There's nothing in the world like watching Simon Snow dance.
You would think he'd be awful at it—he's a clumsy fuck. In our bedroom, he's always bumping into every surface and knocking over everything that's not nailed down, waking me up at ungodly hours. At the welcome mixer at the beginning of the year, he tripped and spilled red wine all down the front of Agatha Wellbelove's white dress. (It was hilarious, but God only knows why she agreed to date him afterwards.) (Okay. His face might have a thing or two to do with that.)
Bottom line, he's a total mess.
But not when he's dancing.
Can you get drunk on lust? I think I'm getting more intoxicated just watching him. My head is spinning watching him move to the beat of this TroyBoi song. Watching his biceps flex in the multi-colored strobe lights, his hips sway and thrust, his fingers run through his curls in an almost shy gesture. Seeing his face light up with unabashed smiles at his friends.
As if I wasn't already horribly in love with him.
"Sorry about the wait." Dev claps me on the back and hands me my glass. "The line at the bar's mad."
I wrench my gaze away from Snow and take a sip of my gin martini. It's not quite dirty enough—it never is, not unless my Aunt Fiona makes it—but I sip it down greedily anyways. All I need tonight is to get stupidly drunk, and this cocktail will certainly get the job started, if nothing else.
"So," Dev says with a lopsided smile. He's already a bit tipsy from our pregaming, the lightweight. "See any blokes you like?"
"Of course that's the first thing you ask," I reply. Dev is the thirstiest bastard I've ever met.
"Look how fit Agatha looks," he says with an over-exaggerated sigh. "I heard her and Ginger broke up last weekend."
Agatha is known to date around a lot casually. After Simon, there's been a few others—most recently, Ginger, a pretty foreign exchange student from America—but her relationships never last long.
"She's still never going to go for you, Dev."
"Your lack of confidence wounds me," he deadpans and I huff out a laugh.
"She's only ever single for a week at a time," I remind him.
"Today marks a week. I could be next."
Dev looks so sincerely hopeful that I can't bring myself to say something shitty. He's been crushing on Wellbelove since move-in day. I don't get everyone's infatuation with her. I mean, she looks like a Disney princess, sure. But she seems as one-dimensional as a Disney princess, as well.
But I'm gay and pining for her ex-boyfriend, so. I'm biased.
"I should go ask her to dance, yeah?" Dev asks, looking over my shoulder.
I follow Dev's line of vision. I mean to look over at Agatha, but my gaze slips back over to Simon again. His wild hair, his blue jumper, his tight jeans. He looks so goddamned fit tonight—probably thanks to Wellbelove, who came over to our bedroom to dress him this evening. (If she or Bunce don't pick out his outfit, he takes it upon himself to show up to everything in ratty joggers. I'm convinced the man would wear a lacrosse jersey to his own wedding if someone let him.)
I've got an early wave of nostalgia watching him. I don't know when I'm going to see him again; it's our last night in the room. We had our finals today, and now we're all done with our first year at Imperial College London. After two hundred and seventy-three days of sharing a room with the messiest, thickest, chavviest prat I've ever met, I'll never have to see him again.
I'm absolutely miserable about it.
I don't take my eyes off Simon when I say to Dev, "Where's the harm in that?"
Dev pretends not to hear the heavy sarcasm in my tone. "Right? Let's go over there."
I sigh. I think about the time we were eight, and Dev's mum said he couldn't have any apple pie before Christmas dinner. He ate the whole thing, and then threw up all over his place setting before the first course was even served. I know he's not going to be deterred.
And, if I'm being honest, I want to take advantage of this last night in Simon Snow's presence. Even if we spend the entire night snarling insults at one another, it's better than nothing.
If this is my last chance, I better take it.
My mouth drops when I spot him in the corner of the club. "What is Baz Pitch doing here?"
"Uh, celebrating? You know we just finished our first year of uni, right?" Aggie asks with a flip of her hair. I look away from him to roll my eyes at her.
"But he's Baz," I say for clarification, but Penny and Agatha are staring at me like they aren't following my point.
