For the most part the game was uneventful for Magnolia. She left the little smoker group and found Mik where they proceeded to pre-game like the rock stars they are. Taking shots for every point scored because that was the only way she was going to give a damn about the scoreboard. They also stuffed their faces with food. All in all ordinary day for them.
The only interesting part was the best prank she'd seen in a while from her peers. Glue and confetti filled balloons AND sprinklers on the cheerleaders? Chefs kiss to Drake that glorious bastard. She was only mad he didn't tell her cause she definitely would've joined in on the fun and nailed a few people. Namely a cheerleader or two because they already were wet anyways, so why not?
Speaking of cheerleader's there was one she knew to avoid until she'd calmed down and that was her furious little cinnamon bun of a princess. Did Maggie actually have any sort of crush on JJ? Nope, but it was damn sure fun to make the girl flustered thinking she did. Their bond was a weird one for sure, but she enjoyed it. Her words never really hurt her cause let's be real a slut comment was a dime a dozen and meaningless. She was funny and while she knew it was one sided, she for some reason felt like if JJ needed her she'd try to be there.
Kinda hard when they run in totally different circles and JJ seemed to hate everyone Maggie hung around. But hey what's a girl to do. It's why she wasn't surprised when the message did finally come through. Something simple acting like that catastrophe didn't just happen. 'pick a color.' Easy. And fairly obvious what the reason was for considering there was a party tonight. Maggie was honest with her suggestion. The girl looked hot in red, she liked a good color...but she also knew JJ would hate to admit Maggie's opinion had any sway and that was a safe choice.
Good thing Maggie knew better.
Maybe if things got boring with Andres she'd go mess around with her. Since she'd be 'ignoring her' pff. One thing Maggie prided herself was being hard to just ignore. There were certainly worse kinda 'friendships' to have.
Thanks to their little game Maggie was already nice and tipsy by the time the driver dropped her off at the party. This wasn't anything new for the girls. Show up together, maybe party a bit more but ultimately they usually wound up going their own ways, and if they found their way back to each other by the end? Great! If not? Hope you got somewhere safe by the end. The life and times of party girls she supposed.
She made her way to someone she could bum a blunt off of and sent a text to Andres while she hit it, 'Hey you here yet? Or did you have to go wash off the glitter glue lol ; ]'
Standing on the edge of the field, where he tried to get a good angle of a referee talking to one of the coaches, he stopped in confusion for the first few seconds before feeling water spraying on the side of his face. It took him a minute to remember his camera was weather-sealed, but still, he immediately shielded it under his thin grey jacket and dashed out of the sprinkler’s range.
He hid behind a wall nearby, stowing away his camera in his backpack there. When he peeked around the corner he saw flying balloons hitting people on the bleachers and benches. He clicked his tongue in disapproval at the scene. His camera was not glitter-and-glue sealed.
Quickly and quietly, Matty ducked away to the nearest exit unseen and came home half soaked with sprinkler water.
He wanted to hide away in his room for the rest of the night, and enjoy the peace and quiet. After a quick shower, he learned about a house party, which acted as a replacement for the homecoming dance that was canceled for some reason. He didn’t plan to go at first, but then he heard Mason, the only guy he knew more than everyone at school, would be there. And if Mason wasn’t sober by the end of the party, then Matty would have to be ready to drive him back home.
That was one of his reasons for going. The other was something his therapist kept pestering him to do. She’d assigned him to try participating in his school homecoming and tell her about it in his next session.
He knew taking photos at the game for the school newspaper (and perhaps the yearbook) and the extra credit he needed for his photography class wouldn’t be enough, especially since he didn’t talk to anyone there or do anything notable besides getting a free extra pretzel that had a little too much butter on it. His therapist would to be disappointed with that.
Try to get out more, be a normal teenager, she told him a few weeks ago. She's a pretty blunt therapist.
• • •
He was beginning to regret not staying at home.
He quickly muttered an awkward apology to the person he almost sat on. He hadn't noticed someone already lying across the sofa. Ignoring the scowls and narrowed eyes burning on his back, he walked away and constantly reminded himself to keep his eyes up in front of him. Don't step or sit on anyone.
Matty spent the first half an hour or so exploring aimlessly inside the house he didn't know, listening to the blaring music with indifference, avoiding colliding with partygoers. He ended up in the kitchen, ate a few snacks there—several minutes later, he left, found where the drinks were, poured Pepsi in a plastic cup for himself, and walked away again.
SIlently, he glanced at his surroundings. Everyone was walking and sitting. Chatting and laughing. Drinking and dancing. Smoking and flirting.
An uncomfortable tightness grew in his chest, like a ping pong ball gradually expanding against his sternum and struggling to get out. Matty was leaning against a wall, with only his nonalcoholic drink in hand, seeing no one he knew. The room he was in was growing stuffier by the second (maybe it was just him) and crowded—wondering if he had overdressed or underdressed for the party...
He just noticed his Pepsi was half an inch away from the top of his cup.
Outside. There’s where I should be, Matty decided. After untucking his button shirt with one hand and one long sip of his soda, he left his solitary spot and trekked to the doors to the backyard. Once he was there, he took a moment to breathe in his inhaler and felt his lungs (and about 80 percent of his nerves) relax.
Right after he tucked away his inhaler in his pocket, he felt a sudden nudge from behind. Some of his drink spilled out of his cup.
He turned around. Instead of a random drunk weirdo, he found Mercedes Camus. One of Drake’s friends. Someone he partially knew but was still somehow a bit more familiar than everyone else at the party.
“Hi…” he replied, with just the slightest uncertainty in his voice. He didn't know what to say next.
A pause followed.
“It’s fine,” he said, slightly frowning at his more-than-half empty cup and his hand that was now wet and sticky with dark cola—at least it didn't stain his shirt. He looked at Mercedes when she spoke again.
“Hi, sorry. I was actually looking for…” A second or two passed. “The bathroom.”
“In the backyard?” He looked around for a moment, wondering if that backyard had a portable toilet box he didn’t notice earlier.
There wasn’t one.
Matty looked back at Mercedes curiously. “Are you... do you need someone to look for it with you?” he asked.
It was so easy to get lost in Mer's words. They had an airy, whimsical quality about them, no doubt in part due to her constant use of conversational improv. Her "natural charm", as she put it, was addictive, and the very thing that drew Edwin around her orbit at any given moment.
He felt like an idiot trying to draw out their conversation, but the sunny girl's attention eluded him. His watchful eyes followed the suble drift of her irises, hunting for answers in their reflection to no avail. Seemingly out of nowhere, a glimmer of hope presented itself in the form of rekindled energy that caused Mer to lift her brows and stand a little taller. Was she really that excited over Gatorade bins?
"I don't even think I have your number," she managed to answer, shooting a bolt of electricity up Ed's veins. Was that an act of rejection or an act of interest? But he missed his chance, as the pace of the conversation spontaneously started to quicken. A joint was brandished, and as one final triumph, Ed proposed a private smoke. Mer smiled, her attention elsewhere. She was teasing him, and he was none the wiser.
Not until her head tilted, following something on its course out the back door. A clue popped into Ed's head, lightly suggesting that his efforts may have been futile; it was while he had retreated into his thoughts when he noticed the soft caress of Mer's hand gently lowering his hand, bringing about a blushing, perplexed look on his face. "Later?" he repeated, as though to seal the promise of time spent alone.
That seemed to be enough for the girl, as she finally left Ed with a much-needed compliment to go pursue the object dragging her attention left and right. He mumbled his thanks, turning around to get a glimpse at just what was lifting his distracted crush's head to the clouds. It was hard to see through the crowd of people bouncing and shaking and chatting over cups of jungle juice, but it was clear that Mer was on a mission.
If Evie were here right now, she'd be laughing up a fucking storm.
Ed ran his hand along the table beside him, perusing through sloshing bottles of liquor and two-liter soda bottles. He was going to need about six more drinks before he had the confidence to land any girl worth his time, so what better time to start than one's deepest moment in the trenches? He reached a hand for a bottle of tequila, tapping his finger on its glass handle. He didn't even feel like drinking, to be honest, but he knew he'd get over it before long.
His grip loosened, and he hesitated as the air around him began to stagnate and fester, raining down upon him like scalding acid. It was concentrated behind the unsuspecting boy's back, enough for him to immediately whip around and look up at the bulky figure commanding the attention of everyone in a twenty foot radius. It was a face he knew all too well, and it was trained right on his much smaller form. Shit! That familiar face was one he confirmed as Chelsea Freud's, Mer's rageful older brother even the rest of the football team knew not to fuck with. Probably even the coach, to be honest.
"Wait—" he cried, but not quick enough to prevent himself from being essentially raised into the air by the collar and shaken like a Caesar salad. His hand slipped off the tequila bottle, knocking it over and spilling its rank, caustic contents into a crystal-clear pool. It seeped off the edge, wetting the back of Edwin's dress shirt. Evie would kill him for that. As he collided with the table again, more cups and bottles fell to and fro, erupting into a clinking cacophony.
The giant spoke, its breath hot against the smaller boy's ice-cold veins. By reflex, he began to tremble, but he had the sense to ball his up fists and hide his fear. "My night isn't so great eith—" Before he could finish, Ed was rattled some more, his body dangling like a ragdoll against a force of sheer, unbridled wrath. More furious words settled into his ears, leaving him only to wince and shield his eyes from the fire CK was breathing.
"I was just," he choked out, grasping a hand onto his veiny wrist of steel, "Talking to her." He jerked his head to look at the wall, directing his attention to a painting in the hopes that it would distract from his free hand discarding the joint. "We're friends. What fucking gives, man?"
Now that the joint was by their feet and a moment had passed, adrenaline seemed to catch up with him. "I'm not the one who threw a ball of glitter glue at your face. If you're so mad..." No, he would never direct this monster onto Mer. How would he be able to do that to her and sleep at night? Would he have to hide that as long as they were married with kids? Would he even be able to tell her on his deathbed?
"If you're so mad, go take a chill pill and get laid, freak. And also, you're fucking short." In a sudden move, Ed ripped CK's hand off his collar and darted through the crowd, pushing past all the crop-topped girls and tie-wearing boys, spilling drinks on his and others' shirts as he went. For a split second, he felt disappointment for half the party's disregard for a simple dress code. Although, very few of them had probably ever had the chance to witness a real red carpet.
Off a frenzied Edwin went, breathing ragged breaths and not daring to look back at what he could only surmise to be a hidden avatar of the Grim Reaper. His feet ground to a halt at the base of a staircase, and he gave one rapid look over his shoulder before racing up the stairs, slipping and stumbling because he knew his life depended on it. His heart was thumping a mile a minute, nearly hopping out of his chest faster than the thoughts running through his frantic, disarrayed head.
Somehow, sitting upright for the entirety of a game she clearly gave very little about. While the fanfare with the sprinklers had been entertaining, Ophelia had a better idea regarding the evening's events. Of course, Rat had been a fantastic viewing partner.
The bathroom had become a safe-haven, one which allowed her to dress without seeing her mother. She'd been on her mind most of the game, but nothing as blatant as right this moment. The chill of the countertop ate at her hand, and she wrinkled her nose at the smell and the memory. Her throat made a gargled noise, somewhere near a grunt but not quite. The fishnets brushed past her skin, pricking at it, and slipped over her head. It was swifter than she intended, and her eyes catch themselves in the mirror.
Touching up her eyeliner, Ophelia thought of her counterpart, whom she'd missed at the game. They heads appeared to be intertwined, constantly butting. Two rams conjoined by their horns. A small pit in her heart ached like a cavity, pricking. In her mind, the bathroom was far less smelly if she pretended Oph was sitting on the sink, watching her and chatting while she prepared. A faux rant played in her head, telling her all about yelling at her mom.
