‘If we’re not talking between having sex, then we’re not in a relationship.’
‘For fuck’s sake, Maxxy!’
It was the 4th of June, and an ecstatic and catastrophic year in Stoke Bishop had finally ended. It had been an earth-shattering experience, because it often felt as if the earth had literally been shattered beneath their young feet, and they soared from immense highs to immense lows like birds searching fruitlessly for prey. Of course, exhilaration and fear are partners in crime, and Maxxy and the Badock lads had, for the most part, enjoyed breaking the law.
And now their exams were all over the lads had come to the Founder’s Ball, Stoke Bishop’s end of year celebration in Wills Hall. It really was a grand occasion. All the girls spun like dandelion seeds in their ball dresses, catching the eyes of the boys as if they were fishing hooks, and the boys looked marvellous as well in their black tie suits and skin as shiny as fresh dew. Looking beautiful to these listless souls was like money is to the empty: they often did not realise it was at the bottom of everything they did.
Maxxy sat at dinner surrounded by his boys, gazing out in cool contemplation at the marquee filled with beautiful young things. He simply couldn’t keep his eyes off the girls. Wherever he looked, his eyes would be drawn back to them as if with magnets. He had been well trained in being a lascivious male, and now he could focus on nothing else.
Only, the handsome hipster had encountered a problem. While his eyes tore hungrily from girl to girl, his mind buzzed frustratedly around just one person: Sapphy. Oh, Sapphy! The most joyful, boyish and desirable girl the boyish young thing thought he was ever likely to meet. He had seen her in her dress at the champagne reception and he had never seen a girl look so alive with beauty. She was transplendent, simply transplendent. The room seemed to be circuiting her like an idol. And, what is more, Maxxy had managed to fix her in conversation – even though she was actually far smarter than he – and both of them had welcomed the other’s flirtation. It was possible! he thought to himself. Perhaps tonight he would finally get with Sapphy!
But, there was a problem: Maxxy was already in a relationship.
‘It’s not a relationship,’ Maxxy insisted again to the lads at their table, the most exclusive VIP table in all of Stoke Bishop. Nick, Ferg, Swag, Plum and Tommo all leaned round to hear their friend’s thought patterns this evening. ‘Scarlett and I are just sleeping together. She’s not actually my girlfriend.’
‘Yeah, but you’ve been sleeping with her, like, every day!’ said Tommo.
‘That’s a pretty exclusive friends-with-benefits!’ said Plum.
‘Doesn’t mean I’ve committed.’
‘I’ve heard she really likes you,’ said Nick.
‘You don’t want to screw her over, mate,’ said Ferg.
‘Sex is sex though,’ laughed Swag, hand-slapping Tommo.
‘True story,’ said Ferg.
‘I’d definitely screw a girl over to sleep with Sapphy,’ said Tommo.
‘No one’s saying I’m going to sleep with Sapphy!’ levelled Maxxy. ‘Although I’d like to.’
‘So Maxxy,’ said Plum, pretending to hold a microphone to his face. ‘Tonight, are you going to sleep with Sapphy, and screw over Scarlett White?’
‘No comment,’ said Maxxy.
‘You’d never hear the end of it,’ said Ferg. ‘It’s that friend of Scarlett’s who will seriously let you know if she doesn’t like you. What’s she called? Violet Brown?’
‘Scarlett White and Violet Brown are a force to be reckoned with,’ nodded Plum.
‘I’m not saying anything,’ said Maxxy, his eyes again flying over the crowd of beauties. ‘I don’t even know if I can get with Sapphy yet. I’ll just have to see where the night takes me.’
‘So what if you get with Sapphy, and Scarlett or Violet see?’
At this the hipster faltered. He desperately wanted to get with Sapphy – but he desperately also wanted a sure thing. If he got with Sapphy and Scarlett found out, then he’d no longer be able to sleep with Scarlett on a regular basis, and if there’s one thing she had been in his life, it was a sure thing. A hipster sacrificing regular sex was like a footballer sacrificing his wages.
‘Hmm. I dunno actually.’
‘So what are you going to do?’
‘Ok. Here’s my plan.’ The lads all leaned in with anticipation. ‘I’m going to try and keep it even. I’ll keep them apart throughout the night and try and get with Sapphy. If I don’t get with her, then Scarlett will never know I tried and we can stay together. If I do get with her, then as long as I’m subtle, Scarlett will never know about it.’
