The gaudy flashing lights on the Timmins’ Christmas tree lit up the room in alternating bursts of blue-green and red-yellow as six teenagers slumped over the living room furniture. Gremlins was playing on the oversized TV but nobody was paying much attention to it. For the past several minutes, Liam had been trying - unsuccessfully - to catch M&Ms in his mouth after throwing them up several feet. Gigi watched him pityingly. Liam was not pretty at the best of times, and with his head back, mouth open, tongue lolling out, and wearing the collar of his polo shirt turned up for some idiotic reason, he looked far from his best.
“Here, try popcorn,” Gigi took mercy on him and passed over the bowl of popcorn. “It’ll hurt less when you miss and it hits your face.”
Liam threw some popcorn into the air, and it landed on his stupid shirt.
“Stop using good food as projectiles,” Luke instructed, snatching both bowls out of his younger brother’s reach.
Liam mimicked him back word for word in a much higher voice so Luke kicked him hard in the shins. “Boys, let’s not be babies,” Imogen said over Liam’s whimpers.
Gigi liked Imogen. Okay, so she’d hated her at first because everyone seemed to think that Imogen was Luke’s girlfriend, and Gigi had been crushing on Luke for as long as she could remember, so she had to hate Imogen on principle. But it turned out that Imogen was not Luke’s girlfriend, and wasn’t even into boys at all, and Gigi started to like the older girl as soon as she found that out. Imogen just hung out with Luke a lot because she had a rough time getting other people to like her. That was sort of how Gigi, Liam and Karinder were all friends, too.
Only it seemed like Karinder didn’t need to hang out with the misfits anymore. Gigi looked over to the sofa where Karinder was still snuggled into her beau like letting go would kill her. He was called Archie and he was really good at drawing comic books or something, but Gigi didn’t give a crap about some stranger who was stopping her from catching up with one of her oldest friends when she was only home for a short break. She hated that fucker Archie.
“I’ll go refill these,” Georgina volunteered, grabbing the snack bowls from Luke. She unfolded her long limbs and pushed herself up out of the beanbag she’d been sinking into for the past thirty minutes. Her fluffy black socks slid across the wood laminate that trailed out of the Timmins’ living room and carried through into the spotless kitchen, where Gigi plonked the bowls onto the countertop with more force than was necessary. “Fucker,” she muttered.
“What did I do?”
Gigi whirled around. “For fuck’s sake, you scared the shit out of me.”
Luke grinned. “For being in my own kitchen?” Rolling her eyes, Gigi turned from him and set about topping up the snacks from the packets left out on the counter. “Everything okay?”
“Yeah, I’m just having a grump about Archie the magnificent.”
Luke giggled. He and Liam had the same giggle. It was as infuriating as it was adorable. “No, I meant is everything okay with us?”
She put down the popcorn. “Spiffing.”
He leaned against the counter next to her. “You didn’t even say Merry Christmas when you saw me.”
What the fuck did he want her to say? There was that weird moment right at the end of the summer when they were hiding together behind a hay bale from Liam, and Gigi thought about kissing him. She could have, the two years age gap didn’t seem like it was a big deal anymore, and nobody would ever have known, and she’d wanted to kiss Luke for so long. But she didn’t do anything, because Luke just didn’t seem interested. At all. Who hides with a girl behind a hay bale and doesn’t try to kiss her? Was she that repulsive to him? Whatever, it was just so weird after that Gigi had gone straight home and didn’t bother to find Luke to say goodbye before she went back to school. She was Liam’s friend, anyway, not Luke’s.
But then she saw him again tonight and sweet Merlin he was too cute to be allowed. She definitely hadn’t chosen her green and black pinstripe jeans because she knew he liked them, or worn a black top that she happened to know made her boobs look good (okay it made her look like she had some. Some girls had a full chest at thirteen. Gigi was hoping hers would develop at some point, but so far her breasts were pretty unremarkable). But he didn’t want to kiss her, so fuck him. “Merry Christmas, butt face.”
“Charming. Look, I got you something.”
She turned to him. She wasn’t petty enough to turn down gifts. Luke rummaged in his jeans pocket for a second, then pulled his hand out, with his middle finger extended. Gigi held back a laugh, but she let him see her smile as she shook her head. “That’s yours to keep. Use it wisely.”
“Is that an invitation?”
“What the fuck?”
“Kidding, I’m kidding!” If she wouldn’t get expelled for it, Georgina would have transfigured him into a toad. Then kicked him. “You do think about me when you’re, y’know, meditating, right?”
“Wouldn't you like to know.” She picked up the refilled snack bowls and pointedly stared at Luke, who’d decided to block her exit. “You’re not as cute as you think you are, Timmins.”
“You’re not as scary as you think you are, Philpott.”
She pushed her face into his. “You have no idea.”
It was good that Imogen came looking for them, not Liam, because if Liam saw Gigi making out with his brother, he would have flipped shit. Imogen just made wrenching sounds. “Get your tongues out of each other’s mouths and come back to us. Liam wants to play cheat.” She made a show of reaching around them to get the snack bowls.
Gigi reluctantly pulled back from Luke. He smirked so she shoved him. “Don’t tell your brother about this,” she warned, “or I really will turn you into a toad.”