When we arrived at Drew’s house, there were no places for parking. Cars lined the curbs in every direction. I left mine several doors down, almost a block away, parked in a cul-de-sac one street over. We hiked the rest of the way through the chilly air. Ella wanted to walk with me rather than dropping her off at the front door. This time she was silent and not as talkative as her normal self. I briefly wondered if Kyle and Jacelyn would be here, because I was sure Justin sent a mass text regarding the party location. It seemed like several unknown people showed up because I didn’t recognize the cars parked from the usual ones. I half expected to see Jacelyn’s white Porshce parked somewhere, but it wasn’t on our route so far.
We were walking up the hillside of Drew’s lawn when Ella grabbed my arm and slowed her pace. I glanced over at her wondering what was wrong.
“Kyle’s car,” she observed aloud as we turned the corner. We eyed the familiar sleek convertible black mustang parked a couple of doors down from where we stood.
Right on cue, the man in question emerged from Drew’s house, arm in arm, hand in hand with Jacelyn. She giggled and grinned at him as they left the party. He returned the expression while pushing the remote start button on his keychain.
Ella had frozen beside me, but the pair hadn’t noticed our presence.
Jacelyn climbed into the passenger’s seat while Kyle heroically jumped into the car from the driver’s side without opening his door.
“I’m so glad you changed your mind,” Jacelyn cooed at him as her fingers traced circles on his neck.
Kyle softly growled back at her. “Tonight, you can be my Queen.”
They shared a kiss before Kyle drove his Mustang loudly down the road and out of sight.
I glanced down at Ella. She looked furious, but behind her blue eyes I knew she was completely heartbroken by this scene. I half expected her to demand I take her home, but instead she made a bee line into the house before I could stop her. I followed, worried that she was angry enough that she would do something malicious or stupid. The second I entered the doorway I was surrounded by a pack of giggling girls and a few guys. They all congratulated me on my winning goal. News of my success had already spread around like wild fire. Now that I had entered the house, I could see who was present, including those unknown individuals. Everyone Ella and I knew, plus several lower classmen and graduated young adults filled Drew’s house. The girls flirted endlessly with me, hoping that I would spend some quality time with them now that Jacelyn was out of the picture. From all the chatter and gossip nearby, I gleaned that Kyle and Jacelyn were officially a couple, though I had gathered that information not only from Justin, but from the scene Ella and I just witnessed. It didn’t take much thinking before realizing that they were headed in that direction.
I completely lost sight of Ella. She had blended into the crowd, disappearing like a chameleon. I edged past several ‘fans’ of mine and found Drew talking with Toby near the spiked punch. It reeked of vodka but maintained the vivid red of cherry soda.
“Well look who’s here!” Drew greeted me with a slap on the back. “The man of the hour!”
Several girls and guys cheered as they crept closer. The girls reached up trying to give me hugs, but I turned out of their grasp and grabbed a drink, keeping them away from me. I wasn’t in the mood for hugs.
“Garrett saved us from sudden death and we BEAT WEST FORK!” Drew boomed in my ear.
Cheers from the crowd rose up around me, again.
“Hey, Drew!” I shouted at him over the noise.
He took a swig of whatever was in his cup before he truly noticed me. “What’s up?” he yelled over the loud music playing in the background.
“Have you seen Ella?” I shouted back.
He shook his head. “Why?”
I grabbed his arm and pulled him away from the speakers. They were much too loud. “She came in here upset. We both witnessed Jacelyn pawing Kyle out in his car,” I explained.
His smile dropped. “Oh man that sucks. Is she okay?”
“That’s what I’m trying to check out. I lost her at the door. She didn’t look happy.”
Matt drifted by us. He appeared from the kitchen. “Yo, Gar!” He greeted me by my common nickname. “Great to see ya here!”
I grabbed his shoulder and pulled him back to where Drew and I stood. “Was Ella in the kitchen?” I asked him.
“No. Is she here?” he replied, curious about my question.
“She was when I came in,” I muttered.
He shook his head. “Wow. I hope she doesn’t spot Kyle and Jacelyn getting freaky on the dance floor. It was like watching cable.”
“They’ve left,” I stated for his benefit.
His smile dropped. “Oh, well she’ll be alright.”
“Don’t bet on it,” Drew mumbled under his breath. I started thinking that even he was understood the severity of the situation, but when I caught sight of his face that theory was flushed out of my mind. He stared across the room at someone, wearing and expression of shock and worry.
I followed his gaze and caught sight of Ella drinking down shot after shot after shot of unknown liquid. She chugged four in the few seconds I spotted her. Who knew how many she’d already drunk?
I gently pushed past the few girls that either still hung around me or blocked my path. Ella grabbed the nearest guy before I could reach her and hauled him over onto the dance floor where several couples already were doing the signature bump and grind. Two girls appeared beside me, though they didn’t cling to me like the others did, which is how I knew they were friends of ours.