‘Genius,’ applauded Swag.
‘Careful, Maxxy,’ said Plum. ‘There’s a lot of potential for things to go wrong there.’
‘It’ll be fine,’ he insisted, leaning back in his chair and smoothing back his succulent hair. ‘I know how women work.’
A few days before, Maxxy had actually reckoned himself quite the feminist. A furious girl had spat that he didn’t know that girls had emotions, and he replied that of course he knew they had emotions. What still remained unexplained in his mind was that the only two emotions he knew were aroused and unaroused.
Dinner ended and the gathered hundreds stood up to go and watch the fireworks from the top of the hill outside Wills. Maxxy saw Sapphy through the gargling throng and made to catch up with her, but was suddenly flanked from the right by the very girl he did not want to see at that point – Scarlett. The very first thing he thought when he saw her was ‘I’ve had sex with you.’
‘Hey Maxxy,’ she gurgled like a stream. ‘How are you?’
‘Yeah, good,’ said Maxxy, keeping an impatient eye on the path of Sapphy ahead of him in a hugely unsubtle way.
Scarlett, who was intelligent if a little empty, wondered what to say next.
‘Are you dropping tonight?’
‘MD? At the Founder’s Ball? No way!’ snorted Maxxy.
‘Why would you want to get on it at this sort of party? It’s way too much. Nah, me and the lads have coke.’
‘Yeah. Are you taking anything?’
‘Oh, um,’ she glanced tightly to the side.
‘Well, I mean, I have some mandy, ‘cos a few of us thought it might be a good idea, but, I mean, I probably won’t do it, ‘cos, like, it’s way too hard a drug, like, this is totally not the right sort of environment for it.’
‘Yeah,’ agreed Maxxy, impatient to get away.
Scarlett’s great friend Violet Brown then sidled up to the two of them.
‘Hey Maxxy,’ she uttered, ushering harsh, evaluating eyes over the boy, whom she seemed to intrinsically distrust. ‘How’s it going? Have I interrupted the love birds?’
This sent Scarlett scarlet and made Maxxy more irritated.
‘No, not really, anyway I’m going to catch up with my mates so I’ll see you in a bit.’
He jogged ahead through the crowd to catch up with Sapphy. Scarlett glanced around and noticed that Ferg, Plum, Tommo, Swag and Nick were all behind them.
‘But his friends are behind us?’ she said to Violet, who glared in the direction Maxxy had disappeared in.
‘Maybe he just had someone cooler to hang out with,’ she spat.
‘I don’t like that guy, Scarlett, seriously. He’s messing you around.’
‘But we’re just sleeping together, like, it’s not a big deal. It’s not a relationship or anything, as we’ve established.’
‘You told me last night you thought you were going to fall in love with him?’
‘Well yeah, I like him, but, like, so what? I think he’ll just take some breaking down, like, I know he really likes me, otherwise I just don’t think he’d keep seeing me.’
‘You really don’t think he’s just using you for sex?’
‘Well, yeah, obviously, but I think that actually we do really like each other.’
‘You barely even talk to him.’
‘Seriously, just don’t hang all your emotions on him, ‘cos if, like, you find out he’s slept with another girl, you’ll go berserk. Don’t do your classic crazy-jealous-girl thing.’
‘I won’t, I won’t,’ she said, glazing like mist as she pictured him running away from her.
Everyone gathered on the lawn outside Wills to wait for the fireworks to begin. Stoke Bishop suggested it’s presence beyond the hill with an infinite show of fine lights dotted throughout the darkness, forgetting the sea that lay just a little further beyond. Maxxy found Sapphy and stepped beside her as if he hadn’t noticed she was there.
‘Oh, hey!’ he said with his best acting skill.
‘Maxxy!’ she said excitedly, putting a long, inclusive arm around his shoulders. He trembled with excitement. ‘How was dinner?’
‘Yeah, alright thanks. The chicken was a bit dry.’
‘Well, I loved it. I thought the whole thing was so well put together.’ Just like you, thought Maxxy, who was then exceptionally thankful he hadn’t spoken out loud.
The fireworks began, and they exploded out of the sky like hearts bursting with pride. ‘I always love fireworks,’ waxed Sapphy. ‘I’m always so fascinated by them. I don’t know what it is. It’s something about the occasion and the gathering of people. Maybe it’s because I’ve been watching them since I was little. Don’t you think?’
‘Er. Yeah. They’re pretty cool.’
