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Chapter 21

My breakup with Allison the night before gnawed at me all day, but I was determined to not let it ruin my weekend. Heck, she was the one who actually made the final call and broke it off with that dramatic exit.

As I played the scene over and over in my head, I gradually came to the realization that this was good for both of us. Maybe we needed some time apart. Maybe it was better to have realized now that we weren’t a good fit before we got really serious and took that next step, if you know what I mean.

Allison and I never really had the sex conversation, but more or less knew when the time was right, it would happen. At some point, biology was going to trump our rational minds.

Anyway, earlier in the day, I was surprised when Matt showed up at my door apologizing for the scuffle on the courts. I shrugged it off and we were soon giving each other crap like usual. It felt good and we eventually met the rest of the guys for another pick-up game. Much to my surprise, hardly anyone fouled and after a couple of hours we were all lying on the ground soaking in the sun.

Without realizing it, my troubles with Allison had faded until Janik mentioned the big senior lake bash. It would be an awkward situation for sure and one I wasn’t prepared to handle, not yet anyway. Then Janik mentioned skipping the whole thing and instead hanging out with my cousin Gable at the university. It was a brilliant idea and everyone grew excited at the prospect of partying with college girls – everyone except Matt, that is. I had no idea he was looking forward to the lake bash, but with a little convincing, he climbed onboard and it was settled. We rushed home to get ready for the night of our lives.

Gable was a first cousin through my adoptive mother’s side and was a couple of years older than me. He was smart, good-looking and going places – the family’s golden boy. I had always looked up to him and quickly jumped at the opportunity to wear his old jeans when he had outgrown them, hoping some of his coolness would rub off.

We met Gable, or Gabe as his frat brothers called him, just as he was coming home from a lacrosse match against a rival university. He gave us the tour of the old Victorian-style home that had definitely seen better days and dropped us off at the game room while he washed up.

When Gable came back down, Matt was whipping Janik at nine-ball, while Steve, Chris and I were battling over a game of 500 at the dart board.

“All right guys,” Gable announced, “let’s grab T and get some food before we hit it.”

We exchanged confused glances, but none of us wanted to start the evening by saying something dumb. Gable must’ve read our minds and pointed to the ceiling where a huge explosion rocked the house as someone ran down the stairs.

“This is T,” he said as a big burly guy with black cropped hair burst into the room ready to either eat or beat the first guy his eyes landed on.

“Did someone call my name?” he asked imposingly.

“T, this is my cousin and his friends.”

“Awesome,” he exclaimed and shook our hands. “Let’s head out and get some grub.”

Gable and T led the way as we soaked in the campus and surrounding neighborhood. An impending eruption was near – I could just feel it – and it gave me goose bumps. As the simmering atmosphere took hold, I suddenly noticed how much bigger Gable had gotten.

“Have you been lifting weights?” I asked.

“Once in a while,” Gable replied and glanced at T anticipating a comment.

“If you call what my grandmother lifts as weights,” T said and laughed as Gable shoved him through the door of the sub shop.

We devoured our sandwiches and ten minutes later landed at an early-hours party with an outdoor keg. We found a spot near a tree and anxiously waited as Gable and T disappeared inside the dilapidated house and re-emerged a few minutes later.

“Why’s everyone huddling over there?” Steve asked, pointing at the patio.

“That’s where the booze is,” T replied and handed each of us a cup of beer.

“Take it easy now,” Gable stated. “I don’t need any of you passing out or throwing up on the couch.”

“Steve’s the lightweight,” Janik announced.

We all laughed nervously as the crackle of a speaker system tuning up grabbed our attention, followed by loud music.

“Hey, there’s Mason,” T said to Gable. “Let’s go mess with him.”

Gable nodded mischievously and turned to us. “Have fun guys. Let me know if you need anything. We’ll be back in a bit.”

“Cool,” Janik said, trying too hard and we all smirked.

Gable and T disappeared again and the crowd started to grow. Every once in a while shouts erupted followed by a chant of “chug, chug, chug…”

“What the hell’s that?” Matt asked as a big guy, naked as a newborn, ran through the cheering crowd holding his cup triumphantly overhead.

“That’s an idiot rugby player,” a soft voice answered from behind.

We turned to find a couple of girls. I recognized the one with the auburn hair pulled back to a ponytail, but couldn’t place her. They stared, expecting a response, but we were all too shocked – okay, scared – to respond. Everyone except Chris, that is.

“But why is he running around naked?” Chris asked.

“It’s an initiation thing,” the other girl said, who had black hair and really red cheeks. “Kind of like joining a sorority.”

“I’d like to join a sorority,” Chris replied with a goofy grin that hit its mark. Both girls smiled coyly.

“I bet you would,” the first girl said then looked at me. “Aren’t you Trenton Locke?”

I swallowed hard. For the life of me, I couldn’t remember where I knew her.

“Yeah, sure you are. You’re in my sister’s class, aren’t you?”

