Standing in the park, Dylan began to feel anxious. He’d been waiting for Melody for fifteen minutes now. Where was she?! Shifting from one foot to the other and trying not to make eye contact with the passers by who were probably staring at him sympathetically or laughing at the boy who’d been stood up… Oh, gnomes!
About to pull out his phone to text Melody, he noticed a red headed girl running down the path. ‘Dylan! Hi! Sorry I’m late!’
Relieved, Dylan shoved his phone back into his pocket and hugged Melody close as she finally reached him before pulling her into a spontaneous kiss.
‘Dylan! Wow, where did that come from?!’ Melody exclaimed as Dylan pulled away from her, feeling incredibly self conscious.
‘Well… I… Er…’ Dylan felt his cheeks burning, and he knew that Brad and the rest of the football team who were having a kickabout in the field over the road had just seen him. Great. He was never going to live that down!
‘Well, I liked it,’ Grinning flirtaciously, Melody squeezed Dylan’s hand gently, gazing into his eyes. ‘So, what are we going to do this evening?’
‘I… Er… Well, I don’t have that much time, actually,’ Dylan stammered. ‘I’ve only got an hour or so. I’ve got to go over to Louise’s to work on our Psychology presentation.’
‘What? You’d rather do your Psychology work than hang out with me?!’
‘I don’t have any choice! We’re already behind after Lou buggered off for ages, and it’s due in on Friday!’
‘Hmph. Fine, I won’t blame you!’ Melody simpered at Dylan, the cogs of her mind ticking away. ‘I can’t believe she just went off on holiday like that! She didn’t even tell me she was going away, you know. We’d been planning my party for ages, then she just left me right in the lurch!’
‘Seriously?!’ Dylan’s mouth gaped open. ‘I can’t believe she did that to you!’
‘Yeah, well, the party went just fine without her, didn’t it?’ Embracing Dylan, Melody planted another kiss on his lips. ‘Just make sure she doesn’t make you do all the work! I wouldn’t put it past her…’
* * *
‘Oh, hello you!’ Dylan forgot how annoyed he was about having to leave Melody for Louise’s house within thirty seconds of being approached by puppy Cooper. As the tiny pup sniffed his hand, he felt his anger melting away. ‘Who’s this little guy?’
Louise stood watching as her pup made friends, a small smile playing about her lips. ‘That’s Cooper. My Aunt and Uncle’s dog Layla had puppies while I was away, I got to bring one of them home with me. Well, eventually. He’s only just weaned, so he’s only just come home. My Aunt brought him yesterday.’
‘Well he’s adorable! Yes you are! Yes you… are…’ Dylan trailed off as he realised he’d been cooing over Cooper as if he were a baby. Macho, Dylan… So macho… He looked up at Louise and noticed her eyes were a little tear stained. ‘Hey, are you okay?’
Startled, Louise rubbed her eyes. ‘What? Yes! Yeah, I am. Anyway, we should get on…’
‘Right, right…’ Dylan looked around Louise’s apartment. ‘Hey, where’s your TV gone?’
‘Hm?’ Biting her fingernails, Louise looked to the obvious gap on the TV stand in the living area where Dylan was gesturing. ‘Oh… Er, my Dad took it.’
‘Took it where?’
‘…Let’s go into the dining room. We can work at the table in there, and we’re close to the fridge for snacks.’ Louise walked past Dylan without looking at him, and Dylan could’ve sworn she was wiping her eyes. Again. What on earth?
‘So if we talk about that, then finish with the point about Milgram and the ethical issues, then conclude it? That’ll be fine, won’t it?’
‘That’s great, Lou!’ Dylan nodded enthusiastically. ‘Do you think we could tie in something about Bandura with the Milgram ethical issues?’
‘Yes! We could do, that’s a brilliant idea!’ Louise began rifling through her textbook to find the page with the psychologist’s experiment on. ‘We’re so going to pass this!’
Dylan laughed as Louise began writing away frantically. I don’t know what Melody was talking about, he thought. Louise is pulling her weight. I don’t know why I thought she wouldn’t…
Half an hour later, the pair were writing out the conclusion to their presentation in neat. Dylan was about to ask Louise a question when Louise’s mother burst into the apartment, shouting down the mobile phone glued to her ear.
‘Of course I haven’t been answering my phone, Robert! I’ve been at work! …Oh of course I’m always in the office, it’s where I get my money from! How else am I going to be able to pay for the court fees and for the lawyers? How else am I going to keep this apartment? How else am I going to replace the television you took while we were staying at my sister’s? …Oh, whatever Robert, you cannot talk to me this way!’ Still on the phone and hardly noticing Louise and Dylan, Anita stormed up the stairs. Awkwardly, Dylan looked at Louise who was staring steadfastly at her exercise book.
‘Um… Lou -‘
‘Dylan! Please?’ Sighing, Louise continued to write her presentation as if nothing had happened. Dylan watched her for a few seconds before following suit, pretending not to notice the tears falling down his classmate’s cheeks until they started dropping onto the paper. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a tissue and slid it across the table to her.
‘…Thank you.’ Louise dabbed her eyes, still not meeting Dylan’s, before continuing with her work.
Pausing before returning to his own, Dylan looked at Louise. ‘Look… I know you don’t want to talk about anything, but if you want to hang out or anything once we’ve finished here, I’ve not got to get home or anything. Well, until curfew at any rate.’
Louise stiffened, her pen hovering above an i she was about to dot. ‘Thanks. I’d like that. Not that we have a TV to watch any more, or anything!’ For the first time since her mother burst into the apartment she met Dylan’s eyes, and the two burst out laughing.
