BY THE TIME Allison arrived at Sara’s house, rain was coming down hard. As an eventual outcome of this downpour, some of the guests left early, the good thirty of them that remained were then forced to cramp in the living room of this average-sized, two-story dwelling. The poor weather did not ruin the mood of these party animals however, nor was the overcrowdedness much of an issue to them so long as the alcohol was free. No one was complaining about the stifling atmosphere being too stuffy, or the ear-splitting music being too loud, for they were all here to have a good night of fun before the long week ahead.
Allison would have normally turned around and left, as she was not accustomed to this sort of party per se; but having just gone through emotional hell, this place suddenly suited her. Cutting through the wild crowd, soon she found Sara standing among a group of men and flirting with them.
“… I also had one on my lower back of my ex’s name. I just recently had it reworked into a butterfly.”
“Into-a-what?” one of the men asked her in a yell.
“A butt-er-fly.” With the music booming in the background, everyone had to enunciate loudly and constantly just to properly communicate. “It’s tiny… it is tiny in comparison to yours of course!”
“Maybe you can show it to me one of these days!”
She smirked in a kittenish manner, replying, “Maybe I will.”
Just then, she saw Allison approach from behind her newly met friends and went up to hug her.
“Hey girl, you made it! Is Daniel with you?”
“No. I got you a gift from the Bahamas but I forgot to bring it.”
“It’s okay. You can give it to me some other time. I’d show you around the house but you’ve already been here before, so —”
“Hey Sara, who is this lovely friend of yours?”
“Oops! My bad. Everyone, this is my best friend Allison. Allie, this is Jeremy, Mike, Paul and AUR-ELI-ANO. Did I say your name correctly?”
“Yes, yes you did!” Aureliano replied aloud with a thick Spanish accent, which made her giggle.
She returned to tell Allison, “Mike was just showing me one of his awesome tattoos,” keeping an eyeful of him.
“Are you from this neighborhood as well, Allison?” asked Jeremy with a grin, his eyes dreamy, showing a genuine interest in her.
She just stood there, not knowing whether to respond. Sara automatically jumped in to end her suffering. “Hands off guys, this beautiful girl is taken. Now if you’d excuse us, we are gonna get some beer. Be back in a sec.”
Grabbing Allison’s hand, she led her through the party people to get to a slightly quieter corner — the kitchen, where she babbled on in high regard about those four young men as if they were made of gold. “What do you think? Aren’t they gorgeous? And they are forming a rock band! A rock band! I haven’t been with anyone who’s into music since Kent Connor from high school. Oh gosh, I still can’t believe they only live a block away…”
While seemingly listening, Allison had long wandered off course, drifting back to the pain and distress that initially brought her here. When handed a plastic cup of beer filled to the brim, she took and drank it in one go. Her helpful friend was quick to keep her hands busy, at least at first. As she knocked back one cup after another like it was water, the abnormality of her behavior eventually alarmed Sara that something was up.
Slamming another empty cup onto the island, Allison gave her mouth a wipe. “Pardon?”
“Just tell me, Allie. What is wrong?”
“Did I say something was wrong?”
“Oh come on. You can cut the bullshit with me. Did something happen in the Bahamas?”
“That trip was a total disaster.”
“Uh-huh! I knew it. Daniel was being a drag wasn’t he?”
Sitting down on one of the stools, Allison reached for another cup of beer and started drinking it. So as to uplift her spirit, Sara shook her body rhythmically as a new song came on, encouraging her, “I love this music! You want to dance? Come on let’s go dance a little.”
“No. I think I might just sit for a bit and head on home.”
“And do what?”
She said nothing more, finishing off her beer, again.
Sara was not about to let her be down in the dumps all night, thereby offering her a few words of wisdom. “Allie, listen to me for once. I mean, look around you. You are at a party! Everybody’s having a good time and so should you. As a matter of fact — drink this instead.” She took out a bottle of vodka from the freezer and poured some into two shot glasses. “You will feel much better if you would just let loose,” she prompted, handing Allison one of them and chugging the other herself.
The devil’s drink was every bit appealing to Allison at a time like this. Without question, she grasped the little glass and swallowed the hard stuff down her throat. While the bitter taste lingered in her mouth, she had by then guzzled another mouthful straight from the bottle, counting on the burning sensation to cleanse her from the persistent feeling of gloom.
Ed happened to emerge from the crowd at that precise moment. Tagging alongside him was an attractive brunette. As thrilled as he was to see Allison, ever so subtly he disguised it in front of his date. “When did you get here?” he asked her.
Not saying a word, Allison rested her elbow upon the countertop and her head her palm, studying the unexpected couple. Eventually, Sara answered for her. “She got here half an hour ago.”
“Is that vodka?”
“Humph. You are giving her hard liquor even knowing she can’t drink.”
“She’s fine. It’s not like she’s a child. Plus she only had a little.”
Sara just rolled her eyes.
“Aren’t you going to introduce me?” said the brunette to Ed, holding onto his masculine arm as if for dear life.
Awkwardly, he proceeded. “Of course. Kate, this is my good friend, Allie. And Allie, I’ve told you about Kate.”
“Nice to meet you, Allie. I’ve heard a lot of good things about you already.”
Allison looked her up and down and smiled disparagingly. She then reversed her focus onto Ed staring back at her as though trying to read her reaction. Right that instant, she got up and approached him, a coquettish look on her face. “Come, Teddy,” she purred, pulling him away by the hands until reaching the dancing crowd. “I feel like dancing. Don’t you want to dance with me?”