Baz is an uptight, callous, posh bastard. He wouldn't know good time if it sauntered up to him and gave him a lap dance. He spends most of his time studying—sometimes even into the early hours of the morning. (We fight like mad about it when he tries to get his reading done late, because he insists on pointing his desk lamp right at my bed so I can't sleep.) The last place I'd expect to find him is at a trashy club.
But, for some reason, he's here. And he's… "He's coming over here," I hiss to Penny and Agatha.
"Oh no. People we know are coming over to talk to us. Phone the police," Agatha deadpans.
I cut her a look. "Look, Agatha, you're really overdoing the sarcasm today."
"Sorry, bad mood. My Chemistry final was today and I totally ballsed it up. Just need something to get my mind off of it," she says suggestively, her eyes in Baz's direction. My pulse jumps to my throat.
"Don't hook up with Baz," I hiss.
"Okaaay." Agatha raises both her eyebrows at me. "I was looking at Dev, but your preferences are noted."
I feel my face heat up. I stammer out, "S-sorry."
It's not like I care who Aggie hooks up with in general. Our breakup was for the best, really—when she realised she was aromantic, we both agreed that we wanted different things. We work much better as friends; there's none of the pressure there was those months we were dating. But that doesn't mean I want her sleeping with Baz.
"Be polite," Penny says. "I invited Shepard to meet us here, and I don't want you scaring him off with your hostility."
"He knows that Baz and I hate each other. Everyone knows. Rhys started running that hall-wide betting pool on who would punch the other one first just three weeks into term." (It was me.)
"Yes, but Shepard is so… American. He'll be smiley and awkward and try to fix it, and that'll be annoying."
"That would literally be impossible," I tell her.
And it's true—Baz and I are unfixable. We've been fighting from day one. He swaggered into our bedroom with his Rolex watch and five-hundred pound haircut and fleet of suitcases, took one look at my hand-me-down clothes and scuffed trainers and solitary backpack of belongings, and decided on the spot I was scum under his Oxfords. I tried to be friendly—I smiled at him, held out my hand to shake his, and he got this pinched expression on his face. He was only cold and standoffish, at first, but he got right hostile quick enough.
It's been a year of fighting and insults and tense silences. I was so naively excited to meet my freshman year roommate. I thought it'd be just like the movies, and we'd be best mates. But Baz has been the most unhappy surprise of uni—and I once walked into the communal loo at 3 a.m. to find Gareth openly and drunkenly wanking over the sink at his own reflection.
"Wouldn't stop Shep. He's persistent." Penny's trying to sound miffed, but her voice is inexplicably fond. Despite her frequent put-downs, I've suspected she has a crush on Shepard for a while now. She's just got a funny way of showing it.
"I'll be nice if he's nice," I say, knowing that Baz won't be nice. (He's not a nice person—he's the sort of bloke who'd make a toddler cry and then laugh about it.)
Penny takes my compromise as a victory—that, or she realises we don't have any more time to talk about it, because Baz and Dev are already over here.
"Hey," Dev greets us all (though, he's really just looking at Agatha). I think he's trying to do the devil without a care smirk thing that Baz specializes in, but it doesn't look quite as provocative when Dev does it. Agatha smiles back, and I can tell by the sparkle in Dev's eye that she already has him.
Baz doesn't say hi. No one else seems to notice or care that he's being rude—Penny's looking at her phone, and Agatha's looking at Dev—except for me.
"Well, hello," I say to him, my voice harsher than I intended.
He raises a single eyebrow at me in response. That's his signature move. His silences don't mean what mine do when we fight. When I get quiet, it means I've run out of comebacks. When he gets quiet, it means I'm not worth his breath.
I'm gritting my teeth in irritation, and about to say the sort of thing Penny's already warned me against, when she says, "Oh, Shepard's here! He's just waiting in line outside; he said he'd meet us on the third floor."
The third floor is where the band's playing. Shepard is really into live music—he's always inviting us to see underground DJs with him. Penny went once, claimed she got too much 'glitter and other unmentionables' in her hair, and refused to ever go with him again. Penny's in a good mood tonight though; she doesn't even mention that fateful outing as we make our way up the stairs. (Though, it's possible she's just waiting to roast him about it to his face.)
