Lee scanned the corners of the kitchen. She wasn’t there. Simon shrugged his shoulders and Joel was lost in swigging a huge mouthful of wine.
‘We were too busy enjoying ourselves watching you two,’ admitted Simon. ‘I didn’t see her leave. Maybe she just went to the lav. I’m sure she’s fine, man.’
Joel’s face was red. He was grinning insanely.
‘Good wine eh, Case?’ he thrust his glass towards me. I was just about to chink it when he pulled it away and necked the lot, reaching for the bottle. ‘Hey, Dez, where’s your drink you pussy willow?’
Lee’s not a big drinker. It’s something I could never understand about him. Drinking is good and relaxing. I don’t know what I’d do without my Dad’s wine cellar. I have seen him tipsy but never drunk, even on New Year’s Eves back home when he’s had house parties, he’s the one who’s holding girls’ hair back while they hurl into the back of the toilet bowls. He has told me, and he said he would only ever tell me once, that drinking is bad and smoking is bad, but he would never forbid me from doing those things. He just had to put it out there. He doesn’t like me drunk and he hates the smell of my baccy-breath. Oh shit. I needed a cigarette.
I really needed a smoke. I noticed that Simon hadn’t smoked since we’d been in the kitchen. I was dying to ask him why but I was unsure of what Lee would say. Joel would only be smoking when he’d had a lot more to drink, and had a secret stash that he claimed he only dipped into when drinking. That made him a smoker too because Joel was always at the bottle.
‘Casey love.’ Joel was sipping his next glass of wine. ‘First off, tell Dez that he needs to get some drink down him and get this spook-fest party started. Secondly, do you want a fag as much as I do right now?’
I could’ve kissed him.
I stood up, feeling a little bit warm around the cheeks and not really bothered what ‘Dez’ would say. That was something I needed to rectify.
‘Why the fuck do they call you Dez, anyway?’ I said. My voice sounded echoey around the kitchen suddenly.
Simon started laughing.
‘Oh, sweetheart.’ (looking at Lee) ‘Haven’t you told her?’
Lee shook his head and poured himself some wine. Smiling at me, resigned.
‘Oh, well, you see Simon, darling, I don’t actually know why. You never told me, did you?’
Simon started laughing, his shiny black hair dropping over his eyes again. He pushed it aside and I saw his gorgeous green eyes sparkling. My heart skipped. It was the wine, definitely the wine.
He pointed at Joel who was doing that silent laughter thing again.
‘Jo. Over to you.’
Joel couldn’t talk. I was standing there above them like a dork, waiting for some bizarre answer to a question I had actually forgotten. I looked at him and started laughing. He looked at me and his shoulders started shaking even more, his eyes disappeared as his hilarity caved his face right in. Lee started laughing and Simon was pointing, his mouth open, laughter being sucked in and out again.
‘Ok.’ I managed to say. ‘I’m going to have a cigarette. Where can we smoke?’
Simon stood up and walked around the table towards me, taking his tobacco out of his pocket at the same time.
‘We’re not allowed to smoke inside here.’ He was still on the edge of laughing. ‘Apparently there are some potentially flammable materials in the building and so it’s out in the cold night air for us. I was putting it off, but you’ve twisted my arm Case. Let’s go. Joel? Dez?’
He was laughing again as I followed him outside. I couldn’t help it, forgive me. I was looking at his ripped jeans and how they fitted him perfectly, the black t-shirt he was wearing with The Smiths written across the back, his scent which was of a musky spice. I was window shopping with no intent to buy.
We all congregated, Dez included, outside in the cold summer air. British summers are never warm enough to stand outside in t-shirts, but we had alcohol in our blood so it didn’t seem as bad. Lee cuddled me again and I felt warm and nice. My roll-up was heavenly and I felt chilled out, happy.
They told me why Lee was called Dez. Apparently it’s an ‘Urban Slang’ thing of Joel’s. He actually reads this dictionary on line and uses this slang. ‘Derek’ is a boy or guy who is very attractive to the opposite sex! I wanted to know how my Lee had got that name, under what circumstances, but I was afraid to ask to be honest. I know all about Lee’s exes and wanted to keep that convo between us.
Joel was hilarious, telling us about this girl in his class who had been writing him love letters in code that he couldn’t decipher, and didn’t want to. He had been replying just using random symbols that she used all jumbled up, not knowing what the hell they meant but she clearly did know because she was continuing with the saga. Lee was like, be careful, you could hurt her, but Joel was too busy taking the piss to listen. I must admit it was funny.
Suddenly, there were car headlights right in our faces. Joel started screaming, ‘Oh shit my bastard eyes, my mubberflucking eyes!’ and we just shielded ourselves with our arms.
Car doors swung open. A girl’s voice that I didn’t know shouted out,
‘Hey guys! How are you all? Are you settled in?’
‘Hey there Chlo!’ shouted Simon and Joel.
Lee said, ‘Oh crap, that’s where Anna went, to pick her up.’