I should not have come here.
Parties are not for me. I don’t like the loud music and the sweaty bodies that collide against mine every few steps. I don’t like the smell of drunk people and guys hitting on me with every chance they get. Maybe I wouldn’t mind if they were girls, but men? Ew.
So why am I here if I hate it so much? It’s Alvarrez, duh. I know for a fact that all varsity players are excused from their classes for the whole week of the interschool competition that happens next week.
I was thinking of ways on how to get her to talk to me and this was one of my ideas. She and Kristina are always present when it comes to parties.
But after 30 minutes of going around Dan’s house, I still haven’t found a trace of any of the two. I found my way into the kitchen where the drinks are and poured myself a cup. If I wasn’t going to see her here, might as well enjoy the drinks.
Surprisingly, they taste good. I help myself to another before wandering again. This time, I checked out the second floor. A bunch of people was crowding around the pool table, watching a game between Dan and Kristina. Sitting behind her lazily in a couch was Alvarrez, arms around one of the volleyball players.
Dan catches sight of me. “Alexis! You came!” She leans in for a hug.
I hand her my gift, wrapped in a rectangular box. “Happy birthday.” I smile at her.
Dan blushes. She hesitantly takes my present. “You didn’t have to.”
“It’s not a big deal.” I glance behind her. “Are you playing 8-ball?”
“Yes. Do you play?” She raises an eyebrow at me.
I bite back a smile. I can’t possibly tell her I’ve crushed all my brothers every single time we play. “A bit.”
Dan turns back to the table. “Great. Kris is just about done kicking my ass. You can play her.” She hands me the cue.
Kristina eyes me. “Ooh, Alexis, fancy seeing you here. It’s the first time I’ve seen you at a party.”
“Yes, well, it was unexpected.” Kristina positions herself at the head of the table, aiming at the perfectly positioned balls Dan fixed for us. She hit the cue ball hard, successfully scattering the balls and pocketing the 4-ball. “No hard feelings, Alex. I’ve got a reputation to uphold.”
“I hope I won’t hurt your pride too much after this.” I smile sarcastically.
“Ooh, something’s telling me you’re not joking.” She positions herself for another shot, aiming for a solid. “Wanna bet?” She takes the shot, successfully sinking the 1-ball. “Loser drinks five shots.”
“I’m game.” Kristina was able to sink four solid balls before I got my first turn. I circle the table, looking for the perfect angle to make my shot.
When I was a kid, I saw my father play pool with his friends slash associates slash business partners. Being my father, of course, he was good at it. He’s good at everything—except maybe parenting, but he’s working on it. I had him put a billiard table in our house to practice, and practice I did until I was able to get to a level where I could play on par with him.
Before I knew it, I was down to my last ball. The crowd circling the table doubled, watching the game between Kristina and me. My eyes searched the crowd for Alvarrez who was gone from the couch she was sitting on, only to find her standing behind me, her eyes twinkling with amusement directed at me. “You’re good,” she says, the corners of her mouth turning up.
“I’ve had practice.” I walk over to the opposite side of where she was standing and aim for a striped ball. I can feel Alvarrez’s eyes on me. To my dismay, I miss the next shot.
A smirk forms on Kristina’s lips. “Distracted, are we?” She turns to Alvarrez. “Yo, Lexi, keep on distracting Miss Black here so I can bag this win easy.”
“Oh, so you need someone distracting me for you to win?” I shrug. “And here I thought you were actually pretty good.”
My provocation worked its intended effect. Unfortunately, along with the inaccuracy of her shots came the unnerving stares of Alvarrez, making me miss a number of shots as well. After a series of missed shots from both my opponent and me, it’s come down to only one striped ball and the 8-ball remaining on the table—my turn.
The cue ball, 8-ball, and the 15-ball I was aiming for were all in one straight line, making the shot difficult. Luckily, jump shots are basic stuff for me. I sink the striped ball with ease, followed by the 8-ball. Applause emitted from the crowd.
Kristina walks over to me and shakes my hand. “Good game.” She smiles.
“Thanks. Now, five shots, was it?” I walk over to the table where the bottle of tequila and five empty shot glasses were waiting. I took the liberty of pouring the tequila into each of them, savoring the win I attained.
Kristina massages Alvarrez’s shoulders. “I’m really, really sorry, Lexi. I’ll take it upon myself to make sure you get home safe if ever you get drunk.”
“I thought you were the one who’s going to drink?” I ask Kristina.
Alvarrez shakes Kristina off and rubs the back of her neck. “We made a deal that if Kris loses, I’ll cover for her.” She laughs. “I told the others I’ll only drink once they beat Kris.”
I raise an eyebrow at her. “That’s unfair. You should drink double.”
“Yeah, you should!” Someone shouts from the crowd, followed by a murmur of agreement.
“Dude, seriously? Are you trying to kill me?”
I roll my eyes. “Fine. Add two and we’ll call it even.”
Alvarrez groaned. I watch in fascination as she licks the salt from the back of her hand before gulping down five consecutive shots of tequila. By the time she was finished with the fifth shot, she looked like she was about to vomit.
Kristina rubs the back of Alvarrez. “You okay? I can drink the last two for you.”
“No, I can handle this.” Alvarrez gives me a defying look before downing the two remaining shots. “That okay, Gray?” She wipes the liquid that spilled from the side of her face with the back of her hand.
I purse my lips, suddenly feeling guilty for provoking her. “Yup.”
