Is it just me or do Louis' biceps look more muscled than before in today's interview ? I think they are and I'm so happy haha I'm obsessed with his arms (with everything about Louis really but yeah)
He says he doesnt go to the gym and he doesn’t exercise but that’s not a body of someone that lives eating greggs sausage rolls beers and no exercise whatsoever. you can tell he trains and he has defined muscles you were not usually born with. I personally think he boxes like Harry but surely he exercises.
First of all, I’m going to explain the Texas kolache. It’s a variation of the yeasty filled Czech pastry that was developed here by Czech immigrants and has become ubiquitous. It’s as common as donuts. Batch is a new place here in Austin that serves craft beer and kolaches. They do have some traditional kolaches, like the sausage and cheese, fruit and poppyseed ones but also some wackier ones like pizza and brisket. The selection they have on tap is so far pretty limited but the bottles and cans are extensive.
I had a Chouffe beer, I believe it was the Bruin, when we were in Belgium. The gnome mascot is instantly recognizable. Houblon Chouffe is called an “IPA Triple Beer” which to me seems like they’re mixing the hoppiest American-style beer with the hoppiest Belgian-style beer and lo and behold that’s exactly what it is. I had quite a few tripels in Belgium and that and saison are my favorite Belgian styles so I looked forward to trying a mish-mash of my fav Belgian with my fav American. Houblon Chouffe is a really good beer. It is indeed quite hoppy with good bitterness and citrus flavor. There’s a bit of that distinctive Belgian yeast of course. What might be the most interesting thing though is the toasty malt backbone. That I was not expecting. I’d definitely drink this beer again.
First of all, I’m going to explain the Texas kolache. It’s a variation of the yeasty filled Czech pastry that was developed here by Czech immigrants and has become ubiquitous. It’s as common as donuts. Batch is a new place here in Austin that serves craft beer and kolaches. They do have some traditional kolaches, like the sausage and cheese, fruit and poppyseed ones but also some wackier ones like pizza and brisket. The selection they have on tap is so far pretty limited but the bottles and cans are extensive. I got two from Oklahoma’s Prairie Artisan Ales.
Prairie is mostly known for their farmhouse ales, a style I’m not really a fan of. There’s sour and then there’s farmhouse, which tastes like a farm animal smells half the time. Gross. That being said, Phantasmagoria is a normal double IPA. I took a leap of faith and was rewarded. It’s juicy and citrusy and has the slightly hazy look that often goes with these flavors. The hop bitterness is medium and balanced. This is a pretty good mish-mash of West Coast and East Coast IPA styles. Think of it as if Biggie and Tupac had resolved their differences.
The bartender recommended Shift since I liked Phantasmagoria. It is indeed hoppy but it also has a lot of that farmhouse funk so it took me awhile to finish this one. There’s that lemony lactic sour flavor too that I’m actually okay with but the horsey part intruded too much. The hops show up as bitterness but not much hop flavor comes through (though there’s a bit of dank). All in all, Shift is kind of like a hoppy gueuze.
I wish you would write a fanfic about Gabriel Reyes getting way too worked up about sports.
There was a moment that he’d never forgotten, a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach, a tightening of his heart, as he’d dropped into a hot zone ten years ago and realized that the grey beneath him was not, in fact, a paved street, but a churning mass of armed and furious omnic droids. The feeling that a problem already too big to handle just was actually a thousand times worse all along and you were far, far too late in realizing it.
“What…the hell are you wearing? Did you join the mariachi club of the damned or something?” he asked slowly.
“Haven’t you ever been to a ball game before?” Reyes replied. He was grinning. The death-mask that covered the better part of his face made the expression ghoulish.
“You look like something outta one of those old Day of the Dead flicks,” Morrison said with a shake of his head. “What’s this gotta do with a ball game?” But Reyes just stepped past him.
“C’mon, Morrison. We gotta get going or we’re gonna get shit parking.”
“You’re kidding. How are you gonna drive with-”
“And turn that thing inside out.”
“-that hat…what’s wrong with a Sox jersey? You told me to wear black and white! This is the only thing I’ve got!”
“I know. Turn it inside out.”
The last time the ground had shook like this, he’d been under aerial bombardment.
