Chapter 8 : Many Happy Returns, Judas!
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(credit to the brill milominderbinder)
An uncomfortably fake hello chat, one accidental slap and two shots later, Flora and I were best friends.
She slapped me by the way.
'Wooooo!' I screamed as Flora threw the ping pong ball straight into the penultimate glass. Freddie groaned and downed the contents of it. He pulled the ball out of the cup and shook it clean with a murderous expression.
Flora cackled madly and we high fived each other.
'Fuck you guys!'
Freddie took aim—and scored. Flora and I groaned dramatically, grabbing each other's shoulders and shaking each other. Pouting, she downed the cup of—oh good god, it was vodka.
'Bad luck,' I slurred sincerely.
She made a face and slapped the ping pong ball down on my palm. 'Don't fuck this up!'
'Me! Never!' I winked at Ollie and he blew me a kiss back. I caught Luke's gaze out the corner of my eye and he mouthed, 'You are so drunk.' I grinned back and took my aim. I was very drunk—hand eye coordination shot to hell—so I just threw the ball—
Flora screamed and grabbed my arms, turning me around to face her. I was stunned with shock. How did that even happen?! Flora shook my shoulders and I started to laugh in disbelief. In the background, I could hear Ollie swearing colourfully and Freddie cry 'HOW DID THEY WIN! THEY DIDN'T EVEN KNOW HOW TO PLAY BEFORE WE STARTED!' And by that time we were jumping up down, hugging each other.
I heard Luke laugh infectiously beside me and I jumped around and flung my arms around his neck, beaming, and screamed 'We won!'
He grinned, arms going around my waist, lifting me slightly above the ground. We were so close and I was so stupidly euphoric and just because, because fuck James, because I had a wild desire to kiss someone, to show Luke how happy I was—it really could've been anyone—I kissed him sloppily on the mouth, lips grazing his teeth. Then I whirled around, hands up in the air, catching Marisa Rahimi's impressed look out the corner of my eye. Freddie gaped at me, but I ignored it.
'Come have cigarette with me,' Flora said breathlessly, still riding the high on winning.
I didn't even smoke, I wanted to tell her. Except for the one time I smoked two hours ago after I told my best friend I kissed your boyfriend.
We drifted away from the group, just the two of us. Flora lit our cigarettes and we stood there for a second, smoking. It slowly dawned on me how weird this situation was, but it was very far away. I was having another out of body experience. As though I was watching Drunk Jenelle smoke with Drunk Flora and laugh and talk about the trip and the night whilst floating in the sky. Before long, Drunk Jenelle and Drunk Flora started talking about him.
Sober Jenelle knew this would happen.
'He's so stupid you know,' Flora said, all the words slurring out almost incomprehensibly.
I squinted at her hazy silhouette, cigarette forgotten. Who was she talking about again?
'Milo isn't that stupid,' I said, guessing.
Flora laughed and shook her head, like we were sharing an old joke. 'I meant James.'
The blood in my veins turned to ice.
'Oooh!' I laughed too, a high pitched peal that was as fake as seventh year Camilla Tomlinson's boobs. And she had very fake boobs. 'Yeah James can be so stupid!' Something burned sharply between my fingers. 'Ow!' I dropped the burnt out cigarette with relief. Great, now I didn't have to pretend anymore.
I looked back up at Flora, head spinning.
She shrugged, taking a deep drag of her cigarette. 'I know this may be kind of inappropriate and I completely don't want to step on your toes, so just please tell me if I am … but, like, has he always been so moody?'
'I don't know,' I said. She had said so many words and I tried to follow them all but not a single one processed. 'He's always been moody. And broody. Kind of—kind of idiotic.'
I literally had no idea what I was saying
'Oh.' Flora sounded somewhat relieved, or disappointed, I couldn't tell. 'I just thought … well, every time I saw the two of you, you guys were always joking around and I never really saw him like … like what he is now.'
'Oh that's just him, you know.' I glanced up and caught Luke's quizzical gaze. 'So angry and brooding.'
Flora rounded on me abruptly. 'But he wasn't always like that. That's what I'm trying to say. I've always had a huge crush on him so I kind of, er, watched him a lot. He never, ever seemed quiet. He was always loud. But I don't know. I was never friends with him—not like you.'
I nodded in agreement. 'Mhm. Yeah we were always joking when we were friends. He's always angry with me now. You know he—' I hiccuped '—he told me once, you know, when we were dating and stuff, he told me that even when we were friends he didn't want to be my friend. Like if he says anything like that …'
Flora stared at me and I stared back.
'No,' she said finally, clearing her throat and taking a drag. 'He's never said anything like that to me. It's mostly …' she grimaced. 'It's mostly physical.'
I was going to be sick.
