Detective Green stood in the back row of the courthouse, her anger brewing as Abraham Green sent a chilling grin in her direction while the bailiff undid his handcuffs. No cheers arose from the court as was usual at the end of a trial. Instead the courtroom was eerily silent. Everyone knew Abraham Green deserved to live out the rest of his days in prison, but a DNA mix up had set him free to walk the streets. The judge banged his gavel against the wood emphatically. Case dismissed. She left the courtroom quickly, glad to press and the the cold smile of the now free child killer. Chills ran down her spine as Green fought the urge to run down the hallway, away from the courthouse. Away from her father. Her phone buzzed in her pocket. She pulled it out, flipping it open and pressing the answer button. The words not guilty rang in her head over and over, a dull pain beginning in her abdomen.
“This is Detective Green,” she said shakily.
“Hey, it’s Stone,” her partner said on the other side of the line. He was silent for a second; “How’d it go?”
He’s out,” she explained. He sighed.
“I’m sorry, Will,” he waited again, clearly holding back more bad news.
“We have a case?” she asked. He sighed again.
“Yeah. You don’t have to come if you’re not…”
“I’ll be right there,” she hung up the phone, not waiting for any more arguments.
Malai was glad his engineering teacher let them out early. He walked toward his car, backpack slung over one shoulder, three textbooks cradled in his arms. Although he didn’t really want to think about it, his mind kept returning to the fact that he only had one year left of college. One year and then he would be living in the real world. No more school, just an average, normal adult life. It was kind of terrifying and exciting at the same time.
Malai!!” a voice called from behind him. He stopped to see one of the girl’s in his
engineering class jogging toward him. Her dark brown hair was cut in a pixie, bangs swooping over her forehead. Her eyes were hazel, green and brown, flecked with bits of gold. She was dressed in a t shirt with some band he had never heard of on the front and a pair of jeans. She smiled at him as she got close and he realized she was probably a good foot shorter than him.
“Hey, umm….” Malai realized awkwardly he didn’t know her name.
“Mikey,” she said, clearly unfazed by it. “I was just wondering if, well, if we could work together on the next project.” She rushed on before Malai could respond. “I know you usually work with Christopher, but I have some ideas and you’re one of the best in the class…”
“Sure,” he answered before she could go on. Although he wasn’t going to say it to her, he was actually pretty interested to work with Mikey. The girl was quiet, but when she did speak it was usually to explain some brilliant idea. She smiled at him again and then pulled out a pen from behind her ear and scribbled down her number on a piece of paper.
“Here,” she handed it to him and then returned the pen to its spot behind her ear. “I’ll see you later.”
“Yeah I’ll call you,” he turned and almost ran straight into someone.
Did you just get a number?” asked the tall, attractive boy. His dark hair was shaved close to his skull. His bright blue eyes paired with a lopsided smirk and athletic build and height made him an automatic hit with every girl he met. That and the fact that he would be an NFL star after college for sure. He also happened, of course most importantly, to be Malai’s best friend.
“We’re working together on a project. Why weren’t you in class?” Malai asked.
“Long story. So, I heard she’s going to a party tonight,”
“She’s going to a party?” Malai couldn’t see Mikey going to a party. He didn’t even know there was a party.
“Yep. It’s my party,”
“You’re parents are letting you throw a party?” Christopher was one of the few college kids that lived at home. Of course, he did live in a 20 bedroom mansion with his parents, so no one gave him a hard time about it. The only problem was that Christopher still lived like he was in high school.
“My parents are out of town…” And that included throwing parties when his parents were on vacation.
“Christopher,” Malai sighed.
“Slow down. It’s not that big of a deal. Anyway…” Christopher flashed him a devilish grin. “I have cause for celebration,”
“You’ve slept with the entire cheerleading squad?” Christopher glared at Malai.
“No,” Christopher pulled an envelope out of his pocket. “The Cowboys want me. After graduation,” Malai snatched the envelope from him.
“Chris, that’s amazing!!” Christopher grinned. “I can’t believe it. My best friend’s going to be an NFL football player. I mean, you could be on a better team…” Christopher punched Malai in the arm.
