middle of the bed - lucy rose
Since moving back to the neighbourhood, we'd had to sort a lot of things out very quickly. For example, we needed to find a babysitter for Emma. There was a teenage girl who lived just down the road from us who'd offered to look after her, however I was relatively sure that as soon as we were down the driveway she'd invite her friends over for a party. Unfortunately, on short notice, she was the only person we could find.
We still hadn't finished unpacking, and I hated having to go out while the house wasn't sorted. Josh had insisted though that we attend this cancer research benefit, even though we wouldn't be participating in it. As soon as the girl - Cassidy, her name was - stopped by to watch Emma, we were out the door and into the social spotlight.
One of the first people we saw was Ella, and I made a beeline to her, dragging Josh with me.
"Hi!" I greeted her, with a hug. "This is my husband, Josh."
"It's great to see you again," he added politely. I was relatively sure he had no idea who she was. She looked similarly blank, but smiled and shook his hand.
"She's a photographer," I told Josh, gesturing to the camera in her hand. He nodded.
"Would you get a picture of us two?" he asked.
"Sure," she shrugged, and raised the camera to her eye as Josh snaked an arm around my waist. I smiled uncomfortably. I hated having my photograph taken.
She leant forward to show Josh the picture, and he chatted to her about how if he needed photos taken for the law firm's website, would she be interested? I excused myself and wandered off by myself.
I made my way over to the bar, following a dark haired girl whose face I couldn't make out, where I spotted Val. She was in a mauve dress that hugged her figure, and looked amazing. "Genie!" she exclaimed, as she saw me. She was stood with Audrey, who was holding a martini, and a girl called Payton, who I seemed to remember as a bit of a party girl who I'd never actually spoken to. Audrey seemed incredibly uncomfortable, like she was guilty of some horrible crime. She mumbled something to Payton as she grabbed her black purse.
"You good?" she asked her, concerned, and Audrey let out a strained laugh.
"Are you okay?" I questioned, raising an eyebrow. She didn't meet my eye, but hurried out.
"What was that about?" I offered into the silence. Payton met my eye and shrugged. "She probably just needed air," she responded. Val sipped her drink. It felt incredibly crowded all of a sudden.
I moved past the girls and went to order a drink - just a house white wine, nothing fancy. By the time I got the glass, the conversation behind me had drifted to something else. I made my excuses and walked back to the stage, looking for Josh.
"Sis!" I heard my brother shout, and I turned around with a genuine smile, giving him a hug. I'd barely seen him since I got back in to town.
"Hi Toby," I grinned. "How's mom?"
His face twisted into a pained grimace. "Not great, if I'm honest." He paused. "She forgot who I was this morning and locked me out of her room."
I bit my lip and looked down. I felt so guilty for not going to visit her yet.
"How are you doing?" I asked, changing the subject swiftly. "Got a girlfriend yet? Or can they never tie you down," I joked, tapping him lightly with my purse.
He sighed, but he smiled through it. "Still searching for someone who's worth me giving up the harem," he laughed. "No, seriously though. There's nobody to tell you about, unfortunately."
I frowned. "That's too bad."
"Speaking of significant others, though, where's Josh?"
"I don't know," I answered, a hint of frustration in my voice. "Last I saw him he was talking to Ella."
"The photography girl? Oh, was she the one who wanted to know about the Tempest kid?"
I nodded. "Do you know what that's about?"
"Not a clue," he muttered. "Last I heard -"
He was interrupted by a work friend, tapping on his shoulder, who he introduced me to as John something, who had something very important to talk to Toby about. I nudged him goodbye and walked off.
By this point, people had stopped milling around and were finding their way to tables. I didn't know which table I was on. I was beginning to panic a little. Drifting, and craning my neck for Josh, I bumped straight into someone.
"Christ, I'm sorry," I started.
"No, it's really fine, I was texting," replied the blonde girl, who I mildly recognised.
"Devan Walker?" I asked.
She smirked. "No, Chandler."
I cringed quietly - they were twins. Both were in my English class junior year, but I'd sat next to Devan, and always got on better with her - not out of fault with Chandler, but I just never really spoke to her.
"Sorry," I mumbled. "How are you?"
"Not bad, really. Same old, I guess," she laughed, hollowly.
A dark look passed briefly over Chandler's face, but as quick as it came it was gone, replaced with a pleasant smile. "She's still In Dublin - she met a guy there, and they got married. They're really happy together."
"Oh, good for her," I noted.
"What about you?" she asked, politely.
"She got married," a voice answered for me - Josh, who'd just appeared at my shoulder, a smile on his face. "Mrs Josh Wallace."
"Hey Josh," Chandler greeted him with a smile. "Nice to see you. Glad it worked out for you two."
"Thanks," he grinned. "We have a daughter now, did Genie tell you?"
Before he could show her a picture, the emcee came to the mic. "Could you all find your seats, please, we'd like to start," he boomed jovially.
Chandler retreated to her table and Josh took me by the elbow, leading me to our table. The first girl came out - I think she was the year above us at school, and the emcee listed her credentials.
"Are you going to bet?" I asked Josh, jokingly. "It's for a good cause, of course."
"Why would I need to bet on some... History graduate," he asked, waving his hand in the girl's direction, "when I have the number one prize sat right next to me?" And with that, he leaned over and kissed me, gently. I smiled slightly, but something played on my brain. History was the degree I was going to apply for. Before, of course, I decided to follow Josh to Ohio instead. I eyed the girl enviously. Why wasn't it me?
The bids for girls stacked up as the evening went on, and I grew uncomfortable as the emcee described them. There were Psychology graduates from Maryland, Language graduates from Penn State, Science graduates from East Kentucky, even a Law graduate from Yale. There wasn't much market for someone who almost failed her high school diploma.
Had I fucked up?