Eighty thousand people were on their feet and roaring. Most wore team colors - well, yeah - but he hadn’t been prepared for the gear. Men wore helmets, pauldrons, gauntlets and chains and freaking sabotons. It was all fake; plastic or styrofoam, but sabotons. Freaking sabotons. People wore skull-masks and skull-paint and horned helmets and tricorn hats and eyepatches. Three rows up was a man wearing the headdress of an ancient pharaoh, wielding a snake-headed staff. Amari would love that guy. Two rows back a guy in a gorilla mask was directing wave after wave of cheers from the people further up by throwing up a pair of hands hidden by ape-like mitts. The massed hordes of the undead mingled with pirates, viking raiders, mongol warriors, and Darth Vader.
And beside him, the head of Blackwatch was on his feet and furiously twanging a guitar he’d assured security was entirely fake but sounded pretty damn real in a heart-pounding beat that was made all the worse as people nearby stomped their feet in time with the music.
It was like the archway had been a gate to another time - stepping from the 2060s where vendors sold cheap soy-dogs and sausages and lite beer beneath neon lighting to a colosseum of stone and stand - except for the gigantic jumbotron that currently showed an old, scratchy recording of a man, speakers transmitting his voice through the air with more decibels than a jet plane - “when you have great coaches - then after you have great coaches you get great players…you have a great organization, you tell them one thing!”
Every single voice in the place, it seemed, roared along with the last three words- “JUST WIN, BABY!”
“LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,” a voice boomed out from the stadium speakers. “FORTY YEARS AGO, A GREAT FOOTBALL TEAM WAS PURCHASED BY THE BEAUTIFUL CITY OF LAS VEGAS.”
Even in the midst of violent revolution, Jack Morrison had never seen a crowd turn so fast. The cheers turned to ferocious booing mid-breath. Weapons were brandished. The few people that had started to sit back down had leapt back up, howling in outrage. He almost dove for cover, half-expecting people to charge the field. Beside him, Reyes was snarling something that Morrison lost in the tumult, but the single-digit salute was unmistakable.
“Jesus, Gabe, calm down,” he murmured as he leaned over, already silently apologizing for the blasphemy.
The wide-brimmed hat swung about and Jack Morrison was suddenly being stared down by a silver-plated skull. “We never forgive, Morrison. We never forget,” growled something that was less like Gabriel Reyes and more like some atavistic spirit of vengeance.
“AND NOW, CELEBRATING THE THIRTY-YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF THEIR RETURN HOME, YOUR! OAKLAND! RAIDEEEEEEEEEEEEERRRRRRSSS!”
The air shook. The stands shook. The beer in the plastic cups shook. And Jack Morrison wished he’d had the foresight to bring a medic. At the very least he was never betting on a pool game again.
It was a decent game, he said later. Good guys won.
Here is a list with some alternatives/substitutes suitable for vegans. They are divided by type. If you have any product to add feel free to message me and I’ll update the list. Each one has a direct link to the corresponding websites so you can check the ingredients and where those are available.
I lowered myself gently on to the bleachers beside Emma,
grimacing as I lifted my leg up to rest my foot on the seat in front of me.
“You okay?” she laughed, watching as I leant forward to rub
“I have to say… I don’t think I’m really cut out for
baseball.” I muttered under my breath, trying to massage some feeling back in
to my calf muscles. It had been a long
time since I had played any sort of sport, and my body was not reacting kindly
to the exertion.
“That’s why I don’t play!” she laughed, gesturing to her
comfortable position on the side lines. “It’s much more fun to watch these guys
get all competitive, anyway.”
“Nice run, London!” Shannon cried, running towards us and
stopping only long enough for a high five before jogging his way back to the
rest of the team to wait for his turn to bat.
I kept the smile on my face until I was sure he wasn’t
looking, before letting my head drop into my hands. “Please tell me this is
nearly over?” I mumbled, hoping that Emma could still hear me.
“Oh sure. Just another, what… 4 innings to go?”
The sound of her laughter echoed around the field at the
sight of my horrified expression, and she shook her head as she pointed towards
a group of people further along from us. “I’m just fooling around, look – the girls
are going to do the cake in a minute and that’ll be enough to distract him.
It’s not our first Field Day – the only thing that stops play is food!”
