Character's Folly

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Chapter Eight

Jessica left her clothes in a bundle on the dressing room bench. She would either collect them another time, or they would be gone. It didn’t matter at the moment: At the moment all that mattered was that little red dress. She loved it!

“Oh, let’s go dance!” Jessica invited her two male escorts. Brad exchanged looks with Ernie. What were they going to do with her? She was obviously not thinking clearly.

“Oh, just a minute. I forgot my drink.” Jessica pivoted to go back after her forgotten cocktail, but Ernie took a hold of her arm and persuaded her to go with him instead. “There’s more where that came from,” he assured her. “Just leave it.”

Brad just looked at Ernie. That girl was not going to be having any more to drink, of that he was certain. He’d see to it that she didn’t. She was there after all, with him, and he wasn’t going to have her get any more out of control than she already was.

With a man on each side, Jessica made her way back down the stairs, unmolested, and barefoot. She had the pretty heels in her hand. Both Brad and Ernie each had one of their arms hooked into Jessica’s arms to keep her balanced. And so they reappeared to the party and the guests. At the bottom of the stairs Jessica felt obligated to thank each of her companions, with a bear-hug and a kiss, no less. First she wrapped her arms around Ernie’s neck and planted a kiss full-on his lips. Before he really had any time to react, Jessica then unwound herself from her spontaneous embrace and repeated the nicety to Brad.

Well, both men were taken back and a bit shocked, but no more so than Pete, who had just entered the house. When he saw Jessica first kiss Ernie, and then kiss Brad he knew that she must have been drunk; and those men had just come from upstairs with her! He knew Ernie all too well to wonder if his intentions were honorable. And as far as Brad went; he didn’t trust that man any farther than he could throw him! And she was obviously drunk.

Pete was livid. He had been looking forward to hooking up with Jessica at the party and then maybe taking it from there. He really liked her, and she could tell that she liked him too. So, what was she doing going upstairs lit up with two men? They had to have teamed up and taken advantage of her. By the time that he got to the stairs and the three of them he didn’t have time for questions.

He doubled up his fist and planted a firm right straight into Brad’s jaw. That set Brad back a couple of feet, and then he took a swing at Ernie. Well, Ernie had sense enough to duck the blow as he had just seen Brad get nailed. “What the Hell’s going on?” Ernie quickly questioned Pete once he was out of arm’s reach.

Before Pete could answer though, Brad regained his footing and was coming at Pete full force. Ernie was able to grab a hold of a bewildered Jessica and pulled her out of harm’s way. Then the other two men proceeded to get into a full frontal fist fight.

“Dog,” Pete growled at Brad.

“You’re nuts.” Brad responded as he planted a solid shot to Pete’s face.

The two were strong-arming each other and throwing blows left and right. Ernie wasn’t one to throw a party without a bouncer or two, and before things got to bloody and brutal a big, buff black man put himself in-between the two that were fighting. He towered over them and it wasn’t hard for them to know that the fight was over; and so was the party; for them that was. “You’re out of here.” Max relayed with full authority. Either leave, or I’ll remove you. Who wants to go first?”

The two men both weighed their options and decided against trying to come against Ernie’s security guy. “You don’t got to do nothing. We’ll leave.” Pete offered. Brad just started to straighten out his shirt, on his way out the door.

“You coming with me?” Brad asked Jessica.

“Oh, I don’t know.” Jessica was confused. “I don’t know.”

“She’s fine.” Ernie stated. “I’ll give her a lift.”

Brad didn’t care that Jessica didn’t go with him. He wanted to go and nurse his wounds, and if she wanted to stay and take her chances with Ernie then that was fine with him. He never even considered how vulnerable she was, or that she wasn’t in any kind of mind to be trying to make decisions. He just turned his back on them all and kept walking.

“Oh, no you won’t.” Pete stepped in. He didn’t care if Max had to physically remove him or not, that girl wasn’t going anywhere with anyone, except for him. He turned his attention to Jessica. “Jesse, can I give you a ride home?”

Jessica seemed to notice that it was Pete for the first time. Her Pete. The dream guy; the one with the camera. “I’d like that,” Jessica said, and then she placed herself at his side. When she went to wrap her arms around his neck he gently persuaded her not to.

“Look what you have done to her.” Pete stated angrily.

