Paige

Paige goes to college and relationships (romantic and friendship) aren't always what she thinks they are.

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1. Return

“White boy wasted. Party in Jake’s basement!” we all sang from the backseat. Jake turned bright red and switched songs. All of the parties my friends and I had were held at Jake’s house, so we all decided “White Boy Wasted” was his theme song. Secretly, he loved it, but he liked to pretend he didn’t. When the next song started up, though, none of us were complaining about the change in music. When cruising around at night with the windows down, it was tradition for us to blast “Party Rock Anthem.” The night air whipped through the car as we shouted “Party rock is in the house tonight!” and pumped our fists to the beat.

As he usually did, Jake altered the lyrics of the song to tease me. “Party rock is in her mouth tonight!” he shouted, pointing back at me. Mikey and Jonah ate it up and started singing it, too. I looked into the rearview mirror to give Jake my best ‘You’re so not funny,’ look and ignored the two guys who now shouted the new lyric at me from either side.

When the song ended, Jonah said, “Wait. Technically that lyric doesn’t make sense.”

“Yes it does!” Jake protested. “It’s hilarious!”

“It’s funny, but technically party rock isn’t something that can go in Paige’s mouth. It’s a type of music.”

“Jonah, stop being an ass. You know what it means,” Mikey said.

Jonah’s humor was hard to understand sometimes. He said everything so seriously, and he loved being literal, so it was kind of a toss-up whether he was joking or not. Putting on his best innocent face, he said, “Wait, I think I get it…Is a Party Rock a penis?” I rolled my eyes and reached forward to switch the iPod to a new song. The boys howled with laughter at Jonah until they heard the song I chose. Whenever I wanted to mess with them, I always played “Pop” by NSync. After pretending to be angry for a good thirty seconds, they gave in and started singing and dancing with me. I loved nights like these.

Sarah was the only one that refused to join in the fun. Instead of singing along, she kept her arms crossed as she stared out the passenger seat window. She wasn’t really a part of our group – mostly she just tagged along with me, because we were best friends. Everyone else liked her well enough. But, she thought our Party Rock tradition was immature. Really, it was kind of amusing to think about. Singing in the car with friends is immature, but her obsession with Pokémon sure wasn’t. We had been best friends for years, starting in high school, so I was used to her condescending manner. But, since we had come to college and I had made new friends, it had started to bother me. Jake, who generally got along with everyone, tolerated her, but even he was constantly asking me why she was my best friend and why I put up with her brash personality. I supposed it was force of habit. That, and after years of being the type of person that dwells on nostalgia, I was never able to let things go. So, I constantly made the best of Sarah's sarcasm. 

We pulled up to Cosmos, the favored pizza place of drunken college kids everywhere, and hopped out of the car. Once inside, I was about to walk up to the counter when I realized that somewhere between Jake's house and Cosmos, my wallet had gone missing. "Oh no..."

"What is it?" Sarah asked.

"I lost my wallet. I think I left it at Jake's house."

"That sucks."

"Would you mind covering me? I'll get you next time, I promise." Sarah looked hesitant.

"I've got you," Jake said, walking up behind me.

"Really? Thank you, Jake! I'll pay you back tomorrow, I pinkie promise," I said, holding out my pinkie.

Slinging his arm around my shoulders and hugging me briefly, he said "Don't worry about it. It's just a slice of pizza." I hugged him back and smiled up into his crystal blue eyes.

I was bumped out from under Jake's arm when a body slammed into me from the other side. "So, we're totally gonna rage tonight, right?" Mikey, the assailant, asked. I laughed and went in for a high-five. As always, he made his hand into a fist with his thumb sticking out to give me an "Awkward Turkey" instead of a high-five. He did this to me every single time we tried to high-five, and yet I still gave him chance after chance, hoping that one day we could have a regular high-five like normal friends. 

When the Awkward Turkey made contact with my palm, I sighed and punched him in the arm. "You're never gonna high-five me, are you?" Mikey just laughed and gave Jonah an actual high-five as he joined us at the counter. Jonah smirked at me, knowing my mock-frustration over the everlasting battle with Mikey and the Awkward Turkey.

"You guys are so fucking cool," Sarah said from behind us. She pushed her way between Mikey and Jonah and went up to the counter ahead of us. "One slice of pepperoni. With spicy ranch." She handed the cashier her money and went to stand next to the Pick-Up counter. Tucking her hair behind her ear, she pulled out her cell phone and began texting. I had no doubt that Max was on the other end of that conversation.