She might even talk about the lies, if she was feeling bold enough.
Instead, Ophelia dressed in silence, pretending to be far more melancholic about a little bit of innocent squabbling and a missed opportunity than necessary.
Puck gave her another ride, unfortunately. His own complaints about Artie, primarily made on behalf of Jace, marred the leather seats, and Ophie ran out the minute she could.
The party set itself at a tidy pace, and Ophelia quickly blended in upon entering. Suddenly, she regretted not joining in on the bleachers smoke sesh, particular as the anxiety regarding crowds hit her. Thankfully, she managed to grab an unopened can of soda, stolen unintentionally (or not) from a table as she passed by. Cracking it open as she walked passed, she settled into a spot mildly out of the way, cocking a hip out and sipping her soda. No one who pissed her off had arrived yet, and truthfully, neither had anyone she wished to see.
Then, a boy sided up next to her. No, actually, it was the boy. She squinted at his face as he walked up, slowly but surely tracing the outline of his physique to the profile picture she'd seen not too long ago. Then, he proceeded to speak at her. To her, rather, which she appreciated as she preferred to do the former and receive the latter. A smirk played at the edges of her lips. He oozed of anxiety, and for a moment, Ophie considered following suit, but instead, his blatant nervousness emboldened her.
"Hey," she said coolly. A small slurp of her root beer. "I'm surprised a tentative date made in the public eye of the Internet got you runnin', but yeah," she finally let him off the hook, "I do."
She studied the room, examining the inhabits and carefully considered what to do in the way of 'hanging out.' She smiled at the words. It was a bit dorky, clunky even, to phrase it that way. "Do you have something other than root beer?" she asked, scoffing at her own words. "I've been abysmally sober for that entire game."
Glitter soaked her hair, but she opted to keep it as it added to the 'fit. A little bit of drama, flair, and she event added a puffy, red ribbon to her hair, which poof'ed in a frizzy reaction the water. The sprinklers? What a joke, one which she admittedly giggled at. Until she got soaked herself.
Scrunching her face, she used her cheer skirt to squeeze out some of the water from her hair, even as the remaining heat of the late summer dried the strands. The silky top ruffled against her body, soft and milky. Smiling at Casper's message, she grabbed the heart-dotted sweater from her closet, just in case they picked the pink dress. Of course, matching wasn't a priority, but it certainly gave her a theme to base her own party outfit around.
Lining her eyes with a surprisingly heavy-hand, she stuttered, marring the heart on her cheek, as a voice called out to her.
"Etta!" A cough. Then, quieter, "I need my meds."
Sighing, Vi wiped at the mistake, erasing it with a makeup wipe, and quickly redid it before placing the pencil in her to-go bag. With a heavy click, the bathroom light, ancient and timeless, clicked off. She looked longingly at the solace of the bathroom as the light from the kitchen quickly shrouded her view. Harold was sitting at the kitchen table, shrouded in his plush, gray robe a church attendant had gifted him once he got diagnosed. Her eyes lingered on it a few seconds longer than necessary, before averting themselves.
The fridge swung open, bathing her in a delightful chill, before shutting. The apple sauce contained thudded on the counter, and the plastic cup scraped. Like clockwork, she set the pills in front of him, the apple sauce, a glass of water, and refilled the pill caddy all before the clock struck a quarter hour had passed.
"Good?" she asked curtly, allowing an edge to creep into her voice.
"Watch it," he grunted, but nothing else whispered past his lips. Etta was free to go, and Violet was finally allowed to come out.
Her red bag thumped against her thigh, and the empty pill bottle metaphorically rattled around her head. The joint, bought carefully pre-rolled, was a siren calling to her, as though her father had asked for anything other than the usual.
It was a party, she reasoned, but instead, she walked towards the Gardner home, carefully avoiding the subject in her mind.
Thankfully, the faux-prom provided more than enough entertainment to hold her attention. Furthermore, she quickly spotted Casper, giving an overzealous wave and running after them. "Hey!" she called out, excited and giddy. Admittedly, it was actually quite enjoyable to have someone who she could talk to, someone who didn't know her history. Of course, she expected Casper to discover sooner or later, but hopefully by then, they would already be a fan of hers.
"You look so cute!" she damn-near squealed, her accent slipping out. Biting her tongue, she breathed out before adding, "Did you see the atrocity that happened at the game?"
Addie hated her cheer squad. She hated competition. She hated other blondes. She hated girls who looked at her funny, and who wore the same brand of lip gloss as her. And, to be fair, it always did look better on her. Her subtle break in composure was a victory far grander than apparent to the naked eye, especially because the subject had been more or less seamlessly changed.
Benji could take light sarcasm; it was nothing compared to the far more complex insinuations being made in front of him. The blonde maintained a casual tone, peppering her playful words with cutesy rounds of laughter. "You're right, I should have just shaved her head," the tall boy remarked, his brows creasing while his smile stretched from cheek to cheek. He was deep in focus, but couldn't show it.
Much to his surprise, the conversation didn't linger on the topic of Ash for long, circling back to their battle of wits. With Addie's hair swept behind her ear, Benji noted that he could easily pay next month's rent with the lustrous stones punched through her lobes. It angered him a little, but that was what drew him in in the first place. Did she know how dubious of a case study she was?
Now that they were closer, Benji could shrug off her retort with a brief chuckle. Of course he didn't want to explain why he was standing by the door. He wasn't that interested in upholding a cool kid high school reputation, but he still wasn't going to make himself out to be a loser. Even Benji could be a fickle teenager sometimes. It only made having his bluff called even more exhilarating, because he knew Addie was going to keep him on his toes.
For once, words seemed to elude her as a faint "I..." trickled off her hesitant lips. Benji's brain turned into a stethoscope, guessing the tempo of her pattering heart. Their breaths drew as one as he pressed himself closer, moving his body idly to the beat of the music. From the outside, not one would be able to surmise the nature of their quick-witted conversation. He had her where he wanted her, and as his hand crept slowly further toward her waist, he could feel his own heartbeat quicken.
Just in the nick of time, the fire returned to Addie's eyes and she spoke, wryly Benjamin-ing him once more. His hand froze in place, withdrawing from her side. Dumbstruck, he listened to her response with a hanging jaw, brows furrowed to question the meaning of her sweetly derisive speech. "I haven't said—" he began, grunting a little as a manicured nail drove itself into his chest.
Oh, so they were making empty assessments now, were they? Benji shook his head with disbelief, drawing away from Addie and releasing a flippant laugh. "Oh, I'm sure you'd like to think that," he scoffed, shaking his head. She was so dramatic, she way she gestured like a movie character. If she wanted to see a good performance, well, she should get him alone and—
"Oh...but..." she continued, enticing Benji with her coy display, almost certain with acute intention. He hung on closely to her every move, taking in every word like gospel. His breath was inconsistent, catching and releasing in rhythm with her slow, careful steps. I am just a man..., he thought, unflinching as Addie drew ever closer, gazing upward with her duplicitous eyes. They were carved from amber and jade by a god crueler than fate itself; that was most certain.
“I suppose if…what I’m hearing from you is correct, though…hm…” Benji begged to pull away, but his body stood in place, his glistening stare fixed onto the image of the Lorelei before him. In this situation, how could a man possibly muster a word?
“You really are so jealous, aren’t you?”
Benji's heart leapt out of his throat, but he stood still. A chill ran up his spine, but all he could manage was a startled blink. By instinct, he breathed a choppy heh, his nostrils flaring in line with a toothy grin. "Wow..." the casual-clothed junior managed, nodding slowly. He looked around the room, running a hand through his curls. "You really are a regular reader, AJ. Consider me taken aback."
He reined in his smile, fixing his lips into a plush pout. "But, you know..." She left herself wide open. Every turn, every twist in this encounter was all leading toward this crest, built upon the subtext of two teenagers who thought they knew it all.
"I really am flattered that you went through all this trouble," Benji uttered breathily, openly filled with satisfaction, "Must have been torture escorting some dickwad jock to the party..." The tension was palpable, and the stakes were ever higher. His heart was pounding like crazy, but he was sure Addie's was going even faster. "...when all you can think about is the brooding skater boy leaning against the wall."
An olive hand rose to meet the girl's cheek, dragging itself to inspect the diamond on her lobe. He rubbed it gently with his thumb, creasing his brows in thought. Finally, he let it go with an irreverent smirk. "Are you that desperate for my attention?"
Anyone who knows Cappie Caplan would know how deeply he cared about his hair. His haircare routine was more extensive than Ash's. So, washing off the dry glue mixed with glitter and confetti from it was not fun.
However, he was grateful for the prank getting the game canceled at halftime. It saved him from losing a bet and forty dollars, so he didn’t entirely mind. Just only a little.
Although, he wasn’t happy when he found his beloved old Bronco with a dick spray-painted on her door—well, now it’s “his” door. It had been rubbed off (not like that) from the surface by the time Cappie arrived at the parking lot, but the faded shape was still noticeable, more or less.
He argued with his cousin about it while dropping him off back at his dad’s place. Deo denied drawing the crude image on the Bronco and refused to say who’d done it. When Cappie questioned him about the other cars that were found with colorful doodled dicks and middle fingers, he shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly, and neither denied nor admit any involvement with the subject.
Cappie dropped the issue. He did notice Deo's hands stained with dry black ink and his mysteriously newly acquired spray can in his pocket.
• • •
When he heard the homecoming dance was canceled, Cappie was worried that the rental suit he’d paid for the day before the other silly graffiti incident would go to waste—renting a good suit was not cheap. Thank goodness for Evie’s stubbornness in making a backup party. Why at Artie and Xander’s place, Cappie had no clue, but he appreciated their contribution.
He decided to forgo the blazer, because climate change could not be any more real as tonight’s weather was a bit too warm for him to wear it. After putting on his black boots and adjusting his stripe necktie, Cappie joined Ash in Jace's car for the drive to the homecoming party.
There were probably a few tiny glitter particles still stuck in his hair, like shiny dandruff.
He was left to his own devices after Ash went somewhere else and lost track of time. He was gently tipsy after winning his third flip cup game (he lost the previous two games). While wandering around the house, he was thinking about finding an ice luge that he heard was somewhere at the party.
Along the way, he saved someone’s life.
Well, no, not really. But he did catch someone from falling over. It took a while for Drake Martin to recognize him until that lovable dopey smile of his confirmed that he finally did.
"Cappieee! My man!"
Cappie returned the same energy, ruffling Drake’s hair. “Heeey, Drake-eyyy! Chase-eyyy! How’s it goin’?”
"Chase and I were just 'bout to hang, weren't we, buddy? Wanna come with?”
“Hell yeah. I’m up for anything with you guys.” Cappie stood on the other side of Drake and draped his arm over his shoulder, completely the trio. With his free hand, he picked up a random cup from the side table that was within his reach—no idea whose cup it was or what was in it, but he drank it anyway. “So what’s the plan, D-man?”
Now that he had his hands on the little fucking idiot, CK realized that the boy was none of there than Evie’s fucking little bitch of a brother. What the fuck was his name — Eddy or some shit?
He’d definitely have to fucking explain this to Evie later. Yeah, I slaughtered your shit-for-brains brother — he was trying to fuck my little sister, and everyone knows not to fucking do that somehow didn’t seem like it would get much of a pass from Ed’s sister.
Here goes me fucking Evie ever again, he thought. Oh fucking well.