“About time she moved on!” They laughed aloud.
“Get it on girl!” Teresa jeered.
I glanced over at her tall figure. “Was this your idea?”
She grinned. “I think she’s just fed up with trying to repair the relationship with Kyle. I mean we told her that Jacelyn was practically having sex with him on the dance floor earlier. It wasn’t that hard to spot.”
“They could have for all we know,” Clara continued the conversation. “Did you see that skirt she was wearing?”
I reeled on them. “You told her that?” I was furious that they might have caused this outlandish behavior. Didn’t they know that Ella was in a fragile state over the boy? They were girls, and of course they should know this, but they acted like they didn’t.
“I don’t think we had to. Everyone is talking about it,” Teresa observed.
I kept my eyes focused on Ella and her radical behavior, but I trained my ears on the chatter surrounding me. Sure enough, Teresa was right. I overheard the discussions between people and they all discussed Jacelyn’s exploits, my heroic stunts at the game were forgotten. I didn’t know whether I should be surprised or disgusted by the entire situation. Ella was clearly upset when we entered the house, but now she’d gone completely overboard.
Justin walked into the room. Several members of the football team followed him which I found to be odd. Already word of Ella’s radical behavior had spread. They cheered her on from the side lines. From where I stood, Drew gazed at the scene in complete shock, not quite believing that someone like her would behave like this. I didn’t blame him; I was in shock as well.
“So, Garrett, I heard that you took Lynna Ashford on a date,” Clara stated loudly redirecting my thoughts.
I expected everyone to stop what they were doing and stare at us, but they didn’t. Ella’s actions distracted the audience. “It wasn’t a date,” I clarified. “I took her home.”
Her small round face glowed. “Oooohhh…Well that’s a better story, plus it explains a great deal.”
“What do you mean?”
She chuckled a bit. “In the past few days Lynna’s name has appeared handwritten on some of the Homecoming ballots for Queen.”
I turned my head and stared at her. There were few things at this moment that could distract me from watching Ella and her radical behavior. “What? Her name was put there just because she rode in my car?”
Clara grinned. “Well that, and people think that you’re sleeping with her.”
I reeled. “Wait a second, what? And how do you even know this?”
She shrugged. “I work on the student council, and I’ve been tallying up the votes. She hasn’t received enough to win, but her popularity is definitely rising.”
“And that was because of my actions?”
“Well some of it is. There’s also speculation regarding your relationship with her, but you need to know she’s become an enemy of Jacelyn’s and there are a lot of people that want to spite her in any way possible, especially after recent events.” She coughed out the last part.
Some of the guys blocked my view of Ella. I traveled around the mob to a different side of the room, just so I could keep an eye on her. Clara kept up with me as I moved, leaving Teresa behind.
“Does Jacelyn hate Lynna that much?” I asked her not really knowing the answer to that question.
I shook my head. “Is she feeling any remorse for what she did to Ella?” Clara, Teresa, and Ella used to be a part of Jacelyn’s inner circle, but because of Ella’s fallout I didn’t know where the pair of them stood.
“She hasn’t expressed sympathy, though she has been raving about Kyle and her receiving the court titles. I don’t think she realizes that some of her votes are being redirected to Lynna. I don’t know who will get the title of the Queen now. Kyle’s votes have been fluctuating as well.”
“I thought you would know who was wearing the crown already.” I finally found a spot where I could watch the dancing without getting involved in it.
“Well, because we pushed the ceremony to tomorrow evening with the football game, we decided that the students can still vote tomorrow afternoon before we close the election. Jacelyn did that for you by the way, but I bet now she’s regretting that decision,” Clara giggled.
“There you are handsome,” Jacelyn’s familiar voice filled me with dread. I whipped around. I couldn’t believe she chose to reappear at the party. Kyle wasn’t anywhere around us, but up close I could see what Clara and Teresa were talking about when they discussed the skirt. It was incredibly short, a little too short.
She brushed up against me and tried taking my hand, but I pulled it out of her reach before she could grasp it.
“Let’s dance, Gar! I’ve been looking for you everywhere.”
I crossed my arms, furious from her games. She didn’t care who she hurt.
She glared at me. “What’s your deal?” she sneered.
“You’re what’s wrong Jacelyn,” I corrected her. “You’re the one with the problem. I told you no in the stairwell, no in the parking lot, and now I’m telling you it’s not happening here, ever.”
“What do you mean?” she asked me, trying to look innocent.
I rolled my eyes at her dumb routine behavior. “I saw you with Kyle in his mustang and your behavior at the game, so don’t lie about it.”
Her smile disappeared. “So… you don’t want to be with me?” She sounded confused, but she clearly tried to avoid the subject surrounding Kyle.
I purposefully looked away from her. This was getting too old. What part of no did she not get?
“I see. You’d rather play with the trash.”
Clara blushed outright. She kept silent during the whole conversation, probably curious about my reactions.
