Callum shot Rome a glare of contempt, knowing the short boy wasn't so clueless that his question went right above his head. He had to have known what Callum was implying, which only made him more furious that he was supposedly playing stupid. "Wrong answer," he countered through clenched teeth, slowly grinding them as his rage built.
As he inched closer to the two boys, he could easily see Oates holding back tears. He looked down at him with unforgiving eyes as he wiped them away, grimacing at the thought that he had made him cry. He hated when Oates shed tears, especially when it made him look like some sort of scornful aggressor standing over him and taking him apart. Callum only felt more guarded when the boy standing in front of him was being so overtly emotional. It always seemed to be his default reaction in times like these, serving as a reminder to him of how disconnected the two truly were.
His arms stiffened as Oates grabbed a hold of his hand, coming painfully close to shoving the boy and his lack of personal space away. "How could you expect me to believe you do when you're running around half-naked with this clown?" he scoffed, briefly glancing at Rome, who he was sure was loving every bit of drama that was being generated, "I'm sure you've been planning this for ages, waiting for the moment I lose my shit so you can leave me for one of your boyfriends!" The volume of his voice began to rise with every moment.
"Don't give me that shit about love. I know you're sick of me. So just do it! Leave me!" He finally yanked his hand away from Oates and backed away, trembling with seething rage. Callum wasn't at all tired of fighting, despite his boyfriend's clear weariness. He easily could have gone on all night explaining how none of his problems were his fault. When Oates apologized or admitted his guilt, it only made him angrier; it was a painful life being right all of the time. The way he buckled so easily to his fits was infuriating. Why won't he fight back? For such a lively guy, he seemed even more tired than Callum when he started laying into him.
Kordei reunited with the rest of the football team up in the bleachers, facing the performance directly. He laid back into his seat, hoodie up, and surrounded by his subordinates-- teammates, as the show was about to start. Unfortunately for Dei though, with one subtle glance at the white beak over the blue background, he found himself lost in the Twitter war. His mood soured at the sight of his schoolmates' words, even more at the realization of what Nate had done to Chas, and then at Charlie treating him like a child. He found himself rolling his eyes over and over again, the other players echoing "oohs," "aahs," and laughter at his enthusiastic responses.
Eventually, the ping from Evelyn appeared. She'd sent him a DM. A brow perked up at the notification, and he found his teammates nodding approvingly as they loomed over the phone. Rightfully so. Evelyn was a beauty-- and even that was an understatement. The whole... sleeping with one person thing was starting to bore him anyways, and... he'd reply her text, just as a joke, right? Hunter was always telling him how soft he was anyways, this could just be a joke. As Evelyn, then so did he. Their texts became much more sexual than he'd expected, and in all honesty, he'd completely forgotten about the performance in front of him. Dei bit his lower lip at the thought of reuniting with Evelyn, the thought of holding her waist in his arms, her nose against his. What the fuck had he been thinking? Kordei Grant did not do girlfriends.
And yet, when Amy rose up, Dei had opted to keep the whole thing a secret. He shook away the subtle tinge of guilt that came with it. They'd decided to keep things a secret because what's the fun in doing it out in the open? The party was going to be amazing.
Following the performance (and after getting props from damn near all his teammates), Dei continued back down into the tunnel. It was there he'd hugged Amy after her performance, told her he loved her, and given her a staple Kordei Grant kiss. In all honesty, he was doing her a favour not breaking her heart. He'd have to find a way to let her down easy-- without breaking her heart. But for now, he'd just play the cards he'd been dealt with.
The rest of the game ended in a complete, and utter dismemberment of the L.A. County squad. Apparently, watching their captain land a straight baddie had fired up the rest of the team. So much so, that even the lousy Hollywood Arts defense, played actual defense! The game ended at 27-14, with L.A. County having gone scoreless in the second half. Following the game, Kordei had been contacted by both UCLA and Arizona State scouts concerning his football scholarship. Today was an amazing day. Cameras flashed all over his face as year book photographers captured the team's victorious moments. Dei had Amy on his arm the whole time, embracing her with all the joy running through him. Whether it was Evelyn, or Amethyst, Dei was going raw in somebody tonight.
The ride to his apartment was one filled with excitement and happiness. Commandeering the sleek, black Jaguar (a gift from one of the many record label execs he'd met with in the past), Kordei blasted music and joked with both Hunter in the back, and Amy at his side. Kordei stopped the car at an LCBO just by his apartment, and with both his own false I.D. and Amy's, the couple made a quick trip in and out to purchase some alcohol for the party. Anything strong, sweet, or sour was what they purchased. All while keeping Hunter locked in the car. That part was hilarious for Kordei. They'd returned to the car moments later, and from there, Kordei's apartment.
"They gon' be here anytime soon." Dei said in a soft tone as he stood behind Amy. He craned his neck over her shoulder as she poured in a mixture of chips in a bowl over the island. Kordei held his mouth open playfully, and grinned as she'd tossed a cheeto into his mouth. From his position, he spun back around her, all while taking a whiff of the stack of pizza boxes, popcorn, slices of cake, and fruit bowl for the people who didn't want to have any fun. Against the sink counter top, and in the fridge waited an assortment of alcoholic beverages, including a peach liqueur and vodka that Kordei was more than excited to mix into a martini later.
"You guys excited?" Dei asked the two other people in the apartment. It was more than obvious that he himself, was in an amazing mood.
There was something about the roar of the crowd and the dazzling lights and the thumping of the bass in her chest that was intoxicating to Charlie. From the moment she stepped out on stage, Charlie felt at home. Sure, the anxiety was still gnawing away at her from the inside out. She still felt awful for having to leave Seb, she still felt awful for not being able to do more. But she had already let everyone that mattered down that evening, she wasn’t about to skimp on the performance.
So, Charlie plastered on a brilliant smile and livened up her eyes. Even the experts on the inner workings of Charlie Howell would have been hoodwinked by the energy carried in her step and the passion dripping from each word that flowed through her glossed lips. On the exterior, Charlie was in control and working the stage like it was the only thing that mattered. But on the inside, her mind was eating away at her.
As Luca stepped onto the stage and Charlie, Lin, and Amy left down the stairs and into the tent, Charlie forced herself to keep the smile on her face. She couldn’t let them down by being a downer.
“You two did great!” Charlie congratulated, stepping over to the table that held her kit, phone, and water bottle. Taking a long swig of water, Charlie noticed that her phone had once again begun blowing up. For a moment, she considered not checking it. Anyone who needed her would know to contact her by text, not Twitter, so it was likely good-for-nothing drama.
But temptation took over and Charlie, foolishly, opened the app. She shouldn’t have, she should have never opened that stupid app, but she did. And from the moment the long lines of tweets appeared on her screen, Charlie’s stomach sunk.
Dei and Evie’s exchange brought a sour taste to Charlie’s mouth. Property? Sloppy seconds? Sharing? Sure, Charlie wasn’t Evie’s biggest fan but no one deserved to be talked about like that. So, stupidly, she responded. How easy it would have been to turn off her phone, to turn back to Amy and Lin and just have a good time running with the adrenaline from the performance that should have been pumping through her veins. But if Dei was talking about Evie like that, what did he think of Amy? If Charlie turned off her phone and Dei said something bad about Amy, who would be there to defend her?
The conversation quickly spiralled, Chas popping in and making a bad situation worse. Then the names began and Charlie physically recoiled as her breath caught in her chest. She was angry, furious even, for being slammed. She really just wanted to help. The situation with the picture leak earlier felt wrong to Charlie and even despite the fact that she thoroughly disliked Chas, she defended him. Yet here he was, raking her through the coals for trying to support him, for being there for Seb, for just trying to be a good person. The emotional pain turned physical as her lungs began to burn as Charlie struggled to get proper breaths into her body.
Charlie needed to get away from everyone before her emotions took hold. There was no time for being sad. She had friends to hype up and a van to drive and a party to monitor and a bunch of drunk teenagers to get home. And then there was Seb, what was she going to do about him? Charlie couldn’t leave him yet she had already abandoned him for her stupid performance. She felt as if she was being pulled in a million different directions.
Without another word to anyone inside, Charlie exited the tent and made a beeline for the building that housed the washrooms. She could feel herself giving out, the strength she had been trying to carry melting away. As soon as she entered the bathroom, Charlie pushed the door shut and twisted the lock shut.
Her phone only continued to buzz, leading her to check it once again. Charlie was angry, her words coming off significantly more bitter than she had meant them to. All it took was for Evie to call her that stupid nickname for the spiral to begin.
She had to be right, Evie had to be right. How many people that evening had reamed Charlie out for trying to help? How many people had pulled her down to their level? Perhaps no one, maybe she had been worse than them all along. Why did she always get involved with business that did not involve her? Why couldn’t she keep her stupid mouth shut? Every time she opened it, clearly she was doing something wrong, so why speak at all?
Charlie lodged her phone down onto the bathroom counter as she struggled for the air to exit her lungs. Her body felt numb as the realization settled in that they were right, they all were right. So many people shared the same sentiments against Charlie, they had to be right. That many people didn’t just accidentally agree with one another, there had to be a reason they thought what they did?
Looking up into the mirror, Charlie was faced with a reflection she failed to recognize. The face looking back at her was clearly herself but it felt almost foreign, the emotion riddled in the watering eyes and quivering lip masking the grin and cheer that she had grown used to recognizing. They were right, they had to be.
Maybe she wasn’t a good person, maybe she was nosey and self-centred and egotistical. Maybe she was trying too hard to be likeable, trying too hard to be a person she wasn’t. All she wanted to do was to make sure that everyone was happy, that everyone was having a good time even if it meant she wasn’t. But yet again, Charlie still left Seb to perform. She continued arguments long after they should have been done. She voiced opinions that nobody really wanted to hear?
As far as she was concerned, the Charlie that looked back at her through the mirror was really her: a complete imposter.
