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Authors: August Clearwing

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BOOK: Never Have I Ever
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Declan stopped pouring. “That was one time, dude.”

“Twice,” Noah said as he held up two fingers. “I’m counting the summer camping trip.”

“Fine.
No getting naked.
Yet.”
Declan agreed. It was the closest anyone was going to get to
a surrender
from him, so we all took it.

He reached for my glass and filled it with another two shots of Stoli. I topped it off with the leftover can of Sprite that was sitting on the table.

“How do we play?” I asked.

Anya filled her glass. After she passed it to the two girls occupying the loveseat she explained, “Someone makes an assertion. If you’ve done the thing that they say, you drink. If you’re the only one drinking, you will probably have to give us details. If no one drinks to your turn, you have to drink.”

I nodded.
“Seems simple enough.”

“I’ll go first,” Anya said. She raised her glass. “Never have I ever rented a porno.”

Every single man and one of the girls on the loveseat took a drink. I at once realized what this game was meant to do.

“You’re a bitch,” Declan said as he swallowed an ice cube. Then he smiled knowingly and tilted his head toward her. “Never have I ever had a sex dream about a professor.”

Anya and one of the girls on the loveseat took a drink. I was finding out more about my friends—and total strangers for that matter—in one night than I ever should.

Sarah spoke up. “Never have I ever… gotten lost in the woods.” Nobody drank, and the poor girl sighed and took the hit, sloshing back a whole mouthful.

Noah was next. He drove the conversation in a less sexual direction. “Never have I ever cheated on a test.”

The two guys, Declan, and I all drank.

“Wait, no, hold up,” Anya commanded. “Piper, when the fuck did you
cheat
on a test?”

My voice hitched, “Um, sixth grade. It was on an English test.
Lowest moment of my life.”
Everyone laughed. I tried to justify myself, “No, I’m serious! I suck at English. I’m entirely left brained.”

The first girl on the love seat was next. She smacked her lips as she thought about her statement. “Okay, I got one. Going back to the topic of sex dreams; never have I ever had a dream or a fantasy about being raped.”

“Marcia, that’s awful,” her date chided. “Why would you even say something like that?”

She shrugged.
“Because I want to know.”

My entire body stiffened. This was a game of truth or dare without the dare, and I was stuck in a difficult spot. Nobody, especially Declan and Anya, had ever heard about my deepest desires, my fantasies, or anything about my sexual past for the most part. I was content with it staying that way. There was no reason to kiss and tell, and it was certainly none of their business.

As the seconds ticked on, my throat tightened, and my stomach plummeted so fast I thought it would break through to China at the speed of thought. While they were all berating Marcia for her tactless statement, I took the opportunity to sneak in a sip of my drink.

Then I heard Declan’s voice pitch, “Holy shit, really?”

All eyes were on me before I could take the glass away from my lips. Anya’s jaw slackened. “You are the most uptight and prudish girl I know. How is this only now coming to light?”

I glared at her. “I’m not a prude, Anya, I just have standards.”

“As in, rich and famous?”

“Sweetheart, I make sixty grand a year with all the work I do and I’m not even full time on anything yet. I think it’s safe to say I’m financially secure.”

“So, just famous then.”

I rolled my eyes. Where had she gotten that idea?

Declan waved away the tension. “Okay, you don’t have to go into detail with that one, but you do have to tell us which it was; fantasy or a dream?”

I stared at my drink.
Liquid courage
don’t
fail me now!
I tilted the glass all the way back and killed the remainder of the alcoholic mix. It was mostly vodka by that point. After I swallowed it down, I locked my attention on the glass as I set it delicately on the table. “Both,” I admitted.

A round of whooping and good-natured laughter rose up from both the nameless men and the two women. Even Declan applauded.

My cheeks were flushed solid from the alcohol as well as the embarrassment. When I looked up, Noah leveled his gaze at me. He raised his glass towards me in a toasting motion and said, “That is the single bravest thing I have ever heard anyone admit to in this game.”

