We last left our heroine at the party, as a very tall dude approached her.
LONG UPDATE. 4,712 words.
43839 / 43827 words. 100% done!
It disturbed me. It intrigued me. Who was this guy? Chris ambled slowly over to us, clutching a beer in his hand and stooping slightly due to his great height.
"This is the girl I was telling you about," Wake said, gesturing to me.
"Oh, right, the lesbian?" Chris grinned at me. It made me feel very uncomfortable.
"What? No," I said. "I'm not...um...not that I have anything against...but I'm not...what?" I looked up at Wake, hoping for some sort of explanation, as I was really, really confused here.
"Never mind that," Wake said. "No, man, the one who said all that shit about my mom."
Something in my stomach lurched. I felt something in my head click.
"Oh, that girl," Chris grunted. "Right."
"Anyway, I'll just leave her here with you. Have a great night, guys!" Wake waved to us, and left me alone with the hulking Chris.
Wake had not invited me to this party because he wanted us to be friends. He'd invited me here to humiliate me. And somewhere in the back of my mind, I realized that I knew that. And here I was anyway.
Chris moved forward, standing right in front of me, until I could feel his breath on the top of my head. "You look really cute in that outfit," he said, and I felt shame fill my face with its hot sting.
"Uh. I think I should really get going." I made to move away from him, but he grabbed my arm.
"Nah, I think you should stay. Wake told me about you. I like girls with tattoos." I didn't look up to see it, but I could practically feel his eyes roaming my body, making their way down to my ankle.
"That's good, but I'm not really looking for anyone right now."
Chris laughed. "So you are a lesbian. That's cool. We can still hook up."
I twisted my arm uncomfortably, wanting nothing more than to get away from this guy, leave this party, do what I should have done in the first place and go hang out with Alec, explain that I'm a loser for not trusting him to explain things to me, and maybe resurrect my Halloween from there.
"Hey, don't fight with me, you wouldn't want to make me angry now, would you?" I could smell the alcohol on his breath. I felt so sick right now. My stomach threatened to expel its contents all over this guy, which actually might not be such a bad idea. I wanted to just kick him in the crotch or something and run, but he was so big, and no one around us seemed to care that he was practically molesting me, and why would Wake do this to me?
"Hey, asshole, you might want to let her go," I heard someone say over my shoulder. Dan.
"Yeah? Why would I want to do that?" Chris sneered at him. "We're perfectly cozy right here. Was just about to get her something to drink."
I wanted to mention that I actually didn't drink, but now didn't seem the time.
"You don't want to tap this because I've already been here," Dan said, in that voice I'd grown to truly loathe. Then he leaned over and whispered something to Chris.
"Really?" Chris asked, and gave me a disgusted look.
Chris finally let my arm go, with an extra push that jolted me backwards a few steps, and walked off.
"Uh. Thanks," I said to Dan.
"What did you say to him?"
Dan pulled a pack of cigarettes out of his back pocket and took one out to light. "I told him we slept together and you gave me crabs."
I felt that sickness punch me in the stomach again. I wanted to scream at Dan, ask him why he was such an asshole, why he couldn't do something nice for someone without simultaneously insulting them, find out what the hell his problem was.
But I didn't. Instead, I threw up all over the floor.
Dan laughed. "Nice. You might want to clean that up," he said, then he walked off, still laughing, a cloud of smoke trailing after him.
I didn't want to clean it up. I wanted to disappear. I felt tears welling up in my eyes, and I wanted to just sit on the floor and cry until I was done, but then Colleen grabbed me by the shoulders.
"Hey, were you just talking to Dan?" she asked. I stared at her, noticing that her feet were awfully close to my vomit.
"I just puked..." I said, pointing to the incriminating puddle, feeling sort of like I was in a movie where I didn't know my lines.
"Oh, ew!" Colleen cried, jumping away from the puke. "Anyway. Dan. Where did he go? I need to talk to him."
I felt the tears threatening to leap out, and was a little surprised Colleen couldn't tell, and that she wasn't asking me if everything was okay.
"Dan..." I lifted my finger to point after him, but I dropped it and just said, "Dan is a dick."
Colleen laughed. "Okay, but do you know where he is?"
"No, Colleen, Dan is a dick. He just told some guy I gave him crabs."
