Mikey goes on a bender, and Gee and Alice talk for the first time.
Peace and quiet was what he got, for a while. He was half-way through the movie and finishing off the last can when the doorbell rang. He ignored it for a moment, and then suddenly the hall was filled with chatter. Through the warm haze brought on by alcohol, he recognized a large group of Mikey’s friends as they came into the lounge and made themselves noisily at home. Mikey followed a moment later, and shoved Gerard further across the couch to make room for himself. “Fuck, Gee, did you drink all the beer?” He grumbled, poking his confused brother in the ribs.
“There’s more in the fridge,” said Gerard, staring around. “You didn’t mention you were throwing a fucking party…”
“Oh, just thought I’d have a couple of friends over for movies,” said Mikey nonchalantly. “If you don’t want to join in, would you mind keeping Alice company? She’s out in the kitchen…she’s not that into Sci-Fi, apparently.”
“What…Alice? She’s here too?” Gerard shook his head to clear it, feeling more and more confused.
“She’s our chaperone,” explained Mikey glumly. “Jonah’s mum doesn’t trust him or something. What does she think we’re gonna do, get drunk or something?” On the other couch, several guys had dug out another six-pack from the fridge and were eagerly breaking it open.
Gerard got up, feeling slightly less disoriented, but a lot more annoyed. Reluctantly, driven solely by his increased sociability from the beer, he plodded out into the kitchen. Alice was sitting at the table. He took in her trendy outfit and neat appearance, and suddenly felt intensely self-conscious in his grubby t-shirt and sweatpants. He started to offer her a drink, but it seemed she’d already helped herself to coffee. Without a word he sat across from her, wishing more and more that he could sink into the floor, or at least get his eyes to focus properly.
After an awkward silence, broken only by the rowdy babble of Mikey and his friends in the lounge room, Alice spoke. “Um, you’re Mikey’s brother?” She asked awkwardly.
“Gerard,” he said quietly. “You’re Alice?”
She nodded. “Uh…I hear you’re pretty into art.” As far as Alice knew, it was the only class he ever did any work in. Their teacher seemed to love his work, but she’d never paid much attention. It had just come into her mind as she cast about for something to break the ice.
It worked; Gerard’s face lit up, and he seemed to visibly relax. “Yeah,” he said, his voice rising a little from the low monotone he’d been using. “I do a lot of drawing, I’m probably going to art school when I graduate.” He smiled. “I’m getting a couple of things up in an exhibition, actually. I’m really psyched.”
“Oh, really?” Alice felt a little taken aback at the sudden surge of enthusiasm, though it was an improvement from the tense silence of before. “Could I have a look at some of your drawings?”
“Sure,” he said, getting to his feet. “Wait here.” He disappeared up the stairs, stumbling a little as the alcohol in his system made his head spin, and a moment later reappeared clutching a thick sketch book which he handed to Alice. She opened it and flipped through curiously. It was filled mainly with comic strips and pictures of strange-looking animals and people in weird clothing, none of which interested her, but there was something about the images that drew her in. He was definitely good at what he did. She looked up at his face, which was slightly anxious, and smiled.
“They’re really good,” she said. “I reckon you’d make a great artist.”
Gerard beamed. “I don’t know if you read many comics,” he said with a shrug. “This one here –“ he flipped to a page in the middle - “wasn’t my idea, it’s kind of an out-take from a book I really like. This guy’s called Sargent Lupine and everyone thinks he’s a police officer, but he’s really this wolf who…”
It didn’t take long for Alice to completely tune out the monologue. She found herself watching Gerard’s face, lit up with almost childish enthusiasm as he explained the workings of his imaginary heroes to her. Her chest tingled a little, which she hated – she knew the feelings, and she had no intention of falling for some fat comic book geek. But there was something so cute about the way his cheeks scrunched up when he smiled, how his hands moved in graceful gestures as he talked.
“What do you like doing?” The question caught her by surprise. She realised that Gerard had stopped talking, and was waiting for her to answer.
“Uh, I dunno…” she hesitated. “Well, I like fashion. I do a lot of designing, I sew a bit…I’m probably going to go into the fashion industry when I finish high school.”
Gerard nodded. “Well, I don’t know much about fashion, but I think you dress really well,” he said with a smile. Immediately his cheeks turned pink. Was he actually flirting?
Alice smiled warmly, surprised. “Thanks!” She said. “I made this shirt myself, actually, my friends think it’s neat.”
As they talked, the noise from the next room had been getting steadily louder. Their conversation was now interrupted as a boy stumbled into the room and threw up in the kitchen sink. Gerard stared at the boy, rolled his eyes and went back into the lounge room. The boys were sprawled around on the chairs and floor, which were scattered with empty beer cans. Armchairs had been upturned and the small coffee table was on its side. One of the curtains had been wrenched clean off its rail and lay in a crumpled heap on the ground. An old movie was still playing on the TV screen. In the midst of the scene sat Mikey, looking much the worse for wear and clutching an empty beer can. Gerard sighed and ran a hand through his hair. He still wasn’t quite sober himself, and this was the last thing he wanted to be dealing with.
“Fuck, Mikey, they’re gonna trash the place!” He yelled. Mikey looked up at him, dazed and slightly guilty. Nobody else appeared to notice. Gerard took him by the elbows and hauled him to his feet, where he stood swaying slightly.
“Fucking hypocrite…I can drink if I want…” slurred Mikey.
“Yeah, but I’m not cleaning up whatever’s left of the place when you’re done,” Gerard snapped. “C’mon, help me get them all cleared out.”
It took quite a while to get everyone on their feet and herded out into the front yard. Alice, having emerged to collect her brother, was furious to find Jonah too drunk to stand unsupported. She hauled him into her car without saying goodbye. As she clambered into the car, her eyes met Gerard’s and his stomach squirmed a little. Then she was driving off, Jonah leaning drunkenly out the passenger window.
Eventually, Gerard managed to get the rest of the group sent back to their respective homes. When they were gone, he returned inside to find Mikey sprawled on the couch unconscious. He wrinkled his nose in mixed amusement and pity. “You are going to have such a hangover tomorrow,” he muttered to the unconscious Mikey. Not bothering to start cleaning up the wreckage, he trudged upstairs to his room and sat down on his bed feeling thoroughly irritated. Trust Mikey to wreck his first proper conversation with Alice…but then, if it hadn’t been for Mikey, he wouldn’t have spoken to her at all. Not sure whether to be grateful or angry, and feeling the latter to be much more appropriate, he curled up and fumed until he dropped off to sleep.