The Edge of Eighteen

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3 | Drag Panda

~Anna~

Alyssa’s room was a shrine to the type of childhood I’d never had, and I was fairly convinced, that this was also the place that pink came to die. Piles of clothes and orphaned socks littered the floor. A loud bang followed by a deep laugh sounded from somewhere outside of Alyssa’s room.

“What is going on out there?” I remarked. It wasn’t the first bang or sudden laugh I’d heard tonight.

“They’re all drunk.” She smiled waving my words off with her hand. “They spiked Asher’s soda with liquor and now he’s acting like some baby elephant stomping all over the place, mumbling and laughing to himself. I can’t remember the last time I saw him drunk.” She shook her head and giggled. “He’s always so straight-laced, I guess that’s the way of an athlete. It’s a good job my parents don’t get back home until tomorrow night.”

We changed into tank tops and boy shorts after the game. Alyssa normally slept in as little as possible, just in case there was a house fire, and she needed to be rescued by a hot fireman. It wasn’t unusual for me to stay over with my dad out of town; her parents almost insisted on it.

Her face was dimly lit by her bedside table lamp as she sat clutching Mr Snuggles the teddy bear.

“So you and Caleb, huh ...” I smiled.

I’d heard a lot about him over the summer. Alyssa had a die-hard crush on him. At a party before the start of summer break, they had shared a passionate kiss but no one had ever told Asher. I probably knew more about that kiss from Alyssa’s repeated descriptions than Caleb did.

Her grin widened. “Yeah, it’s still early days. I’m still figuring out if we’re a good match or not. My spirit animal would probably eat his alive, and I’m pretty sure his might have rabies. It’s like; he can be the sweetest guy and then the next moment; he’s regressed I swear.” She clutched Mr Snuggles even tighter and sat in deep thought.

I met Mr Snuggles at the same time I had first met Alyssa, on the day I had moved into the street. Asher had been dangling him out of his second-floor bedroom window that faced my house. Alyssa stood in the front garden shouting obscenities up at him. She had seen me unpacking boxes out of the delivery van and had demanded I come over and rescue Mr Snuggles with her. That girl loved that bear more than I had ever seen anyone love what was effectively just stuffed material. I had never been partial to teddies.

Alyssa pushed herself off the bed and wandered over to her desk. She plugged in her phone into a set of speakers before she turned it on.

“You need cheering up Anna,” she said adamantly with a spark of amusement in her eyes.

As soon as the music started; she pivoted snapping her head around demurely. She grabbed her hairbrush from the dresser. Lip sync I had come to learn was something Alyssa took very seriously. She started to dance around miming actions to the words as she sang along with dramatic flair. The beers she had already drunk were beginning to take effect on her.

She reminded me of how I danced when I was seven, quick erratic movements corresponding to no obvious beat or rhythm. It was still how I danced now. I smiled and grabbed the nearest item to me and jumped up to join her.

Singing back, I mock slapped her around the face before I simultaneously pinged her bra straps. My voice wavered under the strain as we both dropped dramatically to the floor, doing our best seductive poses.

I pushed myself up onto my knees just about to ramp up to enter my own power solo when Alyssa suddenly stilled staring at her bedroom door. The coat hanger microphone automatically fell out of my hand and onto the carpet. Alyssa reached out and hit the pause button on her phone.

Asher stood in the doorway staring back at us.

He bit down on his bottom lip as he stifled a smile that threatened to stretch wide across his face. His hand flew up to his mouth slapping it shut. His eyes crinkled as he started to shake his head. “You guys are adorable,” his said, his voice muffled through his hand. His chest started to silently shake.

“Don’t you dare laugh at us,” Alyssa growled, standing up folding her arms across her chest.

Asher’s hand moved away from his mouth and bunched at the material on his T-shirt. It looked like not laughing was causing him physical pain. He slid down the door frame; the laugh he’d tried so hard to suppress finally came out in full force.

“You two ... looked ... ridiculous,” he snickered, throwing his head back, slapping a hand down onto the patterned carpet.

Alyssa’s eyes pulled into a scowl. She grabbed Mr Snuggles and launched him into the air hitting Asher directly in the face, who now only laughed even harder.

We both stood together giving Asher a combined death glare until his composure returned. We moved towards the door in an attempt to walk around him and leave.

“Whoa, where are you two going,” he suddenly objected, now back in control.

“To the kitchen,” Alyssa answered sharply.

