I sauntered away from a boisterous party still pounding in an abandoned building in a cul-de-sac away from the suburbs, allowing the teens to be irresponsible and tolerable. Celebrating a win for the state championships for both the girls’ and guys’ soccer teams would have been really cool, but getting wasted to forget the sad outcomes was even better. We slurred our words together and promised to not attend school tomorrow due to obnoxious hangovers that would leave us too nauseated to even open our eyes. We were young and invincible.
I remembered pulling up to the field to see the girls finish their game after what I assumed was a rough game as I overheard some college scouts scoffing about a number nineteen on our school team. Scouring for who it could be, I finally abandoned the racking of my brain. The other team scored in the last ten minutes off of a soft corner, and then the guys’ game started. Even though I was not a player, I managed to be friends with most of the soccer team because of my friendship with Heath. And then I noticed he wasn’t there. I turned to one of the girls who stayed for the guys’ game, tear streaks still present on her cheeks from the sudden loss. I was a pretty awful boyfriend for not comforting her in her time of need. I asked, “Where’s Heath?”
Lily huffed, “He went after the ambulance with my teammate. She, like, tore her quad and had a major concussion, I think.”
I turned back to the game and thought about who Heath could have been that close to, but I became distracted from an abrupt goal by the opposite team in the first half from a ridiculous PK call from the ref.
My feet scuffed against the concrete as I finally realized that Heath’s neighborhood lay just beyond the tree-line. I smirked and clumsily strolled over some thick roots, grabbing and hugging the trunks of trees as I failed to maintain my balance well. I couldn’t remember exactly why I left the party—it might have been because of Lily’s drunken behavior or maybe her sober behavior. The night’s events were running together like a stream of negatives from a camera. I couldn’t separate the times and the things occurring. Without my knowledge I was suddenly in front of Heath’s house.
“Heath,” I whispered loudly, half-expecting his light in his room to come on just from my whisper. He was always such a light sleeper.
I walked around the front of the house to the oak that often grated against his window during storms. I glanced at my watch to see it was nearly four thirty in the morning, but he would gladly wake up to see his old buddy old pal.
Yep, my drunk persona loved being friendly.
I shimmied up the tree like a stripper working for her toddler back at her parent’s home. I grasped each limb and gyrated up the tree, my legs wrapped around the trunk as if that was a perfectly good anchor to pull myself up. I now hope no one ever saw me do this. I finally came to the bough that scratched against his window and carefully crawled down the branch until my fingers could brush against the glass.
My eyes strained to see inside, and Heath slept, facing the other way, his sheet pulled down to his waist. His bare back face the window. His black mop of hair strayed from gravity as if he could defy the physics.
I drunkenly smiled and tapped on the window.
“Heath,” I purred against the glass, continuously tapping the window.
“Heath Frey, wake your dumbass up!” I yelped.
I slapped the window pane loudly, and I saw the silhouette immediately sit up. His green eyes whipped my direction, and he whipped his sheets off of his legs, loping across his room in boxers with pictures of cats clawing at a ball of yarn. He slammed open the window, nearly knocking me off my bough. His black hair fell to a somewhat normal state as his fingers brushed through his mane. He hissed quietly, “What, Ned?! You’re going to wake my mom!”
I smiled sheepishly. “Dude, you are missing out on the party scene.”
He gave an exasperated sigh and retorted, “I’ve got an exam this morning in Genetics. I wasn’t going to get drunk and waste the test. In fact, I would really like to get back to sleep.” He began to shut the window, but I shoved my hand in the way.
“Why weren’t you at the game, man?”
Heath’s green eyes tore away from my gaze. “I heard we lost.”
“Dude, you’re the starting center mid; of course we lost. Where were you?”
His eyes shifted to behind him and then back to me. “I’ll tell you when you aren’t drunk. Night, Ned.”
I sat up on the branch and looked over his shoulder to what he glanced at previously. A petite, statuesque girl lay in Heath’s bed, her back to the window. A large white t-shirt clung to her curves as she tucked her legs closer to her trunk. A blind hand reached for the sheet and comforter frantically. Heath’s shirt was folded about mid-way up her back, revealing a pair of green and blue plaid boxers that were obviously Heath’s based upon the length and size. Her porcelain skin glowed as the moonlight streamed into his room. “Heath, you do know a girl is in your bed right now and you are talking to me instead of doing the old in-and-out?”
