“Now, if I recall correctly, you said something about kicking our asses tonight?” Sullivan bumps Emmette’s shoulder as she walks by him, bowling ball in hand. “I did hear him say that didn’t I?” She looks at Rowena.
“He absolutely said those words.” Rowena agrees.
“I’m just biding my time. Waiting for my big finish.”
“Wow, you must have a really big finish …” Rowena chuckles
“The biggest.” Emmette grins suggestively “And I’m still beating Frasier.”
“You must be so proud. Beating the guy with the broken finger.” Frasier laughs, holding up the splinted third finger on his hand.
“Hey, you’re the one who went and busted your hand at practise.”
“I did!? Who slammed me with a rugby ball?”
“You weren’t paying attention.” Emmette chuckles as he walks away.
“Jerk!” Frasier laughs, leaning back against the hard moulded plastic of the bowling lane seats, watching Sullivan. “You’re really into her, eh?” He jerks his head towards the bowling lane.
“Yeah, I really am,” Ash smiles as Sullie steps into form to throw the ball. “I really, really am.”
“Where did this come from?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, it’s not like you two were ever in the same social circles.” Frasier glances between Ash and Sullie.
“She was Penelope’s friend, so there was that. She’s my neighbour. And, actually, we’ve kind of been hanging out for a couple years.”
“Dude? So you’ve been… um,” Frasier’s eyes dart from side to side to make sure they’re not being overheard. “You know, tapping that for a while?”
“No. That’s not what it was.” Ash chuckles “I didn’t even really think about her like that until recently. I was so wrapped up in Brooke and all that drama. There is no tapping happening.”
“I never really noticed before, but she’s actually pretty cute.”
“Hey, hey.” Ash snaps his fingers in front of Frasier’s face, “Eyeballs off my girlfriend.”
“What about your girlfriend?” Sullie slide up in front of them, twisting the smooth soles of the bowling shoes against the slick wooden floor.
“Frasier was talking about how hot you are.”
“Ash!” Frasier’s face reddens.
“Awe, Fraise. Are you actually embarrassed?” Sullie slides closer to Ash, straddling his legs. She slowly lowers herself onto his lap, wrapping her arms around his neck. She turns to Frasier and smiles. “We are hot. It’s okay if you like that.” She chuckles as her new friend’s face continues to get redder as he watches Sullie’s body mould into Ash’s.
“Sull,” Ash’s voice is low in her ear.
“Ya-huh?” She turns her face towards him, his breath warm against her skin.
“I know you’re trying to get a rise out of Frasier, but you’re getting one from the wrong person.” His words are slow and even.
“Huh?” She looks at him quizzically. His hands on her waist pull her deeper into his lap. “Oh!” She suddenly understands. “So, I should go away then, eh?”
“Um, no. What I need you to do is turn around and sit very, very still until this problem resolves itself. If you could stop looking at me like that, it would really help, alright.” His voice is low in her ear, trying not to draw attention to them.
“I’ll see what I can do.” She grins, planting a kiss just below his ear.
“Ash, it’s your turn.” Rowena bounces up, kicking him lightly in the shin.
“Yeah, yeah. Give me a minute.” He glances up towards the board. “It is not my turn. It’s Emmette’s.”
“Really?” Rowena turns to look. “My bad. Where is he anyway?”
“Where’s who?” Emmette bounds up with a tray full of food.
“I got snacks.” Emmette sets the tray down and hands a basket of jalapeño poppers to Frasier. “Hey look, it’s my turn.” He turns to select a ball.
“What the hell?” Rowena glances between Emmette and the tray of food before looking at the others. “This seems a little out of character.” She picks up a mozza stick. “He’s not the d-bag he lets people think he is.”
“He feels guilty.” Ash’s mouth twists into a half smile.
“He does?” Sullie looks as confused as Rowena.
“He’ll never admit when he feels bad, or responsible for something, but he’ll suddenly start doing nice things.” Frasier pops one of the deep fried treats into his mouth, “He feels bad about breaking my finger, so he buys me my favourite snack.” He grins around the mouthful of food.
“So, he’s actually a good guy underneath all that bravado?” Sullie smiles, shifting her weight in her boyfriend’s lap. Ash’s hands find her waist and hold her still.
“You could say that.” Fraiser chuckles. “There is that whole thing where he’s a giant slut, but that’s good in guy world, right?”
Emmette’s sudden cheering interrupts their laughter.
“I told you!” He does a little victory dance, pointing towards the scoreboard. The last frame of the game shows three strikes in a row.
“Well, I’ll be damned.” Rowena crosses her arms over her chest. “You didn’t win, but still an impressive attempt at a comeback.”
“Close enough.” He throws an arm around her shoulder. “Your turn, Ash.”
An hour later, they’ve finished off the tray of food and completed another game, Emmette coming even closer to winning in the last round.
“So, it looks like you just need a couple warm up rounds before you start to show your skills.” Rowena cushions his ego a little.
“At some things.”
“I, on the other hand, am clearly very good at everything from the very first try.” She shoots him a sidelong glance.
