I open my eyes, the bright July sun shining through the windows in my bedroom. Rubbing the sleep out of my eyes, I sit up and stretch my body before looking at my alarm clock. 9 am, getting better at sleeping in. If I don’t get up now, I knew I never would.
Today is a big, special day. It’s the fourth of July and Lydia’s parents go away fourth of July weekend every year; therefore, they leave the house to us for the weekend to do whatever our hearts desire, and every year since Isaac started high school, a HUGE party is thrown. Erin and Henry always act like they have no clue what we’re up to every year, but there’s no way they couldn’t know, there’s been plenty of years where carpets have gotten ruined or items around the house have ended up broken or missing, the three of us always feigning innocence.
I yawn and slide on my slippers making my way downstairs and to the coffee pot. There’s already a pot brewed, Mom must be up already. I grab a cup out of the cupboard and spoon in enough sugar, grabbing the half and half out of the refrigerator, making my coffee just how I liked it. I turn around and lean against the counter, closing my eyes against the sun and taking a sip of the piping hot liquid, licking my lips as I pull the cup from my mouth.
“Mom?” I finally call out. She’s not at her normal spot at the breakfast nook. No reply. I carry my cup of coffee with me, checking her room first then the living room where I find her sleeping, mouth wide open. Her empty coffee cup along with a half empty bottle of whiskey sit on the coffee table in front of her. I run a hand through my hair and sigh before sitting my coffee mug down on the entertainment center. I gather her coffee mug and bottle of whiskey and bring them both into the kitchen. I put the mug in the empty dishwasher and hide the half bottle of whiskey in the cabinet above the refrigerator, behind the mixer. Hopefully the hiding spot keeps her away at least for a few hours while she’s scratching her head trying to remember where she last saw it.
After I finish cleaning up her mess, I grab my cup of coffee and make my way up to my bedroom where I finish it while I sit at my laptop checking my emails, and Facebook. I lean back in my chair before clicking onto my video chat friend list, finding Lydia’s name and calling her. She answers after a few rings her hair up in a towel beehive as well as a towel wrapped around her body.
“Well good morning, princess.” She practically sings as she scrambles around her bedroom. She’s throwing articles of clothing around one after the other as she holds them up to her body examining them in her full length mirror.
“Good morning to you too... you do know the party isn’t until tomorrow night, right?” I check the time on my computer. “You have a whole like...24 plus hours until then. I don’t think you need to be starting to get ready yet.” I laugh at her.
“Oh, shut up, Debbie Downer. I have to find the right outfit.” She screams out to the computer. She looks over and rolls her eyes dramatically. “Do you know what you’re going to wear yet?” She asks before dramatically changing topic by adding, “Do you think Gavin is going to try and show up?” She knows she’s treading on thin ice and I can tell by the way her voice squeaks at the end. Lydia has never been fond of Gavin, even when we first started dating. She saw right through his façade. She had always said that he gave her bad juju, whatever that means. No one truly knows just how toxic our relationship is, and if they did they haven’t confronted me about it yet.
I sigh and lean back further. “I don’t know Lydia... I sure hope not. But a part of me thinks he might.” I tap my foot on the floor anxiously, thinking of multiple scenarios that could happen if he were to show up.
“Well, you know Isaac will kick his ass. Don’t ever doubt it. He’s been DYING to do it for years.” She says dramatically, emphasizing the world dying as she holds another dress against her body before throwing it aside.
“Yeah, I know- but Lydia, do you really think that will make a difference? That will just be more drama...” I sigh and shrug my shoulders, looking down at my flannel pajama pants picking at a stray piece of string before twirling it around my finger and yanking it free.
“Well, we love you and we just want what’s best for you boo boo.” She says, just as a voice booms in the background. It’s most likely Isaac calling for her. “I’ve gotta go Charlie, Isaac is about 3.5 seconds from a mental breakdown. Love you.” And with that she clicks off.
