If it was one thing you could learn from a college goody-two-shoes, it was that religion has nothing to do with how much you wanted to party. James sat in shotgun - again - because Chloe didn't want the police to pull them over and have a driver with no license. And it was her car.
"That," she joked, "would make me rethink my entire opinion about you."
James lightly punched her shoulder, chuckling.
"You wouldn't get into trouble, y'know. Just me."
"And then I'd be working the night shift alone."
"First world problems."
Chloe laughed. It sounded like fairy bells to James.
"Alright, Smith. What party are we supposed to expect?"
He shrugged. The resort had been built in a cluster of woods near the highway. The trees weren't very dense - as they drove along the concrete road they saw the flashing lights and already heard blaring music. Seniors were known to come here for classier parties, but when Chloe pulled up to the parking lot and both of them saw the toilet paper strung over the resort, she bit her lip. James glanced at her.
"Having second thoughts?" He asked softly. She shook her head.
"No, no, I'm just not used to a party being like this. Usually, the ones I go to are softer, more adults, and more little kids -"
“- and at church?"
He grinned at her, and Chloe smacked his arm.
"Shush. Let's just go in. I want to find Ori." She said as she climbed out of the car. James followed her and she tossed the keys to him from over the hood.
"Alrighty then. You're the boss." He said. She turned around, winking.
The cool night air was blown away with the sticky heat of the party. As soon as the door closed, James had the reflex to pinch his nose – it smelled like heavy alcohol, perfume, Axe, and something he couldn’t even begin to describe. The entire floor was covered in sticky puddles that sucked at their shoes when they walked through the foyer. Neither of them could tell what it was - the room was black except for a few multi-colored pulsating lights. Every time the disco flashed James was able to see the party in full swing. Red solo cups in hands and on the floor. Girls in tube tops. Boys with beer balanced on their arms. Couples drowning in each other’s mouths. A DJ. The lights barely outlined the rest of the crowd. Yeah. This was a party.
He didn't like it at all.
James had his arm wrapped around Chloe as they made their way through the crowd. A few times did some drunks try to get close to her but James held them off with his other arm.
"I FEEL LIKE I'M BEING ESCORTED." Chloe yelled over the thundering music. James pushed another topless senior away from them.
"YOU'RE WELCOME." He replied. They stopped in the middle of the dance floor. Bodies pushed against them, and James felt protective as more and more people started to crowd into their space. Chloe clasped onto his shirt.
“LOOK,” she pointed through several drunken dancers to a room. Yellow light spilled from the top of the closed door. James tightened his grip. Sharing a glance, they barreled through and opened the door.
This time instead of blaring music and grinding whores, several seniors and even some freshmen gathered in the room and just talked. James felt his shoulders relax as he spied Ori in the corner.
"Oh, Ori." Chloe called before he could. Ori turned to see them. A smile bloomed on her face. She waved her hand, and Chloe broke free of James' protective hold. He felt disappointed for a moment before she grabbed his hand to tug him over to where Ori was. She greeted them both with a hug.
"Hey, you came." James said as he engulfed Ori into his arms. She struggled against his chest.
"Yeah, well, changed my mind," her voice was muffled by his shirt, "okayokayokayOKAY, too strong." James let go of her with a smile. Her eyeliner was smudged across her face.
"Oh great," she said, spying the streaks on his uniform.
"Hey, worse for him. You know how hard eyeliner is to get out of this material?" Chloe said. Ori squealed and hugged her.
"Girl, hey, what's up? Haven't seen you since church last month."
"Yeah, Father Mike sent my youth group to the Billie Camp for a few days so we could help some of the disabled children perform in the Special Olympics they hold there."
"Wow, Mother Teresa here, huh?"
Chloe giggled. James watched as they continued to chat, a slight pang of annoyance in his chest. He felt left out. His eyes scanned the room but he didn't see Zack. He didn't expect to see him in this room. He'd probably be chugging that six pack of beer he bought barely fifteen minutes ago. He sighed, slumping against the wall. The two girls chatted for a while longer as he stood bored. Maybe it wasn't such a good idea that they both ditched work to come to the party. He only came because Chloe had said she would come with him. It was the only reason.
Someone handed a beer to him. He looked up, seeing Chloe's bright smile. He took it without question.
"There are a couple of guys hanging out in the game room. I want to stay here with Ori so I won't be in your way if you want to go game." She said. James took a sip of the beer. It tasted sour.
"Well, sure, I guess if you want to get rid of me that badly." Her mouth dropped open slightly.