“Thought so.” She takes a staggering step forward, bumping into the table. Kristina was beside her in an instant.
“Whoa, hey. Easy.”
Alvarrez puts her arm around Kristina’s shoulders. “Fuck. I feel like I’m going to die.”
“I haven’t seen you drunk in a long time.” Kristina laughs. “Let’s go have some fun.” She drags Alvarrez away, leaving me with Dan and some batch mates.
I played some more with different people, but none of them came close to beating me. Eventually, I got bored and looked for someplace else—preferably where people aren’t gawking at me while playing.
I refilled my cocktail and proceeded to tour the place, making sure not to open any door that has an eighty percent chance of containing a couple having sex. I tried looking for Alvarrez, but her and Kristina weren’t anywhere to be found. I figured they already went home, which defeats my purpose of coming here.
“Alex?” A voice spoke behind me. I turn around to see Kristina, her cheeks flushed and voice slurry. “You’re still here. Great.” She grips my shoulder. “I can’t take Lexi home.”
“I can see that.”
“Her phone is dead and I can’t call Georgia to pick her up. Do you have her number?” She asks. “Please. I promised her mom I’ll get her home safe.”
The thought of Georgia being with Alvarrez while she’s in a drunken state made me feel uneasy. “How about if I take her home?” I offer. “I know where she lives.”
Kristina’s face perks up. “You will?”
“Yup. Where is she?”
Kristina tackles me with a fierce hug. “Thank you!” She cheered. “She’s in the back, trying to sober up. I’ll go find Dan to let her know you guys are leaving.”
I make my way to the back of the house where Alvarrez is supposed to be.
When I stepped outside, I saw Alvarrez casually leaning on one of the pillars of the house, her legs crossed at the ankle, a hand inside her pocket and the other holding a cigarette. Her head tilted upwards as she took the last hit from her cigarette before crushing it in the ashtray.
“You smoke.” I blurt out.
Alvarrez slowly turns to my direction. “Gray?” She looks at the stick in her hand. “Yes, I smoke.” She pushes herself from the pillar, slightly stumbling forward.
“Let’s go. I’m taking you home.” I grab her by the arm.
She pulls back her arm. “What do you mean?” She squints her eyes at me. “Georgia’s taking me home.”
I resist the urge to roll my eyes at her. “Change of plans. I’m the one who’s here so I’ll be the one taking you home.” I tug at her arm again. “Now, be a good girl and let’s go home.”
Alvarrez laughs. “Is that what you like? Good girls? Well, sorry. I’m not a good girl.” She takes a hit from her cigarette. “See? I smoke. I drink. Totally not your type.”
This time, I let go of her hand. “What are you going on about? I’m just going to take you home because clearly, you’re in no position to do so, and so is Kristina.”
She scoffs. “Why do you care of I get home safe or not?”
“You’re my friend.”
“And that’s all I’ll ever be.” She says bitterly.
I take a deep breath and summon what little patience I have left. “Alex, what’s been going on with you? You’ve been avoiding me for the past week.”
Alvarrez feigns ignorance. “I was?” She sways a little, falling back to the pillar she was leaning on. “Oh, right. Maybe because I love you.” I feel like I’ve been poured over by ice-cold water. “But you love someone else. Why stick around and hurt myself more, right?
You know, I’ve always thought that people who fall in love with people who don’t love them back are stupid. The highest level of stupid. I mean, how could you fall in love with someone that doesn’t even care about you?” She runs a hand through her light brown hair that looked a shade darker in the night. “I know it’s my fault for giving meaning to the way you treat me, the way you look at me. I sometimes think that maybe, just maybe, there’s a tiny bit of hope that I stand a chance with you, until—” She snorts. "Well, until your ex decided to come back and get you back."
Now that I’ve finally got the answer I’ve been looking for, I don’t know what to do with it. Alex Alvarrez is in love with me? How is that even possible? Should I even take it seriously? She's drunk. It might just be the alcohol talking. I look away, not knowing how to react. “I’m sorry.”
“Why are you apologizing? It’s not like it’s your fault you don’t like me. I’m clearly nothing compared to the perfection of Janelle.” She takes the last hit from her cigarette before crushing it in the ashtray.
I sigh. “You and Janelle are two, very different people, Alex. Don't compare yourself to her. And besides, I like your company. I like spending time with you and I actually miss you annoying me every day.” She probably wouldn’t remember any of this when she wakes up tomorrow, but it feels good to tell her how I feel.
Alvarrez takes a step closer to me, giving me a better look of those sea-green eyes that I’ve missed. She looks at me like she couldn’t believe the words that came out of my mouth. She brings up a hand to cup my face, rubbing her thumb lightly on my cheek. Her mouth doesn't open but the way she looks at me speaks a thousand words. She loves me.
Her touch resonates within me. Alvarrez is the only person who makes me feel things I can't explain. Something about her is drawing me in, telling me to indulge. And I do.
I grab the back of her head and press my lips into hers. Her lips are the softest things I've ever felt and she smelled like cigarettes and alcohol and that boyish perfume she wears that drives me crazy.
Alex snakes a hand around my waist, pulling me closer to her. She kisses me back for a second before I pull away. I place a hand on her chest. "Why did you do that?" She asks.
"It felt... right."
Alex pulls me in for a hug. She's tall and warm and she feels like home. "Okay," she says. "I've decided."
She breaks the hug and faces me, her eyes back with their bright gleam. She leans in again and for a second I thought she was going to kiss me, but instead, her lips land on my forehead. "You'll see."