I sigh and rake a hand through my knotty hair, untangling it some. “Guess I’ll take a shower.” I shrug as I heave myself from my desk chair and grab a towel from my closet. I make my way into the bathroom where I turn up the water to near scorching, strip my clothes off and step in, standing directly under the stream of water. I relish in the heat, standing under the steady torrent for a good ten minutes before I decide it’s time to start being productive.
After stepping out of the shower, I wrap a towel around my body, a chill escaping me prickling my skin with goosebumps. I stride into my bedroom and stand in front of my closet, examining my selection of clothing. I pull out a black slinky dress and hold it up to my body in front of my mirror. I decide it’s good enough to try on and pull it over my mostly dry body. I study myself in the mirror and realize there’s a huge hole down the side of the dress. I groan and rip it off throwing it into my trash bin. I risk another look into my closet and pull out a tan bodycon dress. I’ve worn it once, and I felt slightly uncomfortable at first with my every curve on display but after the many looks and compliments that came the day I wore it I decided that I love the way the fabric hugs every sweet spot on my body- however it enraged Gavin with how much attention the dress got me, so that was the first and only time I ever wore the dress, it’s since been hiding away in my closet until the perfect moment and I think now is that moment.
I yank the dress from its hanger and tug it over my body only to discover that there was a huge stain across the breast of the dress and then I remember that near the end of that night Gavin had thrown a drink at me and no matter how hard I scrubbed the stain wouldn’t come out.
“This is stupid.” I groan and flop down backwards onto my bed. I scrub a hand over my face before sitting up, stripping the dress off and throwing that one as well into the trash before rummaging through my drawers and settling on a pair of yoga pants and a t-shirt. I my hair into a messy bun, grab my flat iron, hair products and entire makeup bag and throw it all into my purse, slinging it over my shoulder before snatching my car keys. I make my way downstairs, taking a quick peek in at my mom to make sure she’s still breathing before I head out the front door.
I pull into the driveway of the extensive Ramirez “castle”, as I’ve once called it. Their house is a massive Tuscan style mansion with five bedrooms, five and a half bathrooms, a huge inground salt water pool with a beautiful grotto- a waterfall flowing down into the deepest end. To say the Ramirez family had a decent amount of wealth would be a vast understatement.
I remember clearly the first time I ever saw this place. I looked over at my father in awe and asked him if Lydia’s parents were the king and queen, exclaiming that the place looked like a castle. I gazed up at the house in front of me and smiled so big my cheeks hurt. I then rushed my dad out of the car and to the front door. If only I knew that my days with him were numbered.
I smile brightly at the memory of my father and put my car into park. I throw my bag over my shoulder and march up the front steps and let myself in with my spare key. I’m greeted by the smell of bleach and cleaning products as I walk through the foyer. “Jesus, has Isaac gone on another cleaning frenzy?” I ask as I walk into the gigantic open kitchen where Lydia is setting up alcohol, cups, and various bottles of soda on the kitchen island.
Lydia huffs a breath of air and nods her head. “Yes, he’s been driving me crazy!” She exclaims, slapping her hands down on the counter in frustration.
I laugh at her and roll my eyes before helping myself to one of the plastic shot glasses she has set out, cracking open a bottle of vodka. “I’m sorry my dear. Let me go find him and try to calm him down, but first-” I offer then tilt the shot glass to my lips and gulp. The liquid burns it’s way down my throat and when I look up, Lydia’s look could knock me over.
“That bad of a day already?” I shrug, and I know I shouldn’t drink with the way my mom is, but sometimes it’s the only thing that numbs my thoughts.
I climb the set of stairs in the kitchen that lead to the top floor. When I’m halfway up, I hear the vacuum running across the carpet. Oh jeeze, he really is in one of his moods.
“Isaac!” I call out, reaching the top of the stairs, walking over to the outlet that the vacuum is plugged in and yanking the cord out. “Enough of that Isaac. The house is clean, your parents have someone come twice a week to clean the place. Chill.”
