|Ugly Girls Blame the Mirror
Author: Thetis of White Isle PM
There are different ways that a girl can be ugly, as Rachel learns one fateful night. As her life is slowly rendered piecemeal, she reflects on the road she took to get there.Rated: Fiction M - English - Suspense/Drama - Chapters: 7 - Words: 53,366 - Favs: 2 - Follows: 1 - Updated: 07-05-12 - Published: 03-13-12 - id: 3004925
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Note: Okay, something's gone wonky with FP's previewing system. Apparently, it only lets you view it in the original html, or at least this is what I and others have reported. I've tried emailing FP, but of course, that gets us nowhere. So after doing a quick refresher crash course in html I will attempt to post this, and it's anyone's guess whether I got this right. So any errors? Mine, all mine.
The idea for this story originated as a result of a four year legal battle that I was dragged into many years ago. That battle overtook a great deal of my life and resulted in some painful consequences for me.
It seems that my stories end up taking on a kind of therapeutic value when I draft and work on them, and I often play with what-if scenarios of what-might-have-been. This story gave me a lot of trouble, as it's pretty different than what I usually write. I worked on a version of this story that I hated, and was constantly taking it apart and putting it back together. That version is the story that follows.
I actually created a second draft of the story, with the same cast, but I had them dealing with a completely different plot, and that was the story that later become what is now Ordinary Girl. So I had two completely different stories, with the same cast of characters, in different roles and put into different situations. In the end, the only thing that remained the same in both stories were the character names.
So two years after giving up on this version, I went back to it recently, looking it over. I didn't think it was as horrifically awful as previously thought. I thought it would make sense to at least try to finish it now, and change character names, because really, they were different characters. I'm not sure how it works, but I'll post it here and see what happens. (Hah.)
Ugly Girls Blame the Mirror
"I only wish that ordinary people had an unlimited capacity for doing harm; then they might have an unlimited power for doing good."
three years before present day
"Did you hear the latest on campus?"
"It's like the most shocking thing ever. You gotta listen to this!"
"I forget which couple this is about exactly—don't remember their names—but I heard they looked so good together at the falcon ball."
"Oh, I know who you're talking about...she looked really nice, especially in that dress she was wearing. And he was so hot. I heard they were joined at the hip—he doted on her like crazy. I was so sad to hear that he cheated on her."
"And to add insult to injury, with an ugly little freak! So much for dedication."
"If you came to tell me about that, everyone knows by now. It was huge news...a week ago."
"But did you hear about the fight between the two girls three hours ago?"
"Supposedly the girl he cheated with wanted him for a while now. What a filthy whore."
"The fight...what happened?"
"Now here's where it gets weird. It's like the room they were in exploded. Broken glass and everything. But they say the slut never touched her—the poor girl...she was so shaken up after everything that they took her to the hospital to get her checked out."
"My God, is she all right?"
"Other than some scratches, she looks fine. They say it was trauma."
"What are they going to do about the bitch who did this? What really happened? Bombs or something?"
"No idea. They say the police haven't found a thing!"
"She ought to have her expelled and prosecuted."
Her vision of that time not so long ago was put on loop in her head, and she could not escape it. She remembered that night at the party with astonishing clarity, the artificial lights shimmering and the moon above keeping a watchful eye. She was holding two cups of punch; each cup carried a separate fate. An unexpected encounter with her. That loser was pathetic, a goddamn eyesore, though she knew that if she was feeling more kindly disposed towards her, she knew she was jealous and angry and hurt. Serve that bitch right for getting in her way. Damn her for ruining everything. One sip, and she'd be easy pickings for any predator here.
That bitch just wobbled away, and God knows where she ended up. She didn't care. But she should have.
Rachel woke to the sun shining in her eyes, blinking away the last vestiges of sleep. She headed over to the sink, proceeded to thoroughly brush her teeth, and rinse out her mouth. When she completed her morning ablutions, she tried to recall her dream, but it disappeared much like her friend's famous brownies. Speaking of which, she would have to remind Erica to make some for the upcoming bake sale.