He shook his head, now serious. “You need to get changed before you leave this room. No one leaves in their ho-ho shorts.” He stood with his hands resting on either side of the door frame effectively blocking our exit. “You or Anna,” he clarified as he nodded over once in Alyssa’s direction before looking back at me. His eyes briefly drifted down my outfit of choice before he blinked quickly away.

“You can stop that right now,” I screeched, placing a pointed finger into his chest.

He shook his head and smirked. “Uh-uh.” He grabbed hold of my hand and pulled me closer to him.

Alyssa scoffed as she rolled her eyes. “GET OUT of my room Asher!” She gave him a small shove, and he began to back out of the room. Alyssa stormed the rest of the way over slamming the door behind him.

She walked over to the mirror for a final once-over. The twinkle in her eyes seemed to fade as she studied herself in the mirror.

“There’s nothing wrong with you,” I scoffed.

Where Alyssa saw fat, I saw curves and not just any curves, ones you would gladly die for. However, I think her insistence at our attire was more down to Caleb in the room downstairs then her own sudden feminist movement. She walked closer to the bedroom mirror and applied yet another coat of mascara, if she added anymore she risked not being able to open her eyes.

We left Alyssa’s bedroom and headed downstairs to the kitchen. The boys were in the living room opposite playing video games, all except for Asher, who was now nowhere to be seen. We grabbed a beer each and walked in, taking a seat on the sofa together.

“Hey, Alyssa,” one of them called out.

Whoever it was seeking her attention, had deep chocolate brown hair that hung over his warm hazel eyes in disheveled waves.

“Hey, Caleb,” Alyssa replied.

So this was Caleb. Alyssa smiled flirtatiously in his direction, and his mouth twisted into a crooked grin. Seeing the what the attraction was, his goofy smile made him look sort of adorable.

“Caleb, that’s my baby sister!” Asher called our entering the living room. Even though they were twins, Asher was born a full 4 minutes and 27 seconds earlier than Alyssa and according to Asher, every single second counted, and he was, in fact, older than her

Asher was stood at the back of the room. His dark-brown hair was now styled to perfection. His gaze lingered on me for a heartbeat, and his smile seemed to widen a fraction.

We watched the boys play video games trying to work out who was who and what the exact point of the game was, or ‘mission’ as Caleb had called it.

“Alyssa, your damn dog is dry humping my leg again,” Deacon scoffed, momentarily looking away from the TV trying to shake Bowser the Pomeranian fluff-ball off.

Caleb laughed, his eyes darting between the TV and Deacon. “Bro, he’s really going for it. Did you at least buy him dinner first?”

I suddenly felt a pair of arm’s drape around my neck from behind me. Asher looped his hands together around my neck.

“You need to go change,” he whispered. I turned to him and paused when he didn’t move, his sudden proximity caused my stomach to do back-flips.

I frowned, “Why exactly?” I folded my arms over my chest defiantly.

“Tonight this house is full of drunken hormonal teenage boys.” He gave me a tight smile that said he meant every word.

“You can protect me surely,” I mocked, playfully knocking against his shoulder.

He smiled and cocked an eyebrow before shaking his head slowly from side to side.

“No can do Anna, tonight I’m one of them.” His tight smile turned devilish in an instant.

His words instantly stilled me, and my brain cleared itself of any coherent thoughts. The blush that started innocently enough on my cheeks now spread everywhere.

I tried not to smile back but failed miserably. Blake, Deacon and Caleb all sat across from us watching us quietly and my eyes flicked between them and Asher.

“Alyssa was right Asher; you are drunk.” I giggled and pushed his face away with the palm of my hand.

He nodded smiling, “Not by choice, but you’re avoiding my question.”

“How’s it working for me?” I laughed.

“Miserably,” he smiled back. He gave me his sexiest smile yet. That smile would be my undoing one of these days I was sure of it.

Alyssa slapped Asher on the arm. “Stop leering over my friend’s creeper. Go be drunk somewhere else,” she scoffed, pushing him away. “You made a promise remember.”

Alyssa stood up. “Beer Anna?” she asked.

I shook my head, “No thanks, Asher’s drunk enough for all of us.”

Asher raised his eyebrows in silent question, “Grab me one Alyssa. I think I’ve just been challenged,” he said, smiling down at me.

I woke up feeling like I was being crushed in a vice. I tried to move, but I couldn’t. My eyes opened and glanced around at the unfamiliar surroundings. I was in Alyssa’s living room on a makeshift bed on the floor; a blanket was thrown haphazardly over me. I strained my neck around to see what’s crushing me from behind. It was Asher.

