The party roared around Quentin. The drink in his cup did nothing to lessen the noise of laughing college kids and music that pierced through his ears. He could barely hear himself think. He pressed his head against the wall he rested on. As he opened his eyes, he found a confidant dancer that captured the attention of Quentin and a few other party goers. Long flowing hair danced with her and the glittery unicorn on her shirt further enforced the fantastical quality of the dancer. Her hips swayed side to side, and her slender arms moved around her to the rhythm of the music. He watched closely, intently, until her eyes met his stare.
Quentin quickly looked to the side, fearful of creating any contact between him and this mystical girl. Then, his eyes met with Julia’s. She was surrounded by friends and with her was James. Quentin envied how comfortable they were with each other, even at a party like this.
Julia smiled at Quentin from her seat on James’ lap and Quentin returned the favor with a weak grin. He was happy to see his best friend having a good time, even if he, himself, was miserable.
She waved for him to join her and her friends, but Quentin felt more comfortable in his little corner on the floor. As he sipped from his cup, Julia then nodded towards the dancer Quentin had been watching before. Judging by her expression, it was her way of telling him to “go for it.” A wave of embarrassment crashed into him. Had Julia noticed him staring at her? Quentin wanted to hide even more after that. He gestured to his empty cup and stood up to fade into the back of the apartment.
Julia watched him go. She was disappointed Quentin wasn’t enjoying himself. Lately he had been feeling down, so she hoped this party would help him socialize and have a good time but even that wasn’t enough to pull Quentin out of his misery.
Later that night, as the party continued to thrive, Quentin fought his way to the crowd and made it to his bedroom. With only one lamp on close to his bed, Quentin buried himself under the story of the Chatwin kids and their adventures throughout Fillory. These books always sparked imagination and happiness in him and Julia when they were kids. Reading them now, under the anxieties of being forced to party with other college kids, offered him some sort of security. The more he read, though, the more distracted he got. Instead of thinking about Fillory, all of his thoughts were on Julia. Maybe it was the bad beer talking, but she was the only thing he could think about. What if it had been Julia dancing in front of him? He could picture her bright smile as she swayed her hips to the beat of the music and imagined her inviting him do dance with her.
Quentin dropped his book and rubbed his face, trying to wipe away all of these thoughts. Julia was with James. It was clear the two of them were happy, so how could Quentin let his lingering feelings for her rear their jealous head and ruin it for them? He didn’t want to be responsible for ruining the happiness that Julia deserved, even if it meant sacrificing his own happiness.
Quentin took a deep breath and reached over to turn off the lamp. He knew he couldn’t sleep with the amplified noise outside of his room, but he still wanted to try.
Minutes later, after Quentin had finally relaxed, he heard the familiar click of the door opening and closing behind him. Soft footsteps tapped against the wooden floor then stopped. The visitor crawled into the bed next to Quentin and after a few metallic creeks, there was silence again.
Breaking the silence, Julia wrapped her arms around him and rested her head against his back.
“Hey, Julia,” Quentin responded softly. “Where’s James?”
Julia giggled and it made Quentin's heart skip a beat.
“James is out there enjoying the party, which is something you should be doing too.”
“Hmm,” he closed his eyes and sighed,”it was too loud. Not really feeling it tonight.”
“But it’s your party, Q. You shouldn’t be cooped up in here reading a book you’ve read a hundred times.”
“How did you-“ before Quentin could question her, he felt Julia push the book over to his side of the bed. Again, he was embarrassed. While the two of them read those books throughout their childhood, Quentin was the only one that still bothered to pick them up. He assumed Julia grew out of the magical stories, but for Quentin they were much more than that.
“I’m reading them one more time before I sell them online,” he lied.
“Oh, really?” Julia laughed again, this time it sounded forced.
“Yeah. Starting over. Can’t be an adult until you sell the old comic book collection, y’know?”
“Q,” Julia whispered. She was quiet again, waiting for Quentin to face her.
As he turned around, her was greeted with beautiful chocolate brown eyes that seemed to glow in the dim light in the room. On her face was an expression he was painfully familiar with. Julia was worried. Worried about him. It made his chest twinge with agony.
“Q, are you ok?” she asked. Her face was so close now, and Quentin could smell the cheap beer on her breath as they looked at one another. He sighed as her hand met his and their fingers interlocked. The touch was warm and gentle but did nothing to diminish that unwelcome feeling hammering away in his chest.
“I will be,” Quentin finally answered. Julia’s face shifted, but as she sat up, he couldn’t tell what she was feeling.
“What’s bothering you?” Julia looked down at him, still holding his hand tightly in hers. “And don’t blame the party. You’ve been acting different long before the party tonight.”
Leave it to Julia to notice the little things Quentin attempted to hide. She knew what was wrong. He knew it was obvious to her, and yet Julia expected Quentin to be the one to say it. How unfair.
Quentin looked away, keeping his gaze focused on a poster that hung on the wall next to the bed. He tried to ignore the ache in his chest but it was becoming more difficult each time he felt Julia’s thumb glide against the back of his hand.
“Please. I just want to help,” Julia pleaded.
Rolling his eyes, Quentin snapped, allowing his anger to lash out at her. “Yeah, I’m always the one that needs your help. I needed your help with Yale, with making friends, with everything.”
“Quentin…” Julia’s voice was weak, and he could feel her stare but refused to look at her. He didn’t want to see the sorrow fill her eyes.
“I know you have to fix everything, Jules, but I’m not broken. You don’t need to fix me.”
“You know that wasn’t what I meant,” she argued with bitterness slipping into her voice.
“Then what did you mean, Julia?” Quentin’s head snapped forward to finally look her in the eye. Instead of sadness, he was met with anger. The same anger that he had be holding back was inside of Julia, too.
Julia leaned down far enough to touch her nose against his.
“You don’t get to be mad at me,” she whispered to him. “I waited and waited for you to be honest with me, Quentin. I really did. Then, James came along and you didn’t do a fucking thing. So, yeah, no. You don’t get to be mad.”
“What was I supposed to do, Jules?” Quentin’s voice was louder now, “Was I supposed to come up to you and tell you that you’re the love of my life? Would we have gotten together and been happy or would I have ruined our friendship?”
“You should have ruined it,” Julia retorted with exasperation.
“I, what-“ Quentin stared at her for a moment. “I should have what?”
Julia moved back, lengthening the distance between them. Quentin could hardly see her face now.
“You should have ruined it,” she repeated, now with a softer tone. Julia’s free hand moved up to Quentin’s shoulder as she watched him closely. Moving in closer, she felt his hand move against her hip. He could feel her rapid heartbeat against his chest. Slowly, Quentin lifted his head to meet his lips with hers.
Julia’s lips were soft against his own. Her body pressed down against him and he could feel her fingers clenching his shoulder. A flurry of emotions crossed through Quentin’s mind as he returned the kiss with eager passion. As many times as he had imagined this, he was unsure of how to move forward. He was scared to.
The two of them finally broke away to breathe and a soft gasp left Julia as she down looked at Quentin. She released his hand and brought her own fingers against her lips. Before the two of them could face what they had done, the bedroom door opened again.
“There you two are!” James shouted with a bright smile. He hopped up on to the bed, making the springs creak and strain with his sudden wait. “Threesome!”
Others soon poured into the room with laughter and energetic smiles. Eventually Julia and Quentin found themselves joking in on the fun after the bed fell under the weight of three other party goers. It might have been a mistake for them to kiss, but in that moment he was glad to see there was a chance their friendship would stay intact.