Heath tore away from the window sill and snatched the lavender sheets from her knee caps. He pulled it up to her shoulder tucking it under her back and body to prevent any cool air from disrupting the purity of her slumber. His hand rested on her shoulder, massaging it for a moment longingly. His green eyes transfixed to her blonde locks falling across his sheets.
I pulled myself in the room through the window and sat down on the sill bench, waiting patiently for Heath to come back and explain this whole situation to me. I mean, if you can’t tell your best bud, who can you tell?
His eyes fell back on me. “Don’t be a pervert, Ned. She’s just spending the night so she can get some rest.”
I smugly smirked and mentioned, “I saw she let you be the big spoon.”
Heath rolled his eyes impatiently and pulled away from his bed, sitting down beside me on the bench. “What can I do to get you to leave so I can go back to sleep, Oh Great Drunken One?”
“Well, I would normally ask you if you could teach me your ways of snagging a female who doesn’t nag you for breathing too loudly.”
“You and Lily really need to break up, dude. You obviously are not into each other that much since all you do is constantly argue.”
“We’re already like an old couple.”
“You guys aren’t even graduated and already bickering this much? She is not worth all of this strive, Ned. She can obviously survive being someone else’s problem.”
“But I love her, I think.”
“If you loved her, I think you would know.”
“Well, I do like the sex…”
He groaned and let the topic go.
My eyes fell back to the girl as she slowly pulled herself off of the bed. Her hand shot to grab Heath’s garbage can, never facing us, and I saw her lean over the edge of his bed. Her back rolled as she lurched forward. A wet pop resounded before she began to spit up. My stomach contorted upon hearing her wretch. Heath glanced at me before saying, “Excuse me.” He galloped across the room and sat down beside the girl. A large hand fell in between her shoulder blades, massaging the tissues. He whispered, “It’s okay. It’s okay.”
She whimpered repetitively, “I’m so sorry, Heath. I’m sorry.”
My ears perked to hopefully identify the blonde, but I couldn’t figure out who she was.
She suddenly fell back to his bed and curled back into a taut ball. Heath’s eyes fell back onto me. He gave her one last pat and came back to my side. He nestled against the wall on the seat and admitted, “She’s been doing that all night.”
I remembered Lily’s comment about him not being at the game and asked, “Is she the girl they took to the ER?”
Heath’s eyes met mine, and he nodded. “Yeah, she’s been pretty tore up about the whole thing; she was being scouted by some coaches for several athletic scholarships that would have nailed a lot of her contracts shut. Then the doctors gave her some medicine that makes her sick to her stomach.”
“Lily was pretty pissed off that she left the game.”
Heath shook his head, his hand brushing through his hair. “Of course she was. I’m pretty sure she has little sympathy for Devin and her antics.”
I furrowed my brow. “What do you mean?”
“They don’t get along at all.”
I shrugged my shoulders. I could not initially think of anyone who disliked Lily as she was the president of three different clubs, a soccer player, a straight-A, clean-cut student, etc. However, I knew Lily did have a tenacity and attitude that often gave her the capacity to dislike a number of people who got in her way—often me. She was usually seen as the popular girl who was well-liked, but she was often the individual who wanted to remain aloof and have only a few close friends but still please everyone.
Heath leaned his head against the wall and began to rock his foot to an inaudible beat only available to his ear. “You not going to class tomorrow?”
“Nope, I’m going to be trashed as hell.”
He solemnly nodded and turned his gaze back to the girl. “I expect half of the school is going to be out tomorrow; at least the people I like. The guys aren’t going, you’re not going, she’s not going…”
“I’m really surprised your parents let her stay the night.” I only said this because Heath was never disobedient of his parents mostly because they thought respect was needed for Heath to make the right decisions. However, I also knew they were avid members of the church down the way, and I knew Heath would not lie to his parents about her being in the house. In fact, I wouldn’t have been surprised to find out he asked his parents to take care of her tomorrow.
