Either Maria had lied about the number of people she had invited or word of the party had spread. Thankfully, Alanna’s apartment was one of the biggest ones on campus (such were the perks of being the dean’s second cousin).
Maria and Alexis had picked out Alanna’s outfit and done her makeup. She looked gorgeous in tight black leather pants and a black corset. Alanna had never been so painfully aware of her body before. She was convinced that everyone could tell that she didn’t exactly have a six pack. And she kept wondering if the corset made one of her breasts appear larger than the other. But before she had a chance to protest, her stylists had rushed her out of the bathroom and into the living room where people had already started to mingle. She caught sight of Terrence at the same time that he noticed her. His eyes widened for a second in surprise; before he smiled approvingly and gave a little wave. Alanna blushed and waved back before retreating to the armchair in the darkest corner of the living room. However, she had to stand up five minutes later. It might seem easy to look that amazing in her outfit, but the outfit was not easy to wear. She couldn’t breathe while sitting down and she was sweating in the leather pants. Luckily, Maria had anticipated the consequences of having so many people in one place and set up a few fans in strategic locations. Alanna hurried over to stand close to the nearest one. Just as she reached her desired spot someone wheeled around and accidentally sent her flying to the ground. Usually this sort of spectacle embarrassed Alanna but she was too preoccupied with worrying whether or not she had split her pants or inadvertently flashed her guests. Thankfully, neither of these calamities had befallen her and she was helped to her feet by a strong pair of arms. She turned to thank her rescuer, after checking for cuts or scrapes, and found herself looking into a familiar set of eyes.
Alanna swallowed hard.
“Th-thanks for helping me up.”
“You really do fall down more than your average clumsy person,” Terry laughingly replied.
Alanna blushed a deep scarlet and looked away. Terrence felt bad for teasing her, mild as it was. Without thinking, he gave her a hug and said, “Don’t worry about it. Hardly anyone saw.”
Alanna was shocked. She didn’t expect him to do that and she definitely didn’t expect it to feel so comfortable. She almost hugged him back before coming to her senses and remembering that Maria was somewhere in their immediate vicinity. Alanna pulled back and mumbled her thanks.
“I-I’ll see you later, Terry. Thanks again for everything today.”
For a minute, he looked a little hurt before he forced a smile on his face.
“No problem. Anytime, Lana.”
They stared at each other for a moment before she disappeared in the crowd. Terrence, feeling guilty for the feelings he was still harbouring for Alanna, made his way through the crush of partygoers hoping to find Maria. He finally found her in the middle of a group of male frosh. They were all jostling for her attention and, being the good hostess that she was, she gave them each their moment in the sun. But one Terrence arrived, it was clear to the others that they were just the opening act and he was the main attraction. They dispersed scant moments after he arrived. Terrence settled next to Maria as she sat on the edge of the sofa table. She sidled up to him with a coquettish look.
“You know you shouldn’t tease those poor guys like that.”
“Well, if someone hadn’t left me to fend for myself all night, I might have been more productively engaged.”
“My bad. What can I do to make it up to you?”
“For starters, you’re now my official date for this party.”
“Done. What else?”
“I’m still working on it. But, trust me, it’ll be just as much fun for you as it will be for me,” Maria said with a wink.
Terrence laughed again and put his arm around her. But he did so half-heartedly. His thoughts kept straying to Alanna.
Get a grip, Terry. Alanna and Damon have… something. Even if Alanna is interested, she is also clearly interested in Damon. Why fight for half a girl when there’s one willing to give you all of her? Focus on Maria, Terry. She’s the smart choice.
The problem was that that was a lot easier said than done.
Damon paced back and forth across his living room. He’d forced himself to stay away from Maria’s party. He had decided to take Terry’s advice and build a rapport with Alanna first. That’s why he stayed home tonight, because he knew that she wasn’t yet comfortable around him and he wanted to show her that he could be considerate of her feelings. He felt silly because there was no way of knowing if he’d ever get the result he wanted. Damon hated investing time in something and having it fall through at the very end. That’s what made him such a great competitor. He just refused to fail. And for the first time in his life, Damon wasn’t certain of his success.
But it was more than that this time. Swimming was fun for him and he liked winning but he knew he could deal with a loss in the pool. He couldn’t even honestly boast that he always got the girl. But he had rebounded from that kind of failure before. Somehow, he couldn’t stomach the idea of failing here. He didn’t know Alanna well enough to claim he was in love with her- only idiots in Shakespearian dramas and romance novels professed their love for girls they’d known for all of five minutes- but he honestly believed that it would be possible to love her one day. He just wanted a chance to test that theory out. So Damon resigned himself to the fact that he’d have to make some sacrifices in pursuit of this goal that would make his liquid fasts before meets look like child’s play. She’s worth it.
Damon decided to take a walk through the park. The farther away he was from the on-campus residences right now, the better. He shrugged on his jacket, grabbed his keys and headed out the door. He had to pass Alanna’s building to get the park but he didn’t think it would be an issue as the party should still be going strong at that hour. He was shocked to see Alanna standing outside the front door staring at the sky. Damon was tempted to go over and say goodnight; but he kept his resolve and just gave a short wave before hastening his steps towards the park. He was surprised to see Alanna look a little disappointed by his behaviour but it did lift his spirits a bit. Maybe there was some hope after all.
Alanna was confused by Damon’s behaviour. Up until tonight, he had taken every opportunity to talk to her; to be close to her. Then five minutes ago he just gave her a quick, almost obligatory, wave and picked up his pace. Had he finally had enough of cold disinterest? Why did she feel so disappointed at the prospect of being free from his attention? And what about Terrence? She couldn’t deny that there was a spark there today. But she didn’t want romance, right? That was the last thing she wanted when she enrolled here. Now, it seemed like she spent half her life dodging guys and unwanted feelings.
But she wasn’t ready yet. And as much as she felt drawn to Terrence and Damon, Alanna couldn’t shake what had happened that night last year. Sometimes, she thought she never would. She sighed and headed inside for her swimming gear. Screw the party. Neither liquor nor the pool would solve her problems but the latter would help her forget for a while without giving her a hangover later.