I followed her gaze towards the small cluster of Shannon’s
friends who weren’t participating in the baseball game, and watched as they
fussed over his birthday cake and
each other. I wasn’t sure what was more
important for them – making sure the candles were lit, or checking their hair
and make-up wasn’t out of place. I
wrinkled my nose a little, turning my attention back to the game in front of me
We had taken over a small recreation ground not far from
Jared’s house, where around 30 of Shannon’s friends had turned up dressed in
t-shirts proudly stating “Shannon’s B-day Field Day” and proceeded to place
themselves in to teams for the game. I
had wanted to avoid it – I couldn’t think of anything worse than embarrassing
myself in front of a group of people I had never met by tripping over my own
feet or getting the rules of the game wrong – but Shannon had insisted, and put
me on his team, and it turned out I needn’t have worried. The rules were simple
enough as long as I did as I was told, and I was faster than I remembered,
getting round the bases quickly much to Shannon’s delight. And considering most of the people here were beautiful
women trying to get the attention of one Leto or the other, I was pretty
certain no one would have noticed even if I had
face planted the floor on my first run.
Jared had been his usual self; or the version of himself
that he was around a large group of people, anyway. Breezing his way around
everyone with a smile on his face, the sound of his laughter drifting over
conversations until it caught everyone’s attention, people automatically drawn
to him. He held court in a subtle way
that wouldn’t look as though he were taking over Shannon’s birthday, happily
speaking to everyone who approached him, and seeking out those who didn’t. Apart from me.
Except from a fleeting conversation at the house before we
had piled in to the cars, and a cheerful wink in my direction after I had run
my first and only Home Run, he hadn’t so much as looked at me. I was used to it now, had learned not to take
it as a personal slight. But it still
didn’t stop the uneasy feeling in my belly as I watched Chloe break away from a
group of girlies and make her way over to him, casually draping one arm over
his shoulder as she joined in his conversation with the people in front of him.
I shook it off, refusing to be drawn in to it today. Today wasn’t about Chloe, or my insecurities
with Jared. I watched as one of the
girls blew a whistle loudly and laughed as she jumped up and down, waving her
arms in the air to get the attention of everyone on the field, the t-shirt tied
up round her waist showing off her perfectly toned, flat stomach as she called
“Seriously… does Shannon only have skinny pretty models as
friends?” I mumbled at Emma as we rose to our feet, joining the little crowd as
they gathered around for the cake.
“Pretty much!” she laughed, nudging me gently as we clapped
along with the others, watching as Shannon jogged his way over to join us.
He looked so happy, a broad smile stretched across his face
as Jared took the cake and lead the way in a raucous rendition of ‘Happy
Birthday’. Even the cap and sunglasses
couldn’t hide Shannon’s expression, his whole body twitching as he laughed at
the terrible singing echoing out around him.
He looked so relaxed, and I smiled as I watched him take the cake in his
hands, feeling myself sing a little louder.
It was nice to see him looking so comfortable in his own skin.
I was relieved to see that Emma was right; once play had
been interrupted for cake and singing the game was quickly forgotten,
everyone’s attention instead focused on becoming the person that one of the
brothers would want to speak to. I rolled my eyes at the display and wandered
back towards the other end of the bleachers where I had left my bag, pulling
out my phone to give myself something else to look at.
I didn’t fit in here.
I knew I should be making more of an effort to mingle, to introduce
myself to their friends and make polite small talk until I got to know everyone
better. I was sure that pretty much everyone here would be at the party
tonight, so now was a good opportunity to meet people. But when Emma had explained we would be
having a BBQ with friends, I had imagined a group of people sat on picnic
blankets listening to music, the girls watching as the guys set fire to
sausages and drank beers; the sort of BBQ’s we would have at home. Instead, several of the girls had arrived
with bags of food made up mostly of salad, which had been laid out on one of
the bottom benches and then promptly ignored in favour of socialising. Which seemed to consist of the guys strutting
around and laughing too-loudly, while the girls systematically worked in small
numbers to try and penetrate the Leto circle.
It was like feeding time at the zoo.
It was surreal, watching so many beautiful people together
in one space, fawning all over each other as though they were best friends one
minute, and then subtly trying to outdo each other the next. I had just about
gotten used to the way the fans behaved when they saw the brothers, but
watching the same behaviour from their ‘friends’ was a little more than I was
comfortable with. It was no use trying to socialise with these people – I
wouldn’t even know where to start.