Jacelyn grabbed Justin’s attention. “Let’s dance,” she mouthed at him seductively.
I reached out and caught Justin’s arm. “She’s playing you!” I whispered in his ear.
He shrugged me off. “You’re just jealous,” he spat in my face.
I let him go, knowing that he was making a huge mistake.
Jacelyn caught a hold of Becker, a freshman on the baseball team as Justin caught up with her. The three started making a radical scene on the dance floor as the boys shared Jacelyn in her seductive style of moves. Several of the already drunk party girls jumped in, joining the charade. None of them grasped what was really transpiring here. They were followed by guys who were interested in pawing at them.
“Where do you think she learned those moves?” Teresa spoke up from between Clara and me. She found her way through the crowd having known we moved away.
“Strippers-r-us?” Clara guessed.
Ella caught sight of the new threat, but she didn’t approach Jacelyn. Knowing that she was no longer the center of attention, she pulled her guy closer to her and started pawing at him. He returned her attention quickly and soon they were making out.
Jacelyn scowled as she watched Ella focus the attention away from her malicious game. She grabbed at Justin, who groped her body in return, while she moaned loudly and kissed Becker.
Ella snapped her eyes open at this new scene, though both were just horrible to watch. That’s when she started stripping, and the crowd grew wilder, cheering her on.
I couldn’t watch this anymore. I leapt onto the dance floor no longer content with Ella stripping away her pride. She might hate me now, but she would thank me later. Clara already stared at her in horror. Once they realized how bad this was, several people had stopped cheering. This scene wasn’t a dance off. Jacelyn even lifted her eyes for a second, watching the reactions of those around her. She tried catching my gaze, but I no longer had eyes for this. There was only one thing I cared about and that was saving Ella from herself. I got close to her just as she undid the last button on her shirt.
“Ella, stop this,” I begged her.
She didn’t respond and kept mauling Brett.
“Ella!” I shouted at her.
Brett pried his mouth off her neck. “Go away, Garrett,” he growled at me. “She wants this!” He pulled her closer.
I wasn’t going to watch Ella ruin her life in this way. She was completely out of it. I grabbed Brett and pulled him away from her. He tried punching me in the face, but I caught his fist before he could land the blow. I pushed him back and stared at his eyes. “Leave her alone,” I boomed.
Ella resumed dancing behind us. I turned so I could take Ella away from this, but Brett tackled me from behind. He tried pushing me over, so he could pin me on the ground, but I ducked and pulled him off my back, stumbling towards the wall. I shoved him up against it, holding his body a foot off the ground.
“Back OFF!” I yelled at him.
“Fine!” he squealed. I dropped him, and he landed on his feet.
He again tried catching me by surprise, but I knew it was coming because he had given up so easily. I threw a punch and caught his nose before he could touch me. Blood spurted down his arm as he howled in pain, leaving to find a towel.
I walked back towards Ella. The crowd gave me a wide berth now they knew I wasn’t playing. Jason was pawing at her now, but once he saw me approach, he backed away.
Ella whirled around, staring at me with rage burning in her eyes. She had noticed I was scaring off the guys. Jacelyn grinned wickedly from her laid-back position on Justin’s chest. Ella looked like she wanted to punch me, but slowly the rage melted away and she swayed in tune with the music. She tried dancing with me at first, but I wouldn’t follow her moves. I pushed her away gently, making sure that she understood that it was time we left.
“Please just kiss me,” she begged, nuzzling her body closer to mine.
“No, Ella,” I responded, and stepped away slightly.
“Please…” she began again but she stopped just as quickly, for streams of tears rolled down her face. She covered her eyes with both hands and cried.
The music still played in the background but all anyone could do was stand and watch the sad scene play out. No one moved. Everyone watched Ella break down into tears. Even Brett stood on the outskirts holding a towel up to his nose, watching her in shock.
“Make it stop,” Ella whimpered. “Make it stop hurting.”
I scooped her up in my arms, but only to hug her. She completely broke down. My shirt was wet with her tears. I picked her up and carried her out of the house. Jacelyn looked like she wanted to say something mean to me as I passed her, but once I shot her a daring look she held her tongue. No other words were spoken aloud as we left the house.
I carried her all the way out to my car. I wanted to take her home, but she begged me not to, so I ended up driving us both back to my house. I let her into the spare bedroom and closed the door allowing her privacy.
Sometime during the night, she started vomiting, expunging whatever it was she drank. My mother awoke from the commotion and took over caring for her, so I could get some rest.
The last thing I saw on my phone was a text from Drew. The police had arrived shortly after I left. Jacelyn was caught illegally consuming alcohol on the lawn, along with a couple of other people. Most of our friends were already safely away, as Ella’s breakdown was the signal of the end of the party. Drew was the only one who got penalized. His father was notified of his shenanigans. But it wasn’t the first time this had happened.