My pre-makeover consists of showering, curling my hair so it has a beach wave effect and dressing in one of my most sophisticated dresses. It’s bold red and knee length. I am not aiming to impress anyone tonight, but that still doesn’t mean I don’t want to make a lasting impression and look the best that I can.
I never thought that I would be going to the same party as Grayson Swain. It’s a bit surreal and not in a good way. I know that it’s going to end badly, because whenever Grayson is in the picture, the outcome is never promising. I feel the nerves take over but then I’m quick to remind myself that everything is going to be okay.
Just as I’m applying some more lipstick, I hear a knock at the door. We don’t have many visitors, unless it’s my mother’s new boyfriend Ted.
Ted is nowhere in sight when I open the door though and I gasp in surprise when Rory pushes himself off the wall and stands in front of me. He’s wearing black denim jeans and a plain black t-shirt. Nothing out of the ordinary, but he still looks good.
I’m so startled, that my words don’t come out right. “What? No. Huh?”
Rory chuckles. “Nice to see you too.”
“What – what are you doing here? I thought you couldn’t make it.”
“I figured you could use a plus one… besides, it was either this or watching another rerun of pride and prejudice.”
“How many times have you watched that movie by the way?”
“The worst part is that it’s not even the movie version. It’s the actual TV show. Those episodes are like an hour long.”
I laugh. “I feel your pain.”
He takes in my outfit and whistles under his breath. “Wow, you - you look different.”
“It’s definitely good. Trust me.” I quickly turn away so he can’t see me blush. “Should we get going then? I think I saw a taxi pull up further down the street,” he says.
I’m aware of the tingles spreading across my skin as we link hands.
When we eventually arrive at Levi’s house, Rory and I are left gawping at the mansion staring back at us. It is beautiful. I can hear loud rave music ripping through the air and a wave of anxiety creeps up on me unexpectedly.
The front door bursts open before we can step inside. A boy comes flying out and almost knocks into us.
“Out of the way! I think I’m going to be sick!” he cries, rushing down the path.
Rory shakes his head in disapproval, placing a hand on my lower back to steer me inside. I brace myself and then take small even steps into the warm glow of the house. It’s crammed with people mostly wearing extravagant outfits.
The room smells of body spray and sweat combined. People fire us dirty looks as we make our way through the entrance and I feel my confidence fading. We don’t belong here and that’s obvious.
I dodge a few party guests huddled under an alcove, and that’s when I see a crowd of people chanting and hollering together in the middle of the lounge. Someone is drinking a keg of beer. At first, I think that it’s Grayson but when the boy looks forward, it’s some other guy.
How am I supposed to find him amongst all these people? I’ll be having trouble finding the toilets in this place, let alone Grayson himself.
“You’re shaking. Do you want my coat?” Rory speaks into my ear.
“No, it’s okay. Thanks though.”
We stop by the refreshment table and I look out at the other relatively sober party guests.
“Can you see Grayson anywhere?” he asks me.
I rise on my tip-toes to overlook the crowd. “Nope. He’s probably with his girlfriend.”
And if she’s anywhere near the perimeter, it’s best to stay away. Sophie is his model-like girlfriend, who I have decided to avoid at all costs. She is more self-centred than Grayson is and the two of them together are too much for my brain to handle. She really is demanding.
Whenever I meet with Grayson, she will text him at every opportunity. She doesn’t leave him alone, so I’m assuming they’re joint at the hip right now.
Rory grabs a bottle of Budweiser from the table and looks at me. “Want some?”
“Yes please.” My mouth has gone insanely dry. I’m more anxious than usual. People are staring.
Rory passes me the plastic cup with alcohol inside. This is just like every other teenage party, except there are more rooms to fool around in and more mess to clean up.
He places a cup to his mouth and takes a long swig. I find myself watching him. “I can’t remember the last time I came to a house party,” he says. “I’ve never been to one on this kind of scale though. They actually have a dance floor. It’s crazy.”
“I know.” I’m starting to settle down now. My blood pressure is returning to normal. It must be the alcohol.
“I used to believe I was the coolest kid in the room, because I was at an underage drinking party and hanging out with some of the older boys. I realize now that I was just being stupid. I was trying to be what people wanted me to be.”
I nod along and say, “I remember using house parties as an escape. I would come home feeling worse than before, because I’d done things that I could never take back.”
Rory places a warm hand on my shoulder and I flinch at the contact. “Skye, you’re safe with me. Remember that.”
I push through a smile. “Can you imagine living in a house like this?” I ask him, puffing out my cheeks at the thought of waking up every day to stunning views of the countryside. It must be an absolute dream.
“No, I can’t. I would be too afraid to touch anything.”
“Same. Everything is so...”
As I’m searching for the word, Rory is quick to say, “Expensive?”
“Exactly! And I could easily get lost in here.”
“I bet the person who owns it all, doesn’t appreciate what he’s got.”
“They never do.”
I knock back some of my drink and almost choke on it as Grayson comes into focus. I watch as multiple people shake his hand and crowd around him, like he’s some form of royalty. Sophie isn’t anywhere close by. I figure that she’s either not here yet or hasn’t realized her boyfriend has gone off to do some exploring of his own.