“Oh my god. Will you two cut it out?” Ash rolls his eyes as they hand in their shoes
“What?” Rowena puts on her innocent face.
“Just get it over with already.” Sullie laughs
“What?” Now the blonde actually sounds confused.
“We’re going pee.” Sullie declares and pulls Rowena towards the bathroom.
“Okay, what was that all about?” Rowena blurts as soon as the door closes behind them.
“You and Emmette.”
“What about us?”
“You’ve been flirting with each other for weeks now. Just get it over with already.”
“What are you talking about?”
“What am I talking about?” Sullie raises an eyebrow. “Are you even aware of the words that come out of your mouth?”
“Well yeah, but that’s harmless, silly flirting. Nothing serious.”
“So? Make it something serious. Or do something that isn’t serious.” Sullie closes the door to the bathroom stall. “Or are you saying you don’t find him doable.” Her voice carries over the stall wall.
“Don’t be ridiculous. He’s totally doable.” Rowena peers into the mirror, tucking her blonde hair behind her ear. She pressed her fingers into the flesh of her cheeks, watching as it bounces back when she releases it. “Besides I know the type of girls he dates. They do not look like me. They do not challenge him.” Pulling her cell phone from her pocket, Rowena quickly types a message to Penelope.
“Now who’s being ridiculous?” Sullie’s voice disappears under the sound of water flushing. “Besides, I know some things you don’t.”
“He dates cheerleaders and prissy, perfect princesses.”
“I’m not talking about dating…” Sullie gives her a sidelong glance in the mirror. “Besides, are you considering dating him? Up until like a month ago, we thought he was a jocky jackass.”
“It’s kind of bizarre isn’t it?”
“How quickly everything’s changing.” They head out of the bathroom and into the hustle of the bowling alley. “A month ago, things were moving along swimmingly just the way they had for the last two years. Now you’re dating Ash, we’re hanging out with rugby players, and I’m developing a crush on the team captain.”
“Well, you think about what I said.” Sullie bumps Rowena’s shoulder as they step back up to the three guys. “I think it would be fun for you.” She laughs and tucks herself under Ash’s arm.
“What would be fun?” Emmette glances between the two girls, “I’m always up for fun.”
Sullie begins to laugh as Rowena stares at the floor, blood rushing to her cheeks.
“What?” Ash’s eyebrows crinkle in confusion, “What is so funny?”
“Oh nothing.” Sullie wipes a tear from the corner of her eye and buries her face in his neck, her body still shaking with laughter.
“Nothing?” Ash looks down at her suspiciously.
“Nothing.” Rising up on her tiptoes, Sullie wraps her arms around Ash’s neck and pulls him in for a kiss.
“Are you blushing?” Emmette pokes Rowena in the side.
“No.” She mumbles, covering her face.
“Well, if you were, it would be adorable.” He whispers before turning back to the group. “So, it’s 10:30. We can’t possibly be done yet. And I sure as hell don’t want to watch these two make out all night.”
“I second that.” Rowena waves her hand in the air. Her face slowly returning to her normal colour as she casually sidesteps half a step away from Emmette.
“We could always…” Frasier stops when his cell phone rings from his pocket. “One sec.” He jams one finger in his left ear.
Emmette tips an open bag of licorice in Rowena’s direction.
“Thanks.” She pulls one from the bag. Distracted, she takes a bite and watches the happy expression on Sullie’s face. She leans back into the counter beside Emmette.
“Who would have thought, huh?”
“Hmmm?” She looks toward him. A little rumble erupts in her stomach as the skin of his arm brushes against hers.
“Ash and Sullie.” Emmette shakes his head. “All of us hanging togther.”
“I know. It was… unexpected for everyone.”
“If I had known you guys were this much fun, I would have convinced Ash to break up with Brooke a long time ago.” He smirks at Rowena.
“You think we’re cool, do you?”
“Maybe.” He takes a bite of his licorice and raises his eyebrows.
“Well, that effing blows.” Frasier steps back beside them.
“Hmmm?” Ash pulls away from Sullie. “What sucks?”
“Mom just found my stash in my room.”
“Shit, dude!” Emmette actually sounds sympathetic.
“Yeah. So now, I have to go home immediately to begin my grounding.” Frasier kicks his shoe at the ground, annoyance written on his face. “This is great. I break my finger, lose my stash, and get grounded in the same day. Yippee! I guess I’ll see you guys at school on Monday.” He waves and starts to walk away.
“I’ll be right back.” Emmette touches Rowena’s arm and hurries after Frasier, his tousled blonde head disappearing quickly into the crowd. Rowena fingers her arm absentmindedly.
“Has anyone else noticed how things have shifted recently?” Ash’s eyes follow his friends into the crowd.
“Since, you’re the third person to mention it in like fifteen minutes, I’d say yes, everyone seems to have noticed.” Rowena chuckles “But we’re usually talking about the two of you.”
“There’s that, but there’s also Em.”
“What about him? Besides not being the jackass I thought he was, he seems pretty much the same.”