Why was she doing this to me? Why was I playing along? We both knew he'd cheated on me with her, that she'd let him, knowing that I … that I …
'Oh yeah,' I agreed, fingers becoming vicelike around my biceps. My head began to clear as a sudden coldness pulsated beneath my skin, spreading furiously in my veins. 'He's very physical. He plays Quidditch. He doesn't care about it though. Like about winning the Cup. Not really. He always told me that I should've been Captain, not him, and I reckon he was right, but he is a Potter after all. Also, you know what's weird? Owls. How the hell do they deliver messages? I never understood.'
'You don't still love him, do you?' Flora asked all of a sudden, ignoring my last comment. 'Because if you do, you can tell me. I'll understand.'
The smile on my face froze in a mask of false cheer.
How dare she ask me that? Dom has asked me that hundreds of times and I've never told her. I've never even told myself the answer to that. Rage simmered quietly in my blood. How dare she think I would ever tell her anything. It started to occur to me, not as a real, full-fledged thought, that she may have had no intention of being friendly with me and this had been her plan all along. To corner me and ask me if I loved James.
Her wide, clear grey-green eyes pierced my soul. Jesus she was stunning. She should model or something. A face like that, a body like that, she shouldn't be dating James Potter—she should be dating a Prince or—or an actor. Or Luke.
How could I ever hope to compete with that?
'You know what?' I babbled, heart racing. 'Probably not. He's kind of dick. He was just a fling—a thing of the past.'
Flora's features twisted in scepticism. 'Really? I wouldn't mind if you did. I have no right to.'
No, Sober Jenelle snarled, you don't.
Drunk Jenelle said, 'He's all yours, trust me.'
Flora flicked her cigarette to the ground and ground the butt with the heel of her tan suede ankle boots. 'Sometimes it doesn't feel like it. He doesn't treat me very well. I barely even see him. I've never had a boyfriend before, but still. I don't think it's supposed to be like this …'
I looked up and felt a thrill coil into dread in my stomach. Dom stormed towards us, her expression like thunder. Her eyes flashed to Flora, narrowed in disgust, and back. In her wrath, Dom was incandescent; her hair was a wild halo of coppery rose-gold and her sea glass eyes were electric.
Oh god, I remembered sickeningly abruptly, like a bone snapping. I kissed Luke.
'Hi Morgan,' Dom greeted, acid dripping off every word. 'Why don't you fuck off for a bit yeah? Maybe find that boyfriend of yours you keep honking on about, you daft girl.'
No one, not even a seventh year who was hotter or cooler—though not a single girl like that came to mind—could intimidate and terrify people the way Dominique Weasley did. She was a sight to behold, an Amazonian warrior, part Veela and Weasley all in one. Despite the fact she was at least an inch shorter, Dom towered over Flora Morgan, her face a cold mask of fury.
It was a miracle to see Flora even scoff at Dom (though that was probably the liquid courage) before she stalked off back into the house.
'Babe,' Dom said, snapping her gaze to mine. 'What the fuck was that?'
I realised, suddenly, that I was shaking.
'I don't know. I think she was trying to, like, get in my head and assert her dominance. Like James is mine type shit.'
Dom's features contorted in fury. But instead of running after her and cussing her out or whatever, she hugged me tightly. That somehow made things worse. I felt sick and I didn't even know why. Just as I was about to tell her to let go, she pulled away, eyes searching mine.
'She's such a bitch, Jenny. Her nice girl act is such a fucking ruse. That girl knew what she was doing, cornering you and—what did she even ask you?'
I shook my head, rubbing my arms furiously. 'Stuff about James. Like was he always so moody and … and I don't remember. I just want to go home.'
Dom expression darkened. 'I'm going to jinx her hair into slugs.'
'Urgh, no Dom. Don't. Just leave it. This is so stupid. Like of course we couldn't avoid talking. It was bound to happen at some point.'
We were, after all, trapped in a glass dome with thirteen other people with nowhere to go.
'What was she even thinking? She knows you know that he … cheated.' She cleared her throat uncomfortably, suddenly avoiding my eye. 'Like, how brazen of her.'
'They both have no guilt,' I said bitterly. 'They don't care what they've done.'
Dom sighed. She folded her arms over her chest and bit her lower lip.
'I saw you snog Oliver Gamble. I don't think anyone else really noticed though …'
I met her gaze, alarmed. I couldn't even think about that right now. I felt unbalanced. My heart was racing in my chest and it felt like glass; every breath I took rattled it dangerously, driving it closer to an edge I couldn't see, on the verge of shattering. I could barely stand to look at Dom and her concern and care was smothering me. I needed to get away.
'Yeah, it was for a second.' I shrugged, too on edge to pull off casual. I stepped away from her, hugging myself, training my eyes on her bare collar bone. The night air was warm and light, but I still felt cold. 'Listen, I'm so tired and probably a lot drunker than I thought I was. I love you but I'm gonna go home. I'm ready to pass out but—but you stay here and have fun, okay?'
'Okay, but Jen—' Dom took a step toward me but I jumped so violently, bewilderment flickered across her features. She stopped. 'Sorry—I just wanted to warn you. James knows. He knows you snogged Ollie.'