Ed grasped desperately at CK’s wrist. “I was just talking to her,” he choked, jerking his head toward the wall. “We’re friends. What fucking gives, man?” As though a vial of misplaced self-confidence had been suddenly poured into the little fucker’s veins, he said, “I’m not the one who threw a ball of glitter glue at your face. If you’re so mad…”
The kid floundered for a moment. Beat his ass, Chelsea’s mind commanded, and he balled his free hand into a fist and began to lift it — but slowly, because he wanted to get the most fucking catharsis out of this beatdown, and another look of sheer terror would be fucking liberating.
Against his better interest, the son of a bitch seemed to find his words again. “If you’re so mad, go take a chill pill and get laid, freak. And also, you’re fucking short.” Like throwing sand in the eyes of an angry bear to disarm it for a moment, the words worked to catch the furious Chelsea off-guard just long enough for Ed to rip free of his loosened grip on his collar and dash off into the crowd for dear life.
As he regained his composure, Chelsea turned, staring at the path that Ed had just shoved through confused, angry-looking partygoers, many of which’s drinks were spilled out onto the ground. He glanced back at the table behind him, looking at the broken bottle and scattered unused Solo cups that his thrashing Ed against the table had rendered.
Then, CK’s face screwed into as his fury spiked again, his teeth baring and all of his muscles tensing as he swung his head back in the direction that Ed had disappeared into.
If there was any doubt in what CK had said before — which there hadn’t been — it was certainly fucking gone now; this kid was really, literally, actually fucking dead.
Running completely on instinct, Chelsea took off, his long, muscled legs and the speed he’d acquired through football training allowing him to cover ground quickly. He paid no regard to the people around him, who he shoved down or forced his way through with his shoulders or barreled over; he was in a blind sort of rage, with tunnel vision completely focused on the boy who still was not in sight as he followed the path of confused-looking partygoers and left destruction in his wake.
CK came to the back door just as it was swinging shut, and he let out a scoff, knowing that the backyard was where it all fucking ended. Shoving open the door with a shove of the muscular shoulder, Chelsea’s eyes immediately zeroed in on his target, who was trying to make a desperate getaway toward the fence.
Without thinking, CK rushed him, going full-force toward the boy. Leaping forward and grasping the kid’s shoulders, he tackled him to the ground. There was a loud CRACK!, and something gave way beneath CK as he wrestled the kid to get him to face him, but nothing but adrenaline, the victory of finally having captured the little bastard, and the anticipation of finally getting to let out the night’s fucking fury were coursing through his veins.
When he managed to finally get Ed to face him, though, something felt fucking off; the kid was already screaming, as if in pain, and already seemed like he was losing his fucking mind. This only angered and confused CK, and in a yell he demanded, “Why the fuck are you flipping out?! I’ve not even fucking done anything yet, you fucking idiot!”
Benji froze. For a few moments, he stood, blinking, as though shocked. AJ heard him breathe a soft “heh”. Check, she thought, her smirk tugging wider, just as Benji’s own mouth pulled into a toothy grin.
Instinctively, Addie stiffened slightly. What, did he think he had something? Or was he just trying to make her think that because he couldn’t accept the fact that he’d just lost this spar?
“Wow…,” he said, nodding slowly, and he looked away and around the room, running a hand through his curls. “You really are a regular reader, AJ. Consider me taken aback.”
She managed to mask much of her confusion, instead silently watching him, her smirk fading from her face, her green eyes scrutinizing every detail of his face as she tried to determine just what the hell he was doing.
His lips shifted into a pout. “But, you know…I really am flattered that you went through all this trouble.” His voice was riddled with an almost cockiness — a confidence, or a satisfaction.
The tension between them was palpable, and growing by the second, like a beast that had gained a spirit and mind of its own, and Addie’s heart pattered in double-time. No, AJ. Fucking calm it. Breathing in as deep and sure of a breath as she could manage, she pressed her tongue to the roof of her mouth, swallowing and attempting to also swallow any insecurity she was feeling. No, doubting herself was the point of his ploy here; there was no way he had actually figured something out.
“Must have been torture escorting some dickwad jock to the party…when all you can think about is the brooding skater boy leaning against the wall.”
A shock ran up AJ’s spine as Benji’s hand lifted to her cheek, then moved to rub her diamond earring. She glanced at his arm, followed it up to his face, practically holding her breath. With a smirk, Benji let go of her earring and delivered what he surely thought was the finishing blow:
“Are you that desperate for my attention?”
AJ’s heart rate spiked, her stomach flopping in its place. Benji had read her like a book.
But more than defeat, irritation flickered in her mind. Adeline Jumper could take a lot. Call her a bitch, and she would tell you that you were right with a proud smirk on her face. Call her a whore, and she would laugh about it and ask if it was your boyfriend who had told you that. Call her an untalented, life-ruining bottle blonde, and she would do little more than blink at you and ask if you were done exhausting your two poor braincells for insults. But there was one thing that Adeline never was, would never be.
And that thing was desperate.
There was no way she was losing now.
Did he think this was some checkmate moment? Up until now, they had only been playing checkers.
Taming her physical reactions for a moment, Addie let out a soft chuckle, smiling gently. “Oh, Benji…,” she said, in a soft, dreamy voice that was too pleasant to be anything by firmly tongue-in-cheek, “I’m so glad you’re finally seeing it.” She placed a hand on her heart melodramatically, closing her eyes as though her passion made her unable to keep them open. “My whole world revolves around you, Benjamin. I’m so in awe of…” With a dreamy sigh, she looked into his eyes, her slight venom seeping in through her gaze as she feigned some girlish, boy-obsessed nature. “You, Benji. You are the reason I even came tonight — you’re the reason I breathe.” With a giggle, she placed a hand on her cheek with a look of condescending forced-admiration, like an elementary school art teacher gazing upon a student’s scribbled “masterpiece” that looked like little more than a freak crayon accident. “Isn’t that what you wanted to hear?”
As she continued, a bit more of her determination slipped into her tone, of her stubborn self-confidence that didn’t go away, even though it seemed like definite defeat. “Aren’t you so flattered? I mean, this had to be the victory that you were dreaming of, right?” She reached forward, plucking a stray thread off of the side of his shirt and disinterestedly tossing it away. “Catching Adeline right in her tracks! Finally trapping the beast. Are you relishing in this feeling?”
Her palpable sarcasm dared him to answer and made the claim that, no matter what he said, she already expected his response, already knew it five minutes ago. No matter how untrue the claim her façade made was, Adeline gave no hint or inclination that there was anything to doubt about it.
“What do you want me to admit?” she asked, poising up an eyebrow, a prodding smile on her gloss-shellacked lips. “That Mason was a pawn?” She laughed. “Big whoop. We’re sluts, and it was one night, like, literally last semester. He’s a walking definition of trailer trash who tries to act like he’s tough shit when he’s a senior-year-dropout-turned-alleyway-pharmacist waiting to happen, and I’m me. Pick any of the people here, and they would piece together what he was, too: nothing more than a variable to use in a little…” She placed a hand on her chin, tapping her finger for a moment and looking up as though trying to find the right word before casually shrugging. “Experiment,” she concluding breezily.
Stepping closer to Benji and looking up toward him expectantly, as though waiting for an embrace by the doorstep after a date they had never gone on, that neither of them had made any real hint that they were interested in going on — though her expectations were quite obviously not the same as they would be in that moment. “Alright then, Benji,” she said, sighing and frowning in a way that made it seem as though she was forcing a sense of defeat, “I’ll say it: I like to stir shit, just to see what’ll smell. I don’t think that’s news.” A smirk played at her lips again, and she looked away. The words, it seemed, she was trying to make appear easily chosen, like the highly calculated words were little more than puzzle pieces she’d had expectantly waiting by the wayside. “And I was feeling that way tonight. I wanted to just…try something.” She shrugged, poising a hand on her hip, and then she looked back up at Benji, a pout on her face, before looking down at her feet. “So, yes…” She sighed again. “I’ll admit it. Mason was a pawn. You really caught me there.”
When she lifted her eyes again, her demeanor shifted: the feigned defeatedness gave way to her cocky, almost smug victoriousness that was displayed only in its slightest form in the smirk she wore and the twinkling of her green eyes. “And I’ve got a question to ask you, as another observer of this…hm, what did I call it?” She looked up, pretending to think once more, and when her eyes moved back to Benji, her smirk tugged wider. “Experiment, so to speak.”
She paused a moment, looking Benji up and down slowly. Her heart was pounding in her chest. They were so close, almost chest to chest, and there was a frustrated part of her mind that wanted to resign and just lay it out, just to get it over with. Still, her pride kept her from cutting any losses. She was so close, and she could feel it.
So, almost vindictively, she lowered her voice and began, “Did you know that I took Mason home the night we hooked up?”
Her eyes remained steady on his, her words chosen carefully. “My parents weren’t home. I figured why the hell not.” She paused, letting her words sink in, her focus moving from each individual eye to the other as she analyzed the impact of her calculated words. “He woke up in my bed the next morning, and I had to sneak him out of my second story window myself. He’s got no fucking sense of humor, but my God was that funny. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it…”
The things she was saying were bullshit. Mason hadn’t come to her house, or been anywhere around her place. She’d made a vow to herself never to let any hookups see the inside of her room; it was too personal, and there were too many things in there that could be used against her.
She’d refused Benji to come over to her place the one night that it was an option. She’d made some flirtatious comment intended to make the boy a little bit pissed and a little bit more intrigued with her, as most of her comments went. And it had never come up again, but she was sure that he remembered it — or at least, recalled it vaguely.
And yet, Mason “had seen” that part of her. He’s seen more of me than you ever will, she was saying. Does that make you jealous?
“But that was forever ago,” she said, dismissing it as she was sure he was doing in his head, breathing out a soft sigh, and glancing away for a moment. “No…” She looked back to Benji. “…see, but tonight? It was like fate orchestrated this herself.” Her heart was pounding; could Benji feel it? They were so close, so close. “Mason hit me up, was in my dms as if he owned them. And I? Well…I’m a single woman.”
There’s the kicker.
“And so…tonight, he was in my luxury car.” It was true. “The whole ride here, he sat in the passenger seat.” It was true; does that make you jealous? He’s been in my car, and you probably have never even seen the inside of a Mustang. “On our way here, we listened to the music that I played over my speakers, and we talked the whole time. Conversation wasn’t deep, but it was amusing.” He listened to my music, talked to me about something that wasn’t sex when we don’t even do as much; but don’t you want that to yourself?
“And when we got here?” She smiled, lowering her voice even further. “I got out and went right to him. My arm was in his. The two of us walked in together. He walked me in.”
My hands were on him, his on me — there are probably already rumors about he and I. He was seen with me, seen with me publicly, no shame. And what do you and I do?
Her smile widened. “I guess I don’t have to tell you that, though.” She chuckled lowly. “You saw it yourself, observed it just like me.” She didn’t move, didn’t want to be the one to give in and break the tension that had risen to new heights between them, so she purposefully kept her hands to herself, letting her eyes do all the prodding, all the taunting, all the baiting. “So tell me, Benji, because I am so curious: how did my experiment go?”
She cocked her head slightly, glancing away as though realizing that her choice of words weren’t correct. “Or, I guess what I mean is…”
She looked at him again, her eyes trained as though focused on a target; it was clear she was going in for the kill. “What will you do about it, hm?”
There was half a grin plastered on Justin's face that had started when Sydney had waltzed over. At first, he'd thought that his buddy had given up on this whole idea of wearing a cheerleading outfit to the party, and Justin wouldn't have blamed him. It'd make sense, really, because surely nothing good would've come out from being well... dressed like that. But then, Syd flashed them.
Holy shit, he'd really done it.
Syd: the myth, the man, the legend.
He'd worn a freaking cheer uniform to a high school party.