"Oh, no, no I didn't mean it like that, I just thought that it would be a little more fun for you to go where all your friends would be and - "
James shushed her with his finger. She stopped, blushing as his hand lingered on her lips. He was laughing.
"Don't, I'll go. I was just pulling your chain, Cocoa." He said with a wink. Her cheeks went darker, and she looked towards the ground. James moved past her. His stomach was aflame and he was almost giddy. He did that to her. He made her blush like that. He took a large swallow of the beer.
Maybe he was hot.
The game room was testosterone-fueled, and jam-packed with frat boys. It was as dark as the last room but several lava lamps were scattered across the corners of the room, and the blue burning light from a television lit up several beer cans that had been littered the floor. A group of guys crowded around it. James walked in with caution, only realizing a bowl of neon orange chips had been spilled over when the sole of his shoe crunched a Cheeto Puff into dust. He grimaced, and shook his leg like a dog.
“Hey-y-y-y-y-y-y, Mr. Smith is here, now the PAAARTY can start.”
Now he knew who that was. He looked up with a grateful smile.
“Levi.” James said. Levi was standing on the outer edge of the circle, smiling broadly at him. He had a controller in one hand and a beer can in the other. He took a huge swig, crushed the can in his palm and tossed it behind him. The action made James stiffen. He walked closer, and saw Levi’s bloodshot eyes.
Levi was drunk.
“C’mon, next race is starting. I’m betting you’ll get your ass beat.” He slurred, shoving the controller into James’ hand and taking his beer. The buttons were already sticky. He grimaced.
“No, Levi, it’s fine, I don’t want to – “
“Hey, guys, new player, what spot is available?” Levi ignored him. Instead, he pushed James into the gaming round. Several other guys eyed him as he reluctantly sat down on the carpet. James looked at the screen, a Customize Your Car menu burning into his eyes. He had difficulty pressing the buttons the controller so instead he left Levi’s – his, the, something - car as it was.
“Are you a freshman, newbie?” One of the guys asked. James shook his head as he wiped his thumb on his jeans. He couldn’t place where the voice had come from since everyone else was talking and he couldn’t see past the giant blob of frat boys sitting on the couch, so he just answered loudly in hopes someone heard him.
“No, I’m a senior from Central.”
“You sure? You look like a freshman.”
James could just imagine them lifting an eyebrow.
“Yeah, I’m sure.”
The thundering voice of the video game announcer shook the walls as he boomed, “RACERS, START YOUR ENGINES. READYYYYYY, GOOOOOOOOOO.”
James watched on screen as three of the four cars took off. He tried to press down on the button to start but whatever had gotten on the controller had seeped in between the crack and made it too sticky to even press down on.
“What are you doing, James, go already.” Levi whispered harshly into his ear.
“I’m trying, but whatever you spilled on her has made it too sticky to use.”
“I didn’t spill anything – you must’ve spilled something.”
“It was sticky when you handed it to me.”
“It was sticky when I had it.”
“Then why –“
“FIRST PLACE, WHO’S THE MAN.” A frat boy shouted, standing on the couch and dancing horribly. James set down the controller on the table. But when he did a beer was shoved into his free hand. He looked up, seeing the guy who had questioned him earlier holding a six pack of alcohol. He winked.
“C’mon, James, is it? Just loosen up. The controller was dipped in VoPunch earlier.” He said, tossing a bottle to another guy. James looked at the beer. Chimay. He had never heard of it.
“Vodka and punch. You seriously didn’t know that?”
“How many parties have you been too?”
“High school or college?”
The guy whistled. He threw the now empty cardboard box of Chimay over by the door, then jumped the couch to sit next to James. For once James could see him clearly. He had an impish look about him, with point ears, pointy nose, pointy everything. Flat black hair covered most of his face like a stereotypical emo, and a crooked smile took up most of his face. He looked like his favorite color was red.
“And you’ve never heard of VoPunch?”
James shook his head. The guy raised the bottle rim to his mouth.
“Is it a popular thing?”
The guy squinted at the television screen. He shrugged.
“I dunno. Gets you hammered faster than a Budweiser though. That’s what your friend had before you came in,” he nodded his head in Levi’s direction, who leaned against the edge of a pool table to stare down at an unimaginable number of Papa John’s pizza boxes, “he’s pretty cool, but I’ve been trying to keep him from getting too drunk or having his drink spiked.”
James smiled. This guy wasn’t as bad as he had thought he would be. Most times when he met someone at parties like this they all had two things in mind – get drunk and get laid. This guy didn’t even look like he wanted either. James held out his free hand to him.