“He hasn’t been with anyone lately.”
“The guy goes through girls like most people go through underwear.” Ash smirks “He made a goal this year to hook up with a different girl every week for the entire semester. He hasn’t missed once until this week.”
“Well, he still has the rest of the weekend to make up for it.”
“Ah, see, his strategy is more complicated than that. He thinks it’s too easy to rely on weekend hook ups with drunk girls, so he only hooks up on Wednesdays.”
“Wednesdays?” Rowena pulls her phone from her pocket and checks the screen. No messages. Penelope must be having a good time.
“Yeah. It’s actually a really involved plan he’s set up. There are charts and everything.”
“He’s a lot smarter than people give him credit for.” Sullivan muses.
“But this week, he said he wasn’t feeling it anymore. His Wednesday hook up was spent with me.”
“You did it with Emmette!” Sullie slaps him in the arm.
“I’m not that kind of boy! We only made out a little bit…” He wiggles his eyebrows.
“That’s kind of hot.” Sullie wraps her arms around his waist, giggling.
“What’s kind of hot?” Emmette sidles up next to Rowena.
“You and Ash making out.” Rowena laughs.
“Okay, well, um, awkward.” He grimaces, running his fingers through his hair. “You guys weren’t supposed to find out about that…” He rolls his eyes and laughs, “Anyway, Frasier drove me. Can I catch a ride with you guys?”
“For sure, there’s plenty of room in my car.” Sullie pulls away from Ash. “What exactly are we doing?”
“I just bought the new Batman. Wanna go to my place and watch it?” Emmette suggests.
“I’m in.” Ash looks at the girls.
“For sure. That’s a great movie.” Rowena nods.
“Obviously, I’m in.” Sullie nods, pointing at her tights with the Batman insignia printed all over them.
Together they head out of the bowling alley, threading their way through the throng of people. As the sliding glass doors close behind them, the noise from the crowd cuts off abruptly. The sound of rain is refreshing after hours in the thrum of voices, music, bowling balls rattling against wood and the crack of pins.
“Ah, this smells better.” Sullie sighs as she digs in her purse to find her keys before they bolt through the rain, trying to avoid getting wet. Before long, they’re settling into Emmette’s warm, dry basement. Ash and Sullie stretch out on the couch while Rowena perches on the edge of the love seat, shaking out her long, wet hair. Beside her, Emmette settles on the arm of the little couch.
“Does anyone want anything? Munchies or a drink?”
“Pepsi, please.” Ash calls.
“And popcorn.” Sullivan adds.
“A pop would be great.” She smiles up at him. “Do you need any help?”
“No need. I’ve got it.” He grins, squeezing her shoulder as he stands up to walk away. She watches him wander up the stairs and pulls out her phone. ‘I wish I could talk to you. I’m so confused. Something’s going on with Emmette. Yikes!’ She hits send. Slowly letting out a deep breath, she runs her fingers through her hair. Sullivan’s giggle draws her attention back to the couch across from her. Sullie and Ash are tangled in each other’s arms. She mock gags as she catches a flicker of tongues and a swath of skin.
“Jesus, guys! At least wait until I have something else to watch.” She laughs.
“Or something else to do, right?” Sullie pulls herself into a sitting position.
“Sullivan!” Rowena warns.
“What?” Her voice feigning innocence.
“You know what.”
“Oh Row, relax. You’re not the only one with feelings.” Ash pulls Sullie into his lap. “I’m sure you’ll be busy soon enough.” He buries his face into Sullie’s neck.
“God, will you two chill out? We did not come here to watch hormones on parade.” Emmette thumps down the stairs. “At least wait until the lights are off.” He slides snacks onto the coffee tables beside each couch. “You couldn’t even break yourself away long enough to put the movie in? Classy, Ash.” He slides the disc into the machine and turns off the lights.
The thumping of the bass envelopes the room as explosions rocket across the screen. From the corner of her eye, Rowena sees a blanket fall from the back of the couch to cover her friends. She shifts herself slightly so she can’t see them anymore and leans forward to put her glass on the table. Leaning back, she jumps when she feels warm flesh against her shoulders.
“Oh?” She turns quickly, seeing Emmette’s arm stretched across the back of the seat.
“Is this okay?” He asks, his voice low.
“I think so.” Her eyes flit across the room.
“There’s no risk that they’ll notice us.”
“No what I’m worried about.” She glances across the room.
“There are worries?”
“I just want to know if I’m a Wednesday girl?”
“How do you know…”
Rowena raises a finger to his lips, silencing his rising voice. “I don’t care one way or the other.” She looks him directly in the eye, an explosion on the television lighting their faces. “I really don’t. I just want to know what to expect come Monday.”
“I don’t know. I’m having unexpected feelings. It’s confusing.” His fingers play with the damn strands of her hair. “But you are definitely not just for Wednesdays.”
“I’m in exactly the same boat.” She leans forward so he can still hear her over the movie. Her face is just inches from his. “I think I’m going to kiss you now.”
“I think that’s a good idea.” He smiles and brings his face to hers.