(1) Typical Summer Night
The morning sunlight streamed in through the sheer window curtains, making it impossible for me to get even one more minute of sleep. I groaned and rolled over, trying to decide the most productive way to spend my last free week of summer before rush week took place and consumed all of my time.
Kiara had somehow managed to talk me into joining a sorority, how she’d done it was still a mystery to even myself. Her family is full of legacies, something I had to google in order to understand, and since we’ve been attached at the hip since birth she insisted I partook in the experience with her.
“It would so cool, Poppy! Think about it! We would officially be sisters. Not that we aren’t already, but you get what I’m saying,” she replied while waving her hand in front of her flippantly. I giggled, remembering how excited she’d been when we held the initial conversation a couple weeks prior. It was obvious none of that excitement had died down since then. The truth was, it was only partially because of her excitement that I agreed to go through with the whole thing. The other reason was that I’ve never been one to say no to someone - especially when it comes to the happiness of those I deeply care about. I glanced around the now-barren walls of my bedroom that had once been littered with photos of me throughout my life. I let out a deep sigh, letting my mind wander to memories of my childhood.
A small smile rested upon my face as I thought about how Kiara and I came to be friends. She was in the delivery room next to my own at the hospital and the story is that we were both extremely fussy, constantly crying. When the labor and delivery ward became more crowded, they were forced to move Kiara’s mother into my own mother’s room to make room for the numerous incoming deliveries. They were shocked when Kiara and me both ceased our crying the second we were near. They tested the theory by removing one of us from the room and, sure enough, we both started screaming again. It wasn’t until both of our families were discharged and sent home that they discovered that our families were, in fact, neighbors. Kiara and I have been inseparable ever since. Rumor has it we even took our first poop together. I giggled at the thought. Had my grandparents not left their beautiful three-story family home to my mom and dad when they retired and uprooted their lives to Spain, my parents would have been forced to move into a dinky apartment clear across town - separating Kiara and me forever.
With my mom falling pregnant with me at sixteen after a careless-prom-night-gone-wrong, she just wasn’t ever able to attend college and get an education further than her high school diploma. Even that, within itself, was difficult for her to obtain; or so she’s told me on numerous occasions when lecturing me on waiting until marriage to have sex.
Thankfully for my mom and dad’s sake, though, my dad’s parents were completely loaded and absolutely adored my mother - even after they found out about her trailer park background. I remember her telling me how she’d been terrified they would treat her how everyone one else in town did when they found out about her roots, but they took her in as if she were one of their own. After finding out she was carrying their first grandchild, they bought everything needed to raise me comfortably and even let my mom permanently move into one of their many guest rooms.
Because my dad was a year older than my mom, he ended up leaving her to take care of me by herself while he went to college at Princeton. I couldn’t believe it when my mom told me that piece of information. It was no wonder I had absolutely no early memories of my father. When I was younger, my mom told me a sugar-coated version of the story; how my father just wasn’t ever able to make it home, even on holiday breaks, because he was too busy with his studies. Turns out, that wasn’t the truth.
He’d chosen to stay away and attend every party he possibly could while leaving my mother and me at home, waiting until late in the night for his infrequent calls. While I wasn’t my mother, I couldn’t understand how she’d completely forgiven him for all those years of utter abandonment. I also wasn’t able to understand how my dad could leave my mother behind without the intention of calling and checking in every once in a while. He hadn’t even attended my birth, claiming he had an important fraternity function he just couldn’t miss.
Priorities I guess.
I couldn’t help but let his past influence my attitude towards him. I was constantly battling with myself and the resentment I felt towards him to this day, unsure if I was right to harbor those negative thoughts or just be thankful for what he could provide now that his degree had secured him a good job.
Because I guess there’s always some bad with the good, isn’t there? And his business and financing degree and job weren’t the only positive thing that came from my father’s absence; he also used it to help my mom set up her very own floral shop in town.
My mom has always been completely obsessed with flowers ever since before I could even remember – hence my name. My Grandma even went so far as to fire her full-time landscaper and give the job to my mom just a few months after she first moved in. The extra income the store brought in came in handy when my younger sister’s birth came out of nowhere after I’d turned fourteen.
Feelings of resentment aside, my childhood was pretty much picture perfect. Well...except for Kiara’s devil of an older brother. I have very few memories that are Knox-free. Everywhere I went, he seemed to always be just one step behind me either pulling my hair, making fun of my clothes, or calling me names. He was the first person I ever truly hated. My mom always used to tell me that hate was a very strong word, but my feelings towards Knox were, indeed, very strong - so it was appropriate for the situation.
