Author's Note: Sleepless nights seem to give me a bit more creativity. That, in addition to the sudden free time I have, being on summer vacation, might help me pop out a few new stories. Here's a little one for now. I don't know, I kind of like these two together. Sorry about the double-story. You'll see.
I swear, if I hear that One Direction song one more time…
I was lamenting myself to Takuya, again. It's true, though! I might be the only girl left that doesn't like that song.
"Come on, Zoe," he replied, bobbing his head to the music, "it's not that bad. Remember how you were with Call Me Maybe a few weeks ago?"
"Takuya!" I sighed, defeated. He was right. I did happen to have a strong distaste to that song, but after hearing him blast it out of his car for the umpteenth time, I had to sing along. There was a girl on my floor in residence that simply would not stop singing it, over and over again, and I guess it just stuck.
"You don't know you're beautiful!" he sing-shouted when we got to a red light.
I was starting to think Takuya was the only guy I knew to actually like that song, belting it out like that. Not that I was embarrassed to be there with him. There are many benefits to driving around with Takuya. For one, he drives an Audi. Second, other than the fact that he's one of my best friends, he has a parking pass for campus, and we lived in a residence quite far from many classes. Not that it matters now, since we're back home between semesters.
Either way, we were on our way to somewhere important. For anyone's birthday, we all got together. This time, it was Kouichi and Kouji's, and we decided to hold the get-together at JP's apartment. It was the largest and wouldn't have anyone else there to bother us.
I checked my phone, and saw that Tommy had texted, saying he had gotten to JP's safely. We were all a bit worried about him after he got clipped on his bike by a speeding driver last month. I exhaled. Maybe this time would be even a bit less awkward than the last time I saw JP.
I had a day or two to spare during my spring break between seeing my family and going back to residence, Takuya was out of town, Tommy's break was different than ours since he was still in his last year of high school, and the twins spent their time off on the other side of the country, so it was just me and JP. We decided to head to a well-known performance bar in a secluded edge of town. JP loved doing tricks for the crowds and he was well-received there. That night, though, since it was just the two of us, he said he'd forgo the tricks and just spend time with me.
How naïve could I be?
The night itself went well. I hadn't seen him since Takuya's birthday in January, when they came up to campus. We talked about how his counselling job was going, how I was doing in my new classes for the semester, what student groups I was getting involved with, things like that. Eventually, though, he came upon the topic of who I was involved with. The boys knew I was well-known in the dating scene, and of course JP was protective of me, but sometimes he was a bit overprotective. At the time, I was dating a second-year psychology major, and for some reason that triggered him to become a territorial bear. He went on about how I shouldn't be with an upperclassman because he had ulterior motives and a psych major would just analyse every part of me.
Well, at first I scoffed it off because he and Teppei were the same age, therefore JP implies he has those motives ("But I'm not like them, Zoe, I have a certain level of class and control.") and because his major has nothing to do with his personality ("You work with slight-of-hand yet you're honest as fuck."). Besides, shouldn't I want someone to analyse every part of me, if you know what I mean? And why couldn't I do any analysing of my own to JP ("If anything, you're a contradiction, never revealing your tricks yet being so fucking transparent about me!")?
I need to learn to keep my mouth shut sometimes.
From there, the debate went from playful banter to a full shouting match in the parking lot of the bar, because I refused to be yelled at in front of the whole establishment. The next few minutes of arguing were a blur, and the next thing I remember was him just standing there in silence, hands in the pockets of his dark wash jeans, looking at his shoes.
"Junpei…?" I asked, suddenly worried about somehow offending my friend. He was still, in some ways, the bullied boy I met on that train.
"You know, even after this, I still see myself with you in the end."
I closed my phone and played with the custom cellphone charm that dangled on the end, my water and wind symbols intertwined. I felt that if there was any time to need strength, it was now. I got out of the car with Takuya and walked up the apartment's front steps.
When we arrived at his floor, there was no mistaking which door was his. There were two balloons tied to the doorknob, a white and black one (he was always for symbolism) with Kouichi and Kouji's names written on them. Takuya knocked and it was promptly opened by Tommy, surprisingly.
"Hey guys! Haven't seen you two around in a while!"
The three of us shared a little group hug, until we were interrupted by a large, recognisable voice coming from the back hall.
"You better not be group hugging without me!"
JP jogged down the hallway with a grin on his face, then stopped, straightened up, and white-washed his expression, once he realized I was there instead of the twins.
"Zoe," he said, breathlessly, but not from the jog.
"Hello, JP!" I hid my awkwardness with an exuberant greeting, something I had learned to do back home. "Missed you too!" He instantly brightened up.
"Missed you too. Takuya, bro! How's it been?" Everything was back to normal, thankfully. We made small talk until the twins arrived, but when they did, it was utter chaos.
