It was the start of our game night. I had changed in one of my most comfortable pajamas and ordered three pizzas. We were all sitting around the coffee table, waiting for our dinner to finally arrive.
‘Whining about it won’t help, boys.’
‘Doesn’t make me less hungry.’
‘If anything, it makes me more hungry.’
I giggled, the two young men were already thinking and acting alike. Soon enough anyone would think it was them being the siblings, and not me. I didn’t mind. I was glad Liam got a good friend for once. Not like that awful Dave. I still had to do something with that, but what. It didn’t matter right now. It was game night, and I had to come up with some good questions.
‘How are we supposed to play anyway, Jack?’
‘Great question, Jules. I hadn’t really thought about that. Drinking game?’
‘Maybe for later tonight. Or not at all.’
‘Okay, how about we go in a circle and every time one of us comes with a question we all have to answer. So if I ask, what’s your favorite plant? I’ll say mine is cactus and you two respond with your favorite plants.’
‘It was an example, Liam. Do you get the point though?’
‘I do. It’s a good plan. You guys want to…’
My sentence was cut short by the bell ringing. Jack raced to the door to accept the pizza’s and pay the delivery boy. He was very gracious today, I noted. Sourly. What had gotten into him all of the sudden? He hadn’t been like that. Maybe because Liam was around to see it now. That didn’t make any sense, Julie. Or did it? Was Jack gay?
‘ Should we start?’
I wanted to know now. I wanted to see if I was right. Or well, I never thought he was gay up until now. I just assumed he wasn’t. Which was strange, I mean, a lot of people were gay. Not that I was against that, no. It just wasn’t on my mind a lot. I guess. Great, Julie. Now all you want to know is whether Jack likes guys or not. Maybe even Liam? Eww.
‘Who wants to go first?’
‘Okay, Julie. Let’s start.’
Was I going to ask it right away? Should I be subtle about it? Should I wait a few questions? The suspense was already killing me. Well, not really. But I did want to know. Why did I want to know anyway? I liked him. Yes, Julie. You like him. No. No. No. I didn’t like Jack.
‘Do you guys have a crush on somebody right now?’
‘Yeah, that nurse was way hot.’
‘I didn’t need to know that it was the nurse, Liam.’
‘I like someone. A lot.’
‘I don’t like anyone.’
‘That still makes me want to know who Jack likes.’
‘I won’t tell. It wasn’t part of the question.’
‘I am not.’
‘Let’s not fight. My question was answered. It’s Jack’s turn.’
So, Jack did like someone. Liam’s crush was just a random crush on a big breasted girl. Sigh, Liam. I should’ve raised you to be better than that. It didn’t matter. I knew Jack liked someone. A question for later would be, who. I could almost hear myself cackling manically at that. What the hell, Julie?
‘Alright. My question is, what was your favorite moment from childhood?’
‘Oh, difficult one.’
‘I know mine, though. Liam might not even remember it.’
‘Then tell us.’
‘It was summer and mom and dad had taken us to the beach. It was a perfect day, extremely hot, but with a nice cold breeze. While mom kept attacking us with suntan lotion, dad would have fun with us. Sand castles, water fights, the whole shebang. Finally at the end of the day mom finally agreed to us getting some ice cream. All burnt up and beyond tired dad, Liam and me made our way to the ice cream stand. Liam the little bugger he was of course wanted as much ice cream as possible. Dad finally agreed to him getting three scoops. I got two. He sat us down at a picnic table so we could eat. Dad and I talked about the day but when we heard a snore we looked up. And Jack was there, having fallen asleep in his ice cream face first. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed that hard in my life again.’
‘That’s hilarious. I can totally see baby Liam face first in ice cream.’
‘That didn’t happen. You’re making this up.’
‘You were too young to remember, Liam.’
‘Or you’re just lying.’
‘No fighting, children. It was a lovely story Julie. Your go now, Liam.’
Liam was still slightly pink from my story, and I couldn’t blame him. The day truly had been my favorite. Everything about it had been perfect start to end. I never thought about it a lot, but whenever a did I couldn’t keep a huge grin from forming on my face. Liam and I really needed to make new wonderful memories like that. I hoped we could, soon. I wanted to get that connection back. The feeling of family. I never thought I missed it that much, but I did. I missed it so much.
