Surrounded by Kitty, Will and Harper, who are deep into personal anecdotes and telling stories about people I don't know, I start to feel alone. I sip on the third cocktail that Harper has made me and check my phone far too often. We're sitting at a table in the now-crowded bar, while Charlotte and Sylvie serve drinks.
I'm looking at my phone again when Harper says, 'So, where are you from, Jane?'
I look up, and he grins at my surprise. I'm relieved that he's made the effort to bring me back into the conversation.
'Brighton,' I say.
'Oh yeah, of course. Same as Kitty. And she said you're going to take the job in the bookshop?'
I nod. 'Where are you from?'
'South London. Then I moved to Sheffield for a stint for uni but didn't fancy it, so now I'm back inside the M25, where I belong.' He finishes off the last of his beer.
I'm intrigued, and I'm about to tell Harper that I dropped out of university, too, but he stands up before I can open my mouth. 'Anyone need another one?' he asks the table.
'Tequila sunrise, please doll,' Kitty says with a smile.
'Vodka,' Will requests.
'Jane, another one?'
I really don't want to get too drunk tonight, because I want to make a good impression with these guys, but I suppose another one can't hurt. 'Sure.'
Harper winks. 'Coming right up.'
He goes over to the bar, adjusting the collar of his denim shirt. When he lets himself behind the bar, Charlotte and he immediately start chatting. I watch the way she moves - she plays with her long, dyed red hair, and every few minutes she adjusts her top.
I'm wearing an oversized jumper. It's incredibly soft and it cost a lot, but it's not intended to be sexy. If I was standing next to Charlotte I'm sure I'd look like a round ball of fluff. Maybe it's because I've spent the last few years with a boyfriend, but I'm not used to trying to dress sexy. I make a mental note to reevaluate my wardrobe.
'Got eyes for Harper, huh?' Will says. His voice is louder than before.
I stare at him, my cheeks reddening, and then glance across the table at Kitty to see if she's heard, but she's looking at her phone and doesn't seem to care.
Will laughs at my shocked expression. 'Come on, he's the only straight guy around. And he is cute.'
'He's not cute,' I say, and I mean it. 'He's... hot.'
Harper isn't like the boys in sixth form. His broad shoulders and strong jawline naturally make him look more grown up. I like his confidence, and his huge grin, and his long brown hair, tied up in a messy bun.
'But that doesn't mean I'm into him,' I say firmly. 'Anyway, I'm trying to steer clear of boys at the moment.'
'Girl, you said it. Men are trash,' Will says, with a laugh. He drops off his barstool and marches to the bar.
I glance over at Kitty, but she's still looking at her phone. I lean across, trying to see what's captured her attention, and realise she's scrolling through a thread of text messages. The name at the top says "Matt".
'Are you texting Matt?' I ask her.
Kitty looks up at me, her face shocked, as if I've caught her doing something terrible. She clicks her phone locked, and then stands up. 'I don't think I want to drink tonight,' she says suddenly.
'Wait, Kitty,' I say, but before I can even get off my bar stool, Kitty is grabbing her coat and out the door. I stare after her, unsure what to do. Should I follow her upstairs?
Before I can make a decision, Will is back at the table, this time holding a vodka bottle. He pours a glass for both of us, but there's no way I can drink straight vodka, so I just leave it.
'Kitty went upstairs,' I tell him, somewhat uselessly.
'Harper definitely thinks you're cute,' Will says, completely ignoring my statement. 'I know he kinda seems like a lads, lads, lads kinda guy because he's got that South London accent, but he's alright. He's genuine.'
'Okay,' I say. I shift in my seat, feeling my cheeks heat up with embarrassment. I've made a terrible decision. Why am I here, sitting in this bar, with people I barely know? Why on earth did I agree to take a job when I know nothing about this place?
'You know who isn't genuine? My ex-boyfriend,' Will says. 'He was cheating on me the whole time, and pretended as if it was my fault that I hadn't made it official. Matt found out. Matt told me.'
I feel out of my depth, and I look over at the bar, desperately hoping that Harper will notice me and take pity on me. I'm trying to figure out a way to get out of this conversation with Will.
'Sounds like Matt's a good friend,' I say.
Will scoffs, and takes a big swig of his vodka. 'Not really,' he says. Then he stares at me. 'You gonna go for it with Harper?'
'Uh, I don't know,' I say honestly. 'Um, should I?'
Will laughs. 'Trust me. Hooking up with your neighbour is always a bad idea.'
Then suddenly, Harper is beside me.
'Sorry this took so long,' Harper says, slipping into the seat beside me. He places another pink cocktail in front of me.
'Uh, maybe I should go,' I say. Now that Kitty's not here, I don't feel comfortable hanging out with these guys. But Harper doesn't hear me, because Will has interrupted.
'Harper Fields,' Will says. 'We were just talking about you! You and your cock!'
Harper and I both stare at Will.
'Cocktails!' Will says, and bursts into laughter.
'Shit, he's really drunk,' Harper says, glancing at me. 'William, I think you should go upstairs. We don't want you to to disturb any of our customers.'
'Oh, come on, pretty boy,' Will says to Harper. 'It was just a joke.'
Harper stands up, then looks at me. 'Uh, Jane? Mind helping me take Will upstairs?'
• Author's Note •
Okay so what are your thoughts on Will right now? And how about Harper?
And of course, thank you for reading!
Don't forget to vote to show your support to me, and help this novel reach more lovely readers.
Here is my question of the chapter for you lovely lot:
Do you think getting with a neighbour/flatmate/housemate/colleague is a bad idea?
See you next chapter!
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Brew Books 1 ✓ChickLit
London. A café and bookstore, run by 7 young bibliophiles. Until one disappears. Newly single, dropped out of her first year of university, and troubled by her past, Jane goes to London to find her childhood best friend - the one person who might un...