He looks over at me. “Charlie!” He whines. “C’mon. Just let me get my cleaning energy out.”
I shake my head and put my hands on my hips, giving him my best serious and down to business look. “Nope!” I stalk towards him, taking grasp of his arm and yanking him until he’s following me down the stairs.
“Oh, bar wench! Fetch this man a proper drink.” I call in a god-awful British accent. I push Isaac towards the kitchen island and make him sit on one of the stools. Lydia gives me a look before she pulls out three shot glasses, picks up the bottle of vodka I had already opened and pours three shots, making sure we have a glass of cola for us as to chase the alcohol with.
“Okay, hopefully everyone loosens up now. Tonight is going to be great, fireworks as usual at the high school and then tomorrow it’s party time. We’re all going to look hot, we’re all going to have fun, and we’re all going to get shitfaced. So, can everyone please relax so I can relax?” I plead to them. I give them a big smile and raise my shot glass, waiting for the two of them to raise theirs as well. I tilt my head back and let the liquid drain down my throat, making a face before chugging some of the cola to wash away the bitterness. The second shot makes its way down to my stomach, instantly warming me up.
“Alright, now what can I help with. What’s left to do?” I ask looking around the kitchen. Most of fourth of July consists of decorating for the party, drinking way too much and then gathering at the high school with all of our friends and watching the fireworks.
Everything was pretty much clean, all the alcohol laid out for the most part, but we were still missing decorations. “What’s wrong with you guys?” I squeal. “What kind of party hosts are you? No decorations? This is a very important double holiday and I expect you guys to treat it as so.” I scold in mock disgust. “Looks like we’re going shopping.
I give myself about a half hour for the alcohol to start making its way out of my system before grabbing my keys and both Ramirez siblings. “We’re going to the dollar store and getting some decorations to make the house a little more festive. C’mon.” They both groan in protest but they follow behind me anyway. We all cram into my car and head out to the closest dollar store. Within ten minutes we’re there and we all pile out, grabbing a cart. Lydia and I tossing our purses in the front.
“Okay, plan of action.” I say. “We go straight for the decorations. I’m thinking we go as big as streamers.” I say with a maniacal grin. They both nod and follow me in. Even though I’m the youngest one between the two, I always end up being the momma bear of the group. I guess it’s just second nature to me now.
We make our way through the aisles of decorations. I throw ten packs of red, white, and blue streamers into the cart along with black and gold. It wasn’t just the fourth, but we were celebrating it as a double holiday paired with our graduation. I grab multiple other cheesy dollar store decorations while I browse the rest of the aisles. By the time we reach checkout the three of us respectively spend at least fifty bucks each.
“How do we always manage to spend so much money?” Lydia giggles as we wheel our cart out of the store and to my car.
“I don’t know, but my wallet is screaming at me.” Isaac says dramatically.
Lydia and I burst out laughing, both of us knowing damn well that he wasn’t hurting on money. He works hard and makes decent money for a guy who’s only twenty- one years old. Isaac left high school early deciding it wasn’t for him. He studied hard and got his GED within months of dropping out and is working on building his own construction company with the generous help of his father.
“So, which one of your boy toys are you inviting over tonight?” I tease, poking at Isaac as we pile our bags into my trunk.
Isaac instantly blushes and gives a shy shrug of his shoulders. “His name is Brian.” His bashfulness fades away and he looks back and forth between Lydia and I sternly. “And you better not fucking embarrass me.” He says hauling the last bag into the trunk before slamming it shut.
We both hold our hands up in defense. “Chill, we won’t. Don’t worry.” And then all three of us burst into laughter and get back into my car. We drive back to the Ramirez house and get to work setting up all our decorations. I intertwine streamers of different colors and hang them around the sliding glass door that leads to the back yard, hanging streamers along the rafters of the overhang of the back patio. I go inside and find a box of Christmas lights they have stashed in a hall closet and carry them out to the patio, stringing them along the beams and intertwining them between the streamers so the colors cast across the patio.