Colleen didn't seem concerned with this. "He was just joking with you, Mads, get over it. You need to lighten up."
I wanted to tell Colleen that she maybe needed to lighten down, or realize that I was in a state of total wreck right now, and that the last thing I wanted to do was to help her join up with the guy she seemed to enjoy hanging out with more than people who were actually nice to her from time to time. But instead, I flung my hand in the general direction Dan had walked off in and spat, "He went that way."
"Thanks, Mads. I'll catch up with you later, okay?" She ran off before I could tell her that she wouldn't actually catch up with me later, at least not tonight, because I was leaving this party and doing what I should have done in the first place. I was going to see Alec.
I forced my way through the crowds of people, hoping no one else would stop me. I was so done with this whole party thing, this whole trying to be popular thing, this whole slutty Rainbow Brite thing. I'd give anything for a pair of pants right now.
"Mads, are you okay?" Miriam. Miriam, saying what Colleen should have said. I felt the real, true, friend-like concern and lost it, tears spilling all over my face in a gross, wet waterfall of pain. I shook my head, because I was, quite obviously, not at all okay.
Miriam wrapped me up in a hug. "Shh. Wake's a jerk. I told you that, remember? And you agreed. So don't waste any more tears on that bastard."
I sniffed, snurffled and sobbed, trying to explain that it wasn't just Wake, it was also Chris, and Dan, and Colleen, and the fact that I'm such a horrible person for wanting to be here instead of with Alec, and also that it was getting late, and the trick or treaters were probably home for the night, enjoying their candy and getting sugar highs strong enough to keep them up well past their bed times and drive their parents insane, and I had successfully ruined two perfectly good evenings, and why was I such a failure?
But instead, I just leaned into Miriam's shoulder and let myself cry, doing my best to hide my face from everyone else. Because surely, if anyone else saw my tears, they'd have their assumptions confirmed that I was, in fact, a losery sophomore with no right to be here, merely faking attractiveness in this costume.
It seemed to go on forever. I felt like the logical amount of time for crying into a friend's spider web fishnet top without it being weird and pathetic had long since passed, and now I was taking deep, hiccupy breaths in an attempt to cut it out so I could let her continue her evening without having to comfort me, and maybe even wipe the snot off her chest.
But she kept stroking my hair, telling me it was okay, whatever it was, that everything would be fine. Which, of course, only made me cry harder, because that is the type of dork I am. Someone's being nice to me when I'm clearly a dillhole? Cue the excessive tears.
Finally, after probably ten minutes of solid wuss, I sucked in a deep breath and pulled my face back to look at Miriam. It looked like I actually made her cry, too. Oops.
She smiled at me. "You're going to be okay, Mads."
"Are you going to go see Alec now?"
"Okay. Well, if you figure things out in the next hour, you can come back and watch the band play."
I let out a choking laugh. "Okay, but don't count on it."
She hugged me again. "No worries."
And with another several deep breaths, I walked out of that party into the cold Halloween air, once again cursing my lack of pants.
** ** **
It was a lot later than I'd realized. Houses had lights out. No children roamed the streets, only a few of those unruly teenage hooligans that ran around toilet papering houses and smashing pumpkins. The ones that ruined things for the rest of us. I sneered at them, but not very obviously because I didn't really fancy getting the shit beaten out of me on top of everything else.
I felt immensely nervous as I walked to Alec's house. I tried to think of what to say to him. I tried more of that whole self justification thing, remembering that he had this whole other girlfriend and why did it matter if I made him miserable. Then I considered that he may just want to hang out as friends, and I felt crappy again. I could say I never got the note. But then why was I coming over so late? I could say I forgot. I could...
I don't know. Tell the truth?
His street came up a lot faster than I would have liked. I considered turning around, going to see Miriam's band, or just walking straight past and going home. Not having to worry about any more drama tonight, dealing with the Alec problem tomorrow, at the park, where I would (I would) go to spin poi with everyone.
But I didn't, I turned on the street. I approached the house. I sent mental death threats to the butterflies in my stomach, and when that didn't work, tried bargaining with them. Please stop flying around, and I will gift you with never vomiting ever again, maybe even not eating so many potato chips that I never want to look at a bag ever again. The butterflies, however, remained unforgiving. I sucked in a breath, held it, let it out, sucked in another one, and in one quick movement so that I might trick myself into thinking maybe I wasn't actually doing it, I rang the doorbell.
