( For his brother’s friend …. 😇 )
Written by:- Williams Kendall____✍🏽
🏈 CHAPTER. FOURTEEN.
“So anyway!” Emmett waved his hands in the air to draw our attention back to him. “That was when I realized I had gotten into the wrong car, and ended up in some stranger’s house. But it worked out! His mom made me pancakes!” We all roared with laughter at Emmett’s ridiculous story. Even Archer let out a deep, small chuckle as he shook his head.
Our group had been playing drinking games for the last hour, swapping stories and having a great time. Brit, Kayla, and Emmett were doing sh-ots and already showing signs of being pretty drunk. Archer and James weren’t too far behind them as they’d been sipping whiskey straight from glasses. Madeline was right about sparkling wine. We’d both drank a few glasses now and I was feeling it. My smile was more permanent on my face currently, and the quiet music in the background made me wiggle and bob more than I normally would. But I still felt in control.
Archer kept his arm around my shoulders as we played. He’d give me a little squ-eese or shoulder rub occasionally to make me look up at him and smile. Every time I did, his l-ips would lift slightly and his eyes would glint with something I couldn’t quite recognize. Looking around the room at all of my friends laughing, I couldn’t help but feel like this was what college was about.
Brit and Kayla both seemed to be fitting in well. I noticed that they were giving Emmett and James a lot of attention, and hadn’t spoken to Mads as much since the guys showed up. I knew they got a little boy crazy but I wanted to keep the fun, friendly vibes going so I made sure to bring Madeline into every conversation. James and Emmett also didn’t seem interested in getting paired off. They were polite and having fun, but neither was returning the girls’ obvious advances directly. I figured once we got to the party Brit and Kayla would move on to the abundance of college boys.
“We should probably head out!” James shouted as he stood and wobbled on his feet. “Tyler just texted me that things are picking up.”
“Let’s go bitches! Quick bathroom selfie before we go!” Kayla sprang up, grabbing my hand and pulling me down the hallway. We landed in front of the bathroom mirror just as Brit and Madeline came in as well closing the door behind them. The four of us had to squ-eese to all get in the sh-ot, but a few clicks later we had some really cute pictures of us hugging and laughing.
“Alright, before we head back out. Lotty are you banging Archer?! What the f-ck!” Brit stared at me with accusatory eyes.
“Hmmm I’ll have to remember that,” Kayla said with a slow smirk. Something in her words made my stomach t¡ghten.
“What? No! I’ve told you we’re just friends. He just gets touchy when he’s drunk.”
“Archer is always touchy with Charlotte,” Madeline said as her hand gently pressed into my spine. “With everyone else, he’s like a cactus.”
“Well, either way. There’s no shortage of h-ot boys around here. I’m going to have Emmett eating out of my palm by the end of the night.” Brit spoke as she fluffed her hair in the mirror.
This wh0le conversation was ruining the happy mood I’d had all evening so I pushed open the door and led the girls out before any more could be said. The boys were all waiting for us at the front door. We grabb£d our purses and I locked up on our way out as we all set off to walk to the football house.
I ended up walking between Archer and Madeline as we tailed behind the rest. Brit had looped her arm through Emmett’s as they walked in front. She kept pulling him down to whisper in his ear, he’d smile and say something back before straightening and continuing forward. James and Kayla walked directly in front of us, chatting easily. I noticed that Kayla swung her hips fairly dramatically and would occasionally peek over her should to give us a smirk. The uneasiness that began in the bathroom wasn’t going away. But I was determined to enjoy tonight.
Arriving at the party I was relieved to see that it seemed controlled. A rookie was posted at the door, only letting certain people in. We walked by easily, with Emmett giving his teammate a commiserating fist bump. The boys had pushed all of the furniture against the walls, leaving the main area free to be a dance floor. We all went straight to the back kitchen for drinks. The entrance had been blocked off, with only a small counter acting as a bar where you could stand and order a drink from another rookie.
I saw Madeline shouting in the rookie’s ear for a few seconds and pointing over at Archer and me before he nodded and started pulling bottles out. He passed Madeline two red solo cups with a smile which she returned before spinning around and walking proudly over to me.
“Okay, so phase two of our classy night continues!” She yelled as she passed me a cup. I took a sip and was pleasantly surprised. The drink tasted bubbly, a little sour, but overall refreshing and barely like alcohol. I raised my eyebrows in surprise as I peeked at Mads over the cup.
“I told him that you were Archer’s girl and he’d be smart to keep you happy,” Madeline laughed at us. I looked at her slightly mortified by her lie but then Archer pulled me against his chest, with my back pressed to his front.
“Good call.” He smirked back as he dropped his chin on top of my head. We stood like that at the back of the living room for a while. I felt relaxed with Archer pressed against me and Mads at my side. The boys were magnets apparently because without doing anything people kept coming up to us. Most of them were football players I’d already met. They’d slap hands with the boys before greeting me politely and getting introduced to the other girls. A few of the braver ones pulled me away from Archer for a hug but I always ended up back in front of him.