“James.” He said. The guy clasped his with his own. It didn’t feel sticky at all.
“Tony. You’re pretty chill for a senior.”
“I could say the same thing about you.”
Tony grinned. It took up only the right side of his face. With another swig of the drink he grabbed a controller from one of the college guys sitting on the couch. He began to protest but Tony shot him a look.
“Here,” he said, handing it off to him, “this one shouldn’t be covered in something.”
James took it.
He was right.
He stuck to Tony for as long as he could. And every time he finished his beer another one would appear into his hand. He didn’t mind after a while. The sour taste of the alcohol had burned through his tongue and had turned his mouth sweet, like he had just eaten a whole packet of sugar. He buzzed with a sugar rush. He liked it. A lot.
A few times it almost seemed like scenes from the party flickered by. He saw himself with two cans of beer, chugging them. Tony seemed proud. Levi was throwing up on the pool table. One of the frat boys patted Levi’s back.
“Dude, for the honorary member of the Kappa Sigma, can I get a beer here for Barf Boy?”
Yellow. Blue. Pink. More beer. More cheers. Neon orange chips and cold drinks washed his mouth and his mind. He blinked several times. Buzzed. Energy in his blood. God, he felt so good. He always liked these parties.
And he loved this one.
Tony left to go get more things from the bar. Or a store. James couldn’t remember. His ear was deaf from the music. But it sounded so good. Why hadn’t he heard this before? Girls in hot pink tube tops. Where was Zack?
Where was Ori?
Jesus he felt like a rainbow.
He was in another dark room. Music thundered loudly in his head, making his brain vibrate. He felt as if he was dancing, but couldn’t see what his was doing through the fuzziness in his eyes. His vision had blurred. Someone was on him. Grinding on him. He felt good. He felt hot.
Levi was right. Girls did like him. Pink.
Was he holding a beer? He couldn’t tell. He brought it to his lips. It wasn’t the aluminum of a can. He felt flesh. Fingers. He was holding someone’s hand. Someone who was grinding on him pushed their back into his chest. Frizzy red hair went up his nose.
He grabbed her hips. Wait. No. He let go. They turned around and fixed blue eyes on James. Blue. He relaxed.
It was Chloe. She smelled like fruity beer. It reminded him of something strawberry. He tried to hold his breath, but she leaned in closer. Her lips caressed his earlobe.
“Let’s go somewhere…private.”
He heard her whisper through the loud, loud music. That was sexy. Her hand gripped his in a vice-like hold and dragged him through sweaty bodies. He couldn’t see. What did it matter? Her hand was calloused. He didn’t remember Chloe’s hand being calloused. He didn’t remember because of the beer. He lifted his hand to his mouth again, and accidentally kissed her wrist. It tasted like sweat.
The music was soon thumping underneath his feet. James knew he was walking but didn’t know where. Heavy footfalls.
“What are you doing?”
The voice was loud. It hummed like bees in his brain.
“Taking him home, obviously?”
A girl voice. Chloe sounded higher now. He pressed on his temples, blocking his ears so his didn’t hear the rest. Their voices jumbled together. His head hurt. How much did he drink? He lifted his hand to his mouth. Flesh. No beer.
After what seemed like an eternity they began moving again. The music still thundered under his feet as he walked. Chloe fumbled with something, and he heard the creak of a door opening. James blinked. Were his eyes open? He could only see darkness. Chloe pulled him inside quickly. The door clicked.
Then she was on him. Mouth on his neck, tongue against his skin. It felt hot. Lava. Was Chloe doing this?
“Mhh, sweetie, baby, no,” he heard himself say. It was slurred. It came out in a different language. Her hands were around his wrists. She pushed him easily, and he flopped onto soft blankets. He struggled against her. He couldn’t push her off. He couldn’t hurt her. Her mouth was still on him it was starting to hurt – and her hand was trailing down his stomach.
“No, stop,” his voice was clearer this time. Chloe didn’t say anything, but he felt her hand on his neck and one on his jeans. Her teeth tugged on his ear. It felt painful.
“Shh,” she murmured, unbuckling him, “you’re going to love this.”
His body was reacting one way and James couldn’t fathom why. He didn’t want this. What was this? Fuck, he didn’t want whatever this was. She played with him. He hated it. He wanted a beer. He wanted to leave. What was this?
“Shh,” she whispered. Pressure. So much pressure. Her breath was fruity. Sangria. Black. Brown.
Chloe didn’t drink beer.
He blacked out.