'What?' I hissed, gaze snapping up to meet hers, wide with disbelief. 'How? He didn't see me. I thought you said no one noticed!'
I would've known if he had! I was right there!
Dom raked a hand through her hair, her gold bracelets tinkling delicately against each other. 'He didn't. At least, I don't think he did. But okay, so, I may have let it slip—'
'May have?! Oh for fuck's sake.' I closed my eyes briefly; my heart squeezed, soaked in guilt, in anger and shame, coursing like fire through my veins. 'You fucking … you fucking told him? Why Dom? Why?'
'I didn't mean to! I didn't know that you—'
'That I what?' I sliced across witheringly, earning a look of surprise. 'Didn't want him to know? I wouldn't want James to know I fucking kissed another boy? What do you think, Dom?' She opened her mouth to respond but I was fed up and beyond belief. 'Oh fuck off. Just fuck off.'
'Jenny,' Dom implored, shocked. 'Jenny, I really didn't—'
'No, I actually don't want to hear it.' I threw my hands out, palms facing her, backing away. Her face was pale. 'I don't know why you had to tell him anything. I don't know why you think that's your place at all. I sometimes—I just don't get it. Why do you have to stick your nose in every fucking thing.'
I spun around on my heel and walked away, shaking my head, more pissed off with her than I've ever been in my entire life.
I fumbled with the key to the door.
I sniffled and tried to keep my drunken tears at bay. I didn't even know why I was crying, but I just knew that this night had somehow turned so horribly, horribly wrong. My stomach wriggled with a sick feeling, oily and slick.
I unlocked the door finally and stumbled in, wiping away my tears angrily. I found my way easily in the dark since I was so used it, having lived without light for an entire week. In my drunken delirious state, I didn't notice that the bathroom lights were on, I didn't hear the toilet flush. Instead, I thought single-mindedly only about how I had snogged Oliver Gamble for no reason at all other than to get back at James and then … oh god … oh god … I—I—I kissed Luke.
The horror of it truly began to sink in.
I threw my wand on the vanity and ripped my shoes off, hot tears blurring my vision. I blinked and let them fall into my open palms. Watched the clear pearls sink into my skin, detached.
What kind of friend—what kind of person was I?
Dom fell in love with a new person every day, but the only person she'd ever had real feelings for was Luke and I just—for no reason! No reason at all! Just—kissed him! I felt wretched and twisted and wrong. Dom would never do anything like this to me and I'd just ruined our friendship over nothing.
I heard the bathroom door open and shut, and all at once I was alert, and the realisation that James was here slammed down on me with pure, electric alarm.
Not with Flora. Not at the party, where I thought I'd left everyone.
The light off flicked off and I heard the floorboards creak as he went back to his room.
'James,' I said, my voice barely a breath of air.
His silhouette stopped at the threshold of his bedroom, hand gripping the frame. He didn't turn.
I took a step towards him then stopped, thinking better of it.
'James,' I repeated. 'I …'
'Jenelle, I'm not in the mood.' His voice was low and rough. There was a bitter edge to it that made tears well up in my eyes again.
Why couldn't I just fucking snog a boy after my boyfriend broke up with me and not feel so sick and guilty and wretched about it!
'No,' I said harshly, voice trembling. 'No this isn't fair. You can't be mad—'
James' muscles spasmed as he whirled around. I took a step back at his blazing expression, only jumping slightly as he threw my bedroom door shut behind him. I didn't know how late it was but the starlight lit the room in a white glow. James was all dark planes and sharp angles. We were in our own pocket of the universe, a vacuum, a blackhole. There was nothing else but us now.
'I'm not mad,' he spat furiously. 'In fact, I don't fucking care. You can do what you want Jenelle.'
I pressed the heels of my palms into my eyes, a sob rising up my chest. My breath hitched as it cracked the surface.
'I can't do this,' I whispered, throat tightening, voice watery and thick. 'I can't do this anymore. I don't know what you want from me.'
'I don't want anything from you, okay?' James snarled. 'I don't know who told you I cared about you or Gamble—'
Tears slipped through, despite the pressure I was putting on my eyes, despite the galaxies and nebulas bursting behind my lids.
'Stop crying. You got what you wanted!'
'How is this what I wanted!' I cried, balling my hands into fists by my side. I looked up at James, searching him, face stained with tears. His hair appeared ink black, and even though he was cast in shadows and starlight, I could make out the familiar, arrogant cut of his jaw; the stubborn set of his mouth; the curve of his nose and his dark, livid eyes.
'How is any of this what I wanted?' I said, raising my voice with every word. 'How can you think that? I don't understand. I don't get anything about you anymore! You're just—you're just fucking with my mind!'
'Fucking with your mind?' James shouted back, voice strangled. 'And what? You're just a fucking saint in all of this?! You really are some piece of work Jenelle—'
'See!' I screamed. He stood his ground, unmoving, unflinching. A statue carved from marble. 'That's exactly what I mean! What did I do to you! Tell me! Tell me what I ever did to deserve this from you!'