‘I’m so jealous of Cooper! You’ve got a great pup there, Lou,’ Dylan said, smiling warmly at Louise. The pair had spent the evening playing with the boisterous puppy and talking about Robyn’s ants, and the time had flown by.
‘I really do! Bless him, he’ll sleep tonight,’ Louise said, gazing fondly at the puppy who’d passed out in his new doggy bed in the living room. ‘Don’t need a television with him about, do I?’
‘Not at all! …Lou… What’s happened? Why did you vanish from school for ages?’ Dylan asked quietly, half expecting Louise to throw him out. For a split second it looked like she was going to, but then…
‘My parents have split up. I imagine you got that from my Mother on the phone before. It’s… It’s a bit messy. He’s taken nearly everything that he can fit into a taxi and has gone to shack up with some woman I’ve never met before. It’s… Well, it’s all a bit crap at the moment.’ Louise took a deep breath, trying not to let the tears fall. ‘That’s why we went to stay with my Aunt and Uncle for a bit. Mum needed to get away.’
‘Oh, Lou. I’m so sorry…’ Dylan paused as he wondered why on earth Melody didn’t know any of this. Surely she wouldn’t be mad about her party if she did? ‘You know, if you need to take your mind off things for a bit, do you fancy coming to my sister’s birthday party on Friday, after our presentation? Melody’s coming, so you’ll know someone there, and there’s Rory and Charlie from our class coming too. Might be a bit of a distraction, you know?’
Louise nodded, smiling and sniffling at the same time. ‘You know, I’d really like that. Thank you, Dylan. Thanks for listening…’
* * *
‘Lou! Glad you came!’ As Louise walked into the room that had been decked out for Robyn’s birthday, looking a little self conscious, Dylan left Rory and Charlie and went over to greet her. ‘Can’t believe we got an A on that presentation!’
‘I can! Ours was clearly the best,’ Louise joked as she and Dylan walked over to the dancefloor. ‘Wow, this party’s great! Your parents really went to town, didn’t they?’ she said, nodding at the temporary dancefloor and buffet table.
‘Yeah, they’ve had people in an out of here all day moving stuff around. There’s usually a massive bookshelf against that wall, no idea how they’ve moved it out of here! Hey, I love this song! Want to dance?’ Grinning, Dylan twirled his way over to the dancefloor. Louise laughed and danced up to him. ‘I can’t believe you like this song! I thought that you’d only listen to El Tigre,’ she giggled.
‘Oh, don’t! I’m sure El Tigre were very cool back in the day given my dad’s sales figures and gold discs, but they’re so not for me!’ Dylan rolled his eyes as he and Louise danced along to the RnB blasting from the soundsystem.
‘Well, I think they’re pretty cool!’ Louise winked. Dylan was about to respond when he noticed Melody walk into the room.
‘Back in a bit, Lou! Hiya, Melody!’ Waving, Dylan ran around to see his girlfriend. Louise tried to keep the smile on her face and sat down at the table.
‘Dylan, hi! Sorry I’m late. Detention,’ Melody rolled her eyes. ‘What’s Louise doing here?’
‘Didn’t she tell you I’d invited her? Ah well! Would you like something to eat?’ Dylan guided Melody over to the buffet table, and the pair began to pile their plates high. Louise watched them, a bundle of conflicting emotions bouncing around inside of her until…
‘I thought you looked hungry,’ Rory smiled, placing a plate of cookies in front of Louise. ‘Brought you these.’
Lou looked up at him, thinking. ‘Thanks, Rory,’ she grinned. ‘That’s really kind of you!’ Before she could say anything else, Ivy clapped her hands.
‘Right everyone! It’s birthday cake time!’
As everyone crowded Robyn to wish her a happy birthday and to grab the best slice of cake, Melody pulled Dylan to one side. ‘So, Dylan! I was thinking… We’ve been dating for a while, now…’
Out of the corner of his eye Dylan saw Rory passing the two of them slowly, clearly listening in. Please don’t let Melody break up with me in front of my best friend… Please!
‘…And prom’s coming up real soon, isn’t it?’ Melody batted her eyelashes at Dylan. ‘I was wondering… We’re going together, aren’t we?’
‘We are? I mean, we are!’ Dylan almost laughed out loud in relief. ‘Melody, would you go to prom with me?’
‘Of course! Of course I will! Oh Dylan, it’s going to be just perfect!’
‘Dylan? What Dylan doing?’
‘Homework. Oh gnomes, why am I talking to this thing?’
‘What homework, Dylan?’
‘French not due in till Thursday, and tis Friday today! Why Dylan do now, after party?’
‘Because I’m busy this weekend.’
‘Busy with Puzzle?’
‘No! I’m going suit shopping and stuff. Prom things.’
‘Dylan going to prom?’
‘Yes. With Melody.’
‘Puzzle no like Melody. Puzzle like Louise. Dylan go to prom with Louise.’
‘No. Dylan go with Melody… Oh gnomes, I mean I’m going with Melody! Now get out of my head, you freak.’
‘Dylan can’t go with Louise anyway. Louise go with Rory.’
Dylan dropped his pen and looked directly at Puzzle. ‘What did you just say?’
‘Rory go with Louise to prom. Rory asked her today, at Robbie’s party.’
‘Oh… Oh, right,’ said Dylan as he turned back to his homework, an odd pain stabbing him in his stomach. ‘Well. I’m sure they’ll have a great time…’
‘Dylan play with Puzzle?’
‘Oh, sod off!’