"We're having a party," Katie announced, slinging her arm across Emily's shoulders.
Actually, Emily wanted to point out, Katie was having a party. There was no we about it. However, Katie was apparently self-aware enough to realize that her boobs were not quite enough to guarantee popularity – she also needed the twin thing for cachet.
"Saturday night," Katie added, beaming.
Cook, who'd been busy trying to touch his nose with his tongue, perked up suddenly. "A party, yeah?" he said. "That's cool."
Emily was fairly sure that he was hardwired to react positively to the word party, no matter its context. Following Cook's approval, everyone else began to give nods, smiles and promises that they'd make it. The notable exception was Effy, who remained silent and palpably cold. Katie apparently did not feel the chill, choosing instead to bask in the glow of being the centre of attention. Emily made a face and tried to extricate herself from her sister's vise-like grip.
"Invite your friends!" Katie chirped, tossing her hair in Emily's face.
Their parents were going away for the weekend – a couples' retreat in Cornwall. For normal kids, this wouldn't mean much, except the chance to eat pizza for breakfast and smoke in the living room. But Katie had been raised on a heavy diet of American teen movies, so she felt that an illicit housewrecker was the natural thing to enact. Unfortunately, in American teen movies, the house in question was usually a lavish million-dollar mansion on the beachfront, while Katie and Emily lived in a three-bed-semi in Trowbridge. And they had a little brother to look after.
Katie believed she had the midas touch: a few balloons and a gallon of vodka could turn the place to gold. Emily was less convinced – especially after she spent two hours blowing up balloons, while Katie flitted in and out of the bathroom, apparently trying out different make-up shades.
The first thing that Cook did when he arrived was grab one of the balloons and rub it vigorously against his crotch. He then reached over and stuck it squarely on Katie's lace-covered chest. He laughed uproariously as Freddie and JJ began to copy him, rubbing and sticking the balloons in inappropriate places. Katie's mouth dropped open wordlessly, as she was struck dumb with disgust. Emily had to turn away and cover her mouth in order to smother her laughter.
Emily's enjoyment of the party barely lasted five minutes. She had spent the previous night putting together the perfect party playlist. However, as track one (Plain White T's – Our Time Now) segued into track two (Motion City Soundtrack – Make Out Kids), Katie switched it off in order to play The Ting Tings on a loop.
Emily ended up seated on the sofa, drinking vodka mixed with supermarket-brand coke, bored out of her mind. Ironically, she spent most of her Saturday nights in this same position. Except, usually, she drank lemonade and watched The Dog Whisperer with her dad. That actually seemed less boring, by comparison.
The only up side to the party was that it allowed her plenty of chances to watch Naomi. Emily had watched Naomi take her coat upstairs. She'd watched her get a drink from the kitchen. She'd watched her try some of Katie's "world-famous" dip (and then spit it out in the sink). Now she watched as Naomi stood in the corner of the living room, talking to Pandora.
Naomi also looked bored. The difference was, Naomi looked cool and bored – as if boredom were a state of mind that she had chosen, rather than something that had been forced upon her by an overzealous sister. When Naomi was bored, her lower lip relaxed into a lazy pout. Emily imagined placing her thumb against the dent in Naomi's lower lip. She'd had an incredibly vivid dream last night about Naomi sucking each one of her fingers in turn. Katie had woken her up at 7:45 a.m. for party prep and Emily couldn't stop thinking about what might have happened in the dream if she'd been allowed to sleep just a little bit longer.
Naomi's eyes left Pandora and flickered over the rest of the room, until she was looking in Emily's direction. Emily swerved her whole body to the left, for fear that Naomi would catch her staring. In the time that she'd been raptly watching Naomi, Emily realized that Cook had taken a seat next to her on the sofa. As she shifted position, he looked up.
"Oh, alright?" he said. "Great party, yeah. I was talking to your brother and he's mental. Really funny. Totally off his head. Great bloke."