'You're drunk,' James said disgustedly.
'No that drunk love,' I snarled. 'You like to think you're so hard to read but you're fucking transparent! You just want to fuck with me—to confuse me—'
James laughed breathlessly, a disconnected, detached sound that rang hollow and empty in my ears. 'You're an idiot.'
'Why did you do it then?' I demanded. 'You still want me. Admit it!'
James' jaw clenched. His dark eyes flicked lazily over to mine, and they were black in this light.
'I was under the impression we were pretending that never happened.'
'Well, now I'm pretending it did! You can't just kiss me, flirt with me and have Flora waiting for you on the sidelines! You just can't.'
'Go to bed, Jenelle—'
'Fuck off!' I snapped, words cracking like a whip. 'Don't tell me what to do you arrogant prick! I didn't deserve what you did to me—and neither does Flora! Does she even know how you feel?'
'What do you want to hear, Jenny?' James snarled, raking a hand through his hair, making it stick up in a billion different directions. He sounded eerily like Dom. Which was a bizarre thought. 'That I still want you? That I'm using Flora to get back at you? It's what everyone's saying, right? And you so desperately want to believe it.'
I almost slapped him. It would've been horribly Victorian of me but my fingers were just itching to slap some sense into him. Our faces were barely inches apart. His face blistered with the kind of disdain you reserved for people you didn't respect.
'Should I admit to something then?' I said, voice trembling with rage.
James' eyes flashed, for the first time betraying a flicker of disbelief, or emotion of any kind.
'Yeah,' I nodded, feeling dangerous. 'I did It. I did It. Is that what you wanted to hear? Do I still deserve this bullshit fucking person in front of me, making me feel like shit every second of every day? If you don't like me anymore then fine—fine, James. I'm fucking peachy fucking keen with it. Truly. Scout's honour.' I crossed my heart, hoped to die. 'But I don't need this from you. We can avoid each other for the rest of this trip—the rest of our lives. If you want. I don't care anymore. I'm done.'
James' face was marble white. His jaw clenched, muscles working furiously to remain composed. He angled his body away from me abruptly, as if he couldn't stand the sight of me. The moment hung in the air, blistering with raw energy.
'Yes, that's what I want,' he said finally. He looked up at me, eyes dangerous, flickering. 'Have a great fucking life with Luke or Gamble or whoever the fuck you want, Jenelle.'
James left the bedroom, slamming the door so hard it shook the wall.
The sob I'd been shoving down rose up furiously, cracking through my rib cage. Silently, without a sound, I began to cry, hot, fat tears spilling over my cheeks. It seemed I couldn't do it any other way. I had to be drunk or in dream, had to know that I would never remember the searing, vivid pain that tore at my heart now.
How did anyone survive this?
I crawled into the bed, still fully clothed, make up smeared with tears, and cried until I exhausted myself to sleep.
I woke up the next day and saw that Dom wasn't in bed. In fact, there was no sign that she'd come back home at all.
God, I felt like absolute death.
I sat up slowly, slightly nauseous. Still fully dressed, make up dried on my face, mascara sticky, foundation caking. I looked at my reflection in the mirror, wondering what the hell happened. The night came back to me jumbled, flashing up in humiliating clarity, then vanishing into black holes of memory.
I knew I'd snogged Oliver Gamble and I knew that James knew … because Dom told him … urgh … and then we'd had a huge row about it … James and I—not Dom … Though I faintly remembered yelling at her too for … telling James?
Everything was a hazy, abstract cacophony of colours and noises at this point.
I got up, shedding my clothes, feeling like somone had run me over with a steam roller. My mouth tasted like an ashtray. There was dull headache starting form behind my eyes. I kicked off my jeans, peeled off my bodysuit and wrapped myself in a towel.
Shower first. Food and water second.
As I stepped into the hallway, I heard the distinct sound of bacon frying in a pan and quiet voices murmuring.
The smell made me gag.
I stood in the shower for a solid fifteen minutes under scalding hot water, forehead pressed against the cool tile, thinking of nothing and yet simultaneously trying to piece together what happened last night.
I drank so much it was a miracle I didn't completely black out.
I remembered getting there and dancing with Dom. I remembered snogging Ollie but have literally no fucking clue how it happened. Flora Morgan was a bitch. And then I spoke to Dom and left the party. I remembered screaming at James and him screaming back about Ollie … My heart suddenly clenched as ice cold acid flooded my stomach. I drew back, hot water splattering all over my face.
'Oh fuck,' I said aloud, scraping my hair back.
I told James that I did whatever he thought I did!
And it did not work out like Dream Jasper told me it would!
I couldn't remember exactly what James had said or even what I had said … only that it was not what I wanted to hear.
He told me to have a great fucking life.
There was an angry banging on the door. I turned the shower off immediately and stepped out, almost slipping as I snatched my towel.
I pulled open the door just as the person on the other side pushed, stumbling into me.
It was Dom.
