Chapter 1: Ryan
Nearly ten years ago, I was standing over a pine table, filling bowls to their brims with various flavours of the cheapest crisps I could get my hands on. I then reached into the boxy fridge for the selection of chilled drinks that filled it. As I placed them on the counter top, the doorbell rang, prompting me to look up.
Liam then came bounding down the stairs confidently, wearing his usual combination of a plain t-shirt matched with a pair of jeans and a checked shirt. Liam was assigned as my living partner in my first year of college. We got along quite well, I mean, he did most of the talking. Liam was the epitome of what you’d call a natural born socialite, and I was always slightly envious of that. I was awkward when it came to socially interacting with people. Nonetheless, Liam and I had become quite close friends, and he had always tried to push me to socialise a bit more than I was comfortable with. That was why he had decided we were going to host a party that very night. At first, I wasn’t keen on the idea, for I had never really liked the concept of parties, but I would’ve felt bad for refusing, as Liam was only thinking of me, so I reluctantly agreed to the party. And, now, I am so glad that I did, but more on that later.
As I was saying, Liam came downstairs and told me to switch some music on. So, I opened my iPhone and shuffled my playlist. As I placed it in the dock, Liam went to answer the door. He opened it, and allowed the guests inside. As they flooded in, I leaned into the wall, hoping nobody would notice me. But Liam noticed me, as I lurked in the corner of the kitchen. He pushed through the crowd, and also leaning against the wall, stood beside me with his arms folded.
“Come on Ryan. The party will be over before you know it.”
I sighed at him.
“Liam, talking to people comes to naturally to you, but not me. I don’t know how to just strike up a conversation with someone.”
“It’s easy, Ryan. Just wing it.”
I looked around to the crowds of people in our house on campus.
“Look, even if I was to talk to someone, who would I choose? There’s so many people here,” I commented.
“Come with me,” he ordered.
Liam then approached a girl and began to converse with her.
“Hiya,” he said.
“Hey Liam,” she responded.
The girl then pulled her hood back to reveal her pale skinned face, before Liam introduced us to each other.
“Evelyn, this is my friend, Ryan. Ryan, Evelyn.”
“Hi,” she said with a radiant smile.
“Hey,” I responded.
Liam then elbowed me subtly, as though to prompt me to keep talking to Evelyn. I was unsure of what to say next, so Liam jumped in to keep the conversation going.“Sorry about him Evelyn. He’s seen you around and wanted me to introduce you. Between you and me, I think he has a bit of a crush on you.”
“Liam,” I said, feeling heat starting to rush to my face.
Evelyn giggled, as Liam walked away, leaving me standing opposite Evelyn, embarrassment residing in me.
“Is he telling the truth or was that Liam just being Liam?” she asked, a hint of sarcasm evident in her voice.
“That’s just him being him,” I answered instinctively.
“So I’m not pretty enough for you have a crush on me?” she teased.
Back then, I wasn’t accustomed to Evelyn’s sense of humour, so my reply came out as a nervous. stutter.
“Yes, I mean, no. I mean--”
Evelyn held her hand up as though to stop me from speaking.
“Let’s start over,” she suggested. “Hi. I’m Evelyn.”
“Hi, my name’s Ryan.”
“So I haven’t seen you around,” she said. “What are you studying?”
“Business,” I replied. “How about you?”
“Media and journalism,” she answered.
Evelyn then left with a group of friends, who approached her, saying goodbye to me as she did. they disappeared somewhere in the centre of the crowd.
Later on, I stood talking to some of the guests, and felt at ease doing so, probably because I had had a few drinks. I wasn’t drunk out of my mind or anything, just drunk enough to act unlike me, but I have to say, I enjoyed the feeling of it, as it gave me the liberty to freely talk to people without feeling awkward. I noticed Evelyn again, who was appearingly more drunk than I was. She stood on the kitchen table, attempting to entertain the guests, by singing, when the reality was, she sounded like a cat would, if you attempted to choke it. Some of the students were recording her on video, and I cringed at her making a show of herself. I felt like intervening, and saving her any further embarrassment, but I was physically unable to push through the crowd.
Thankfully, Liam felt that Evelyn was ruining the party, and he guided her towards the door. He then closed it.
“She had to leave,” he stated, as I looked to him.
Concerned for Evelyn, at the thought of her stumbling about the campus in a state of vulnerability by herself, I told Liam I was going to get some air, and walk Evelyn home. He nodded with a smirk, as I left and followed Evelyn down the footpath.
After eventually prompting her to tell me where her on campus accommodation was located, I allowed her to rest her body weight against my shoulder, and I wrapped her arm around my neck to stop from stumbling over. The time it took to reach her house seemed to take ten times longer than it actually did. She fumbled about for her key. I took the key from her, and unlocked the door, as she threw up in a bush outside the door. I grimaced slightly, before helping her inside the hallway. She lifted her head up again.
“Niamh, I’m back, and I’m soooo wasted,” she shouted, a bemused giggle following.
Still supporting her balance, another college student emerged from the into the hallway, sighing at Evelyn. I handed her Evelyn’s keys, who then had her head bowed, and was drifting off to sleep. She attempted to take Evelyn from me, and drag her into the living room. Noticing her visibly struggling to carry Evelyn’s weight, I helped her. We brought Evelyn into the living room, and lay her on her side, on the sofa.
“Thank you so much for bringing her back,” said her roommate, as Evelyn made a humming noise, and fell into a deep sleep.
“No problem,” I said. “Goodnight.”
I smiled at her roommate briefly, before leaving her house, and closing the door behind me. I then made my way back to my house, strolling against the late night breeze.