“To me?” Jessica questioned. Then she giggled inappropriately. For some reason what he said struck her funny; after all, all that anyone had done to her was give her some yummy drinks and a pretty dress…

***

“Pull over.” Jessica stated, and she meant it.

Pete took one look at her face and did exactly as she had asked.

The moment that the car came to a stop Jessica opened the door and even as she was getting out she started to heave. It was fortunate for her, and for Pete, that her projectile vomit went out and onto the sidewalk, instead of all over Jessica or in Pete’s car. As she threw up she managed to get away from the car, and from poor Pete. It had been a rotten night. He looked at his busted lip in the mirror as he tried to distract himself from the view and the sound of Jessica retching her guts out. It was pretty disgusting.

Even after it got quiet Pete sat in his seat. He didn’t really have anything to say, and didn’t know what he could do for her, so he just waited. Jessica finally returned to the car. She poked her head in the door that she had gotten out of. “You got a tissue or something?”

“Sure, right there in the glove box.” Pete answered. His car was small, but he let her open the glove box herself. He was just trying to be still. He knew that the least that he could do was give her space.

Jessica easily found a few napkins and stepped away from the car with them. Pete heard her coughing and spitting and blowing her nose. How exciting was that. For a second he thought of how gross puking was; especially when it came out of your nose. He tried to put those thoughts out of his mind. But the other thoughts; they weren’t much better. He honestly didn’t know what to think. He had really been thinking a lot about Jessica. And now what? Had Brad and Ernie both taken advantage of Jessica while they were upstairs? The way that she was hanging on them, and even kissing them told him that it wasn’t good. He knew that Ernie was quite a womanizer, but to get a woman drunk and then grab a buddy and do her? It just didn’t seem like something that even Ernie would stoop to.

She got done blowing her nose and choking on her own putrid insides and got back into Pete’s car. She didn’t look at him right away. She felt shaky from the violence of her reaction to the alcohol, but the fresh air and the emptying of her stomach had helped to clear Jessica’s head tremendously. And she had some serious reservations about her previous behavior. She finally dared a look at Pete.

“So, that’s what drunk looks like, huh?” She was embarrassed, to say the least.

“I’d say. And then some. You really were out there. How much did you have to drink?”

“I only had one.” Jessica claimed.

“One what? Is that all? You had some serious issues going on at the party girl. You sure you only had one?” Pete didn’t believe her. That couldn’t be true, not unless someone had drugged her… It just kept getting worse. He felt like he might be sick. Jessica had seemed like such a nice girl, and now; well, if his suspicions were true then he knew that he wouldn’t have anything to do with her. How could he?

“Well, I guess I had a little bit more than one, but not two. My second drink I didn’t get to finish. I guess it’s just as well, huh?”

“You were tanked. What was it that you were drinking?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Some kind of tea.” Jessica answered.

“Long Island Iced Tea?” It wasn’t a question. Pete knew just exactly what that was! It had to be one of the strongest drink concoctions that there was for a cocktail. And what was really bad was that it was so disguised in taste that it was hard to tell that it was so potent with alcohol. One of those men fed that to her, or it could have even been both of their ideas. Pete was angry all over again.

“It was really good.” Jessica shyly admitted. “But I don’t plan on ever trying another one.”

“Maybe you shouldn’t drink. You really didn’t have a very good handle on it.” Pete wasn’t trying to be cruel, but she needed a bit of advice in that direction. She could clearly not handle her alcohol.

“I’m not a drinker. Before, or now. And I don’t plan on trying it again; at least not real soon.” Jessica said. “And I know what to do if someone ever suggests a ‘Tea’ again. I’ll just say no!”

“You’re right. She shouldn’t drink again; not real soon, or even ever.” Pete sternly, but gently warned. “It was a pretty good train wreck at that party, Jesse. Do you even know what happened there, or how you were acting?”

“What do you mean, do I even know? Of course I know! I’m not stupid.” Jessica was defensive; with good cause. What he was suggesting was just wrong.

“Some people drink and black out. Then they have no idea what transpired while they were under the influence of the alcohol. Do you actually remember, or are you just saying that?” Pete hated to be so blunt, but he really wanted to know.

“I didn’t black out. Get that straight, okay. And yeah, I did drink too much. I didn’t know that I would be so emotionally out of control after less than two full drinks! Who would?”