It wasn't hard to read the uncomfortable feeling between Syd and Amy, but Justin was so distracted by the stupid uniform (and perhaps a bit from the alcohol) that he didn't really pick up on it. Plus, after a few minutes of awkward small talk, Amy excused herself, which left Justin with his other bestie.
God, he hadn't even picked up on the total bestie squabble. They'd definitely been fighting over him just a smidgen. Just a wee little bit.
"You gonna go full out?" He asked as he took a sip from his cup, and nodded in the direction of the shorts covering Sydney's probably gorgeous skirt. "Kinda cheating having it half covered, yeah?"
You know how cool people all have catchphrases? Like, uh, ya know…Michael Jackson and his “heehee”, or, uh…well, that was the only one who Syd could think of right now — but you know what he’s talking about, yeah? Syd was thinking he should have one, too. He’d, ya know, tried a few things over the years, but they’d never quite…panned out. Like when he tried “shaboom” as his catchphrase, people would start singing “Life Could Be A Dream”, which, like, I mean, he liked that song, but that wasn’t the point of that. Or, more recently, “straight up”, but Oph and Benji had riffed on it as a gay joke, which was funny, but ya know, they kind of made it their own thing, which meant that it couldn’t be just his, ya know?
But he had a new idea: ”Lemme just nope outta this one.” Pretty catchy, right? And really useful. Especially because, uh…Syd had a knack for digging holes for himself, conversationally speaking, and then having to, ya know, climb his way back out, which was really just a pain in the butt, and honestly, every time that happened, he just kinda found himself thinking, Please God, end my suffering. Really marketable catchphrase, in his opinion. He should totally put it on a t-shirt.
Where was he? Oh, right.
Standing in front of his best friend and crush and a complete stranger, having just flashed them his kinda-stolen-but-we-don’t-talk-about-that cheer uniform top, which he’d worn to a party to get clout with said best friend and crush.
Yeah. Things were just going great. Now, say it with him, kids:
Lemme just nope outta this one.
Unfortunately, though, he was too courteous to actually do as his catchphrase would suggest, and so he just kinda stood there.
"H-hi! Nice to meet you...Sydney? Right?” said the girl. “I’m uh I'm Amy.”
“Amy?” he asked, because at least repeating her name would fill another second of time up. “Dope, dope.”
She looked down at her cup, and then back up at Syd, who found himself just kinda driiifting a little toward Brody. “Yah I think I've seen you around the school before. Total fashionista. You should give me some tips sometimes." She smiled. "And same here. He's one of my best friends too so I guess it's about time we met right?"
That set off another little jealous ticker in Syd’s head. Still, he cleared his throat and tried to dismiss it from his head. “Oh, uh, really?” he asked, forcing a soft little chuckle. “That’s craaaaazy, man. Guess it is about time.”
Somehow, the conversation kept going. Like, kept going. And yeah, the girl seemed really nice, but honestly, he was just begging for the conversation to end.
And finally, it did. After checking her phone, Amy finally said, "Hey I'll catch you guys in a bit ok? I've gotta go say hi to a friend." Then, with a smile, she turned to Brody and gave him a hug. "Thanks again for everything. Text me when you're ready to dip out."
What makes you think he’s riding with you? Syd asked, turning his head away to give a self-indulgent scowl while his friend and his friend’s friend hugged one another.
When he turned his head back to Amy, he slipped back into “friendly best friend Syd” mode, holding up a hand and giving a polite wave.
She waved goodbye to him, too. "Hope we can hang out sometime,” she said.
He gave her a polite smile. “Yeah, hope so,” he agreed disingenuously, dropping his hand.
Look, Syd wasn’t some kinda territorial dog, ya know? He wasn’t super possessive and creepy. Like, his friend was allowed to have other friends — more than allowed to, ya know? But there was something that got him a little bit — not much, but a little, just a little — about Brody being so…close with someone else.
Especially, ya know…a girl, since the guy was kinda into that sorta thing.
Still, Brody liked her, so Syd had to act like he felt anything but a mild jealousy toward her. Turning to Brody but still following Amy with his eyes, he said, “She seemed, uh…” Nice would sound unconvincing, so he turned to Brody and gave him a thumb up. “Pretty cool.” With a grin, he added, “She at least understands fashion.”
There, that’s all that needs to be said about it. Now let’s just act like that never happened.
"You gonna go full out?" Brody asked, sipping from his cup, and he nodded down at Syd’s loose cargo shorts, which he’d made a poor attempt at keeping on himself via a pair of old earphone tied as a belt. "Kinda cheating having it half covered, yeah?"
Syd shook his head, chuckling. “Hey, the only thing we betted on was me wearing it to the party,” he said with a confident grin, tugging his waistband away from the skirt beneath to flash it at Brody. (Internally, he was cursing himself for going through with this in the first place.) With a shrug, he casually let go of the waistband and retightened the earphones around his waist. “If you wanna see more, ya gotta pay the price, man,” he said breezily, “ ‘cuz I don’t think just a week of meals’ll cut it for this kinda fashion show.” Proud at his word-smithing and extortion skills, Syd paused, proudly crossing his arms and giving a sure nod.
It was in his pause that he realized how what he’d just said sounded, and he opened his eyes and blinked a couple of times with a start, glancing around. Holding up a forefinger finger defensively, he said, “Aaaaaaaaaand, yeah, okay, before you say anything, I definitely realize that it kinda seems like I’m a little bit of, like, a cheap stripper right now, with the whole…” He popped out his shoulder and swayed a little bit in his best stripper impersonation, giving a come hither curl of his finger. “…if ya wanna see more, big boy, then you gotta pay…” He slumped his shoulder again, crossing his arms determinedly. “…routine… but my point stands.” He placed a hand on his hip and held out a palm, though his request wasn’t necessarily for monetary pay. “You wanna see the goods, ya gotta give me somethin’ good in return.”
He gave a sure nod of approval for his own speech, and then grinned at Brody. “So whatcha got? C’mon, sway me," said the mild-mannered boy who was perpetually more concerned with saving his own ass than doing anything else, knowing full well that nothing could really sway him at all.
Ed's quivering body lunged forward, making a desperate grab for the freedom of the night's air. Somehow, all the could think about in that split second was the weed he had so regretfully jettisoned at the base of the drink table. It was better than CK snatching it and burning his arm with it or something, so he let the thought go as he made a break for the fence.
Before he could even make it halfway, the weight of his consequences struck his back and sent him to the ground with a sharp, violent snap. For no more than a fraction of a fraction of a second, the world seemed to stand still, all noise muffled by the echoed thumping in Ed's ears. Something was on top of him, and as the short boy came to that realization, an intense ache began to set in.
He let out a desperate gasp for air, squeezing his eyes shut as his mind raced to detect the source of his pain. It grew by the second, centralizing around his left leg, which was covered by dirt-coated slacks. First, he was winded, unable to produce a sound thanks to the feeling of his stomach being constricted into a knot. Words still escaped him as he finally grunted and groaned, hyperventilating instead of releasing the sharp cries welling in his throat. He reached to clutch his lower leg, but his path was obstructed by the raging footballer raising his fist in the air.
And then, the pain continued to develop as the shock slowly subsided, slipping away into a warm, burning intensity. "F-fuck!" he yowled, shrieking unintelligibly for the punishment placed on his leg. CK's furious shouts fell on deaf ears as Ed laid in a pool of his own agony, releasing dry, whiny sobs. "What did you do?" he moaned frantically, his head falling to the ground defeatedly.
"What did you do, you fucking dumbass!?" he hollered again, his better judgment eclipsed by the extreme torment of having a giant, muscular man seated atop his broken body, "Get off me! Get off! Now! Please! Get off!" He repeated himself over and over, begging for relief from an ache he couldn't even begin to compare to any other. No soccer sprain, nor any rolled ankle had ever felt this bad to Ed.
"You killed me!" he wailed, beating his fist on the ground. No threat from CK mattered anymore, because all he could focus on was his leg and how it literally felt like it was about to explode in a haze of blood, flesh, and bone. "You're a piece of shit! I hate you! Look at what you did! Look!" He kept slamming his fist into the dirt, weeping tearlessly as he waited for this nightmare to dissipate into mist.
"SOMEBODY CALL THE COPS, HE'S KILLING ME!"
What would he do now? Would his legs fall off? Now CK was the least of his worries toward getting with Mer, and then he'd die of loneliness all because this stupid, self-centered prick decided to start wailing on him because of his anger issues. It wasn't fair. Ed deserved better. The world owed him, dammit, and now he was being kicked to the ground and sat upon like a mongrel.
Under his breath, he whimpered, "Where's Evie..." And then he said it again, weakly, straight to his assailant. "Where is my sister?" She would murder him and Ed would finally be vindicated. And then Ed would get a ride home. Then sleep. Then wake up to a new day where none of this happened.
"Royals! Royals! Ro-" Angel's shouts were cut short when Mercedes rushed into the group's formation late, stepping on the toe of Angel's sneaker in the process. "OUCH!" the brunette cried out, dropping one of her pompoms as Mer mouthed an apology. Angel gave her fellow cheerleader a glare as she reached down to retrieve the prop, making a mental note that Mercedes was paying to get her white shoes cleaned before jumping back into the routine (flawlessly, duh).
After a few more mediocre cheers, they were instructed to take their break time and Angel wasted no time heading to the bench to grab her makeup bag. What? Cheerleading is hard work so sometimes makeup needs to be fixed. Do you expect her to look like shit when she has an audience? No way. ~ And yes, she tells herself every game that the fans are there just for her. Why wouldn't she? She is the main character here...obviously.
As Angel reapplied the perfect shade of red to her lips, some of the other girls had started a game of smash or pass and roped her in "Seriously? Pass. He's not even that hot and I honestly don't get why all the girls are into that whole brooding, bad boy thing anyway," Angel shook her head in reference to the name they had given her.
Of course, Mason Rivera was "that hot" but he was also the older brother of one of her friends and she wasn't lying about the broody thing either. It was so played out and not her type at all. Plus, he had a kid, and like...kids loved Angel but she wasn't trying to be anyone's stepmom or something at sixteen.
Angel slipped the cap back on her lipstick and dropped it into the small bag, zipping it up and looking out towards the field. Who was she going to ask about in this little game? Ryder? Amir? Artie? Ooooh, what about-- She didn't have time to decide before she was suddenly being picked up from behind provoking a squeal.
"What an incredible move by Angelina Cruz!" ~ As soon as Angelina's feet hit the ground she spun around to face Atlas, shoving his shoulder with a decent amount of force. "You could've dropped me, you idiot!" she reprimanded though the smile on her face countered the scolding as she took a step back. Sure, Angel might've acted a certain way but she loved the attention... All kinds of attention. Sue her.
"I'd ask if you're enjoying the game but it's kind of a shit show," she rolled her eyes, looking over to the football field. What? She wasn't impressed. This was HOMECOMING. They should've been putting on a show but instead, the cheerleaders were the main attraction...if you asked Angel. Not that anyone was.
"Oh my gooood, I'm so ready to get out of here and go to this party! It's going to be ten times better without Mr. Nelson hovering over people the whole time. Whoever drew those dicks all over the school deserves an award for getting this thing a change of location, in my opinion," she laughed.
"And we are gonna take sooo many videos for my TikTok tonight too," she warned him, pulling out her phone and opening the app to their last video together. One of them doing that dumb best friends trend where they pose to different parts of that TWINNEM song or whatever. "This got tons of views and I'm almost to fifty thousand followers," she added, totally not gloating...what? It wasn't even a big deal. She just thought it was kinda cool. Shut up.
"We are still going together, right? I turned down like two dates for this whole going-to-homecoming-with-friends thing" Angel asked, her brown eyes flickering back in his direction as she said it.
