Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for language.
To be honest, I didn’t expect it to happen either. It isn’t like I woke up this morning, knowing how the day would end, and being able to have any control over how things turned out. I had no idea what the hell I was doing, and I don’t want you thinking that I set out to surprise you like I did. You can blame me all you like, but just know that if one thing had happened differently, this would have been a normal day for the both of us.
I can tell you want me to explain everything, even though you don’t seem able to meet my eyes right now. It’s not like you think, I swear. I didn’t use you, and it wasn’t premeditated to fulfil some ulterior motive. There was a sequence of events – eight of them – and it’s as simple as that. Well, maybe it’s actually a little bit complicated. But each of these events are the reason why things turned out the way they did.
Eight reasons. Eight reasons why I kissed Hayden Beaufort, eight reasons why I bailed on you, eight reasons why I sent you that text, and eight reasons why I came home wearing Naomi’s clothes.
Please believe me.
#1: PUGNACIOUS DOGMA’S DRUMMER
“Well frankly, you look like a bit of a tosser.”
“Oh.” Eugene’s face fell.
“Sorry, but you said I should be honest,” I said, trying to tell if he was genuinely hurt.
“Yeah, but…” he grimaced, “You weren’t supposed to be proper honest. Like, the truth but in the nicest possible way.”
We started walking. I glared at one of the primary school mums after she nearly ran me over with her gigantic pram, then turned back to Eugene.
“Would you be offended if I said that was the nicest version of the truth?” I teased, trying to reconcile the image of my friend that existed in my head with the one that stood before me. For a guy with such a dorky name, Eugene had always been pretty rock ‘n’ roll – unkempt and loutish, with a veritable aura of cool – but sometimes his taste did leave something to be desired. Like now.
“Jeez, Liv, it’s just a haircut. How bad can it be?” He subconsciously ran a hand up to fix his hair, as though he could change how I felt about it by ruffling it slightly. And it wasn’t the haircut itself that was the problem really, more the fact that it made him look like every other guy in the school. Short on the sides, longer on the top; a wimpish version of a mohawk. It suited him, in a way, but it just didn’t feel right to me. Maybe it was just too drastic a change, and I’d get used to it after a while, I tried to convince myself.
“I guess.” I shrugged. “Just liked your old one better.” The last time I’d spoken to him, he’d had a mop of wavy hair that reached almost to his shoulders. Unlike some guys with long hair, Eugene wore it well; it wasn’t the least bit ratty or greasy, and it had suited him to a T. It fell in his eyes and he could flick it back, and it was as much a part of his onstage identity as his guitar was.
“It’s just hair. It’ll grow back.” He sounded terse, and I was sure that I’d properly offended him. It felt like I’d been managing to that more and more often lately. For someone who was supposed to be tough as old nails and rock an I-don’t-care-what-anyone-thinks attitude, he got pissed off pretty easily, and could hold a grudge for ages. I wasn’t sure why this bothered me so much. The fact that he couldn’t take someone bagging him had nothing to do with me, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to apologise for something as little as disliking his hair.
“Course it will,” I said quickly, “You guys still playing that gig next week?”
Eugene stopped walking and frowned. He didn’t answer me for a lengthy minute, just stared me down with an unreadable look on his face. This bugged me; not because he wasn’t answering, but because this was what I usually used on him. And more often than not it worked, too. As annoyed as I was, I glared back, determined not to let him win using my technique. Eventually he crumbled and said, “Yeah, I think so. Depends on if Freddie stops acting like a friggin’ diva and agrees to get off his high horse and play at a pub.”
“What’s he expecting? To perform at a bloody stadium?”
Eugene rolled his eyes. With this movement, I knew I was forgiven, because there was nothing I could do that could measure up to Freddie’s antics. The only reason that Freddie was still a part of Eugene’s life was that he was the drummer of the band they were both in, and since decent drummers were such a rare commodity around where we lived, this made him kind of irreplaceable. I knew how much Eugene and Theo, the band’s bassist slash singer, wanted him gone, and hearing that he had kicked up a fuss again came as no surprise.
“Doesn’t he get that you guys are underage?” I asked. “There aren’t exactly stacks of places that’ll let you in.”
“He thinks that we should pick and choose where we play so we can get a reputation.” I’d heard this story before. Eugene seemed to spend half his time complaining about Freddie’s misguided views on the band. “Apparently, we should be serious, and not spend our time playing for small-town drunks. His words, not mine.”
“That’s my parent’s pub he’s talking about,” I grumbled, “We’re doing you guys a favour by letting you perform. Maybe I’ll see if Audrey can knock some sense into him. It isn’t like there are gonna be many other places ‘round here that’ll let you perform.”
“I’ve tried telling him that.” Eugene shook his head and started walking again. I followed, and he continued, “He won’t listen. If you ever meet a drummer, tell me. Please.”