Her parents had left strict instructions that James, her brother, should be in bed by ten, fed properly each day and made to take a shower at least once over the two-day period. Katie had solved the food situation by making an extra large batch of her dip, half of which she'd served to him with a family-size packet of Doritos. Forcing him into the shower could wait till tomorrow. And, after another cup of vodka-and-Ribena, he'd be asleep way before ten. Mission accomplished. The last time she'd seen James, he'd been standing on the stairs, swaying and trying to burp the alphabet.
"Cool," Emily said unenthusiastically.
Even Cook thinks my mentally-damaged kid brother in more fun than me, she thought.
"Even you think my mentally-damaged kid brother in more fun than me," she said aloud, because Cook wasn't someone whose feelings she could be bothered sparing.
Cook's eyes widened. "Uh. No. Didn't say that, did I?"
"You don't have to bother lying," she said with a sigh.
"Well, okay, your brother's cool. That burping stuff's ace. But, no offence, your sister's pretty fucking annoying. So, on balance, that'd make you my second-favourite member of your family. 'Course, we don't know each other that well, really. So maybe you could be my favourite. I dunno yet."
Cook had a thoughtful expression on his face, as if he were really giving the situation some serious thought. Emily couldn't help but smile.
"Thanks, Cook," she said.
"No probs, sweetheart."
After a moment's pause, Emily said, "You got any drugs?" It seemed like the sort of thing you should ask Cook. In the same way, you'd ask Frankie Dettori how his horses were doing.
Cook reached in his pocket and pulled out a sandwich bag filled with little white pills. "I got these," he said.
"What are they?"
"Oh, well, they're aspirin. But most of these fuckers wouldn't know the difference." He gestured around the room. "So I been telling people it's E. JJ thinks he's off his tits right now. It's—what's it called?"
"The placebo effect," Emily supplied.
"Yeah! So, you want one?"
"But I know they're aspirin now. So the placebo effect won't work on me."
"Oh. Yeah. Sorry."
Emily sighed. "Gimme one. I'll try and pretend anyway. Anything's got to be better than just sitting here."
"That's the spirit, my love," Cook said with a grin.
He handed her a white pill and took one for himself. They toasted, a plastic-y ting as they clinked together their glasses (hers, Mickey Mouse; his, Donald Duck). They both placed the pills on their tongues and then downed the aspirin with a gulp of vodka-and-coke.
They were both silent for a long moment. Then Emily said, sardonically, "I am so totally high right now."
"Steady on. E takes a bit. We got some time to kill before it kicks in."
"Yeah. You wanna play I-Spy? Or I've-Never? Or, I don't know… Tic-tac-toe?"
"I want you to kiss me," Emily said suddenly.
Cook looked surprised and Emily thought he was going to start making excuses. But then he leaned over, placed a hand on the side of her head and guided her lips towards his. It was a short kiss – not enough time for tongue – but the warmth of his mouth on hers felt good and it left her with the promise of sweaty, open-mouthed snogging.
Cook pulled away, grabbing Donald Duck in order to take another slug of his drink.
"Thanks," said Emily.
"Anytime," Cook replied.
Emily sat back, sinking into the sofa cushions and reflecting on the situation. This, of course, was the reason that boys were infinitely superior to girls. Perhaps she had succeeded in figuring out the whole reason for heterosexuality. If you were a teenage girl and you asked a teenage boy to kiss you, he'd do it. Simple as that. It was only when you started mixing up the equation that things got tricky. If she'd made a move on Cook all those years ago, he would have just shrugged and reciprocated. Because that's what boys did.
Emily turned to Cook. "D'you wanna shag me?" she asked.
"Yeah," he said, "alright."
"Alright," she echoed.
Emily got to her feet and plucked at Cook's sleeve, a signal to follow her. She began pushing through the crowd and caught a glimpse of Naomi, who was looking straight back at her. For once, Emily didn't look away. Emily wondered if Naomi had seen her kissing Cook. She felt a vague, irrational sense of victory.
It was still early, so theirs could be the first ill-advised hook-up of the night. Apart from a short queue of people waiting for the loo, there was no one upstairs. Emily stood at the top of the stairs, chewing the inside of her cheek, trying to puzzle out her next move. She definitely didn't want anyone to interrupt them, but the only lockable room in the house was the bathroom and she didn't really want to lose her virginity in there. She'd just have to use her initiative.