It’s about 8:30 P.M and Lydia, Isaac and I are all pretty drunk. Isaac orders us all an Uber as Lydia and I touch up our makeup in one of the downstairs bathrooms. “I’m gonna miss you.” She pouts, the smell of alcohol permeates from her as she speaks. “When we both go off to big girl school.” She whimpers.
“I’m going to miss you too!” I pout back and launch my arms around her. “I love you. You’re my person.” I give her one more squeeze before finally releasing her.
When we finally arrive at the high school, everyone is getting situated and the lights are dimming. We hurry towards the front of the field where we see our group of friends waving us down. Lydia almost trips, and I swear I see it all go down in slow motion. She just INSISTED on wearing those chunky cork wedges she loves so much. I can’t contain my laughter as I grab her by the arm and steady her. “Slow down there killer! You almost took out an innocent child with those clob hoppers.”
Within a minute or two and a few more trip ups due to Lydia’s choice in footwear we finally get to our spot and lay out our blanket. I kick off my shoes and lean back, the warmth of the alcohol the three of us have been sipping on all day courses through my veins as the sticky humidity of the summer air stains my skin. Giggles surround me and in the moment I’m in my paradise. Not a care in the world, no tension, a nice buzz and just old fashioned fun with people who truly care about me.
The lights fully shut off and the first firework sounds off, popping up into the air and splaying across the sky in blues and purples. I feel the boom reverberate through my body, echoing through my ribs. I look around me, Lydia has Nathan cuddled up next to her and even though my head is resting on her lap the look in their eyes has me feeling a little lonely. I sit up from my spot, scanning the crowd around us, onlookers all looking up at the sky couples with their arms around each other, some leaning over sneaking in kisses. All that joy I had a few moments ago, sucked clean from me.
I reached into my pocket and pull out my phone. No new messages. I scan the crowd one more time and I catch his familiar gaze. Our eyes lock and that’s when I see that he has his arm around another girl. His stare challenges me. “Come, confront me” It says. It taunts me, because he knows damn well all that I will do is bottle it up until I get home in my own bed and can cry myself to sleep.
Once the fireworks are over and my buzz almost completely gone I reach over and dig through Lydia’s purse for the water bottle of booze she had stashed for us. I take a long swig before replacing it.
“That was fun, wasn’t it?” Lydia claps her hands together before pecking Nathan on the cheek. I nod my head in reply. Lydia leans down, helping Isaac fold the blanket back up as I stand back completely wrapped in my own thoughts.
Once everyone starts clearing out, we all start walking out as a group. Nathan has his arm wrapped around Lydia’s waist and I can’t tear my eyes away from them. Not that I’m jealous of Lydia and her relationship with Nathan, I’m so happy for her and I truly love them together. I’m just jealous of the love that they have for each other. I always think to myself that I deserve that, but then think that maybe I do deserve Gavin. That maybe at some point in my short life I fucked up majorly and that’s what made me deserve what I’ve endured in the time I’ve been with Gavin.
“What’s on your mind?” Isaac asks and throws his arm over my shoulder.
I shrug and sink into him, enjoying the warmth of his embrace. “Oh, you know... I’m just nervous about leaving for school.” I lie straight through my teeth.
He hugs me into him and kisses me on the temple. “Don’t worry Char. Everything will be okay.” His words calm my racing thoughts for a moment but once they drop me off at home all hell breaks loose.
I walk into the house and all is dark except a corner of light breaking in from a crack in the curtains. Mom is laid out on the couch, one leg hanging off her favorite bottles of liquor lined up in front of her on the coffee table, I guess my hiding spot didn’t deter her too long. I don’t even bother cleaning up after her, I feel the tears burning my eyes as I quickly drape a blanket over her and rush upstairs to my bedroom where I throw myself onto my bed and unleash the tears that have been building up for hours now.