‘Dude, where are you?’ Lad Boy moaned into the phone. His summers in New York made him think it was socially acceptable to call people “dude”.
‘Mate, I’m on my way. Just calm down.’
‘Where are you exactly?’
‘I don’t know, I’m fucking stopped on the side of the street because you’ve interrupted my google-map to find my way to you.’
‘Fine. So you’re close then?’
‘Google says ten minutes.’
‘What?! There’s no way that it’s more than five from the station you got off at.’
‘It’s going to be fifteen if you don’t let me off the phone!’
‘I’m coming to find you.’
‘Fine. See you in a minute.’
I hung up and looked around one of the most foreign areas of London I’d ever been in. Foreign to me, at least. Lad Boy and I were diabolical at manoeuvring around London generally, so his critical concern for my whereabouts isn’t without reason. We got lost driving around South London for two hours once. My comment that we would have been better off getting the train back to uni wasn’t well received.
I went back to google mapping my way towards him and about five minutes later I heard ‘Oi!’
I looked up and saw him wave his hand in the air. ‘Alright, bender?’ I shouted.
When we finally met he kissed me hello. ‘You look lovely.’
‘As do you.’
‘Are there a lot of people there already?’
‘Then what’s the rush?’
‘It actually doesn’t even start for another half hour but I know you and told you to be here an hour early.
‘Dick. So I’ve been rushing around for nothing?’
‘No, you’ve been rushing to make it half an hour late according to when you thought it started.’
‘How’s your bro?’
‘Good, smashed already.’
‘Typical.’ Lad Boy’s parents were throwing a party, hence our venturing into London for the weekend. ‘Is Ube there yet?’
‘Yeah. He’s already on it – lad.’
‘Come on, my little ladette, let me have that bag.’ He grabbed my bag and we walked to where the party was happening. ‘I’ll walk on the roadside of the pavement so I can protect you.’ He said, swapping sides with me.
‘How unexpectedly chivalrous of you.’
‘Being a gentleman is a pain in the arse.’
‘I don’t need protecting, you know.’
‘Right, just like I didn’t just have to stop you from almost walking in front of a double decker last time we were here?’
‘Tomorrow I’m taking you to the gallery.’
‘Is that a bar?’
‘No you div, it’s a gallery. Like an art gallery.’
‘Oh. Right … why?’
‘Dunno. Thought you might like it.’
I laughed. ‘Okay, could be fun.’
‘Did you watch Eurovision last week?’
I raised my eyebrows, ‘Did you watch Eurovision last week?’
‘Course. Played a drinking game to it, didn’t I?’
‘So you didn’t watch it then?’
‘Nah, couldn’t be bothered. It was on somewhere in college, but why would I want to listen to shit music for hours on end?’
‘It was pretty shit to be fair, but good lash.’
‘I think I was in the library or something.’
‘Yeah, how’s all the revision going?’
‘It goes. And goes. And goes some more.’
‘Gonna get a first?’
‘Probably not. Hope so, but realistically even if I spent every hour of the day revising I wouldn’t have enough hours to necessitate a first.’
‘You need to stop watching The Hills.’
‘Wrong, you need to start watching The Hills.’
‘I can’t think of anything I’d like to do less.’
‘But you’ll watch Made in Chelsea?’
‘That show is hilarious. Some of the best banter I’ve ever seen on television. If nothing else than because it’s just so completely over the top.’
‘I saw that long-haired guy at a club once.’
‘I can’t believe he has a girlfriend on the show. I thought he was gay.’
‘Nah, just a typical rah really.’ (Note: this was pre-Ollie outing himself, I love that his excuse for being bisexual is because he’s greedy.)
‘Whatever you say. I think he’s into doooooods.’ I said, mocking his Americanisms.
‘I think you’re into dudes.’ He mumbled.
‘Yeah, mate, great comeback. I don’t think anyone who knows me would doubt that I’m into dudes.’
‘Lucky us.’ He said, winking.
‘I told you this would take ten minutes.’ I said, looking around at the still foreign area.
‘Nah, we’re here. And it’s only been 4 and a half.’
I stuck my tongue out. We walked through the entrance to the venue and Lad Boy took my bag somewhere, but it was only about two seconds before his mum was in front of me. ‘Hello, dear. Don’t you just look lovely?’
‘Hello.’ I said, kissing her hello on each cheek. I loved the way Lad Boy’s mum smelled. I wasn’t sure what her perfume was, but being hugged by her is like breathing deeply in a rose garden.