The tears that welled in her eyes never fell as the reality of the situation settled in. They were right so what’s the point in being upset about it? If she agreed with them publicly, she would just get slammed again. If she disagreed, the names would return. Instead, Charlie felt nothing, silently agreeing with them in her head. She was exhausted from fighting with them and, as far as she knew, they were right.
The DMs came moments after Charlie had exited Twitter as she was still struggling for her breath. First from Lake, then from Amy. Their words of love and support in any other time would have been comforting. Instead, Charlie just felt guilty. Why did they feel the need to come to her when clearly she had been causing issues? Why, on a night that should have been fun, were they dealing with Charlie’s emotions when she couldn’t even face the truth herself? Charlie shut down the conversations rather quickly, not wanting to ruin the evening more than she already had.
But a third person messaged her and instantly, Charlie felt the conflict. She hated that, of all the people who she had conversed with that evening, Lin was one of the people involved. He didn’t deserve to deal with her shit, he deserved so much better than that. Yet here he was, offering words of support in a time where Charlie had pushed everyone else away. She wanted to push him away, to force him to stop speaking with her and to go enjoy the party. Yet he stayed, the playful side of him gone and replaced with a serious tone Charlie had never seen before. She couldn’t understand why Lin was trying so hard to make her happy nor why his name appearing on her screen was the only thing keeping her from hyperventilating, but it was happening. Charlie didn’t even have time to feel guilty for speaking with him, for unloading her issues onto him, before the serious part of him was gone, replaced once again with the softer, more playful side.
Reluctantly, she agreed to come with her friends to the party. Charlie had already fucked everything else up that evening, the very least she could do for her friends was to attempt to be there for them and to make sure they were safe at the party like she had promised. Slowly, Charlie began to pick up the pieces of herself off the bathroom tile. She had a job to do, she could be sad later. Perhaps they had been right about her being a bitch on Twitter, but at the very least Charlie needed to fake that she wasn’t to be there for the friends that, for some reason, were sticking by her side.
Wiping away the few tears that had collected on her cheeks and taking a few deep breaths, Charlie smiled at herself in the mirror until she was convinced it looked natural before exiting the bathroom.
Making her way to the parking lot, Charlie found and leaned against Trevor’s van. Streams of people were exiting the field as the game came to a conclusion. Hollywood Arts had won by a decent amount of points, good for them. With her arms crossed around her torso, Charlie waited by the van for her friend, her gaze fixated on the ground as she did so. She just wanted the night to be over.
Nickie, as she walked off the field panting from the halftime performance, couldn't say that she felt any which way. There was an odd fuzz in her head, a buzzing or something like it that made it hard to think, and it remained from the second they'd struck their last pose on the field to the very end of the game. Even the routines interspersed throughout the last two quarters didn't clear away the fuzz. The smile on her face neither felt forced nor genuine as she screamed out the words. She felt, nearly, like she was detached from her body, as if she had departed long ago and now was just watching herself, the new co-captain, go through the motions as if it weren't her first time doing something so big as leading a leading performing arts school's cheerleading team.
She tried to clear the fuzz away, but it didn't back off, and so she gave up and let herself just feel...nothing. She felt no more sadness, no more excitement, no more nervousness, no fervency, no...anything. She did this quite often, especially after forcing her emotions back. She, jokingly and only in her mind, had dubbed it her "people pleasing mode"; she disregarded herself so entirely that she felt severely dissociated from her body.
And she fucking hated it.
She gave everyone a small hug as a goodbye, said a few encouraging words (something along the lines of "we got out there and made it through, and that's what matters"), and spoke with the coach after the game, apologizing ferociously for her crying, which the coach, thankfully, forgave her for and thanked her for being professional enough for not crying on the field, and headed out to her clunky vehicle. Her body still felt so stuffy...
...and then she turned on the radio, and on came her favorite song, and she felt a small smile come onto her face.
Fly me to the moon
and let me play among the stars...
"Let me see what spring is like on...," Nickie sang, turning her car keys.
She pulled out of the parking lot, and when she drove onto the road, her singing faded away as she looked back at the stadium.
It hit her all at once-- the memory of what had happened tonight. With Chas, with her making an embarrassment of herself, with Eli's pep talk and her forcing her emotions back and the performance still being lackluster.
She felt herself tear up once more, but this time, she didn't hold back, and she let herself cry as she made her way to Kordei's house, her lips not singing along, her head silent save for thoughts of the night.
And, by the time she got there, she had run out of tears.
When she arrived, she sat in her vehicle for a moment, moving her rearview mirror so that she could better see herself. She laughed slightly at her reflection. Why did she always look better when under emotional duress? It wasn't right.
She prodded her hair and dabbed at her eyes, sighing at the runny mascara and doing her best to wipe it off. Though her hands were still shaking from her crying on the way over, she reached into her console and searched for a tube of lip gloss, and when she found some, she pulled it out and put it on, staring at herself.
"You absolute simp-y bitch," she whispered with a small smile, "you don't look half bad for a girl who just had a breakdown for the whole school to see."
With that, she stepped out of her car, grabbing her keys and shutting the door, and then she made her way to Kordei's door, stopping short of entering to just...laugh at herself quietly again.
Hey, for a performance he had twenty minutes to work on, Lindsay'd done a banger of a job. Of course, that was to be expected from the very best, but it still gave his chest a swell and made him utter a small "hell yeah" as he walked off of the stage and to the tent.
He grabbed three bottles of water and guzzled them one after the other, then gave Charlie a grin. "Hell yeah, we did, Charl Possible, but so did you!" He gave her a pat on the back. "I'm letting you get away with dragging me on stage just this once, 'kay? But next time, you'll owe me...say, five bucks." He grinned, then paused a second. "Hey, uh, I'm leaving now. I've gotta pee. Talk to my manager a bit. All of that shit." He chuckled and rubbed his neck. "Amy, Charlie, I'll smell you two later."
With that, he jogged out-- not an exaggeration, he literally jogged-- and to the men's bathroom, dialing his manager with his free hand as he stood at the urinals.
"Hey, Dylan," Lin greeted.
"What are you calling for? I'm on the road."
"Shit, you're coming to see me?"
"I said, it's too late."
"What do you mean? Did you--"
"We've been there, done that. Just finished."
"Lindsay!! You can't just--"
Lin interrupted with a laugh and he made his way to the sinks. "Dude, I'm taking a piss. Calm down."
"...You were kidding with me?"
"No. I was just literally peeing."
Thus continued the yelling, and it didn't stop until Lin gave a (quite obviously fake) apology for the short notice, and by that point, Lin had already washed his hands and made his way back to the stands-- and had sat through most of the third quarter.
Lin hung up on his manager after saying his goodbyes, and he clicked his power button once to make it sleep and a second time to check the time...
Only to see that he'd missed a metric shit-ton of Twitter messages.
Thinking that everyone may have been talking about him, he read through the chat log. As he read, his throat grew dry, and his jaw clenched tighter and tighter as his eyebrows squished together.
Charlie was hurt, and he could see it-- and he didn't like it.
As he opened Charlie's dms and typed out a message of worry, he worked his jaw, caught between a feeling of concern for Charlie and anger for Evie and everyone else on Twitter.
He didn't turn his phone off after he pressed send, and instead, he stared at the screen until Charlie's response came:
it doesn't matter anymore. it really doesn't. I don't want to be angry anymore
His jaw clenched. That was a lie, he knew it, and he wouldn't just accept that Charlie was hurt.
As he spoke back and forth to her, he felt a strange feeling pooling in his chest-- something near a protective instinct-- but he didn't want to go through all of the effort of considering what it meant. Not when Charlie needed him.
There was an aching in his jaw from working it so much with worry. He wanted to hug her right now, and he wanted to tell her that "they didn't matter, okay?" and that "we'll get through this". He was worried, as weird as it was to admit, and he just wanted to see her better.
After their conversation ended, Lin stared at the final message from Charlie. I... thank you. Something sounded so deeply appreciative in it that it made his chest ache again. Was no one else there for her right now? If they were, were they not trying to help her?
He looked up at the clock. A minute forty left in the final quarter. For once, he didn't pay any attention to the score, didn't heckle the football players, and didn't do any of the cheers with the cheerleaders. Instead, he stood up from his seat and began to search for Charlie.
Where could she be? She wasn't over there with Bean Man, nor was she talking to the cheerleaders, nor was she outside of the bathroom or at the concessions or at the end-zones or...
The more he searched, the more ramped up his heart rate got, the more worry furrowed his brow and worked his jaw, and the more his heart hurt. He didn't want her to be alone right now, and...well, shit.
He felt guilty. That was the word. Even though they were rivals and definitely nothing more, he felt guilty that he couldn't be there for her right now, in person, to wrap his arms around her and say that they were going to face this together and that Chas' and Evie's words were meaningless.
As the final buzzer came on that marked the end of the game, Lin dashed for the exit to search the only place that he hadn't so far-- the parking lot.
When he saw Charlie leaning against Bean Man's van, Lin's face relaxed, the heart beating in his chest soothing, his brow un-furrowing, and a smile coming onto his face. He walked up to her with purpose, and when he got to her, he gave a soft "Charlie" of relief and opened his arms for her, wrapping her in a hug without a second thought. His heart beat heavy in his chest, glad to see her again and worried about her wellbeing.
"Are you okay right now?" he asked, hugging her tightly. "I looked for you, but I couldn't find you. Are you good?" His voice was wrought with both relief and worry. "I got some chocolate in my satchel, I think. I was gonna eat it, but I forgot to when I got back from the halftime show." His voice was softer and more considerate than usual. "Do you want it? Chocolate always helps."
Honestly, could today get any worse? First slamming his car door into a big burly Italian guy's big bougie car, then his van being made to be driven by Charlie, then Ash and Charlie insisting that Rachel was a "pedovan", then Ash wanting to paint Rach like the Mystery Mobile, then Charlie saying that she was his babysitter, the constant teasing about him and Ash being a thing or whatever, and then he vehicle being volunteered to be the taxi for Ash, Lake, and crack kid Lin, and then Lin trying to make a bet for making out with him (literally, wtf)...