“Uhm yeah sure, Charlotte you wanna play too?” Emmett asked, giving me a pleading look. I was comfortable where I was, and a part of me wanted to stay tucked there all night. But I’d been enjoying myself, and I felt bad for Emmett so I agreed. The second I did, Archer said he’d play too so the four of us went to set up a game.
“Okay, Smalls. Give us your best sh-ot!” Emmett smirked at me when I stepped up to shoot. I’d never played this game before, but I understood the ess£ntials—put the ball in the cup. I tucked my elbow into my ribs and closed one eye to aim before pulling my arm back slightly and flicking my wrist to release the ball. The small white ping pong ball flew through the air and plunked right into their front cup.
I burst into laughter at the flat faces of Brit and Emmett. “What? Is this supposed to be h-rd or something?” I cheeked back.
“Alright settle down Sweetheart,” Archer chuckled as he stepped up to shoot. “Don’t get c-cky too early.”
We were laughing so loudly as we took sh-ots back and forth that a crowd gathered around us. Kayla and Mads both came to stand on our end, cheering us on. Archer and Emmett were by far the best on both teams, only missing a few sh-ots each. I was doing pretty well too, especially for a beginner. Brit had only gotten one ball in the cup so far, and it seemed like it was affecting her mood. She was starting to get quieter and wasn’t joining in on Emmett and I’s jokes anymore.
Archer had just gotten another ball in the cup. He turned to come back to my side when Kayla reached out her hand to his chest to stop him.
“Wow Archer, you’ve got skills,” She said coyly as she stepped closer to him, looking up through her lashes. I spun away quickly, giving my attention back to the game. I don’t know why seeing Kayla act that way affected me, but I didn’t like it. The second she touched him a chill ran over me and my heart sunk.
I plastered a fake smile on my face as I watched Emmett take another sh-ot. Looking over at Brit, I saw she was watching Archer and Kayla with a smirk. Our eyes connected across the table and she lifted one shoulder into a shrug as if to say, “Oh well.”
The rest of the game passed in a blur, Archer came to stand next to me but Kayla stayed glued to his side as well. The second it was over I grabb£d Madeline and pulled her over to Brit and Emmett’s side of the table to congratulate them and put distance between Archer and I. I was determined to enjoy my night, and watching Kayla flirt with Archer was not going to help that.
“Let’s grab drinks!” Mads yelled, getting quick agreements from Emmett, Brit, and I. As we walked back to the kitchen Brit hooked her arm through mine and pulled us back behind the others.
“Lotty you know you can’t be mad at her,” she chastised as we waited for Madeline to get the drinks.
“I’m not mad,” I said hastily. It was true, I wasn’t mad necessarily. I just… didn’t like it. Did a part of me wish my best friend had picked any guy besides Archer? Sure. But I knew I couldn’t blame her.
“Good. Because it looks like they are getting along and it really wouldn’t be cool for you to get in the middle. I mean c’mon Lotty, you had years to go after Archer and now you’re just friends? He’s fair game.”
“I… I know that.” I said quietly. I wasn’t sure why Brit was so adamant about this, but I wasn’t going to fight with her about it. I knew my feelings were irrational, but that didn’t mean I could stop them.
“Good,” she said with a bright smile as Madeline walked over with her hands filled with cups. “Besides, half these guys seem to be in love with you, I’m sure you’ll bounce back just fine.” Madeline caught the tail end of our conversation and ran her eyes over my face, obviously seeing the drop in my mood.
“Charlotte! Come to the bathroom with me!” She shouted over the music.
“Oh sorry, I just really need to talk to Charlotte. You know… roommate stuff,” Madeline said with a sugary smile as she put her arm around me and dragged me around the corner to the bathroom.
“Okay, what the hell is happening?” She asked as she closed the door behind us. “They seemed so cool today and now all of a sudden they’re both acting like bitches?”
“They’re not… that.” I weakly tried to defend Brit and Kayla but realized there wasn’t much I could say. “I don’t know Mads! They just get really competitive sometimes. Especially with boys and attention. Plus Brit always thinks she knows best.”
“Well, that’s bull Charlotte,” Madeline said decisively. “I heard what Brit told you and that is not true. Look, I don’t know what’s going on with you and Archer, but anyone with eyes—especially your best friends—should be able to see there’s something there.”
A blush darkened my cheeks as Madeline spoke. “I… nothing is going on with us. I mean, I don’t know! This wh0le friendship thing is a little confusing right now. Maybe some of my old feelings are still kicking around. But I like being friends with Archer and I don’t think I want that to change. But I also don’t want to see my best friend all over him. Does that make me selfish?”
Madeline and I stayed in there a while longer. By the time we were ready to rejoin the party she had me laughing to the point where I was wiping tears away. I was still struggling with my feelings towards Brit and Kayla right now, but having Mads by my side made it sting less. Our friendship was easy, kind, and supportive. Plus, it was between equals, which I never realized before that I was missing.
“What the f-ck is your problem?” A shrill voice came from the hallway as we opened the bathroom door.