Ever since we turned up at this party, we’ve been on the receiving end of judgement. I’m starting to think this was a bad idea.
“Skye, stop worrying about what other people think.”
I look up at Rory. “Huh? What do you mean?”
“They’re staring at you because you look absolutely stunning tonight.” My cheeks are burning up. He looks me over and then his shoulder bumps me. “It’s impossible not to stare. I’ve had a few cheeky glances myself.”
I slap him across the shoulder playfully. “Flattery will get you nowhere in my books Casanova. I know your game.”
He leans towards me, laughing. “Alright and what is my game exactly?”
“You’re a player Rory.”
“Who says I’m a player?” Rory asks, his voice firmer this time.
“Um, the whole world... your friends. You told me that you can’t hold down a relationship.”
“That doesn’t mean I cheat on girls that I’ve been in relationships with. I’m a faithful person believe it or not.”
This is surprising. I’ve always assumed that Rory is a proper heartbreaker, but maybe I’ve got him wrong. He has been nothing but nice to me - the ultimate gentleman, unless that’s what he wants people to think.
When I look at him again, I notice that he appears hurt by my comment. “I’m sorry,” I say, “I just have a hard time believing that there are good guys out there who are not looking to screw girls over.”
Rory sighs and runs a hand over his face. “I’m not a good person Skye. I have been selfish over the years. I’ve used girls... but I have always been honest from the very start.”
“Why are you so scared to get close to a person? Is it because you struggle to commit?”
“I’ve seen what love can do to people,” he continues, “There are too many emotions that go with it. That’s why it’s safer not to get too attached. And I’ve never really liked anyone enough to get serious with them anyway.”
Woah, it’s like we’re the same person. “That’s exactly how I feel! My mother has only ever been in love with my father. She got her heart broken and I’ve seen the impact it’s had on her. I don’t want to go down the same path.”
Rory’s stare hardens. Then he laughs under his breath. “I guess we’re two people that are afraid to fall in love. Sad, isn’t it?”
Rory grabs my hand and my eyes linger there for a moment. “Come on, let’s get some fresh air.”
He leads me away from the dancing bodies. I have to shuffle to keep up with him. We pass a group of girls standing by the staircase and they all stop to stare at Rory. I can’t say that I blame them. They’re probably wondering why he’s choosing to hang out with me.
Rory pulls me over to the large patio doors. He fumbles with the door handle and we step outside.
The moon is overlooking the garden and there are some stars in the sky. It’s mostly deserted out here, aside from the odd couples making out in dark corners.
“Are you cold?”
I shake my head. “No, I’m good.”
Rory sits on the wooden decking and pats the space next to him. I sit there and look up at the sky.
“This is nice,” I tell him, my breath leaving a trail in the air.
His knees knock against mine and heat travels up my neck. “What’s nice? The fact that I’m sitting this close to you or—”
I scowl at him and he chuckles. “No! It’s just nice to have a break from life in general. And I might be warming to you... slowly.”
Rory’s smirk widens. “Are my charms finally starting to rub off on you then?”
“Don’t get big headed Keaton.”
Rory laughs deeply and stares ahead. “Nah, I feel the same. You’re not what I expected.”
This time when I look at him, his eyes are completely focused on me. “And what exactly were you expecting?”
He raises the cup to his mouth, takes a long swig and then throws it onto the grass. “I don’t know. I didn’t have much of an opinion before. But, I guess I never used to take you as seriously as I do now.”
My eyes widen. “Wow. Is that supposed to be a compliment?”
“Well, yeah. I think you’re pretty cool.”
I burst out laughing. “Oh my gosh, Rory Keaton thinks that I’m cool. I feel so cool now.”
It’s his turn to laugh. “Shut up.”
He moves our bodies closer together and closes the gap between us. I suck in a breath. My nerves are all over the place.
Is he going to kiss me? I’m not going to stop him if he is. In fact, I’m the one that’s edging closer. Maybe deep down I’ve wanted this to happen. Maybe I’ve wanted it for a while.
The moment is cut short when my name is called in the distance. I spin around and discover Grayson standing on the patio, scoping the garden for any traces of me lurking in the dark somewhere.
I rise to my feet and glance down at Rory. His eyes are glossy with an intense, unreadable expression. He looks slightly disoriented and even more confused that I’m choosing to hop away from him. I have no idea what just happened and I don’t want to dwell on it.
“Sorry, I’ve got to go with Grayson!” I realize that this is not the best explanation. “I’ll see you later!” I ramble, approaching Grayson fast.
He’s sober, which is disappointing. Looks like I’ll be leaving with no juicy information to sell about him after this experience is over.
“What are you doing out here?” he demands, hugging himself. “It’s bloody freezing.”
“I was... getting some fresh air.”
And I nearly ended up kissing Rory... my ‘sort of’ only friend. My face and body are hot with adrenaline. I am not able to register the cold temperatures right now.
Grayson takes notice of the dress I’m wearing and scoffs. “You’d better get inside before you catch your death.”
“Since when do you care about what happens to me?”
“I don’t. I just wouldn’t want Levi to discover a frozen popsicle on his front lawn in the morning.” I brush past his shoulder. “Do you have your notes ready?”
“Yes, I had to cram them in my bag... because we know so much about each other already. I couldn’t contain the information.”