I gave him a wan smile, but reached for the bottle of Stoli in an attempt to look busy and not seem so fucking awkward.

“Someone else
say
something,” I implored. “Please.”

The second girl sat up a little straighter on the loveseat and said promptly, “Never have I ever smoked weed.” To which Anya, Declan, Noah, and one of the other guys took long drinks.

“You’re up, Piper,” Anya said.

Lightning crashed and thunder ricocheted over the house. I looked out the bay windows at the backyard as the rain began to pour. I don’t know why I thought about it, but I was more than a little sure it had everything to do with the liquor. “Never have I ever kissed anyone in the rain.”

Anya tried to hide a chuckle as she reached down from the sofa to hug me around my shoulders.

Aawww
, honey.”

Everyone except me took a drink.

My outburst of admittance about the rape fantasy was drowned out by the completion of the round of Never Have I Ever and, three rounds later, most of us playing the game were plenty hammered. The questioning ran the gamut from the mild, with statements of skinny dipping and petty theft, to more bold claims of sexual exploits and certain places in which no one had ever done the deed. It was later explained to me that most of the time the game dwindled into sex talk. In my inebriated state, I accepted that with open arms. To my credit I came to find that no one drank less than me. After the first round, my life became boring by comparison.

Marcia, for example, not only had been skinny dipping, but found time to fuck in all the unusual places I always heard so much about. It meant a laundry list of locations if she was telling the truth. In a cave under a waterfall, in the back of a truck, in a sleeping bag while camping and on top of a high rise, to name a few. She admitted that most of those were with the same partner, so in some ways it made her seem like less of a tramp. To add to this, Anya confessed to being arrested, falling asleep in a theatre, b
reaking hearts, owning a fake ID
and many other adventurous things which now became clear that I was too scared to attempt.

One by one everyone began to fade. Too drunk to drive, Marcia and her male counterpart sought refuge in one of the empty guest beds. The other couple left together, the girl half asleep in the passenger’s side of a Ford pickup while her sober date assured us that he was fine to drive. I only saw him take a sip or two from whatever drink the girl happened to be carrying, so I believed him.

I had every intention of sobering up enough to drive myself home, though the prospect seemed less and less plausible the harder the vodka began to smash into my brain. I excused myself from Anya, Declan and Noah long enough to step outside, have a smoke, and clear my head.

Rain pattered on the roof of the overhang on the back porch. I sat on the bench at the edge of the dry space and watched it fall. It collected in little rivers along the walkway and in the pool. As I lit a cigarette and studied the pattern of rain over the backlight of the pool I thought about what Anya said; the accusatory nature in her tone when she labeled me “Prude” and the shock in her voice when she discovered something no one should ever know. I wished I possessed the words to explain the reasoning behind the fantasy, but I just couldn’t find them.

W
ith the exception of the rain,
there was no sound from anywhere. The others inside calmed down in their respective stupors. I glanced at my phone. Three o’clock already. I needed to sober up faster.

The sliding glass door opened behind me. I only glanced back briefly to see Anya slowly meander towards the bench, her face flush and her eyes glazed over a bit. She half sat, half flopped down beside me. “I’m drunk,” Anya declared. She huffed out an inebriated sigh and lolled her head against my shoulder.

“No shit,” I chuckled.
“Me too.”

“How come you’re not passed out? I figured you’d not be long for this world after the, you know, thing.” And there went Anya’s linguistic skills.

“You mean the drinking game?”

She snapped and pointed at me. “That’s it.”

“Damn good question.” I took a drag off my cigarette. The door slid open again, and Noah emerged. “Hey,” I offered in greeting.

“Hey yourself,” he replied casually. “Dec and I were trying—unsuccessfully mind you—to get her to go to bed. How’s she doing?”

