Self Hatred

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Chapter 2

The next day at school, Daphne does everything she can to push me around. Her glares stab, her elbows jab, and her words cut, but lucky for me I don’t give a shit.

“I’ve been through worse...” I said to Tara with a shrug at lunch.

“He’s looking at you...” Tara said to me in a hurried breath, scrambling to busy her hands.

I glanced up to look around. “Who?” I asked.

“Don’t look! Don’t look!” She whisper-yelled, taking a large bite of her sandwich. “Oh my god, Brandon Cruz is staring at you...” Tara said.

My eyes flit to the table diagonally in front of ours and find that, indeed, Brandon Cruz is staring right me.

Golden honey orbs stare back when I glance at him skeptically.

He captivates me, and I can’t look away.

An unjudging, curious gaze wills my eyes to his before leaning to his left to talk to Jason.

Brandon holds my stare, and then Jason’s gaze heats the delicate skin of my cheeks.

Green-blues bore into my pores and my lips and the tiny birthmark in the shape of a star on the right side of my neck.

I’m on fire in the worst way.

Jason’s stare is different, worse.

He won’t release me. I’m suffocating. He blinks, I blink.

When Jason stands, so does Brandon, and so does Daphne, and for a moment I wonder if they’ve planned to come over and kick my ass, but then they walk right passed my table and the staring contest is over.

“What the fuck was that, Hails?” Tara demands.

“I have no idea...” I replied.

The heat that licked my face moments ago dies down like waves in the ocean.

I’ve never felt so at ease looking at someone before the way Brandon stared at me. Safe. I felt safe.

Jason, Brandon, and I shared 2 classes, math and biology, but they don’t look at me once in either class. I wonder about the strange encounter for the rest of the day.


When the final bell rings, signaling dismissal, I grab my books and head to Tara’s car.

“Wait up, Hailey!” A voice calls from behind.

I turn and it’s Tim.

Crap.

“What’s up?” I asked making no moves to stop and talk.

The day is over.

I’ve rendered all the service I can.

I want to leave.

“There’s a party this weekend at my house... You should come...” Tim is attractive and funny, but he’s dumber than a bag of hair, and that’s the biggest turn off I can think of.

His brown eyes study my lips and I pull one between my teeth to get away from his sight.

Tim’s reputation is that of your typical high school jocks.

Meat head with very little brains, drinks too much beer, fools around with every cheerleader, and will peak at age twenty-five before slowly gaining a beer gut and marrying some chick who will cheat on him.

But this year I’ve decided would be different, so I accept.

“Can I bring Tara?” I asked letting him take my books from my arms so I can save his number in my phone.

“Yeah, for sure...” He smiles. I text him from my phone so he has my number, and then he opens Tara’s car door for me.

I smile because that’s cute, right?

And then, before I fall into her car, my eyes catch sight of Brandon, Jason, and their friends.

A group of misfits that look positively symmetrical.

Tall, lanky boys talk with short, chubbier ones.

Beautiful blondes hang on every word Queen Red says.

Each one wears black skinny jeans and a serious look.

For the second time today, I meet the eyes of 2 boys I’ve seen too much this school year.

Brows knitted together and I can tell by their barely moving lips they’re talking in whispers about me no doubt.

Jason looks irritated and Brandon looks confused.

This time, I don’t wait for them to look away.

I buckle up and tell Tara to leave.

“So, you and Tim?” she prods.

“He’s an idiot, but if I want to accomplish some goals this year…” I trail off with a shrug.

“I heard he’s a good kisser, but he’s got small dick... At least he supplies his parties with beer and party favors... Plus he’s rich as fuck...” She joked.

“Some of that sounds okay...” I said and think about what marrying into money might be like.

“His dick or his drugs?” She joked with a laugh.

I laugh off the truth.


The rest of the week plays out uneventfully.

Daphne backs off, Brandon stops staring, and Tim texts me every night.

"I hope you come on Saturday." ~Tim

"I’ll see what I can do." ~Hailey

It’s not like I have to get the approval of my dad.

He’d prefer if I didn’t stick around.

He’s probably counting down the days until I’m off to college and out of his hair forever.

Forever.

The idea weighs on me.

College.

Of course I’ve thought about it over the years, but now that it’s here and decisions need to be made, I find myself overly nervous.

Not only do I have to find myself a college to attend, but I need to apply for grants, and loans, and scholarships.