Sarah and Max had only been dating for a couple weeks, but she was obsessed with him. Not usually interested in dating anyone, Sarah quickly became extremely attached to the boyfriends she did have. Normally, I hated that she was insecure when it came to men, because she had absolutely no reason to be, but I was worried for her where Max was concerned. We had met him in the laundry room of my dormitory, and he went for Sarah immediately. But, even after they started dating, Max was always texting me and asking me to hang out alone with him. When I told Sarah, she didn't believe me. I showed her the text messages, and she still wouldn't see Max for the scumbag he really was. I guess sometimes we all have to learn the hard way, unfortunately.

--------~*~--------

“Dude, let’s go get some beer,” Max suggested.

“Mhmm,” Drew grunted back at him.

“Or find some people to hang out with,” Max said.

“Mhmm,” Drew said again. This is how he had been for the past hour and a half. He was completely focused on his Xbox, and refused to get off of it so they could go have some fun.

“Let’s light the Xbox on fire,” Max joked, trying to get him to even look up from his game.

“Mhmm,” Drew replied. Sighing, Max pushed himself off Drew’s bed and headed towards the door, kicking Drew as he went. Drew didn’t even flinch.

Once in the hall, Max wasn’t sure where he should go or what he was going to do. He had never really explored Drew’s dormitory without him, so he didn’t know where anything was. After picking a direction, Max started walking, aimlessly. When he came to the staircase, he headed down. The basement of the dorm was really dim. Every wall was made of cement and the floor was all linoleum. There were some thread-bare couches surrounding a broken down television, a rickety coffee table in the center. Max walked over to the least stained couch and sat down. A small cloud of dust shot into the air. Setting his elbow on the sunken-in arm of the couch and resting his chin in his hand, Max tried to think about something fun he could do.

He had only sat there for a couple minutes when the door on the other end of the basement opened and two girls entered. As they walked into the laundry room that was situated off to his right-hand side, their voices grew louder the closer they came. “I don’t see why I had to come with you, Paige,” one of them said.

“Because we’re hanging out, but I need to get laundry done,” the girl named Paige said.

“Can’t you just do it later?” the girl that wasn’t Paige asked.

“No, because I was supposed to have done it already. I’ll be quick, I promise.”

“God, you’re so high maintenance.”

“I’m sorry, Sarah. I would have done it earlier if I knew we were going out.”

“It’s Friday afternoon. Who the fuck would stay in?” the girl Max now knew to be Sarah asked.

“Well, I was going to.”

“Then why don’t you?”

“Dude, chill. I said I’d hurry,” Paige said, ending the conversation.

“Whatever,” Sarah said. Max heard footsteps near the entrance to the laundry room, and he looked away quickly. One of the girls plopped down onto the couch across from him, sending a cloud of dust up into her face. She waved it away impatiently and flipped her long, brown hair over her shoulder. She didn’t look happy at all, so Max assumed this was Sarah. She was hot. Really hot.

“Hey there,” Max said.

She gave him her best ‘Do I know you?’ face and said, “Hi.”

“I’m Max.”

“Sarah.”

“Do you live here?”

“Isn’t that kind of a dumb question, considering I just came from the laundry room? Why would I be here if I didn’t live here?” This girl was snarky. Max liked snarky.

“You’re right. Sorry.” They sat in silence for a few awkward minutes, the only sound coming from Paige and the washer in the laundry room.

“I don’t,” Sarah said suddenly.

I’m sorry?”

“I don’t live here,” she said.

“You don’t?”

“No.”

Max didn’t say anything, confused for a moment. “Why did you say you did?” he asked, finally.

Sarah shrugged her shoulders. “Well, I had a good point, didn’t I?”

Max smiled and said, “I guess so.” After a few seconds, he said, “I don’t live here either.”

“You don’t?”

“No.”

“Cool,” Sarah said. At that moment, Paige walked out of the laundry room.

“There you are,” Paige said to Sarah, as she ran a hand through her red hair. She gave an exhausted sigh and sat down next to Sarah. “Hi! I’m Paige,” she said, reaching across the coffee table to shake Max’s hand. When she leaned over, her shirt gaped, giving him a good view of her cleavage. It was a nice view for sure. Max smirked.