“What you were drinking was a very strong cocktail. Who’s idea was that?”

Jessica contemplated the question, and then replied. “Brad’s my friend. He would never do anything to hurt me.” She was indignant.

“Well, girlfriend, let me tell you; he wasn’t doing you any favors feeding you that drink. There’s a whole world of mixed drinks out there. He knows how strong it is. Do the math. “And what about going off upstairs with both Ernie and Brad? Do you want to have a reputation as someone less than honorable in this town?”

“I – we didn’t do anything wrong. It was my idea – well, kind of. I wore a long skirt – oh, my skirt! How am I going to get my clothes back?” Jessica was clearly distressed.

“Your clothes? Now, that sounds good. What exactly went on over there?” Pete knew that it was none of his business, but he wanted to know anyway. He took it pretty serious; getting busted up over a girl and all.

“Oh, this is all ridiculous. And now I’ve lost my clothes.” Jessica was ready to cry. The whole party situation was literally leaving a very bad taste in her mouth. “Do you have a mint?” She asked, feeling like a total failure.

“Sure, sorry. I should have offered. He opened up the console of his car and pulled out a breath mint. “Here. And don’t worry about your clothes. I’ll get them for you and bring them to you sometime in the near future. I’ll have to let Ernie calm down a bit first though. I’m pretty sure that I made him pretty mad.”

“Do you think he’s mad at me?” Jessica hadn’t even considered the possibility. And then she thought about Brad. What did he think of her, now?

“Naw. He’s not like that. He’ll just move on. He’s mad at me though. I’ll give him some space and then I’ll talk to him. Once I tell him my slant on things he’ll probably just let it go. If not, then that’s his problem. If I had to do it again, I’d do the same thing.”

“Why did you come in there and start busting into Brad like that? And I saw that you would have hit Ernie too.”

“You honestly don’t know?” Pete waited for her answer.

“Was it because of me?” Jessica asked. She was a bit flattered. He was fighting for her?

“Do you have any idea what it looked like, Jessica? You were hanging on the one, and then you kissed him. If that wasn’t bad enough, then you turned to the other and did the exact same thing! It looked like you were thoroughly enjoying your two lovers, right there in front of God and everybody.”

“Oh, God. I did kiss them, didn’t I?” Jessica didn’t like what she was recalling. She immediately forced herself to think back; to when they were upstairs. Had she done anything like that up there too? She played it back in her mind. No, she came to realize. All that had happened upstairs was that she put on that little red dress. In the room? No, it was in the dressing room. Still, she felt ill all over again. She really had been acting quite the fool.

“Nothing else happened.” Jessica stated with conviction. “But it could have…”

***

Jessica was dreaming that the phone was ringing. In her dream she picked it up and told whoever was on the other end of the line to go away. But that didn’t help, because it just kept on ringing. She managed to open her eyes a peep. She had a pounding headache. She picked up the phone. “Hey, girl!” Penelopy’s loud and cheerful greeting about split her head wide open.

An overly chipper Penelopy had decided to check up on Jessica and see how the party went. Her phone had just kept ringing, but Penelopy wasn’t discouraged from waiting. She knew that Jessica was home. It was too early for her night-owl friend to be any where. She also knew that an early morning phone call after a night of partying wasn’t the most friendly thing to do, but Penelopy was just entertaining herself. She figured she’d get a good run down on everything while it was early; without the distractions of the day. Had she known that Jessica was a bit hung-over then she might have called just a little bit earlier, you know, just for fun.

Jessica didn’t answer Penelopy’s bright greeting right away. She looked at the phone and considered throwing it. She wouldn’t have even answered it, but she had forgotten that the light switch needed to be in the ‘on’ position for her answering machine to work. When she had come in after the party the night before she forgot to just turn off the lamp and to leave the switch on: That’s the only reason that she had answered it at all. She certainly didn’t want to.

“What ya need?” Jessica hoped that her lack of enthusiasm would be a good indication that she was sleeping.

“So, how’d it go?” Penelopy would not be discouraged.

“Can I call you later? I’ve got a terrible headache.”

“Eeek!” Penelope shrieked into the phone.

Jessica just about dropped it.

“You got drunk?” Penelopy was incredulous! Jessica had refused to drink a drop of alcohol at her coming out party, even though there was champagne and toasts going on all evening. Penelopy had gotten just a little light headed at her party, but Jessica had determinedly stayed cold, stone, sober.