Anya grumbled, but didn’t lift her head from my shoulder to say, “
She
is completely conscious and can hear you talking about her.”

“Care to join us?” I asked him. It was clear Anya harbored zero intention of moving at that moment. I was attempting not to laugh at our combined state of intoxication. Noah silently took a seat in a white metal chair off to the side to await his turn for custody of our hostess.

“Piper,” Anya said abruptly.

“Anya,” I replied.

“Am I a bitch?”

I wrapped my arm around her and rested my head against hers. “Oh, sweetie; after the year you’ve had you’ve every right to be a bitch for a while.”

“I just keep wondering what’s wrong with me. Eight years, Piper. Eight years of my life are gone with the stroke of a pen. Suddenly it’s like it never happened, and we don’t know each other. Something’s wrong with that. It’s criminal.”

“Don’t think of it as eight years wasted,” I soothed. “Nothing’s wrong with you, Anya. The best you can do is
learn
from those years. If it’s platitudes you want, I have them in spades.
Better to have loved and lost and all that bullshit.
You don’t need platitudes, though. You just need time and nights like this one with good friends, good booze, and good memories.”

“I just thought it would get easier for some reason. I talked myself through everything, you know.
‘Cause that’s what I do.
All the crap therapists try to talk you through after something life-altering. But it still hurts. Why does it still hurt?”

I ran my hand over her hair and asked, “Did it mean something to you?”

Anya sn
orted. “Eight
years
. Of course
it meant something.”

My grip around her tightened a little. “That’s why it hurts.”

“Anya, you’ll feel better after you get some sleep,” Noah finally interjected. He stood, offering out his hand to help her up.

“I can walk,” she assured him.

“Sleep well,
hun
,” I told her, giving her a warm hug she probably wouldn’t remember in the morning.

“Love you, girl,” she said. I let her out of the confines of my arms, and she slipped past him. “L,” she added as she went inside. She’d held up her hand in the shape of an L also.

I smiled and returned the hand signal.

With Anya securely inside, I tried again to rub the haze from my eyes.

“L?” Noah asked.

“It’s Anya’s version of ‘See you later’.”

He took a moment to consider that. “Humanity at its finest; to be able to take a phrase like ‘See you later’ and continuously shorten it to ‘see you’ or just ‘later’, then devolve it further into ‘L’. It may be the alcohol talking, but I’m not sure whether that’s a sign of efficiency or laziness in our culture.”

“I guess it depends on if you’re an optimist or pessimist.”

“Eternal pragmatist,” he said with confidence. “I like what you said, by the way, about it hurting because it meant something to her.
A very succinct and honest response.”

“Thanks. I try.”

Noah backed away towards the door. “I’m going to go make sure she doesn’t miss the bed this time.”

“Good call.”

I took one more drag off my cigarette and extinguished it in a bucket of sand nearby. The rain looked so inviting and cool. I slipped off my heels, set my phone and pack of cigarettes aside and stepped into the wet grass. The earth squished between my toes as I walked along the perimeter of the pool and out into the yard. Water saturated my dress while I lifted my face to the sky and allowed the rain to wash away my makeup, hoping it would take the haze of my drunkenness with it.

It almost worked, too. I shook my head, the water splashing from the straightening curls of my hair, and wiped the wet from my eyes. I lost time, unsure of how long I stood in the middle of the grass.

“Come on Piper, get your shit together,” I told myself.

As I turned to make my way back to the porch, I slammed into something solid and malleable. It gave way for the briefest of instants before correcting itself. When I looked up I found that it wasn’t some
thing
, but some
one
. Noah stood there. He caught me by my arm as I staggered back a step in confusion and focused on him. His eyes were clear and bright. Not at all like he spent the better part of the past five hours hip deep in a cacophony of noise and liquor. The jolt of anyone being there to begin with woke me up a bit more. He studied my face in silence, and made sure I was steady on my feet.

BOOK: Never Have I Ever
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