It feels like a different world when we get out of the stairwell. It's part of this club's charm; every floor has a different theme. A traditional bar on the first floor, a florescent dance party on the second floor, a pop punk live band on the third floor, and a chill smoke spot on the roof. Whenever you're sick of one kind of party, you just switch floors to the next.
It seems they've got a band covering The Killers on tonight. The lead singer's crooning theatrically into the mic: He doesn't look a thing like Jesus, but he talks like a gentleman. He's not half as handsome as Brandon Flowers, but he's got a decent voice. I nudge Penny on the shoulder and nod my chin over to the band. She grabs my hand, and we head past the bar, over to an empty patch of space to the right of the stage.
"You sit there in your heartache!" Penny yells into an imaginary mic in her hand and I laugh. She's been so stressed about school this week; it's nice to see her carefree and smiling.
"Waiting on some beautiful boy to, to save you from your old ways!" I sing back to her. I've got a God-awful singing voice, but the bass guitar drowns it out.
My favourite part of coming to these clubs is the dancing. Sure, the places are always overcrowded and the drinks are overpriced and half the people here are just trying to get a good Instagram picture. It's cliche, but there's never a time where I'm happier than when I'm dancing like nobody's watching.
Except someone is watching—Baz.
He's walked over with Agatha and Dev, who are dancing alongside me and Penny. But Baz is stiff and awkward, nodding offbeat to the song with his narrowed eyes on me.
It's so uncomfortable it almost makes me want to stop dancing. ( Almost. I don't, because there's nothing better than scream-singing to songs you loved in secondary school with your best friend.)
I close my eyes to stop myself from staring at Baz. I spend the whole song looking at the back of my eyelids, letting myself feel the drums and bass in my bones, yelling the lyrics at the top of my lungs to drown out my thoughts.
When the song ends and I open my eyes, Baz is still looking at me with a blank expression.
I frown at him as I try to gauge what that particular look means. He only really has a few: angry, sadistically amused, bored, fixated. This one's close to fixated… but different somehow. He seems almost taken aback at being caught staring—his eyes widen slightly and his lips part for just a moment—before his face falls cleanly into a bored, haughty look.
"Got a problem with The Killers, mate?" I ask, though it doesn't really come out as a question. (Because, who the fuck doesn't like The Killers?) I forget to wait for a response, because that's the moment that Mr. Brightside starts playing, and listening to Mr. Brightside is literally a religious experience.
All of us dance and sing and jump around to the fast-paced drum beat with matching grins on our faces. All of us, of course, except Baz.
During the guitar solo after the chorus, I yell at him, "Lighten up, Pitch! Dancing won't kill you, you know. You can't possibly enjoy being such a boring git."
He glares at me and opens his mouth to speak, but I cut him off by singing along with the song's lyrics.
"I'm coming out of my cage, and I've been doing just fine!"
"I'm plenty light enough, thank you very much—"
"It was only a kiss, it was only a kiss!"
"This is just not my idea of a good time, and quite frankly, I believe that—"
"Now they're going to bed, and my stomach is sick—"
"Jesus fucking Christ, are you even listening to me?"
"'Cause I just can't look, it's killing me! And taking control..."
Baz doesn't try to talk to me for the rest of the song.
After the outro, the song gets a huge applause from the audience. The lead singer announces they'll be taking a quick break at the bar, and the lights are turned up. In the newfound brightness, I can clearly see Baz's scowling face.
I should just ignore him.
"What?" I snap.
"I just think," he starts, self righteousness dripping from his tongue, "that Mr. Brightside is overrated and cliche."
I gape at him, and swiftly forget all of my promises to Penny. "Did you hit your head, mate?"
"You sure? I feel like that's the only reasonable explanation for disliking Mr. Brightside, " I say. "It's a classic."
Baz huffs. "That means nothing. Just because something is classic doesn't mean it's good. It can still be an awful song."
Several people look over to give us dirty looks. (Probably because they know Mr. Brightside is a national treasure, and saying otherwise is slander.) Baz doesn't notice; he's too busy glaring down his nose at me.
"Why do you hate me so much?" I'm afraid my voice comes out more vulnerable than I intend it to, but if it does, Baz doesn't notice (that, or he just doesn't care).
"I don't know," he sneers. "Maybe because you're insufferable."