...and then a big blowout with Evie being a total bitch, as per usual.
There was never a dull moment on the online, was there? Honestly, it made him shattered, but what could he do? He still had a long night to go, and there was no time to be tired.
One thing he at least had to look forward to was getting fluthered to all hell and not having to worry about finding a DD. Sure, Ash and that Lin guy were going to have a drinking contest, but, judging by Lin's past, it wouldn't take long for the guy to be out, so he also had a drinking bud secured.
Great, jolly, grand-o.
Trevor was so enveloped in the goings-on of Twitter that he didn't realize when the buzzer had sounded, marking the end of the game. He worked his jaw, his nerves still present even as the weed was still influencing him. (He was glad that he'd smoked before he came. Otherwise, who knew how tense he would be. He didn't want to have burst a blood vessel or, more likely, have had a headache the whole game.)
It took him turning off his phone in anger to realize that everyone around him had departed. "Fuck me," he muttered, standing up and reaching for his keys, then remembering that Charlie had taken them. "Fuck. Me."
He walked briskly out to the parking lot, trying his damndest to remember where exactly he'd parked Rachel, and he just so happened to see the one (the only) Ashton West, surely trying to make her way to his van.
He approached her, making his wide strides a lot smaller to match her steps. For some reason, seeing her brought his stress down, and when he spoke, it was very casual. "Hey, darlin. Fancy seein' you here." He flashed a grin. "Ya did great wit' yer performance, ya know. Wish I could do that, but I'm sure that'd ruin my suit, 'n we couldn't be havin' that."
His eyes went to his van, and...wait.
Lin and Charlie were hugging one another?
Crack kid and his roommate...hugging.
Well, at least they weren't making out...
No, this wasn't suspicious at all, and it totally didn't send off his brotherly instinct.
"Ash, darlin, you seein' what I am?" he asked the girl beside him, his stress levels rising again. "I'm not hallucinatin' or not'in', right?"
The cheer performance hadn't been... bad. But Ash was still of the mindset that they should've just called it and given up but instead, she had headed out onto the field with the last remaining members of their team. If it hadn't been for Eli and Nickie, Ash would've turned around and left.
Once the performance had finished, Ash had retreated to the safety of the cheer bench. She had watched the half-time show which, surprisingly enough given how the night had gone, went significantly better than everything else. Ash had cheered for everyone as they went on -- but part of her heart did break when she saw Charlie. The night's events on Twitter had been... well, everyone seemed to be taking their anger out on her, but at least Charlie looked kind of okay.
Ash wanted to say how letting Twitter get under your skin wasn't worth it, but that would make her a total hypocrite. The cheating conversation had gotten under her skin and made her stomach churn -- especially when she had still been reeling from Charlie's rather harsh comments directed towards Nico. Sure, there was no reason for Ash to be defending her ex, but she also... couldn't help herself. There was still a part of her that cared about him.
Now she was really regretting agreeing to go to this party. But Ash had convinced Eli to go (sorry) and Charlie, so there was no way that she could just skip. Even if going home and watching TV all night sounded like a much better option. Plus, well, she had to go and beat Lin at the whole drinking competition thing. All she wanted was one simple weekend where she didn't spend Saturday nursing a hangover, but hey, her reputation was on the line.
With everything said and done, Ash puled her jacket on over her shoulders and grabbed her cheer bag. Downside to not planning going to party was that Ash had not brought another outfit -- but it would be fine, even if she felt incredibly uncomfortable in the cheer uniform.
Ash inhaled a deep breath to try and steady her nerves -- nerves that had no reason being there, but that were there anyway. Look, she loved parties and hanging out with people, but that didn't mean she didn't get nervous. Plus Lin, Trevor, and Charlie weren't exactly her normal crowd of friends -- it was part of why she had insisted that Lake come with, as some sort of comfort. Not that she was uncomfortable around them necessarily, just that she wasn't as close with them as she was with some people.
One hand played with the strap of her backpack, her teeth digging into her bottom lip, while she texted Lake with her other hand. She wanted to let him know where the van was so that he could find them, but then he informed her that he'd just be riding his bicycle instead. Great. There went Ash's safety net.
She jumped when Trevor approached her and quite honestly, she wanted to know how someone like him could move that quietly. But hey, the nerves that she had been feeling at least died down a bit. Only to then be replaced by a new set of nerves as she remembered the endless, endless teasing of her and Trevor. And every time he called her darlin, it just made her wonder why a little more.
Ash slipped her phone back into the pocket of her jacket and her other hand started playing with her backpack strap, too. "We were horrible," she responded -- and it wasn't totally a lie. "But thank you. And I think you'd make an amazing cheerleader. Totally pull of the cheer uniform." Ash added with a small laugh.
At least now she wasn't wandering the parking lot in search of the van and instead could follow Trevor in his... lovely suit. She perked up when they got closer, and then she looked from Charlie and Lin hugging to Trevor, one eyebrow raised. "You mean Lin and Charlie... hugging?" She asked and looked back at the two to make sure they were just hugging and yep, they were hugging. Literally just hugging and she couldn't understand why Trevor suddenly seemed so faint at the idea.
She rolled her eyes. "Trevor, please, it's just a hug." Even if Ash thought there was something a little more between the two of them, it was definitely just a hug. Like, who didn't hug their best friends, especially when they were upset as Charlie obviously was? It wasn't hard to tell that she was hurt over Twitter -- and yeah, Ash had considered messaging her privately, but she figured that there would be other people that knew her better to be there instead. Ash would just be a nuisance.
Ash decided that the best course of action would be to just change the subject. "Hey, guys," she called to Lin and Charlie, a bright smile crossing her face as they approached. She would've continued over to Lin and Charlie, but she was distracted first by Luca's car and she figured, hey, might as well check out the damage and tease Trevor about it. It was cute when he was flustered.
"Oh my god, Trevor," she gasped as she came to a stop by Luca's car and-- ... okay yeah, Luca was rightfully mad. She had been thinking it was some kind of small scratch or barely anything. But this was a sizable dent. Her jaw dropped open a little bit as she looked from the dent to Trevor. "You thought a hundred dollars was going to cover this? No wonder he wants to kill you."
What was supposed to be a simple night in for Zeph to work on homework was ruined when he decided to check out the social media for the night. Now, by all means, he should've known what he was getting into the moment he decided to jump into conversation. However, he had not been prepared to be asked out on a date. Even if that date was clearly not a date date, it was still enough to make Zeph a bit nervous.
He arrived to the school right as the game was coming to an end which was both a blessing and a bit of a curse. Curse because as he picked his way through the parking lot in search of one super short blonde, he was almost hit by at least two cars. Zeph yelled out an apology both times and continued on, weaving his way through the thicket of cars.
The party, from what he had gathered, was at Dei's apartment. Which was also Hunter's place, which meant that Zeph knew exactly how his night would go. Wingman all night long. Not that he minded assisting Hunter in his... games, but it did get a little tiring to be used as Ronnie repellent. Especially when he maybe had kind of sort of started to develop the smallest of crushes on her.
Well, at least he didn't have to walk to the party.
Zeph tried to shake his head of those thoughts as he caught sight of Charlie hugging some guy which he thought he recognized as... Lin. That weird guy. Plus that one blonde cheerleader, Ash or something, and that dude that looked like he could be snapped in half. Shaggy. Err, no, Trevor. Phew. Imagine how embarrassing it would've been if Zeph approached them and mixed up one of their names.
He had been unaware of the drama that had taken hold on Twitter (Zephyr wasn't one to text and walk -- that was like, unsafe or something), so he approached the group thinking that everyone was still in a super high kind of mood. Not high high, like happy high.
"Hey," he greeted as he approached them... and then realized that he had no idea what to say past that.
As Charlie ran away, Lake waved her off as she went, a small reassuring smile as she stood, followed with an expression that everything would be alright. After all, Lake didn’t plan on leaving until Seb was sick and tired of him. As she left, Lake didn’t want to leave the other unanswered, especially since the apology wasn’t needed.
“Hey Seb, man, it’s okay. You don’t have to apologize for crying, my man. Sometimes we have to let our feelings out and how we do that is with crying and that’s okay! I’m just glad you’re getting it out, dude.”
Lake scooted closer to Seb ever so carefully until he was against his side, pressing in close partially because behind the bleachers was cold but mostly to provide the other with more comfort. No one could judge him, with how small these cheer uniforms were, anyone would be freezing their ass off with such little movement going on. It was a miracle Lake’s muscles stayed warm before each of their routines. Then again, he was also the one that never knew they had a pants option for the guy cheerleaders and thought the others were just exceptions or very shy about their bodies. In the long run, that makes zero sense to him now.
Turning his head to look at the other, he gave another comforting smile. The sound of music slowly spread to them from the other side of the bleachers, a sign that the performances were beginning to start. Lake really hoped that Charlie would perform well, the nerves were all over her face in the last moment he saw her. At least, that’s what Lake assumed her face meant. The music however was a blessing, almost everyone had gone to watch the singers and it gave the duo space where no one would be able to hear them that well if they spoke up some. Which was definitely a blessing with the next few words Lake was about to say.
“Listen, bro, I don’t know this, but I don’t want you saying something that might hurt you more, and I don’t want you to fake anything thinking I don’t know what’s going on. But, I promise you, if you don’t want the image of me knowing what happened, then I don’t know what happened and I don’t need to know what happened, okay bud?”
He pats his hand against Seb’s knee, a packet of smarties magically in his open palm, “Now, tell me what you need and eat these. Sugar soothes the soul if you ask me.”