“Please come to the party. There probably won’t be that many people,” Christopher said. Lie number one. “And we aren’t going to be doing anything stupid,” Lie number two. “Plus you owe me,” Lie number three. “And you wouldn’t want your cute little girlfriend coming to a college party without any protection,”. Christopher had a point there. Not about Mikey being Malai’s girlfriend, but about how a girl like her should not go to a party like the one’s Christopher threw by herself.
“Fine. I’ll go,” Malai gave in. Christopher drummed his hands against the car as he jumped into the passenger seat, grinning like the idiot that he was. Malai sighed and climbed into the driver seat.
“Oh, and just don’t wear that,” Christopher told him as they drove toward his house.
“What’s wrong with this?” Malai asked, looking down at his button up and jeans. Christopher snorted.
Malai could hear the party from two blocks away. So much for a small get together. He pulled up to the curb of the looming mansion, all lit up with flashing lights. People were spilling out of the front door and into the yard. Cars lined both sides of the street for as far as Malai could see, and he was going to guess this was only the beginning. He had no idea how Christopher got so many people to show up on such short notice. Didn’t people have finals to study for?
Don’t you have finals to study for, asked a tiny voice in the back of his mind. He shook his head and climbed out of his dirty old Maxima 2007. He was already here. It was too late to back out now.
Inside the party was even worse than outside. The music was so loud he had to shout to be heard. The living room was full of all the drunken football players fulfilling their usual jobs of handing out shots. Malai passed them without taking one of the drinks. The family room was teeming with scantily clad intoxicated girls dancing with guys who Malai could infer were not their boyfriends. Malai ducked stealthiy into the kitchen. It had huge windows that looked over the pool where (Malai wasn’t entirely sure) a couple of incredibly wasted kids were skinny dipping. The island in the kitchen was covered with an assortment of alcohol and red solo cups. Christopher, like any good host, was passing out drinks to the waiters and waitresses he had hired to hand them out. Malai didn’t know why Christopher didn’t just have the football player do it. Probably because they were already to trashed to walk. A couple other kids were hanging out in the kitchen. Most of them girls hanging all over Christopher and the rest people who were regretting showing up. Malai figured the kitchen was the perfect place for him. Christopher looked up from the jello shots he was preparing and grinned at Malai.
“Look who decided to show up!” Christopher teased. Malai rolled his eyes.
“I don’t know why you throw parties when you spend all of your time in the kitchen. You don’t even drink.,” Malai complained, already bitter about being at the party. Christopher laughed and grabbed a shot, downing it just to prove a point.
“Malai my friend, I drink. I just don’t get totally wasted. And it’s all about keeping my people happy,” Christopher said, holding out a cup of beer to Malai. Malai didn’t take it.
“Where’s Mikey?” Malai asked. He and Christopher had been best friends since their second year in college, but sometimes Malai wondered how they had even become acquaintances. Christopher grinned at Malai.
“You know why she came?” Christophe asked, referring to Mikey. “She’s the designated driver for the cheerleading squad. You know, that technically makes her a cheerleader…”
“You aren’t sleeping with her. She’s the Designated Driver for your girlfriend,” Malai shook his head at his friend. “Seriously Chris. You stay in here and find some other girl who can handle herself around you”
“Are you saying she can’t handle herself?”
“No, I’m saying she’s too nice to slap you. I’m gonna go, Chris,” Malai left the room and entered the family room, now overrun by a fresh wave of drunk girls, mostly cheerleaders.
“Malai!” a voice called. Out of the crowd appeared the ringleader of the popular girls, the captain of the cheerleading squad. Her long blonde hair was done in a high ponytail, extensions dangling down to her waist. She wore a tube top and a mini skirt, both black with matching six inch stiletto heels and smoky eyeshadow. She had a drink in one hand and a sparkly gold clutch in the other. “Malai, I haven’t seen you in forever!” she said as she approached him. There’s a reason for that, he thought sarcastically. He wondered briefly if people got drunk before they came to these parties because there was no way the alcohol kicked in this fast.
“Hey Jenny. Chris is in the kitchen,” Malai said, trying to avoid a conversation with the wasted blonde.
