Authors: Bridie Hall
“Why do you think I need your help with dates?” I raise my eyebrows at her. I know she didn’t mean it that way, but I want to see her squirm. She’s fun to battle with.
She looks at me
, her expression a bit uncertain now. “Yeah, I guess you wouldn’t need it,” she finally says.
chuckle at her embarrassment. To get back at me, she says, “I’m still way hotter than you, though.”
“No argument there.”
Her double take amuses me. Why would my words be such a surprise to her?
Then she smiles widely for just a second before going serious again and she says, “I’ve got to go … check on something.”
She vanishes up the stairs, and I’m left dumbfounded. Was it something that I said? Or did she just go fill up her glass with whatever it is Izzy’s hiding in her stash?
I help Harper set up some speakers for the music and afterwards, we
all talk and eat until well after darkness falls. I realize I’m enjoying myself despite barely knowing anyone. Chloe comes back eventually and she’s acting like nothing happened, so I think it must’ve been the second option. She’s fun and witty and everyone laughs at her jokes. I’m mostly quiet and I just watch her, how she’s all smiles and flirty moves and dancing. Whoever said blondes are stupid and dull was way off. Here’s one gorgeous blonde to prove it.
“Harper loves Izzy so much,”
Chloe says out of the blue.
We’re on our way back home from Izzy’s party,
and I’m driving because Chloe had too much to drink. Up until now we’ve both been quiet. I didn’t ask her about Harper or Izzy, she volunteered that piece of opinion, which sounded dismissive. It intrigues me. My first impression of Chloe was that she was a very emotional, passionate person.
“You say that like loving someone is
… less than admirable.”
She makes an indistinct sound
as I park her car in front of our building. I think that’s all she’s going to say, but then she elaborates, as we walk towards the entrance in the dim light of a single streetlight.
“If you really love someone, you want it to be forever.”
Her voice resonates in the dark silence of one in the morning.
“Forever is such a long time. It’s daunting. I don’t even want to think about it.” She climbs the steps ahead of me. I think she’s hurrying to avoid my questions.
“So what? Because you don’t like to think about forever
, you’re just not going to love anyone? Ever?” This way of thinking is a little bit childish in my opinion.
She shrugs instead of answering.
This whole discussion rubs me the wrong way, so I can’t keep quiet. “You don’t have to think about forever, then. You just focus on the loving part. Don’t tell me you find that daunting too?”
She hesitates a little before saying, “Well, they’re tightly linked, aren’t they?”
“I don’t get it.”
She pushes the key into the lock forcefully, aggravated by my questions, I’m sure.
“Aren’t you supposed to be
wishing for everlasting love or something?”
“Because I’m a girl?” She says that relatively calmly, but she’s definitely pissed now.
She drops her purse on the table and kicks off her shoes as I close the front door behind us. The peacefulness of the apartment makes me realize just how tired I am. I have to get up in five hours to go to work.
“Because you’re human? Because everyone’s supposed to be looking for love?”
She’s leaning on the counter, having a sip of water. I motion for her to pass me the bottle and I pour myself a glass, too.
“If I find it, I won’t reject it because
I would be afraid,” I say.
“I wasn’t talking about fear, I was talking about a phobia. There’s a difference.”
The words sound like a full stop to a sentence. Like she’s done discussing it. Whatever.
“Good night,” I call after her because I know it’ll annoy her.
She groans, ‘Night’, and closes the door to her bedroom.
I can’t believe I’m
here. And without Isabelle, even. It’s ten at night and it’s still hot and muggy. The pool is so full of people that they can’t do much more than just stand in there. But at least they’re cooler than I am, standing out here.
The school’s lacrosse team captain,
Mark, is hosting this party. His parents are away for the weekend, and I doubt that they are aware of the crowd at their house right now.
Izzy’s ex-boyfriend, Jamie, by the beer keg. He’s chatting to Chris while he’s getting us two beers. Jamie turns and sees me, and I wave at him. This is my first time seeing him since school let out. He’s friends with Izzy again, which I’m really glad about, because otherwise I’d have to listen to her moan about it indefinitely.
Apropos of Izzy, she’s with Harper on a road trip somewhere again. I guess road trips are their thing. I’ve never had a thing with any of my boyfriends, ever. It’
s sad, really, but it is what it is.
Before I can wallow in that thought, Chris is by my side, offering me a beer.
“Jamie says hi.”
“How is he?”
He shrugs. “Didn’t ask. He came for the party. He’s leaving tomorrow morning.”
“He’s not waiting for Harper to return?”
“I guess not. I didn’t even know they were brothers until he just mentioned him.”
I wonder if he’s going to bring up Izzy, and as if he’s reading my mind, he says, “Man, to have your girlfriend stolen by your bro … That blows.”
“It happens.” I don’t want the evening to get bogged down by psych talk, so I leave it at that. But he obviously didn’t get the memo.
“Yeah, but I mean … Your brother? That’s just wrong in my book.”
I sigh. It’s not like it’s my duty to defend Iz and Harper, but I have to. I just do. “Look, they didn’t plan for it to happen, okay? They didn’t even like each other at first. But sometimes
, something can make us open our eyes and we see someone else differently all of a sudden, you know? Things happen. People change. Never say never.”
“Okay, okay.” He lifts his hands up, and I back
up half a step.
I didn’t mean to sound so aggressive. But I get them. I think Jamie does, too. And I also understand Jamie’s still bitter about it. Who wouldn’t be, I mean.”
“I prefer to go after single ladies, is all I meant.
