“Ew, more make out couples,” I grouch, snatching a potato chip. “Do they like slobber all over their skin? They’re like animals.” I take a sip of beer, simultaneously scanning the crowd. There’s masses of food and drinks near the kitchen, which is totally trashed. There’s mobs of drunken and high teenagers violently bashing together under the strobe and disco lights. Outside, towering speakers surround an enormous pool, which sits next to a hot tub. In the front, an extravagant showcase of lights illuminates the Italian style porch, complete with white fencing and intertwining vines.
Here, in my loose dress, flats, and fake jewelry, I try to understand these people. Why hit on drunken strangers who probably have herpes? Why stand in the hallways, sucking face with someone in hopes of getting “lucky” and contracting a case of “dirty rumors?”
Why am I here, you may ask? I’m here because my best friend, Maren, begged me to come with her. “I don’t know, Rey,” she admits, sipping a cocktail. “Can you just try to enjoy tonight? Look, that guy over there is looking at you.”
I glance to where Maren nods. A man with dark blond hair that sweeps to his left, coolly leans on the wall. “He’s looking at everyone, Maren,” I grumble, finishing up my drink.
“No,” she protests, shaking her head of blonde hair that’s dyed blue at the ends. “Just you.” I look back over and make eye contact. He flashes the tiniest of smiles.
I blush and look at the floor, pushing strands of dark hair with natural light highlights behind my ear. “Maybe,” I agree. But when I look up, he’s gone. “But then again, maybe not.”
I set my empty bottle on the snack table and straighten up. “Mare, it’s midnight. I think it’s time to go home.” Maren happens to be my ride for tonight. Usually, she’s reliable. Her only kryptonite is attention from guys. “Maren?”
“Oh, just a little longer, Reyna,” Maren begs, smiling shyly at a football jock. His hand creeps from her arm and to her waist. “Maybe an hour…” the hand goes a little lower than her waist. “…or two.”
I sigh and roll my gray eyes, trying not to display as annoyed as I really feel. “Alright. Call me when you’re ready.”
Maren doesn’t respond, but I know she heard me. I sigh, pluck another chip from the bowl, and walk out to the front. The lights provide me the shining faces of a group of friends who call my name. “Reyna! Come over here.”
I walk over to a small quad of friends. What? You thought that, because I didn’t understand the “thrill” of a party, that I was the social recluse who had but a single friend? Oh, I’m personally hurt at your stereotypical persona.
“Hey, guys,” I introduce. Allister, Della, Makai, and Hanzo sit on white rocking benches and chairs. On the white fence that boarders the porch, Makai sits and keeps the crowd laughing.
“Rey!” Makai cheers, Hawaiian skin offering a great contrast to the white area. “Welcome to the party.”
“I’ve been at the party for hours,” I argue, sitting next to Makai and kicking my sandals off, crossing my feet at the ankles.
“Well, you are now entering the twilight zone,” Makai teases, tipping a bottle of beer my way and taking a sip.
“So,” Allister speaks up. Allister is the school’s Golden Girl – the luscious blonde curls, the sky blue eyes, the perfect tan skin and the grand circle of friends. “Are you actually enjoying yourself for once?”
I chuckle and shake my head, hair falling in my face again. “Not a chance.”
“Well you’re here with us,” Hanzo protests. Hanzo, being a dark skinned, barrel-built guy. He’s rather stoic but he’s got an easy going spirit.
“Yeah,” I shrug, nodding my head and looking at the lawn. It’s bright green with fertilizer and shrouded in shade from the orderly planted trees.
“Where’s your freak friend?” Della questions, bright green eyes judgmental and ready for a debate. Now if you’re really into clichés, then you’ll love Della, short for Adelina. She’s dangerously curvy, short tempered, and physically perfect. She’s the unattainable hot girl that every guy fawns over.
“Maren isn’t a freak,” I plaintively dismiss. “But she’s inside.”
“I bet I could climb onto the roof from here,” Makai challenges, chocolate eyes wanting me to tell him he can’t so he can prove me wrong.
“From here?” I question, looking up, caught in the stars that brilliantly shine down on us. “How about from…” I push him back and he falls to the ground. “There?”
“Ouch!” Makai calls, sitting up and rubbing his head.
“Oh, please!” I respond. “You fell on your back, not your head.”
Hanzo pipes up. “But if you did, there wouldn’t be a difference.”
“Ha-ha!” Makai mocks with a frown, climbing back up. “How do I look?” he asks, straightening his clothes.
I pluck a twig from his hair and flatten it out. “As good as you can,” I reply.
Childishly, he grins. “Thanks, mom.”
Rolling my eyes, I groan, “Whatever.”
“Tell me,” Della demands. “If you hate it here so much, why not just leave?”
“Maren’s my ride,” I tell her. “She’s still having fun.”
Della shrugs and leans forward, a smug expression on her face. “Why aren’t you having fun?” I open my mouth to respond, when she holds a finger up. “I mean, ever. You’re never really having fun. You’re always just…somewhere in the middle. It’s like you don’t even have a personality.”
“Del…” Makai warns. Makai always tries to keep us happy, it’s his job.
“What?” she asks. “It’s true.” Della is in charge of saying things how it is – the world is all black and white to her.