I need to find myself a piece of shit apartment because when I leave here, I’m not coming back.

I decide, since it’s Friday, that I’d bike down to the library and do some research.

I look up in state versus out of state, tuition’s, scholarships, and narrow down what area of the state I want to be in.

I look up real estate and the neighborhoods with the cheapest rent and public transportation, and then I contact school offices for discounts on application fees.

I print a stack of applications and call Tara.

"What’s up?" Tara said when she answered the phone.

“College research at the library... Want to meet at the playground?” I asked.

"Sure... Give me an hour..." Tara said before we both hang up.

I make it there before she does and park myself on a swing, throwing my backpack next to my bike.

The sun sets in front of me just as Tara rounded the corner of the abandoned street.

The only thing that happens on this street is sex in the alley, drug deals on the corner, and me and Tara hanging at the playground.

No one uses the dilapidated tennis or basketball courts.

No one tends to the overgrown grass across the street.

No one really drives down here if they can avoid it.

Tara and I talk about college and our futures.

She wants to go to a state school and major in biology. She’s top of the class and has more potential than anyone I know.

I rarely tell her this, and today when I do she rolls her eyes.

“Shut it...” She said, uncomfortable with compliments.

Tara and I are so similar in a lot of ways, yet totally different in others.

Her mom abandoned her when she was 11 and ended up being sent here to her dad she barely knew. Her dad cares for her, and she needs or wants for nothing.

Tara often tells me how annoying it is that he’s constantly buying her love.

Sometimes I tell her that’s okay, at least he’s trying.

Other times I agree.

What she doesn’t know is that I’d kill to have a dad who paid me even the littlest bit of attention.

Once, when I was 15 and sleeping over at her house, her dad went and got donuts for us the next morning as a surprise.

“These are jelly filled...” She old her dad in disgust. “What are we, fifty?” She added.

He looks disappointed so I pick one up and bite.

“I love jelly donuts...” I said with a shrug.

Her dad smiles gently and winks like a dad.

Tara doesn’t necessarily know the severity of my home life.

She’s been to my house once when we were in 9th grade.

She’s dropped me off or picked me up, of course.

She knows my dad goes on binges and my mom died of cancer.

She knows I’m improperly cared for, but she doesn’t know about the neglect emotionally and financially.

She doesn’t know I have to scrounge up crumpled dollar bills to pay for electric every few months.

She doesn’t know I had to get a summer job just to make sure the heat stays on in the winter.

She doesn’t know about the few times my dad hit me.

I’m good at hiding it.

I’m good at being clumsy.

I’m the best faker she’ll ever meet.

“I’ll pick you up tomorrow afternoon and we can get ready at my house...” Tara said, standing to leave well after dark. “He only lives a few streets over, so we can just walk...” She added.

“Okay...” I said.

“That way we can get fucked up...” She sings.

I tell her I’ll see her tomorrow and she takes off to go home.

Tara makes me forget about my shitty life. She makes it bearable.

I wonder, sometimes, if mom sent her for me specifically.

I shake my head of those ridiculous thoughts and stand to leave when I hear the distinct sound of an aerosol can being sprayed to my right.

A lone, hooded figure, dressed in black, violates my most favorite place on earth.

Granted, I never go on that side of the playground, but this area is mine. It’s been mine since I moved to this piece of shit area of town.

I’m the only one who ever comes here.

Irrational anger for this person blazes inside of me, and I stand quickly, hurrying to them.

“Hey!” I called. The person doesn’t respond. “Hey!” I yelled louder over the spray paint.

The person stops and stands.

Their hood stays on their head, but I can tell this person is very male.

He’s way taller than I am, his fingers are long, dirty with paint, and his nails are chipped black.

“What do you think you’re doing?” I asked, losing a bit of confidence, intimidated by his stance.

“Improving the place...” He said slowly, turning back to the blacktop.

“You can’t do that...” I told him.

“Says who?” He said.

“I’ll call the police..” I lied.

“No you won’t...” He challenged.

I swallow thickly, my brows knit together in thought.

No, I won’t.

He finishes off the can before standing and turning to me.

The dim streetlight brightens his face and I briefly see dirty blonde ends stick out from his hood.

I sigh in slight relief that I sort of know this person, and he isn’t going to hurt me, probably.

“Where else would you hide?” He questioned, pushing me further.

It’s not mean or menacing, it’s a genuine question.

I narrow my eyes, scrutinizing him.

He has no idea why I come here.

