This is how Hugo usually feels when Julia’s talking to him, but it’s never been more accurate than now, as he comes out of the bar bathroom, hurrying to get back upstairs before last call.
He almost slams into Julia on his way out the door, but she just giggles and rights him on his feet, hands on his chest.
“Julia. Hey,” he says, trying not to look as out of breath as he feels. He should probably go down to half a pack a day.
They’re alone downstairs. The pounding of the bass and the din of voices upstairs thunder into Hugo’s eardrums. The four — or was it five? — beers make everything around him duller.
Julia’s got him cornered against a grungy wall, covered in years of posters for bands and events, between an out of order payphone and an empty metal keg.
Her hands are still on his chest.
“Hey,” she says, her voice a tequila-infused breath on his lips.
Hugo tries to put some distance between them, but he’s stuck, backed against the wall.
“Let’s go back to the others, yeah?” he says, vaguely pointing up.
Her touch against his chest becomes more of a grip, manicured pink nails sharp as claws where they dig into his skin. The sickly floral scent of her shampoo, wafting out of her platinum blonde hair, makes Hugo gag and regret the last beer.
“We don’t need the others, honey. It’s just you and me, we can have some fun, hm?” Her voice is somehow just as shrill and grating as it usually is, even though right now it’s so slurred Hugo can barely make out her words.
“Julia, you’ve got a boyfriend,” he reminds her.
“Jason’s not here, is he?” Julia snarls. “Stop delaying the inevitable, Hugo. I know you feel it too.”
Unless Julia’s talking about a strong urge to run, no, Hugo doesn’t feel it.
“Julia, you’re drunk.”
“So are you, baby.” This is somehow hilarious to her — she throws her head back in a wheezy laugh.
It’s funny. Hugo’s almost a foot taller than she is, but she makes him feel trapped, like small prey. He can’t seem to find a way out of this situation — scared that any touch to get past her might be construed as a come on. Julia’s good at this, twisting words, situations, to get what she wants, to manipulate people into liking her. Hugo fell for it once, back when they first met. They almost hooked up, before he realized she had a boyfriend.
“Come on, Gibson,” a voice says at the top of the stairs. “You owe me a rematch.”
Hugo sighs in relief as a pair of bisexual-flag laced Converse come into view as they go downstairs, followed by a pair of skinny jeans and a tropical shirt, and finally, Hugo’s favourite face and the most gorgeous red curls.
“Amy!” he calls happily.
Julia takes a few steps back, scowling. “Oh, yay, Amy’s here.”
Amy reaches them and playfully punches Hugo on the shoulder, lightly. “Hiding cause you’re too scared to get your ass beat?”
“Can you blame me?” Hugo falls easily into the familiar banter, breathing again. “You are, after all, La Pharmacie’s undefeated pool champion.”
“Come on,” Amy says, linking their arms together and leading him upstairs. “I’ll buy you a drink.”
One of these days, this girl will be the death of Hugo Gibson. Easy smiles and mischievous eyes, flirty and funny, but most importantly, in a relationship with David, one of his buddies.
“Don’t go to Australia,” she begs, for probably the twentieth time.
“Aye, but show business waits for no one, mate,” he counters, in his best — read, dismal — Australian accent.
“What am I gonna do without you?” she sighs and Hugo wants to pull out his phone, cancel his plane ticket, his tour, resign his lease.
Instead, he gives a lazy grin and allows himself to sling an arm around her shoulders.
“Ah, save some other cute boy from Julia’s claws, I guess.”
She laughs, gorgeous and magical, and he has to look away before it becomes too dangerous.
What is he going to do without her?