Sleep was very important to Bellamy Blake. It always had been. His mom used to tell him he’d been a “miracle child” because he’d sleep through the night, even as a baby. In his first days home from the hospital, he hadn’t caused a ruckus, hadn’t kept his mom up at all hours, which was probably a good thing, since she’d been a single mom and needed as much sleep as she could manage. Even when he’d been a toddler who was supposed to be going through that terrible two’s stage, he’d just bypassed it or something and always slept like an angel. This whole “miracle child” label usually elicited a grunt of derision and an exasperated eye roll out of his little sister, Octavia, because she had most definitely not been a miracle child, and their mother often lamented all the sleep she’d lost with her.
This was all just proof, as he often told Octavia, that even as an infant, even as a toddler, he was perfect.
Throughout childhood, he’d been a frequent napper, and even in high school, he never lacked for sleeping. Nor did he lack for sleeping with beautiful girls, but that was more exertion than it was exhaustion. All in all, high school had been a piece of cake for Bellamy. Even his “hard” classes hadn’t been that hard, and most, like history and literature, had come easily to him. He had managed to keep a 4.0 GPA in addition to playing football, wrestling, and dating/doing multiple cheerleaders at once. Usually he slept while the girls snuck out his window.
But then college came around, and suddenly, sleep became harder to come by. Despite his best efforts to doze off the way he used to, Bellamy just couldn’t do anything about it as his precious eight hours a night dwindled down to six, then five, then four. Four lousy hours of sleep. Finally, around finals week, when he was only managing about three hours of precious rest, Bellamy gave in to his own desperation and picked up a boat-load of Tylenol PM at his university’s health center, hoping it would knock him out for the night.
It didn’t work.
The problem was, college was hard. Way more difficult than he’d ever imagined it would be. For the first time in his life, he wasn’t the smartest one in all his classes, wasn’t acing all his tests with ease. Since he’d been that perfect miracle child Octavia could only dream of being, he’d never actually had to study to do well back in high school. Now, though, he did, and he . . . well, he really just didn’t know how.
Try as he might, he couldn’t shut his mind off, couldn’t shut the stress out. So he pulled some all-nighters studying for his finals, hoping he could still salvage a 3.5 out of the semester.
When finals were over and he was officially on Christmas break—or “winter break,” whatever the PC term was—he felt relieved as hell. No more endless hours of studying, no more cramped dorm room, no more annoying roommate Murphy who had phone sex with his across-the-country girlfriend every night at exactly 10:00. Bellamy high-tailed it home, hoping to recapture some simplicity and some sanity to go along with it. He’d play some board games with Octavia—kick her ass at those board games, of course. He’d watch documentaries with his mother and point out any inaccuracies, because there were always inaccuracies. Maybe he’d even hook up with Roma down the street. She was the once beautiful—possibly still hot—former varsity cheerleader who’d deflowered him after he’d scored his first touchdown ever in a freshmen football game.
Hell yeah, Roma. She was definitely on his to-do list.
At the top of that list, though, was one simple thing: sleep. He wanted to fling himself into his old room and crash-land on his old bed with the squeaky bedsprings that had been squeaky ever since Roma had gotten a hold of him. And he wanted to sleep for hours. More than that, actually. A day. He wanted to sleep for an entire fucking day.
He was so close to doing just that, lying on his side with his eyes shut, just starting to drift off, when he heard it, the worst sound ever: girly voices.
No, no, no, he thought, burying his face in his pillow as the voices turned into giggles. Octavia had always been more of a tomboy growing up, but now that she was a teenager, that seemed to be changing. Bellamy faintly recognized the voice of Clarke Griffin, the girl who used to live down the street before she moved away a couple years ago. There had been a time when she had been the only girl to be Octavia’s friend, because most other girls were rightfully intimidated by Octavia. What was she doing over at his house now?
He had to be honest, he didn’t even care.
Unfortunately for him, the door to his room swung open while he was trying to block everything out. He groaned without even lifting his head.
“Whoa,” a decidedly not-Octavia voice said. “Bellamy?”
He didn’t respond, nor did he even glance up at the girl he used to babysit.
“You look awful.”
That, though . . . that was just an insult. And not a true one. Rolling over, propped against a vast array of pillows that still had Spiderman pillowcases on them—dude was a hero. Shut up, okay?—he blinked his eyes open and took in the sight of Clarke Griffin. She still looked young, but not as young as he remembered. She wasn’t wearing as much makeup as Octavia currently insisted on caking onto her face, but . . . well, she wasn’t wearing the right bra, either. Puberty had definitely hit little Clarke Griffin, and that made it kind of awkward to just lay there while she stared at him curiously.
“What do you want?” he grumbled impatiently.
She rolled her eyes and responded sarcastically, “Nice to see you, too, Bellamy.”
He smirked. “I’m nice to see.”
She closed the door, then, which made him fear she planned on staying. Jutting her hip out to the side, one hand on her waist, she asked, “Do you remember me?”
“Of course I remember you,” he muttered, recalling the time she’d cried when he refused to play Barbies with her. “Back then, you were eight and annoying. Now you’re thirteen and annoying.”
“Fourteen,” she corrected swiftly. “My parents and I just moved back to Arkadia last week. I’m in high school now. With your sister.”
“Great.” He yawned, uninterested. So O’s childhood bestie had moved back to town. Fascinating. The pornographic Roma dreams he was missing out on right now were a hell of a lot more interesting.
“I’m hanging out with her today,” Clarke continued on, stating the obvious. “Well, your mom’s lecturing her about her outfit right now, which is why I came in here. But later tonight, we’re going to a concert.”