Taking her hand, he said, “Hi. I’m Max.”

“Nice to meet you.”

“The pleasure is all mine.”

She blushed and asked, “How do you two know each other?”

“He doesn’t live here,” Sarah said as Paige sat down next to her.

Paige looked confused, so Max said, “We just met.”

“Oh, gotcha,” Paige said. “So where do you live, Max?”

“I live in Anderson Hall.”

“That’s right next-door to where Sarah lives!”

“O’Conner Hall?” He directed his question at Sarah. She nodded. “So you live here, then?” he asked Paige.

“Yep. It’s my second year living in Wolf.”

“Cool,” Max said.

“Can we go yet?” Sarah asked Paige.

“Yeah, I guess. Let me text Monica, so she can grab my clothes for me when they’re done.”

“Fine,” Sarah said.

Once Paige sent her text, Max asked her, “Where are you guys going?”

“To the Hill,” Sarah said.

“Mind if I tag along?”

Paige looked at Sarah, unsure. “Sure, why not?” Sarah decided for them.

--------~*~--------

Jake ordered us each a slice of cheese pizza and we went to wait on the other side of the counter.

“Who’s she texting?” Jake asked me, nodding his head in Sarah’s direction.

“Max,” I said.

“Is that the guy she’s been dating?”

“Yeah,” I sighed.

“You don’t like him?”

“Well…” I wasn’t sure how to respond to that. He was very charming, I thought he was cool, and he was most definitely attractive, but there was just something about him that I didn’t like. Besides the texting me thing, he just seemed like a sneaky person. “I don’t really know how to answer that,” I settled on saying.

Jake laughed. “What do you mean? You either like him or you don’t. If you don’t know, I don’t think you do.”

“He just gives me bad vibes.”

Rolling his eyes, Jake said, “You and your vibes.”

“Hey!” I said, smacking his arm. “My intuition is usually correct, I’ll have you know!”

Light brown arms snaked around my waist from behind, and Mikey’s breath was hot on my ear. “So what are my vibes telling you right now, Paige?”

I turned around and pushed him away, saying, “Ew, Mikey. Go put your vibes on some other poor girl.”

“Ha. Whatever, baby.” He turned and high-fived Jonah, who had just joined to wait for his order. “You know you want my high-fives.”

“You’re so dumb,” I said, laughing.

“Hey, Paige,” Jonah said slowly.

“Yeah?” I asked.

“Isn’t that…” he started, pointing towards the door, where two guys had just entered.

“James!” I finished for him, calling out to them.

James turned towards me, a grin forming. “Paige!” he said, waving. He ordered his pizza and headed over to my group. “Hey! How are you?” he asked as he hugged me.

“I’m great! James, this is Jake and Mikey. You remember Jonah, right? And Sarah’s over there. Guys, this is James.” All of the guys said hi and shook his hand.

“Nice to see you again,” James said to Jonah.

“Yeah. You, too.” Jonah replied.

“James went to high school with Jonah, Sarah, and I,” I explained.

“Pepperoni, three cheeses, and a Hawaiian,” the guy behind the counter said. We all stepped forward to grab our pizzas.

“We’re gonna sit over there,” I said to James, indicating the booth behind me. “You guys are welcome to join us if you want.”

“Okay, sounds good,” James said as my friends and I wandered over to the table.

Sarah looked up from her phone when she noticed that we had left her. She looked around her and spotted James. “James!”

James laughed. “Hey, Sarah. Glad you could finally join us back on this planet.”

“Sorry, I was texting my boyfriend.”

“Boyfriend, huh? What’s his name?”

“Max.”

“How long have you been dating?”

“Only a couple weeks.”

“So nothing serious, then.”

“It could be!”
“But then you wouldn’t be single, and what fun would that be?”

“But, I like Max,” she said.

James hugged Sarah. “It’s good to see you, Sarah. I’ll see you at the table. I think Paige grabbed your pizza for you.”

“Oh. See you at the table, then.” She headed over to our table. I scooted closer to Jake to make room for her.

“How’s Max doing?” I asked Sarah.

“He’s fine,” she said.

“That’s good.” No one said anything for a few seconds until the door to Cosmos opened and a group of drunk, giggling girls walked in. They were all wearing heels and short dresses. Mikey and Jonah were checking them out.