His arm was slung lazily around my waist, and his other was folded underneath my neck. The full force of his weight was against my back. The sound of Asher’s soft steady breaths told me he was out cold. A light briefly flashed through the room from a car headlight as it passed by outside, bathing Asher briefly in a soft white glow. My eyes widened in shock before I stifled a laugh with my hand, he was going to kill me.

His face was colored in black marker pen. Rings drawn around his eyes gave him a panda-like appearance, the high arch of his new black eyebrows made him look surprised even in sleep. I looked down to his mouth; I was truly pathetic. I’d given the poor boy dimples whilst he slept like he wasn’t hot enough already. My face blushed at what I’d drawn on his forehead. I wasn’t exactly artistic; it could have been a stick and two apples, but I got the idea of what I had been aiming to represent. I quietly chuckled to myself.

Asher stirred, and my eyes flicked down to my side where the marker pen still sat. Deniability seemed like my best option, I grabbed the marker pen and rolled it away under the sofa.

His eyes slowly opened and focused on me. “What are you smiling about, Anna?” he mumbled with a lazy smile.

“You don’t want to know,” I shook my head.

“How did we end up on the floor?” I asked, “... together?” I added.

He cleared his throat. “Someone decided to drink their body weight in beer last night.”

I did what? It wasn’t like me to drink much.

“Wait, was that me or you?”

“Both I think, but you were quick to catch up little grasshopper. You and alcohol ...” He shook his head with a look that said, “never again.”

“I didn’t want you being sick in bed, so I made you one out here.” He pointed over to the bucket near our feet. I looked back to him with a sheepish smile, relieved to see it was unused. I guess I fell asleep too.”

“I should go and check on Alyssa,” I announced propping myself up on my elbows.

“Don’t go yet, I’m too comfortable.” He nudged at my elbows causing them to give way, and I immediately fell back onto him. I groaned at the sudden movement, and my head pounded with the start of the hangover from hell.

“Asher,” I moaned from the pain in my head.

Asher paused and visibly swallowed hard. I didn’t mean for it to sound that way. We stared at each other for a long moment in an unusual silence which seemed to make everything else go still. I could still feel the alcohol in my system, which only fueled the inappropriate thoughts that now started to dance around my head about Alyssa’s brother.

His gaze dropped down to my mouth. I’m not sure if he even knew he was doing it. Indecisiveness flashed across his face, which suddenly made me feel more alert; maybe he did know what he was doing.

My heart started to accelerate beating right out of my chest. If he got any closer I was sure he would be able to hear it. A rush of butterflies swarmed up in the pit of my stomach, and I didn’t know if I was excited or in need of that bucket by my feet. Was this actually about to happen?

He hesitantly leaned in closer, and I needed to get a grip on myself or I could very well pass out from the sudden onset of nerves.

Without warning, there was a snigger from across the room as Caleb said, “Dude!”

We both pulled back. The air between us was suddenly ten times as thick as it had been. I sucked in a quick breath and held onto it before steadily exhaling in what might have been relief or disappointment, I wasn’t sure.

This was now more awkward than I could possibly have imagined; I burst out laughing, unable to stop myself. All of my nervous energy flowed into it. Caleb was less than subtle at alerting us to his presence. My eyes moved back to Asher, who was now sat up quietly laughing at Caleb.

Caleb sat up from the sofa across from us. He squinted to lock on to whatever it was that had grabbed his attention in the dark. “What in hell did you let her do to your face?”

Asher’s head snapped back to me in an instant. He rubbed a hand over his face before looking down at it in inspection, black ink marks now visible across his palm.

I held my hands up to him and started kicking the blanket off my legs, readying myself to run if I needed to. “Now just wait a minute Asher I can explain!”

Asher’s eyes flicked down my body and back up again. His arms suddenly reached around my waist pulling me back against him again. He rolled and pinned me to the floor. Asher must still be drunk; he was way too playful.

“I believe you were warned yesterday,” he smiled, “You should have listened to me and got changed.” His fingers dig into the muscles on my legs causing me to suddenly spasm as I screamed out in laughter. I tried to wiggle free, but his grip on me tightened making the feeling worse.

Alyssa walked into the room; her hand flicked on the light switch. Her eyes squinted as she rubbed them, “What’s all the noise -” she abruptly stopped talking, as she stared at me and Asher on the floor. “Asher, why do you look like a drag panda?”

Asher looked across at me accusingly, his mouth agape. His eyes lit up in sudden amusement, “You better not have done, Anna,” he exclaimed. He pushed himself up and bolted to the bathroom. A few minutes later, I cringed as Asher shouted, “Anna! You are in so much trouble... it’s unreal. This shits not washing off!”

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