How dare he.

“Is that why you come here, Brandon?” I asked.

He laughs.

It’s the first time I’ve ever truly heard it.

It gets caught in his throat, like my words surprise even him.

He bends again to spray red over blue while it’s wet. I watch as it bleeds into purple.

“Of course...” He replied.

I really have no more to say, and to be honest, his delinquency and talent has me enraptured.

On the ground in front of us are two eyes, one blue and one green, crying purple tears.

Long, heavy lashes coat the outside of the eyes. It looks so real.

Brandon stands and tosses old cans in his backpack before standing tall and peeling gloves from his hands.

“That’s really…” I paused and glance at him. He’s rail straight, and in this moment, he looks like a true delinquent—dark hood, darker jeans, skater shoes with mismatched laces. “Striking...” I finish softly.

He shrugs. “I’ve done better...” He walks away silently, but he’s going the way I need to go, so I trail behind him.

He takes a left then a right to get to my street, and I wonder how he knows where I live.

He’s yards ahead of me, so I doubt he really cares to see me home.

I turn to my house and remember my stupid bike.

“Shit, my bike...” I said out loud, angrily, hitting my hand against the lattice of my home.

I don’t know if my dad’s car is in the driveway.

It’s too dark to tell.

All the street lights have gone out on our walk home.

I decide it’ll probably be okay until I can get it tomorrow, so I quietly scale the lattice and enter my bedroom.

My house is quieter than it’s ever been, and I go to turn on my light but the switch doesn’t work.

No electric.

After I log in to my phone to pay the overdue bill, dipping into what I’ve saved over Summer, I begin looking through sites for after school jobs.


“Hailey Lynn!” A voice calls from outside my room. Loud banging. “Get up!” Slurring. It’s barely bright out, but I can hear the innocence of birds beginning their day as panic flutters in my belly up to my throat.

I stumble out of bed and unlock my door.

My dad paces the hallway, banging into the walls and trying to recover quickly.

“You left your fucking bike in the driveway...” He slurs. “Go clean it up...” His tone menacing.

“My bike?” I asked in confusion.

Can’t be... I left it at the playground last night, didn’t I?′ I asked internally.

“Did I stutter?” He asked.

He doesn’t look at me, but he doesn’t need to.

I’m not looking at him either.

Dad isn’t usually a mean drunk unless he’s been on a binger where he drinks for days at a time.

Typically, he starts with beers at the home, drives down the block to Woody’s and finishes off whatever bottom shelf liquor he can afford that night, and passes out on the couch.

Today is different.

Today he antagonizes.

Today he follows me out to the front yard where my bike lays in a crumpled pile of metal and mess. The handlebars are stuck under the bumper angrily, and when I try to pull it out, rust from under the car flakes onto the pebbled cement.

“Clean it up...” He yelled me, banging into the wooden pillars barely keeping the house up.

When I finally pull the stupid metal of my bike from under the car, it pulls against the bumper, loosening it from the brackets.

Metal scrapes against metal. The car shakes from the pull.

Oh, no.

“God damn it!” He roared.

The neighborhood is full of white trash people constantly yelling, so this isn’t out of the ordinary, but it’s too early in the morning, and I know he’s going to wake people up.

“I can put it back...” I said, stopping immediately as I reconnect the bumper. I turn around to show him.

My dad doesn’t hear it though.

He stumbles off the porch and slaps me harder than he ever has before.

My cheek tingles from the sting.

I cup my hand and cower away as he comes at me again.

I brace myself as he kicks me, against my side, and slaps me again against the same cheek when I sit up on my knees.

I heard sobs in the background as he enters his car and peels out.

His car pulls away, and I fall down on the old driveway, sharp rocks cut against my palms then my forearms that catch my weight as I fall backwards.

The sobs grow louder until I realize they’re coming from me.

I stand quickly and look around.

No one’s outside, no one saw.

I grab my bike and place it by the garbage cans.

Stinging from my arms burn and when I look down, I’m bleeding.

I don’t normally act like a baby, but I’m extra sensitive today and just really over this piece of shit life.

I swallow my cries and tell myself not to be a little bitch, that I’m tougher than this.

Finally, deep down, I feel my absolute favorite thing, numb.


I take a hot shower, and let the water fall down my back, washing me of everything it can.

The water scorches and cleanses.

The steam heats me, and when my fingers lift to check the sting on my cheek, red stains my fingers.