There's still time to run, I said to myself. I could just run home, and they would think that it was just a Halloween prankster and shake their heads in aggravation and that would be the end of it. But my legs wouldn't move, and so I stood there, frozen, as the door opened. I half hoped for Alec's mom again, but luck was clearly not in my favor tonight, because Alec answered, wearing goggles, black gloves, and a long white lab coat.
His expression was unreadable. I didn't know him well enough to interpret whether or not he was mad, upset, disappointed, or anything at all. Maybe he was just hungry, and that was his hungry face. It's possible.
"Hey," he said, after what felt like an eternity of awkward standing and fruitless expression deciphering.
"Hi." The wind blew, and I rubbed my arms to help them not freeze.
"You look...good," he said. Still clad in an unreadable expression.
"Thanks. I'm freezing."
He held the door open and gestured for me to come in. I did, with a sinking guilt settling nicely in my gut, right beside the butterflies. They flapped around manically, probably greeting the newcomer. Oh, how I hated them.
"You're a little later than I expected you," Alec said. "I was hoping we could hand out candy together."
I nodded. "Yeah. I'm sorry about that."
"Other plans?" He asked. God, I felt horrible.
More nodding from me.
He sat down on a couch sitting in the middle of the room. I felt weird sitting down next to him, so I sat in a chair across from the couch, a coffee table separating us. Neither of us said anything. I wanted to die. This was quite possibly worse than when Chris had rubbed against me with his beer breath. I actually gave a crap about the guy sitting in the room with me, even if I wasn't entirely sure about the nature of said crap. I had no idea what to say, what he was thinking, where to proceed from here. I wondered vaguely where his mother was. Perhaps she'd already gone to bed.
"So I was wondering if you were even going to show up," Alec said.
I wanted to cry again, but I'd already done that, and I don't think I had any tears or energy left. "I'm sorry," I said. I wanted to grill him about this other girl, but it suddenly seemed unimportant. He was obviously hurt by my not showing up tonight, so the other girl couldn't have been that important.
I opened my mouth to say other things, but he cut me off. "Look, Madeline, I know I'm kind of weird and awkward, and I write terrible poems and maybe you like somebody else and I'd totally understand. But I like you, and even if you aren't interested in me that way, I think we could still be friends, and I was looking forward to hanging out with you tonight, but I don't really know what you think of me, and I'd really like that cleared up before anything else happens. You know. If, uh, that's okay with you."
Okay, now the girlfriend thing seemed appropriate to bring up. Because I didn't know how I felt about him, and I wouldn't know until I was clear on that particular tidbit.
"Is it true that you have a girlfriend?" I asked, feeling like a jerk even as I said it.
He sighed. "I guess Bret talked to you?"
"Well...he talked to Miriam, who talked to me. And I wasn't being nosy, your mom is the one who told me you had a girlfriend."
"When did you see my mom?"
"I came by one time. To, uh, see you. And you were gone. Out with your girlfriend, is what your mom said." I tried to say it in a way that didn't sound bitchy, like I wasn't trying to accuse him of anything, but I'm not sure how well it worked.
"Stephanie isn't my girlfriend. She's...well, I guess she's really special, but she's not my girlfriend."
Stephanie. It sounded like a bitchy name. I bet she was a bitch. I felt like a bitch for thinking that some girl I'd never met was a bitch.
"Is she...I mean, are you..."
"I'm not going to date her again, no." He looked at me, and there was something in his eyes I couldn't really decipher. Something new, something almost...pleading? Maybe? Or quietly asking?
I did my best to sort through my thoughts in order to explain what I wanted from him. "Okay," I began, "I'm putting a disclaimer on this because I'm sort of thinking things through while I'm talking, but here's the deal. I think I like you. I mean, I know I like you, but I think I like you more than just a friend. I would like to get to know you a bit better, and I hope that you're still okay with me even though I kind of ditched you tonight, and by the way I'm really sorry about that, but I was having all these weird feelings, and you know how weird feelings go, about the whole you maybe having a girlfriend and I was kind of mad but also mostly a little scared, because I realized that I did sort of like you, and then I overreacted. And panicked. And hid."
He sat there for a while, not saying anything. He nodded when I finished, but he didn't speak after that. He had his hands crammed in between his knees and he rocked back and forth a little, slowly, as if it helped him process what I said.