“Who’s your sister?” I asked, managing enough courage to utter those profound words.

“Sophie,” she said, but I still had trouble connecting the dots. “Sophie Carter?”

“Of course,” I said, “I’d forgotten she had an older sister.”

“Geesh,” the other girl said, “I didn’t know you were that forgettable, Camille.”

“I guess so,” Camille replied and gave me a hard stare. Chris laughed and I felt the ground drop from under me. “I’m just kidding,” Camille said, suddenly full of the warmth and kindness her sister had tucked deep into a drawer freshman year. “So what brings you guys here?”

“We wanted to get as far away from your sister and her friends as possible,” Matt said, much to our amazement.

We waited for Camille’s harsh rebuke, but her response surprised us.

“So it’s true, she is a little bitch?”

We collectively lifted our eyes from trying to find that non-descript item in the bottom of our cups.

“It’s okay,” Camille continued, “high school changes people. Luckily, college is the remedy.” Camille raised her cup and the girls took a swig followed by a victory sound. “Nice to see you boys,” she said with a wink and they walked toward the keg.

“What was that?” Janik asked.

“Dude, college is awesome,” Chris replied.

Not soon after, Gable and T announced we were leaving. As we walked the neighborhood, the festive atmosphere had definitely picked up. Groups of people streamed every which way, drinks and bottles in hand. Pure craziness.

Ten minutes later, we squeezed into a three-story house that seemed unable to hold all of the people wanting to get in.

“How many times can I say it, but this is insanely awesome,” Chris yelled.

A few minutes later, a song blasted and the ceiling suddenly felt like it was going to come down. Matt and I exchanged worried glances as the thudding sound from above moved its way into our room and grabbed hold of the crowd. Before we knew it, the entire room was jumping up and down in unison to the beat of the music, including us.

I laughed when Matt spilled his drink all over Janik, who returned the favor. The beat combined with the atmosphere was intoxicating and I soon forgot about the ceiling and the paint chips sprinkling down. I jumped and jumped and tried to jump higher and suddenly felt free until I jumped back and banged into someone just as the music stopped. I turned and found Camille giving me that hard stare.

“You realize you just dumped your drink all over me?”

I glanced at my empty cup and gave her a dumbfounded look. “Sorry about that.”

Her stone face suddenly turned pleasant and she grabbed my hand. “Come on, you can buy me another one,” she exclaimed and dragged me toward the kitchen.

“Okay, but how much does it cost?” I asked ignorantly.

She looked at me like one looks at a lost puppy. “It’s just an expression. You’re good to go if you have a cup.”

I followed her into the kitchen where she grabbed my cup, batted her eyes at the guy running the keg, and returned with two full drinks.

“Bottoms up,” she said, tapped my cup with hers and took the longest drink I’d ever seen a girl take.

I tried to match her, but wound up choking. Determined to save myself from the embarrassment, I forced it down, but the look on my face must’ve said it all because she laughed and kissed me on the cheek.

“You’re cute, you know.” She grabbed my hand again and led me up the crowded stairs.

My mind was a whirl as the music hypnotized the crowd and the jumping returned. Craziness, I thought, as we skipped the second floor and reached the top of the steps where it was less crowded.

“Come on,” she said, “I want to show you something.”

We entered a large room that was dark except for the feint traces of moonlight spilling in from the balcony. She shut the door, which drowned out the music, but didn’t stop the walls from vibrating.

“Isn’t this awesome?” she asked and opened the balcony doors, letting in a cool breeze.

I stepped outside and breathed in the solitude of the small space that contradicted the raucous street scene below.

“Whose room is this?”

“Just a friend’s,” she replied and pulled me back into the room. “But he went home to see his girlfriend tonight.”

I turned and was met with a deep, passionate kiss.

“Put your drink down,” she said. “The view of the moon is crazy from the bed.”

She pressed her lips against mine and pulled me onto the bed. It was happening very fast, but I liked it and didn’t stop her from removing my shirt. We played around for a while and my head started buzzing. I actually liked the lightheaded and guilt-free sensation.

Why feel guilty, I asked myself with the sort of voice that would only ask while posing as a moral defense counsel. Go with it. This is what you’ve always wanted. It just happens that it’s not with Allison, who, by the way, isn’t your girlfriend, as she made clear last night.

That line of argument seemed to do the trick and the jury nodded sympathetically.

And don’t forget about Augustus Sloan, who for all you know is trying these very same moves at the lake right now. That was all the jury needed to hear before they evaporated, which led me to not resist as Camille pushed the game into deeper innings and I started loading the bases.

“Come on,” she said alluringly, “I have protection ... let’s have some fun.”

Is this what you want, the voice in my head reappeared. If you really want it, she’s offering and who knows when this chance will come along again.

“I don’t know,” I said, surprising myself.



“Are you a virgin?”

“No,” I lied, which seemed natural when confronted with the accusation.

“It’s okay if you are,” she said. “I’ll show you how it’s done.”

