That night, as I lay in bed, I couldn’t believe what had happened. First, life had thrown a possible friend in my path and now this guy. I really regretted not having asked his name, mostly because I had to refer to him as this guy or the guy whenever I thought about him. I settled on calling him ice cream guy, lame as it was, just until I figured out his real name.
I had decided that I absolutely needed to go to that party. I sounded desperate even to myself, but that boy was driving me crazy. I had to go to at least catch his name or confirm he’s really a jerk and that whole day would be reduced to practically nothing. I was a bit nervous, since I wasn’t really a party person and I would know no one there. Also, I had to ask my parents for permission to go.
But, no matter how many problems I saw with going, I wasn’t going to let an opportunity like that pass me by. You only get chances like it so often and I wasn’t about to ruin it just because I was sort of scared. If I didn’t go, I wouldn’t be allowed to complain if I ended up old and alone, with only a dozen cats and a sitcom to keep me company. I rarely took chances, but I had such a good feeling about this one. And it would be practically a crime to reject a guy that looked like that and had been so awfully nice.
I spent a big portion of the day thinking of what I should wear, since my parents had already given me permission. They were so glad I was making friends there that even extended my curfew to three a.m. I might have stretched the truth a little; they would never let me go to a party a guy I knew for about five minutes was throwing. But I would have my phone and it’s not like I lived in a troublesome neighborhood. Most of the people that vacationed there were friends or acquaintances, so there really was no need to be worried.
Since it was our deal for the summer to keep each other updated, I took some time to email my friends about what had happened so far. I was so excited to have something so interesting to tell. I never had boy stories, which was the favorite topic. Boys just never seemed to notice me. I was always the friend, the sidekick, the third wheel.
As I rode my bike down Maple Lane, looking out for a yellow house, I heard loud music and people talking. It was getting dark so I couldn’t say for sure if the figures I was seeing in the portion of beach ahead were the people I was supposed to join. One of them separated from the crowd, a big black trash bag in hand, and headed towards a yellow house just across the street from the sand. They had lit a bonfire and there were people huddling around it, since the chilly night air was becoming more noticeable. There was a guy with a guitar on his lap, lightly strumming. Then there were others a bit further from the fire talking and just hanging out. For a second, I wondered what in the world I was doing approaching them. What was I supposed to do? Just walk up and join? Or look for ice cream guy? Just as I was debating it in my mind, Charlotte appeared out of nowhere and beckoned me to get nearer with her hand.
“I didn’t know you were coming!” she said, smiling widely.
“Yeah I was invited by a guy but I didn’t really catch his name.”
I sounded pathetic, like I was trying to join the party without being invited and had made up that lame excuse. Charlotte seemed amused, but not in a mean way.
“So where is this guy?” she asked, curious to know which of her friends knew me.
I scanned the crowd and finally found him. He was just then joining the people around the bonfire, sitting between guitar guy and a pretty brunette. They all laughed at something someone said and the girl leaned on him slightly.
“Is that him?” Charlotte asked. “The blonde with the blue shirt?”
“Yeah, that’s him.”
“His name’s Nick. He’s pretty nice.”
Nick. Nick. I repeated his name in my mind over and over.
“Are you friends?” I asked her.
“Something like that.”
What was that supposed to mean? I hoped she just meant they were sort of friends and not that they were something more than friends, because then it would make things really awkward.
“Let’s go join everyone. I’ll introduce you.”
I was led by Charlotte to the circle around the bonfire. Everyone scooted and made room for us. Nick was almost directly opposite of us.
“This is Lucy,” she said to everyone in a way that was very matter-of-fact and not as embarrassing as I thought it would be.
Everyone muttered hellos and smiled my way. I didn’t dare look at Nick. Charlotte smiled my way and handed me a red cup.
“What is this?” I asked, smelling it discreetly.
“Beer. Do you not like it?” she replied in a low voice, probably not to embarrass me since most of them were drinking it.
I shook my head and she took it from hand, secretly throwing the beer onto the sand and filling it with soda in record time.
“I don’t drink it either,” she whispered.
The girl beside Charlotte started talking to her, so I looked around, unsure if it would be weird to start talking to the guy next to me out of nowhere.