The game ended up being pretty fun. The performances were good, sitting with Kennedy was fun too. It was a good time but better times were coming. Briar decided to leave before everyone else did. Sneaking out she went to the front of the stadium. Calling an uber to Kordei's, she sat on the curb while she waited. Opening up her purse, she grabbed the joint she was saving and decided to spark up. Taking a deep inhale, she felt her problems leave her body as she exhaled. Briar finished the joint rather quickly, thankfully her uber arrived just in time. Flicking the butt away she climbed in the front seat of the car. The uber wasn't quite as good as her first one but he was alright. Let her play music on the way there. Briar played one of her songs, singing the lyrics perfectly. The driver seemed surprised with how familiar she was with the song. If he only knew that she was the one singing. As they rolled up on Andrei's apartments, the girls mouth dropped in awe. His apartment building looked beautiful from the outside, so she could only imagine what the inside looked like. Stepping out of the car she checked out her reflection in the glass. She looked good. Wasn't her best party outfit but it would do. Plus she had a silk slip crop top on under her sweat shirt that she could rely on. Walking into the apartment building and making her way to Kordei's she paused at the front door. It sounded quiet in there. Like not many people had showed up yet. Taking a deep breath, she calmed herself. Okay Briar. This is going to be your first time meeting a lot of people. Make a good impression, find a hot guy, and make new friends. And let's get fucked up! She thought to herself before opening the door.
"Helllloooo! The party is here! Who's ready to get lit?!" She hollered, giving everyone there a winning smile. She took a minute to take in Kordei's apartment. It was absolutely perfect. The dark wood and brick looked stunning. It was obvious that Kordei came from money. Walking to greet everyone, she hugged the tall man."Kordei. Thank you for having me! You apartment is so incredible..." Moving on to Amy she smiled at the gorgeous girl. She had never met any of these people in person but over twitter they seemed cool."Amyyy! You look gorgeous as ever." She said wrapping Amy in her arms. Then her eyes darted to Hunter and Nickie. She wasn't sure how to play this one. She thought Hunter was hot but she knew she wouldn't get too far with his guard dog near. "Hi Hunter. You look even better in real life..." Giving Hunter a tight hug, she lingered for a few seconds longer than she had with Kordei and Amys hugs. Turning her attention to Nickie, Briar gave her a small grin. "Nickie. Good to see you." Spinning around, her eyes scanned the room for booze. "Now. Let's do shots? Where's the alcohol at?"
Charlie hadn’t even noticed that people had begun leaving the venue until the roar of engines and the crowd of voices and footsteps began to ring in her ears. Still, she refused to look up from the ground, her eyes fixated on the toe of her shoe that, somewhere along the line, had become unfortunately scuffed.
The world around her was slightly overwhelming: the sound of the crowd, the feeling of the evening breeze, the flickers of movement Charlie caught out of the corner of her eye through long strands of blonde hair. She did her best to focus on the sound of her breathing and the feeling of cold metal against her exposed back. The feeling grounded her slightly though somewhere inside her chest, her heart refused to stop thumping against her ribcage. Her head was pounding with thoughts that refused to be tamed, her eyes sore from holding back tears, an ache somewhere in the back of her throat from the choked sobs and rushed breaths.
It wasn’t until a voice cut through the whitenoise of the crowd, speaking her name as a sort of melody, that Charlie looked up. Before she had time to process what had happened, she was being held tightly, a set of comforting arms gripping her small frame tight against a chest. Charlie hadn’t had a moment to see his face, but she instinctively knew who it was. Slowly, Charlie loosened her crossed arms and wrapped them around Lin’s waist, pulling herself into his embrace as she rested her face against his chest.
She didn’t want to admit that, for the first time that evening, she felt comfortable. Safe, almost. For the first time that evening, Charlie let herself relax. The world around her still roared in her ears but her mind began to slow and clear the longer she stood there.
Lin began to speak but Charlie’s grip didn’t loosen. She hadn’t noticed that she had allowed a few silent tears to dance down her cheeks, only the feeling of protection. She despised how much she needed others to pick up her broken pieces, how she always ended up roping people into her shit when things got bad. Charlie was convinced that eventually, be it a day or a year, that the people she called family would realize that Evie and Chas were right. But as Lin spoke, asking her if she was okay, that certainty cracked.
As Lin’s words processed in Charlie’s mind, a switch flipped. Had she not promised herself that she was going to be strong for her friends? That she wasn’t going to let anyone else down? Yet here she was, clinging to Lin like a lost fucking puppy letting herself cry like an idiot in front of everyone. Real tough, Charlie. Real tough.
“Me? I’m fine.” Charlie spoke, pulling away from the hug. She refused to look up at Lin as her right wrist flew up to her face, quickly wiping away the scattered trails of moisture that had gathered on her cheeks. With a deep breath, Charlie forced the smile onto her face once again. “I think I should be asking if you’re okay! Your heart was racing a thousand miles a minute just now. Last thing we need tonight is you going into cardiac arrest or something.”
Charlie felt her expression slip slightly as she looked up to Lin, leaning back against the car once more. She was being an idiot, an absolutely next level fool. So what if his heart wasn’t the only one thumping wildly out of control? He probably ran to get to the van first to get a good seat or to beat Trevor to his own vehicle. Yeah, that was definitely it. Nothing more, nothing less.
The look of worry on Lin’s face caused Charlie to look down at her shoes again, gently kicking a stray pebble that had been scattered onto the pavement as she crossed her arms back over her abdomen once again.
“Really, I’m okay.” She attempted to convince him, or maybe she was really attempting to convince herself. Either way, she was attempting to convince someone. At the offer of the chocolate, Charlie shook her head and forced the smile back onto her face as she looked up once again. “Maybe you should eat it. It's dangerous to drink on an empty stomach, you know. You’re going to need all the help you can get if you’re going to try and outdrink Ash.”
As if she had been summoned by her name, Ash called out in greeting as she approached Charlie and Lin by the van, Trevor trailing not far behind her. Charlie felt her face heat up as she struggled to put distance between herself and Lin, shifting her weight awkwardly to her other leg. Trevor’s face looked weirder than usual as he looked to Charlie and Lin, causing Charlie to stare right back.
“You good, Sean?” Charlie asked playfully with a raise of her eyebrow.
Before an answer could be given, Ash was mentioning the ‘sizable dent’ in the side of Luca’s incredibly expensive looking car. Charlie hadn’t even remembered the whole ‘Italian Stallion’ ordeal earlier that evening. The entire evening had gone by in a slow crawl but also incredibly quickly all at once.
“$100 is definitely not enough to cover that.” Charlie said, peering around Ash’s shoulder to the dented door before looking over to Trevor. “I bet making out with Lin or servitude doesn’t sound so bad now, huh?”
Another person joined the group. Zephyr’s greeting confused Charlie at first before she remembered that she had agreed to go to the party with the poor guy. He had gotten crushed on Twitter, the least Charlie could do was try to help the dude out. Who knew? Maybe he’d be the distraction she needed from everything.
“Well there’s my dashing date!” Charlie chirped as she forced the grin back onto her face.
The word ‘date’ felt bitter in her mouth. She was certain Zeph was a nice guy and maybe, if her mind was functioning differently, she would actually consider their ‘date’ a real date. But, as bad as she felt about it, Zeph wasn’t the person she wanted to be ‘dating’. The chemistry simply wasn’t there. Zeph was pining for Ronnie and Charlie… Well, she was Charlie and she refused to admit who had captured her waking thoughts.
Looking at the group, Charlie grabbed the keys from her pocket and tossed them up in the air, catching them with nimble fingers. “Okay, first order of business: alcohol from our apartment and then Dei’s apartment. Anyone else need a pit stop for Charlie’s Taxi Service or is that good?”
With a plan in order, Charlie walked to the passenger door and opened it, motioning to Zeph to join her. “As promised, you get shotgun. Everyone else, get in the back.”
Charlie walked around the front of the car and hopped into the driver’s seat, adjusting her position and the mirrors until she was comfortable before cranking the radio. Within a few moments after the engine roared to life, the group was leaving the parking lot and heading down the road. Luckily, their apartment wasn’t far from the school and football stadium, even with the heavy traffic.
Pulling into the parking lot for their apartment, Charlie whipped into an empty spot and shut off the engine.
“Come on, let’s go get the drinks. I would hate for the party to have to wait any longer for us to arrive.”
Jumping out of the car, the group made their way into the building and up the stairs to the apartment that was shared between Ken, Amy, Trevor, and Charlie. Pushing open the door, Charlie kicked off her shoes and groaned at the release of pressure from the heels.
“We’re here, if anyone’s home!” Charlie called out preemptively, flicking the lights on. Of course the apartment seemed empty but after some of the stuff she had walked in on, or almost walked in on, it became second nature to call out her presence before she was barely in the door. “Go grab your stuff, Trev.”
Charlie stretched her back out as she made her way to the kitchen. With a hop, Charlie hoisted herself up onto the counter, balancing carefully as she straightened herself up to a standing position on the countertop. Rocking up onto the tips of her toes, Charlie reached up to the small gap between the top of the cabinets and the ceiling, fishing out a large bottle of vodka. Without lowering herself, Charlie stepped off the counter and jumped to the ground with a thud, the bottle of vodka nestled in her hands. Walking over to Lin, she placed the bottle in his hands with a grin.
“Now you two better not get too drunk and puke in the back of the van.” Charlie joked, pulling on a pair of boots instead of her heels.
Heading down the hall, Charlie pushed open the door into her room. She needed to wear something more comfortable and significantly less expensive, her stylist would kill her if she got party shit over the expensive outfit. Changing out of her performance outfit and into something much more comfortable, Charlie rushed back down the hall and began struggling to pull her shoes on.
Mike was fine. Great. Mint. In tip-top shape. Sure, the fire burning in his eyes said otherwise-- yeah, and so did his clenched jaw-- but hey, don't judge a book by its cover.