“Oh, come on, Mikey. They’re totally out of your league,” I said.

“You’re just jealous, ‘cause I don’t only have eyes for you,” Mikey said.

“Right,” I said.

“I think he could get one of them,” Jake said.

“Yeah, man!” Mikey said and reached for a high-five. I reached up and slapped his hand before he could pull it away.

“Ha!” I said, triumphantly.

“They’re drunk enough,” Jake continued.

“What? Nah, man. I could totally get one of them even if they were sober.”

“Get who?” James asked as he sat down at the end of the table.

“One of those girls,” I said, nodding towards the counter.

James and his friend looked to where the girls were. All of the guys were staring now.

My phone vibrated. I looked down to see who had texted me. It was Max.

Cosmos, huh? What, no invite?” he wrote.

Why didn’t you ask your girlfriend?” I wrote back.

Cuz I wanna hang out with you.

I don’t think Sarah would like that.”

I put my phone down and looked up. “So James,” I said. “Who’s your friend?”

“Oh, right,” he said, turning back around. “Sorry. This is Shawn. Shawn, this is Paige.

That’s Sarah, and that’s Jonah. And these are Paige’s friends.”

“Hi Shawn,” I said, shaking his hand. “This is Jake and that’s Mikey.” I smacked

Mikey’s arm across the table to turn his attention back on the group.

“Oh. Hey, Man,” Mikey said, and shook Shawn’s hand.

“So how have you been?” I asked James.

“Okay.”

“Why just okay?”

“Well life has been good. But…I don’t really like my girlfriend.”

“You have a girlfriend?”

“Yeah.”

“Why don’t you like her?” I asked and took a bite of my pizza.

“She’s boring. Well, and she always wants to have sex. For validation or something. It’s stupid. She should just be okay with herself without that, you know?”

“I guess,” I said.

“Wait. Let me get this straight,” Mikey said. “You don’t like your girlfriend, because she always wants to have sex? Are you gay?”

James laughed. “No. I’m just not that into it, I guess.”

“Maybe you’re just not into it with her,” Sarah said.

“Probably,” James said.

“So, then why don’t you break up with her?” I asked.

“Because I don’t break up with girls.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’ve never broken up with a girl.”

“You’ve dated so many people, though.”

“Yeah, but they’ve all broken up with me.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. I do that on purpose. I don’t like to hurt them, so I make them break up with me.”
“That’s stupid.”

“Why would you want to say that everyone you’ve ever dated has broken up with you?” Jonah asked.

“’Cause he’s a coward,” Shawn said. We all nodded in agreement.

“Whatever. What about you?” James asked me.

“What about me?” I said.
“Are you dating anyone?”

I looked at Jake out of the corner of my eye. He was giving James a rather unpleasant look. “Nope.”

“Interesting,” James said.

“How so?”

“Well, I just don’t see why not.”

“Because I’m never dating anyone?” I said.

“I know. It’s so weird.”

“Jee, thanks.”

“You’re hot. Who wouldn’t date you?”

I blushed and mumbled, “Thanks.” Jake shifted uncomfortably next to me.

Jonah managed to turn the subject onto a new movie that came out in the theater where he worked, and I jumped on the topic, gratefully. We hung out at Cosmos for another hour or so, just having fun and catching up. It was so strange to have my high school and college worlds collide so suddenly. It seemed to be working out okay, though. However, it was fairly clear by the end of our late night meal that Jake was not a big fan of James. I think maybe it was because James is a bit cocky, and Jake is pretty reserved. For the most part, James’ arrogance was an act, though. He just had a large personality; he wasn’t really as self-centered as he liked to portray himself. At least, I had never thought so.

Outside Cosmos, we said our goodbyes. The guys all shook hands with James, Jake a little stiffly. “You should come around more, man!” Mikey said to James. I had, had a feeling they would hit it off.

“I’ll try,” James said, smiling at him.

Jake slung his arm around my shoulders and tried to steer me to his car. “Hang on,” I said. “I have to say goodbye to James.” Jake’s arm stiffened. I slid out from under him and walked over to James.

As we hugged, I said, “Let’s do this again, soon.”

“Definitely,” he said, kissing me on the cheek. “I’m glad I ran into you.”

“Me too,” I said, letting go of him. I waved to Shawn. “Bye! It was nice to meet you.”

“Yeah, you too,” he said.

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