I never saw myself as anything other than their friend, but when all the guys got together lately, it was all bro-talk. The usual, clichéd topics were covered like girls, cars, and things like that, and as much as I wanted to partake, lately I've felt distant from them in that respect. I was used to being pushed aside, so I ended up being fine with it. Either way, it wasn't my day, it was Kouichi and Kouji's day.
We made a pact to never buy presents for each other on birthdays, so we had found different ways to celebrate. Luckily, JP's neighbour was already twenty, so he could buy alcohol, and did he deliver. I was certainly happy because my drink of choice, rum, was in abundance. I was lucky to have already drank with the boys on previous occasions so I had already proved that I could hold my liquor, and had once drank Takuya, the campus party animal, under the table going shot-for-shot.
"Hey, JP, got a deck of cards?" Tommy asked.
"Are you kidding?" He left and returned promptly with a deck and handed it to Tommy.
"Do you guys want to get drunk fast?" Almost immediately, Takuya sprung up.
"YES. YES I REALLY DO."
Tommy explained a game one of his friends taught him at his after-graduation party. It was called King's. Basically a deck of cards was spread out on the floor and we, sitting in a circle, had to pick a card one at a time and had to do what the cards told us to do. For example, threes were me, and you had to drink on your own. We decided to try it, giving the birthday boys the first pick.
Kouichi picked first, a seven. We all thrust our hands into the air, seven being heaven. Takuya was the last to do so, so he had to drink. Then it was Kouji, picking a ten, categories.
"Red Velvet," Tommy said first.
"Chocolate," Takuya said.
"Vanilla," JP was next.
"Tiramisu," I said, with exasperated looks from the guys. "What? It's a cake!"
"Coconut?" We accepted Tommy's answer.
"…fuck." I drank.
Tommy picked a four, floor. JP was the last one to slam the floor with his hand and had to drink. Takuya pulled a Jack, rule. He made a stupid rule where you had to clap before you drank every subsequent drink or else you have to drink twice. JP pulled a six, chicks. I was the only one who clap-drank. Finally I pulled an Ace, waterfall.
I clapped and started drinking my double rum-and-coke, and then Kouichi, Kouji, and it went down the line. I decided on a whim to get really drunk and chugged my drink instead of sipping it like you were supposed to and finished my glass quickly.
The game continued, and drinks were spilled. I got giggly drunk and refused to listen to anyone after a certain point. I honestly was thirsty and it wasn't my fault the nearest drink was yet another glass of rum-and-coke. I got up to fix myself another glass, but quickly realized I wasn't doing so well, because I couldn't exactly get up. The liquor got to my balance and I fell into JP's lap.
The last thing I remember was being picked up. I blacked out for about an hour and woke up in his bed.
I was still drunk when I oriented myself in his room. I looked down at myself and sighed relief, noticing I was still fully clothed in my tank top and jeans. I stood up and kept my balance, and I walked into the living room, where the guys were playing Mario Kart, still drinking. JP wasn't playing, though.
"You're up." He put down his beer and walked over, letting the guys continue with their game. "How are you feeling?"
"Why playing guys aren't I with?"
Yeah, I was still quite drunk.
"I think you know why. Do you want to sit down?"
"I'm balanced quite feeling."
"Sure, love. Come sit."
I noticed the twins were now wearing two party hats each, and Takuya was shirtless with one over each nipple. Tommy had one over his nose like a beak.
The rest of the night escapes me, but I woke up the next morning back in JP's bed, this time with him next to me. I was still clothed, thankfully. The others weren't seen, so I thought they went home, but I looked out JP's window and saw Takuya's Audi still sitting in the parking lot.
I looked over at him, still asleep. He was basically only wearing his boxers, which didn't leave much to the imagination, but could you blame me for taking a look? He wasn't exactly a roman god, but his body had matured over the years from a pudgy pre-teen to a well-built young man. His face was still Junpei, of course. I smiled, and then turned back to the window. He had a pretty view of the harbour from his bedroom.
I was startled by him, and spun quickly in his direction. He looked at me with these eyes, but I was unsure of what he was trying to say with them.
"Morning, sorry," I replied softly. Spinning revealed what would be a nasty hangover.
"Isn't it beautiful?" He stood up and strode over to me, looking past me at the harbour. "I've only ever seen one thing prettier." He looked in my direction. I followed his gaze to the harbour but felt his eyes on my face, forcing me to look at him.
He took his hands out of his pockets and put them on my shoulders, still looking at his shoes. "I'm sorry for yelling at you. Forgive me, Love?"
"Hey, I've called you Love since I was sixteen, I'm not stopping now."
Silence. People filed out of the performance bar, to their cars and onto the streets.
"Can we go somewhere," I asked, "anywhere?" He nodded and pulled his car keys out of his pocket.