'Oh,' she said, taken aback. 'Sorry—I didn't know—'
'It's fine,' I said, wringing my wet hair, bewildered by her wary expression. Then I remembered. 'Oh! No! Dom—you don't think I'm still mad about last night do you? I'm totally, totally not! In fact, I'm a bitch. I'm sorry I yelled at you—I honestly didn't mean any of it and god what a shit friend am I, ruining your birthday like that—'
'Merlin, no Jenny!' Dom interrupted, looking aggrieved. 'You didn't ruin it at all! If anything it was all my fault. Last night was such a fucking mess. I am so sorry I told James anything. I'm literally never speaking to my cousin again. He's dead to me.'
'Well, apparently I'm dead to him so there's a lot of that sentiment going around …'
Her eyes widened, flicking to the living room, now bustling with activity, and back. 'Oh god. I can't believe how stupid I am.'
'James and I argued,' I told her, lowering my voice and leaning back against the door frame. Dom copied my stance, listening with rapt attention. 'Actually, we just shouted at each other … It's weird, but I realised that he's never raised his voice at me before until last night. I can't remember it all but …' I watched Dom's expression carefully. I knew I needed to tell her. I bit the bullet. 'I do remember that he asked to admit something to him.' Okay, it wasn't the truth exactly, but baby steps. 'Something I'd done to him.'
'What?' Dom blurted, standing up straight. 'Admit to what? What is he talking about?'
I shook my head. 'I have no clue, Dom. He asked me the same thing the night we broke up. After Zabini's birthday party. I had no idea then and I have no idea now. But Dom …'
She nodded once, lips pressed firmly together, a wordless signal to continue. She looked even more panicked than I felt.
'Last night I think … I think I admitted to It or something. I told him that I did whatever he thinks I did.'
'What?' Dom said, aghast. She quickly recomposed her features. 'Sorry but Jenny—why would you do that? Who knows what he thinks you've done! Why didn't you just ask him? Or—or something! Anything!'
'I don't know, I don't know!' I tugged at my hair anxiously, trying to keep my voice a hushed whisper. 'I thought I knew what I was doing! I don't, clearly.'
'Clearly!' she cried. 'Do you remember what he said to you?'
'He told me to have a great life with Ollie or Luke or—'
'Wait what. Ollie or Luke? Which one?'
'What? I don't know—both I think, actually—'
Dom stared at me, open mouthed, for a moment. Then abruptly, she shook her curls out of her face. 'Okay, I really need a shower. But we are not done talking about this. Marisa wants to hang out and we'll discuss this on the way there.'
'There's nothing left—'
'Yes,' Dom interrupted hotly, vehemently. Her eyes blazed with an identifiable emotion. 'We've—we've got to figure this out! He thinks you've done something that you obviously haven't and it's not—it's not fair. Jenny, it just isn't fair that he can treat you like this, break up with you, for something you didn't do.'
I didn't argue because she was right.
It wasn't fair at all.
It was only when I was back in our room, slipping on a dress, that I realised I hadn't told her that It was the reason why we'd broken up. That I only had my suspicions—suspicions I'd kept entirely to myself.
But she could've just guessed that, right?
I was so nervous entering the living room but then I thought, what the fuck am I scared of? James? That he basically told me I could get on with my life? Yeah, so terrifying.
Except I was still nervous.
Luke was nursing a coffee on the couch, reading an absolutely battered paperback, and Freddie was eating a bowl of cereal, expression dark and haunted.
It was one the afternoon.
'Where's James?' was my first stupid, stupid question.
I jumped out of the way as he brushed past me, fingertips at my elbows. He went into the kitchen, shirtless and wearing low riding flannel pyjama bottoms, and poured himself a cup of freshly brewed coffee. He drank it just like that, without milk or sugar. James raised his eyebrows at the way I was staring at him.
'How are you?' I chirped, cheerfully bright. His eyebrows travelled further up his forehead. It had been a split-second decision but this was how I was going to be from now on about everything. Happy, upbeat, in the skies. No more drama or bad feelings. 'Sleep well? You look rested.'
Why cheat on me, break up and then try to kiss me four times? Why act sweet and horrible at the same time? Why get angry with me for moving on and then tell me he's not bothered at all?
Fuck him and his mysteries.
I was done.
'Do I look as good as you do bad?' he retorted, smiling simperingly. 'Nice bags, Jenny. Are they designer?'
I narrowed my eyes into slits. 'Yeah, they're fucking Chanel. Fuck you.'
'You know what—'
'Hey!' Freddie interrupted, mockingly chipper. 'I would like for one day—just one day, mind—to go by without hearing both of you going at it!'
Who was this James? Was he really trying to make me hate him?
Because it was working.
I yanked open the fridge angrily and grabbed a pot of yoghurt and berries and set about making myself from breakfast. Unbelievably, I was actually hungry.
'Is Dom in the shower?' Luke asked from the living room.
'Yeah—she just went in.'
'Fuck, all right. You guys reckon we should get started on the quote today?' Luke said, throwing his paperback aside. He ran a hand through his straight, dark gold hair, pushing it out of his eyes.
