“Some people just can’t sing.” I say to Jake, shaking my head as another drunk hotel guest steps up for the karaoke. It’s 8 o’clock in the evening and both our families are sat around a table, empty pint glasses littering the surface. My family can drink for a while before the alcohol starts to take any effect, I can’t say the same for Jake’s family.
Jake’s mum and dad stumble up to the stage and request ‘Summer Nights’ from Grease, I see Jake grimace and hide his face in Maddy’s hair as she sits on his knee, cheering her parents on. My family try to contain their laughter, but when the duet starts and Jake’s parent are, to put it kindly, not quite blessed in the vocal department, they begin to giggle, still cheering.
“They do this every time.” Jake mutters into Maddy’s hair.
“It could be worse.” I say with a shrug of my shoulders.
I think for a moment, “Yeah, no, you’re right this is pretty bad.” I say, laughing.
Once the song ends, one of the hotel staff walks on stage. “We’re going to take a short break from karaoke now, but don’t worry, it’ll be back, we just want to put two last songs on for the kids so you can get them to bed.” He smiles before handing the mic to another hotel entertainer as he calls all kids to the dance floor. Jake lifts Maddy off his knee and stands her up.
“Right, off you go Mads.”
“Come with me.” She says, grabbing his hand and attempting to pull him up from his chair.
He sighs, a pained expression on his face. “Fine.” He stands slowly, unable to say no to his sister, “But only if Amber comes too.”
Maddy turns her adorable face to me, eyes wide in question. I don’t say anything; I just stand.
All three of us made our way to the dance floor, Jake and I standing out among the crowd of 3-7 year olds. ‘Baby Shark’ plays over the speakers, two hotel staff stepping up to the stage and showing the kids the actions. I don’t even need to look at them; I know every last move.
I look to my right, and by the looks of it, so does Jake. “What’s your excuse for knowing the actions, Bloom? I have a little sister.” He smirks as he notices my hands moving in perfect time to the music.
“I am a woman of many talents, Jake.”
“Don’t I know it.” He replies, giving me a lopsided smile.
Baby Shark ends and the familiar tune of the Cha Cha Slide comes on. I look to Jake, eyes wide with a broad smile. “Oh my God.”
“What a banger. Reckon you still know the moves, Bloom?”
“The song literally tells you what to do, how could I forget?”
The three of us hold hands, Maddy in the middle and me and Jake either side, as we slide from right to left, following every move as it comes. We dance the whole thing through, then return to our table.
Jake’s mum and dad stand, unsteady at first, but they soon regain balance. “Right, we best put this little one to bed, and I think it’s probably time for us to call it a night as well. You’ve got the spare key haven’t you, love?” Jake’s mum says, hand stroking through Maddy’s hair affectionately.
“Yeah I’ve got it.” Jake confirms, patting his pocket.
“We’ll join you, it’s probably time for us to go as well. Here you go, Amb, don’t stay up too late.” My mum says, standing and handing me the spare key.
“I won’t.” I promise, smiling, taking the key and tucking it in the pocket of my shorts.
Me and Jake sit at the table and watch our families leave. Jake reaches over and grabs my hand with his, rubbing his thumb across the back of my hand as the karaoke starts up again. I lay my head on his shoulder, content.
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A few songs in, Jake stands abruptly. “What are you doing?” I ask.
He simply smiles at me before turning and making his way towards the stage. He leans over and says something to the guy behind the laptop before picking up two microphones and making his way to the stage. He holds one mic up to his mouth and points the other one at me, looking me dead in the eye.
“This song is dedicated to Amber, who I hope will join me so I don’t look like an idiot singing a duet all by myself.”
I shake my head, “No way.” I mouth at him, but he simply continues to smile.
“Amber, Amber, Amber.” He chants my name until other people sat around the stage begin to join in. About 50 strangers all chanting my name, louder and louder until I give in.
“Fine.” I say standing and walking up to the stage. I hate getting up in front of people. In fact, this is pretty much my worst nightmare. Yet, Jake has gotten me up here, mic in hand.
He gives me a kiss on the forehead before nodding to the guy at the laptop. I squeeze the mic tighter; I don’t even know what song we’re singing. Why did I stand up?
The song begins to play, and I instantly recognise it, my muscles relaxing. ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’ plays over the speakers and I smile, it’s one of my favourite songs.
Jake sings the first line and I flash back to the time in the car, singing ‘Sweet Caroline’ with him and my family.
He’s awful, but it makes me sound even better, so I can’t complain. We sing separately, we sing together, the audience even claps along as Jake preforms, putting everything into it. I almost miss some of my lines from laughing at him, but we make it through the song without incident and he instantly engulfs me in a hug.
“You’re good, Bloom. Almost as good as me.”
I just push him away laughing, stepping off the stage and returning to the table. Jake stays stood on the stage however and I look at him in confusion. “If you guys don’t mind, I just want to sing one more for my girl.”
The other hotel guests give a cheer and Jake says a quick thank you before walking over to the laptop once more. This time, ‘Just The Way You Are’ by Bruno Mars starts to play and I roll my eyes at him, smiling. He just winks back and starts to sing.
He looks at me the whole way through the song, and no matter how badly he sings, it still manages to make me tear up.
He gets a huge applause and I laugh as he comes jogging over, leaning down to kiss me on the lips.
“You liked it?” He asks.
“I loved it. Thank you.”
“Anytime. You want something to drink?”
“I’ll just have a water, please.”
“Coming right up.” He takes his wallet and his phone out of his pocket and lays his phone down on the table. “Be right back.”
He walks away and I sit grinning like a lunatic, butterflies wreaking havoc in my stomach as I replay Jake’s karaoke. I watch as he steps up to order our drinks, flashing a quick smile my way before turning his full attention to the bartender. His phone flashes with a notification and my eyes are instantly drawn to it.
Everything in me tells me not to read it, but with it sat on the table so close to me, I can’t help it.
Sophie: How’s your holiday, baby? ?I miss you SO much, as soon as you get back you’ll have to come round mine so we can catch up. I’ll have the house to myself…?
I read the text again and again, my brow furrowed in confusion. That’s not a text from a friend. Friends don’t send texts like that. Girlfriends send texts like that.
“There you go.” Jake places my drink on the table in front of me, startling me slightly. He sees my face, and his smile dims slightly. “You ok? What’s wrong?”
I silently hand him his phone, and he takes it from me, confused. I watch as he reads the message, and see the exact moment it clicks, his smile falling completely, his eyes coming up to meet mine.
I simply stand, intending on getting as far away from Jake as I can before I burst into tears. Surely he wouldn’t do that. To Sophie. To me. But Jake stands as well, blocking my path. +
“Amber, please.” He says, reaching for my arm.
“Please what, Jake?
“Please just listen to me, let me explain.”
“What is there to explain? Friend’s don’t send each other text messages like that.”
“I know, but-”
I turn, cutting him off, ready to storm back to my hotel room.
“Amber, please, I can’t-”
“You can’t what?” I say stopping and turning to face him.
“I can’t lose you like this.”
“Well what do you want me to do, Jake?” I bring my arms up, only to let them fall back down to my side, my voice cracking as I say his name. +
He opens his mouth to reply, but nothing comes out.
I walk away.