Instead, judge it by now definitely-calm-and-not-pissed-off-whatsoever the book becomes when cut off in heavy traffic by some dumbass in a van-- and not a normal one either. Think sports car, but make it soccer mom-ish and even more irritating.
No, he swore to God, he was good. The shoot had gone well. Yeah. There was that. And now, here he was, going to a party, hey. So there was that, too. And...
This optimism shit was hard. But trust him. He was fine.
Listen, it was better than it seemed. The gig, while professional, was lax, and the photographer asked him for his input, so that was...nice. He'd finished a good thirty minutes early, which also meant that he could come to tonight's party-- sure, he could have come even if he were late, but he wasn't that kind of guy. He was classy. Besides, finishing early meant he could quickly swing by his (")apartment(") for some...soda (wink wink) for the party.
He stepped out of his car, sighing as it squealed at him standing, and he looked back at it. 2008 Toyota Camry, grey, with weird patches of miss-matched color where the painters had done a shit job because, hey, that was what budget car "repair" got you. A little crack along the left headlight, a jacked up, taped up left mirror, a rearview mirror barely hanging on by zipties... But it reminded him of home-- no matter how shit his home was-- and it gave him a bit of comfort, so he didn't mind all of its problems.
A bottle in hand, Michael made his way into Kordei's apartment, greeting Nickie, who stood very near to the inside of the door and walked in after his talking to her, as if she had been chased off by his speech. His eyebrow flicked in irritation, but he let out a deep breath to calm himself.
He was good. He was fine.
As he made his way around the room, talking to the few guests he saw (and, naturally, hitting on a few blonde girls in the corner), he sipped from his bottle.
He made his way over to an unfamiliar girl, and, as he got closer, he recognized her as hey, that girl from Twitter with a flower-y name who called me Mikey.
He cocked a grin at the girl and spoke to her. "Alcohol? I gotcha covered, babe." He held out the bottle. "The party's BYOB, but bumming off of others is a way to 'meet friends' here, for sure," he teased. He studied her, and he gave a cocky smirk. "Ya know, pixels don't do ya justice, babe. You can only see so much from 'em. If you haven't got any plans for tonight, I'd like to see much more of ya." He gave a wink and a chuckle.
His eyes, at that point, just so happened to catch a look at the door.
His face immediately sunk downwards. Oh, looky. Cockblock incarnate-- Veronica Crosby. The girl was like pussy repellant-- when she was around, Mike was getting none.
He looked back at Briar. "My offer still stands, babe. You know where to find me, and if ya lose me, I'm pretty easy to catch." He left her with a grin, and he began walking away from Briar (without his alcohol...shit), hoping that Ronnie wouldn't catch sight of him.
Arms looped with Charlie's, and her heart pumping a million miles an hour was all that was on her mind as she stood waiting to perform. She didn't live perform often unless she needed to for school for some reason. This would be the first time she ever volunteered to do so, and because of that she was even more nervous. This wasn't some class project, this was real. What if she messed up and embarrassed herself? Embarrassed her friends? Embarrassed Dei? Ugh waaaay to much pressure building up, she was gonna be sick. She unconsciously held her grip on Charlie a little tighter to keep her steady.
Somehow the moment they stepped out though? Everything changed. Suddenly she was a whole different person, a whole different mindset. She was sassy, confident, daring, tempting , sexy even. She didn't know why she still had mini panic attacks every time she performed because it always turned out the same way. Once those lights hit her and she opened her mouth to hit those first few notes it was over. She was going to dominate. She wasn't sure was switch flipped on in her, but this was the reason she was here. This magical alter ego that resided inside of her that only came out when she sang, that shined bright enough to land her a scholarship at the most prestigious performing arts school in the nation despite her being an IT nerd. She'd never understand it, but she hoped it'd never go away. She never felt more alive then when she was on stage and it showed.
Plus performing with her best friend, Lin, and Luca was even more fun than she could've imagined. Especially since Lin was a last minuet replacement. He really carried it well and she had to admit she was impressed. After it was over and everyone seemed to scatter to their own thing she was greeted by Dei. A warm hug, sweet kiss, and loving words awaiting her filled her with even more confidence and pride in herself.
Maybe she should take things to the next level this year? She was a Junior after all, and the goal was to be good enough to get signed right after graduation right? She'd need more under her belt then a single, a music video, and a bunch of fun covers with her friends. She needed something that was her's that she could own and really promote as her breaking out of her shell. Maybe it was time to stop being so shy and take Tyler up on his offer?
If there was anyone she'd trust to work with it was him. He knew her as well as anyone else and she trusted and adored him. He was one of the first few people to really believe and see her talent...even if it was by accident because she was caught singing while fixing his laptop. She really should stop doing that for free for everyone...Everyone needs a side hustle right? Well not here, lots of people here were loaded, but she was not one of them so side hustle it is. All that aside she made a mental note to talk to him as soon as possible! This was going to be her year, she had her friends, rising confidence, and a man who truly loved her by her side. What could go wrong?
Other than the endless twitter drama that is. Which tonight it was in Olympic gold form in that department. every ten minuets it seemed to be popping off for one terrible reason or another. It was never ending and draining. She tried to keep off it as much as possible, but it just sucks you in. The latest fight being the worst in her opinion not because of it's content but because it seemed to really hurt Charlie, and she was NOT ok with that. Amy has never been a very confrontational person and despite her best efforts the conversation dug too deep. IT was obvious how deeply effected Charlie was, but for the life of her after she said good-bye to Dei she couldn't figure out where the girl went. Problem was she rode with Dei and Hunter so she wouldn't have found her in the massive parking lot even if she tried.
She wanted to be there for her, but she didn't know how. She didn't know how to fix this when it was other people words that'd done the damage. She wished she could see herself for even a fraction of the amazing person Amy believed she was. It was a terrible thing that in this world, in this place it's the best of people that get the worst of treatment. tonight was such a big testament to that and it was a heavy burden on her heart.
Realizing she wasn't going to find Charlie she went back to the bleachers to kinda watch the game. She tried she really did, but DM'ing Charlie kinda took over and her worry set in and focusing on anything else was impossible. She only snapped back into it once the final buzzer rang and everyone was cheering around her. She looked at the score, and wow what a comeback! She wondered if her words had helped at all. She hoped so.
She greeted him once it was all over and of course there were flashing lights of camera everywhere. She stayed on his arm and he embraced her proudly. She wondered if this is what it'd always be like? She adored him, truly she did and she knew she should feel proud to be on his arm like this, on the winning side. However was this really enough for her? She mentally shook the thoughts away and smiled brightly giving him a quick peck on the cheek for the pictures before giggling. Of course it should be. What more could she want? If she was honest a moment just of them to celebrate. If she was 100% she'd rather go back to his place and just chill with him and celebrate the both of them having a bomb night with each other, but Dei was so hype and pumped from his win this party was exactly what he wanted.
She supposed the car ride would be the closest she'd get to what she wanted. Just him, her, and Hunter having a good time laughing and joking around keeping the high and excitement going. Using the fake ID's he'd gotten them they stopped to get some liquor which was kinda cool, She'd never had one of these before dating Dei. Then again she wasn't really a super party girl or anything like that. Sure she liked a good time, but she wasn't really known for getting drunk or wasted. Dating Nate was much more private, he kept a distance from most people really. Mostly emotional, but sometimes physical. She didn't usually have to worry about being in the spotlight with him, and before that was no one of importance so she really didn't have to. Being with Dei seemed to be a life of ALWAYS being in the spotlight.
She wondered if she'd ever truly get used to it. Despite her intense worry for Charlie, and all the drama of the night combined with these pesky thoughts of the future plaguing her mind she could win an Oscar for not letting it show. She was ever the supportive excited girlfriend the whole time, and she'd stay that way all night. He deserved no less from her especially on his big night. She could worry about all that tomorrow. The only one that might not be able to wait is Charlie depending on how bad things get. She'd choose her over a party any day, but there were a lot of people in her corner tonight if only she'd raise her head up and look around. She seemed so focused on the wrong people when she messaged her earlier. She hoped tonight she could drink and have fun and for a moment let all of that go. Even if just for the night.
"Almost ready." She chimed in a sing-song voice tossing the cheeto in his mouth. Everything was set up perfect even though by the end of the night it'd probably be far from it. She grinned, "Of course babe! Hey you two wanna take a shot before everyone gets here? Start the night off right?" She shot a playful wink in Dei's direction. Just then She heard people at the door, so she went to go let them in. It was Nickie and not long after her Briar. She smiled warmly at Nickie, "Hey come on in!"she chimed stepping to the side so she could come in. She'd kinda seen the roughness that'd been the cheer team, and kinda break down on twitter, but she wasn't close enough to the girl to want to comment on it. Espeically if she was gonna put on a brave face and come out to party. Maybe she needed this distraction too?
Briar was next and similar to her aura on Twitter she came in like a hurricane. Admiring the view, hugging Dei, then herself, and then moving onto Hunter...a bit longer, and then greeting Nickie. Oh god please don't let anything stir up already, it's the beginning of the night. She was starting to think the only way tonight would end decently or she could manage it was if she had a few drinks. With that thought in mind and made her way to grab a shot glass for herself. What she needed now was this shot, and her friends to turn up as soon as possible. She turned to Dei, "So you drinking with me or not babe?" Her rosy lips curled into a tempting smirk. "Tonight's your night, so I'll even let you pick the first round this time." She hummed.
It wasn't the sharp and loud tone of the words leaving Callum's mouth, nor were it the scornful eyes with no love looking back at Oates. It wasn't the almost pathological smile to the realization that Callum made Oates cry, and it definitely wasn't the small attack at Rome. What hurt the boy the most were the words themselves, the way the taller boy actually believed every single thing he said, almost to a fault. It was outright mad and problematic, no evidence present to support his arguments, but in his mind, he was right, and that made Oates feel that much worse about himself as both a person and as a boyfriend.