My blood boils, and I have to clench my fists to keep from punching him square in the nose. (It hasn't really healed right since I last succumbed to that urge, and he said the next time I maim him, he's sticking me with the hospital bill.) "Thank God I won't have to see your self-righteous arse any more after tomorrow," I snap.
Baz opens his mouth to respond, but he's interrupted by a jolly, American voice.
"Hey, guys!" Shep greets us all with a smile (plus a wink for Penny).
I turn my back on Baz. He turns me into a time bomb—he lights me up from the inside, electrifies my every cell with a furious energy, and doesn't stop until I explode. I can't stand it any longer—this unstable tension between us.
"Hey, mate," I say to Shepard. "Let's go get you a drink, yeah?"
Shep agrees, and we head over to the bar. Over my shoulder, I spot Baz glaring furiously at me. My stomach churns with indignant rage.
Fuck it, I think. I'm going to get sloshed.
When last call rolls around, I'm alone on the roof smoking a cigarette. It's a nasty habit of mine—one I only really indulge in when I'm drunk or feeling self-destructive. Tonight, I'm two for two.
I absent-mindedly check my cell phone and see I've got three unread messages from Dev.
Dev Grimm (2:46 A.M.): Getting our last round of drinks! We're calling an uber after
Dev Grimm (2:54 A.M.): Where are you??
Dev Grimm (2:57 A.M.): Don't tell me you're smoking cigs. You know that shit'll kill you
Me (3:04 A.M.): I'll meet you out front.
I stomp out the light with the heel of my Oxfords and sigh deeply. Dev will definitely smell the nicotine smoke on my breath and fingertips, and bitch at me the whole Uber ride back to Kensington. ( 'Haven't you read the labels, Baz?' He'll say, like anyone could miss them. 'They've got photos of black lungs all over the damn things! You've got to know they're awful for you!' ) Then, Snow will have that gorgeous, infuriating, self-satisfied smirk on his face, and I'll be hopelessly torn between punching him and kissing him, but I'll end up just saying something else irrevocably cruel and impossibly stupid.
I'm too drunk to deal with all my feelings right now (not that I'm much better with them when sober).
Why, I wonder as I walk down the stairs and head towards the exit of the club, do I have to be such a tremendous arsehole?
I've always been bad with crushes. Back at boarding school, I had an awful crush on my English teacher—Mr. Lamb—and I acted properly pretentious around him, trying to win his attention with controversial takes on classic literature. (I should be banned from England after all the slander I threw on Jane Austen's good name.) I didn't even mind looking like a right prat around him—I would purposefully get detention just so I could stare at him. It was truly pitiful.
But that was just an adolescent crush, back when I was in the closet and young and stupid, I thought to myself, walking into Beit Hall with my suitcases. Things will be different in uni.
Then I walked into my assigned room and the most beautiful motherfucker in England was sitting on the bed by the window. And I got tongue-tied like I was that same confused, scared, fifteen-year-old boy all over again. It was worse than when I was a kid, because this time around I wasn't just haughty—I was downright cruel. I was hopelessly jealous when he immediately started dating Agatha, and being mean was the only way to get his eyes off of her and onto me.
It was a ridiculously short-sighted plan. I'm not sure what I hoped to accomplish with it. I still don't know what the fuck is coming out of my mouth when I'm around Simon Snow.
I find my group a little ways to the left of the club. Dev's easy to spot in a crowd—the fucker's even taller than me, and he's loud. He's got his arm draped over Agatha Wellbelove with a radiant smile on his face. They've been laughing and flirting all night, and they're definitely going home together. I sigh a little at the thought—not because I'm not happy for Dev, but because I'm going to owe Niall fifty pounds now.
Snow's frowning when I walk up. We haven't spoken since our spat—we both just went to different floors of the club to get spectacularly drunk.
"Angela will arrive in four minutes," Wellbelove announces.
Bunce nods and rubs her hands together. I can tell the night air is crisp and chilly—but I've got the heat of five gin martinis running through my veins, so I can't quite feel it.
Shepard takes a step closer to Bunce and puts his arm around her. "For warmth," he says shyly, and it's quite obvious (to me, at least) that his intentions are less practical and more romantic. But Bunce smiles, so I guess she's into false displays of chivalry.