The idiot sitting next to Liv must've been having a lucky day because anything he'd been ready to spew was cut short by Liv and Evie's conversation. "In love? Are you delusional? We dated for like six months, Liv, that's hardly long enough to fall in love in the first place and even if it was..." Evelyn's words trailed off for a brief moment as she looked back in Nate's direction. "I assure you that I don't love Nathan," she added, abruptly turning back to face Liv.
Of course, the brunette was lying. She knew it, Liv knew it, but what was she supposed to say? 'Oh, Liv, you're soooo right. I'm in love with Nathan and your profound words have made me realize I should go get him back.'? Yeah, right! Okay, sure, so there wasn't some big cheating scandal and she hadn't broken up with him ultimately over the drugs, well, it was kinda the drug thing...
He said he was clean and Liv seemed to believe it but there wasn't much credibility in that vouching. Plus, the last time he'd said that and Evie believed him, he'd been lying to her face the whole time. She just couldn't trust him and she definitely wouldn't watch him ruin his life any further with fucking coke and shit. Even if she had been willing to, he fucking up and moved back to Kansas without a second thought.
Evie's shift in conversation seemed to work though and she didn't have to rehash that in her mind...so she thought. “But… what are you wearing? You gotta look like a knockout– I mean, you always do but Nate’s gonna be there, and–” Liv suddenly dove into her phone, no doubt working on her master plan to try and get Evie back with Nate.
It was ridiculous. She'd definitely gotten the "not-gonna-happen" memo because Evie made it a point to hand deliver it but Liv was Liv. She did her own thing, much to Evelyn's dismay. "Nate isn't invited," she said nonchalantly before moving on as if it wasn't a huge deal.
"You're a terrible liar... How could you forget to buy a dress? Jesus, Liv. What? Were you gonna show up in something from Forever21," she rolled her eyes in obvious disgust. "You have to be more prepared. What if I didn't have anything for you to wear?" she added with a frustrated groan, Liv knew Evie enough to know better though.
As expected, she is a fashion goddess after all, Evelyn was able to find Liv a brilliant dress from her collection. It was a gorgeous shade of blue, one that perfectly complimented her skin tone and made her almost glow. The sleeveless cut was flattering, plus, it was a shorter style so it felt spirited and fun which also...felt very Liv.
Once they were all dolled up and ready to go, and after she made her idiot brother swap his hideous sweater for a nice dress shirt, the three of them hade piled into Evelyn's car and headed for the Gardner residence. Unfortunately, the ride was anything but peaceful between Liv's rambling and Ed's constant bickering, and not even the music could drown them out.
Finally, as they pulled into the driveway of the large house, Evie slammed on her breaks causing her two passengers to slide forward a bit. She threw out a slew of insults and threats in her brother's direction as he exited the vehicle, rubbing her left temple once he was finally gone. "I need tequila..." Evie groaned.
To say Amy was glad to get out of that very uncomfortable conversation was the understatement of the year. She somehow couldn't shake the feeling that it was awkward for more reasons then just the random cheer flashing bit. To bad she couldn't put her finger on it because that would mean reflecting on herself and her emotions...and nope.
All fun! This year was going to be drama free!
fingers crossed at least.
Her face lit up as she spoke up, "I'm glad you did!" she replied to his who possibly not coming thing. Truly it'd have been a shame because she liked hanging out with Alex a lot. Tho typically this wasn't their scene to be hanging out in. Which made her all the more excited he'd still come out.
Sure she was trying to be more out there this year, but she already knew she'd fail without the support of her friends. Because let's be real, if they said they'd rather hang out at home or away from all this she'd say yes in a heartbeat .
She shook her head, "Of course not, you look great! Honestly I think I'm underdressed. Do you see some of these girls? It's like a runway show or something. And to think if it wasn't for that whole glue thing I'd have come in shorts..." She bit her lip nervously before taking a sip of her drink.
It was oddly calming because well if she could get tipsy her anxiety would start to fade and that was something to look forward too.
"But anyways, how've you been?" She asked curiously. "Did you go to the game?"
Benji fancied himself rather clever for his play, because he knew no matter what stunt Addie would pull next, there was no refuting the desires that drove her to this moment. Her smile melted onto the floor in leisurely rivulets, feeding into the immense gratification that goaded her curly-haired adversary onward. She hadn't conceded defeat yet, and that was something Benji certainly had to applaud her for. Her fortitude was unmatched.
He hardly glanced at her face as he lightly traced the edge of her earring, plastering a ruminative spirit over the excitement swelling below the surface of his skin. When he dropped what he had presumed to be the finishing blow, Addie merely chuckled inwardly, fluttering her eyes like the split personality of a movie character. She was cornered this time; Benji was sure of it. No one would be able to tell just how nasty a threatened AJ would be, which made the wait all the more compelling.
She was being difficult now, lacing her every word with a sarcastic bite Benji couldn't all the way refute. Yeah, the claim that she was obsessed was outrageous, because she was Adeline Jumper, who was anything but desperate. And for who, allegedly? Him? This would not be an easy trial for neither the judge nor the jury, or the press taking their positions all around them. Prying eyes had witnessed Mason come and go and had yet to see the depths this one-on-one would sink to.
Addie continued on, beating at a long-dead horse only to grate on Benji's nerves more. I get your point, he thought while rolling his eyes not once, not twice, but three times as she continued her performance, accentuating her dreamy words with overly-theatrical gesturing. "You're the reason I breathe," she would say, shooting heart-shaped daggers straight toward his skull, to which he would let out an exasperated sigh.
The unmoved junior stopped showing resistance, and merely agreed with her. If she was going to be so convincing, why not take the compliment? He smiled sourly, silently deriding her with narrowed eyes. But, to even Benji's surprise, she continued on, and he had to ask himself what answer he truly was looking for. How was he supposed to know? Who even thinks that far ahead? Well...
With a conceited blasé, Addie plucked a thread off Benji's tee. He was confused at first, furrowing his brows until he realized this was a part of her game. It was the little things that pecked at his guard, throwing him off balance with small, subtle acts of stuck-up savoir-vivre. He kept his cool, chuckling with disbelief. Had he an ounce more gall, he'd have stopped the girl right there, crudely cutting in and slicing her words in two with a self-assured refutation.
Instead he played nice, because there were rules to battles of wits and he wasn't going to admit defeat by breaking them. "I know better than to oversimplify your antics," he responded coolly, waiting for a break in Addie's speech, "Just wanted confirmation is all. You know what you're doing, and I know your type." Heh. Double entendre. "Admit it."
It was no question that Addie would hurl back a defensive retort, but Benji was intrigued to find that she had evolved to tearing apart her earlier, less sophisticated plan of using Mason to start conflict. He couldn't entirely say what it meant, though it smelled like progress. That was, granted, this conversation was even going anywhere.
Benji winced when Mason was called trailer trash not because he felt bad for the guy, but because it very easily could have been himself had the situation been different. To people like Adeline, everyone below her mommy and daddy's tax bracket was destitute. It was one reason of many why it took so long to bring her home, but it was a conveniently empty spot and he had a cool enough room that, hey, the sound and lights of the busy street outside weren't all that big a deal. Still, there was no forgetting just how fundamentally different the two of them were even under the masquerade of an impassioned night.
"Yeah, didn't think you were in the business of stepmotherhood," he remarked, faltering. He could brush off the class issue for the moment, but the guilt never went away. Nevertheless, it was the cheerleader's multidimensionality that helped sculpt her understated mystery. "Your tastes are a bit more... yay high..." Benji raised a hand—predictably level with the top of his head—while spitting out his words with a cocky playfulness, "...intelligent... fun... discreet." Right? Isn't that what you wanted?
He had stepped a bit back into his head as the latent image of Mason and Addie doing anything made itself clearer, burning into the forefront of his mind like a blowtorch to wood. That's what she was doing last year? Screwing Mason, essentially throwing all dignity to the wind? Was that the girl he, on a fluke, met before all this started? There was no question that the two of them slept around on the odd Tuesday afternoon long before their acquaintance, but the blunt admission gave a dull reminder that the two of them were still virtual strangers out in the real world.
And just as Benji's patience began to wane, now the word "experiment" was being thrown around, like everyone was supposed to be some lowly subject in this demoness' lab of hell. He could do nothing but prop up an incredulous look on his face, nodding knowingly as she dragged her point with tooth and claw, taking her time because she knew it made him all the more reliant on her every last word. He craved their meaning, clutching onto them with the hope that her inner workings would become crystal clear.
"Okay..." His voice was a murmur, leaving room for the blonde to continue enlightening him. "Ask away," he invited, letting go of his impatience so as to seem carefree and without concern. They were close enough that he could just press his lips forward and end it all. In fact, had he done that five minutes ago, the night probably would have gone like any other night. They'd have done what they came to do, said their goodbyes, and gone about their very, very separate lives. But, much like time, Benji stood still, his eyes on hers and her eyes on his.
“Did you know that I took Mason home the night we hooked up?”
That little... What the fuck? Just how many surprises did she have tucked under her sleeve? For such a relentless person, Adeline was the opposite of direct. She was deluded and she was sick and she was twisted, but never did the thought cross Benji's mind that she would take anyone home before him. Who did she think she was? After clearing up an instinctual jaw drop, his deeply reflective eyes turned a shade of shock and disgust.
He didn't know what to say. Nothing else in her story mattered, and that was apparent based on how blankly he stared right through her, the gears in his mind turning to process a boatload of new, earth-shattering information. She had been to his place, and while he was fine with that slight imbalance, for some classless jerk to just waltz into her place like nothing? Benji's lip curled up with repugnance, resenting the arrogant, tight-lipped, flannel-wearing motherfucker who couldn't even appreciate the shit he didn't deserve in the first place.
A primal urge screamed to fight for her, to tear, rip, and rend in the throes of an animalistic teenage hierarchy he had ridiculed for years. It was a piece of his core being, and now some tired-out cheerleader-footballer combo was going to make him question every value he had once pledged so deeply in his soul. How was that fair? He was so horrified but so excited, releasing long, deep breaths and staring pensively as he fought to rationalize the absolute, utter balderdash being spouted at his face.
"But that was forever ago," Addie quickly dismissed, yanking Benji from his thoughts.
"No, it wasn't. That was this same year," he snarled, more annoyed by the downplaying of the truth rather than the actual truth of it. But he had to breathe, like really breathe, because the last thing he could do would be to give in so easily. He was better than that, and the true experiment was only just now in full swing. At least, he didn't know it had already ended the moment those words left her mouth.
But there were more. Most of them faded into static, more or less useless chatter that wrapped itself around the heart of Addie's intentions. The words "single woman" flew into the mix, to which Benji let out an automatic laugh. Honest to god, right in her face. She was funny! He couldn't help himself, not when the only thing keeping him sane was the quiet laughter escaping him. Oh, what now? Was she going to admit to giving Mason a handy before the party right in that stupid car Benji himself hadn't the invitation to ride in?
The rest of her story was recent history, all of it unravelling into a long, premeditated plan that shone clear as daylight. Someone here was a fool, and it wasn't going to be Benji. He saw right through it and now Addie was covering her tracks with a bunch of flowery, inflammatory bullshit. God, it made him so mad, but he felt more of anything than he had in months.
It was his turn now. She was waiting, hands to herself and cool as a cucumber. Nothing new; she liked sitting up on that high horse, waiting for every single person to wait at her beck and call, not for a lack of success in truth. The energy balled up in Benji's fists stabilized, softening his gaze while he finished the tail end of his contemplation.
