Ivy tried not to hyperventilate as she struggled to focus on the game. Here she was, sat in a penthouse apartment in the middle of the big city, casually playing video games with El Tigre. All of them. If only Maria could see me now! she thought, before remembering that Maria wasn’t speaking to her. A pang of hurt stabbed through her, but she brushed it aside as best she could. Her loss. If she wants to act like a child, she can do.
Just as Leon was about to win the game, Andy’s phone rang. ‘That’ll be Amelia!’ he practically sang out, jumping up from the sofa, turning the console off and bounding into the kitchen area to answer the phone. ‘What the hell, man! I was about to win there!’ Leon grumbled.
‘For gnomes sake, Andy, you’ll scratch the disk if you just turn it off like that!’ Ethan leapt up and went to the console, carefully removing the cd from the drive. Andy wasn’t listening, already deep in conversation with his girlfriend. Leon scooted along to the far end of the sofa and sat scowling to himself, Ivy guessed he was pretty competitive.
‘She’s on her way!’ Andy cried as he bounced back over to the living area. ‘Five minutes!’
‘Oh great,’ Leon muttered under his breath as Ethan rolled his eyes, before both of them broke out into grins. ‘You’re in for a bit of a show, Ivy. You’ve got a front row seat!’ Leon said.
* * *
‘Um… Are they going to be coming up for air any time soon?’ Ivy hissed at Leon as Ethan stared at the television, trying to block out the extreme saliva swapping going on to his right.
‘Eh, give them another couple of minutes. Usually we start throwing things at them by then,’ Leon panned, adjusting the cuff on his wrist. ‘You can only look at the picture of young love for so long!’
‘I heard that!’ Amelia Castille squealed, finally prising her face away from Andy’s. She was the skinniest girl Ivy had ever seen, with bright blonde hair and big blue eyes. Ivy was hardly a big girl, but next to Amelia she felt roughly the same size as an elephant. ‘Come on Leon, you love me really,’ she crooned, batting her eyelids and flashing him a bright smile. ‘Now then, you must be Ethan’s girl!’
Ivy was a little startled at the sudden attention; Amelia seemed to be able to flit from subject to subject without so much as taking a breath. She stood up intending to go over to where Amelia was stood, but by the time she’d straightened up Amelia was already practically on top of her and air-kissing both her cheeks.
‘Ivy! My dear, it is so good to meet you at last! I read about you in the papers, couldn’t believe the cheek of them. What right do they have to go around reporting on people’s private lives! Still though, I saw your picture, and I said to Andy, I said you looked like such a delightful girl, didn’t I Andy? And I said that you would make our Ethan very happy, and look how right I was! Wasn’t I right, Ethan?’
‘Right as always, Amelia,’ Ethan said, trying not to laugh as he watched Ivy try and keep up with what Amelia was saying.
‘It’s, er… It’s great to meet you too, Amelia!’ Ivy barely got out before the chatty girl set off again.
‘We’re going to have to celebrate your arrival! I think we’ll all go to Eugi’s tonight, it’ll be quiet as everyone’s off to to the Brightmore to see Tom Wordy’s set, we’ll have the place practically to ourselves! Simply perfect! Have you unpacked properly yet, we’ll have to dig you out a change of clothes! I’ve brought one with me, I thought we’d be going out. The boys are lucky, they can rock up in what they’re wearing now. We’ll just have to fly the fashion flag ourselves!’ Taking Ivy by the arm, Amelia dragged her up the stairs with a surprising strength for someone so tiny, chattering away about eyeliner and accessorising.
‘Ah, look at the girlfriends bonding!’ Leon yawned, reaching for the remote to turn on the television. ‘I think we’ll manage to watch the whole game in the time it takes Amelia to get ready, Ethan.’
‘Ah, I’m sure Ivy’ll keep her under control! Can you imagine what it’ll be like when you finally settle down with someone, with three of them? When’s that going to be, hey!’ Ethan teased, getting up to go and fetch a drink from the fridge. He didn’t see the look on Leon’s face.
* * *
Eugi’s, a basement bar on the east side of the city, was just as quiet as Amelia had predicted with only a couple of regulars and a pap taking photos. Ivy had expected Ethan to get annoyed with the constant flashing going off, but none of her companions seemed to even acknowledge the woman’s existence. They must be so used to this sort of thing she thought, heading to a shadowed booth to sit down while Ethan and Leon got the drinks in. She still couldn’t quite believe she was back here, in Bridgeport. She’d lived on the outskirts for three years while she was growing up, but had hardly gone into the city proper. And now, here she was, right in the heart of everything, casually sipping drinks with celebrities. How things change!
As the shuffleboard table became free, Amelia grabbed Andy’s hand. ‘Come on! Time for our rematch!’ Ivy laughed at the pained look on Andy’s face as Leon came over to join her at the table, leaving Ethan chatting with someone he knew at the bar.
‘No, no! Andy, you’re cheating!’