“I know how it’s done,” I said defensively and suddenly wanted to get out. No, this definitely wasn’t right for me at this time. I didn’t know if it was because it wasn’t Allison or if I simply wasn’t ready, but I knew that I didn’t want to lose my virginity right now.

“I’m sorry, I’m just not ready. I think I may have had too much to drink.”

“It’s okay,” she said. “I just thought it would be fun. Go on back to the party and I’ll meet you there in a little bit.”

She handled it so well, I thought. Part of me was afraid she would freak out and cause a scene, but she didn’t and I was glad. Instead, she watched as I put on my clothes and blew me a kiss before I slipped out the door.

I was soon with the guys, who wanted to know all about my adventure with Camille. I shook my head and after some further trawling by Janik, rushed out the front door. A minute later, Chris found me leaning against a tree watching the crazy, drunk people meander up and down the street.

“Dude, what’s up?”

“Nothing, man,” I said, dryly, with a lump in my throat.

“Here, take this,” he said and handed me a cup.

“Thanks, but I don’t feel much like drinking anymore.”

“Come on, man, what happened up there?”

“Nothing you would understand.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Dude, you’re the most experienced of us all. Hell, I’m sure you’ve slept with half the girls on campus even though you’re still in high school.”

Chris laughed. “Let me guess, she wanted to have sex, but you said no, right?”

I stared at him, wondering if it was that evident. “How did you know?”

“Because that’s a total Trenton thing to do. I know you and I know you’re not going to lose your virginity to some floozy who gives it up within the first five minutes.”

“Well, that’s not very comforting right now because I really wanted to ... I just couldn’t pull the trigger.” I studied him, wondering if I should ask the next question. “How come it’s so easy for you?”

“Don’t believe everything you hear.”

“You mean you’ve never had sex either?”

“Let’s not get crazy – of course I have, but probably not as much as you think.”

“Really? But everyone thinks you’re this Don Juan or something.”

“People assume, but they never ask, so I just let them assume. I’m just lucky I’m not a chick.”

I laughed. “Yeah, I wouldn’t want to call you a floozy behind your back.”

“Rumors are only rumors,” Chris replied with a grin. “And don’t worry about it, your time will come.”

“Thanks, you’re the best girlfriend a guy could have.” I raised my cup. “Now let’s drink.”

Over the next two hours, we drank a lot or at least more than I ever had. I was soon feeling good – no, let’s make that great – just as Chris brought me another drink and the all too thunderous jumping started. However, after my first jump, something was wrong. A pain shot through my stomach and I knew the inevitable was about to happen. I pushed through the crowd, hand to mouth, but a wall of people prevented my escape.

I spun. The fireplace was two steps away.

With catlike speed, I jumped in front of it and arched my back before blowing an array of chunks. On my knees, I heaved a couple of times before catching my breath. I glanced around, but no one seemed to notice or care. Okay, maybe I heard a cheer after the first outfall, but I couldn’t be sure. Suddenly, a strong hand squeezed my shoulder and yanked me toward the door.

“You’re cut off, Trenton,” Gable announced, a hint of reproach in his commanding and unbelievably sober voice.

“Sorry, Gabe,” I replied, wiping my mouth.

“Oh, now I’m Gabe, huh?” he said, amused.

“No, you’re Gable, I just … I think I’m drunk.”

“Very observant of you, lightweight. I hope your friend Steve doesn’t mind giving up the crown.”

By that time the rest of the guys were outside hovering and snickering.

“All right,” Gable continued. “Let’s get lightweight here some food for that empty stomach.” He patted me on the back and asked, “Are you okay?”

I sucked in the cool night air. “Yeah, I’m good and I could use some food. Sorry about the fireplace.”

“Don’t worry, that’s what the freshman are for,” T declared and assumed command of our march toward food paradise.

The next morning, Gable pulled me aside.

“Quite a night for you, huh?” he began. “Let’s just keep this between you and me and leave your old man out of it, okay?”

“He’s not gonna hear about it from me, that’s for sure.”

“I thought so. Anyway, last night should serve as a good lesson.”

“Well, I’m never going to drink again, if that’s what you mean.”

“Of course you are. Don’t fool yourself, but next time use your head. There’s no need to be one of those guys who gets drunk out his mind at every party. The truth is, people laugh because it’s funny, but nobody wants to be that guy because being that guy is anything but funny. Catch my drift?”

“Yeah, I think so.”

“Good. Now about this girl you hooked up with last night.”

“I didn’t hook up with her if that means what I think it means.”

“Good for you, Trenton. I was hoping you hadn’t, but I know how it goes, especially when your guard goes down on account of alcohol.”

“That happened before I got drunk, at least before I got really drunk.”

“Stick with that girl Allison. She’s good for you and she’ll keep you honest.”

“I don’t know what that means, but you’re probably right.” Gable smiled and pulled me in for a man-hug. “Thanks for taking us out last night.”

“No problem. I hope you guys had fun and tell your old man I said hi.”

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