I half-heartedly checked my messages and my voicemail, only
glancing up at the unmistakable sound of Jared’s laughter peeling across the
grass towards me and grimacing at the sight of him surrounded by half a dozen
girls. I shook my head, clicking a few buttons on my phone decidedly before
throwing my things into my bag and standing up, hopping down the benches in
front of me and making a bee line straight for him.
I ignored the looks from some of the girls as they watched
me approach, this veritable stranger with a determined look on her face, and
instead switched on a winning smile when he caught my eye.
“Hey… you okay?” he asked, watching me smile politely at the
girls before turning back to him.
“Yes, just wanted to let you know I’m going to dart back to
the house to get ready – could I get the keys?” I smiled, holding out my hand.
He hesitated, his head slightly tipped on one side as though
trying to work out whether this was some kind of temper tantrum, and I dialled
my smile up a notch. “I just want to get to the shower before anyone else
does.” I grinned, trying not to delight in the annoyed looks from the girls
“How are you getting back?” he asked, dropping the small set
of house keys in to my hand.
“Uber.” I smiled, pocketing the keys quickly. “I’ll see you
back there. See you tonight guys!” I said, nodding at the others cheerfully and
walking away quickly before the mask had a chance to slip. I needed a hot shower and a change of clothes
before I would be ready to deal with round two of the Leto women.
I let out a deep, relaxed sigh as the hot water beat hard against
my skin, closing my eyes as I pushed my face under the stream and washed the
soap out of my hair. Although Jared’s taste in décor was questionable at best,
he had the best en-suite I had ever seen in my life. Just the shower was the
size of my whole bathroom back home, and as I was alone in the house for the
first time ever I had decided to take full advantage of it. Shutting off the water I grabbed two towels,
wrapping one round my body and using the other to roughly towel dry my hair,
humming along to the music playing from where my phone rest on the sink. Maybe tonight wouldn’t be so bad. People would be more relaxed at a party, and,
if nothing else, at least there would be alcohol.
I shuffled back in to the bedroom, holding my towel together
with one hand and scrolling through my music for a suitable playlist with the
other, chewing on my lip with a smile as I scrolled past the latest Mars album
that I had recently added for ‘research’ purposes.
“Sorry, I didn’t realise anyone was in here.”
I jumped, startled at the sound of someone’s voice in the
room, and dropped my phone as I snapped my head up in shock. “Fuck!” I yelped,
clutching my towel a little tighter as I looked at Chloe, sitting on the edge
of Jared’s bed with a smile on her face. “Chloe?”
She perched casually on the edge of the mattress, calm and
comfortable with her surroundings as though she were used to being in here, my
open suitcase and its contents strewn across the bed beside her where I had
left them. “What are you doing in here?” I asked, trying to regain control of
my heart beat as I became increasingly aware of standing in a towel, water
still dripping from my skin.
“Looking for Jared,” she said nonchalantly, a small shrug of
her shoulders as she looked at me.
“Jared? I left him at the park with you guys?”
“We all left to make our way back here for the party. I
thought I might have beaten him back.”
Despite my embarrassment I felt the first wave of annoyance
wash over me, a frown tugging at my face even as I looked at her. “And… you
thought you’d just invite yourself up to his room to look for him? That’s kind
of inappropriate don’t you think?”
“Not when you’ve known each other as long as we have,” she
said dismissively, looking down at something in her hand.
I opened my mouth to rage, the words on the tip of my tongue
ready to explain exactly how things
had changed around here; until I saw what she was looking at. In the palm of her hand, being twisted and
turned so that the light bounced off of it, was my snow globe. The words dried up before I could form them,
and she looked back up at me with a tight smile across her lips, holding the
little ornament up in the air.
“I saw this on top of your bag. It’s very pretty.”
“Thank you.” I said drily, watching her as she looked back
“It’s a great little spot, isn’t it? It’s so quiet there,
almost like it’s hidden from the rest of the park.”
I didn’t miss the pointed tone in her voice, and I tried to
swallow past the dry sensation in my mouth. “You’ve been there?”
