Ethan decided against the whole ‘fake birthday party’ idea in the end. It was a bit of a non-starter; both Andy and Leon knew exactly when Ethan’s birthday was, knew that Ivy’s was months away, and were both godparents to Dylan. He did know that Ivy was right though, he needed to speak to Leon and get Andy to do so as well. He missed Leon. He knew that Andy would too, no matter how angry he was with him. Forgive and forget was a long way off, but Andy had a good guy and, once the initial hurt had died down, would want to hear Leon’s side of the story. He’d hear him out at least.
After putting it off for a few days, a little anxious of what Leon would say to him considering he’d not spoken to him for weeks now, Ethan rang his friend. They arranged to meet for a drink at Eugi’s, the group’s favourite bar where they’d performed their first official gig, the next Tuesday when it would be quiet. He didn’t mention that he would be inviting Andy, who he asked to come around an hour later than the time he was meeting Leon. He just wanted to talk to Leon face to face first, see what he had to say for himself.
‘Ethan. Hey.’ Leon had sat himself down opposite Ethan, looking a little rough around the edges. His toned physique, usually displayed in tight t-shirts and slashed skinny-jeans, was covered up in a baggy hoody and slouchy jeans and he had bags under his eyes. Ethan felt his heart go out to him, in spite of himself. He’d clearly been struggling.
‘How’s it going?’ Ethan winced inwardly as the inadequate question came out of his mouth. Leon laughed half heartedly and shrugged his shoulders, running a hand over his shaved head.
‘Oh, you know. Terrible. Haven’t really slept properly in weeks. My conscience keeps prodding me awake.’
‘Ivy says you’ve been seeing Maria?’
‘Yeah, I have.’ A glimmer of happiness shone briefly in Leon’s eyes. ‘Trying not to let it get too serious. I want to, though. But after everything… Well, why would any girl want to get with someone like me? After what I did? Do I really deserve to move on so easily after what I did to my best friend?’ He slammed a fist onto the table before burying his head into his hands, muttering angrily to himself. Ethan resisted the urge to roll his eyes as he usually did during one of Leon’s ‘woe-is-me’ outbursts; the boy definitely had star quality, but he had the temper of a Simmywood actor too – he could be so overdramatic at times!
‘Leon, what happened? With Amelia. I need to know.’
Leon sighed and sat back up in his chair. ‘That week that Andy was out of town, doing a gig in Shang Simla, Amelia came round. Said she was lonely, and would I mind hanging out with her? I let her in. I felt sorry for her, to be honest, I figured she was missing Andy. I was a bit on the lonely side myself, considering you were away too. So she produces a couple of bottles of wine, and we’re watching tv and chatting, and out of nowhere she just bursts into tears. She said that she was sorry, but that she just needed someone to listen, so… Well, I listened, didn’t I.’ Leon paused, his face burning. He couldn’t believe he’d fallen for her act. He knew that Amelia could turn on the waterworks as if turning on a tap.
Ethan knew about her acting skills too; alarm bells rang out in his head. ‘What did she say?’ he asked quietly.
‘That Andy wasn’t treating her right, that he was so overbearing and wouldn’t let her do anything on her own or with her friends – he needed to be there too. He didn’t trust her, she said, even though he didn’t love her. He loved the image of them both, that he used her as a trophy girlfriend, that she’d been trying to leave him for ages but he kept on threatening all sorts. I’d had more than a few glasses of wine by that point. Then she said that she just wanted some affection, that I’d always been so nice to her, so friendly, so… I didn’t get to find out what the third thing was, actually, she kissed me at that point. I thought I was doing the right thing, Ethan. I really fell for her. If I hadn’t been so sure of my feelings I wouldn’t have done anything. I thought I loved her. I thought she loved me, but thinking back… She never did say those words. I think she was just getting off on playing us off against each other, really, she didn’t care about either of us. And I was stupid enough to fall for it, and now I’ve lost my best friend over some girl. I’ve been such an idiot, Ethan.’
Leon’s fist pounded the table once again. Ethan didn’t really know what to say.
‘Leon, mate… Andy has to hear all this. Have you tried to speak to him?’
‘A little. He’s not really speaking to me. I don’t blame him. Back in a minute, just going to the toilet.’ Leon strode off to the toilets, fiercing brushing the tears he was ignoring from his eyes.
Ethan sat there thinking everything through. He had no doubt that Amelia wasn’t blameless in all of this, despite what she’d said in her magazine article. He also knew that Leon did tend to get carried away, that he had a habit of not thinking about the consequences of his actions…
He was jolted from his thoughts as a pile of magazines appeared on the table in front of him. Looking up, he saw Andy sliding onto the seat next to him.
‘Andy! You’re early! Quite a bit early!’ A hurried glance at his watch told him that Andy was half an hour early. ‘And what the hell have you done to your hair?!’