“I’m calling you later.” Jessica stated.

“I’m on my way over.” Penelopy managed to get out before the expected dial tone.

Jessica hung up the phone. On her way over? She was going to murder that girl! She tried to roll over and go back to sleep, but Penelopy’s last words stopped her. The last thing that Jessica wanted was for Penelopy to show up and wake her up, again! She thought about it for a few minutes, and then she got out of bed and found something to wear. She needed to get in the shower. Penelopy only lived about thirty minutes away. They would have lived closer to each other, but Jessica just couldn’t afford Manhattan.

She looked in the mirror. She looked a mess. She had an ashen look about her, and her hair was a tangled mess. She must have tossed and turned all night long. Once Pete dropped her off at her apartment she had nothing to do, but reprimand herself for her behavior. How was she ever going to face Brad again? And what about that promising future working with Ernie? And worst of all, what about Pete? She really liked him It was a pretty good bet that he’d never have anything to do with her now! Surely she had ruined her life! Then she started to remember the night before. She wasn’t real happy with her thoughts. You’re an idiot. She chided herself. There was no one replying; telling her that she wasn’t.

The hot water in the shower did little to relieve Jessica of the self-defeating thoughts that she assaulted herself with; but the water did actually feel good. She kept it short though. She wanted to at least look like she had it together when Penelopy arrived; even if she didn’t feel it.

***

“Girl. You have to tell me everything!” Penelopy didn’t care that it was early. She came with presents. Jessica had forgiven everything at the sight of hot coffee and a pastry.

“Oh, Pen. It was a mess. Well, at least I was a mess!” Jessica was going to be brutally honest. Anyway, she needed to talk it out and hopefully get it out of her system. “I never meant to have too much to drink.”

“What were you drinking? What happened?”

“Well, I guess it was a really strong drink, except for I didn’t know it. I owe Brad for that one. I only had one – well – almost two, but really! If I had known I wouldn’t have –”

“Girlfriend! What did you do?” Penelopy hoped that it wasn’t too bad.

“Fortunately not too much, that is if kissing both Brad and Ernie isn’t too much.”

“Not really!” Penelopy couldn’t help herself.

“And that’s not all.” Jessica continued after giving herself a break and a small sip of comfort.

Penelopy sat quiet after her brief outburst, with her attention fully on Jessica; waiting for her next words.

“There was a fight.” Jessica sadly disclosed. “Over me, no less.”

“Over you, why?”

“Well, Pete arrived at the party just in time to see me coming back down the stairs with Brad and Ernie –”

“Back down the stairs! With two men? What in the world were you doing?” Penelopy did not like the sound of this; not one bit.

“Oh, it’s not all that bad; except for the kiss I gave them.”

“Kiss you gave ‘them’, like as in plural! Not really!” Penelopy was appalled. She heard Jessica say that she had kissed both Brad and Ernie, and that was bad enough, but simultaneously! That was terrible!

“Yeah, that’s what I did. I kissed the one, and then the other; right there on the stairs in front of God knows who.” Jessica was sick all over again. “I was loopy.”

“Long kisses?” Penelopy just had to know.

“Naw. Just a hug and an unreturned kiss; but on the lips, for sure.”

“Girl!” Penelopy had to laugh. She could just imagine, or at least she thought that she could.

“Yeah, it’s pretty bad. I don’t know how I’ll ever face them. And if that wasn’t bad enough, Pete got mad and picked a fight. Well, he didn’t actually pick a fight; he out and out started a fight. He threw the first blow. It hit Brad pretty hard. He missed Ernie, and then it was fists flying everywhere. Ernie got me out of Pete and Brad’s way, and then a bouncer broke it up. I’m telling you. Brad was pissed. I don’t know if he’ll ever talk to me again. And now what about Ernie too. And Pete. That’s a whole ’nother story.”

“Girl. You sure do know how to make a mess! But Pete. What’s the deal with him? Why was he fighting in the first place?”

“I guess he got mad because it looked like I had been – well – you know – coming down the stairs in that sassy little red dress and no shoes and all –”

“Little red dress? I don’t remember a little red dress. Did you get to go shopping for the party?” Penelopy and Jessica knew each other too well…

“No, it wasn’t, it’s not, mine.” Jessica admitted.