The warmth from his palm remade into nothing as Callum pulled away, bubbling in rage, and in some way, that one small move was a metaphor for their entire relationship; Callum didn't trust Oates, and with this, Oates knew that.
All the grumpy moods. All the episodes of lashing out and all the sleepless nights. Everything. It was all Oates' fault, and even though Callum said that all the time, Oates didn't believe him until now, until his words actually proved it. All he ever wanted was to make Callum happy, all he ever wanted was to be there for him, but the only effect he ever had on him was the opposite one—a chemically reversed reaction of irony.
By this point, even wiping the tears away from his eyes wouldn't have helped, as a few seemed to already slowly be making their way down the boy's cheeks. He didn't want to cry, he didn't want to be emotional, but it was all just too much for him.
"I was never planning anything like that, Callum! I was just changing out of my clothes, and texting you while doing that! Rome and I are literally just friends!" It was a rare occasion to hear Oates' voice raised not in the manner of being excited but in the manner of being upset and maybe even angry. He acknowledged his sudden rupture of emotions, managing to calm himself down just a little bit by just doing so. "Why do you believe every single one of my actions is against you? All I've ever wanted to do was give you my love, why do you not want it, Callum?"
Oates knew Callum didn't want to talk about love, and he respected that however much he could, but if that was what the problem in their relationship had been, at least they were talking about it now.
It was obvious by the wrinkling of Lindsay's eyebrows that he didn't believe, at least not fully, that Charlie was okay, but he still have a smile. It looked relieved; whether it be relief from just seeing her or relief at the fact that she was okay enough to swear that she was okay was yet to be fully determined. "It isn't beating that fast," he laughed. "Besides, I think it would be dope if I ended up buying from something like that. Cuz they revive you with those zzt thingies, right?" He was kidding, obviously, and trying to cheer her up. "Eat the chocolate, huh?...Nah, I ate before I came. Downed a whole tube of Lays Barbeque. Family-sized," he laughed. "But psht, I don't need any boosts! I could outdrink Ash with one leg tied behind my head and an octopus suctioned to each of my love handles. Piece of cake." He paused, and he studied her face as if he wanted to say more. He
"But hey, I'm glad that you're okay...," he added.
From the way he said it, that was not what he had wanted to say, and he opened his mouth to speak again. "I--"
You good, Sean?
The girl was speaking to a boy who was stopped less than seven feet away.
"Bean Man," Lin greeted.
Bean Man (more commonly known as Trevor) spoke back to Lin in an odd tone. (Was it...hostile? Something along those lines, surely.) "Oh, look. Crack Kid."
Before any more conversation could happen between the two, Ash spoke, and then Charlie spoke, and then Zeph appeared. (This was awfully convenient-- all of the passengers for the Callaghan Scenic Cruise a la Rachel the Pedovan showing up all at once. Things like this typically only happen in movies, roleplaying games, and television shows, but, from this, one can surely suppose that it is natural.)
At Charlie's question, Lin raised his hand.
Trevor answered. "What, Crack Kid?"
"Hey, don't call me Crack Kid!"
"What's yer question?"
Lin lowered his hand. "We're stealing yours, right, Trevor? Liquor, I mean?"
Trevor rubbed his temple with his left hand and sighed softly. He gave a tense smile. "It's not stealing. Ash is goin' ta pay me back."
"You coulda just said yes." Lin rolled his eyes. He looked at Charlie. "Looks like we're good."
"If I'da said yes, I-- hey, don't get in while I'm talkin' ta ya!"
Lin had already climbed in and sprawled himself across the second row of seats. "Hey, why not? You can still talk to me while in here."
The radio kicked on as Trevor settled next to Ash in the first row of seats. "Because it's rude!"
"Rude to talk to me while in a pedovan?"
"It is not a pedovan!"
This bickering continued similarly all the way to the house. Thankfully, those who didn't want to listen could very clearly head the radio, so it helped to make it (ever-so-slightly) less annoying.
All piled out of the car when they arrived, and Lin followed closely behind Charlie, while Trevor lagged behind at the back of the group. Upon reaching the apartment, Lin stood in the doorway. Trevor, naturally, made his way to his room without having to be told any more direction.
"Nice place you have here," Lin said, looking around. "Nice and cute."
The liquor being placed in his hand made him grin. "Nah, not us two. Just Ash. But I'll get her a bucket," he laughed.
Trevor walked out of his room with a tote on his arm. He, in all honesty, looked like a lanky, masculinely-dressed soccer mom, sans the Karen cut.
"You can't talk to my manager," Lin prodded. "He's a jackass. You don't want to."
Trevor raised an eyebrow at Lin, and then the meaning suddenly seemed to dawn on him. He sighed deeply. "My God, Crack Kid."
"Be more creative."
"I thought it was pretty funny."
Trevor ignored Lin and instead chose to answer Charlie. With a foot already out the door, he called, "Yep, rearin' ta go."
Trevor, with no further bidding from Charlie, made his way out to his van. "Rachel," he sighed, looking at the driver side door. There was a no visible damage to it, and he muttered, "Thank Christ..."
He flung himself inside the van, and Lin soon crawled in as well.
"Hey," Lin said, settling in the second row once again.
"The pedovan is pretty cozy."
And thus, all of the other members of the crew returned to what they had left to: Trevor and Lin arguing.
This wonderful ambience carried all the way to the party, and, when they arrived, it only stopped because Lin bade Ash a last one in is a rotten egg and rushed out.
Trevor sighed deeply and messaged his temples. "That guy...," he mumbled, "...makes me want ta smoke a hundred kilos of weed."
With that, Trevor stepped out of the car and stood beside it, waiting for the other passengers to get out while holding his tote hanging on his left shoulder.
The sight of tears rolling down Oates' cheeks made Callum's scowl grow in intensity. "I can't talk to you while you're like this! You don't need to be so emotional," he asserted, throwing his hands up in the air with wild eyes. There was no point in discussing this if Oates was just going to break down and invalidate everything Callum was saying because he looked like a jerk that was making his boyfriend cry in a semi-public setting.
Every thought he had ever had about their relationship pointed to Oates' unfaithfulness. There were dozens of other guys better for him who he should like leagues more than Callum. He didn't mind that Oates could go do his own thing whenever he wanted, as going out and partying or whatever the hell people that aren't antisocial do was something he had made very clear he was unwilling to do with Oates. He liked the silence and the solitude that came with his boyfriend being with his friends instead, but at the same time Oates wasn't supposed to respect his boundaries. Ideally, he would stay with Callum and sit and do nothing with him, but that was completely the opposite of Oates' nature. So maybe he also was supposed to respect Callum's boundaries and go away. So how were either of them supposed to be happy at the same time?
The incompatibility between the two of them was clear as day and Callum wasn't so blind that he couldn't tell the things Oates sacrificed for him for the sake of preserving what they had. But what they had was... something else. As cruel and unforgiving as Callum was, Oates endured all of it, yet constantly reminded him of how finicky his emotions were. Callum didn't want to feel and he didn't want to open up in that way just so Oates could say 'Told you so!' and be the kind, morally invincible little shit he was. It became vastly easier to deny any serious problems they had so Oates wouldn't get the idea to talk about things and be able to put into words how shitty Callum was the entire time.
The sound of Oates' raised voice told him all he needed to hear. Could he finally see through Callum's stoic ruse? The curly-haired boy confronted him with an emotion that wasn't sadness or nonchalance. This time, he was angry, displaying just a hint of the rage Callum himself was putting out. "I don't want to talk about love," he growled, his voice softer than before but still tinged with wrath. What point was there in allocating any amount of love to this? Neither of them were happy.
Ronnie had thoroughly enjoyed herself clinging to Hunter's side and watching the halftime performance, as well as the cheer squad do their thing. She was so captivated by the talents of her peers that Hunter's departure for "the bathroom" barely phased her. Minutes turned into an hour as she waited for him to return, patiently saving his seat as she cheered for her friends. The game was over, with a surprisingly staggering win for H.A. and the girl had no idea what to do but to seek out her future husband.
She took several laps around the stadium and came to the conclusion that the guy had ran off to the party early. She wasn't surprised; the guy was so popular, he probably had other things to do than bother with Ronnie all day. She was just grateful he was kind of enough to take the time to spend even a minute sitting with her to view the events of the Homecoming game.
She exchanged a few texts with her friends, congratulated some footballers and performers as she passed by them in the parking lot, and decided to follow the action to Kordei's party. She waited about 15 minutes outside the school until her Lyft arrived, idly texting about dogs and hamsters and love on the Twitter. Her driver arrived and she was pleasantly surprised to find that it was a very charming, attractive man in his early twenties. She had to restrain herself, of course, as she was only 15, but God if she were older... hell to the yeah.
She made her way to the apartment, seemingly arriving just as the rest of the on-time partygoers had gotten there. She pushed her way up the stairs and busted through Kordei's door, instantly scanning for a familiar face. Before she could begin her search for her separated love, Hunter, she laid eyes on the back of a certain boy she knew from school weaving through the crowd in the opposite direction. Of course Ronnie knew who it was; she could recognize that backside from anywhere.
"Mike!" she called out, speedwalking to catch up to him. She passed the new girl whose face she recognized from her Twitter profile and sweetly waved to her, before turning back to her target man and grabbing his wrist. "Heyyy, you!"