A small smile tugged at the corners of her mouth as she
shook the globe gently. “Sure. Haven’t
“No.” I replied, trying not to snap. “It was a gift from
“Aw. How thoughtful of him.” She said quietly. “It’s one of his
favourite places in New York. He takes all of his girls there when he’s in
She placed the ornament back onto the bed, standing up and
smoothing her hands over her long skirt as she looked at me. “Well, I guess
I’ll wait downstairs for the boys. They’ll be back soon.”
I stayed where I was as she breezed past me and back out of
the room, holding my towel so tightly the skin across my knuckles was stretched
white. I wasn’t sure if the sting of humiliation was coming from the awkward
encounter with Jared’s ex-whatever-she-was whilst I was wearing just a towel;
or from the knowledge that I had allowed myself to be excited for a trip I had
thought was just for us, when actually, I was just the latest in a long list of
I took the drink gratefully, smiling at the caterer as I
moved aside to let the girls behind me get to the counter. I had never seen so
many people in one space. Jared and Emma had gone all out, decorating the house
and hiring in people to filter around the party, serving drinks and food and
making sure that everyone had everything they could want. The built in speakers
around the house were blaring out some kind of hip hop music at a volume which
made it almost impossible to hear conversation unless it was being shouted in
to your ear, and after a few hours the people inside the house had given up
trying and were simply dancing instead.
I moved through the crowds, looking for familiar faces amongst
the many and drawing a blank. Pausing to drain half of my drink, I let out a
breath and pushed my way through towards the French doors, stepping out in to
the garden, relieved by the fresh air and the speakers around the pool playing
the music at a softer level. The people out here were much the same as the
people inside; young, beautiful girls wearing not much of anything, with long
hair and pristine make up and smooth, tanned skin, elegantly draping themselves
across sun loungers or perching on the edge of tables, drinks in their hands as
they batted their eyes at the men fawning over them. I thought about Leigh, and
what she would make of this crowd – I could almost hear her scathing comments
in my ear as we laughed at how vapid these LA parties could be, and for a
moment I had a pang of homesickness that clutched at my chest tightly.
Determined to shake it off I walked towards the corner of
the garden, spotting Jared in the same place he had been for most of the
evening, talking to his friend Terry and a couple of blonde girls I didn’t
recognise. He looked up as I approached, a smile forming on his lips as he
extended his arm towards me.
“There she is,” he grinned, slipping his arm round my
shoulders. “I’ve been looking for you everywhere.”
I glanced up at him, ready to smile at his words, only to
realise whilst he may have been talking about me he was actually addressing his
little group of onlookers. “Really,” I said, my brow furrowed. “Well, that’s
very sweet - although you’ve definitely been in the garden for most of the
I regretted it as soon as I had said it; I sounded like a
nagging girlfriend. I felt his back tense under my hand even though his smile
didn’t waver, and I wanted to kick myself. I had barely seen him all night, and
I didn’t want our first exchange in front of his friends to look like some kind
“Are you having fun?” he asked, finally dragging his gaze to
mine, and I realised with a sadness that I felt like I was being a burden,
simply by coming to talk to him. I smiled brightly, forcing myself to look the
part even if I wasn’t feeling it; this night was not about me.
“I’m having a great time, it’s a fantastic party. I thought
I might go and get my camera and take some photos of everyone, so that Shannon
has something to look back on tomorrow?”
“You don’t need to do that,” he said with a shake of his
head, a small laugh huffing out of his nose. “That’s what Terry is here for,
isn’t that right Terry?” he said, smiling at his friend.
“That and the women!” Terry laughed, winking at the blonde
girl standing closest to him and eliciting an inane giggle from her and her
I winced as my suggestion was dismissed, and feeling more
than a little out of place I cleared my throat as I looked around the garden.
“Speaking of Shannon, where is he? I haven’t seen him in ages?” I asked.
Jared cast his eye around the garden briefly, shrugging his
shoulders as he looked back at me. “I have no idea. He’ll be around somewhere.”
I nodded, looking down at my mostly empty champagne glass
and seeing a welcome escape route. “I think I might go and get a top up – does
anyone want another drink?”
The girls and Terry shook their heads politely, and Jared
turned to give me a kiss on the side of the head. “Go have fun.” He smiled,
turning back to his conversation before I had even left the little circle,
seemingly oblivious to the wounded expression on my face.