I finish my shower and tend to the cut on my cheekbone.

It’s swollen and raised and purple bruising spiderwebs out.

I grab whatever I need and head out.

On the porch, next to the pillar my dad stumbled into, is my black backpack.

Someone must have brought it and my bike back. The simplest explanation is Brandon, but why?

I shake my head and clear my thoughts.

As much as I want to know, I really don’t.

"Pick me up at the playground when you get up." ~Hailey

I quickly text Tara as I laid my bag next to the graffiti eyes Brandon created last night.

When she shows up 2 hours later, she looks in awe of the art.

“Holy shit... Who did this?” She asked.

I don’t know why I do it, by I told her, “I don’t know...” I’m not protecting Brandon.

Maybe I don’t want to answer a million questions about how and why I stayed with him while he spray painted this.

Maybe I don’t want to relive last night.

Maybe I want it to be between the 2 of us, 2 recluses in the middle of the night.

Tara doesn’t ask me about my cheek right away, but the quiet anxiety eats at me.

When she finally asks, I tell her.

“I was riding my bike back from the store... A fucking squirrel ran out in front of me this morning... I swerved and fell right on my face...” It was a pretty good lie, I’ll admit, but Tara looks at me out of the corner of her eye.

If she doesn’t believe me, she doesn’t press.


“You look hot, Hails...” Tara said as I suck in to button the top of my dark blue, distressed jeans. I throw on a red top, lower cut than normal, and straighten my long, brown hair. “I’d fuck you...” She admitted.

I smiled in exasperation. “You’re so extra...” I said, swiping mascara over my lashes and blush across my cheeks.

The one good thing my dad gave me are storm blue eyes, and as much as I hate every ounce of him, I love my eyes.

“What makeup should I wear? I was hoping Tim would kiss me tonight, but I don’t want this to scare him off...” I asked to distract her from asking too many questions when she looks deeply at my cut again.

“Oh, then you definitely need to use this...” She said, handing me primer and foundation. “Do you think Brandon will be there?” She asked.

I hope not...′ I said internally. “Maybe...” I answered.


We walked into the party when it’s in full swing.

Tim is already two sheets to the wind, and the smell of liquor on his breath, it makes me want to gag, but his smile is happy and wide and contagious.

He tells me he’ll get me a drink, but when he hands it to me I don’t drink it.

I’m skeptical and pessimistic and untrusting.

When he turns around to talk to his friends, I dump the drink into the sink in the kitchen.

Following the crowd of people before me, I find the keg and fill up my own drink.

Standing on my tip toes, I look around for Tara’s shiny brown hair.

We got separated when we first arrived.

I walk from the kitchen to the living room where throngs of students mesh together, dancing, laughing, partying.

2 couches and a coffee table line the walls creating a big space in the middle.

No one seems to notice me, and I’m thankful.

I know I have goals for this year, but I’m in a funk today and only here so Tara can get her pussy wet.

I push my way through moving, sweaty bodies and up the steps passed 2 couples making out.

It’s quieter upstairs, but not really.

The music reverberates and I feel the bass through the floor.

There’s a line for the bathroom, 2 people sneak into a bedroom, and the room at the very end of the hallway is ajar.

Needing a break from all the people already, I walk towards it.

I enter and shut the door.

It’s a second living room with sports posters lining the wall, a sectional, and a coffee table in the middle of the room.

My breathing increases when I catch sight of who occupies the couch.

Brandon, Jason, and Daphne.

Fuck.

I can feel the rush of blood pumping through my veins from my heart’s extra effort.

I breathe through my nose and out through my mouth as Jason turns to me.

His gaze falls from my eyes to my lips to my chest.

Why did I wear this fucking top?′ My throat constricts as I swallow dryly at the thought.

Jason looks from me to Brandon.

Brandon rolls a joint with precision, licking the paper to seal it shut, and handing it to Jason who sparks it first.

He takes a few pulls to get it going and passes it to Daphne who passes it to Brandon.

When Brandon’s done, he hands it out to me.

My fingers find their way to my throat.

It’s like Brandon knows I want to.

But right now, with all of them looking, I can’t so I don’t.

I shake my head just slightly.

He retracts his arm and shrugs. “Prude...” Daphne said in irritation.

I manage to swallow and clear my throat.

I search for the doorknob behind me and as I turn it to escape, the door pushes in towards me and Tim enters the room.

