I’m about to drop Jack a text to scope out a late-night beer at his, but the minute I pull my phone from my pocket the bleep of a message comes through.
Our thoughts must have crossed in the ether, because it’s from him.
We need to talk. Meet you in Drury’s car park.
My blood runs cold.
We need to talk.
There’s only one thing he’ll be wanting to discuss with me in Drury’s car park with no prior warning, and I wonder what crazy shit she’s done now.
Surely nothing worse than the crow incident.
The idea he’s had enough of her, both horrifies and thrills me in equal measure.
I get up from my seat and squeeze through Pam’s side, offering up excuses about having an urgent call that needs attending to. They groan and roll their eyes, telling me the night is still young, and I do the polite thing of insisting I’ll be back soon, just get me a nice cold beer to come back to.
Jack’s already in the car park when I step outside. His engine is still running as I climb into the passenger seat.
“What’s she done now?” I ask before he can speak.
His hands are on the steering wheel. His fingers give it a frustrated squeeze before he cuts the ignition.
“She’s fixed my fencing,” he says. “She’s done a great job. Worked like a trooper.”
It takes me a moment to register his words. “She’s fixed your fencing? On her own?”
“On her own.”
“And that’s good, right?” I prompt. “That’s good news?”
He sighs. “And she showed me her tits. Pulled her top right down in front of me.”
My throat dries up. “But why did she…”
“Because I told her to. Because she showed me a dodgy selfie that she definitely wanted me to see, maybe even both of us, and I called her out on it. I said if she wanted me to see her tits she should have just showed me, not dicked about playing stupid games with a fucking camera.”
My gut lurches. “And what did you do?”
He sighs again. “What do you think I fucking did? I told her it couldn’t happen. That it wouldn’t be right.”
The relief floods through me until I see the guilt on his face.
“So what’s the problem?” I say. “What are you trying to say?”
He twists in his seat to face me and I know shit’s about to get serious.
“Man to man,” he says. “Are you serious about not going there? Because if you are…”
I hold up a hand. “Serious about not going there with Carrie? She’s eighteen years old, of course I’m serious. She needs stability and support, not a–”
“I think I’m falling for her,” he says over me, and my words shrivel in my throat. “I think I’m falling for her, and I don’t know how long I can hold back from acting on it, because I’m a fucking dick who can’t keep his dick in his pants. But if you want her, if you really want her and this is a load of politically correct bullshit morality you’re spouting and nothing more, then I’ll…”
“Then you’ll what?” I ask. “Then what will you do?”
He tips his head back against the window. “Then I don’t fucking know what I’ll do. I don’t fucking know what either of us will do.”
And neither do I.
My heart is beating in my ears. My stomach twisted up as I contemplate the cold hard reality of my best friend falling for the girl I’m in love with.
I can’t lie to him. I don’t want to lie to him.
And I don’t want to lie to myself, either.
“I’m in love with her,” I admit, and it sounds despicable even as I say it.
“Fuck,” he says.
“Fuck,” I agree.
He takes a deep breath. “Well, fuck. That’s really put us up shit creek.”
I close my eyes. “When she showed you her–” I pause. “Does she want you? Does she… have feelings?”
“Fuck knows what the girl wants,” he says. “She doesn’t think you’re interested. Says you blew her out and don’t give a shit about her. She probably thinks the same about me.”
A wave of regret washes over me. “She really thinks that?”
I open my eyes and he’s staring right at me. “She’s not as confident as she thinks she is. It’s all bluster. I don’t think she has any idea how attractive she is.”
“And she thinks she’s not good enough…”
“Yes, that’s what I’d suspect.” His fingers tap against the steering wheel. “Not gonna lie to you, Mike. She’s under my fucking skin.”
I laugh, because what else is there to do?
“The Carrie Wells effect. Welcome to my world.”
“We need to work out what we do from here, because she’s in my house, Mike. She’s in my house and I can’t stop thinking about her.”
“And neither can I,” I admit. “I haven’t been able to think about anything else for months.”