I walked back across the garden the way that I had come,
squeezing between bodies at the door until I was back in the house. The music
seemed louder than before, the lights lower, drunk people swaying in time to
the music and holding their phones up to take blurry selfies as they documented
their night at Jared Leto’s house. Without even thinking about it I kept
moving, pushing through the party guests until I was making my way up the
stairs and away from the crowds. I needed a time out, and thankfully people
seemed to be keeping to the ground floor, leaving me to make a break for the
bedrooms in peace.
I walked past Jared’s room and pushed open the next door,
the plush white spare room that now felt so familiar to me it was like a little
safe haven away from everything hectic that was happening downstairs, and let
out a sigh of relief as I flopped backwards on to the bed.
With my eyes closed, the distant thud of awful music ringing
in my ears, I wondered how long I could realistically get away with hiding up
here before someone came to look for me. I snorted a laugh at my own thoughts –
who would come to look for me? Everyone downstairs was having the time of their
life, including Jared. I could slide away now and lock myself in this room
until tomorrow, and I was pretty sure that no one would even notice. Even Shannon
had disappeared from his own party.
Thoughts of the birthday boy had me opening my eyes again.
It had been so crazy today, so much going on, that I hadn’t even had time to
give him his birthday present. I sat up, looking down at my suitcase leaning
against the wardrobe where I had thrown it after dragging it out of Jared’s
room earlier, and climbed back off of the bed to pull Shannon’s carefully
wrapped present out from where I had buried it. Turning it over in my hands, I
wondered whether he was going to like it. I still wasn’t sure it was his style
– wasn’t sure it was anyone’s style –
but the thought he might not like it, and that I would have to watch him open
it and pretend otherwise, was somehow nerve wracking.
Forming a plan, I turned towards the door and stepped out in
to the hall, checking to make sure no one else was up here before walking
quickly towards Shannon’s room. I could
put his present in here, and he could open it tomorrow when he woke up sober
enough to realise it was there – and that way, I wouldn’t have to see his
reaction if he thought it was hideous.
I pushed open the door hurriedly and ground to a halt
immediately; Shannon was laying on his bed, one arm thrown over his eyes,
almost a mirror image of myself just a few minutes ago. He lifted his head off
the bed at the sound of the door opening, and I cringed apologetically. “Oh…
Sorry, Shan, I didn’t know you were in here.”
He quirked an eyebrow in my direction, pushing his arm
behind his head. “Were you expecting to find someone else in my room?”
I grinned, leaning against the doorframe. “You never know
with you. It is a party full of hot girls.”
He chuckled, throwing his arm back over his face. “Don’t
shit where you eat.” He said, his words muffled.
I could see his grin even from the other side of the room even
though his face was mostly hidden, and rolled my eyes at him as I stepped in to
his room and looked around. I’d never been in here before. It was a mess, shoes
and clothes strewn everywhere, a few boxes stacked in a corner overflowing with
records and books and what looked like packs of drum sticks, a couple of
canvas’ stacked against the wall. He had said that living here was temporary,
until his own house was sorted; and you could tell. This was the room of
someone who was just passing through.
“You know you’re missing your own party down there…” I said,
pausing at his dresser to look at his phone, plugged in to a docking station
and playing music just loud enough to drown out the droll being piped around
the downstairs of the house.
“I just needed… a minute.”
I turned to look at him, frowning a little. “Are you not
“Sure,” he said, not moving from his stationary position on
the bed. “Everyone’s been great, the house looks great, you know… the party has
“Great?” I offered, walking towards the window and peering
out through the glass. He hummed in agreement behind me.
“Sometimes you just need a little time out from all the
I smiled at that, looking out across the back yard where
half of the party had spilled out around the pool. The sound of laughter and
conversation filtered up towards me, and my eyes drifted across towards Jared
who had moved his way around the pool to the fire pit, and was now sat in
amongst a crowd of people with one leg crossed over the other as he chatted
animatedly to everyone watching him.
“Why aren’t you down there anyway?” he asked.
I tore my gaze away from the window, turning to see him propped
up on his elbows as he watched me, a curious expression on his face. I turned
on a smile automatically, holding his present up in front of me. “Was going to
stash this in your room so you would find it tomorrow when you sobered up.”