Astounded by her flirtation, Ed stood gaping at her raising her arms up in the air and jiggling her hips in a seductive manner, completely captivated. Though within the minute, she began to feel light-headed due to the poor ventilation and her feet heavier. On one silly misstep, she almost fell onto the floor if it was not for his alertness to catch her just in time.
“We need to get you some water.”
“No. Stay with me like this for a little longer.”
Seeing her insistence, he did as she asked. Her arms hugged around his neck as his hands naturally held around her waist. The two went on to slow-dance to the fast beat, neglecting their surroundings. Every inch of their intimacy made Kate green with envy. She could only watch from a distance, yet was powerless to stop them.
“I’ve always thought you only date blonds,” said Allison, causally.
“You are talking about Kate,” he responded.
“She’s pretty. Are you in love with her?”
“Then — why are you still with her,” she said with ever so little jealousy in her tone, which was enough to make him feel elated on the inside.
“I think you know why.”
“What is it? Is it her small nose, or her soft hair —”
“— or is it because she’s tall?”
“What kind of a man would date a woman because of her hair?”
“It was only a guess.”
“Heh. No, no, and no.”
“You really don’t know?”
“It’s coz she’s good in bed. So I figured, why not?”
She let out a titter. “You are terrible.”
“Didn’t I tell you what she does for a living?”
“Some lab assistant at the university?”
“Yes, and an occasional yoga instructor for their summer classes. From that you can imagine how her skill set contributes to our overall sex life.”
Her laughter just got louder.
“But — all jokes aside, she’s a great girl, very bright and easygoing. Just give her some time to warm up to you, you will too begin to like her.”
Leaning forward on her toes, she held her chin over his shoulder and rested there for a moment. During which time he looked over at Kate, suddenly feeling obliged to get back to her.
“I should probably check on her,” he told Allison, pulling away gently. “She’s not used to the party scene. She needs me.”
“And you think I don’t?”
Not expecting her to put up a protest, he looked fixedly at her puppy-dog eyes and pouty lips for a second, almost not believing them. Though in the end he decided to stick close to his angel, rolling with the punches. “Do you honestly know of any man who would date a woman because of her hair?”
“Sure. At least one.”
“Didn’t you used to say it was the first thing about me that caught your eye?”
“Right. But you had to have known that was not the main reason why I fell for you.”
“What was the main reason then?”
“Well —” He looked away briefly and then back at her, telling her half-casually, “You know me. I was such a high-strung kid. When we were together… you just knew how to keep me grounded, keep me in line.”
“So I was like your guardian angel.”
“I suppose… yeah. I enjoyed each day that we spent together. Even when we fought, or did things I would not otherwise do by myself at all.”
“Like riding a roller coaster till you threw up?”
“Still frightens me whenever I think of that time.”
“To put it the lamest way possible — I had always felt complete when I was with you... Heh. Can’t believe I’m telling you this now.”
She smiled mildly. “That’s not lame at all.”
“You don’t think so?”
“No. It’s just… unfortunately, having a relationship with someone isn’t as simple as it should be.”
“I know what you mean. Anyway — do you realize you were just calling me ‘Teddy’ again?”
“Is that okay?”
“Of course. I kinda prefer it to be honest. It makes me feel closer to you.”
“You hated it in the beginning remember? You said it wasn’t macho enough.”
“Did I? I thought it was cute when you just did it.”
“Then I will be sure to call you ‘Teddy’ from now on.”
Everything happening tonight so far had been beyond Ed’s wildest dreams. Although, much as he would like to deny it, the alcohol, the dancing, and the dallying chatter combined, all too mirrored their last night together in Vegas for his comfort. Instinctively, he presumed Daniel had something to do with her staggering affection, thereby asking her when a brief chance came up, “Did something happen with your husband?”
She was surprised he asked. “What do you mean?”
“I was only wondering because you seem… different.”
“Well… yeah, but… do you want to talk about it?”
Instead of venting about her problems, purposefully she sidestepped his question by calling him out for spying on their lovemaking a few days ago. “I saw you, Teddy. I knew you were watching us from behind the railing.”
Mortified, he was unable to work out what to say. As embarrassment flushed his cheeks, she staggered him further by asking, “So, how was I? I sure hope you were watching me and not him.”
As shocked as he was relieved, he answered faithfully, “You were better than most just doing what you do. Always have been.”
“Even better than Kate?”
Swallowing his nervousness, he asserted bravely, “She’s matchless to you. So is every woman I’ve ever known and dated.”
“Now you are just laying it on thick.”
“No. I mean it. I do.”
Her lips curled into a suggestive grin and receded slightly. “I’m glad to know how much I still mean to you, how much you still want me…”
Spurred on by her prurient talk, little by little, he slunk his hands below her waistline, holding the curve of her bottom when they got to it. As if seeking consent to go ahead, he gazed into her eyes nervously and gulped. While she gave him that come-hither look, he angled his head just right to kiss her around the neck.
Allison’s mind went blank upon his lips brushing against her skin so tenderly, again and again. The warmth of his breath breathing on her brought on memories of their passionate old days, how they used to not keep their hands off each other, how she would sneak out at night to fool around in his father’s tool shed. Every bit of her craved this reckless moment of excitement, of release. It was like a destiny that was fated to happen, that she eagerly accepted. She wanted to give in to his willing and able arms once and for all, but then, something deep inside her felt really, appallingly, wrong.
“What’s wrong?” Ed asked upon being pushed away.
“I gotta go.”
Agitated by her sudden disengagement, he was not ready to desist from the madness but grabbed a firm hold of her, saying, “I don’t understand.” Rather than giving him an explanation, she fought with all her might and yelled in his face — “LET GO OF ME!”
Therefore he did.