He shrugged, dismissing the question. "I've always had a thing for blondes, against my better judgment," he began, the raw emotion inside charging his resolve, "That's why that day, I let you 'beguile' me. I allowed you the satisfaction of being approached, because I knew you were just waiting for it. You're the type of girl who tries so, so hard not to try at all." He shook his head to simulate pity. "But I didn't care about pride, because you're blonde and pretty and like the attention enough to string me along."
In fact, it was only supposed to be a one-time thing. That was the subtext of it, at least. "And then you..." No, not Benji. Her. It takes two to tango, and she very well could have left it at that. "You came back for more. You always pretend that it's nothing, but I know you can't keep your eyes off me in the halls. It kills you that someone who plays your game could bend the rules like that." He grinned, his entire being dripping with warped delight. "And like it's nothing, too."
Everything was heating up, almost like the floor had been at a standstill until this point. The two were dancing a reckless, intense tango. "Good job, you win. You got a rise out of me because, surprise," he whispered, throwing up jazz hands, "I care about some things." He couldn't stop now. Suddenly, he had more to say than there was time for. "If you wanted me to spell everything out like a kindergarten teacher, we could have just done that. I didn't know you were so antsy about all this." He smirked, tilting his head ever so slightly. "Which changes a few things."
He pinched his nose and drooped his head downward, laughing through his psychological fatigue. "Now I know for sure that, uh, you're fucking crazy." The hushed laughter eventually subsided, but not after a few long, ragged breaths. "And I like that. I like when you're not 2-D, like your favorite father-of-one houseguest." His heart hurt a little for that, but it was worth the look on her face. "And if I'd known you had such an empirical interest in my hand-holding philosophy..."
There it was. His heart was pounding. No matter how confident he was, it meant nothing if he couldn't say what the both of them were waiting to let out. How cruel was it that she had left it to him? "Well, Adeline, I'd have told you to be somebody and make a move."
The violent, painful screams of the boy beneath him — which so far were yet to be proved to be anything but completely melodramatic and unwarranted — disarmed CK for a moment. Ed was writing a bit, his eyes squeezed together as though he were in pain, and appeared to be struggling for air. CK watched him, growing more and more confused (and therefore more and more pissed) the longer he watched the display. Had he genuinely already been hurt by a fucking tackle? Or was he just pulling the little fucking bitch move of faking pain to get away.
“Talk,” Chelsea demanded sharply, dropping his fist.
“F-fuck!” Ed shrieked, making a series of sounds of crying and pain. “What did you do?” As CK watched with a confused disgust, the boy’s head fell back to the ground, his face contorted in pain. Ed seemed to struggle to speak for a few moments, his voice overtaken by little sobs, and then, with a sudden forcefulness, he yelled, “What did you do, you fucking dumbass!? Get off of me! Get off! Now! Please! Get off!”
With a sigh, CK stood up from his position on Ed’s legs and lower body. He looked down at Ed with a furious expression that silently demanded an explanation.
Ed beat a fist on the ground. ”You killed me! You're a piece of shit! I hate you! Look at what you did! Look!" he wailed, his words dissolving into more cries.
“Will you shut the fuck up?” CK demanded. “Just what the fuck are you going on ab…”
As Ed writhed again, CK’s eyes flickered down to the boy’s leg — and then anchored themselves there, captured by the very obvious injury. Chelsea’s anger dissipated, overwhelming him with a sense of regret, and the color drained from his face. “Shit,” he mumbled. He stared at it blankly for a few moments, feeling his heart pounding in his chest — thud, thud, thud.
What the fuck had he just done?
Muttering “shit,” CK knelt down on the ground, almost robotically, in a sort of trance-like autopilot as he tried to convince himself that it was a trick of the light, perhaps, and that there was no fucking way that he did that — not tonight, not right now.
"SOMEBODY CALL THE COPS, HE'S KILLING ME!" screamed the boy as CK reached out to pull up Ed’s pants leg.
“Will you shut the hell up?” Chelsea commanded in an oddly sort of calm way, his brows knit in concentration as he studied the leg.
Before he had lifted Ed’s pants leg, CK could tell that the ankle of the boy was bent at an odd angle. Now, though, he saw that it wasn’t just a broken or twisted ankle: a few inches above the ankle, his leg seemed to suddenly give way, causing his foot and the lower portion of his calf to slump down at an unnatural angle, and CK knew had to mean that it was his leg that was broken. “God fucking…”
Ed whimpered something to himself, and Chelsea moved his stern, focused gaze to Ed’s face. “Where is my sister?” the younger boy asked weakly.
Chelsea stood and glanced around, and when he didn’t immediately spot Evie, he responded, rather calmly, “I don’t know where your sister is.” If she were here, she would be beating his fucking ass, so he considered himself, though certainly a victim of fate tonight, to be receiving at least a slight bit of pity from the force. He looked down at Ed, studying the kid’s face, and then he slowly looked around again, trying to regulate his breathing.
CK didn’t see anyone immediately around him — no witnesses to have viewed the brutal takedown of the little Sinclaire dickwad, save for said the little Sinclaire dickwad himself. Realistically speaking, it would be possible for him to make a getaway, to not have to deal with anymore of Ed’s shit or with the fallout of this action for at least the night — probably even until Monday. He could leave Ed outside here, near the fence. The kid couldn’t do much moving, couldn’t really do much but yell for help, which would be drowned out by the noise and the frenzy of the party going on inside. And then, someone would come out to smoke, would hear him, would tell Ed’s sister, and by the then, CK would be in bed, sound asleep, having left Mer to ride home with someone else because fuck it, there was no way he could handle the stress of driving her home, too. That way…
No, he thought, stopping his fantasy short. It was a nice thought to consider — getting off scott-free for the shit that he’d done — but he couldn’t do that. Not because he felt sympathy for the boy on the ground — he still maintained that the little bastard was asking for it — but because he had been the one to do that to the kid, and duty dictated that he be the one to clean up his own mess. That was something deeply encoded into Chelsea’s framework, something inseparable from him, the very force that drove him: duty. And even though he was never quite elated to follow its whims, he couldn’t just forsake it.
He stooped back down beside Ed. “Hold still,” he commanded. Silent, he forced one forearm behind the boy’s back and the other beneath his knees, and he easily picked the boy up, the only difficulty originating from the boy’s actions himself. “Come on,” he said. “Let’s go.”
With no further explanation, Chelsea carried the boy bridal style out to his car, walking around the house so as to avoid gaining any witnesses to the debacle. Praying that he had forgotten to unlock his car, he yanked the passenger door; thankfully, it opened. Bending at the waist, he sat Ed in the seat, and once he had settled him, he began to buckle him in himself as though Ed were a little kid. “I don’t have a fucking booster seat,” he grunted, “so you’ll just have to deal with it until we get to the ER.”
With that, he slammed Ed’s car door and made his way over to his own, pulling his phone out to send a quick text to Mer to find her own ride home before opening the door, throwing himself inside, and turning the key in the ignition.
Well, he'd found her, but he'd suddenly realized that he hadn't really thought much past the polite introduction phase of the night. Perhaps he should've talked to Artie about this before getting to this point. They were always a lot better about this -- about the whole girl thing.
"Do you have something other than root beer?" she asked. "I've been abysmally sober for that entire game."
"Huh?" was Xander's only response, and then his eyes lit up as her words really washed over him. Oh. Sober. So she was one of those girls -- the kind that liked to get a little fucked up every now and again at parties. He could definitely get behind that.
Even if, well, Xander himself wasn't the biggest partier. Yeah, yeah, surprise coming from a character brought to you by Winona, but yes, Xander had never really enjoyed getting fucked up at parties or by himself or anything of the matter. Alcohol was okay, but he didn't see the point after his first hangover. Drugs were too dangerous -- he didn't want to potentially die. And sure, he'd dabble in weed on occasion, but it had never been some kind of crutch for him.
Luckily, Artie happened to be kind of the opposite from their more lowkey brother -- which meant that Xander had learned plenty about alcohol and drinks and just the whole gosh darn shebang. So he gave a nod of his head before taking a few steps towards the drinks area.
"What're you into?" He asked, leaning against the counter as he spoke. "Uhh... like... alcohol -- what alcohol are you into? We've got ahh..." he picked up a random bottle, squinting at it far too hard. "Whiskey?"
Yeah! She was looking for the bathroom in the backyard.
Because that made total sense.
You’re so stupid, you’re so stupid, you’re so fucking–
“Oh! I– uh, someone had pointed me in this direction, so…” An uneasy laugh escaped her, a hand tapping the temple of her head, rolling her eyes and making light of the situation before he could believe Mer had gone completely insane.
“Are you... do you need someone to look for it with you?”
The slightest hint of a smirk quirked up and Mercedes had gotten a glint in her eye, somehow her idiotic self had given her some alone-time with Matty. “Actually, yeah, I think I do… if you don’t mind?” She had forcibly dropped the smirk into a pout of sorts, pulling out the innocent act, and maybe there was a flutter or two with her eyelashes.
What? It was her specialty! It had gotten her to the party, it gotten her out of trouble a number of times– Mercedes had definitely gotten that look down. She couldn’t think of one time where it hadn’t–
”You did what?!” Her father exclaimed, a hand gripping the kitchen counter hard enough his knuckles had turned white.
Her mother had one of those… disapproving stares, it was clear she was wine-drunk, so it was hard to tell if she was actually upset, or just pretending to be for the sake of her father.
Mercedes opened her mouth to speak, “Stole.” Deirdre said before she could get another word out and the girl’s shoulders shrunk, putting her head down.
“Mercedes Amélie Camus– stealing? W-wh–wha–” Her father was speechless and with a cautious look towards her mother, Mercedes was quick to defend herself.
“It was a mistake! I didn’t know the sunglasses were in my bag–”
“So how did they get there in the first place–”
“Don’t.” Her father’s voice raised, somehow louder, soft and stern at the same time. He always found himself holding back against Mercedes when her brothers would usually… bear the brunt of his punishments.
“You’re lucky they aren’t pressing charges, if your mother hadn’t known the owner–”
“I don’t want to hear excuses,” He held out a palm and Mercedes blinked in confusion, awaiting for him to continue.
“What?! No! How will I get anywhere? What about school? Cheer practice?”
“CK will drive you.”
“Hand it over.”
A stillness sat in the room and Mercedes didn’t move an inch, giving up her car would be like giving up her freedom– and she had already had so little of it! Granted, maybe… the sunglasses didn’t end up in her bag by mistake.
If the clerk had just brushed it off and had taken the credit card she pulled out– all would be fine! But no, somehow, they had a grudge against making a potential sale.
“Now.” The softness in his tone disappeared completely when he raised his voice for the last time, loud enough to where Mercedes had visibly flinched and reluctantly reached into her bag to hand over the keys.
Fine. There was one time where it didn’t work.
She had a 90% success rate–
Matty had agreed and Mercedes had contained her excitement to boldly take him by the hand and lead him back into the house.
Make that success rate 92.1%
Or… however statistics work.
Once they’d made it inside, Mercedes had let go of his hand because… wouldn’t want him to think anything or something– But realistically, Mercedes wanted him to think something– she wanted him to think just about anything that involved her.
But she couldn’t make it so obvious!
Crushes were cruel sometimes.
They made you insane– and that’s already weighing the idea that Mercedes was sane before Matty even existed in those little heart-eyes of hers. “So, are you having fun?” She asked, taking a very long sip of her drink for… liquid courage, of course.
The burn in her chest had only strengthened that argument.
The pair had woven and weaved their way through the many party-goers, a mixture of cheerleaders, football players and wallflowers alike, many drunk, many not. They didn’t pay too much attention to Matty & Mer despite having them in their way.
She had seen a pair of girls walk past them and opened a door to a room– a room that was most definitely the bathroom.
“We should look upstairs, it’s way too crowded down here.”
