Sterling woke up feeling as though his head had been put in a vise. The sunlight from his open window burned his eyes and all of his limbs felt heavy as he tried to get out of bed. He managed to stand, after two or three attempts, and staggered off to the bathroom, his stomach already heaving. Vague and blurry memories of the night before came back to him as he held his head over the toilet and vomited.
How much beer had he consumed? He remembered the six-pack that Alistair had brought with him, the two cups he had finished at the party, the third he had been given by that blonde girl. His eyes opened as he remembered that blonde. Her curly hair had been funny to look at but her face had been kind. Then he remembered how soft her lips had been and he swore out loud as he felt the vomit rising in his throat again.
He had kissed her, he now remembered it clearly. She had been flirting with him as he stood next to the keg and then pulled his face down to hers. He hadn't stopped her, hadn't pushed her away. He didn't remember liking the kiss, only the feeling of her lips on his. He had known that girl wasn't Laila but that had been easy to forget once his eyes were closed and he had been too intoxicated to pull away. But even he knew that was a lame excuse.
Guilt overwhelmed him as he pushed himself off the floor and attempted to brush his teeth. He looked at himself only once in the mirror. Dark circles were under his eyes, his skin was a disgusting shade of green. He stumbled back to the living room and flopped down on the couch next to his brother.
"I feel like shit."
"You should," Alistair said coldly.
"What happened last night?" Sterling asked, knowing the punishment of the truth wouldn't be enough to make him feel any better.
Alistair stared at him without even a hint of sympathy. "Well, a lot happened last night. But I think the highlight of the evening was when you kissed another girl right in front of Laila."
Sterling ignored his brother's sarcasm. "She saw?"
"Fuck," Sterling swore under his breath and put his head between his knees to stop the room from spinning.
"What were you thinking?"
"Clearly I wasn't," he snapped at his brother. "What did she do?"
"She ran out of the house."
"Why didn't you go after her?"
Alistair tried not to laugh. "I was about to, believe me. But then I saw my twin brother puking all over the girl he just kissed and my priorities changed."
"I threw up on her?"
Alistair smiled. "Afraid so."
Sterling had to smile as well, only vaguely remembering the girl's shrill cry as he vomited all over her shoes. But he didn't want to think about that girl in any way. "I should go see Laila and explain…"
"She's not there, man." Alistair shook his head. "She called Piper from the road to let her know she was going to New York with Nikki."
Sterling didn't know what to say. He had wanted Laila to be upset, wanted her to know that she had angered him as well, but he hadn't meant to ruin things with her completely. And now she was in New York and he couldn't even see her to offer an explanation.
"Give me your phone," he looked up and held out his hand to his brother.
"Don't even think about it," Alistair warned.
"Come on, Al. If she sees it's me calling, she's not going to answer."
"No. If she doesn't want to talk to you, then you shouldn't trick her into it."
"Why not? I need to explain what happened."
"You don't even know what happened!"
"I know that it was a mistake. I know that I never meant for it to happen. Fuck, I don't even know the girl's name!"
Alistair stared at his brother for a minute before conceding. "Fine. But if she asks, you stole it from me."
"Fine," Sterling agreed. He found Laila's number and hit send, the ringing on the other end entirely too loud for his liking.
"Alistair?" Laila answered after a few rings.
Sterling didn't know what to say. Her voice sounded so sad.
"Alistair, are you there?"
But he still couldn't speak.
"Look, I told Piper last night not to worry. I'll be back on Sunday."
"I'm sorry," Sterling said quickly and he heard Laila take a sharp breath.
The line was silent for a few seconds and then went dead. Sterling took the phone away from his ear and closed it.
"So? How did that go?" Alistair asked, a slight smile on his lips.
Sterling threw the phone at him. "Get Piper over here so I can call from her phone."
"No. You need to let her cool off."
"She's in New York, Alistair. Who knows what she's doing right now. I just need to speak to her!"
"She doesn't want to talk to you. I'm telling you, the girl was a mess last night. You need to give her some time."
"Did you talk to her?"
Alistair nodded. "Right before she saw you."
"What did she say?"
"She said that she was scared you didn't want her anymore. She said it was hard to be this close to you and not talk to you."
Sterling blinked, waiting for his brother to say more.
"I told her that she shouldn't talk to you when you were wasted. She was going to take you home when she saw you kissing that girl."
"Oh my God," Sterling started to feel sick again as he realized that Laila had been prepared to make things work between them. She had wanted to make up and move on.
"She was just as miserable as you were," Alistair added.
"I'll go see her then. If I go to New York, she has to talk to me."
"No." Alistair felt as if he was reprimanding a puppy. "Leave her alone for a few days."
"But maybe she thinks that I did it on purpose. Maybe she thinks I kissed that girl just to make her jealous."
"She won't. It's Laila and you know her heart is too broken for her to imagine things like that."
Sterling nodded his head slowly and Alistair felt as if he had been too harsh on his brother.
"She's with Tate and Tennille," Alistair said, trying to provide some comfort. He watched as his brother rubbed his hands over his face in the hopes of hiding his tears. "They'll take care of her."
"I can't believe I did this to her."
Alistair couldn't think of the right thing to say. He stared at his brother and, even though he was furious with him, he couldn't help but feel sorry for the guy. He knew Sterling didn't want to lose Laila. He knew that his brother felt horrible about last night and would probably do anything to take it back. How many times had Alistair done that same thing to a girl and not given it a second thought? That idea made him shiver with regret and he instantly picked up his phone and dialed Piper's number, walking out of the room and into the kitchen for some privacy.
"Hello?" She sounded as if she had just woken up.
"Hey. What are you doing today?"
"No plans. Maybe some homework later."
"I need to spend some time with my brother, but I want to see you."
"Yeah?" He could hear the smile in Piper's voice.
"Yeah. Can I pick you up at five?"
"I'll be ready."
"Okay," Alistair said with a smile. "I'll see you then."
He closed his phone and looked at the back of Sterling's head. He didn't know what he was going to do with him, what he could possibly say to make him feel better. But his brother needed him and he wasn't going to let him down. Alistair opened the fridge and reached for some orange juice. Next he found the frozen waffles and put four into the toaster oven. But by the time they had finished cooking and Alistair had managed to get three of them on the plate, the fourth having been taste tested for quality assurance, he could hear Sterling's snoring from across the apartment.
Sighing, Alistair sat down on the couch next to his twin and flipped on the TV. Sterling would wake up eventually and there were plenty of waffles and plenty of orange juice to last throughout the day.