Hanzo flashes her a disapproving look. His job is to father us, really. He tells us when we shouldn’t make dumb decisions and when we’re being irrational – he’s our rock.
“I love you to death,” Allister adds, granting me an apologetic smile. Allister is the one you go to if you’re having a bad day. But she’s not great at giving reasonable advice – she’s too nice and naïve to know when to be a little mean.
“Thanks,” I say out of pure politeness.
You’re probably wondering: Reyna, where do you fit in? Well, kind viewer, as much as I’d hate to admit it, Della was exactly right. I’m the middle man…or girl. I keep everyone balanced. I’m the girl who’s pretty, but looks better as an accessory rather than the centerpiece. I’m the girl who’s a genius but downplays it so I’m not expected to be the school’s academic saving grace.
I get up from the railing. “I’ll catch up with you guys later tonight, or at school,” I bid.
“Awh, c’mon, Rain,” Makai pleads. “Della’s always bitch, you know that.”
“Hey!” she responds, getting up to punch him in the arm. “You wonder why.”
“I’m okay, Makai. I’ll see you later.” I wave, turn around, and go down the steps. I take a left and hook around the enormous house and go to the pool area. People on rafts splash those dancing on the patio, wetting the ground. I remember I left my shoes at the porch, but decide against going back to see Della. I push my strands of hair back and carefully pick my steps.
I tiptoe around the hot tub which if filled with people. “Hey, it’s Reyna!” one of the people cheer. He’s either high or drunk. “Raina!” he splashes wildly, making droplets of chlorinated water fall down on me.
“Yep,” I nod. “Congratulations. You can sound out words.” I rush past, all the noise and people buzzing in my head. The couple of drinks I had doesn’t help repress all the commotion going on, but that doesn’t stop me from rushing past the pool.
On to the backyard. Whoever’s party this is, they’re rich. Two-story houses on lakes aren’t cheap. In the darkness, the water looks like a giant, black oil slick. In the center, there’s a small dock – a perfect place for perfect girls to take Tumblr and Instagram pictures.
“What, you’re going to swim there?” a deep voice asks from behind me. I whirl around to the source, stepping backward, when the stranger’s arm shoots out and pulls me towards him. “Careful,” he advises. “There’s broken glass. Some idiot threw a bottle, and you’re not wearing any shoes.” I recognize this guy from inside – the one Maren said was looking at me.
“Thanks,” I wearily gratify, feeling odd. “I left them behind.”
No duh, Reyna.
The stranger nods. “What brings you to a party this fine midnight?”
“Drugs and alcohol,” I tease sarcastically.
He laughs, a warm, smoky sound. “You don’t seem the type,” his honey voice tells me.
“And what type do I seem like?” I challenge, looking up at him. In the darkness, I can’t tell what color his eyes are.
“Well…” he places a hand on my arm and guides me towards the lake. Once I start walking, the warmth of his hand disappears. We reach the edge of the lawn, and the man sits down. I remain standing. “You seem like the apprehensive type.”
“Care to explain?”
“Not at all. You probably think about all your options before you pick one. You’re very meticulous about your things and the way you go about, which is why you forgetting your shoes is very particular; you must’ve been in an unorganized situation.”
With the face of a stone wall, I soak in the information before plopping down on the damp grass beside him. “Alright, Mr. Perceptive. Not too shabby.”
“Stand up,” he orders.
“What, why?” I question, standing up nevertheless, eyes searching the ground. Looking down, the strands of my particularly obnoxious hair get in my way.
The man takes a leather jacket off and places it on the ground. “Here,” he offers.
“Oh, no, I’m okay.”
“Also, you say that a lot.”
“Say what?” I ask, slowly sitting down on the jacket. “‘I’m okay?’”
Thoughtfully, he nods, eyes on the placid lake. “Yep.” After a prolonged moment of silence, he speaks again. “But are you really okay?”
“Why wouldn’t I be?” I question. “I’ve got friends, a family, and good grades.”
The man brushes back my cursed strands of hair. “Do you really, Reyna?”
Confused, I go to respond when a bloodcurdling scream comes from the upstairs terrace. Jackknifing up, the man darts off before even saying a word. I watch as he climbs the trellis outside of the window of the screamer and lets himself in. I stand and pick up the man’s jacket.
Everyone from the pool piles inside to see what happened. As if on cue, the wind picks up and I shiver. Putting the stranger’s jacket on, I can’t shake the feeling of being watched. Stop being ridiculous.
I cast a glance over at the lake. The dock sways ever-so-slightly, and the lake ripples from it. It’s probably just the drinks. No one was on that dock.
I decide that everyone here is going crazy and I go to the porch to retrieve my sandals. My friends have all gone besides Hanzo, who thoughtfully sits on the bench. “Hey, Hanz.”
He tips his bald head my way. “Nice jacket.”
Sheepishly, I mutter, “Thanks. Why aren’t you going inside?”
“There’s no use,” he tells me, voice a wave of thunder. “I won’t get a clear story on whatever exaggerated event happened until tomorrow.”
I nod, pulling the jacket tighter around me as the wind picks up.
“Did you need a ride?” he offers.
“Would you mind?”
Hanzo waves me off. “Not at all.”
I look inside the house, trying to find a pair of eyes looking at me. I find none.
Relax, Reyna, I tell myself. No one is watching you.
Another voice in my head argues with me. But what if someone is?