reaching for the doorknob behind me, and once I am outside everything seems confusing and different and I feel disorientated. A door a few steps down the hallway lets a breeze of cold air through and I stumble towards it. As soon as the cold air hits me everything seems much clearer, more focused and I can almost smack myself for realising what an idiot I’m being. Hopefully, James has drunken too much to remember this in the morning.
I walk towards the edge of the balcony and pick up an unopened alcopop bottle as I go. Hally’s house really is beautiful, I think, as I gaze out of the giant lawn, my arms becoming cold as they rest on the frozen wall. A couple are talking on the lawn. A few other people sit on the steps, enjoying the cold air. The bottle dangles from my fingers over the edge of the balcony.
The thumping of the music seems far away and I feel almost sleepy as I take in the scenery. The couple shift positions and now they are no longer talking but kissing. Right in the full view of everybody.
Then they suddenly turn towards the light coming from the moon and my heart stops. Blood freezes in my veins like ice and my breath comes out in a painful whoosh.
The moonlight hits Freddie’s face perfectly and, even from this height, I can see the familiar grin he wears for me on his face before he returns to kissing the girl. I don’t bother staying to see if I can figure out who she is. I can’t watch anymore.
Slowly, cautiously, as if I am afraid of being caught I back away from the scene I just witness. My back collides with something hard and I glance up to see James looking down in concern at me.
His hands cup my face and he says something but I can’t hear it. Everything seems to buzz around me and I blink up at him, trying to focus the blurry image I suddenly see. I don’t realise I am crying until something wracks my chest and James catches a tear with his thumb, stroking my face softly. And suddenly he wraps his strong arms around me and leads me to a bench where I cuddle up to him, trying to steal some of his warmth. I didn’t notice how cold I am until just a few moments ago.