Laughing, Andy ran a hand over his cropped locks. ‘I, er, I lost it a bit and cut my hair off. Amelia had always liked it long and floppy, so I thought I’d chop it and spike it. Not used to it myself! And you’re one to talk, you’re even earlier than I am!’
Ethan tried to contain his high-pitched nervous laughter, and turned his attention to the pile of magazines. ‘So what’s with the literature? Looking for a new clothes style too?’
Andy sighed and gazed down at the pile of magazines. ‘Amelia’s moving in with Tom Wordy.’
‘Yup. And they’re all reporting the same thing – they’ve been together for a year. We only broke up a couple of months ago. Apparently Tom said a year, then Amelia “hurriedly corrected” him saying that it only felt like a year. And Tom looked confused, you know how thick he is. I think… I think I need to speak to Leon. I think there’s more to this than him just carrying on with her behind my back.’ He looked up at Ethan sadly.
‘Mate, I am so sorry.’ Ethan placed a hand on Andy’s arm and squeezed it gently. ‘How on earth did she get away with it for so long?!’
‘Gnome knows.’ Andy stared moodily at the magazines, pouting a little. ‘Anyway, what are you doing here so early? I was wanting to get a drink and read through these things before you got here!’
‘Why did you want to read them?’
‘See what they’re all saying. See if I’m mentioned anywhere. What can I say, I’m a glutton for punishment! So why are you here?’
Andy realised that Ethan wasn’t looking at him, but something over his shoulder. Looking up, he realised just who it was.
After staring at one another speechlessly for a few seconds, both men looked at Ethan accusingly. ‘What the hell, Ethan?’ Leon frowned a little as Ethan shifted uncomfortably on his seat.
‘You know what? I think you two need to talk! I’m just going to go and er… Yeah!’ Ethan ran off to the bar. Leon tentively sat down next to Andy.
‘What’s with the magazines, Andy?’ He nodded at them, feeling a little unsure. Tension radiated.
‘Oh, you know. Just catching up on the ex. She’s moving in with Tom Wordy. Been with him a year, apparently.’
‘A year?!’ Leon was shocked. ‘She’s been with Tom Wordy a year? What the hell!’
‘Why so surprised? Shocked she cheated on you, too?’ Andy regretted his sneering words as soon as they left his mouth, watching as Leon visibly slumped. ‘Sorry. That was harsh.’
‘I deserved it though. I should never, ever have listened to her. I shouldn’t have done that to you.’
Andy bit his lip, thinking. ‘Did she… Did she say anything about how I was treating her? Anything about being overbearing, and just using her because she was a pretty blonde girl?’
Nodding, Leon looked at Andy. ‘Yeah. Almost those exact words. How did you know?’
Andy pushed a magazine over to Leon. ‘Page 6. Seems she has a script or something.’
Flicking through, Leon found the quote in the article, next to a huge picture of Amelia and Tom looking exaggeratedly happy. ‘Bloody hell, mate. I’m so sorry.’
‘I was spat at on the underground earlier by one of her fans,’ Andy said in a conversational manner. ‘Said I was the scum of the earth. Can you believe it?’
‘Are you joking?! Wow. I’m almost inclined to get you to do a response article, but that’s just playing her at her game. Aside from her tiny fanbase everyone else will know the truth. They know you’re not like that.’
Leon fell silent, and the two old friends sat thinking for a couple of minutes.
‘Andy… You have to know. If I didn’t think that what I was feeling was genuine, if I didn’t think that she loved me as much as she let me think she did… I would never. It was difficult enough believing all that crap, knowing it would ultimately hurt you. I was a stupid, naive idiot.’
‘True.’ Andy grinned.
‘Truth is, Leon, I miss you. I miss the band. But I miss hanging out with you and Ethan, like we always have done. It’s always been us three, ever since school. I’m not going to sit here and say I forgive you and let’s forget all about it, because that’s not true and I can’t do that. But I am prepared to work through this. Our friendship is the most important thing to me, and I want that back. What do you say?’
Leon hung his head. ‘I don’t deserve a friend like you, Andy Ryan. You’re too damn good for me.’
‘Well I’m too damn good for most people, so I have to sink down to the level of the lesser mortals if I want people to speak to,’ Andy joked. Leon laughed, rolling his eyes.
‘Thanks mate,’ he said, his eyes misting over. Andy smiled back at him as Ethan gingerly approached them.
Andy looked over at the small stage, laid out with instruments and a microphone. ‘I think it’s time we revisited our early days, boys!’
Ethan grinned, and the three friends walked over to the platform. Leon turned on the microphone, and addressed the few people in the bar. ‘Hey guys. Don’t mind us, we’re just going to go through a few numbers.’
‘Is that El Tigre?!’
‘Oh my god, they’re going to perform!’
‘I thought they’d split up!’
‘Never believe the rumours!’ Ethan called out, tuning the guitar quickly. Leon laughed and nodded. ‘Funnily enough, Rumours is the first song we’re going to do for you all!