Authors: Lisa Aldin
Tags: #One of the Guys
As she continues to search the sea of monsters and fairies and vampires for her ex-boyfriend, Loch whispers in my ear again, “I don't have to kiss her, do I? Lipstick doesn't go with my costume.”
I shake my head. “No kissing.”
Loch's eyebrows raise. “That a request or an order?”
I fumble for a response but come up blank. I look away. I can't tell him that I don't like the idea of him kissing Emma. He might read too far into that response. He is my
friend. But I still think that's crossing a line. What that line means exactly, I don't know, but the thought of Loch and Emma kissing makes me nauseous. This is why I don't usually drink.
Emma digs her nails into my shoulder. “He's here,” she says. “He's here. Oh, Lord. Oh, Lord. He looks good. He looks so freaking good.”
. I try to guess which boy could be Kevin. The skeleton by the keg? The robot doing the robot over by the beer pong table? The tree chugging a beer?
Emma disappears before I can ask. Loch clears his throat and steps to the side, revealing Emma cowering behind his tall frame.
“He looks so, so good,” she repeats, trembling. “I don't know if I can keep my cool. I want to go over there and
kiss him so bad
Loch hides his smile by scratching his nose.
I touch Emma's elbow. “Which one is he?” I can do this. I can be a good friend to a girl. I think I'm doing this right.
“King of the Jungle,” she says. “Six o'clock.”
I have no idea what she means by six o'clock, but there's a guy dressed as Tarzan pumping beer from the keg in the corner. The foam overflows, splattering his leopard-printed loin cloth, the rest dripping onto the carpet. TarzanâI mean Kevinâshrugs and walks away from the spillage. His skin is smeared with orange bronzer and grease coats his messy brown hair.
I've been staring a beat too long considering a loin cloth is involved here, but it's difficult to imagine Emma Elizabeth Swanson with that guy. I would picture her with a James Bond, someone smooth and cool or something. But, hey, I guess we've all got our reasons for falling in love with a particular person.
I clap once and pull myself together. “Okay!” I announce. “It's show time!”
A few minutes later, Tarzan/Kevin (who smells like beer and spicy body lotion) is drooling over my cleavage, which means he's not looking at Emma and Loch. I adjust my tank top again, but this doesn't avert his attention. I try not to sneeze as I sip my fresh beer.
“Do you believe in lake monsters?” I ask.
“Huh?” he shouts over the pounding music, his eyes glued to my chest.
“There's a guy over there obsessed with lake monsters,” I shout. “He's the UVM student, dancing with the black cat? They make an adorable couple, don't they?”
A ping of jealousy hits my gut.
They do make an adorable couple
. I'm starting to get a really, really bad feeling about this. Like maybe I should've insisted on Ollie or Cowboy taking this fake date.
Kevin finishes off his beer and refills it. He's barely left the keg since he arrived. I don't know how much longer I can keep this up. I feel like I'm talking to a brick wall.
Why does Emma like this guy? Maybe if I tell her that he won't stop staring at my chest, she'll see the error of her ways. But she might hate me for saying something like that.
As I take another drink, Emma turns her body and grinds into Loch as the music blares. She swings her hips, flips her hair, and does an excellent job of pretending she isn't being watched. Loch dances beside her, moving his hands toward her waist, then away again, like he can't decide if he's allowed to touch her.
Kevin moves his stare across the room and finally lands on Emma. His voice betrays nothing as he says, “I know that girl.”
“Oh!” I mock surprise. “I hope she's just a friend because she's looking super-cozy with that UVM guy.”
As I say this, Loch places his hand on Emma's neck, pulling her toward him as he whispers in her ear. Whatever insecurity Loch was displaying before has melted away. My blood runs cold.
His lips are close to her skin. His fingers in her hair. Her eyes locked with his, her small body folding into him like a missing puzzle piece.
“Do you know that guy or something?” Kevin asks, scratching at his loin cloth.
“I thought I did.” The music is too loud. It's cutting into me. My head is throbbing.
“I used to date that girl,” he says. “One word: clingy. I feel like I should warn him or something.” Kevin finishes another drink and tosses the empty cup to the floor. “I need some fresh air. You coming?”
I turn around and face the wall. I can't watch this. Not sure what my problem is because they're just pretending. And we planned this.
planned this. Even if they aren't pretending, this isn't a big deal. Loch doesn't belong to me. He's a friend. He's
But I don't want them doing whatever it is that they're doing.
Adrenaline (or perhaps alcohol) rushes to my head. I need to do something. Anything to pull them apart. A diversion! I stand on an empty chair, which wobbles under my weight. These high heels make me terribly unsteady. I'd better make this quick. A few eyes move my way, but the entire room listens when I raise my cup into the air and shout, “Everybody drink and MOOOO!”
Surprisingly, a series of
echoes throughout the house. Small moos. Loud moos. Drunk moos. People cheer. I'm a hit! The music roars.
In the crowd, I spot Ollie. He's leaning against the wall, his eyes closed, ready to fall asleep. Why does he want to go to snowboarding camp anyway? Why would he want to leave us the summer before college? Doesn't matter. He's unhappy. His unhappiness needs to be fixed. I raise my cup in his direction. I got him into hot water with his parents. I can get him out. Somehow.