We drove to the harbour in silence, the dark night above us making the singular moon and thousands of stars seemingly brighter. I got out of the car and sat on a bench overlooking the ocean, and he followed suit.
"I'm just worried about you," he started.
"JP, I'm a big girl now, I can fight my own battles, and I can find my own prince charming."
"How many frogs have you kissed, princess?"
"That's none of your business."
Silence overcame us again and lingered for a minute.
"You look beautiful in that dress, Zoe."
My purple sheath dress danced over my curves. Without being arrogant, I knew I was attractive, as my line of ex-boyfriends could attest. I forced myself to always look good, even with someone like JP.
"Thank you," I still took the complement.
He looked his usual best, his dark magic blazer, a nice plain shirt, dark- wash deans and plain shoes.
His magic blazer?
From his left sleeve he pulled out a small bouquet of daisies. Plastic from his magic set, of course, but still pretty flowers, none the less. He offered them to me, and I took them. He could be pretty sweet when he wanted to be. I suddenly wasn't angry at him anymore.
"Do you do this for every girl you take out on a date?"
"Who says I take other girls out?"
"Zoe, you know it's always-"
"JP! Have you never taken a girl out on a date because of me?"
"Well, yeah. It's always been you."
I sat there stunned. I knew he had feelings for me, but never to this extent. I turned away, embarrassed.
"Maybe if you ever kissed me," he continued, "you could see that under all this," and he gestured to himself, "there's a prince."
We heard mumbling coming from the living room. He pulled on a shirt he had strewn about on the floor and we left to see the others. Tommy was tying his sneakers and reached for his helmet.
"I should be heading off," he said, noticing us. "I have to work later. Great night, eh?" He waved and left.
I turned to see Takuya, still passed out under the kitchen table, party hat bra intact. Amazingly, this wasn't the weirdest situation I've seen him in. Just before we came home, there was a huge residence party, and we found him sleeping in a tree in the courtyard.
Kouji had his head between two pillows, presumably to keep the noises out in his hungover state. Kouichi, on the other hand, seemed fine. He came out of the kitchen with a partly eaten bagel in hand.
"Mrrrump," he mumbled.
"Morning," we replied in unison.
Nothing else really happened that morning. We got Takuya and Kouji up, and drove home. It wasn't until later that night when I got a text from JP.
Harbour, 10 sharp.
It was already nine thirty, so I decided to bike it there instead of walking like I usually did. I looked horrible in my wrinkled clothes, too lazy to change from the night before. The harbour was sort of ours. We'd watch the boats come in and out, and admire how the light from the setting sun behind us changed the colour of the water ever so slightly to an amazing teal blue.
When I got there just before ten, he was already sitting on our bench, wearing the same striped shirt as before. It was dark, but he was unmistakable.
"Hi," I said, coming from behind him. He stood, turning to face me. He looked at his watch.
"Early, I see?"
"By like, five minutes." Of all things to pester me about. I sat next to where he was, and he joined me. We sat in comfortable silence for a moment.
"You kissed me last night." He said, facing the ocean.
"I did what?" I spurted out, throwing my head in his direction. He turned to look at me.
"You were drunk and you fell on me when we were playing King's, so I figured you needed to sleep some of it off, so I picked you up and took you to my room to let you sleep in my bed, but you wouldn't let go and when I tried to pull you off, you just kissed me."
"I didn't do anything, I swear. Even if I wanted to, I was too stunned. I just let you let go naturally and you were out before I left the room."
"Okay." I sighed. More silence. I think he just needed to get it off his chest or something.
"Do you know that One Dir-" I interrupted him.
"If you knew how many times Takuya has played that song in the past two weeks…"
"It's not that bad, Zoe," he said. He pulled out his iPod and played it. The familiar opening melody emerged from the player's built-in speaker.
"No no no, not you too!" The chorus was coming. He put the iPod down and stood up, took my hands in his and pulled me up with him. He started singing with the music, looking right at me, moving my arms about in a form of dance. I smiled. "You're not a very good singer, JP."
"I know, but it doesn't matter!" He continued singing.
I thought back to the night on the harbour, in my dress with the flowers. JP really did know how to make a girl smile. I had a small epiphany dancing with him.
"I think I figured out the problem, JP."
"I've been turning princes into frogs, when there was a frog here all along." He remembered our conversation, intrigued.
"Are you saying I'm a frog?"
"No!" I giggled. "I'm saying I'm a frog, and I shouldn't be looking for princes."
"But you're making me a frog, right?" I stopped dancing and looked at him, my hands still in his. I kissed him softly on the cheek.
"Poof!" I said.
"Did I turn into a prince?"
"Nothing happened." He looked sad.
"Oh. Then wh-"
"You already were a prince."
Maybe that song wasn't so bad after all.