‘Was he waiting at the station for you?’
‘He was not.’
‘Tsk. I told him to go and get you, this part of London is an absolute nightmare to navigate around.’
I held up my phone. ‘The wonders of modern technology don’t allow for me to get lost. Unless I’m with your son and he refuses to use a sat nav.’
She laughed. ‘Yes, well I don’t think he’ll be trying to drive you two around London anytime soon.’
‘Ube is from here. We’ll let him do the driving.’
‘That’s right, he is.’ She didn’t say “he” though, she said his entire name, which we usually used an abbreviation of. I always feel like people are in trouble when their full names are used. She calls me by my first and middle names sometimes and it’s as if I’m four again.
‘Alright, ladies?’ Lad Boy said, walking up behind us. His mum played with his tie a bit and I wondered if that’s where I picked up the habit of messing around with his outfits all the time. ‘Shall we head to the garden?’
‘We shall.’ I said, and the three of us walked outside. It was a bit like a standard Oxbridge garden party really, but with a much more eclectic mix of people. Lad Boy wasn’t originally from London and a lot of his friends from home who had moved to London to work were there. I hadn’t met any of them and I became an immediate object of interest.
Three of his friends from childhood were there and after being introduced and getting through the formality of small talk for about fifteen minutes they deemed that I was worthy of banter and we began the more informal chat.
‘So, who did you meet first, Ube or Lad Boy?’ One of them asked.
‘Lad Boy. I met Ube through him really. The two of them are thick as thieves.’
‘From what we hear the two of you are thick as thieves. We thought you were his girlfriend for awhile until we met his actual girlfriend.’
‘Based on what?’
‘We were all on a stag do and he was just always chatting about you. Not in a waheyyyyy kind of way, but it just seems like you guys spend a lot of time together.’
‘Well we do. He’s my best friend.’
One of them frowned. ‘Really? So, you genuinely like Lad Boy?’
They all laughed. ‘Yeah he’s okay, I guess I’ll keep him around.’ I said. ‘Why, do you not like him?’
He got serious for a moment. ‘I love the guy, he’s one of my oldest mates, but to be honest, I don’t know him that well. He’s quite private usually.’
As it transpired, I knew Lad Boy better than people who had known him his whole life. He walked up. ‘Alright dickheads? What are you talking about?’
‘You.’ I said.
‘Apparently she genuinely likes your company.’ One of his mates said.
‘I know, I finally found someone who can tolerate me.’ He said, smiling big.
‘Mate, this girl is hilarious. Good chat.’
‘Um, I’m more than alright. I’m like a bantersarus-rex.’ They laughed and Lad Boy handed me a glass of champagne. ‘Cheers my dear.’ I said, sipping away.
‘What are we toasting to?’ One of them asked.
‘To me!’ I said, holding up my glass.
‘To the bantersarus-rex!’ Lad Boy shouted and we all clinked glasses for the first in a succession of many, many glasses of bubbly and toasts to everything from ‘tactical chunders’ to Lad Boy’s mum (she was there at the time, so it was acceptable and a completely non-offensive shout).
One of Lad Boy’s friends in particular seemed to take a liking to me, and I suspected as much since Lad Boy said, ‘I think my friend likes you.’
‘Well, what’s not to like?’ I had replied.
‘Laddddddddddds!’ Ube said as he stumbled up to us with said friend who apparently liked me.
We laughed and I took the spare glass of bubbly he was on the verge of spilling. ‘I’ll have that, thank you.’
‘How long are you around for?’ Lad Boy’s friend asked in our general direction.
‘I think we’re either going back tomorrow night or Monday.’ I said. ‘Depends how lost we get trying to drive back, and whether or not we detour through South London.’
‘Knob.’ Lad Boy said.
‘What are you doing tomorrow morning?’ The friend asked.
‘Sleeping presumably.’ I shrugged.
‘We should all have a fry up.’ He suggested. ‘Where are you staying?’
‘At my brother’s.’ Lad Boy said. ‘We could do it at his. Come by whenever.’
‘Yeah, wicked mate.’
We chatted some more and drank a lot more which inevitably led to an after-party at his brother’s house.
‘Tomorrow morning – ten!’ Lad Boy’s friend yelled as he stumbled out the door later that evening.
We sunk into the settee and Lad Boy flopped his head in my direction. ‘Once again, you have completely won my friends over. Well done.’