'What's the rush?' I said, eating a spoonful of berries and yoghurt. 'Marisa Rahimi's house didn't look like it reflected any quote.'
'Because what else have we got to do today?' Luke said exasperatedly. 'Unless you fancy another go at Foot-Ditch?'
I made a face, not particularly fancying that at all.
'Jenny just hates it because it's the only game she's ever lost,' Freddie muttered. Then, louder: 'Some people like to play games for fun, Jenelle!'
'Shut up, Freddie. Dom said something about Marisa wanting to—'
'Yeah, I think we should get started,' James interjected, cutting me off brusquely. I whipped my head around him, outraged. 'When Dom's out the shower—'
'I am out the shower!' Dom herself sing-songed, twirling into the living room, hair still wet and wrapped in a towel. She looked around at everyone brightly. 'What are we talking about?'
'The quote,' James said, nursing his coffee. 'We should discuss it today. Come up with a plan.'
'Okay lemme go get dressed—'
I turned to Luke as Dom darted into our bedroom. 'Any ideas then? Thoughts?'
'I'm still trying to work out the quote,' Luke said, leaning back on the sofa. '"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." I just can't think how we can put it in the house.'
'Well, when I went to Ollie's house on Monday—' I heard James make a disparaging noise and rage bubbled in my blood '—to get his slip, I saw what his group had done and—'
'I've seen it too,' James interrupted smoothly, stepping out of the kitchen and dropping next to Luke on the sofa. 'Flora showed me what she'd done. She took pictures of everyone in her group, you know, portraits and all that. So there's this wall with those pictures, right, and—'
'And,' I sliced across him, gaze grazing past him furiously as I stole back Freddie and Luke's attention. 'And she painted the floor into this forest—'
'—It was really fucking cool. Just gorgeous—'
'Yeah,' I snarled. 'And there was a real pebbled foot path that went out from the wall with the pictures and branched off into the hallway and to the door—'
'It was all Flora,' James said easily. 'She's super talented.'
'Hey, dickhead,' I said, snapping my fingers, eyes bright with an indescribable, pulsating annoyance. 'How about I tell the story since I started it—'
'Hey, Jenny,' James said in a high pitched, mocking voice. 'Shut up!'
'So mature, James, really, good one—'
'SHUT UP! BOTH OF YOU!' Freddie whirled his furious gaze on me, astonished. 'What the hell is going on with you two?!'
There was a static silence.
Luke tried to disappear into the sofa, baring the bottom row of his teeth in pure discomfort.
'Someone better tell me what the fuck is going on or I will start screaming and only Merlin knows when I'll—'
'I kissed Ollie last night,' I snapped, just daring Freddie to tell me what he thought about it. My muscles ached with a livid fury at the way James was acting. He was like a child who'd just been told no for the first time. 'And James, because he's a conflicted fuck, is bothered by it—'
'Oh my fucking god Jenny—'
'James!' Freddie cried, sounding at his wit's end. 'Enough! You guys are both terrible at bickering with each other—it is literally painful for me to hear—'
'Well I've tried being civil with him!'
'So have I!' James shouted back.
I rounded on him, shocked. 'No you absolutely haven't you idiot! You have a go at me every chance you get—'
'Have a go at you?!' James spluttered. 'I've never even fucking spoken to you! What the fuck are you even talking about?!'
'I can't be here,' I decided impulsively, having heard and seen enough. James' features twisted in incredulity as he rounded on Luke—who actually squeezed his eyes shut in response—for support. I threw my half eaten bowl into the sink and stormed out, ignoring Freddie's cries after me.
I bounded off the porch steps and started walking towards the Fire Pit, not really having a purpose or a particular destination in mind. I have never been so fucking amazed and seething with anger than I was now.
My body trembled, black and blue, blood simmering.
How dare he—how dare he? We should have never dated! He was clearly just a petulant child with no concept of decency, and I thought I'd been in a relationship with an easy going, fun loving guy but he just turned out to be the most spoilt rotten boy the planet had ever seen. How could I have even bothered wasting so much energy and time and emotion on that moron. What a waste of my breath. What a waste of my tears. What a waste.
The dream had spelled it out for me and even then I couldn't get it through my thick head.
I have been so consumed by how he feels, how feels about me, what I can do to make it better, what I've done to fuck it up when it's all been his fault all a fucking long! I didn't need to admit to shit—he was so twisted in his own issues and rage and I was NOT his keeper, I was not on this earth to fix him!
'Fuck—James—Potter!' I screamed.
'OI! PIPE DOWN! People are nursing hangovers here!'
I whipped around, heaving, scanning the row of houses until I spotted Nathaniel fucking Smith's head pop out his door, looking thoroughly disgruntled, hair sticking up in every direction, eyes squinting.
I was just about to open my mouth to shout back when—what do you know—Flora Morgan stepped out, wringing her hair dry with a towel. She spotted me standing in the middle of the wilderness, alone, face no doubt a livid red, huffing and puffing like I've just blown a house down like the Big Bad Wolf I am.