He was just always that way.
“Yeah, Dad’s out of town, and Mom said it was fine.”
“My parents would flip their lids.”
Heath cocked a brow and confided, “I don’t necessarily have a reason for them to distrust me as much as your parents have a reason to.”
“Whoa, now, calm down, Mr. Frey. I don’t want a lecture from my best friend along with my parents tonight. I’ll get enough of an earful tomorrow morning when they find out I’m smashed and then hide it from Lex.”
“How’s your sister doing by the way?”
“Eh, she’s doing alright. I can’t complain, and neither can my parents. She’s got straight A’s yet again this year and wants to attend Vanderbilt currently.”
“Aspirational for an elementary-schooler.”
“You’re telling me. I don’t have a flipping clue as to what I want to do with my life, and I’ve got a year left before graduation. Then she’s got everything scheduled for the next, like, forty years.”
The girl sat up again and just stared at the door in to the side of the room. I couldn’t tell if she was half-asleep or fully awake. She froze for a long time, and Heath glanced at her. “Devin, you okay?”
She slowly nodded her head.
“Why don’t you go back to sleep then?”
“I’m sorry; I’m cold.”
Heath sat up and groaned, “Why are you sorry you’re cold? Seriously? You wouldn’t say sorry when you broke my finger or tried to beat the crap out of me but will totally do it when you don’t do anything? You’re so backwards.”
She apologized for apologizing and then apologized for apologizing for apologizing. She burrowed back in between all of the sheets and the comforter again, pulling the comforter over her head. I could now see her body shake under the mass of blankets. I couldn’t lie and say she was wrong for seeing if Heath was returning to bed; he radiated heat like a space heater from the depths of hell. He crossed his arms and met my eyes again. “She’s ridiculous.”
“No, I’m not.”
He cooed, “That’s right. You tell yourself that, Devin. You’ll agree with me once you feel better.”
I laughed as she flipped us off from underneath the comforters rebelliously.
Heath finally admitted, “I’ve got to get some more sleep before I go to school, and she probably needs me to keep her warm—because that’s the only thing I’m good for.” He pulled himself off the bench and jumped back onto the bed beside Devin. He wrapped his arms around her tightly, his bare back against the brunt of the wind chill from outside.
I launched myself onto the bough clumsily from the window sill like a giant drunken squirrel who had a severe mange that singed off nearly all of its hair. I twisted once I got to the middle of the bough to knock the window closed when I heard the girl begin to sob uncontrollably. I froze as a sense of sympathy overwhelmed me. Here I was happy from drink while she lost a large hope for her future and probably her major earnings through scholarships. I envisioned her icy blue eyes glazed from tears as she buried her face into the mattress to prevent Heath from ever seeing her face.
“It’s okay, Dev. We’ll figure this out, okay?”
“No, we won’t. Oh God, I screwed up. I really screwed up.”
“You’re just saying that now because you don’t feel good. Just let your muscles feel better in a couple of days, and you’ll think totally differently.”
She didn’t answer as she chocked back a scream.
My eyes fell to the ground as I quietly knocked the window shut with the help of a branch I tore off of the tree a little above me so as to make sure she didn’t think I heard her begin to sob. I dropped the branch, watching it fall a story below me and not break, so I got the stupid idea to leap off the tree. I immediately regretted my poor decision as soon as my feet left the safety of the tree’s bark. My legs folded underneath my body as I impacted the ground heartily, a pile of leaves accepting most of the blunt impact of the collision.
I then walked home, leaving my car at the party house just so I wouldn’t have to deal with people or Lily—mostly my girlfriend. I was too drunk to care what they thought and too sober to realize I really, really wanted to go to sleep myself, envious of Heath being already in his warm bed, and kind of jealous I didn’t have someone to go home to even though I left her at the party. I wished I had someone to console right now because this paternal instinct clung to me as I fell asleep at the butt-crack of dawn, thinking obsessively of that poor girl crying and how desperate she must have been, how scared she must have been, and how awful everything really must have been.