“Aw London – you got me a gift?” he grinned, sitting up
“Of course I did.” I said, crossing the room to sit beside
him on the bed, holding out the wrapped present nervously. “But if you don’t
like it, I have the receipt and we can take it back.”
“Psssh, shut up.” He smiled, taking the package and tearing
in to the paper happily.
I watched as he pulled out the jumper, unfolding it and lifting
it up as he looked at it, his mouth open just a little as his eyes ran over the
design. He said nothing, and I couldn’t read his expression.
“You hate it, don’t you…?” I said, chewing on my lip as he
turned to face me.
“What? No, London… I love it!” he exclaimed, looking back at
the jumper before lowering it to his lap. “It’s frigging awesome. Thank you.”
He grabbed me to him in a hug, squeezing me hard, and for
the first time through the entire day I felt myself relax. “Really? Because
honestly, if it’s not your sort of thing we can swap it…”
“Stop.” He laughed, pulling away from me and grasping my
shoulders. “I was only looking at this like two weeks ago – it’s perfect. I
can’t believe you bought me this. I’m gonna wear it all the time.” He grinned,
letting go of me and standing up just so he could shrug into the hoodie.
“You don’t have to wear it right this minute!” I laughed,
watching him pull the hood over his head and turn to check himself out in the
“Try and stop me!” he grinned, turning round with his arms
out, modelling his new present. “What do you think?”
“It looks great,” I smiled. “Although it’s not really party
“Meh. I think I’m done with the party.” He shrugged.
“You’re bailing on your own birthday party… that is
happening in your house?” I laughed, raising my eyebrows.
“It’s not my house
though,” he pointed out, throwing himself down in to the armchair beside the
mirror. “And I gotta be honest – I think I recognise about five people here.
Just, when you go back down there, don’t tell Jay you’ve seen me.”
I stood up from the bed with a nod, glancing out of the
window at the sound of high pitched squeals and water splashing, and watched as
a couple of the girls jumped in to the pool after stripping out of the tiny
fragments of clothing they had been wearing. I could see Jared, sitting in the
same place, leaning back with his arms outstretched along the wall behind him,
laughing. Suddenly I couldn’t think of anything I wanted to do less than
re-join the party.
“Actually… do you mind if I hide out up here for a while?” I
He propped the back of his head up on one hand,
frowning at where I stood trying not to watch the party antics going on below
me, and for a moment I thought he was going to say no.
“Sure. Your turn to choose a song though.” He said,
gesturing to his phone, and I felt my face relax in to a grateful smile that he
wasn’t going to ask any more questions.
We spent the next couple of hours exactly like that. Shannon
sprawled across the armchair while I lay on my stomach on his bed, taking it in
turns to pick music from Spotify, each of us trying to outdo the other one with
something more obscure, more pop, more country, more metal, than the last one
had picked. He always won. He knew more about music than I did. Every time I
thought of someone that he would never have heard of, he would sing the words
loudly and proudly just to prove me wrong.
“Oh my god seriously – how? How?!” I laughed, watching him
throw his head back and sing along to a random English pop-rock band that I had
only found a couple of months ago. “They’re not even signed yet!”
“Gotta keep your finger on the pulse, babe!” he laughed,
ducking as I launched a pillow at his head.
“Right that’s it – I’m going back to normal bands as I
clearly suck at finding stuff that you don’t
already know!” I laughed, pushing myself back off the bed and searching through
Spotify for what I was looking for.
“Make it a good one, I can almost hear the shit they’re
playing downstairs,” he grumbled, his nose wrinkled in disgust.
“Okay okay – we can combine playing good music with a little
bit of research for me – I’m covering this show next week.” I said, scrolling
through songs until I found one that I recognised and hitting play.
The dulcet tones of Dallas Green started to filter out of
the docking station, accompanied by his harmonica and that beautiful guitar
that was so typically him, and I smiled as I started to jig around the room.
“Ooh, City and Colour? Where are they playing?” Shannon
asked, laughing as I half tripped over the pillow I had thrown at him only
moments before, watching me recover quickly before carrying on my dancing
around the other side of the bed.
“North London. It’s why I’m flying out tomorrow,” I said,
singing along as I flailed my arms around in the air.
“Oh man, I would love to have seen that.” He grumbled,
standing up and walking over to the dock.