I steal a glance at Simon, whose nodding along to whatever song he's hearing in his head. It's a weird habit I've noticed of his—whenever he's forced to wait for something, he's always bobbing his head like that. I realised what he was doing once when I heard him singing Bohemian Rhapsody under his breath, and I'm disgusted by how charming I find it.
He seems a little unsteady on his feet, swaying a bit like he's standing on a boat. I want to comment on it, but—for once—I bite my tongue, remembering the loathing in his voice when he said, "Thank God I won't have to see your self-righteous arse any more after tomorrow."
I'm going to miss him so much.
"There it is!" Agatha says happily, pointing out a Volkswagen Golf.
I see the problem as quickly as Snow does.
"Agatha! You were supposed to get an Uber XL, " Snow cries, his voice whiny and indignant.
"Oh. Oops. I thought I did," Agatha says, glancing at her phone (too quickly to really be checking).
Angela pulls up and says, "Agatha?" Agatha nods, and gets in the front seat, to Dev's apparent disappointment as he gets into the back.
"Dibs!" Shep calls.
"Same," says Penny.
"Yeah, me too," Simon chimes in last.
"Too late, Si," Penny says sympathetically, as she and Shep climb into the five seater.
Leaving just me and Snow standing together on the pavement.
"You guys can just, like, get the next one?" Agatha suggests, and Simon looks utterly betrayed.
"No," I say. "Absolutely not."
"I can't get an Uber with Baz!" Snow complains, and though I just protested the very same thing, I'm still offended by his objection. He sends a pleading look to the Uber driver, and asks in a pathetic voice, "Can't we all just, like, squeeze in?"
But Angela shakes her head. "Sorry, no. That's a firing offense."
"Dev, you wait with me," I say, but Dev gives me a look that says, very plainly, absolutely fucking not. "Literally anyone else switch with Snow."
No one moves. I realise everyone in the car is coupled up—no one's going to stay with us.
Snow lets out a groan of frustration and I scowl at the dark night sky.
"Oh, boys! One car ride won't kill you," Penny chides, looking annoyed. "Simon, I'll come by your room tomorrow morning to help you finish packing, okay?"
He nods, though he's still pouting childishly. Then, Penny closes the car door, and their Uber drives off down the street.
"Call the Uber," Snow says.
"You call the Uber," I snarl. I sound petulant in my bitterness.
To my suprise, Snow doesn't argue—he just pulls out his phone and begins tapping on the screen. I'm not sure if he obliged because he's drunk and suggestable, or if he just has a burning desire to get out of here as soon as possible so we can ignore each other on our own sides of our room. (I hope it's the former.)
I'm itching to take a cigarette out of my pocket, but I've already had three tonight, so I just ball my fists angrily.
We soak in the angry silence, both fiddling with our phones to avoid talking to each other. I play Candy Crush, despite the fact that it's a battery suck, because I think I might finally be sick of fighting with Snow, and I don't trust myself not to rip him to shreds if he so much as voices one complaint.
After ten minutes, he says tersely, "Red Toyota Auris. Two minutes."
When a red car pulls up onto the empty street, I fast walk over to the front seat so that I can have control of the radio. I put my hand on the door handle and pull roughly on it—to find there's already a dark-skinned girl in the front, startled by my sudden intrusion into the car.
"Oh," Snow says when he sees the girl, plus another pink-haired girl in the back. "I ordered an Uber Pool."
I slam the car door and turn to Snow. "What."
"Uber Pool? It's where you share a ride with other—"
"I know what Uber Pool is," I snap. "Why would you do that?"
"They usually show up empty!"
"You're taking the middle seat, Snow." I huff out a long-suffering sigh. "Fucking Uber Pool."
Snow's cheeks flush red, but he gets into the car wordlessly.
"Hello," the pink-haired girl says, too cheerily considering it's 3 a.m. and we're strangers. "I'm Trixie, and this is Keris."
Simon smiles and introduces himself. Trixie looks at me expectantly, but I just huff and turn my attention out the window.
"Sorry," Simon stage-whispers. "Baz is cranky. It's past his bedtime."
Trixie giggles, and the dainty sound twists and sours in my gut. Of course I'd have to sit here and listen to him charm some pretty girl. Just my luck.
