The glasses clinked together at the other end of the table. Small chuckles grew into roaring laughter, and before long everyone seated at the table was grinning – save for one. More clinking, more drinking, and finally the birthday boy, Roger, stood on wobbling legs. Silence fell at his end of the table, creeping from person to person until it reached the other end.
One of the other lads, who seemed to think he was very clever, shouted ‘Speech!’ as though nobody else had twigged onto what was going on. The laughter erupted again – this was obviously a very amusing thing to say – and in his attempts to calm them all down with a wave of his hand Roger almost tripped over his own feet. The pint in his hand was sloshed around, some of the beer spilling onto the table top. The same clever sod who had shouted before applauded Roger’s drunken behaviour.
Roger waved his hand without tripping over this time, a blush rising onto his face. ‘Ah, shut up,’ he muttered, before going into a slurred and misguided speech about becoming eighteen that would have made his parents wince.
Luckily for Roger, his parents were not there. No, it was Rachel’s job, as his big sister, to sit through her brother’s eighteenth birthday piss-up with his wasted idiot friends. Someone had to make sure that Roger got home safely as as their parents sure as Hell didn’t trust any of his friends with that responsibility, the burden had been passed to Rachel. Judging by the amount the lads had drunk so far, that had been the right decision – but it didn’t mean that Rachel had to like sitting in the corner nursing a soft drink and being systematically ignored.
Actually, Rachel had decided as the night had gone on, it was not a bad thing that none of the lads were paying any attention to her. Sure, it was lonely sitting there quietly all by herself, but if their conversations were anything to go by then she was not missing much in the way of socialisation. At least she had managed to avoid the lengthy conversation about their toilet habits. She watched the clock at the back of the room tick slowly on as they became more and more bladdered.
By eleven pm, Roger and his mates had been wasted. They had been getting wasted for years, of course, but now they could do it legally they had a new excuse not to recognise their own limits. At half eleven, one of them had actually been so pissed that he had been forced to go home. Rachel had got up and helped him out of pity when it had transpired that nobody else at the table had enough sense left to realise that he genuinely would not recover by downing another pint.
At that point in the evening, the whole group was supposed to have gone on to a club, but – thankfully, Rachel thought – the lads had been so drunk that a whole hour and a half had passed before they had managed to gather themselves together enough to move. By then, there had been no point. The pints kept coming from somewhere, though nobody was getting up from the table, and it transpired that one of Roger’s friends had a brother at the bar, who was also serving himself drinks.
People began disappearing from the tables around them. Roger and his friends were the only people left in the bar and the staff were beginning to look annoyed. Apparently, only Rachel noticed.
Her brother fell off his seat to loud cheers, and Rachel rolled her tired eyes. She took out her car keys and rattled them as loudly as she dared. Nobody made any sign that they had heard it. Roger tried and failed to get back into his seat a total of three times before one of his mates decided to help him up.
It was ten to three before Rachel managed to get Roger back to her car. He threw up over the passenger-side front wheel and knelt down on the floor next to it, retching. Rachel did not remember being so wasted on her eighteenth birthday, but then she did not actually remember the vast majority of her eighteenth birthday at all. She couldn’t be too angry at Roger for letting himself go.
‘You better take good care of that car mum and dad got you for your birthday,’ Rachel warned Roger as he knelt there in the mud and filth. ‘Because next weekend I’m gonna invite all of my mates out to get pissed and you’re gonna drive me there and back. We’re gonna make tonight look like child’s play.’
‘You and your mates can’t party like us,’ Roger replied weakly. Rachel stared at him, her eyes narrowed into slits. Roger was lucky he was her brother.
‘Oh, you just wait,’ she told him. ‘You just wait. Next week you’ll be the one sitting at the end of the table, pretending you don’t exist. Now, that’s sibling love!’