She pulled Cook into the bedroom she shared with Katie and closed the door.
"Does that thing were you put the chair under the door knob actually work?" she wondered aloud.
"What?" said Cook, looking confused.
"No, we'd better just shift the dresser," she decided, ignoring his question.
The dresser was covered with Katie's crap – make-up and jewellery and little stuffed animals that she'd received from her many boyfriends – so it gave Emily more than a little satisfaction to heave the dresser towards the door and witness the knick-knacks go flying.
"Help me, then," she told Cook.
Another minute of their combined effort succeeded in pushing the dresser so that it blocked the door. A colourful mess of eyeshadow shades and glitter marked the trail it had made across the carpet. The dresser wouldn't be enough to halt an army, but it would probably stop any nosy partygoers (and, most notably, her sister) from bursting in on them. Emily turned to the window and drew the curtains.
"You'd better turn the lights off," she said, "because, no offence, but your cock's fucking weird."
Cook laughed and flipped the light switch. Through the thin curtains, the street lights were still visible, creating a soft half-light that their eyes adjusted to easily.
Emily and Cook were still standing at opposite ends of the (admittedly tiny) room, which obviously wasn't the optimum position for them to be in. She hesitated and then pulled her top up over her head. She'd worn a nice bra today – one of the ones that Katie usually stole – and she was suddenly glad. She put her hands on her hips, in what she imagined as a come-hither stance, but that felt silly, so she just dropped her hands by her sides and tried not to fidget.
"Are you gonna kiss me or what?" she said, finally, afraid the words sounded whiny.
"God, you're serious about this," Cook said.
"Uh, yeah. We just destroyed my sister's side of the room, which, by the way, is kind of like foreplay for me, so I want you to come over here and fuck me."
"Aye-aye, Captain," Cook said, advancing on her with a lazy smile.
They resumed kissing – this time with tongue. It took Emily a minute to get into the rhythm, but once she did, she felt pleased with how it was going. Cook was a good kisser, and this fact seemed to make her into a better kisser, as she tried to subtly mimic his movements and use her tongue just-so. He unhooked her bra deftly. With the ease of a slut, she thought meanly – but she was mostly just glad that she didn't have to do it for him.
"Nice tits," he murmured, with a hint of wonder in his voice.
She was caught between gratification at the compliment and irritation that he was ruining the romance of the moment. No girl would ever say, nice tits. She might think it, but she'd say, why lady, your bosom heaves like the beginning of Spring! Or maybe she'd just be quiet and let the moment speak for itself.
As Cook continued to fondle her breasts, apparently lost to their wondrous charms, Emily decided it was time to broach a subject that had been weighing on her mind.
"This'll be my first time, okay," she said.
His head snapped up. "Uh, okay," he said. He was silent for a moment, and then continued, in what was probably intended as a soothing whisper, "You want me to light some candles, babe?"
"No. I want you to let me be on top. And don't—don't laugh if I do anything wrong."
"I dunno," Cook said thoughtfully. "Sex is pretty funny, babe. All that moaning and groaning. Willies and hoo-ha's. I can't promise anything."
Emily sighed. "You are so not the person I envisioned this happening with."
"Nah… but we'll make the best of it, eh?" Cook said gently, drawing her close.
Emily had always hated the idea of losing her virginity to someone as clueless as she was. They'd writhe around a bit and probably end up doing it all wrong. So, as much as Cook was a prat and a slut, with a terrible tattoo, at least he knew what he was doing. That was all the reassurance she needed.
They each shed the rest of their clothes – all except underwear – and made the rather awkward transition from snogging-while-standing-up to lying on the bed. It wasn't quite the smooth, soft-focus manoeuvre she'd imagined. Still, as she straddled him and began to rub her body against his, feeling the strain of his erection through his underwear, she felt the world begin to shrink, growing smaller and less significant.
Cook began to lick her left tit, sucking gently on her nipple. She arched her back, pushing her breast more fully into his mouth, and closed her eyes, remembering her dream from last night. Without opening her eyes, she said, "Would you suck my fingers?"
He removed her tit from his mouth and said, "Uh, yeah, sure thing, babe."
He took her hand and sucked her littlest finger into his mouth. She whimpered softly. Oh god, Naomi, she chanted inside her head and tried not to say it out loud. Cook sucked her ring finger into his mouth. As she grew wetter between her legs, her body began to tremble and jerk. Instinctively, she began to grind harder against Cook's erection.
Suddenly, Cook reached for her wrist and pulled her fingers from his mouth. "Listen, if you're gonna keep doing that, we should probably move onto the next phase of this operation…" When Emily looked down at him uncomprehendingly, he prompted, "Much as I love finger-sucking, I could also do it with my dick inside you."
Emily hopped off the bed and Cook moaned a little at the loss of contact. She scampered over to the dresser, hurriedly rummaging through what remained of Katie's stuff, looking for the bear holding the red heart, which had been a Valentine's gift from Danny. The heart was hollow – it had once held chocolate and sweets, but it now stored condoms. Emily grabbed one. Her fingers brushed a little bottle, also nestled inside the heart.
"Cherry-flavoured lube?" she asked, holding it up for Cook to see.
"Might come in handy," he said. "I am hungry."
She lobbed it in his direction. He caught it and then ostentatiously squeezed a glob of it into his mouth. "Yummy," he said with a grin.
"Gross," she muttered. Sex stuff really was kind of weird.
"Come back to bed, my little cherry. Me and the lube are getting lonely."
"Hold on," she said, as a thought occurred to her.
When she'd made the party playlist last night, she'd also transferred it to her iPod. Now she cued it up and plugged the iPod into her speakers. Plain White T's began to play quietly.
"This is weird music to fuck to," Cook said.
"Shut up. It's my party." She grinned and climbed back onto the bed – and back onto Cook.
She was fine with the condom thing. She'd practiced on a banana a bunch of times, just for her own edification. Usually she gave the bananas to James for his lunch afterwards, just because the idea of him eating a proxy dick made her laugh. She and Cook peeled off their underwear and, with careful concentration, she rolled the condom down over his tattooed cock. Frankly, the sooner she could get it out of her sight, the better.
She paused, exhaling unsteadily. She didn't know why it felt like a big deal. She'd fingered herself enough times before. A cock was just a bigger version of that. As if sensing that she needed reassuring, Cook reached for her hand and slowly began to suckle on her fingers. She half-closed her eyes, stroked his cock a few times and then pushed her hips down so that he filled her.
It was painful and overwhelming and also: "Fuck yeah."
Emily and Cook lay side-by-side on her bed afterwards, sweaty, sated and exhausted. She stared at the ceiling and concentrated on breathing in and then breathing out again.
"You know," Cook said conversationally, "I've been thinking about dying my hair blond. Growing it a bit, so it falls in my face, all melodramatic like."
"You kept calling me Naomi, sweetheart," he said. "So maybe I should make the changes. Embrace my new persona."
"Shit." Emily rolled over, burying her face in his chest so that she wouldn't have to look at him. "Sorry."
Cook laughed and she felt it reverberate up his windpipe. "Don't apologize, darling," he said. "The thought of you two together will keep me in wanking material for weeks."
"We're not… together," she said dully.
"Maybe not yet. Don't ruin all my fantasies."
Emily looked up, studying Cook's face. She started to say something, then hesitated, chewing the inside of her cheek. "Was I okay?" she asked, at last. "I mean, I know I wasn't great, but I—"
"I wasn't exactly running the show, sweetheart, but I enjoyed it. I got mine, you definitely got yours. So I think we did pretty good." He planted a quick kiss close to her hairline. "Don't get excited, but I think you might have leapfrogged your brother. Made it so that you're my favourite member of your family."
She smiled. "Really?"
"Well, I haven't met your parents. They might be Ozzy and Sharon for all I know. So I couldn't give a definitive answer."
"Thanks, Cook. You've – weirdly – made tonight kind of—" She teetered on the edge of using the word special, a term supplied to her by a hundred teen novels. She amended the comment with: "Less-than-terrible."