‘They like me, they really like me!’ I mocked.
‘No, but seriously – it’s really cool that you can just kind of fit into any social situation I dump you in.’
‘Well, I can’t go making you regret inviting me places, can I?’
We had gone on holiday once with a group of his friends, and I was the only one who didn’t already know everyone, but after the first night I had made friends for life with all of them. We have reunions.
‘What do you want to do about sleeping? I can set up one of these couches for you or you can just sleep with me in the guest room.’
‘How big is the bed?’
‘Fuck it, let’s just sleep there.’
Lad Boy and I have shared many a beds on nights out, but I don’t think we’ve ever even woken up spooning. He’s literally the most platonic of friends and I’d go so far as to say any sexual tension that could have existed between us has dissipated into a banterrific brother-sister type relationship. Having seen the girls he dates, I can say that I am, without a doubt, not his type. He’s a bit too pretty for me anyway. In Made in Chelsea terms, we’re Caggie and Hugo. There’s little to no similarities between those two and us, besides the fact that they appear to be quite platonic. The last time we had shared a bed after a night out before this had been at a friend’s house. I woke up in a rugby shirt and track bottoms and had one of those ‘Where the fuck am I?’ moments before getting up and exploring the house, only to come upon a bathroom where the door was open and a boy was shirtless and in suit trousers, pissing. I had a momentary, ‘Who the fuck is that? Did I go home with them?’ before I realised it was just Lad Boy. After the ‘Thank fuck for that’ moment passed I went back to bed where he shortly joined me again.
On this particular sleepover I woke up the next morning before Lad Boy and rolled over to see him sleeping peacefully beside me. He really is one of the best looking boys I’ve ever known, but watching him sleep made him seem a bit more precious than sexy to be honest. I shifted in the bed and he woke up.
He moaned and opened one eye. ‘Alright?’
‘Literally feel like I’m still drunk.’
He smiled. ‘Laddddd.’
‘What time is it?’
He pulled his wrist out and looked at his watch. ‘Nine forty-five.’
We got up and made our way down to the kitchen.
‘Alright kids?’ His brother asked when we walked in as he poured himself coffee.
‘Where’d you sleep?’ He asked me, sceptically.
‘With Lad Boy. Well, not with him, but in the same bed.’
He raised his eyebrows. ‘Oh really?’
Both Lad Boy and I frowned. We went through this constantly. Someone knocked on the door conveniently.
‘I’ll get it.’ I said, trying to immediately take myself out of the awkwardness.
I opened the door to find Lad Boy’s friend there. ‘Hello, stranger.’
‘Why, hello.’ He replied.
We made our way to the kitchen and made a hangover-killing fry up. We had to have the same ‘Yes, we slept together. No, we didn’t sleep together together.’ conversation with Lad Boy’s friend but for the most part it was banter like the night before, just a bit slower and less witty.
‘Well I’ve got to get to work.’ Lad Boy’s friend announced.
‘On a Sunday?’ Lad Boy asked.
‘Money never sleeps, mate.’ Great, another banker wanker. ‘Lovely to meet you my dear.’ He said to me.
‘The feeling is mutual. Hopefully see you again sometime.’
‘Definitely. I’ll get around to visiting this dickhead in Oxbridge sometime or another.’
‘Wicked, see you then.’
He kissed me goodbye then left. Lad Boy turned to me. ‘Shower then gallery?’
‘Are you saying I smell?’
‘No, I’m saying that I smell.’
‘It’s a plan.’
As we walked through London Lad Boy turned to me and said, ‘So, how’s that Shoreditch wanker of an ex-boyfriend of yours? He come crawling back yet?’
‘Hardly. He’s still a wanker and still my ex.’
‘Shit. Sorry, love.’
‘His loss.’ He said, putting his arm around me.
‘Ah, here’s the gallery.’
We walked around and it didn’t really take longer than two minutes for me to be completely unimpressed with the featured artist. As we stood in front of a picture which looks as if it cam straight from a real estate brochure I turned to Lad Boy. ‘This is a bit shit, isn’t it?’
‘Complete shit, yes … Pub?’
We made an obligatory lap of the gallery, disagreed on one piece which was simply a mirror with some French writing spray-painted onto it (he liked it, I didn’t), then checked out the restaurant and contemplated throwing a party there for Ube’s birthday.
‘So what do you want to do?’ Lad Boy asked me as we sipped our Starbucks.
‘Yeah, go on then.’
‘Train.’ He agreed.