‘No I’m not, Amelia! This is technique, not cheating!’
Leon took a deep gulp of his pint, handing Ivy her cocktail as he watched the bickering pair. ‘Honestly, anyone would think those two hated each other, the amount they argue!’
‘Typical quarrelling couple, hey?’ Ivy said, as Amelia threw herself on Andy and began kissing him. ‘Well, at least they’re obviously in love!’
‘They’re always at one extreme or the other. Either sticking their tongues down each other’s throats or arguing about one thing or another…’
‘Well, I guess that works for them!’ Ivy let out a laugh as the pair separated and continued their argument as if nothing had happened, pausing as Ethan dropped their drinks off. Amelia seemed to have perfected the fine art of arguing, kissing, drinking and playing shuffleboard simultaneously, as she went through far more glasses than the rest of them put together.
‘Andy, would you please keep this party animal under control?’ Ethan pleaded as Amelia clambered up on to a table and began dancing away, somehow not falling over in her stilettos. Andy was cracked up laughing, and Ivy couldn’t quite keep the grin off her lips.
‘Whooo! I love this song!’ Amelia cried out, losing herself in the music as she drunkenly flung herself about. Gnomes, I hope that’s not what I look like when I drink too much Ivy thought worriedly.
‘We’re closing!’ The barman poked his head around the corner, and Ivy realised that the bar had suddenly emptied. Even the woman from the paparazzi had vanished, clearly satisfied with the shots she’d got that night.
‘Right! I’m going to call a taxi. Andy, get her down!’ Ethan said exasperatedly, walking over to the lift. Ivy could have sworn that he was laughing as he walked. ‘I’m just going to pop to the toilets, I’ll see you up there!’ she called after him.
‘I need to go too. Amelia, I’m just going to the toilets, you’ve got two more minutes of dancing!’ Andy said, rushing towards the mens. ‘Keep an eye on her Leon, will you?’
Checking her hair in the mirror, Ivy decided that she did like all of Ethan’s friends. Andy had been so sweet to say what he had to her, and while Amelia was quite clearly a little bit insane she did seem lovely, if a little talkative! They seemed like a really cute couple, too. Leon had been quite quiet, but he’d made the effort to talk to her. Maybe he was just a little nervous of making a bad impression on his best friend’s girlfriend, or was a little wary of what a new addition to the group would do to it’s dynamic, she supposed. Still, give it time.
Drying her hands, she strolled out of the bathroom door and got the shock of her life.
Ivy didn’t know where to look.
She stood there floundering for a few seconds, unsure of what to do. They hadn’t seen her, but they would if she made a dash for the lift, and they would know what she had seen them doing… Oh gnomes. Poor Andy.
Quickly, and trying to be subtle, she slipped back inside the toilets. Counting to ten, she marched out, making as much noise as she could. She saw Leon and Amelia stood where they had been as before, chatting this time. Ivy was confused, had she actually seen what she thought she had? There was no indication that anything untoward had been going on whatsoever…
‘Right! Let’s get upstairs to Ethan!’ Andy coming out of the toilet door next to her startled her, bringing her back down to earth. ‘He’ll be wondering where we’ve all got to! You okay, Amelia?’
Ivy watched as Andy linked his arm with his girlfriend’s, tenderly stroking away a few loose hairs that had fallen in front of her face. She looked at Leon, who too was watching them impassively, giving no suggestion of any jealousy or any hint that he had been kissing her just moments before. What on earth was going on here?!
* * *
‘So, did you have a good night tonight?’ Ethan asked eagerly. He was so desperate for Ivy to like his bandmates. Besides her, they were the most important people in his life, family aside. He probably saw them more than his family; due to their frequent travelling he hadn’t seen his parents in over a year. They just kept on missing one another – when Ethan had been in Sunset Valley, they’d been in Al Simhara. By the time they’d got home to Sunset Valley, he was back in Bridgeport, and he wouldn’t be able to get back there for another two months at least, by which time they would be in the woodland resort of Three Lakes. It was just one of those things, but he did miss them, and was glad he had his friends there for him. And now, his girlfriend.
He saw Ivy hesitate slightly, and his heart sank a little. ‘Ivy? What’s the matter?’
Ivy was torn. Ethan clearly had no idea about what was going on between Leon and Amelia. But then, what if nothing was going on? What if she had been mistaken? What if they had just made a mistake, a drunken error of judgement? She knew all about those. But if they were carrying on behind Andy’s back, it wasn’t fair on him! And he clearly doted on his girlfriend; judging by what she had gathered from being around the three guys he rarely shut up about her.
She was so new to the group. What if… What if they simply didn’t believe her? What if they were all annoyed at her for unsettling the status quo? Oh, gnomes.
She needed to reply to Ethan.
‘Yes! I did have a good night. Sorry. Just feeling a bit befuddled! I blame the cocktails,’ she smiled softly.
She’d have to sleep on it, at least. Maybe things would work themselves out on their own…