Maxxy’s phone buzzed. It was Ray, Maxxy’s mate in Wills, with a group message to the Badock lads telling them to come up to his room in K block to get their coke.
Maxxy hung around with Sapphy as long as possible, attempting as much as he could to flirt outrageously with her. Fortunately for him, she seemed to be returning it fruitfully, and when he made to leave she put a hand on his impatient arm and looked at him in surprise. ‘Text me later? We need to dance,’ she laughed. Maxxy assured her that he would, and zoomed up to K block to get his share of the lines.
From then on, the night began to gain some momentum. Maxxy and the lads, feeling the fresh buzz of cocaine in their heads, went to hit the dancefloor, and they danced away like the legends they were. Scarlett appeared, and Maxxy felt obliged to dance with her for a bit.
‘Guess you decided not to drop then?’ said Maxxy in his chatty buzz.
‘No, not yet anyway, can’t decide really. I might take it in water.’
‘Ah yeah, lacing a bottle of water with mandy is a sound way to do it.’
‘Violet thinks I shouldn’t though.’
‘Seriously, why do you listen to her? Like, she never says anything positive.’
‘I don’t know…’
‘Anyway,’ Maxxy continued, his eyes drifting towards to the form of Sapphy by the bar. ‘I’m going to talk to my mates. See you later.’
‘Oh, okay. Bye.’
She watched Maxxy move over to Sapphy and drifted despondently to go and find Violet Brown.
‘Can I buy this drink?’ Maxxy broke in as soon as he was by the girl. He was feeling as confident as if he had been blown up like a balloon and sent into the sky.
Sapphy was endlessly amused by this. ‘My, my, you’re certainly on good form tonight aren’t you?’
‘I’m always on good form, just like you.’
She couldn’t help but laugh. Maxxy bought the drinks and powered through his beer effortlessly. Before the poor girl had even had a chance to finish her wine, he was already grabbing her wrist and pulling her like a toy towards the dancefloor.
Maxxy watched her dance with a keen interest. She was just like a spinning top; she had all this verve to her like a happy warrior, and all this gentleness like snow. She scythed around the dancefloor like an ironic dream. Maxxy, unable to help himself, simply fell in love, and when she showed him that immense, tonic-like grin he could not stop himself. Gently, gently, the two young things came closer and closer together, every forward movement a heart attack, every second expecting the other person to dart away and disappear, wondering, is it on, is it happening?, their heads leaning lower and lower as the certainty of it began to set in, and, like a climax being reached and an ecstasy being unleashed, finally, finally, their eyes closed, and their lips finally, finally, met.
Maxxy’s mind stopped for just a second. Was this it? Was this really happening? Oh my god! He’d done it! HE’D FINALLY GOT WITH SAPPHY!
Kissing her did not quite seem real, because it was as if his body were somewhere else. But then he remembered his hands, and he placed them cautiously on her smooth hips, and realised that she had already leant hers on his back. The kiss was lovely. He wondered whether to keep his hands there or move them again. She was keeping hers still, so he kept his in place – then decided against it, and in the confidence of the moment he brought his right arm out and around hers, and slid his fingers like perfume through her hair. She seemed to like this, and pressed herself closer to him. He made sure to redress the balance so neither was leaning further forward than the other. It was a kind of equilibrium. What was the music playing? He had completely forgotten about the music. Nothing else really mattered. Time had stopped caring for them because they were so far away. A first kiss like that is like a dent in the carrying on of history. He wondered if the lads had seen him. He thought he heard cheering, and he knew it must be them: Plum, Nick, Swag, Ferg, Tommo, Ray and Stevie, all of them cheering on Maxxy, Maxxy the lad, Maxxy boy wonder, Gunner Maxxy, King of the World and Lord of the Kings, as he finally completed the mission his first year at Bristol had proven to be. What an absolute lad.
What would have been amusing to the distant observer, however, is that Violet Brown had also seen these two fancies kissing, and she immediately made to find Scarlett White. But Maxxy did not need to worry about Violet Brown and Scarlett White in that moment. For the rest of the night he skirted expertly between Sapphy and Scarlett, making sure that he didn’t lose the interest of either. Scarlett, having received this information from Violet, did her best to not act any differently when she saw him; in fact, if anything, she turned a cold shoulder. But Maxxy didn’t notice, because he was lost in the sky.