“Where’d it come from?” Penelopy was confused.

“That’s why I went upstairs in the first place. To get something else to wear.”

“Why? Did something happen to mess up your clothes?” Penelopy asked.

“No, it wasn’t like that. My clothes were fine; but they weren’t fine. Oh, Penelopy, I felt like a misfit. All of those women there were wearing all of their high fashion designer clothes and I was dressed like a school girl. I was so uncomfortable.”

“Man. They sure got to you, girl. So you went upstairs to look more stylish? How did that come about?”

“Well, it was Ernie’s idea. He told me that he had a wardrobe room upstairs.” Jessica shared.

“Oh, girl! Are you that naive or what? He was playing you! You’re lucky that nothing else happened! How did Brad get into the mix?”

“What do you mean, ‘he was playing me’? He had a whole room full of clothes, and a dressing room too.” Jessica defended Ernie.

“Did that wonderful room also have a nice big and comfy couch?” Penelopy was obviously extremely annoyed.

“Well, sure. Why?” Jessica didn’t get it.

“Do I really have to paint it out for you? A producer. A casting couch? Ever heard of that? Come on girl! Seriously!”

“But he never – he wouldn’t –”

“Oh, yeah? He wouldn’t would he? And did he make sure that you were well furnished with a drink before his kind gesture?” Penelopy knew exactly what she was talking about. She wasn’t a new girl in town…

“Well, yeah. But it was his party. And he didn’t tell me what to drink. He got me another of what I had.” Jessica defended him still.

“Yeah, right. Another Long Island Iced Tea. And you think that he didn’t know what kind of a drink it was? Hardly! He knew exactly what you were drinking, and what it was going to do to you! He had every intention of taking advantage of you once he got you upstairs! Except for Brad must have somehow interfered. How did he end up upstairs with you and Ernie?”

“He saw us when we were heading for the stairs.” Jessica offered up.

“Good thing. You might not like that he got you drunk, but he did you a huge favor by not allowing that animal to take you upstairs by yourself.” Penelopy was shaking her head. “Girl. You really are lucky. It could have been so much worse.”

“It was pretty bad.” Jessica hadn’t even shared the part about Pete and her getting sick on the way home from the party. She couldn’t hardly wait to share that little detail.

“Okay, so you ended up back down stairs. And Pete got in a fight, why?” Penelopy was still trying to put it all together.

“He thought, oh, God, he thought that I had been with both Brad and Ernie! It was terrible.”

“How’d you get home? You didn’t drive, did you?”

“No, I went to the party with Brad, like we had planned. Except for after the fight broke out Brad got thrown out of the party. So did Pete.” Jessica explained.

“So, how’d you get home? Did you ride with Brad?”

“No. I went with Pete. He wouldn’t let me go with Brad. Ernie said that he’d take me home, but Pete had a fit about that too. At that point in time I was pretty much just a spectator. I couldn’t think straight.”

“You’re telling me. Let me tell you. Have you ever considered that maybe you shouldn’t drink?”

“Yeah, Pete told me that too; after I threw up.”

“You threw up? Seriously! Yuk, girl! That’s terrible!”

“Tell me about it. I had Pete pull over and then I was sick as a dog. Right there on the street. It was horrible.”

“And what did Pete do?” Penelopy was appalled.

“Well, he just sat there. He kept his face turned the other way. He tried to allow me a little bit of dignity.” Jessica said.

“A little bit of dignity, while you were puking? Girl. What a mess.”

“Pretty awful, huh?” Jessica admitted.

“And then some. But you know what?” Penelopy found a bright side of the story after all.

“What’s that?” Jessica could see the small glimmer of ‘maybe it’s not so bad as all that’ in Penelopy’s eyes.

“I think Pete likes you.” Penelopy shared.

“Yeah, well, maybe he did, but now? What’s to like now?” Jessica felt even worse at the thought of this tall, dark, and handsome Pete actually having been interested in her.

“He went threw a lot of bother for you. He’s not going to just turn off those initial feelings that he has for you. But he might if anything like it were to ever happen again. Does he know just exactly what went on upstairs?”

“Yeah. I was able to talk a whole lot clearer once I got sick. I told him everything.”

“Well,” Penelopy asked. “How did he respond?”

“Well, he didn’t ask to kiss me good night.” Jessica said with a sigh.

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