Finally, he looked up at me. "Do you think that you'll do something like this again?"
I shrugged. "Probably not." And then I added, "If we had each other's phone numbers, it would probably help, because then you wouldn't have to depend on me getting your poems."
He smiled a little at that. "Okay." He dug a post it note pad out of a drawer in the coffee table, and wrote his number down, then pushed the pad over to me so I could do the same. I pulled the sticky with his number on it off the pad and scribbled mine on the next note, then pushed it back to him. He took it.
"You have a nice number," he said.
"Thanks." I grinned a little.
Then we sat awkwardly for another minute or so. I felt better, but everything in me wanted more details on this Stephanie, even though I knew it would just make me jealous. Maybe I needed to be a little jealous. Then I remembered the poi he gave me, and that I'd never thanked him for them. So I did. "I loved the poi, by the way."
"Oh, good! I almost forgot I gave you those. I'm glad you like them. I tried to make them unique, you know, like you."
I felt myself blush. "Hey, Alec? Why do you like me?" Okay, so maybe it wasn't the smartest question I could have asked, but I was curious. Nobody else had ever expressed so much interest in me before.
"I don't know that I could quantify that in words," he said. "I just...feel happy when I'm around you."
I nodded. I was hoping for something a little more specific, like maybe that I had fantastic legs or I was really witty or something like that. But when I looked up at him and saw him grinning an adorable grin, I decided that making him happy just by existing was good enough. I got up from my chair and went over to the couch to sit next to him.
"So...will you be my girlfriend?" Alec asked me.
I nearly laughed. Not because I thought it was funny, but because I was so relieved to have him just ask, so that I could give him an answer and I would finally know what was going on in at least one aspect of my life.
"Yeah," I said.
"Cool." He gingerly wrapped an arm around me, and it felt nice. I snuggled a little closer to him, and I realized that I liked feeling his warmth on my side. He planted a tentative kiss on my cheek, and then I did laugh.
"What?" He asked, smiling. "Am I doing something wrong?"
I shook my head, still laughing a little. "No. I don't know. I'm not really sure what I'm doing. I've never had a boyfriend before." An admission I quickly wished I hadn't just made.
Then he laughed. "That's okay." He squeezed me a little. "I don't have to kiss you right away or anything, if it's too weird."
"No," I said, sounding a little too desperate. "I mean...you can kiss me if you want."
My heart sped up madly, and the butterflies in my stomach took up tap dancing. Alec gently placed his fingers under my chin, looked me in the eyes, and smiled at me. I felt like I might puke again, but in a good way. And then his mouth was on mine, very soft, very tender. I didn't know quite what to do, so I tried to follow his lead. It felt nice. It felt...sweet. I did my very best not to laugh again. And then it was over.
I let out a very un-lady like snort in an attempt to not laugh out loud.
"Was that okay?" Alec asked.
I couldn't say anything, so I just nodded and nodded, up and down and up and down, as fast as I could. Smiling as wide as my face would allow.
"Good." Alec smiled too.
I stayed over there for several more hours. We talked some more, kissed some more, watched Young Frankenstein, and then eventually, I realized how late it was and that I should probably head home.
"Thank you for coming by," Alec said as he held the door open for me.
"You're welcome," I said, even though it sounded stupid.
He leaned over and kissed me one more time, and this time I didn't laugh. I just enjoyed.
** ** **
The rest of the weekend went by a lot more smoothly. I saw Alec again at poi spinning on Sunday, and I brought my special, homemade poi. Alec and the crew taught me several new tricks to work on, and I felt myself growing really excited about the idea of becoming just as awesome at poi as they were. I'd be practicing a lot before the next meet up.
I felt a lot happier about life in general when I went back to school on Monday, even despite the crappy party. I saw Wake in the hallway, but he didn't look at me, and I didn't let it bother me. I felt, after what happened that weekend, that I was pretty well over him.
Miriam, of course, practically jumped on me as soon as she saw me in the hall.
"TELL ME EVERYTHING!" she screeched.
I smiled devilishly, wanting to torment her with my news a little before I spilled.
She didn't seem to appreciate that, and she conveyed this by smacking my arm. "Oh my god, come on, tell me. You missed my show, the least you could do is tell me."
"You told me to miss your show! How did your show go, by the way?"