‘Okay well mine’s with Grandpa. Julie wasn’t there. But me, gramps and dad went fishing. I was still very young. Only nine. It was just months before gramps died.’
I remembered that. Liam had always been very close with our grandpa, closer than with mom and dad. They just fit like two peas in a pod. Our grandfather adored Liam, and couldn’t wait to see him every weekend. Mom never went with us to see grandpa because of an old fight that had been left festering. I didn’t even know about what it was. But dad and Liam went a lot.
‘And this one Saturday we went fishing. It was my first time and I was super excited. We drove all morning to find a good creek, and grandpa would tell all kinds of stories about his childhood while dad drove and I listened. Mom had packed us all kinds of great food and it was just perfect. So we went to the creek and Gramps taught me how to do everything. I was good at it, better than dad even. We would catch the fish, but we always let them go again. And at this one moment I got a bit too enthusiastic and the line got caught on dad’s pants and I pulled a little and dad went down, straight into the creek. I was really worried but Grandpa told me it was fine, he hauled dad up and together we all laughed.’
‘I remember that day. Dad came home smelling so bad. Like sewer.’
‘Yeah. It was great, we laughed and laughed. The fish had all fled so we packed up again and drove to a seafood restaurant. Best dinner in my life!’
‘That sounds so nice. I’m sure it was very funny to see.’
Jack seemed a little down all of the sudden. I frowned. Had we said something wrong? We couldn’t possibly have. I mean, it was just stories about our childhoods. I chewed on a piece of pizza thoughtfully and the room grew silent again. It was strange, we had just been goofing around and now all of it was gone. I looked at Liam, seeing that he was slightly nervous as well.
‘I’ve got one.’
It took me all of my strength not to sigh in relief. Without looking I knew Liam felt the same. I fell quiet, listening to Jack’s story.
‘I remember, it was the holiday in France. We went to Normandy. I was still young, very young. It was nice. The beach, little shops. Family. I think I was about six then. I don’t remember too much, just that I liked it a lot.’
‘Sounds like a wonderful vacation, Jack.’
‘It was, Jules. It was.’
We were silent for a moment. All of us where taken by a sudden awkwardness. The sudden realization that we didn’t even know all that much about each other. Yes, that was what this was for, but still. A cloud of darkness seemed to cast itself over Jack whenever we discussed something from the past. It freaked me out, I was sure there was more to the story. But also quite sure that Jack wasn’t ready to tell me. I hoped that he would trust me enough for that sometime in the future. Wait. What? I was starting to get more and more attached to Jack. Caring even. Was this smart? Letting a complete stranger in like this? Ugh, my head felt like exploding. Nothing of anything made sense.
‘Let’s move on, okay. I think I have a good question. If I may say so myself.’
‘Alright then, Jack. Let’s hear it.’
‘Tell me the story of your first time really being drunk. I think our little duckling Julie should start.’
‘You heard me, Jules. Let’s hear the wild stuff.’
I thought about it. I had never been a big drinker, always sticking to a few glasses of wine during a slow evening at home. I never went to any of the college parties, always opting to just drink by myself. I never got drunk though. I think? Whenever I felt a buzz coming up then I just quit. Shit! The first time was at the dance. Liam would never let me hear the end of it.
‘Do I have to tell?’
‘Yes, Jules. That’s the game, isn’t it?’
‘Okay fine, fine. Just… Don’t laugh.’
‘I wouldn’t dare.’
‘Okay, well the first time was the night of your accident. The dance. I had never really been drunk before that night.’
I dreaded looking at Liam. Afraid of his reaction. My curiosity won and I gazed towards Liam. His mouth was slightly ajar and his eyes big. We stared at each other for a moment before Liam started laughing.
‘Good one, Jules. Good one.’
‘It’s the truth, Jack.’
‘Can someone fill me in on what’s happening?’
‘Yes seriously. And Jack, I got drunk the night of Liam’s accident. Some dude drugged me and filled me up with alcohol. Liam managed to save me at the last possible moment. Quite heroic.’