Sitting on the small couch in his apartment, Wyatt hummed softly playing different chords on his guitar. He was working on a song and nothing sounded right to him. He had most of the lyrics down, that was the easy part. The hard part was the actual music. That was why he didn't apply to the music program at Hollywood Arts. He didn't feel like he was good enough. Besides he enjoyed writing a lot. So many different things you could do with language. Wyatt loved writing songs though. The one he was working on now was called 'Untitled love song'. He had been struggling with the lyrics for months now. He had even given up on the song two or three times, always deciding to pick it back up. It was hard to write love songs when you didn't have someone special. It didn't stop him though, it actually kind of helped him with the loneliness. "I'm in love with you... More than summers or afternoons. I'm in love with you..." he sang softly, trying a new melody. Nothing sounded right so he decided to give up. Setting the guitar down and going to get some water he jumped a little bit at the loud unlocking on the front door. His roommate, Carly was home. Carly was a family friend, they had practically grown up together and were good friends. She was 22 and went to a local college. "Hey Wyatt! What's goin on?" the woman asked, going to her bedroom and dropping some of her stuff. "Hey Carls. Was just trying to write this new song but I'm stuck. What you got going on?" "Creative block huh? That's no fun. You should do something to take your mind off of it. Go have fun. Don't you have any friends to hang out with? All you do is sit at home, cry, write, smoke weed, and watch rom coms in your pajamas. Plus Freddy is coming here tonight soo I want you out. It's hard to get laid when all we hear is you crying about how in love two fictional characters are." "Well there is this party tonight... But I was gonna have a Twilight movie marathon. Are you really gonna make me leave my own apartment?" He groaned, already knowing she was going to. "Since this is my families rent controlled apartment.... Yes. It will be good for you! You're going to this party. I'll even give you a ride and we can stop by the liquor store on our way. Now get dressed." The boy groaned, walking to his room. He looked through his closet, trying to pick something cute to wear. Wyatt's go to was his favorite pair of khakis They showed off his cute little bubble butt plus were super comfy. Pulling them over his legs, he also pulled out a white button up. Tucking it into his pants he felt the look was still way too simple. Then he saw one of his favorite sweatshirts. A navy blue Ralph Lauren sweatshirt with a cute little bear on it. Pulling it over his head and tucking it in he smiled. He slid on his white socks and checkered vans. His hair was very low maintenance, so all he really needed to do was get dressed. Grabbing his phone, wallet, his joint case and spritzing himself with cologne he was ready to leave.
Carly gave him a ride as promised, even taking him to the liquor store. She bought him a huge handle of Vodka, that he couldn't dream of finishing. She said it was to share with people. A good way of making friends. The two of them talked as they drove and the time flew. Wyatt was nervous. He didn't know too many people at Hollywood Arts. Wyatt considered himself somewhat of a wall flower. If he had learned anything from his romantic movies, it's that you had to come out of your shell a little bit to find love.
Taking a big swig of the vodka to get himself somewhat in the party spirit he gagged. Straight vodka with no chaser was brutal. Thankfully Wyatt was a lightweight so a few more of those and he would be set. It was easier to talk to people drunk of course. Carly encouraged him to take two more big swigs before going in. He thanked her and made his way upstairs.
The apartment complex the party was in was lovely. He wasn't sure if he should knock or go in. Thinking for a second, the alcohol answered the question for him. He opened the door, sneaking inside and looking around. The apartment was really really nice. Big too. It belonged to a kid named Kordei who Wyatt didn't even know. Technically he was kind of party crashing, which gave him a small tinge of anxiety. The effects of the alcohol were slowly helping him through his social anxiety. Carly knew what she was talking about. There were a few familiar faces around but no one he knew well enough to talk to. A girl named Briar who was new to Hollywood Arts but had already made an impression. Wyatt had actually been following her on Instagram for some time. He found out about her through her boyfriend at the time. A super hot skater boy who Wyatt was in love with. She wrote really cheesy, fun love songs that Wyatt loved. One of her songs, B.O.M.D, he listened to everyday for like two months straight. He didn't want to fangirl too much so he decided to wait. She seemed busy anyways. Everyone seemed busy. So while he worked up the courage he sat back against the wall, hugging his handle and hoping someone would come talk to him.
Rome, honestly, really didn't like Callum. But he put up with him because he was friends with Oates and he wasn't going to be the type of friend who told someone what to do in their love life. Besides, sometimes Callum and Oates were super cute, and Rome could see why they were together. Other times - like now, for example - Romir had to wonder what Oates was doing because he deserved to be treated so much better than he was sometimes. Still, knowing Callum's contempt for him, Rome stayed quiet for the most part as he and Oates argued, instead wincing and grimacing at certain words or tones.
It annoyed him, too, how certain Callum was that there was something going on between Rome and Oates, despite there being literally zero evidence of such a thing. Rome wouldn't want anything like that with Oates, anyway, and he certainly wasn't a homewrecker. Well... not intentionally. If he didn't know there was a home to wreck, that didn't count, right? The point was, Callum was wrong about, well, most things, but this one thing in particular. He frowned when Callum insisted that Oates was getting too emotional and glared at his friend's boyfriend. "Is very fair amount of emotion," he scoffed. He became angrier, too, when Callum consistently dodged any love questions or comments. "Can't you see he want you to say you love him? Why it is so hard for you?"
MOOD: omg,, awkward
LOCATION: school hallway
OUTFIT: Cheerleader's outfit, complete with crop top and booty shorts.
Seb focused on breathing while Charlie assured him that he didn't need to apologise, but he felt and overwhelming sense of guilt when she stood up and said she needed to leave. He felt awful for dragging her away from things that were way more important just because he was probably overreacting about something. About Chas. But thinking about Chas and Nate and that entire situation made him feel like his lungs didn't work anymore so he tried to veer his thoughts away, instead nodding at Charlie as she left and hoping that he looked grateful. He considered calling a 'thank you' out to her, but figured he could just message it to her later... if he could bear to get his phone out.
He leaned his head back against the bleachers as Lake spoke to him, wiping at his face to try and clear it of any tears or snot. He had to admit that Lake was right about crying and getting everything out. He still felt like absolute shit, but there was some sense of relief. Some sense of letting everything that had built up go for just a while. And having Lake close to him was nice, too, because just the physical touch was grounding and made Seb feel that much less alone. He enjoyed sitting with Lake in silence for a bit, leaning back against the smaller boy, just letting himself calm down and get through the aftershocks of his breakdown.
He turned to look at Lake as he started speaking again and Seb almost started crying all over again. This time, out of... something that wasn't sadness. Maybe relief? He was just so glad that Lake understood. He loved Charlie and anyone who had tried to comfort him after the night had turned into a trainwreck, but Lake also got that he kind of didn't want to keep thinking about the fact that everyone had seen a private photo of a moment that was only for him and Chas, and no one else. Least of all Nate, who even if Seb had considered his friend, didn't deserve to be a part of that moment between the two of them. "Thank you,", he said softly, his voice cracking a little. "Really, Lake. You have no idea... Thank you."
He laughed from surprise when Lake revealed the skittles, sniffling as he took a few and popped them into his mouth. "You'd be a fantastic therapist," he joked, but he also meant it. With proper training and just with his natural personality, Lake could help a lot of people, at least in Seb's opinion. "But just... being here with me is enough. Thanks again."
MOOD: not functioning
LOCATION: BEHIND stadium bleachers
OUTFIT: Dark green hoodie, black skinny jeans, dark blue sneakers
As Hunter took in the reassuring smile he received from Nickie, who was no doubt happy to see him cheer her on, he almost grimaced when Ronnie joined in. He didn’t understand what her deal was. For as many subtle hints as he dropped --as subtle as Hunter could be without being cruel to her, at least -- she still stuck around him. Every chance she got, whether it was joining him at lunch whenever she saw him, bumping into him at the most opportune time -- there she was.
And it was starting to get on his nerves.
Hunter wasn’t a cruel person. He could be rude and obnoxious at times (according to his stepsister, at least). And he knew he wasn’t the best person to be around, but even he had his limits. If it wasn't for the memory of his mother grounding him, keeping him from being a total asshat, he probably would have told Ronnie exactly where he stood and been mean about it. But even Hunter never really knew his mother, her memory lived on in her father and the family he had on his mother’s side. That was enough to put him on a higher road than cruelty.
“I’m gonna go drop a deuce. Save my seat, yeah?” his tone flatter than some nay-sayers claim the Earth was, but Ronnie was so stupid that she would no doubt believe it.
Either way, that would be the last she saw of him until whenever they were at school again.
As he walked around the parking lot, he heard the halftime performance -- which he didn’t really give a damn about -- in the background. He thought he heard Amy’s voice or maybe Charlie’s or some girls, or if not, then whoever sang sounded incredibly feminine. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to watch someone give what might be the performance of a lifetime. Truth be told, he didn’t think about how great of an opportunity the performance would be. He was kicking himself over not signing up when he had that chance, but it wasn’t the worst thing to not be front and center. Hunter knew he would have another shot. Plus, going back meant putting himself next to Ronnie again and that was something he didn’t want.
Hunter mainly hung around Dei’s ride for the rest of the game. Around the two minute warning and after downing about two Dr. Peppers, karma came to visit the boy. Turns out if you lie about having to go to the bathroom to get away from your stalker, karma was going to do something about that. He felt that full-like sensation and was cursing himself as he briskly walked to the nearest porter potty he could find.
About two and a half minutes of a constant stream, Hunter stepped out carefully, zipping up his pants zipper as he made his way back to Dei’s ride, seeing the smile on his face. He heard the announcer call many touchdown passes before karma forced him to briefly get out of range. “I knew you’d come back, Dei! No doubt in my mind!” Hunter's fist bumped his idol’s free balled hand as Hunter climbed into the backseat of Dei’s ride (with Amy rocking shotgun, of course) and they were off to the races -- and by races, they mean Dei’s pad for his party).
Sometime along the ride and about ten minutes of some of Dei’s king level tastes in music, they stopped somewhere. As Hunter was about to get out as Amy and Dei did the same thing, the backseat doors were locked and Hunter complained quite vocally at Dei and amy as the chuckled into some building and came out with a bunch of alcohol. “Seriously not cool, Dei!” Hunter whined to Dei and both laughing their asses off.
The trio finally arrived at Dei’s place and after setting up for the party, that’s when they could fully relax.
As Dei asked if they were excited, Hunter laxly shrugged off the amount of hype he was feeling. “Depending on who shows up, I may actually get to have some fun!” He admitted, drinking a solo cup of beer, letting the bitter liquid hit his lips.