Just seeing her infuriated me.
Her kind face with the permanently bewildered expression plastered on it. Long chestnut hair that tumbling down in perfect curls because they just dried that way. Angled cheekbones, high and sharp, lips sweet and full. Clear, cutting grey-green eyes that glittered like the waters of the Maldives.
I was going to tell her.
James couldn't do this to us.
I marched up to her, having made up my mind.
'Jenny?' She called out, tossing her towel and shoving a reluctant Nathaniel Smith back inside.
She met me halfway and I realised just how painfully and breathtakingly beautiful she really was up close. Flawless skin. Massive doe eyes.
'Are you all right? Were you looking for Ollie?'
No I wasn't looking for Ollie.
'Listen,' I began, cutting to the chase. 'I need to tell you something—'
I turned, recognising that voice anywhere, exasperation fizzling inside me as the speck that was James jogged towards us. 'Oh for fuck's sake—' I smiled tightly at Flora. 'Don't worry, it's about him. He should probably be the one telling you this anyway.'
Flora watched James, an inscrutable expression on her face.
'Can you just tell me now before he gets here?' she said quietly. 'I want to get this over with.'
One of us deserved the truth, at least.
'He kissed me,' I said without preamble. 'On Monday. Two days ago. I'm sorry, Flora. But he's a cheater. And once a cheater, always a cheater—'
Flora's bewildered gaze flicked back to me. 'He cheated on you?'
I drew back, blinking.
'Yeah—I thought—didn't he—I mean,' I spluttered. 'With you?'
She shook her head slowly, somewhat dazed. 'I would never … No … he—'
'Jenelle,' James said curtly, having finally reached us. Every line on his face blazed with incensed anger. He did not once address or even acknowledge Flora's existence. She seemed to shrink into the background … or maybe she was actually stepping away. 'I need to speak with you.'
'I actually think you need to speak with Flora,' I retorted, feigning bravado when I really felt unsteady.
I folded my arms over my chest. Mind reeling, trying to understand what Flora had just said. She'd sounded so stunned—like she was genuinely surprised that I thought James had cheated, as though she could never have suspected it. Unless she was playing dumb because she'd heard all the rumours and wanted to come across innocent?
Oh god, I was so confused.
'No,' James snapped, eyes never leaving mine. 'I actually need to speak to you.'
I glanced at Flora, who was already at her porch steps, taking them two at a time. I gaped after her, baffled. I looked back at James, who was still boring holes into my skull, then back again at Flora's retreating figure.
'Wait …' I said weakly.
'Jenny,' James snapped again.
I looked at him blankly. There was … there was no other reason. I couldn't fathom anything else. He cheated on me … he had to've … otherwise, why break up with me? Why Flora? It wasn't my fault … it was his …
'Did you cheat on me?' I breathed, head spinning deliriously.
'No,' he spat, unflinching. 'Did you?'
My mouth fell open.
'Answer the fucking question!'
'No!' I shouted, unable to believe a single world of this. Of anything. What had just happened? What had just transpired? Someone actually explain it to me because I was losing the thread of this plot. I looked into James' eyes; a clash of green and amber espresso, a tumult of fury, confusion and frustration. James searched my face, for any hint of a lie or deception and I knew it because I was doing the same.
'How dare you ask me that,' I breathed. 'You fucking prick. How dare you—'
'I thought you did,' James hissed, looking slightly crazed. 'Jenny … I thought you did.'
'Well that's not my problem is it you fucking moron!' I glanced up at Flora house, stomach clenching. 'You didn't even look at her James! She was right here and you acted like she wasn't even—and I told her that we—and then you didn't—' I was incoherent, I had no idea what I was saying. I just knew that I felt awful.
I couldn't believe I just told Flora that I kissed James. Just marched up to her like a lunatic and told her he'd cheated on her with—oh good god—me.
What kind of person was I?
'What?' James said, dazed, following my gaze up to Flora's house.
'I told her that you—that we kissed!' I said, gesturing wildly with my hands. 'I can't believe I did that … she has done nothing wrong to me ever and I just—ruined her life—'
'Stop being dramatic Jenny,' James murmured. There was a sudden shift in his voice that caught my attention. He sounded so … stunned. 'She'll get over it … she didn't like me anyway …'
James was looking at me like I was a star he'd caught in his own hands. With wonder and disbelief. He reached his hands up to my face. I pushed them away, angry and disgusted.
'Didn't you hear me?!' I cried. 'I just told her that we kissed!'
'Jenny,' James said urgently, frenziedly. 'Why did you tell me that you did?'
I was flooded with an overwhelming, dizzy wave of remorse, unable to focus on a single thing James was saying. Poor Flora—god, I was such a bitch. She didn't deserve this—she didn't deserve James to happen to her—
'Cheat on me! Why did you tell me that you did it!'
'Yes you did!' James shouted back manically. 'The day before we broke up and last night! After you came back from Marisa's!'
