What came next was one of the most embarrassing moments of my life.
I was resolved not to enjoy the club at all, at least not until they relented about the watch. Not that it was hard to disapprove of everything and everyone. I mean, imagine it: loud music blaring (nothing I'd heard before, naturally, and nothing I'd actually like- I prefer classical music, much kinder to the ears), bright lights flashing, young people practically bouncing off the walls in varying degrees of inebriation. The girls- not my friends, of course- seemed to be competing- who could wear the least clothing. It was all very unseemly.
For the thirteenth time, I looked at my watch, as if expecting that the familiar glow-in-the-dark dial would magically materialise under the flashing lights, etched onto my skin by force of my gaze. I sighed, nursed my beer in a sullen silence. How dare they?
Suddenly I felt overly enthusiastic hands tapping my shoulder. "Ethan, cheer up," shouted Erica, bobbing up and down to the music. She had obviously come over from her rather prominent position in the middle of the dancefloor to this lonely corner tocheer me up. Because she was a good friend.
But not good enough to give me my watch back. I didn't smile.
"If you're not coming to give me my watch back, I'm not interested." I said, batting her hands away. "Go and enjoy yourself. I'll watch our drinks."
She looked back to her spot on the dancefloor, then back at me. Then she left to rejoin the others.
I sat there on my own for a while, watching the way the lights changed colour aginst the walls. And checked the strip of arm where my watch ought to be. It looked strangely white, uncooked, like raw cookie dough.
After a few times, I felt someone tapping on my arm again. "Come on, Ethan, live a little," shouted Melanie, her voice barely audible above the pounding music.
"Go away!" I called back at her, refusing to turn round.
She left- or at least I presume she did. I fingered the zip of my jacket, lost without the timepiece firmly round my wrist. Sparx was going to pay for this. I was definitely getting the bed tonight. And he was buying me some earplugs.
"Will you just *bleep* well leave me alone!" I said, as once more someone grabbed my arm, this time quite roughly. Some of the beer spilled on my clean shirt- it could have been worse I suppose. It could have fallen in my lap, giving the impression of a nasty accident. Sparx would never have let me live that down.
"Oh," said a voice I didn't recognise. The voice of my mystery assailant.
I couldn't help it; I turned to look. You would, wouldn't you? It was a girl. Quite a pretty girl, with long blonde hair flowing over her shoulders, wearing a very short skirt. And she was smiling... at me?
I've never kissed a girl.
Or had anything much to do with them, really, other than Melanie and Erica, and I only know them through Sparx.
"You spilled your drink," she said, and I detected a considerable amount of alcohol in her speech, "want to go back to my place to change out of those wet clothes?"
I froze. Rabbit in the headlights would probably have been a good description of my face right then. Then, I looked around, desperately, to find the others but they seemed to have disappeared in the crowd. No doubt trying to keep Erica from breaking too many french hearts. Oh, where was Sparx when I needed him, to diffuse the situation with his ice-cool charm?
"I'm Naomi," she said, still beaming radiantly. Oh my goodness, this is not happening to me. Say something. Anything.
"I- I-I need to go to the bathroom," I replied, regretting it instantly. My cheeks flamed scarlet, but under the lights I don't think she saw.
Before she could say a word in response, I jumped to my feet, knocking over someone else's drink. Sure enough, the "accident" I had been glad to avoid happened.
"Wait!" she called behind me "Let me give you my number!"
But it was too late: pushing through the crowd, I disappeared out the door and into the night.