He didn’t ask what concert. Probably Justin Bieber or something. Did girls still like Justin Bieber? Whatever. Didn’t matter.
Frowning, she pulled up his computer chair next to his bed and sat down while he yawned. “You look tired,” she remarked.
“Well, what do you expect?” he spat out, irritated. Sitting up more, he lamented, “I’m an over-worked, over-stressed, over-zealous college student. I get tired.”
“What’s that?” she asked, cocking her blonde little head to the side inquisitively.
Never one to pass up an opportunity for vocabulary enrichment, (not even when he felt like he could Rip Van Winkle his way through the next seven semesters), Bellamy explained, “It’s like when you’re over-eager. Or high-strung or something.”
“Oh, that’s definitely you,” she said.
“Right, so if you could just . . . leave my room right about now . . .” He gestured grandly towards the closed door.
Clarke, however, didn’t seem to catch the hint. Either that or she just ignored it completely. “What’s college like?” she asked. “Is it better than high school?”
Before he could even open his mouth to say anything, she rambled on.
“Because I hear it’s better. But I actually really like high school so far. It’s easy. And the older guys are more mature.”
He felt his skin prickle when she said that, mainly because . . . well, he’d shared a locker room with some of those “older guys” just last year. They only had one thing on their minds, and chances were, when they looked at pretty little Clarke here, with her low-cut top and unsupportive bra, they probably made bets about who would nail her first. Octavia was different. They knew not to lay a hand on her because of him. Plus, she had a black belt and could totally kick all of their asses. Clarke didn’t have that, nor did she have an overprotective big brother looking out for her as she navigated the turbulent waters of her own adolescence.
“Be careful,” he warned her, not sure if she even heard him.
“Wells is the only mature guy in our grade,” she went on, not even looking at him now. “Well, and Monty, but apparently he and Harper have been together forever, so there’s no hope there.” She sighed dramatically, as if she were in a soap opera. “So it’s pretty much just Wells. He likes me. But I don’t like him. Not like that anyway.”
“Like that, huh?” he mimicked teasingly. God, freshman year relationships were so stupid. He’d kind of forgotten.
“No. I like Finn, though,” she told him. “Finn’s pretty cool.”
“So date Finn then,” he suggested, yawning and rubbing his eyes. “I don’t care.”
“It’s not that simple,” she claimed. “Octavia likes him, too. Actually, Octavia kind of likes every boy.”
Well, well, well . . . that certainly got his big brother spider sense tingling. “Every boy?” he echoed, concerned. It was fine if she liked playing in the mud with them down at the crick, but if she liked them like that, then that was cause for alarm.
“Well, just the hot, athletic ones,” Clarke clarified.
“Oh, great.” Those were the worst kind.
“And they all like her.”
Fuck my life, he thought dramatically, sitting up straighter. So much for this fucking nap. That wasn’t happening now. “Tell me more,” he urged Clarke, and she didn’t need to be told twice.
Clarke crawled up onto the side of his bed, which was a little weird, but he was fully clothed and everything, so he let it pass. She gossiped like any ninth grade girl could and would when given the chance. Most of it was uninteresting, but some of it was oddly compelling. It distracted him from the very real, very academic stress of his own life. She told him more about Finn, who seemed like a tool, and Miller, who was probably gay but supposedly oh-so-cute. And then there was Jasper, who apparently had written Octavia a song for Christmas proclaiming his love for her. Bellamy listened intently, realizing for the first time in months just how out of touch with his sister’s life he was. He was supposed to have been a better big brother than this. He’d always tried to be.
The conversation shifted at points to random things, like how Clarke and Octavia used to try to sneak off while he babysat them, or how Clarke had once spilled that grape juice on their brand new white carpet during her first sleepover at their house. Bellamy had taken the fall for her then, and holy shit, his mom had been pissed. But nowadays, she was over it, and a thrift-store rug covered up that slightly purple-ish patch of carpet in the middle of their living room.
Bellamy wasn’t sure how long they sat there talking, but it definitely seemed like twenty minutes, at least. Octavia came into the room midway through their very serious, not at all trivial debate about gummy bears versus gummy worms, and a confused expression swept over her face. “What the fuck?” she swore. “Why are you . . . in bed with my brother?”
“O . . .” He shot her an annoyed look, because he didn’t want her insinuating that anything creepy had been going on.
“I’m just hanging out with him,” Clarke replied innocently.
Octavia still looked confused. “And again I ask, why?”
“Because I’m awesome,” Bellamy boasted.
“I was bored,” Clarke replied flippantly, swinging her legs over the side of the bed. She scampered towards the door eagerly and asked, “Do we still get to go to the concert?”
“Yeah, I just have to ‘cover up,’” Octavia said, using air quotes to illustrate her annoyance. “Whatever. Let’s go finish getting ready.”
“Okay!” The two young girls scurried out of his room and down the hall to Octavia’s, and Bellamy found himself surrounded by silence again. No gossip, no high school melodrama. Just him and his squeaky mattress, which he moved around on to get comfortable and settled again.
He looked up and found Clarke poking her head back into his room.
She smiled sympathetically. “Sorry I woke you up.” And then she was gone again, and the sounds of squeals and giggles from Octavia’s room soon rose up. Along with Justin Bieber music.
So it was Bieber after all.
Bellamy turned back over onto his side, shutting his eyes once again. He’d have to check back in with Clarke about Octavia and all these boys again before Christmas break was over. Plus, for a fourteen year old girl . . . she hadn’t been horrible company.