“Hey! Don’t you be changing this, it’s my turn!” I
protested, hands on my hips as I watched him scrolling.
“It’s okay we can keep with this band,” he said,
The song stopped, and a second later another started,
soft guitar playing out as he turned back to me, his hand held out in front of
“What…?” I said, looking at his outstretched hand.
“Come on London, if we’re dancing, we’re dancing properly.”
I hesitated, squinting at him as he stepped closer towards
me. “In here?”
“Well I’m not gonna ask them to put this on
downstairs.” He grinned, grabbing my hand and lifting our arms up in the air,
spinning me round in a circle and pulling me towards him as I laughed.
I giggled, resting my hand on his shoulder as he held the
other one in his, skilfully dancing us slowly in a circle in the middle of his
“I love this song.” He said quietly.
His deep voice, somehow deeper when he spoke softly, rumbled
quietly in my ear as he swayed us in time to the song, and I found myself
suddenly aware of how close he was. One hand holding mine as he lead; his other
arm around my waist as he gently held me against him. He hummed along with the
song, somehow making the words playing around me sound that much clearer.
“You’re the lullaby,
that’s singing me to sleep, you are the other half you’re like a missing
His thumb brushed over the skin on the back of my hand, and
I felt myself blink in to his shoulder as the air in the room changed. Somehow,
just by turning in slow circles in the middle of his messy bedroom, this had
become… inappropriate. I knew it, in my gut. I should not be slow dancing with
Jared’s brother. And yet, cocooned inside Shannon’s large frame, his voice
gently humming against my hair, I felt oddly at home. Safe.
I should let go now. Change the song and carry on our
ridiculous evening of laughing and avoiding the party. But even as I thought
it, I felt myself moving almost imperceptibly closer to him, my face just
millimetres away from the soft wool of the jumper I had just bought him. His
arms tensed slightly as though he had felt my movement, and his grip around my
waist tightened. My heart gave an unsteady thump in my chest at the sensation.
“Oh my love… oh my
love… oh my love, you don’t know, what you do to me…”
I looked up as we turned again, catching sight of our
reflection in the mirror over his shoulder. Dancing slowly, pressed together tightly
as though we had been moulded that way, we looked… like a couple.
I did let go of him then, pulling my hand out of his as I
took a step back as though I had been bitten. His hands dropped to his sides as
he watched me, and a million excuses flashed through my brain, reasons to laugh
off my strange reaction so that he wouldn’t think anything of it. But one look
at his face and I realised I didn’t need any of them. His expression mirrored
all the feelings churning around in my chest; shock, worry. Disappointment.
“I should, um…” I started, half-heartedly gesturing towards
his door. I wanted him to say something,
to crack a joke or grin and shrug – anything that would make this feel less
awkward. Instead he held my gaze for a few agonizing seconds, before nodding
and looking down at his feet.
“Sure. It is getting pretty late.”
I swallowed uneasily, wanting to fix whatever it was that
had just happened and make this weird atmosphere disappear, but I couldn’t think
of the words, and he wouldn’t look at me. I nodded to myself, dropping my head
as I took a couple of backwards steps towards the door.
“Happy birthday, Shan.” I said quietly, before turning and
walking out of the door quickly, not stopping until I got back to the spare
room and closed the door firmly behind me.
Leaning my back against the wood I blew out a breath,
already trying to push that image out of my mind. Alcohol and slow songs could
do funny things to people, and I shook my head as I started to get ready for
bed. The party might still be in full swing downstairs, but one thing was for
sure; I was ready to put this day behind me.
We got into Shanghai late last night and the hotel restaurant had just closed. So wit the streets looking for food, but most of the local mom & pop shops I know in the area had also already shut their doors. Not wanting to wander too far, we ended up at a place called Taoji HK Restaurant, right across the street from the Andaz Hotel in Xintiandi, and had a tasty, affordable, late night meal in this Hong Kong-style diner. Here’s a look…
Some decent char siu roast pork; nothing to write home about, but acceptable at almost midnight…
Deep-fried chicken cartilage with fresh & dried chile peppers…
My favorite dish, snap peas fried with garlic, lap cheong sausage and smoked bacon…
Simple wonton noodles…
With a big bottle of Tsingtao “Draft” to help with the jetlag…
All this for about $20 US! Simple and savory, a great way to start our trip.