Then, because the universe truly hates me, Mr. Brightside starts playing on the radio.
"Oh, turn it up," Snow says. His voice is mostly pleasant, but with a slight edge I know is just for me. "I love this song."
He's looking at me defiantly, his eyes daring me to say something about how much I hate The Killers. The problem with that is: I don't hate The Killers. I was just too embarrassed to admit the real reason I wasn't dancing—which is that I have no sense of rhythm whatsoever.
"That's because you have no taste, Snow," I respond, incomprehensibly deciding to make this anti-Killers stance my hill to die on.
Trixie laughs at that too. This girl is certainly giggly. But that might have something to do with the fact that her eyes are bloodshot and she smells like a rap concert.
"You guys are cute," she says with a wide smile. "How long have you been together?"
At this question, Snow looks stunned. "I—we—uh—what—" he begins to stammer, so I cut him off.
"We're just roommates," I snap, sounding as angry as I feel. (Did he really have to sound so horrified by the idea?)
"Oh. Sorry, you two tease each other like you're married," Trixie replies bluntly, unperturbed by either of our unhappy reactions to her question. "You sure there's no sexual chemistry there?"
"Darling," the girl in the front seat—Keris—says, "not everyone is gay."
Trixie sighs, seeming put out. "No. But they should be."
Well. I agree with you there, Trixie.
Trixie, Keris, and Snow fall into a conversation about Snape from Harry Potter until the Uber driver gets to the girls' destination. Keris and Trixie think he's the worst, but Snow plays devil's advocate, claiming Snape's just misunderstood. (He's wrong, but I don't bother telling him. I just keep swiping multi-colored candies.)
The Uber pulls up to a brick building and the girls start unbuckling their seatbelts. As Trixie is leaving the car, she pops her head back in to wink and say suggestively, "Have fun, boys, and use a condom." She laughs wickedly before running after Keris and throwing her arm around her shoulder.
The image of going home and throwing Snow onto my bed pops into my head instantly. Of how he would sound, how he would look, how he would feel.
I look over at Snow, and—because of Trixie's comment—I think he might be thinking about it too.
He's always a little ruddy, but he's blushing wildly now. The tension between us is suffocating in such close proximity. I need to break it— now.
"Scoot over, Snow," I say, gesturing to the empty seat Trixie was sitting in. "There's no reason for you to practically be sitting on top of me anymore."
He scoffs, but slides over. The Uber driver sends him a glare in the rearview mirror. "Keep your seatbelt on."
He mumbles a shy apology to the Uber driver and sends me a dirty look. Then, he takes a flask out his back pocket and takes a long swig.
I think, I could use a drink, too.
I say, "Really, Snow? You brought a flask to a bar?"
"It's cheaper that way," he says, an edge to his voice. "Want some?"
He holds the flask up to my nose and the smell of Fireball assaults my senses. Niall—my best friend from boarding school—and I drank so much of this on a night out in Ibiza last summer that the smell of it triggers my gag reflex. I throw my hands up to push the flask away. "Oh my fucking god, ew."
"Don't be dramatic," Snow says, looking amused by my disgust. "Have a swig, then maybe we won't all be able to tell you've got such a massive stick up your arse—"
"No, no, God no," I respond emphatically. "I'm going to throw up."
This exclamation makes the Uber driver slam on his brakes—and since Snow apparently didn't actually put his seatbelt back on when he scooted over, he goes flying forward into the driver's seat. He grabs the headrest to break the impact—but, unfortunately, he does so with the hand holding his flask of Fireball, which then goes pouring into our Uber driver's lap.
The car is deadly silent for a moment.
Then our Uber driver turns around in his seat, looking furious. "Get out!"
"But we're not at our—" Snow starts.
"I don't care! You didn't wear your seatbelt, this lad is about to puke, and you just ruined my car!" he yells, and points at my car door. "Out!"
With all of our ride-sharing crimes laid out like that, we don't really have a leg to stand out. We get out of the car without argument.
"Well," Snow says slowly as the red Toyota Auris drives off, leaving us stranded on the pavement. "That's going to hurt my Uber rating."
I'm going to kill Simon Snow.