"Yeah, yeah," Justin said absently, waving a free hand in the direction that Amy had just wandered off to. "She's... she's real nice. Real cool. You two'd probably get along," he continued absently.
There wasn't really any truth or reason behind Justin's words. Sure, they probably would get along, but not for any real specific reason. It'd just felt like the right thing to say at the moment, although Justin was lovely focused on the spectacle in front of him -- and wondering how exactly he'd ended up friends with someone that would actually show up wearing a cheer uniform to a party.
The way that Sydney said if he'd want to see more, he'd have to pay earned a snort of laughter and a shake of his head from Justin. "You're real funny, little dude," he said, but he'd bite. So Justin swallowed the last of what was in his cup, and then set it on the counter beside him before he crossed his arms over his chest and looked back to Syd.
"But alright," he agreed. "Name your price. Money or some shit? Whatever it is, I pay, and you gotta ditch the rest of..." he gestured to Syd's little outfit. "Everything that's not cheer uniform."
Before Liv could question and ramble on about why Nate wasn’t invited, Evie was quick to scold her over the fact that Liv had forgotten to get a dress, but she didn’t defend herself.
Liv didn’t really know what to say, so she sorta just sulked as Evie continued to go on and on about dress options, choices and proceeded to ask her about a certain color she’d like to wear.
Liv didn’t really care all that much.
Which kinda stinked like, a lot because she used to love parties… for reasons, obviously. Parties were filled with alcohol, drugs, and… there was dancing. She could dance, that might be fun?
She had nobody to dance with.
Nate wasn’t coming, Evie was bound to be busy with parties guests and boys vying her attention the entire night, Liv and Artie were on… not great terms.
But thankfully not on bad terms!
It was all just–
Evie’s rant was cut off by sprinklers turning on and Liv flinched in surprise, lifting her hand to shield herself from the water for only but a moment before the rest of the crowd had their own plans, reaching into coolers near them and launching balloons towards each other.
The guy who had previously bumped into Liv had raised a balloon towards the two girls, Evie had shot him a look and that was enough for him to change targets.
Her friend was quick to move, but Liv… not so much.
The brunette had made a move to reach into the cooler and was yanked backwards by her tank-top.
“No.” Evie said, dragging her off.
“Wha– oh, come on! You’re such a–”
She wasn’t going to finish that sentence.
Actually– no, she was.
The car ride over wasn’t quiet whatsoever, between Ed’s bickering with Evie, Liv kept finding an excuse to bring Nate up, and Evie just kept telling her how expensive the dress was as if Liv couldn’t really afford it in the first place–
Which, of course she could…
But, maybe since the whole OD thing, her money has been more limited than usual.
Her parents had to usually OK purchases just to make sure that her daughter wasn’t doing an illegal drug deal, which is super weird because why the heck would Liv purchase oxy with a debit card?
Maybe she’s making light of things and that’s probably not what they thought, but… she was getting real tired of being treated like she couldn’t handle herself around drugs.
Liv was clean.
Liv was doing great.
The whole dress dilemma? The lowest of lows? Over-dramatic as ever.
When they arrived, Evie was off doing hostess things and Ed was… doing Ed things. They weren’t really the closest but Liv didn’t mind all too much, she thought they had a pretty nice relationship.
Like the brother she never had and all that.
“Hey, Liv! Want a drink?” Some guy who looked totally familiar offered a red solo cup to her, standing near a keg and Liv smiled, reaching for the drink and hesitating.
“Um, I’m okay, thanks…?” She halted, putting the pieces together that she most likely didn’t remember his name because she was high the night she had met him.
He didn’t bother introducing or reminding her of his name, he likely didn’t even notice when another, prettier girl had walked by and he offered a drink, attempting to make up for her clear rejection.
Liv sighed, crossing her arms and wandering around the party.
Dancing, laughing, drinking.
Her gaze lingered on a girl who seemed to be having ‘too’ much fun. Pulling some stranger into a kiss just to pull away and yank someone else into another.
She had tore her gaze away and it landed somewhere else, falling onto a guitar and slowly had trailed up to meet the boy with the tired, light eyes.
Another look around, her hands almost shyly finding their way behind her back as she approached him. “Do you play often?” Liv asked, a sudden spark of excitement peering through her eyes.
There was a reason why Liv had turned to music during her recovery.
Those motherfuckers had the fucking guts to pull a prank?!
Forget the fucking party getting cancelled because of the dicks or whatever, Jules got GLUE in her hair, and they had another thing coming if they believed JJ wasn’t about to find out who the hell was involved and make their lives a living hell.
The glue came out or whatever, but still! She was fucking pissed.
And guess what?
Ashton fucking West had the balls to wear red. She looked… like a loser, still, but at least JJ looked better than her– which, let’s be honest… wasn’t really hard to do.
Of course she had to put in her two cents, and Ash was like… surprisingly confident about her outfit choice? So, Jules sort of just laughed it off. Because it was fucking hilairous. Did she look in a mirror? Probably.
Look, it wasn't that fucking bad but-- she fucking knows that Ash had just gone with that dress just to spite her.
“Can you believe that fucking whore? I mean, come on. I specifically let the group chat know what color I was wearing, I mean, Ash is Ash and she can make her own decisions or whatever? But like…”
How badly did she want to be her?
JJ wasn’t stupid, she knew that Ash had no interest of being her because Ash was too focused on being Little Miss Perfect.
Oh, and was she far from it– but like, nobody was?
People who overly worked themselves to be like… accepted or whatever deserved a special spot in the electrical chair.
Not only could she see the desperation on half of the cheer team for their validation kink, but she could practically smell how pathetic they all were. And no, it wasn’t because they all had horrifying taste in perfume, which they did but that was beside the point.
Wait– what was the point again?
“I’m so much better than her?”
“I didn’t mean that–”
A sudden pause sat and Jules blinked a few times, getting distracted by her own thoughts as she struggled to come up with the words she was looking for.
JJ couldn’t make herself look bad, you know?
“I meant I’m better than all of them.”
Ah, there you go.
“I mean,” JJ laughed, taking a sip of something that was like, super gross and strong, but who the hell cares? The plan? Get drunk enough so a boy seems decent enough to kiss.
Maybe? She wasn’t really planning on being one of those girls, one of those sluts who just needed some kind of action to make their night fun.
"Look at me. Red or not, I look better than all of them combined.” The brunette gave Laurel a once-over as if that was confirmation.
Oh, please. She wasn’t a total bitch.
I know what you’re thinking, oh my god, she’s fucking Satan.
Yeah? But like, at least she has style. “Full offense, you could’ve tried a little harder. I mean, you should’ve just came in jeans at that point, or like… short-shorts? You seem slutty enough for that–”
Suddenly, the word slutty had caught someone’s ears and he straightened up, which was super easy to do because he wasn’t in heels and standing on grass.
Stupid fucking asshole. Not him, whoever the fuck ruined homecoming. Remind her to put them on her list, too.
“You girls… uh, fancy a game of beer pong?”
Jules rolled her eyes, not wanting to give his… obviously desperate guy a second of her time, the last thing she wanted to do was waste twenty minutes of her life she couldn’t get back.
She already wasted six months with her ex and for somebody so rich, CK wasn’t worth it.
Sorry, not sorry.
“Not really, you hobo. Maybe try talking to someone in your league?”
“I was just asking if–”
“I really don’t care.”
“But– Okay… what about her?”
“Laurel, would you like to let him know your answer?”
Donahue Calvin Camus used to live for the Friday night lights.
DC had practically played football since he could walk. His father loved the sport and “could have played professionally — but he had a job to do”, according to his mother, and so it was only natural that his sons continue his legacy. In kindergarten, Donna had played flag football; when he moved to third grade, they switched to pee-wee tackle football; and when he’d come into sixth grade, he’d moved up to play with the middle school league.
He hated it.
Donna was always made to play with Chelsea, because he was only a year older than him. His father took on the role of coach when they were at home, and CK and DC would play games practically to the death, with no pads on. He bruised easily, and a time or two his nose got broken. During school practices, Chelsea avoided him, would only interact with him through side-eyes and glares. But the coaches were always ruthless, always compared him and CK. He’s just my fucking stepbrother, he wanted to tell them, not some golden fucking idol for me to be compared to; but no one understood that.
Donna was always small, and no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t “bulk up” or grow any broader. As they grew matter, that seemed to matter more and more, and so Donna generally found himself making a home on the bench, even during practices, either due to injuries he sustained from practices or games or due to the fact that he was undoubtedly the weakest player. That was the worst: being a decoration, forever resting in the football equivalent of purgatory.
But Friday nights, he lived for, because, only on Friday nights, Donahue was able to fool himself into believing that he was a part of the team.
The coach would speak to the team, and Donna could imagine that he was speaking to him, too. Friday nights, the announcer would call, ”Number 77, Donahue Camus,” and the crowd would cheer like they knew more than just his last name. He would lumber out of the inflatable helmet to the sound of their fight song, walking through the fog as though he were some kind of star. And for a few minutes, before the game would begin, as he walked to the sidelines behind the other team members, he could pretend that the blinding lights above spelled out his name, and that he was, in some way, someone special, or someone useful, or, at the very least, someone who mattered a little bit.
But when he began to grow disillusioned with his life, had finally realized what he’d come to know so well, the first thing to go was his ability to “pretend” any longer. He could no longer act as though he cared about his schoolwork, about having friends, about doing all of this arbitrary bullshit that meant nothing in the end, and along with that, he could no longer make himself think, even on Friday nights, that he was anything but meaningless — or that anyone else around him was anything but meaningless. He’d awoken from this stupid dream he’d kept himself trapped him, only to find a desolate true world around him, and there was no point in imaging it to be anything but that anymore. So, he grew to hate Friday nights, along with everything else.
Donna had taken something before leaving the house. What it was, he couldn’t presently remember, but everything seemed to be moving, then stopping, in a way that seemed almost funny to him. He couldn’t keep up with himself, couldn’t really follow what was happening around him, and so he sat, entirely in his world, on the bench, with his arms crossed over his chest and rock still for the entirety of the game.
Something wet smacked against his cheek at some point, and it had taken a moment or two to register with him. When he’d pulled himself together enough to touch at the liquid, he found it to be glittery and uncomfortably viscous. “Glue…?” he muttered.
Whatever it was, it evidently cancelled the game, and Donahue disinterestedly lifted himself from the bench and headed toward the parking lot. Tugged on an old shirt he had in the back of his car, a pair of jeans he'd at some point shoved in the glove compartment. There was a party tonight, which wasn’t exactly his scene, but it would be a change of pace for the night, and so he, in no state to be driving, drove his truck to the house.
When he’d parked in the place most inconvenient for others, Donna grabbed his guitar from his passenger seat and, strapping the beaten-up instrument onto his back, made his way inside.
His first order of business was finding something to smoke. It was an immediate itch, and he knew he couldn’t fully settle until he found it. Eventually, he’d stolen a joint from someone, and he sat down by the stairs with it between his mouth and pulled the guitar off of his back to begin to tune it.
“Do you play often?”
At the voice that seemed oddly directed at him, DC lifted his head, squinting and looking for the source of the voice. A dark-haired girl stood above him. She wore an expression that seemed almost like excitement, and she looked straight down at him, but he didn’t quite believe she was speaking to him. People rarely willingly interacted with him, much less attempted to hold a conversation with him.
Still, the girl spoke again. “You do, I can definitely tell."