“Look I’m sorry I’m really trying to be nice here, but I’m not interested.” A deeper voice I immediately recognized as Archer responded. Was that Kayla then? From where we were standing in the bathroom, we were just out of sight from the two. I wanted to peek around the frame of the door but I was frozen just like Madeline.
“Seriously? You don’t want me? The Archer from high school sure wasn’t this picky.” Kayla snarked back.
“I only came down here with you cause you said Charlotte came this way. I’m sorry I just want to find her.” Archer said, sounding exasperated. His words softened my heart slightly, and I looked over to see Mads giving me an, “Awww” face.
“So this is all about Charlotte? You want her then?” Kayla spat. I held my breath waiting for Archer’s response but he stayed silent. “Wow. Looks like baby Lotty is finally getting what she’s wanted for all these years then.” Kayla laughed with a darkness in her voice I didn’t recognize. Tears sprang to my eyes at how carelessly she’d thrown out my secret.
“What are you talking about?” Archer questioned.
“Oh please. You didn’t know? Everyone did. Charlotte has been in love with you ever since she was a kid. It’s pathetic really, she’s obsessed. I’m pretty sure half the reason she’ still a V-rgin is because she’s saving it for you. Looks like little Lotty got smart though. The wh0le ‘pretend to be his friend’ angle was genius.”
It was as though the world around me fell away. I didn’t hear Archer’s response, or either one of them walking away. I didn’t hear Madeline asking me if I was okay. The ringing of blood rushing through my veins and my ragged breathing was the only thing I could focus on. I briefly noted that Madeline was dragging me outside, then down a set of steps and out onto a lawn.
soft grass tickled between my f-ngers as Madeline pulled me down to sit on the ground with her. The small tingles from the blades caught my focus and tried to tug me back to reality.
“C’mon Charlotte. Tell me five things you can see.” Madeline said forcefully as she sat in front of me. Taking a deep breath, I knew I needed to ground myself from the onslaught of anxiety.
“You… that tree… the stars… the lawn… a bush…” I wheezed between breaths.
“Good. Four things you can touch. Go.”
“The grass… my leggings… this rock… Uhm,” I looked around for a fourth thing before Madeline’s hand sh-ot out to hold my own. “You,” I added with a weak smile. We went through the rest of the exercise and by the time we were done my breathing had relaxed and I could focus.
“What would I do without you,” I sighed as Madeline and I sat quietly.
“Well, you’re about to find out,” Madeline said venomously. “Because I’m pretty sure I’m going to jail after I’m done with those two bitches.”
“Wouldn’t be talking about us would you?” Brit’s voice chirped from a few yards back. She and Kayla were sauntering over to us, so Madeline and I stood to meet them. I could tell Madeline was opening her mouth to start tearing a strip off of them, but I was done with other people fighting my battles.
“How could you?” I said simply to Kayla, trying to hold back the tears that wanted to p-our out.
“What? Did Archer tell you something? Look, Lotty, I know you think you know what you’re doing but this is all way above your head. Brit agrees too. You are just in this too deep. You need to step back and see how you’re acting…”
Just like that, my tears were gone. The only thing in my eyes was red, h-ot, anger. “I need to see how I’m acting? No. Not happening. You both have been horrible. For our entires freaking lives. You have talked over me, ignored me, and been condescending. But you know what? I can’t even blame you, because I let you. But I’m not anymore. I’m an adult and this is my life. You don’t get to swoop in and ruin it. And you definitely do not get to come here and try to ruin my relationships. Seriously Kayla? I heard everything you said to Archer. How dare you.”
With every word, my spine straightened a little more. By time I was done I was standing tall and staring back at Brit and Kayla, waiting to see what they’d say.
“Lotty…” Brit started, using her “mediator” voice that I hated. All it did was convince me that I was wrong, or irrational. “We have been best friends since middle school. Don’t you think we want what’s best for you? You’ve just changed a lot since coming here. We’re worried.”
“If you are so worried about me then why do you never check-in? Why do you both only ever talk about yourselves when we do talk? Let’s face it. You both only came here because you saw an opportunity to have fun, not because you missed me.” I kept my voice low and steady. I didn’t want to yell and shout at my two longest friends, but I was done being treated this way. Madeline stood next to me, shoulder to shoulder, offering her silent support.
“Okay, you obviously need to calm down a bit,” Brit said firmly, hooking her arm through Kayla’s. “We’re gonna go back to the party because I don’t want the night to be ruined. We can talk later.”
“Actually, I think you can both leave.” Archer interjected, making us all look up to see him standing behind our group. “Charlotte can stay so her night isn’t ruined.”
Brit and Kayla spun around, looking between Madeline and I, then Archer—seemingly looking to see if anyone was going to save them. We all just stood tall, staring at them, waiting for them to leave. Finally Brit huffed and stomped away pulling Kayla with her. A tinge of guilt poked me as I watched them walk away, but I knew this had to happen. I wasn’t the same girl they used to know, and if they wanted to be my friends now—they would have to like the new me.
“Hey… uh Sweetheart? Can we talk?”
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