Liam snorted, the seriousness returning to his face. He still wasn’t happy about what had happened that night. I should’ve known better. Liam didn’t even have to tell me that. I knew I had been way stupid. But what’s been done has been done. No changing it now. I regretted it. Every part of my stupid decision to mingle with the popular people. It had been wrong, everything about it had been wrong. I would’ve never been able to write a novel about that.
‘Julie, I’m still not happy about all that. You should’ve known better.’
‘I know, Liam. I’m sorry. It’s one of my biggest regrets after letting go of you.’
Silence. Again. I sighed. This game night was a disaster. It got way too serious way too quick. It made me nervous, vulnerable. It was new. I didn’t know whether I should trust these two young men before me with everything. But I felt like I had to. I owed Liam that. I owed everyone clarity and honesty. I owed that to myself too. Never again would I try to be someone I was not.
‘Sigh, I suppose there’s nothing we can do about it now.’
‘What has happened, happened. Julie, Liam, what’s important is the now. And how you two deal with the past. Moving forward.’
‘I guess we should move forward. I’d want nothing more. I know we have to talk about everything, Liam. And we will. Just not now.’
‘Fair enough. Jack, your story.’
I felt somewhat relieved. Liam’s tone made me nervous though, strict and short. Like he always was when he was upset. I would have to talk to him about it. Sooner rather than later. I cast my eyes down and looked at my hands. Our mother’s wedding ring was on my right hand. I had it remade to fit my finger and always wore it. While I hadn’t been too close with our mother, I still needed to have some sort of connection with her. I missed her, and dad for that matter. I missed the advice, the help.
‘Well that’s actually a funny story.’
Jack launched into a whole monologue about his adventures as a teenager. I hardly listened. I looked at his lips moving and his hands gesturing. I looked at his bouncy, curly hair and his slightly crooked nose. I watched the fine lines on his face deepen as he laughed and I heard the low rumbling of his laughter. It sounded wonderful, really. He was wonderful. Wait. Shit! No, Julie. You can’t. You can’t fall for Jack. No, it’s not done. Not so soon and not so quick. But damn, he was nice. Wonderful even. Was this the prince charming everybody wrote about in the books? Was this the kind of love Elizabeth felt for Mr. Darcy? Was it? I didn’t know. But I knew I was falling for him, and fast.
‘So yeah, that’s why I’m never drinking Whiskey again.’
‘That’s actually a hilarious story. Whiskey, damn. Best drink in the world.’
‘Oh I beg to differ…’
I watched Liam and Jack banter. They got along so well. If this was a comic I would have a big question mark above my head. How? Why? How did we get here. Why did they get along. What had compelled the universe to bring Liam and I back together. And add Jack to that wonderful mix. It was strange, really strange.
‘Well then, Liam. Let’s hear your story.’
Wait? Had I missed Jack’s story. I felt like face palming. No! No! I wanted to know, damnit. I wanted to know more about Jack, everything there was to know. I sighed. Great job, Julie. Getting lost in thought when Jack tells something.
‘Well it’s not all that special really. I was fifteen. Home alone. Some friends came over and they brought liquor. Yeah, and me being the young spirit I decided that was the moment to show my friends what I was made of. So I took the bottle and chucked half of it back. I don’t even remember what it was. Something strong. My friends were so pissed at me for drinking most of it.’
‘Liam, are you kidding me? You drank at fifteen? And you didn’t tell me about it? You call me out on my behavior, yet here you are, with loads of mistakes.’
‘Chill, Julie. It happened once. I puked, went to bed and in the morning it was okay again. Don’t you dare to blame me for anything. I was a kid. You were an adult just a few weeks ago.’
On the inside I felt like burning. Like raging and mothering. I loved Liam, and at this point I wanted nothing more than to protect him. But at this point all it did was make me regret my mistakes from the past even more. If I had been there for him more often he wouldn’t have done it. I was sure of it.
‘Thanks, Jules. You’re really trying your best to destroy this ‘fun’ night.’
‘I’m not. I just… I.’
‘Why don’t we go to the next question. Julie, it’s your turn.’
I sighed. What should I ask now. Perhaps something light. To cheer up the mood a bit. But what? I doubt they’d even have a favorite book. Well, maybe it would still be worth asking about it.