I spot Cowboy and Katie in the corner. She's talking to him, smiling, asking him questions. Cowboy shrugs and nods and shrugs and nods, his face as red as a tomato, until Katie gets bored trying. She waves goodbye and moves across the room to talk to someone who will actually talk back. I raise my cup to Cowboy and vow to help him, too. I don't know how or if that's possible. But I will try.
So maybe this year won't be about Champ. So what? It can be about helping each other instead. Growing
. As long we're tight as always, it doesn't matter. I just don't want to lose these guys.
After I finish my beer, I feel myself falling, falling, falling. The chair whips out from beneath my boots. I'm spinning through the air until soft hands wrap around my waist and bring me upright again. Soft, vanilla-scented hands.
My cheek presses against his chest. All I can see are the letters on his shirt. I run my fingers over the stubble along his chin and the light freckles on his left earlobe.
“Damn, Toni. You're already drunk?” Loch's giant arm drapes over me.
“Did he see? Did he see?” Emma asks. Her cat ears are crooked again as she searches the party for Kevin.
“He saw,” I say, wrapping my arm around Loch's waist. “He said he needed air. You know what that meansâ¦”
“It worked!” As Emma bounces up and down, her cat ears fly off her head. “He wants me back! He's upset!”
“It could mean that he needed some air,” Loch adds calmly. “It's starting to smell rank in here.”
Emma kisses my cheek and grabs my hand. She pulls me away from the comfort of Loch. No, I don't want to leave him. Not yet.
“I gotta see the look on his adorable face,” she says.
As she pulls me through the crowd, cigarette smoke settles into my hair. Gross. Outside, the cold air whips across the fields in soft bursts. A clan of vampires hangs out on the front lawn, smoking and laughing, and a drunk green fairy pretends to fly across the grass. An annoyed carrot watches her from a distance, checking her watch.
“I don't see him,” Emma whines.
Loch appearsâI love it when he just
âand hands me a bottle of water. “Here,” he says. “You look thirsty.”
I lean my head on his shoulder as I drink. When did I get so tired? He wraps his arm around me again, and I close my eyes, drifting away until the sound of someone barfing grabs my attention. Someone to my right is puking on a beautiful white rose bush. When the culprit reveals himselfâloin cloth and allâa gasp escapes Emma's glossy lips.
“Emma,” Kevin slurs. “Heyâ¦”
It happens quickly. Emma grabs Loch's face and presses her lips to his. For some reason, I expect him to back away, explain that he doesn't like her like that, but Loch accepts the kiss. Kevin shouts something. Someone, somewhere, laughs. A white deafening noise sounds in my ears as I bend over, my stomach flipping.
My turn to barf.
HE NEXT DAY,
RETURN TO MY
usual beauty routineâlow ponytail, washed face, maybe some ChapStickâbut I do adopt one change from Emma's Movie Makeover. I stick with the hairspray she gave me, only because I like the citrus-y smell of it. But my face remains lip gloss-free. After a night of pretending to be someone else, everything at Winston clicks back into place. Or so I think.
The second I step out of my car on Monday, fidgeting with my basketball shorts, Lemon walks straight up to me and says, “I need a fake date with Micah!”
I fall against my car door in shock. “Huh?” The group sessions aren't improving my speech skills.
Emma approaches, her spotless white coat wrapped around her, hair flying about in every direction. The day is windy, bitter. “I hope you don't mind,” she says. “I told Lemon about what you did for me this weekend. Kevin has called twelve times since the party.
Lemon places her hands on her hips. “I. Need. Micah. NOW.”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa.” I pull my coat sleeves over my hands. “I don't pimp out my friends. He was doing me a favor, that's all. His body isn't for that.”
Lemon makes a face, kind of like she's sucking on, well, a lemon. “GROSS. I need him as a cover. I'm not interested in his
I look to Emma. She explains. “Lemon's parents don't approve of her sexuality.”
“My parents are
,” Lemon says. “They refuse to let me see my girlfriend. They keep me on lockdown, but if I had a boy to go out with, they may be more lenient. Ecstatic, probably. They would let me stay out all night long if they thought I was with a boy.”
As we walk to the main building, Lemon's high heels scratch against the pavement. I can't believe another Winston girl is actually speaking to me. I move my heavy book bag to my other shoulder and say, “I'll check to see if he's available.”
“I'll pay a ridiculous amount of money,” Lemon says.
How much is ridiculous?
But I don't ask. This is too weird. I'm not selling Loch. I'm not even sure that first round was successful. It was just a mess. Literally.
“Good to know,” I reply with a nod.
Lemon's black bob bounces with shine as she trots along and grabs my wrist, her pink nails digging into my skin. “Please. You don't know how much I need this. Any boy will do. Emma says you know lots of guys. Guys who aren't assholes. I need help. Have you ever been in love?”
Her question catches me off-guard, like I've just been called on in class but I haven't really been listening. I respond with another oh-so-eloquent, “Huh?”
“Have you ever been in love?” she repeats.
“What does that have to do with anything?”
. The word alone makes me queasy. Aren't we all too busy and stressed out to be in love anyway?
Emma and Lemon exchange a look, and then Emma answers for me. “She's never been in love.”
We're inside now, pushing through the crowd. As my book bag slams into various shoulders, I mumble apologies under my breath, annoyed. Of course I've never been in love. Who has time for that? I feel like I'm late for class. I pick up the pace. Or maybe I just want to get away from this conversation.