'What! No I did not! I—' I stopped abruptly, feeling as though I'd been hit with a Bludger to the back of the head.
Was that what I'd admitted to?
'No I didn't …' I met his eyes, understanding rising up in front of me, a grey wall of truth. 'I lied James … I only said that to get you to shut up. To tell me what you thought I'd done … I didn't even know …'
'But then,' he went on frantically. 'When I asked you about it—the day before we broke up—'
I shook my head, as if to ward off a fly. 'What? I don't remember that. You never asked me anything. I had detention. I was with Hagrid the whole day.'
'Yes but after. I came looking for you—'
I shut my eyes and shook my head again. 'No you didn't. I would've remembered you asking if I'd cheated on you, my god! After detention I went straight to practise! That's the only time I saw you that day! And, if I remember clearly, which I do, you didn't speak to me at all.'
It occurred to me, then, how strange I remembered he'd been acting that day. Strange for him at least. Barely looking at me, barely interacting. Back then I'd just chalked it up to pre-game jitters or something (we were playing Hufflepuff)—which I understood and respected. James and I had unspoken rules when it came to Quidditch. Or at least—I had rules that he reluctantly acquiesced to. Which was don't fucking bother me when I was playing.
'I can't tell if you're lying,' he said abruptly.
'Because I'm not,' I retorted hotly. 'I wouldn't lie about that! Why would I?!'
'I don't know! I don't know!' He took a step back, curling both his hands around fistfuls of his hair, eyes darting back and forth. 'None of this makes sense. I asked you if you were with Luke—'
'Luke?!' I said, astonished. 'Why would you …'
James searched my eyes frantically. 'What do you mean? Dom told me that you were—'
We stared at each other in equal total and open mouthed incomprehension. What did Dom have to do with this? I couldn't believe James thought I'd cheated on him! I couldn't believe that was the reason he broke up with me!
'She told me that you fancied Luke …' he breathed. 'That you wanted to be with him.'
'No she didn't,' was the first thing that came out my mouth. My voice was clear, lucid, sharp.
My head was erupting.
'Okay,' he amended. 'She didn't say exactly those words. But she implied it. She told me that there was something going on between the two of you.'
'Something going on?' I echoed, half hysterically. 'First of all, that could literally mean anything. Secondly, that makes no sense. Dom fancies Luke, remember?'
'First of all,' James retorted waspishly. 'I didn't know that. Secondly, no … it really doesn't fucking make sense.'
We fell into a charged, chaotic silence, both staring at each other in a complete failure to understand what had just happened. We were finally, after all this time, finally talking about what had happened and why without screaming at each other (that much anyway) and we were still as frustrated and lost.
Dom had implied to him that I fancied Luke? This, in itself, was utter nonsense. There was no conceivable, rational, explainable reason for her to do anything like that when she knew I knew she fancied Luke again. She'd just confided in me back in February—so why on earth would she tell James that?
'All right,' I said, just to clear my head and put a single coherent thought out there. 'So Dom allegedly told you—' James rolled his eyes '—that I had … something going on with Luke. And you allegedly asked me if I … I what?'
'Kissed him! Liked him! I don't know!' He blustered.
'Well, which is it?' I snapped. 'Kissed or liked?'
'James,' I said, shaking my head, eyebrows raised. 'I promise you—that did not happen. You never asked me anything like that.'
'Well, Jenny, I know I did. So how do you explain a memory that I have and you don't?'
I stared at him wordlessly.
Problem was, I couldn't explain any of it at all.
'You could just be lying,' I began cautiously. 'You could be making this up because you've just found out how wrong you are and want to back track before it's too late.'
'Not only does that logic not make sense,' James snarled. 'It's also the worst attempt at denial I've ever heard. Why would I lie about something like this? What could I possibly stand to gain?'
'I don't know!' I blustered wildly. 'If I just happened to forget the one day you asked me whether I kissed Luke and you tell me that's the reason why you broke up with me—without me even remembering what I could have said—then it's just terribly convenient for you isn't it? A perfect coincidence!'
'There are no perfect coincidences,' he hissed. 'That's an oxymoron!
'You're a fucking moron,' I hissed back.
James' eyes narrowed into espresso slits. 'You've always been good at deflecting. But I'm not not talking about this. We broke up because of this! We broke up over something that did not happen! I have been cut up for weeks because of a lie that Dom told—'
'NOT EVERYTHING IS ABOUT YOU!' I roared, shutting him up effectively.
James blinked and drew back.
My chest rose and fell heavily, expression a livid mask of bubbling, pulsing anger.
'You have given me no reason to trust you,' I spat acidly. 'So fuck you if I don't believe a single word you say.'
The quote "We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars," is by Oscar Wilde.
Thank you so much for reading guys! I look at the number of reads and my heart soars. I would love to hear your thoughts! What do you think of this total madness that James has just revealed? Is he telling the truth? Did you see this coming? I'd love to know!!!
Love you guys! P x
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