I throw some clean clothes on and check out of the window.
He’s still gone.
I can’t believe they’ve both gone out and left me here on a Friday evening, like they think I’m just going to sit around and do nothing while they’re off having a good time or doing whatever fucking important shit is worth leaving me home alone for.
I don’t have any money, and once upon a time I’d have dipped into the envelope of cash I know Jack keeps in the kitchen drawer next to the tea towels. I’d have told myself I’d earned it with all the fucking manual labour I’ve been doing this week.
But I have no Eli demanding money, not this week, and I don’t want to take any for myself, either.
I don’t want to take anything from Jack, not now he’s been so kind to me.
Not now I care about him.
So I don’t.
I pull on my boots and head out the front door without so much as a penny in my pocket.
But this time I do have my ID.Chapter FourteenMichaelJack and I stare at each other for what feels like an age. My palms are clammy as I think the unthinkable; that I might have to watch my best friend become romantically involved with the girl I’m in love with.
It’s not that I’d resent Jack being happy, or Carrie either. Of course I wouldn’t.
But fuck, the thought makes me feel sick as a dog.
“If you want to be with her, I’ll back off,” Jack says. “You saw her first.”
“How could I make a move now, knowing you want her too?”
“I’d deal with it,” he says. “I’d have to deal with it.”
“And I’d have to deal with it if it was you she wanted to be with. And it might be. She’s barely spoken a word to me in days.”
“But she wanted you first. She almost certainly still does.”
“She showed you her tits less than an hour ago. I’d say her interest in you is pretty current, Jack.”
He shakes his head. “I can’t believe this is happening. Both of us going fucking crazy over an eighteen year old girl.”
“She’s not like other girls,” I say and he laughs.
“No, she fucking isn’t. She’s a whole fucking whirlwind of trouble.”
“I could lose my job,” I tell him.
“I’d be more worried about your bloody mind than your job, man.”
He’s got a point. I think of my colleagues back inside the pub, imagining their faces if they discovered I’d made a move on Carrie Wells.
Shit like that never ends well, especially around here. And it shouldn’t.
Professionals shouldn’t abuse their position. Professionals should never discard their moral ideals and pursue girls that were once in their care. Professionals definitely shouldn’t be sitting in a car outside a pub on a Friday evening trying to work out which one of them is going to make a move on a girl with a whole raft of behavioural issues.
But here we are.
“What is it you like about her?” I ask him.
He takes a breath. “Her spirit, her smart mouth, her wildness. Her laugh. Her smile. The sweetness in her when she lets her guard down. Her pixie nose. The way her hair moves. The way she argues the toss about every fucking thing in the world.”
His words make me smile. He’s right. She’s really quite something.
“We shouldn’t even be contemplating it,” I say. “Neither of us. She’s too young. She’s unpredictable. She needs stability.”
“She needs discipline.” A pause. One of those long pauses I’ve come to know means someone’s about to spit something out. “And love. She needs love too.”
It’s strange to hear the word come out of Jack’s mouth. He was evasive on the topic even after he got down on one knee for Diana, answering my questions on whether she was really the one with nothing more than a shrug of the shoulders and an it’ll do.
“What the fuck are we gonna do, Mike?”
I have nothing. Nothing but an uneasy churn in my gut as I contemplate the potential outcomes. Jack and her, me and her. Neither of us with her.
Losing my job.
Losing our friendship. My best friendship.
“You’ve known her for weeks. How do you know this wouldn’t be like the others?” I ask.
“She’s already nothing like the others.”
“She’s nothing like anyone.”
He smiles. “You got that right.”
I’ve a suspicion I’ve got everything right, and this whole setup is snowballing into disaster in front of our eyes.
He sighs. “She should choose. It’s not our call.”
Even the concept makes me edgy. Choosing me, choosing him – and I suspect she’d choose Jack, because who wouldn’t? The guy’s great. He’s my best friend for a reason.
“We need to think on this,” I tell him. “We need considered judgement. Her welfare has to be our top priority. Her security comes first, beyond anything else.”
“Agreed,” he says.