“Good,” Jenny took a step closer and put a hand on Malai’s chest. He took a step back. “Don’t you want to dance with me, Malai?” He couldn’t tell if she was joking or not.
“I’ll pass. I think you should go see Chris,”
“But I want to dance,”
I…” Malai had to think of a way out of this. “I have to go upstairs,” Malai stepped around Jenny and raced up the stairs. He opened up one of the bathroom doors, planning on hiding out until Jenny forgot about their encounter. Instead he interrupted a girl puking in the toilet. She finished and looked up at him.
“I’m sorry,” she muttered before bursting into tears. This was why Malai didn’t go to parties. He sighed. He faintly recognized the girl. He was pretty sure she had been the live entertainment when he had first arrived.
“Too much to drink?” he asked as he helped her to her feet. She shook her head and went practically limp in his arms.
“I haven’t drank anything but soda,” she explained. He helped her into Christopher’s room and layed her on the bed. He pulled a trash can closer to her and a blanket over her. By the time he had finished, she was already passed out. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a key. After the first party Malai had attended, Christopher had given him a key to his room just in case he needed some privacy. Or more likely a nap. He left the room and shut the door, locking it behind him. He hesitated before continuing down the hallway, but then continued on, knowing the only person who had a key beside himself was Christopher. He walked down the stairs, avoiding a few couples making out in the stairway. By the time he reached the family room, the party was raging. The room was teeming with people, densely packed, drunk, and dancing ridiculously. Malai managed to squeeze himself into a corner. A corner that, unbeknownst to him, was already occupied.
“I didn’t know you were going to be here,” Mikey yelled over the loud music.
“I didn’t even know I was going to be here until I let Chris talk me into it for some reason,” Malai explained. He grabbed two sodas from a girl passing by with a tray and handed one to Mikey. He popped off the tab of his, took a sip and sat down beside her.
“So tell me, what are these great ideas you were telling me about?” he asked.
Alex had a love-hate relationship with his neighbors. Most of the time they were calm and the adults would all go play golf together. Anything was great when it got his aunt and uncle out of the house. There were other moments when he hated his neighbors however. Mostly when they were out of town and their idiotic son threw parties that could probably be heard in Mexico. Alex’s aunt and uncle were also gone; some trip to the Bahamas so it was left to Alex to go next door and somehow convince Christopher to shut down the party. Or he could just continue painting and ignore the noise. The last thing he wanted at this point in time was to see people, especially Christopher. He looked out at his neighbor’s front yard, a couple people already passed out on the grass, and even more pouring down the streets. Alex was glad he never got invited to parties (at least not this kind).
He sighed and pulled on a beenie, jogging down the stairs and then out the door. He approached the house cautiously, attempting to maintain his cool. He really didn’t need to have an anxiety attack right here. He walked in the front door, barely able to hear his own thoughts over the pounding music. He could tell the party was still young because the football players were still charging people for drinks. Alex walked by and grabbed a shot, downing it in an attempt to calm his anxiety. No one said anything to him. It was the nice thing about being a fly on the wall; he could steal drinks at parties he didn’t want to be at. He would prefer to just not go to parties, and he wasn’t even supposed to drink.
His therapist went on and on about self-medication and how alcohol lowered people’s inhibitions. Alex was pretty sure having a drink or two was just him being an average 22 year old, but just in case he tended to stay away from alcohol. He walked into the kitchen knowing Christopher would be in there. As he stepped into the kitchen Christopher looked up. He looked shocked and then uncomfortable but then flashed him one of his award winning Alex’s way.
“I was going to invite you, but I figured you’d just not show up,” Christopher said. Alex sighed. There was a reason for that.
“Christopher, your parents are going to kill you. And we aren’t in high school anymore,” Alex told him. Christopher grinned again.
“My parents aren’t going to find out,” Christopher said. Alex groaned, mostly because he knew Christopher was right. No matter how often he wanted to kill Christopher he would definitely not be telling his parents. “By the way,” Christopher continued as he reached into the fridge. “Nice outfit.” Alex looked down at his clothes. Like usually he was wearing all black. Unfortunately, he had been painting before and now his clothes were spattered with paint. He looked like some hipster trying to make some unidentifiable political statement.
“Oh. I was...umm…” Alex stuttered.
