"I don't want to see her," Sterling lied as he finished his beer.
"Bullshit," his brother called his bluff and passed him another drink. "She is all you have thought about this entire afternoon so I don't want to hear it."
"You don't know that."
"Yes I do," Alistair laughed at his twin. Poor Sterling had looked completely miserable when he opened the door that afternoon, so much so that Alistair very nearly feared for his brother's life. Laila and Sterling hadn't spoken since Wednesday evening and he knew they were both going insane. Piper had texted him Thursday morning asking what she should do about Laila's crying. The girl hadn't stopped all night and was still at it the next morning. But Alistair didn't know what to suggest. Laila had always taken care of him, not the other way around, so he promised Piper that he would be there first thing Friday after classes let out. He had driven like a madman to see them but hadn't made it out of Sterling's apartment yet.
"She doesn't want to talk to me," Sterling said, hanging his head.
"Have you tried talking to her?"
"No. But why should I? She's the one who should be apologizing. I was just looking out for her!"
"She probably doesn't see it that way," Alistair pointed out.
"I know," Sterling sighed and took another gulp from his beer. "But I can't stand her being friends with that guy. It's not right."
"So you do want to break up with her?"
"No!" Sterling nearly screamed. "That's the last thing I want. He just needs to get out of her life and leave us be."
"You might have to compromise if you want to stay with her."
Sterling shook his head. He was already tipsy but didn't feel the need to stop drinking. If he was going to be forced to see Laila, he didn't want to feel anything. He was scared that he would beg her forgiveness - something he knew he shouldn't have to do.
He looked at his brother as he opened his phone to receive a text. Alistair smiled and quickly responded. Sterling wanted to be happy for Al because he knew that Piper was great for him, but his fight with Laila had him wishing everyone could be just half as miserable as he was.
"Look," Alistair stood up and grabbed the beer from Sterling's hand. "The girls are already at the party so I suggest that you get off your ass and get this over with. You're going to feel much better once you just talk to her."
"I hate you right now, you know that?"
Sterling groaned but stood up, swiping his beer back from his brother and finishing it in a matter of seconds. Alistair rolled his eyes but pushed is brother out the door and into the cold night air. They walked to the party quickly, one twin completely impatient to see his new girlfriend, the other just hoping to get his hands on another drink.
They walked through the door and Alistair instantly saw Piper standing in the corner with Laila and another girl. He smiled as Piper threw her head back and laughed at something that had been said. He loved that laugh and the very sight of her only added to his longing. It had been only a week since their first date, since their first kiss, but he had missed her so much. Surprisingly, however, he found it easier to concentrate on his schoolwork, knowing that Piper was thinking about him.
He walked quickly toward her but knew that there was someone else who needed his attention more than Piper. As he pushed past the crowd, he grinned at Laila who was standing against the wall, distracting her attention from her roommate.
"Alistair!" Laila practically jumped into his arms and hugged him close.
"How are you doing?" he whispered to her, not wanting the others to hear.
Laila shrugged as he put her down. "I'm glad you're here," was all she offered.
Alistair gave her a doubting smile then turned to Piper. She was beaming at him and he leaned in to kiss her cheek. She blushed slightly and took his hand.
"Alistair, this is Luanne, one of our roommates."
"Luanne!" Alistair said enthusiastically. He remembered the name well. "I have to say, I'm a big fan of your house rules!"
The redhead looked embarrassed as she shook his hand. "Really?"
"Oh, yeah!" Alistair laughed at glanced at Piper who was staring at him in disbelief. It wasn't until Laila started to giggle that the rest of them joined in. Luanne nudged Laila in feigned offense but couldn't help feeling grateful that she was finally able to laugh with her roommates.
"How are those rules holding up, by the way?" Alistair teased Piper but it was Luanne who answered.
"Nikki pretty much blew one out of the water the first week."
Laila laughed at the memory. "But the rest have held up quite well." She smiled at Luanne encouragingly. Luanne had been incredibly supportive of Laila the past two days whenever she would break down and cry. If Piper wasn't there, Luanne would listen to Laila's reasoning behind her actions and always take her side. She appreciated the effort her roommate was putting forth and wanted to reciprocate with some support of her own.
But thinking about how nice Luanne had been the past two days only made Laila remember the reason she needed so much comforting. Seeing Alistair was a blessing but it also meant that Sterling was close by. Or, if he wasn't, it meant that he hadn't wanted to see her and the thought nearly killed Laila. She stood on her tiptoes and looked around the party, instantly identifying Sterling's ashy blonde hair in the crowd. He was standing by the keg, gulping from a red plastic cup. Laila prayed he wasn't intoxicated though the way he held himself against a chair told her otherwise.
She also couldn't help but notice the cute blonde girl who had appeared by his side. Her curly hair was everywhere and her low-cut shirt revealed an enviable cleavage. Sterling was, to his credit, paying more attention to his drink than whatever it was she was saying to him, but Laila still felt a pang of jealousy.
Alistair hadn't failed to notice where Laila's attention had gone and he quickly let go of Piper's hand so he could have a moment alone with his brother's girlfriend.
"Now is probably not the best time to talk to him, Laila."
"I noticed," she said sourly.
"He is miserable, you know."
"Why hasn't he called?"
"Why haven't you?"
Laila was surprised by Alistair's blunt question but had to smile at the honesty of it. "I'm scared."
"That he doesn't want me anymore," she said quietly, her smile fading and tears springing to her lids.
"You know, he's probably scared of the same thing."
"I should talk to him."
Alistair smiled and nodded. "Not tonight. He's well on his way to being completely wasted so just leave him alone right now."
"It's hard to be this close to him and not talk to him," Laila said, watching as her boyfriend filled up his cup again.
"You could try to take him home and put him to bed. He'll probably need some taking care of later tonight and I'll be happy if I don't have to do it!"
Laila smiled at Alistair and nodded her head. She should just take her boyfriend home and let him sleep it off. They could talk in the morning and this way Sterling wouldn't be distracting Alistair from Piper. She straightened her skirt and ran her fingers through her hair as she started to approach him, suddenly wanting to look her best even though she knew he would be too drunk to tell the difference. Looking up, she saw Sterling staring blankly at the girl next to him. His eyes were nearly closed as he swayed to stay on his feet and Laila nearly ran to catch him before he fell. But she stopped dead in her tracks as she watched the girl's hand reach up and bring Sterling's face to hers. Their lips met and Laila felt her knees go weak.