Eventually it got to four in the morning, and the silent disco the ball ended with was coming to a close. Maxxy had been dancing with Sapphy all night long, and now it was clear that they were going to go back to Maxxy’s room in Badock together. They walked out of the tent to leave, and Maxxy noticed Scarlett and Violet sitting in the ground by the exit having a cigarette. He would have ignored them completely, but he was dying of thirst and noticed that Scarlett had a water bottle beside her. He subtly left Sapphy out of sight for a second and ran over to Scarlett.
‘Hey Scarlett, you alright?’ he heaved, but before she had a chance to reply said, ‘Can I have some of your water? I’m so thirsty.’
Scarlett and Violet looked at each other.
‘Yeah, sure. Take the whole bottle.’
‘Really? You sure?’
‘Yeah of course. We’re going back now anyway.’
He took the bottle from her hand and ran back to Sapphy.
‘What a dickhead,’ said Violet.
He downed a big swig of the water, and he and Sapphy set off down the hill to Badock. The water tasted strange. In fact, it tasted a bit disgusting. He was too lost, however, on the svelte form of Sapphy walking beside him down the morning blossom of the hill. He couldn’t quite believe what was happening. It was if his heart had finally bloomed, because it had been waiting all year to flow outwards from the flower bud it had been. Sapphy! Here! With me! Going to Badock! He let his mind race delightfully at what was about to happen. Oh that gorgeous chaos that greets those who have fallen in love!
As the warm morning light showed the onset of day, Maxxy showed Sapphy into his unit, and up the stairs into his room. He began, however, to feel a bit funny.
They were in his room, and he locked the door. That first moment passed in which they placed things on the desk: Sapphy’s purse, Maxxy’s keys, his phone, the water bottle he had taken from Scarlett. Sapphy turned and eyed him. Maxxy, though emotionally illiterate at the best of times, utterly rejoiced in her face. It said both compulsion and innocence, both the desire to dominate him and the surrender of trust. The curtains were drawn, and underneath them the gorgeous rays of morning rested in the air and on the floor. They kissed; then stumbled with a giggle over to the bed. Maxxy’s heart was racing, as indeed was hers – but Maxxy continued to feel a bit strange. He put it down to the alcohol.
‘This is it, this is it,’ he kept thinking. He wanted to pull each moment out of time so he could examine it uniquely, and keep it like a souvenir. It struck him that life was offering one of those moments in which you could lay to rest the dreams of an entire youth, and he wanted to know that he had understood it. Time was always passing him by, and now he had a chance to keep a piece of it forever.
The clothes came off; hands ran all over their bodies; they made to proceed; but then something went wrong.
‘What’s wrong?’ asked Sapphy, withholding her surprise.
‘I don’t know,’ said Maxxy, withholding his panic. ‘This has never happened before.’
‘Don’t worry, I mean, it happens doesn’t it?’
‘It’s not because I don’t find you attractive!’
‘No I get it,’ giggled Sapphy. ‘My ex couldn’t get it up once as well…’
‘I’m so sorry,’ said Maxxy. ‘I feel strange.’
‘Are you okay?’
‘Yeah, yeah I’m fine.’
Maxxy sat up on the bed and stared briefly at the floor.
What was happening!? This had never happened before. Why now!? Dear God, why now!? Why with Sapphy!?
‘It’s fine, I think I’ll be able to get it up. Let’s just carry on. It’ll come.’
He returned to the bed and tried to continue, but after a minute Sapphy couldn’t help but laugh.
‘Maxxy, nothing’s happening!’
‘I don’t get it, I swear this has never happened before!’
‘Look, if it doesn’t work then…’
‘No, wait… I actually feel really weird.’
‘Like, how weird?’
‘Like… Oh my God.’
‘I think I’ve taken MDMA.’
‘Scarlett gave me MDMA water. I don’t think I’m going to be able to get it up.’
‘Look, if your dick isn’t going to work, I think I’ll just go…’
‘See you Maxxy.’ Sapphy dressed swiftly. ‘Text me when you come down,’ she winked.
She blew him a kiss, then disappeared behind the door, and was gone.
And Maxxy, Maxxy the lad, Maxxy boy wonder, Gunner Maxxy, King of the World and Lord of the Kings, oh, the poor boy, was left all alone, wretched and heartbroken, and coming up ecstatic. It was 5 am.
He broke out into the middle of the Badock quad, filled with heartbreak and wonder, and in full view of the returning party-goers, screamed as loud as his voice would let him: