Sharing a room with Lara was starting to infuriate me. Not only had I been kicked out of my own bed; yes, it was me who was sleeping on the camp bed, but also her stuff was everywhere. There were thongs and other such items of clothing strewn across my room. Well, there were till Mom thought they were mine and ordered me to tidy them up. I pointed out that they were Lara’s. Then I got a cuff round the head for being insolent.
And then I did something really stupid. I asked Mom if could go to a sleepover.
“Really? Thanks.” Joanna was shocked. She should have realised that there was a catch.
“But take Lara along would you? It’s really unfair on her coming out here, just to sit at home while you go gallivanting off with those rockers.”
”But Mom-“ Joanna began to protest.
“That’s final darling. Either both of you go or neither of you.”
I should have asked Dad. He wasn’t as fond of his niece as Mom was, even if it was his blood relative. But as it was I checked with Rick and he said it was fine for Lara to sleep over. In fact, his exact words were, ‘ Yeah. She’s related to you. She’s got to be cool.’ How wrong can you be?
“Hi. I’m Rick.” He offered his hand to Lara. She smiled warmly and shook his hand.
“I’m Lara. So are you like Joanna’s best friend?” She fluttered her eyelashes at him.
“Um, I’m her boyfriend,” he replied, obviously disconcerted by the eyelashes.
“Really? She never mentioned you,” Lara pouted. “Josie, why not?”
Joanna just shook her head. “Is everyone else here?” she asked as she mad her way into Rick’s house.
“In my bedroom,” he told her, running a fingerless glove clad hand through his dark hair.
“Come on then,” she hinted, heading for the stairs.
“Well, why don’t you take my stuff upstairs and I can stay here and get to know Rick,” Lara suggested, placing a delicate hand on his bicep. Joanna ground her teeth for a second, before plastering on a fake smile.
“Sure why not.” She headed up the stairs, the sounds of Lara flirting following her.
As she walked into Rick’s bedroom she flung the bags onto his bed.
Will looked up, his blue eyes wide. “Hey?”
“Sorry,” she sighed. “But Lara’s here and I just-“
“Your cousin’s here?” he yelped. “Gotta go meet her.” He skidded out of the door. He paused, and turned back “Is she rocky and cool like us?”
She shook her head, her hair not falling about her face as it was up in a messy bun. “Nope. She’s slutty and whoreish.”
Will grinned manically. “Cool.”
As he thundered down the stairs, tripping on the bottom of his jeans that he was wearing far too low, Joanna shook her head. “Maria? Mikes?”
“Can’t judge her; don’t know her,” Maria replied.
“Oh don’t be so noble, “Joanna snapped, and folded her arms huffily.
I needed to know that my dislike of Lara was justified. I needed to know that it wasn’t just jealousy because of how much my parents adored her. I needed to know that it wasn’t all in my head. What I didn’t need was my friends being decent and generous, and not judging her till they’d met.
“HI. “ That was Lara’s first greeting to Maria as she walked down the stairs with Joanna. Maria, having an older sister and stepsister, knew what it was like to be compared all the time. Maria was the only one out of the four who knew why Joanna felt the way she did about her cousin.
“Hi,” she replied. I’m Maria.
“Oh I know,!” was the speedy reply. “These three,” she gestured to the three boys who were standing around her, all wearing matching faces of adoration. “Told me all about you.”
“Did they?” Maria asked eyeing them carefully. “Rick?”
“Yeah?” he asked, reluctantly dragging his eyes away from Lara.
“Come and help get stuff from the kitchen?”
“I’ll help,” Lara offered.
“It’s okay,” Maria reassured her. “You stay and get to know Mikey and Will. Jo? You coming?”
Joanna looked stricken as she looked at her cousin and her friends. “Um, yeah” she muttered.
They liked her. Sorry, no, they wanted to be with her. Even Rick. Even Will.
“Rick what the heck are you doing?” Maria hissed as the kitchen door swung shut.
“Huh?” His brown eyes betrayed his confusion.
“Can’t you see what she’s doing?”
“She’s just being friendly,” Rick shrugged. Joann stifled tears of anger. Another recruit to the Lara Anderson fan club. They should have badges. She quickly gathered up some crisps and stalked out of the kitchen.
“Rick, she’s coming on to you. To all of you,” Maria snapped. “And none of you are exactly protesting. Mikey, fine. Will? He’s meant to be gay. And you? She’s your girlfriend’s cousin.”
“But-“ Rick began to protest, but she cut him off.
“I know you’re not very well versed in girl politics but Lara’s only coming on to you to get at Jo. Do you really want you and Ann to split up?”
“No. I didn’t mean to – It’s just.” Rick’s eyes showed his realisation and remorse. He hadn’t realised what was happening. Honest he hadn’t.