"I'll take less-than-terrible as a compliment." Cook paused and then said, "You know, we could always give it another try. Factor in the cherry lube this time."
"Maybe some other time," she said, levering herself up into a sitting position. "I should probably get dressed." She paused to think, the world crowding back into her head. "Check the party hasn't got too out of hand. Make sure my brother hasn't passed out with his head in the toilet. Maybe microwave some popcorn and wait for Katie to see what I did to her dresser."
"You want me to piss in her shoes?" Cook offered idly.
"God, no, she'd kill me," Emily said, allowing herself a grin at the idea.
She retrieved her clothes from the floor and dressed quickly. Her body felt slightly alien as she dressed – raw in places where she'd been licked, stroked and fucked – and she chose to forgo underwear. She pulled on just her skirt and spaghetti-strap tank. She shoved aside the dresser, in order to open the door a fraction and slide out through the gap. As she was leaving, she cast a sidelong glance at Cook, who remained on the bed, naked and seemingly unconcerned about everything.
Emily traipsed downstairs and found Katie standing in the middle of the hallway, looking big-eyed and teary. When she turned to look at Emily, her facial expression transformed from kicked-puppy-dog to snarling-Chihuahua instantaneously.
"And where have you been?" she demanded.
"I've been fucking Cook in our bedroom," said Emily, who felt strangely disinclined to lie.
"Oh, very funny. I know you've been hiding out up there on your own like a loser." Katie's carefully-corrected lisp resurfaced momentarily on the final word. She claimed the lisp was stress-related and had originally been triggered at infants' school by a boy who chased her around the playground with an open tin of sardines in brine. The way Emily saw it, the lisp had only served as another reason for their parents to fawn all over Katie while they ignored Emily.
"You never supported me at all on this party," Katie continued, reverting to crybaby mode, "and now it's ruined. Danny has an away game tomorrow, so he had to leave early. James puked up all over the sofa and now it's all mottled orange and purple. That wanker JJ has been dancing on the table in the kitchen, singing 'Blue Velvet', for an hour. I have a fucking headache and this party fucking sucks."
"Sorry," Emily mumbled, knowing that there could be no acceptable response to Katie's tirade.
"You should have been here," Katie said with a sniffle.
"Sorry," Emily repeated blankly.
Katie narrowed her eyes. "Hey, why aren't you wearing a bra?"
Emily shrugged. "Because I have nice tits. And they stay up on their own."
At that moment, Naomi wandered out of the living room and into the hallway. Emily flushed at the realization that she must have overheard her comment about her nice tits. However, Naomi studiously ignored them, turning her body to the side and sliding past the twins, in order to get to the stairs. She went upstairs and then reappeared moments later, holding her coat.
"Well, I'm going now," Naomi said, giving her patented bored-yet-cool stare. "Bye."
"Yeah, bye," Katie said sarcastically.
Emily was tempted to say nothing and just let the moment pass, but at the last second, she flashed Naomi a big smile. "See you," she murmured brightly, holding Naomi's gaze.
Naomi nodded uncertainly and then opened the front door, backing away. What's more, a second before she left, Emily could have sworn her eyes flicked downwards in order to check out Emily's nice tits.
With Naomi gone, Katie reclaimed Emily's attention by wailing loudly – a sign that she hadn't yet received enough sympathy for her ruined party. Reluctantly, Emily put her arms around her and mechanically patted her on the back.
"It's okay… it's alright…" Emily said blandly, searching for words of comfort. "At least no one pissed in your shoes."
"What?" Katie said sharply, tears forgotten. "Who would piss in my shoes?"
"No one! I mean, I don't think…"
Emily tried her best to look innocent. Usually it worked and her sister believed whatever lies came out of her mouth. Tonight, however, Katie continued to eye her suspiciously. She broke away from Emily's half-hearted hug and began to stomp up the stairs, presumably to check on the status of her shoes. Emily wondered what she'd make of the sight of the naked boy and his tattooed cock that would greet her when she opened the door to their bedroom.