He had straight brown hair that was cut in shaggy, long layers and a piercing on his lip.
“So do you always spend the summer here?” I asked.
“It’s only my second summer here, but I already love it,” he smiled.
“Yeah, it’s pretty great here.”
“Let’s go swimming!” a girl suggested, jumping up and running to the water. Everyone seemed to like the idea, even though the water would be freezing. It must have been the alcohol. I wasn’t really sure what to do. It looked like fun but I wasn’t wearing a bikini. No one was wearing adequate clothing, really, but they didn’t seem to care.
“Come on,” Nick said, grabbing my hand.
We ran along with everyone else to the shore. I didn’t see Charlotte amidst the group. I turned to look for her and I saw her sitting with a few friends, smiling and waving when she saw I was looking at her.
The water was just as cold as I had imagined but it was the most fun I had had in a while. We all splashed water at each other and the guys kept grabbing the girls and throwing them in. Luckily, no one knew me enough to do that to me. Or so I thought. One second I was laughing at something Nick said and the next, the guy I had been sitting next to had grabbed me and submerged me. Not long after, Nick did just the same thing, except he was a bit gentler.
When we finally decided to get out, Charlotte gave us all towels she had probably gotten from Nick’s house. I asked her why she hadn’t gotten in the water and she said that she and the other girls were cold and didn’t want to get sick.
After warming up a bit, I asked one of Charlotte’s friends if she knew where the bathroom was in Nick’s house, because it was too embarrassing to ask him. She gave me instructions and assured me it was okay to just go in without asking. So I did. The house had a beach theme going with a blue and white color scheme and jars filled with seashells and starfish. As I was leaving to go back outside, I realized there was a picture of Nick, Charlotte and two adults who seemed to be their parents. And then it sunk in that they were brother and sister. I felt pretty dumb for not having noticed earlier.
“Are you doing okay?” Nick asked, appearing beside me.
“Um yeah, sorry. I was just looking at the picture.”
“No worries, look all you want. You just seemed disoriented,” he grinned.
“I didn’t know Charlotte was your sister,” I said, averting my eyes.
He let out a laugh and put his hand on my shoulder, squeezing it.
“I know it sounds lame, but I’ve never met anyone like Charlotte. She’s… different.”
“Yeah, she is pretty special. What do you say we head back to the fun?” he half smiled, walking ahead of me.
I couldn’t help but feel like he had completely killed the moment. Maybe he didn’t like talking about his sister, but why in the world was it a touchy subject for him? Maybe he just wanted to get back to his girlfriend or whatever that girl he had been so cozy with was.
I walked slower and by the time I was at the bonfire site again, he was deep in conversation with the girl. She looked very concentrated on what he was saying and had placed a hand on his forearm. I looked around for Charlotte, but she was nowhere in sight.
“Have you seen Charlotte?” I asked the guy that I had been sitting to a while back.
“She went to rest. She had an upset stomach. Probably has something to do with the alcohol.”
I just nodded.
“I’m Mike, by the way. Lucy, right?”
I was a bit distracted by Nick and the girl and he noticed.
“That’s Vicky. Nick and her have been dating on and off since last summer. None of us ever really know when they’re together or not,” he laughed.
I managed to produce a tight-lipped smile. Why had Nick invited me to a bonfire where his girlfriend or ex would be? Either he didn’t really care about me at all or he was a player, and good at it. If it hadn’t been for Mike, I would never have known their history. I would have just thought Vicky was one of the many girls that flirted with him because of how good looking he was and he was just being polite.
“I think I better get going,” I said, heading to the place where I had left my bike.
“Okay, well, I’ll see you around then.”
As I got my bike, I heard Nick’s voice as he came closer.
“Leaving so soon?”
“Yeah, Charlotte left and I was pretty much staying because of her. I don’t really know anyone else here… Have fun,” I snapped, climbing onto my bike.
“Wait, is something wrong?” Nick asked, putting his hands in his pockets.
“No, nothing at all. Tell Charlotte I hope she feels better, please.”
As I rode away, I looked back and saw him still standing there, looking my way.