"Katie. Get up" Chloe seethed from above me. Once again, I simply groaned into my pillow.
I was laying in bed and Chloe had been trying to get me out of it for the past ten minutes.
"Why?" I finally spoke.
"Michael will be here in an hour!" She exclaims, tugging on my leg, but I grip the bed, holding my spot.
He was coming to pick her up and take her to his house, as she was absolutely horrible with directions and we hadn't gotten around to buying a GPS yet.
"Why do I need to be up for that?" I ask, my voice slightly muffled by the pillow.
"Well, you can either stay here by yourself all day or come with me"
"I'll stay" I shrug.
"Yes, of course, and then after the first hour when you are bored, what are you going to do for the rest of the time? Remember what happens every other time you decide to stay alone for the whole day?" She reminds me and I groan again. She's always right.
"Fine. I'm up" I sigh, rolling out of bed and onto the floor with a thud and a moan.
"Good" She chirps, turning on her heel and leaving me groaning on the cold wooden floorboards.
I push myself up and onto my feet, walking to the bathroom to start getting ready.
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"It's raining outside!" A voice announces from the doorway of the lounge room. I turn from my spot on the couch to see Michael standing there.
"Thanks for that Einstein. We weren't aware, you know, because windows don't exist" I say sarcastically, rolling my eyes and pointing to the large window across the room. Rain drops drop down it slowly as pattering noises fill the room.
"Hey! You're here!" Chloe says from behind him.
"That I am" He smirks, turning around to face her. They exchange a quick hug and pull away. "You ready to go?" He asks her.
"Yeah. Do you mind if Kate comes with us?" She asks, pulling we lips between her teeth like she always does when waiting for an answer to a question like that.
"Not at all" He shakes his head and her lip bounces back, moving into a smile.
"Lets go then!" Chloe says happily, and I step up off of the couch, brushing off my black-and-white checkered tights and straightening out my black Nirvana singlet. I brush my fingers through my straightened hair, putting it in place in front of my shoulders and half of it down my back, pulling my fringe to the side I walk out of the living room and to the doorway, sliding on my scuffed converse.
Michael leads the way out of our apartment and out of the building, to a car that isn't the van we had ridden in two nights ago.
I climb into the back seat after he unlocks it and do up my seatbelt, shutting the door behind me.
Once everyone is in, Michael drives off through the quieter neighbourhoods of Sydney until we stop outside an apartment complex much like ours.
"Here we are" Michael says, stepping out of the car.
I do the same and awkwardly follow behind Michael and Chloe as they walk through the building and past an 'out of order' elevator. I know this because of the 20 signs covering it. We walk up 3 flights of stairs before we reach a door.
Michael turns the knob and the door swings open, revealing a half-clean apartment.
"Welcome home" Michael laughs, holding his hands out. "Everyone's probably still sleeping but we can be as loud as we want, they will either sleep through it or it will finally wake them up" He informs us and I stand awkwardly at the doorway as Michael starts to lead Chloe away.
I shouldn't have come here.
"You right there? You can come in, you know" I turn my head and Ashton is standing there with tired eyes and bed hair.
"Right. Sorry" I mumble, but I don't move because I have no idea where to go.
"Do you wanna come and watch TV with me or something?" He asks, offering me a friendly smile. He must sense my uncomfortableness.
"That'd be great" I breathe out, feeling relieved. We walk into a lounge room and sit down on the couch, a cartoon already playing on the TV.
It's Adventure Time.
"Oh my God" I laugh, focusing on the TV as the rest of the episode plays. Michael and Chloe must've gone into his bedroom or something.
Soon, Calum walks out and joins us, sitting next to Ashton on the lounge and giving me a tired greeting.
After that, my mind drifts away from the cartoon playing in front of me, and into its own world, my thoughts creating a haze over my eyes.
And then I'm lost.
And the ghost of a feeling of his hands on me makes my skin crawl.
And I try my hardest to fight off the memories.
And they persevere, despite my efforts, seeping in and taking control.
But I can't let my demons over take me. Not here. Not now. Not in front of these people.
I can't.
I fight and fight and soon the flashbacks begin to evaporate and I shake my head to clear the haze.
"Have you guys got, like, a balcony or something?" I ask Calum and Ashton, trying my hardest to keep my voice steady. Somehow, I succeed.
"Uh, yeah. Just through there" Calum says, pointing out through a doorway, seeming a little confused.
I pick up my handbag from next to me and rush through the door, muttering a thank you as I begin to search for the balcony.
It doesn't take very long.
It's pretty hard to miss.
Sunlight streams through the room, that seems to be unused, through the windows in large French doors.
I walk over and open them up, walking outside into the fresh air and shutting the doors behind me.
Fumbling through my handbag, I find what I'm looking for.
Pulling out the packet, I open it up, dragging out a cigarette.
I fish my lighter out of the bag and put it under the cigarette, flicking the lighter so that a flame appears. In seconds, the cigarette is lit and I'm finally feeling relaxed as I take a long drag, breathing out the smoke through my nose.
I put my bag on a small table and lean against the balcony to the street below, occasionally having a puff of my cigarette.
I hear the door open and shut behind me but I don't bother turning around.
"I didn't know you smoke"
"Well, you do now" I say, putting the long white stick back between my lips.
The person stands next to me and I know it's Luke by the sight of his blonde hair in my peripheral vision.
"You know how bad that is for you, right?" He asks.
"Of fucking course I do. I'm not an idiot. I'm gonna die anyway, might as well be calm on the way. It's not like I'm a chain smoker or anything, just one when I really need to relax" I shrug, facing away from him and breathing out smoke. "Hopefully this will help me die quicker" I shrug, tapping the end so that flakes of ash fall down to the ground below.
"Why on earth would you want that?"
"Why on earth not?" I counter.
"It's your birthday" He states.
"I guess it is" I raise my eyebrow at nothing in particular, looking around for something I can use as an ashtray.
I find a shallow clay bowl and squish the cigarette butt against it, putting it out. I grab a mint from my bag and put it in my mouth, spraying myself with some body spray.
"Happy Birthday"
"Who told you?" I ask him, moving to stand next to him again. I put my arms up against the railing, leaning on them as I look down below us.
"Chloe invited us to come out tonight" He shrugs.
"Oh no, not again" I groan. I've not liked birthdays for a long time. Not since I was about 10. But Chloe had made me go out to dinner every year so far, no matter how much I protested. She was too stubborn. "So, are you coming?"
"I don't know. I think so, probably, we've nothing better to do" He tells me and I nod, rolling my eyes. "Why are you not excited? It's your birthday! Be happy!" He cheers, trying to make me at least a bit enthusiastic for this chore of a day.
"Love, when you go through what I went through, you'll understand why I don't like to celebrate yet another year of living"
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"You look stunning!" Chloe squeals, clapping her hands.
She literally forced me into the damned dress. It's not too tight, or short, so I guess it's better than everything else she attempted to put on me. The bottom flows out and it's a nice aqua colour, the top is lacy and black and a bit tight around my chest, making my boobs look even bigger.
"Now, let me do your hair and makeup" She has a very demanding tone, telling me not to argue like she knows I will. "I'm doing it whether you like it or not" She warns me, and I roll my eyes and sit down on the stool in front of the mirror on her dresser. I can't be bothered to put up a fight.
She grins an accomplished smile and walks over to me, putting all of these random things on my face.
It's weird. When I was younger, I used to get so excited for when I could do my hair all nice and wear makeup and dresses and be all girly. But now, I hate all of that stuff.
My hair is unruly and impossible to control, so I really don't bother. It basically lives in a ponytail.
I can't find a good enough reason to actually put in the effort of wearing makeup.
And dresses make me want to vomit. I can't even do cartwheels in them. Not that I do cartwheels often, but it's always nice to have that option.
I prefer my tights and jeans and shorts.
She finishes my makeup and I don't bother looking up, I'll wait until she finishes with my hair.
It always amazes me how different she always seems to make me look.
She plugs in her straightener and puts my hair up in random clips while she waits for it to heat up.
After about 40 minutes, she gives a satisfied huff, and steps in front of me to admire her work.
"You look perfect" She sighs, picking up a strand of hair that looks to be twisted and then letting it fall back into place.
"Yeah, yeah" I roll my eyes and wave her off, shooing her out of the way so that I can get a look at what she's done.
My eyes are outlined by a dark, black line, making the blue in them really stand out against my tanned face. My lips are glossy and my cheeks are tinted pink, my eyelids are a very dark blue, almost black, and my eyelashes are long and flicked up.
My brown hair is in twists, making it look like curly dreadlocks but not quite. Some of it falls in front of my shoulders while the rest is behind me, down my back. She has puffed it all up a bit, giving it volume, and the front is flipped over, and she has sprayed it with hairspray, making it stick up in a lump.
"Not bad, shorts, not bad" I smirk, using the nickname I had had for her for as long as I can remember. I always loved to poke fun at her height, she just claimed she was "vertically challenged" and that I'm "abnormally tall anyway". She was half right, I guess.
I was nowhere near as tall as Luke, or any of those boys for that matter.
"My thoughts exactly. Now, I need to get ready, don't touch anything" She points a manicured finger at me before walking into her closet. I shrug and and get off of the stool in search of my guitar.
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"Lets go!" An hour and a half later, Chloe calls out. "We're meeting them in there" She says.
"Yay" I mutter unenthusiastically.
"Oh, lighten up" She scolds me, flinging the front door open and letting me out, shutting and locking it behind her.
We walk out to my car and I get in the drivers side, heading towards the same tavern we almost always go to.
After I park the car, Chloe and I walk into the small tavern, and we look for our table.
"I can't believe you manage to get me to come every. Damn. Year" I sigh.
"I think you secretly love it, that's why you give in" She says and I shoot her a glare.
"Your boyfriends here" I tell her, nodding at the door.
"Not my boyfriend"
"Whatever you say" I sing, standing up and walking to the bar to avoid seeing the four boys for at least a while longer.
"A coke and a vodka & orange juice please" I tell them, knowing Chloe's order all too well. I would grab an alcoholic drink myself but I have to drive, so I'll have to stick with coke for now.
"You driving, are you?" Peter, the 28 year old bartender that I now know quite well, given the many times we come here, asks me.
"Yep. As usual" I roll my eyes and he laughs, going off to prepare our drinks.
"Happy Birthday" A voice says from beside me.
"Not quite" I say blankly to Calum and he sits on the bar stool next to me.
"Birthday" He corrects himself and I let out a small laugh.
"You're getting the round of drinks, I assume?"
"Yeah" He sighs. "They dobbed me in"
"Oh, poor you" I laugh and he shoots me a quick smile.
"3 coronas and a lemonade, please" He tells Pete his order and shows his I.D before turning back to me.
"So, lemonade. Who's driving?" I ask.
"It's for Luke. He would have to have lemonade anyway, whether he was driving or not" Calum laughs to himself.
"Why's that?" I ask.
"He's not allowed to drink alcohol?" Calum says, as if this is world wide information that I should know.
I just raise my brow at him.
"He's only 17" Calum says and I almost fall off of my chair.
"You're joking!" I exclaim. I would've thought he had to be at least 18.
"Nope. He gets so pissy about it" He chuckles.
"Oh my God" I'm not sure why I find this so amusing. Maybe it's because of the whole punk thing he seems to have going on. He seemed like such a little badass when we spoke earlier today, when we were out on the balcony. We talked for about 3 hours out there and I would not of guessed he could be just 17.
He looks a lot older than 17, too.
"Wait. He's in high school?" I ask.
"Yeah. Well, at least he should be. He dropped out though" Calum shrugs.
"I can't believe this" I shake my head and thank Pete when he comes over with our drinks. I pay him and pick them up, helping Calum and taking Luke's lemonade back too.
"If you say anything, it will crush him" Calum chuckles.
"Sounds like a plan" I say mischievously. Calum and I reach the table and I set the drinks down. "Vodka and orange for you" I hand Chloe her drink and she smiles at me, thanking me. "And lemonade for you. They didn't have any poppers left, sorry love." I say, putting it down in front of him. He looks utterly confused.
I sit down next to him, Calum on my other side, and we face Michael, Ashton and Chloe.
"So, how was daycare?" I turn to Luke and Calum chokes on his drink beside me. "Did you learn any new words?"
"What are you-"
"Do some finger painting?" I ask him and Calum tries his hardest to hold in his laughter from next to me.
A smirk rests on my face and I sip at my drink.
"I'm so confused" Luke says.
"Oh, are the words I'm using a little too big for you? I'm sorry" I say, using my gentlest voice, as if I was talking to a baby.
"What are you talking about?" He groans.
"Did you have a good sleep in nap time? Did they read you a nice book?" I continue taunting him and he still has no idea what's going on.
He just looks at me weirdly and starts drinking his lemonade.
"He has no clue" Calum whispers beside me.
"I know" I laugh.
"Does everyone know what they're getting?" Chloe asks, interrupting my fun. The boys look down at their menus and nod. We all write down our orders and her and Michael go to the counter to order.
"You look really nice tonight" Luke tells me, ignoring the remarks I've been making. I feel my chest tighten and my face heat up slightly from his words. I don't hear that very often.
"Oh" I say, not really sure how to react. I would thank him, but that means I'm accepting it, and I don't feel like I deserve that.
"You do" He assures me. I nod and say nothing else, because I really have nothing else to say.
"You're turning 19, right?" Ashton asks me.
"That I am" I nod. "19 whole years of bullshit" I mutter to myself, quiet enough for no one to hear.
"Wow Luke, she's a lot older than you" Ashton smiles innocently at him.
"Yeah yeah, very funny" He says with an eye roll. "I'm going to the toilet" Luke says, standing up from his seat.
"Shouldn't one of you go with him? Hold his hand? Change his diaper and what-not?" I say and Calum bursts into laughter, Ashton joins him.
"Oh fuck. That's what you've been going on about" Luke sighs, running a hand through his hair.
"Luke! I ought to wash your mouth out with soap. That's a dollar in the swear jar" I scold him jokingly.
"Not you too" He mumbles before walking off, leaving us three to howl with laughter.
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"Happy Birthday" Chloe says, stepping through my bedroom door and joining me on my bed.
"Chloe. I thought I told you. No more presents" I groan at the wrapped up package in her hands.
"Just open" She demands. She crosses her legs and pulls at her singlet and pyjama shorts, handing me the gift. I rip it open to reveal two objects. I pull the first one out to examine it. It's a photo frame with a picture of the two of us in it.
I look at her and smile and then set the frame down, pulling out the second part of the present. My fingers touch fabric and I pull it out in front of me, revealing a black crew neck sweater.
"Oh my- Chloe!" I exclaim, looking at it closely.
"I got sick of you saying how much you wanted it" She says.
"You shouldn't-"
"Oh shut up. You're my best friend, I'm not going to just get you nothing" She says, rolling her eyes at me.
"Thank you. So much. You are the greatest best friend ever" I say, hugging her tightly.
"I know. Now, go to sleep, its late and I'm tired" She says, pulling away from our hug and kissing me on the cheek before leaving my room to go into her own.
I fold up the sweater and out it on my bedside table, putting the photo of us next to it, facing my bed.
Scrunching up the wrappers, I put them on the floor to deal with them tomorrow, closing my eyes and drifting away for a little while.

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