On some level, Hunter was hoping to see Nickie again. He couldn’t very well let Dei know that he actually kinda liked Nickie. It wasn’t that he thought Dei wouldn’t approve. She was the co-captain of the cheer squad, so of course, he might approve, but he knew Dei would give him shit for doing anything but liking Nickie for her body. And it wasn’t that she didn’t have an amazing body. Nickie Abrams was a bombshell, but over the summer, there had been more than just physical chemistry between them spark but he was confused about who he should be and what the right decision was. Hunter still wasn’t sure how to feel.
Regardless, when he saw her show up -- and many others not long after, Hunter let Dei and Amy have their public private time as he made his way over to her. But moments before he managed to slip away, he found himself on the opposite end of a refreshing embrace. It was only as he heard her familiar voice did Briar’s hug become a two-way street. Maybe it was instinct alone, but Hunter found himself enjoying himself, reaching around Briar’s mid-back, really making sure she knew that her action wasn’t ill-received.
And like a tornado, Briar was gone, leaving him in a smirking mess and not even sure what just happened. His body reacted and part of him actually felt bad for enjoying it, especially since he was quite literally just thinking fondly about Nickie.
“Nickie!” He immediately scanned the room for her and his stomach sank nearly all the way down the bottomless pit inside it. He saw Briar with Nickie and he inhaled deeply, as though he was panicking. “Great! How do you approach this?” He thought for a moment. He was close enough to hear the hug monster mention alcohol and that sparked an idea in his mind.
As swiftly as he could, Hunter went to the fridge, grabbed a bottle of Jack Daniels (one of many ), and three sizable shot glasses (they might as well be triple shot glasses), and he made his way over to them. “Hey Nicks,” Hunter greeted the brunette with a smile. He couldn’t not but give her a lingering gaze. It was silent but his head bobbed down in a way that was asking if she was okay, but then he switched over to Briar. “So I overheard something about alcohol? I just so happen to have what you desire!” Hunter placed the not-yet-opened bottle of whiskey on a table nearby and pulled the three shot glasses out from his jacket pocket. “Oh, what’s this? Three shot glasses? Guess you regret not asking me about the alcohol before you hugged and ran, huh?”
Wren stared out of the window of his older sister's car, his hands fidgeting as they rested on his knees. He didn't want to be going to this ridiculous party. The idea of any party in and of itself was more than unappealing to him, but a party with a bunch of people he didn't know and who were to be his classmates in the future? Not to mention that this party, from what he'd heard, was almost guaranteed to have some kind of drugs or alcohol floating around. It was most definitely not his 'scene', so to speak.
And yet here he was, because when he'd mentioned the party briefly to his parents - probably followed by an 'I'm not going, of course' - they'd insisted he go and try to make some friends so that he had people to hang out with when school started after the weekend. He'd expressed emphatically how much he really did not want to do that, but of course, they'd decided to get almost every single one of his siblings involved. As they were all fools, they shared the same opinion, and Wren was being practically forced into what was deemed by his older and younger sisters as an 'appropriate' outfit. After pep talks from his parents about not drinking, but if he did drink to watch his cup, and about how to properly socialise with anyone who wished to do so with him - ew - he was then being shoved into a car and whisked away.
His sister was saying something to him as they pulled up to... Kord? Kay? The host's apartment, but Wren was very deliberately not listening. Probably she was going on about having fun, and making friends, and blah blah blah. When the car finally pulled to a stop, Wren unbuckled his seatbelt and stepped out, slamming the door closed behind him and marching into the apartment complex. After his sister drove off, though, Wren regretted his actions, because it was probably unsafe for him to exit the vehicle before it'd been put in park. He tried not to dwell on it as he walked inside, recalling the correct apartment number in his head and making his way in the right direction.
He could tell when he was getting close because of the blaring music coming from the penthouse. As predicted, the door was also unlocked - which was a real safety risk - and as soon as he opened it, Wren wanted too turn around and go as far away as possible. It was way, way too loud for him, and he could practically feel the heat from the amount of bodies already in the apartment. He had to clench his fists and dig his nails into his palm to try and distract himself so that he didn't freak out and, against his better judgement, he stepped forward. Overwhelmed already, He quickly found a wall to stand against so he was sort of out of the way, and wrapped his arms around his mid-section, wondering if it was too early to call his sister and ask her to turn back around.
Nickie, once she had seen Michael and moved inside so as to avoid him, had found her way to a corner near the front of the room, trying to look inconspicuous as her eyes searched for someone she knew. When the parties heated up, she was always somewhere near the center of it all, but beforehand, she always sat back. She wouldn’t start the fun, but she would join in.
She scrolled through her Twitter, looking at nothing in particular, a vague smile on her face. Look, girl, you made it here. That’s the biggest hurdle. Now have some fun tonight.
At the sound of Hunter’s voice, Nickie’s heart fluttered, and she looked up in excitement. “Hunterrr!” she piped, smiling back at him. She caught his small nod, and she gave a small head shake and a little laugh. “I—“
Briar’s coming over made her nose scrunch in irritation. Flirting? She could see herself the eff out.
And then the bitch hugged him like they were reunited lovers.
She nearly gagged.
“Good to see you,” Nickie said stiffly through a tight smile. “You look...” She looked her up and down, and then she looked away. “Different in person.” Her voice sounded judgmental— mostly because, well, she was judging her.
Listen, she had nothing to worry about from this girl. Her shape? Her voice? Her general demeanor? Nothing compared to hers.
She watched Hunter pour shots for the three of them, Michael converse with Briar, and Hunter speak to the Ghost of Briar Past. She shook her head with a smile, taking a shotglass from him. “She doesn’t know what she’s missing out on,” she laughed slightly, and she tossed back the shot, grimacing and then letting out a small agh. “Wooh, nice start to the night, huh?” She looked at her glass, then to Hunter, and she moved closer to him. “It’s a better start with you here, you know.”
Her heart beat in her throat as she put a hand on his arm and stood on her tiptoes to speak as close to his ear as she could manage. “By the way...,” she said in a soft voice beside his ear. “You know...thanks.”
When his wrist was snagged, it was all that Mike could do to not shoot his mouth off at her. He had to give it to her, she had balls to just come right up to him and grab him, and he’d usually appreciate boldness, but this was Ronnie we were talking about.
He turned towards her, trying his best to hold back the anger tinging in his head. “Hey, Ronnie,” he said, grinning despite trying to, telepathically, get her to back off. “What are you doing here?” Wait, shit, no, don’t give her a chance to have a conversation.
Looking around for any way to get her off of him, Mike gave a soft chuckle. “Ya know, the...”
His eyes snagged on a bottle sitting unattended on a table.
Bingo. He quickly made a plan: get the girl drunk, and she’d pass out. She looked like a lightweight, after all, so her being drunk off of her face and hanging on him wouldn’t need to be tolerated long.
Fucking hope the liquor’s strong. This is my ticket out.
Without bidding Ronnie another word, he drug her along to the bottle. He picked it up and inspected the label.
It didn’t look fancy, but he kind of sucked at telling the difference between liquor. It all tasted the same, and, if you drank enough, it all gave you the same effect, so what was the point?
“This bottle’s got your name on it. The whole thing. What say you that you...” He held the bottle out to her and tossed her his charismatic grin and a little wiggle of his brows. “...get the party started in high spirits, babe?“
Blegh. Saying babe to her felt, like, illegal or something. She was a kid. But hey, whatever worked.
He put a hand on her shoulder. “The best way to start a party, trust me.”
She had a headache far too soon into the car ride.
Sure, the music may have drowned out the bickering of Trevor and Lin if you were in the front seat, but when you were sitting in the back closer to them, you were privy to nearly every backhanded insult. So far, the night was off to a lovely start as she let out a small sigh and sank into the seat with her head laid against the door of the van. Ash had laid her bag on the seat beside her with one hand resting on it while her other hand held her phone and scrolled through social media. Anything to drown out the bickering of these two.
When they got to the apartment, Ash perked up a little, but she also wasn't sure if they were supposed to like wait in the car, or go in... But Lin piling out gave her the answer she, more or less, needed so Ash followed after the rest of the gang up to the apartment where she stood, albeit only mildly uncomfortably this time, by the door with Lin. She grinned when Charlie came back with the vodka. Alcohol never failed to make her excited -- simply because Ash knew that with alcohol in her system, she would be able to finally relax. Something everyone in the school needed after tonight.
Ash's gaze moved to Trevor as he came back from his bedroom, and her eyebrows furrowed for a moment in confusion at Lin's comment until it clicked. She couldn't stop the laughter that spilled from her, but she did throw a hand across her mouth to try and control it. But Lin was right! Trevor looked like a middle-aged parent ready with a bag of snacks for his kids' practice -- not like a high schooler ready to go and get drunk. Plus he hadn't bothered to change out of his suit which just made the whole situation even more ridiculous.
She still felt bad for laughing.
Then, it was back into the car for the final ride to their destination. Just as it had before, bickering filled the van and Ash resumed her position of leaning against the van door. Which was comfortable and great until Charlie hit a bump and she smacked her head against the glass. Stupid van. Ash sat away from the door and rubbed the side of her head with her hand as the van came to a stop and Lin burst out of the stopped vehicle with all the energy of a rabid raccoon.
And did he really think that she was going to race him with such a ridiculous comment? As if anybody actually cared about being first into the party, especially when that other someone was clearly going to win seeing as how he was already halfway gone--
Oh who was she kidding?
Ash fumbled with the seatbelt (curse safety first) before she jumped out of the van and slammed the door after her. "I'll see you guys inside," she called to Charlie, Trevor, and Zeph before she took off running after Lin who had way too much of a lead on her.
"Lindsay! You cheater!" She yelled as she followed him up the stairs. But alas, no amount of taking two stairs at once could make up for last time and Ash stumbled into the party after Lin.