The bell rang before I could say anything else on the subject. As I waited for the electronic dong-dong-dong to become silent, I placed my hand on Eugene’s arm. Ever since we’d been little, we’d had a silent way of communicating, even though right now, I had no clue what I was trying to say.
“See you tonight?” he asked, as we parted ways towards our respective lockers.
“Uh-huh,” I replied, “See you then.”
* * *
That afternoon, I tidied my room: putting away odd pairs of underwear, shoving my school uniform into the wardrobe and rearranging my CD collection. Eugene and the rest of Pugnacious Dogma, as they had recently decided their band would now be called, were coming over, along with a couple of my other friends. The guise was studying, but we all knew that the most productive thing we’d end up doing would be deciding whose iPod we’d plug into my speakers. Even my parents knew this, but they still let us catch up every Friday night when they were off working at the pub. I think at some point they’d realised that we were all too unmotivated to cause any real trouble by the time it got to Friday night, or perhaps they just wanted to confine us all to a place where they knew where we were. Whatever the reason, I appreciated their trust, and the others appreciated the chance to get out of their own houses.
“I think we need to address the elephant in the room,” Theo said, after Tahlia, one of my only remaining friends that I’d known since primary school, had won the weekly battle to play her music as the soundtrack to our conversation. Speaking over the warbling electro-pop music, Theo continued speaking from where he was lying, spreadeagled, on my rug, “Eugene, what the fuck have you done with your hair?”
As pretty as his voice was, even when he was talking, Theo’s vocabulary was somewhat less enchanting. I couldn’t remember having a conversation with him that hadn’t involved him swearing at least once.
Eugene raised an eyebrow. “Got it cut.” He didn’t elaborate further, so I poked him in the shoulder.
“Told you so,” I said. He sighed and slid forward so his arms were handing over the edge of my bed and buried his face in my doona. Lying next to him, I copied his posture, and when he looked up I screwed my face up into a grimace. He pulled a face of mock horror back. He was looking more like himself now, even with the shorter hair.
Theo began to speak again, but Tahlia cut him off, asking him from her position sitting on my desk, “Written anything new lately?”
He sat up onto his elbows and shrugged. “Eugene said he had something.”
“It’s nearly done. I’ll show it to Liv then you and Freddie check it out.” It was the usual process; Eugene would write the lyrics and come up with the tune, he’d show it to me, I’d work out the chords and then he’d show it to the others. Even though I had zero actual musical talent, my musical theory was pretty good, or at least, better than Eugene’s. And I liked being a part of the band, even in this anonymous form.
“Tell me when you finish it. But anyway, I hear there’s a new kid over at Henchley,” Tahlia said, “And, he’s a drummer.”
“Shit,” Theo swore, lying back down he stretched his arms out until he was taking up my entire rug. “He any good?”
Tahlia shrugged, “How should I know?”
“You brought him up.”
“All I know is what my friend told me. And that is that there’s a new kid in her year level and he plays the drums.” Tahlia leaned back and stared at the ceiling. I listened, as she started to sing along to the song playing over the speakers. Her breathy voice was captivating, even though she wasn’t trying. I don’t know how many times I’d wished that I’d had a voice half as good as hers.
“Speaking of drummers, where is Freddie?” I asked. When he was taken out of the context of the band, he was usually okay to hang out with. And besides, as I was constantly being reminded, he was Audrey’s boyfriend, which apparently meant I was supposed to give him a chance.
“Probably with Audrey. She told me they were coming,” she said. As soon as the words left her lips, her phone beeped. Looking at it, she announced, “That’s her. Just a minute. Hello?”
“Like it’s any mystery why they aren’t here,” Eugene said to me quietly, raising an eyebrow. He didn’t guffaw, like Theo would’ve, he just said it. I knew what he meant. We’d seen less and less of them since they’d started going out.
“What?” Tahlia exclaimed suddenly. “Well, come over here… Okay fine, I’ll come over to yours. Don’t argue with me, I don’t want you by yourself.”
She hung up, a look of outrage on her face. She huffed once, then said, “Audrey just told me Freddie broke up with her. Dunno why. But…” Tahlia trailed off nervously.
“But what?” Eugene asked, looking over my shoulders at Tahlia. She bit her lip.
“He’s leaving the band,” she confessed. “I told Audrey I’d be there, so I’d better go. It’s too bad, guys.”
“I’ll tag along with you,” Theo said, and they left quickly, leaving Eugene and me alone together.
We regarded each other for a long moment, trying to understand what had happened. Eugene sighed, then swung his legs around so his was sitting on the edge of my bed. He was slouched over, and said, “This can’t be happening. I take back what I said about him… I didn’t want this.”
I looked at him. “Careful what you wish for.”