Though, as I grew older and gained the ability to view the world objectively, I realized that we were just kids and kids could really stink sometimes. Though, that didn’t excuse his bully-tactics. Elementary-school-me was still holding a grudge to this day.
I was jolted from my reverie when Kiara suddenly jumped onto my bed, landing right smack dab on top of me. I let out a grunt of pain before pushing her off of me.
“Kiara, what have I told you about pouncing on me first thing in the morning?” I scolded with a groan of annoyance.
“That it’s an invasion of your personal space blah blah blah I have a stick up my ass and I don’t know how to-“
“Remind me why I’m friends with you again?” I teased her, flinching away from her playful slap.
“Because I’m not just your friend I’m your BEST friend because we just get each other. Now, you remember Shelly Ralston from our home-ec class, right? Well, her older sister is a Tri Delt and they’re having a crazy party tonight. Shelly invited me to come and you’re going as my plus one,” she stated matter-of-factly.
“I don’t know, Kiara. It’s quite rude to just invite myself to a party I wasn’t originally wanted at in the first place,” I mumbled, biting my lip nervously.
“Nonsense! We’re a package deal, Pops; if they want me, they’ll want you too. Besides, it’ll be a great opportunity for us to get our schmooze on and even possibly get a leg up on bids!” she squealed excitedly. How in the world was I supposed to tell her no when she was already bouncing up and down with glee before anything even happened? I let out an exasperated sigh and nodded in agreement while saying a series of I knows as she babbled on and on about how I’m the greatest friend ever and so forth.
I awkwardly transferred my weight back and forth between my feet as I milked the Sierra Mist I was sipping on, observing the lively crowd from my spot on the couch in the living room of the party house. I hadn’t seen Kiara since she found her “soulmate” at the beer keg and eventually crawled her way upstairs with the guy.
That was over an hour ago.
I had been doing my best to dodge the advances of all the random guys who’d tried to chat me up all night. I figured my outfit of overall shorts and a plain white t-shirt would’ve made my attitude of “I was dragged here somewhat against my will and I’m really not in the mood to party” quite obvious, but I guess not.
“I haven’t seen you around here before, are you new?” a decently cute redhead asked me after plopping down on the couch next to me. The movement jostled my body and caused me to slosh my pop all over my hand, only making my annoyance grow further.
“Uh, I guess you could say that. I’ll be a freshman this year,” I answered with disinterest. I felt bad about completely blowing the guy off, but I just really wasn’t in the mood for pointless small talk. If I’m being completely honest, his aura didn’t really scream I’m looking to settle down with the right girl!
Just as he was about to reply, I saw Kiara slightly stumble down the remaining three steps of the stairs. I was incredibly grateful for her lack of control when it came to alcohol at that very moment. I rushed over to her side and swung her arm around my shoulders before leading her out of the house. On my way across the front yard, I heard two guys arguing animatedly.
“No dude! I’m not screwing with you! That crazy motherfucker really is back! And from what I’ve heard from all the rumors, he’s back for good, too.”
I shrugged off the weird nature of the conversation and the feeling it gave me in the pit of my stomach, refocusing my attention on my drunken future-roommate’s protests about the night still being young. I somehow managed to drag her back to my car - well, actually, my dad’s car that he’d let me borrow for the night.
My heart had been pounding the entire ride home, my gaze switching back and forth between the road and the backseat where Kiara had been rolling around, spread eagle, without a single care in the world. Despite my numerous pleads for her to sit up and put her seatbelt back on, she continued to flail around and ignore me. I’d just pulled to a slow stop at the last stoplight before the turn into my neighborhood when I heard a splashing noise in the back seat followed by the horrible stench of vomit.
“Kiara, no!” I shouted, a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I smacked my head lightly against the steering wheel before a honk coming from behind me pulled me back to reality. Blowing a puff of frustrated air out from between my lips, I eased my foot off the break and began the final trek to my house.
Getting Kiara from the car into my room had used up the remaining sliver of energy I had left in my body. I released her onto my bed with an oomph before turning to grab the closest trash can which I hugged to my chest while sliding down the length of the wall next to the bed. About twenty minutes later I heard the telltale gurgle noises start to emanate from Kiara’s throat and guided her head into the trashcan. I scrunched up my nose as she spewed whatever contents were left in her stomach. I helped her grasp the plastic bin in her hand to steady it before making my way to my ensuite bathroom and wetting down a washcloth to place on her forehead when she was done vomiting. Returning to my previous spot, I rested my head back against the wall and silently prayed that whatever red-colored alcohol Kiara had consumed tonight wouldn’t leave a permanent stain on the carpet of my father’s car. I would be totally done for if it did.
I allowed my head to rest back against the wall as the sound of Kiara getting sick eventually lulled me into a deep sleep, one devoid of dreams.