I don’t want drama.”
I look at him and I can see the sparkle in his eyes even though he’s turned
with his back towards the light coming from the house. Someone turns up the volume of the music, and I can barely catch his next words.
“Like yourself. You’re single, right?”
I laugh like he just made a terrific joke. “Dream on.”
“Hey, never say never, remember? Let’s go dance.” He grabs my hand
, and I like how nice his warmth feels on my skin. We join the small crowd on the patio that’s swaying to the hot, loud rhythm coming through the open French doors.
Within minutes, my top is damp with sweat and I can feel my hair going all curly from the moistness in the air. I hate it when that happens. But Chris has got the moves, so I push it to the back of my mind and
I enjoy the music and dance and his closeness. It feels like the beat gets wilder with every song. Soon, we’re singing the lyrics too. I see sweat beads on Chris’s forehead, but he doesn’t slow down and his eyes keep smiling. He brings me a bottle of water and a beer for himself. I lose track of time. I’m so fired up that I don’t even feel the tiredness––just pure excitement and joy.
I haven’t felt this relaxed and exhausted in ages. It’s close to three in the morning. I danced, I laughed,
and I had more fun than since forever. It’s not like I haven’t been to parties. I have, plenty. But I was still with Adam then and we went to parties organized by our friends, well, his mostly. It’s not that people expected of me to behave differently while I was Adam’s girlfriend, but I did nonetheless. I was more conscious of my every word, every move. Here, half of the people don’t know me. I’m here with my cool roommate, who must be the most undemanding and chillaxed male on the planet. I can be myself and just let go for once.
Chris has gone off
to greet a bunch of his buddies, and I’m chatting with two girls that I know vaguely from class. It’s just polite chit chat that keeps me occupied for a few minutes, but I catch myself eagerly waiting for Chris to return. The feeling comes so out of the blue that it leaves me dizzy with confusion. I’m not used to being so vulnerable and in such need of someone’s company or attention. I’m quite good at being on my own. I’m not afraid of solitude. I’m pretty sure this is all because of the change—the unexpected move, the imminent move to college, spending less time with Izzy because she’s busy with Harper. It has to be.
I’m so deeply in thought that I miss half of what Morgan is saying.
“Sorry, what?” I pretend I didn’t hear her because of the music and noise.
“I said it’s weird that you’re staying with that guy.”
Her words unpleasantly surprise me. “Why?”
“What she means is that you barely know him. I mean, it’s not like you’re friends,
right?” the other girl says. Everyone calls her Mars. Her real name is Veronica, and she’s blond, and a geek. You get the picture.
I’m surprised to see her and Morgan here
at all. They’re not the party type. Especially not if the jocks are hosting the party. But then again, these people aren’t exactly my crowd either, and I’m here.
eeded a place quickly.” I shrug. I don’t owe them an explanation. I don’t have to tell them that Chris and I are becoming friends. Good friends, even.
“He seems nice, though,” Mars says.
“He was in a class with us, wasn’t he? Geography maybe. I don’t think I ever heard him speak,” Mars says, while Morgan
watches me. I find her intense scrutiny eerie. I don’t understand her hostility. Maybe that’s just who she is, or maybe she has a crush on Chris and she’s jealous. If the latter, I’m tempted to say she has nothing to fear from me. She can have him for herself. I’m just a roommate.
A roommate who danced with him
for hours and loved it? Uh-huh.
“Is he that quiet at home, too?” Mars asks again.
“No, actually, he’s pretty fun to be around,” I say, and smile when I realize that I couldn’t be more honest about it.
Someone grabs my arm and I jerk around.
“Hey,” says Chris, and then yawns mightily. “Ready to go?”
I chuckle. “Seems like you are.”
“You killed me on the dance floor,” he says, as
I wave to the girls and we start towards the garden gate and out onto the lit street. A few classmates are loitering about on the sidewalk, two of them getting into a car. The party is winding down as the night is preparing to wake into a clear, warm Sunday morning.
“It was your idea,” I say.
“Ha, you were up for it right away.”
“I like dancing.” I shrugged.
“And you’re good at it,” he says, glancing at me, and wrapping his arm around my shoulders. It unnerves me, not because I wouldn’t like it, but because I do. I can’t wait to get to the car and slip into the safety of the car seat.
“So are you,” I say, because I can’t lie.
He insists he will drive even though I think he’s not sober enough.
He won’t give me his keys. He does seem okay when he starts the car, though. And it’s not a long ride.
“You could get party plates for this,” I say, hiding my nervousness behind a strained laugh.
“Nah, I’m below the limit.”
“You stumbled on the curb,” I point out.
He glances at me and my anxiety spikes. He should be watching the road, not me. Thankfully, he seems to read my panic and looks ahead again.
“That was because of the darkness, not
‘cause I’m drunk.”
“I saw your video on YouTube,” I say because I need to talk or I’ll pull the hand break and get behind the wheel.
“You Googled me?”
YouTubed you, but yeah. It was Izzy’s idea.” I’m suddenly all defensive when I realize it was a bad idea to mention this. Time for a diversion…
“But the point I was making was that you filmed a promo video against drunk driving.”
Drunk or not, he looks embarrassed at my words. “You saw that? It was ages ago. And I’m not drunk. Buzzed, maybe.”
“I’m fine, honestly.”
I don’t say anything more but I’m still mad at him when he parks in the lot behind the building. But w
hen I see him drag himself up the steps, and I notice he’s started limping, I forget about my frustration.