“Hey, Hailey... I’ve been looking for you...” He pulls me close and smirks. “I see you’ve found the hot box...” He slithers past me, shuts the door, and pulls me with him to an empty cushion on the sectional.

Brandon passes him the joint and Tim inhales deeply before releasing the huge lung of smoke.

He does it again, this time creating art in the form of rings with his smoke.

Tim passes it to me, not waiting for my decline.

So, here I sit, with a joint between my fingers like a cigarette.

I look from the cherry red end to Daphne who sits across from me.

“Just pass it...” She sneers, very clearly annoyed.

Jason leans over to take it.

His soft eyes rimmed with thick lashes watch my mouth.

Copper hair sticks out from under his baseball hat.

I wonder why he won’t look me in the eye.

“Put it to your mouth and suck in as deep as you can...” Tim told me with a laugh, leaning back on the couch.

Daphne giggled at Tim.

Cheap slut.

I bring it to my lips, ready to pull as deep as I can like Tim said, but Jason shakes his head with a huff.

“You trying to kill your girl?” Brandon asks, rolling another joint. “If it’s your first time, don’t take a long pull...” He explained.

Tim leans me back and whispers, “Wanna shot gun?” He asked.

I don’t know what that is, and I don’t really feel comfortable with him all over me in front of everyone, so I shake my head no and bring the joint to my lips between my thumb and pointer finger like I watched these four do.

Daphne looks at me with scrutiny.

Brandon looks at me with curiosity.

Tim looks at me with pleasure.

Jason actually looks at me.

Fuck him.

When the end touches my lips, I inhale and choke immediately.

I hold out the joint and someone takes it, replacing it with an unopened water.

I chug half the bottle, easing the dry scorch from inside, slowly regaining composure of my senses.

“Oh my god...” I gagged.

Tim pulls me into his side, arm around my shoulders, kissing my neck.

His lips are thin and wet but warm.

“Cute, babe... I remember my first time, too...” Tim chuckles.

Brandon watches with amusement, one brow quirked.

I look to Jason and find Daphne straddling his lap now.

He fists the bottom of her cropped shirt, and her tiny, dirty moan fills my ears.

“What happened to your face?” Brandon asked, interrupting my thoughts.

“Huh?” I asked.

“Wow, I get bitched at when I ask the same thing...” Daphne giggled annoyingly.

Brandon ignores her. “Your face... Someone fucked it up...” He brings the joint back to his lips, inhaling twice before stubbing out the end in ash tray.

Brandon knows.

My heart rate accelerates.

He knows because he put my bike there.

Did he do it on purpose?

I have to recover.

3 other people in this room are none the wiser, and I need to keep it that way.

“I fell off my bike...” I said quietly, keeping eye contact. I’m so used to providing as much detail before anyone else asks, so I continue. “A squirrel ran out in front of me... I fell on my cheek...” I said thanking whatever god there is that they can’t see my side.

“Clumsy girl...” Tim teased.

His fingers played with the ends of my hair, extremely close to my nipples. I’m sure he realizes this. He ghosts his fingers against the side of my breast and my lashes flutter softly.

“When?” Brandon pushes.

I glance at him, but he’s cleaning his work space.

“Um, this morning...” I said.

Jason looks at the cut under my eye and then studies Tim’s hand placement.

Daphne’s lips descend on Jason’s stubbly jaw to his neck.

When he makes no move to stop her, I stand to leave.

This is too weird.

“Um, thanks...” I tell Brandon quietly. “For… Um... This...” I said.

He gives me a nod with his head but doesn’t look up as he’s bent over the coffee table.

Tim stands and follows me out.

“Save me some... I’ll be back soon...” He said to Brandon, stuffing his hand in my back pocket, “Ish...” He added.


Outside the room, with fresh air and a clear mind, I turn to Tim just as he leaned down and plants his lips right on mine.

They feel soft and small.

He smells of woodsy smoke and cheap beer.

His lips move against mine twice more in the hallway before he pulls back.

“You look really good tonight...” He says softly.

“Thanks...” I whispered, running a hand through my hair.

“My room’s right there...” He said, pointing behind me. “Want to go in there and talk? It’ll be quiet...” He asked.

Talk...′ I thought and internally roll my eyes but whatever.

“Sure...” I answered anyway.

He smiled widely, opening his door and kicking it shut once we’re in.

Tim’s room is light grey with a blue bedspread. He has a desk on one wall full of loose papers and a computer.

Posters of bands and half naked blonde women decorate the walls.