“Catch,” Christopher threw him a beer can and then another one. “Look, Alex,” Christopher suddenly seemed serious as he leaned over the fridge door. After knowing each other for almost half their lives, Alex and Christopher had an odd relationship. For all of high school they had been good friends. But Christopher was now a popular football player and Alex was a loser artist. They went to the same college, lived on the same street but they might as well have been on different planets. “Maybe just stick around. Do you think we could talk after the party?” Christopher asked. Alex looked down at the can of beer in his hand. What could he say? He could of course shrug and leave. That’s what he normally would have done. But would it be that bad to give Christopher a chance?
“Yeah. Sure,” he muttered. Christopher gave him a half smile and before Alex left the room and headed outside. He stepped onto the porch and took a deep breath of the cool air. The moon was partially covered by wispy gray clouds. The air smelt like rain as if any moment the thunder and lightning could pour from the sky and dump their tears on the Earth. There was something especially beautiful about a storm in Alex’s mind. Somehow, after the violent onslaught of torrential rain and crashing thunder, the world emerged from the cruel and brutal battle clean and fresh. Better and clearer.
“Are you going to drink that?” a voice asked from the other side of the porch. Alex turned to see a boy sitting on the swing shrouded in darkness. He, like Alex, had probably seeked refuge from the noise of the party out here. From where Alex was, he could guess the guy was a hit with the ladies. He was mixed, light brown skin paired with green intelligent eyes. For a second Alex was confused by what the boy was talking about until he remembered the two can of beer in his hands. He tossed one of them to the boy. “You going to drink that one?” he asked Alex gesturing at the other one.
“I don’t…” he started. What, I don’t drink? Alex laughed at himself. He also didn’t go to parties or talk to strangers. Yet here he was, doing both at the same time. Alex popped off the top of the can and took a swig. “My name’s Alex,” he said to the stranger.
“Thanks for the beer, kid. I’m Nico,” the stranger replied.
Liz had nowhere to go after the banquet fundraiser. She had gotten all dressed up to receive her award, and now she had nowhere to go. Or at least not anywhere her parents would approve of. She pulled her car over on the side of the street, the music audible from the hottest part of the year. And there was no way she was missing that. She straightened her tight black dress and headed down the sidewalk, her black booties with gold zippers clicking against the concrete with each step. She looked at her watch. Midnight. The party had’t even begun to die down. She pulled out a clipboard and walked straight up to the door, ignoring all the drunk people passed out in the front yard. When she got to the first room, the football players were no longer charging for drinks. Perfect timing.
“Hey boys. How’s the party going?” she asked. They all answered incoherently. This was called the how-drunk-are-they test. Answer: completely trashed. Just how she wanted them. “Would you sign this petition to help pass a law to lower the United States’s carbon emissions?” she asked. They all nodded and took the pen, signing their name. The best place to get signatures was a party. Everyone was too drunk to say no.
“Please tell me you aren’t exploiting these poor drunken fools,” a voice asked from the adjoining room. Liz looked up to see Christopher standing there. It amazed Liz that somehow, at every party he threw, Christopher managed to say sober (buzzed at the most), dignified, and singe. Considering what most guys would be like with Christopher’s looks and popularity, he was really quite wonderful. Guys like him usually were total jerks. This party, however seemed to be a bit different. Christopher had not only left the kitchen, but also was holding a beer of his own in one hand.
“Chris, are you drunk?” she teased. All the boys laughed, but Liz was pretty sure it was at Christopher’s original comment.
“I’m not drunk. I have a bit of a buzz,” Christopher explained, still fully able to speak.
“Cause for celebration?” Liz asked. Everyone knew Christopher and Jenny were probably going to be an official item within a matter of days. LIz really wasn’t all that interested, but it would be nice to have a bit of her curiosity satisfied.
“Maybe just a bit of liquid courage,” Christopher answered. Liz opened her mouth to ask what for when Jenny came into the room. She had a can of beer in one hand and a clutch in the other. Like Christopher, Jenny was also acting odd. Unlike her buzzed almost boyfriend, Jenny was completely sober. That was rare in itself. The cheerleader usually came to school still drunk from the night before. It was probably because there was no way she could walk drunk in those stilettos. She smiled at Liz and tossed her the can of beer.
