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Just Friends

By:Billy Taylor

wing one towards me.

I flapped it at and pushed it away from me, I’m terrible at catching things, even now at eighteen years old. He giggled at me, scooped it back up, placing it back into my hands and slumped beside me on the sofa. I unhooked the straw from the back and pierced the foiling, then sipped away at the blackcurrant juice. I looked over at him, he was observing me with delight.

“What are you looking at?” I asked, shuffling myself away from him.

He smiled, “You’re very pretty.”

Such a statement may have startled me and I may have spat out the juice in my mouth over him. I tried to raise my hand and stop it, but my reactions were far too slow. He saw what was coming and closed his eyes to prevent the juice from entering them. There was a brief silence between us where I assumed I was in the worst possible trouble, ever. I watched in despair as the juice dribbled down his face. He laughed and wiped his eyes. “Thanks.”

“I’m so, so sorry, I didn’t mean to do it!” I shouted.

Ethan stood and shook himself. “Oh no my tie!”

He grabbed it and attempted to wipe away the juice sprayed across it, but it smeared, making it worse. “Ah, this was Mum’s tie.”

He ran off into the kitchen, stood on the stool infront of the sink and rinsed water over his tie, scrubbing at it furiously.

I rushed behind him. “I’m sure she’ll have another one.” My pathetic attempt at reassuring him. I was a kid, so I wasn’t superb at many social matters yet.

“This was her only one. Don’t worry, August, my Dad will clean it later.”

I watched the purple coloured water flow down the drain, and guilt engulfed my emotions. “Is your Mum here? I’ll go apologise now and say it was my fault.” I asked, gripping his arm.

He looked at me from atop of his stool and smiled. “She died not long after my birth.”

I tucked my hair behind my ears and looked to the floor. I’ve always done this when I’m nervous or embarrassed. Or in this case, both.

“I’m sorry.” I said to the floor.

“Oh it’s ok, I sometimes just wish I could have met her. I’m sure she was a nice lady.”

Ethan’s Dad then came into the kitchen. “Hey bud, what happened to you?” He asked.

My eyes bulged up at Ethan. I needed to avoid getting into trouble straight away.

“Oh, the juice pouch had a leak in it and when I squeezed it, it sprayed onto me.” Ethan replied.

At the time I thought he’d saved my life. His Dad’s face dropped as he saw the tie. It would’ve had significance to him too since it was his wife’s. “I’ll see if I can get that cleaned up later kiddo.” He ruffled Ethan’s hair. “Hey! Hop off your stool and have a photo with your friend here. September right?” Ethan’s Dad mood suddenly changed, pulling a camera out from his back pocket.

“August.” I corrected moodily.

“I’m winding you up August, stop being so grumpy!”

I smirked through my sulk. Ethan hopped off his stool and put his arm over my shoulder as we posed for the photo.

We’ve been best friends ever since that day, and we still have a photo taken together every birthday, and Christmas as well. It’s our little tradition. I gave Ethan my old school tie to replace his white one. It was a maroon and dark navy diagonally striped tie, and then I made my Mum take me shopping to buy him another white one. I arrived at the party without a present, so it was the right thing to do. We didn’t find a white one, so we bought him a plain black one instead. His Dad managed to get the stains out anyway. Every birthday and Christmas since, I have bought him a tie. It started off as a joke, but then it became a genuine thing.

Choosing a tie for his nineteenth birthday I found difficult. After long searches online, I decided upon a plain black tie with his initials stitched into it in white. He appreciated it more than I expected. This morning, when he knocked on my door to walk me to college he wasn’t wearing a tie, as he knew he would receive one. Since he’d received a tie on his birthday for the last twelve years. I tied it for him and patted his chest once I’d finished.

“Very smart.” I said and hugged him, wishing him happy birthday.

You’d think for his birthday we’d organise a huge gathering and have a crazy party with our large group of friends. But, we have no friends. One other friend to be exact, Max Parker, or Maximus, it depends on how much he likes you. Max was the only one we’d allow in our circle of friendship. We run a tight shift. Max and I insisted we take Ethan to a bar to celebrate his birthday. Drinking isn’t something we look forward too. We don’t go out often so we thought it would be fun. Our idea of a night out – or in – is to order pizza and sit inside watching a movie, or Ethan will show off one of his new magic tricks. Yes, twelve years on, he is still performing magic. He’s exceptional at it now. He’s made the impossible appear possible.

So, Ethan, Max and I found this new bar not too far away from our homes and we sat and drank. Rather responsibly too. It was a casual evening, but things would soon get out of hand.

“Shall I get us another round?” Max asked, already standing to make his way to the bar. We were all on the verge of entering the quite drunken state, and I think Ethan and I both recognised this.

“I think it’s time to go home now bud,” Ethan said, glancing over at me in search of support with his comment. I nodded. “I think it’s time to go too, Max.”

Max wafted his hands at us. “Fine, let me go to the loo first.”

“Have you enjoyed your evening?” I asked Ethan, resting my head on his shoulder.

“I have indeed.” Ethan replied, sipping down the last of his drink.

We sat there in silence for a minute or two before I saw Max return out of the corner of my eye. He was holding a tray full of shots like your parents would hold a birthday cake. He sung happy birthday as he placed the tray down in front of us. He had the silliest grin on his face and raised his eyebrows to emphasis how pleased he was wi

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