He squinted at her for another moment. “Yeah,” he said finally. “I’m actually classically trained.” It was a dry, lame joke that even he didn’t think was funny. He exhaled a thick cloud of smoke, taking the joint from his lips to poise it between his fingers. “Played the six-string so long it’s a three-string.” That was true; the highest, lowest, and third strings were the only strings that remained intact and on his guitar, while a third of another string dangled from one of the tuning pegs. He glanced down at his guitar, and, using only the forefinger of the hand that still held the joint to fret, Donna strummed erratically on the thickest string for a few seconds. He squinted back up at the girl. “Why?” he asked. “You aren’t seriously wanting to hear me play.” That was more of a statement, a blunt assessment of what he was sure was true; there was no way this girl wanted to do anything but mock him. “My music is comprised of works of passion typically reserved for...”
DC tapped his thumb against a string as he lost that train of thought; the guitar hummed softly. He mindlessly inhaled, only to find that he was inhaling smoke again. Evidently, he had somehow gotten the joint back to his mouth, but he didn’t recall doing such a thing — a testament to his insobriety. Newly reminded of the existence of the lit object, he squinted up at the girl again. She was still here, and, strangely, she seemed to be tolerating him. He still wasn’t quite sure about her, and so, to test her, he held out the joint. “Here,” he said, “take a load off.” He reached into his pocket, retrieving a small bag with tablets in it. “Got a few options,” he said, and he grabbed a tablet from inside. Expressionlessly dry-swallowing it, he held out the bag for her. “Don’t remember what they are, but they’re options.”
Without waiting for much of a response, Donna began to strum his guitar tunelessly and beatlessly. He started to hum along, and, though his playing had no discernible key, he was somehow still off-key.
Honestly, he didn’t want to go inside the house again, where he nearly felt claustrophobic not long ago. Matty didn’t even have claustrophobia—he’d already talked with his therapist about it last year. But he told Mercedes he didn’t mind going with her anyway. He needed to wash off the Pepsi from his hand before it attracted mosquitos or any bugs nearby, so it made sense for him to go to the bathroom with her.
It made no sense to him why she decided to grab his dry hand. Maybe it was to make sure they wouldn’t get separated along the way…
Except the backyard wasn’t crowded. And she let go of him shortly after they were inside the house again. Weird.
“So, are you having fun?”
“Not sure,” Matty said. He placed his cup on a flat surface and forgot it as he continued following Mercedes. “I mean, I haven’t done much here to be sure yet.” Because he had no idea how to have fun at parties by himself. “Because I haven’t been at the party very long. How about you? Are you enjoying the party?”
Matty kept close to her side, their shoulders nearly touching—a couple of times, they did, very lightly. Several times, Matty’s broad shoulders bumped against other people. Some mumbled sorry; others grumbled at him to watch it even though he already was, and he said nothing to them for the sake of avoiding a dispute with a drunk and/or high person.
Once or twice, he was given a grunt and nothing more. He couldn’t tell if it was an apologetic grunt or one of annoyance.
Before he could think of a good reason to excuse himself, Mercedes suggested, “We should look upstairs, it’s way too crowded down here.”
Matty agreed, trying not to show his relief. “Yeah, it is.” He didn’t like the first floor very much anyway. Climbing up the staircase, he asked Mercedes, “Want me to wait outside? You know, so... um, so you can go first. I can wait my turn and wash my hand when you're done there.”
No, he wouldn’t ditch her while she was in the bathroom. Well, yeah, he almost thought about leaving a few paragraphs ago, but leaving someone without them noticing was rude and sometimes kinda hurtful. It wouldn’t be right to do that to Mercedes after she let him hang out with her at a party that he wasn’t enjoying a lot..
It was the moment that Addie felt the night had built up to. It was the moment where she finally captured Benji’s king, and he finally admitted and asked what she had charmingly been trying to trap him into saying all along — or, at least, that was the moment this was supposed to be. A moment of intensity, a moment of glory for her and mad defeat for Benji.
But instead, after a moment of hesitation, all that Benjamin did was shrug dismissively.
If she didn’t have control of herself, she would have stamped her foot, jabbed a finger at his chest, and demanded that he just give up the ghost. You lost, Benji, she would say, if she weren’t quite so poised, so just fucking let it go. But she was classier than that, and so, her glossed lips slipped into a smirk again, and she cocked her head. “Just a shrug?” she asked.
“I’ve always had a thing for blondes, against my better judgment,” he said. “That’s why that day, I let you ‘beguile me’. I allowed you the satisfaction of being approached, because I knew you were just waiting for it.” She gave a small half-scoff, half-laugh, her brows knitting, which seemed to spur him on. “You’re the type of girl who tries so, so hard not to try at all.”
He shook his head, as though pitying her, and she crossed her arms, shifting her weight onto one of her hips and opening her lips to make a retort. But he spoke first, stifling the simmering words in her throat, “But I didn’t care about pride, because you’re blonde and pretty and like attention enough to string me along.”
She let out a soft chuckle. “And…?” she prompted, poising up an eyebrow.
“And then,” he said, “you…” There was a beat, and in that beat, she noted the intensity flare in his eyes. “You came back for more.” His words’ tone had shifted somehow — from cocky indifference to a near delight; it disarmed her for a moment, along with his words. “You always pretend that it's nothing, but I know you can't keep your eyes off me in the halls. It kills you that someone who plays your game could bend the rules like that." He grinned, and her lips pressed into a firm line. "And like it's nothing, too.”
She was still, her lips pressed into a line, her eyes still holding a fierce, almost offended determination that they had held before. She felt uncomfortably…seen, and there was the rare temptation within her to shrink back — and yet, she did not give in, instead drawing in a long breath and staring intently at him, trying to determine what could possibly come next from his mouth.
“Good job, you win,” he said; her heart involuntarily thudded. “You got a rise out of me because, surprise,” he whispered, throwing up jazz hands, "I care about some things." He seemed to be growing reckless with his words, thinking less about them, speaking as though he was throwing his weight into each vowel in an almost last-ditch effort to still come out on top, though his tone remained steady. "If you wanted me to spell everything out like a kindergarten teacher, we could have just done that. I didn't know you were so antsy about all this." He smirked, and he tilted his head. "Which changes a few things."
In considering his tone, AJ seemed to have missed the words he was saying. Now, they began to dawn on her as though she were hearing them repeated, and a confusion worked itself between her brows. You win…I care…spell things out…antsy…
As she was still processing those words, Benji, laughing, pinched his nose and sagged his head. She flattened her lips into a line again, staring at him. Something about his display drew a soft chuckle out of her.
Finally, his laughter calmed. “Now I know for sure that, uh, you're fucking crazy,” he said, breathing heavily for a few moments.
She caught herself smiling, for some reason, and she chuckled again. “You don’t say,” she muttered beneath her breath, not intending for him to hear but not caring if he did.
"And I like that,” he said.
Her heart kicked up in her chest, her brows pulling together again and her smile fading in confusion. I like that, he just said — I like that.
“I like when you're not 2-D, like your favorite father-of-one houseguest."
As the words settled, her heart throbbed again.
Adeline Jumper, pageant queen, ice skater, dancer, hottie extraordinaire, among many other things, was used to having boys falling at her feet along with the occasional girl. And even sometimes — especially with the freshmen, the little freaks — she would find a card in her locker with an admittance of true love, or a sticky note stuck to her purse by the end of the class period with a confession of deep admiration. On the rare occasion that the little simp would have any semblance of actual balls, she’d be approached by them and get a lengthy, laughable, awkward explanation of how insert-weird-adjective-here she was and get told that they had an extra ticket to such-and-such, or they were wondering if she was free next Friday, or this thing or that thing. And, of course, it was always an absolute riot to her, and, of course, it boosted her ego just a slight bit.
So she knew what this was — this was exactly what she’d hoped it was. He was…yeah. This was happening — this was really happening — and she’d wanted this — plotted for this — all night — but still, there was a part of her that thought, Shit.
This felt different. Maybe it was because she had to work at it. But it was more likely that this felt different because…
Because she wanted it.
Shit, she thought. He’s fucking confessing to me. Shit, this is…
This is it.
"And if I'd known you had such an empirical interest in my hand-holding philosophy..." She caught herself hanging onto his words, and the next ones he delivered left her dangling: “Well, Adeline, I'd have told you to be somebody and make a move."
She grew entirely still for a moment. “So you admit it,” she breathed, unaware that she was speaking at all. Her mind, usually quick to the bat, struggled to catch up, struggled to compute with Benji’s prompt.
And then, all at once, she remembered who she was, and what she had come to do. Pull yourself together, AJ, she demanded of herself. In spite of her pounding heart, in spite of…whatever this almost high was that she was feeling, Adeline came to do one thing: conquer.
And now that she’d done that, she had to prove herself to be a bit of an ungracious winner.
A smirk tugged onto her face. “Hm? You care about me?” she repeated. She felt her cheeks flush a bit, and the other words that she had planned fell right off of her tongue.
She looked up at his face. For a moment, she skeptically assessed his expression, searching his eyes for anything disingenuous. “So this is it, then…hm?” she questioned, her words coming slowly from her lips; there was something almost sad in her tone, almost mourning the end of their game. “We’re laying it all out?”
She breathed out a small sigh, lifting a hand up to brush her hair from her face; her earring glittered in the light again, and she faced her head toward the door for a moment, as though she was going to walk away from the conversation. You got your confession. That’s what you wanted tonight…wasn’t it? You wanted him to hint that he wanted something more, you wanted him to subtly beg you for you, and you wanted to play it coy when you gave him your answer. You got further than you figured you would from that one move, you came and you conquered…you could just go now, and leave him hanging at that, leave him wanting more and never giving it to him.
But she didn’t leave, or even move, really — she just stood there, frozen for a moment, feeling the pounding pulse in her neck and her fingertips as she clasped her hands at her front.
And then, finally, she spoke. “Then I guess…” She turned her head back toward him. “Now that the jig is up…” Her eyes followed suit, latching back onto his face, and she breathed out a small sigh. “I’ll say it.”
She smiled at him for a moment. With a manicured hand, she reached forward for his red cup, glanced down into it, and leaned forward to set it down on a small table behind him. She stood straight in front of him again, drew in a sharp breath, and reached down for his hands, lacing her fingers in-between his. “I feel the same about you,” she admitted, heart pounding.
It was as though she’d stripped away her own layer of comfort and left herself shivering beneath it, lost, cold, and vulnerable.
And she stood for a moment, realizing almost with a start that she had no fucking clue what she was doing. Cluelessly, she peered into his eyes. Unsure exactly of her next moves, she gave a laugh, feeling the need to occupy the silence, at the very least, and regain some control over the situation. “And I guess that means that there’s only one course of action from here, isn’t there?” she said, smiling, and she scrunched her nose. “We both know what it is.” She gave his hands a squeeze, and then, almost gloatingly, said, “You’ve all but said it yourself.”
She gave a small chuckle. “And you know?” Drawing in another sharp breath, she let her smile break a bit wider, and, as confidently as she could say such a thing, she said, “I think, even though it’s damned to hell, that I would like us, being an us, too. It would sure as hell be better than whatever we have going on right now, at least.”
She wasn’t sure how to follow that up.
Feeling perhaps the most awkward that she ever had, she said, “So this is it, I guess. We’re a…thing, hm?” Now that she was saying it, it felt almost…victorious, and something else that she couldn’t quite place.
She felt her face flush a bit again, and she ducked her head, feeling slightly shy. “Heh,” she chuckled to herself. “Didn’t see it coming.”
She looked back up at him again, a smile on her face. “But just for the record…” Her eyes lingered on his mouth for a moment, studying the contours of his lips, and then slowly pulled up to his eyes. Her voice lowered to a quiet murmur. “…and just so you know…” A hand of her slipped away from his hands to rest on his shoulder as she leaned upward.
“You,” she breathed, with a smirk, a moment before she connected their lips, “still lost.”