“Got a thing for blondes, huh?” I joked, pointing to the picture of 2 girls in thongs bending over on the beach.

“I got a thing for any girl with a nice ass...” He said jokingly, walking closer, gripping my chin and leaning down.

“Why do you like me then?” I joked, self-deprecatingly.

He smirks on my lips. “Your tits are pretty nice...” He said.

I let him kiss me heavier than he did in the hallway.

Tim is taller than I am, so he has to bend awkwardly to maintain the passionate kiss.

When his tongue runs along my bottom lip, he backs me up against his bed and we fall into it.

Once he has me here, things speed up.

Tim’s fingers roam up and down my sides, taking my shirt with it.

His mouth feels warm and wet against my creamy skin, but it doesn’t excite me like I thought it would.

Maybe I need more.

For research purposes, of course, I peel off my top.

Tim grips my breasts over my black bra and groans into them. “Fuck, Hail... You’re so sexy...” He pants, nipping my soft tummy, licking fire up my skin to the swell of my left breast.

He pulls the cup of my bra down, and my breast pops out.

“Is this okay?” He asked, mouth hovering above my nipple, eyes on mine.

I’m slightly surprised he thinks to ask, but his gentle disposition makes me smile.

I nodded a yes.

I watch as his lips and tongue slowly lower, taking my nipple between his lips and sucking gently.

He moans softly as my nipple pebbles against his tongue.

Warmth licks my insides, battling against my better judgment.

When his teeth scrape against my nipple and his free hand cups and squeezes my other breast, the smallest moan bubbles out of my throat and my back arches.

And then someone barges through the door.

“Occupied!” Tim called out, turning his head, recovering my breasts. “The fuck, Morgan?” He snapped.

Jason?′ I thought internally, sitting up quickly.

I grab my shirt and throw it back on as I watch Jason and Daphne stumble into the room.

“Oh, fuck, dude...” Jason slurs. “My bad... I didn’t know...” He tried to apologize.

“You fucking know my room is off limits...” Tim said, standing to usher them out.

“Maybe she’s not so virginal after all...” Daphne teased, turning to cup Jason’s neck.

His eyes are on mine now. Storm blue stare, but I can’t read his face.

There’s nothing.

He gives away nothing.

He blinks slowly and turns to Daphne. “Let’s find another room...” Jason said.

Tim comes back and sits next to me on his bed.

“Sorry, Hailey... I don’t know why he did that... Morgan knows my room is never an option...” He said.

“It’s okay... I should go find Tara anyways...” I explained, standing and walking to the door.

He walks me down the hall and stops before we go down the stairs into the throng of people.

“Hailey, I like you...” He started. “Do you want to, like, go to dinner or something sometime?” He asked.

I want to tell him he doesn’t like me, he doesn’t even know me, but instead I nod.

“Sure...” I said.

He smiles brighter than the fluorescents in chemistry.

Downstairs, I find Tara talking to Greg.

Greg’s pretty nice, probably the nicest one that runs with that crew.

His light brown hair peaks out from under the white hat he sports, and his glasses are black and thick rimmed plastic.

He’s got kind eyes and a kinder smile and he’s almost always higher than the clouds.

“Hails!” Tara called.

She’s definitely drunk.

I watch as she stumbles over to me, grabs my hand, and leads me back to Greg.

“Greg was just telling me about an after party at his house...” Tara said.

“Oh, really?” I asked.

“Yeah, you guys should definitely come... It’s a lot less people and a lot more fun...” He flashes a diamond white smile.

Greg comes from money. He lives on my old street near Jason with a lot of land and a lot of privilege, but he doesn’t flash it around like others do.

He wears ratty old band tees and drives a beat-up dodge.

And Greg is kind, peaceful.

Last year, when Daphne’s best friend started teasing me, Greg told her to stop.

She didn’t, but that’s okay. It made me smile to know Greg at least tried.

“Will Daph and her cronies be there?” I asked, taking the drink Tara had and sipped it.

The amber liquid burns going down.

That’s definitely not beer.

“Probably...” He said honestly.

I roll my eyes and down the rest of what’s in her cup.

If they’ll be there, I definitely need to be tuned.

“Fine...” I said and Tara claps and hollers in my ear and I scrunch away from her.

“Fuck yeah!” My best friend yelled.

She’s high smiles and drunk laughter and confident in every freckle, blemish, and pore. She’s everything I wish I could be.

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