“Hey Liz. Mind if I steal Chris for a second?” Jenny asked, her hand on Christopher’s shoulder. Christopher suddenly looked incredibly nervous. This was the moment the entire campus had been waiting for.
“Nope. He’s all yours,” Liz responded with a grin. Jenny wrapped her arm around Christopher’s waist.
“Wish me luck,” Christopher joked. They both left the room, abandoning Liz with all the drunken football players. She figured they were so wasted if they signed again it would look like a completely different signature, but Liz didn’t want to risk getting her signatures thrown out. Instead, she went deeper into the party. She asked one of her classmates, Mikey, and a guy she didn’t recognize (she didn’t know Mikey had a boyfriend). After that she just hung out around the dance floor, asking people to sign. She never got turned down.
“You know, this is probably the best place to get signatures,” LIz turned to see an attractive boy leaning against a table. His blonde hair was grown out, shaggy but not too long. His brown eyes smiled at her, his tan muscular arms crossed over his chest. She recognized him from one of her classes. His name was Derrick, and she was pretty sure he was here on a wrestling scholarship.
“People here never say no,” he agreed. He laughed uncomfortably. His nervousness surprised her. Was she the one making him nervous? Well, she was abnormally dressed up. And, although she wasn’t the hottest girl on campus, she wasn’t bad looking. Besides, it was nice to have a guy interested in her that wasn’t just playing games to get her to do his math homework.
“You want a drink? You know, if you aren’t too busy,” he asked. She pretended to think about it for a moment.
“Well, I don’t know…” she started.
“Tell you what. If you take a two minute break, I’ll sign your thing. Not everyone here is too trashed to say no,” he interrupted.
“Fine. But only for the environment,” she said. Playing hard to get was probably one of her greatest talents. He grinned and popped the top off a beer.
“Here,” he handed it to her and she took a sip. “I’m Derrick,”
“Pleased to meet you. My name’s Liz,”
After midnight Malai started to get a little woozy. Mikey had already left up the stairs with Jenny who, up until an hour ago had managed to stay sober. Now she was puking out all the alcohol she had chugged in the past hour. Malai found Christopher, who was pacing in the kitchen (Malai felt too sick to ask) and then headed upstairs. He was almost to Christopher’s parents’ room when two guys came up the stairs pushing a skinny strawberry blonde kid between them.
“What were you doing talking to my girl?” one of the boys said as he pushed the smaller kid against a wall. Malai could see the boy swallow but not say anything.
“What are you, mute?” the other boy asked, hitting the smaller one in the stomach. Malai groaned. All he wanted to do was take a nap...one of the boys pulled back his fist, ready to hit their victim in the face.
“Hey, leave him alone!” Malai called as he marched down the hallway. “This is my friend’s parents’ house. Plus, it is not cool to go two on one, especially when one is a shrimp,” Malai turned to the smaller boy. “No offense,”he returned his gaze to the other two, “ But I really want to take a nap, so you should let go of him, and maybe go get yourself a better girlfriend. Sound good?” Both of the tormentors looked at each other, and then shrugged and let go of their victim. Malai could understand why. He wasn’t going to actually hit them, but he was 6’2 and practically all muscle. It was genetic after all. Being tall and in shape was just in his hawaiian genes.
“Thanks,” the smaller boy said after the other two were gone.
“No . I’m Malai. What were you doing hitting on the girlfriend of a guy like that?”
“My name’s David. And I wasn’t hitting on her. She was just asking about some homework, but some guys are just too filled with testosterone”
“Yeah, I know plenty of those guys,” Malai thought of Christopher. “So he seriously got mad about that?”
“I guess. His girlfriend also got flirty because she was drunk. She offered me a beer and apparently when I took it I offended him. Anyway,” he offered Malai a meek grin, “Thanks. I think I’m sort of done with this party. I’m heading home,” Malai nodded.
“Good luck,” the boy left, vanishing down the stairs. Malai walked the rest of the way to the room and then shut and locked the door. He collapsed on the bed and yawned. This is why I don’t go to parties, he thought right before he fell asleep.