"Oh, we are so not talking about my show right now. No distracting me. What happened??"
"Well...it looks like I have a new boyfriend," I said.
Miriam emitted an intense, high pitched squeal, and jumped up and down. "Oh my gosh, we have to go on a double date, you, me, Alec, and Bret. It will be so fun!"
I patted her in an attempt to calm her down. "Maybe we'll work up to that," I said. "I'm still getting used to the whole having a boyfriend thing, you know?"
"So did he kiss you?" She asked.
I nodded, unable to hide my grin.
More high pitched squealing.
We could have carried on like this for quite some time, but Colleen walked passed us just then, and she was clearly upset about something. Like, in tears upset.
I searched through my memory banks, paging through years of memories, trying to find one of Colleen ever crying about anything. I couldn't find one. I might have been kind of upset with her, but I wasn't about to revel in her pain. It's not my nature.
"Hey, Miri, I think I'm needed," I said, pointing out our miserable friend (or in Miriam's case, ex-friend), who was currently attempting to open her locker through a blur of tears.
Miriam shot me a look. "Okay, well, you're on your own. Talk to you at lunch?"
I nodded. "See you then."
Miriam gave me a quick hug, then headed off in the direction of her first class.
I took a deep breath, hoping that Colleen might actually talk to me about what was going on. We used to talk about everything. Why did she feel so disconnected these days?
I walked over to her, and put my hand on her shoulder. She must not have seen me coming up, because she jumped and dropped her backpack.
"Holy shit, Mads, you scared me," she said, her voice cracking. She leaned over to pick up her bag, sniffed hard, and attempted to wipe her eyes on her sleeve.
"Are you okay, Col?"
She laughed through the tears. "Uh, yeah, I'm fine, can't you tell?"
I glared at her, and reached up to wipe a fresh tear off her cheek. I showed her my wet finger. "You're not fine. What's up?"
She waved her hand dismissively. "Not even worth talking about."
"It is if you're crying!"
She looked at me, and I worried she'd just shut me out, that this might be the last straw, the end of our friendship for good, if she couldn't tell me what was really wrong. The waiting proved difficult. I wanted to shake her and scream, "Just tell me why you're crying!" But I didn't. Because I'm that good a friend.
As I watched her, the tears started fresh, and she put her hands over her face. She mumbled something I couldn't understand, because her hands were on her face.
"What did you say? I can't understand you," I said.
She pulled her hands away, and she looked absolutely miserable. "Dan's dating some college girl," she moaned.
Ah. I knew it. I knew, even though she denied it, that Colleen had wanted to go out with Dan. Even though he was a dick. Even though really, it was way better for her to not be with him, because of what a huge dick he was.
She shoved her pointer finger in my chest. "And I don't want to hear any crap about how it's better this way, and he was nothing but shit to me, I just don't want to hear it, okay?"
I hadn't planned on saying any of that, even though I was certainly thinking that. I held up my hands in peace. "No worries. I won't hate on you."
Colleen collapsed onto me, crying the way I'd cried on Miriam. Part of me wanted to push her away, let her suffer on her own the way she'd done to me. But another part, the bigger part, the part of me that had known Colleen forever, wanted to hold her tightly and make her feel better. So I did that. At least, the holding her tightly part.
"I'm sorry, Mads," she sobbed out of nowhere.
"I said I'm sorry. I'm sorry for being such a bitch to you."
I patted her back. "It's cool."
"And to Miriam. Can you tell her I'm sorry for me?"
I really wanted to, especially since right now I wanted to tell Colleen anything that might possibly make her feel better. But I shook my head. "I think maybe you should tell her yourself."
That prompted a fresh wave of tears. "I can't!" she cried. "She's so mad at me."
I resisted the urge to say, "Well, yeah, you've been treating her like shit for almost a whole month now." Instead, I continued to hold Colleen while she cried. After several minutes (and funny looks from passing people), she calmed down a little bit. "Is it okay if I sit with you guys at lunch today?"
I nodded. "Yeah, that's cool."
I had no idea how Miriam would react, but I figured it didn't matter. If Colleen was willing to try, and work things out, we could make it work. We could be friends again.
I glanced down at my tattoo and gave it a nod. I had a boyfriend now, some freshly gained confidence, and a chance at having my friends back.
Things were looking up.