Rachel tapped a finger to her cheek thoughtfully. She knew she had been having more dreams lately, though as per usual, she could never remember what they were about. The vague impressions she was left behind with were rather unsettling, but she wrote that off as trauma from the incident three years ago.
She'd been getting less sleep, though, and that was entirely not her fault. If only circumstances were different...
She shook her head at the futile notion. Some things were impossible to alter, and there was no use bemoaning it. Although she generally avoided most parties now, this one was going to be one of the biggest of the year. It was in celebration of their upcoming graduation tonight, and she had to look good.
Alyssa had something of an open secret. It was something that she had only shared with her fellow Kappa Kappa Kappa members. Otherwise, it had been kept under wraps, squirreled away ever since she was a child. It probably all started back when she was seven, when her (now deceased) uncle was staying over that one summer. He had been a major fan of Rodger and Hammerstein, and had plunked in a VHS tape labeled The Sound of Music. She was not impressed in the slightest, at least until they started singing.
Yes, it was corny and sentimental and oh-so-hopelessly out of date. The costume designs were silly, especially the ones made out of green curtains. But damn it, the music was just so catchy, just the sort of thing that would melodiously rattle in her head until she caught herself singing along. Unfortunately, since Alyssa lived in a college dorm, in close proximity to a lot of people in very little space, she had no choice.
Hence, her singing in the bathroom.
"Getting to know you, getting to know all about you," Alyssa warbled, drying her shoulder-length blonde hair. Really, she should take singing lessons; this was getting to be an embarrassment. "Getting to like you, getting to hope you like me..." She wrapped a fluffy blue towel around her head like a turban, wiping away at the fogged-up mirror.
Just as she started applying her eyeliner, the door to the bathroom swung open, and a brunette, her hair in ringlets, bustled in with a green dress with a chocolate stain on the skirt. She ran over to the sink next to Alyssa, twisting the faucet in a frantic gesture, and quickly ran it under a stream of cold water.
"Shut the door, you're letting the warm air out!" said the blonde, annoyed. "It's really cold today!"
Alyssa eyed her friend through the mirror. Erica was rather average all around—light brown hair in ringlets, brown eyes, medium skin tone, average height—all in all, neither repulsive nor intriguing. Strange how she had managed to worm her way into this sorority. Though she got in before you did, thought Alyssa bitterly.
Oh, the blonde supposed her personality was placid and pleasant enough. She wasn't much of a threat, mainly because of her easygoing nature and her unremarkable looks, not to mention she pulled her weight. Because of these things, Alyssa kept her around. Erica was just so...typical among the well-bred, high-class girls, despite her upbringing in a upstanding family. She stood out like a wildflower amongst the orchids.
The other girl blinked and murmured nonchalantly, "Sorry. Got batter on my dress." She pursed her lips. "Chocolate's one of those things that doesn't come out unless you wash it immediately."
Alyssa snickered, "Like make-up, Betty Crocker?"
"I wouldn't know about that as much as you would, Alyssa," rejoined Erica cheerfully.
"Hey!" mock-pouted the blonde. It was okay to joke about her many conquests with the other girl; they understood each other. Unlike the others, Erica never showed a propensity for blackmail and extortion. "Excuse me for having a social life." She swept blush across the apples of her cheeks lightly. "I'm guessing you're not bringing anyone with you tonight to the party?"
Erica shrugged carelessly, continuing to scrub away at the silk, the stain gradually lightening. "Nah, been busy with last-minute homework. And doesn't somebody have to make marshmallow squares?"
"For the bake sale for breast cancer?" Alyssa frowned. "I forgot. Doesn't take long, anyway."
Erica pushed back a lock of curled hair and asked casually, "Heard you singing. Was that for anyone in particular? Like a certain cousin of mine?"
The blonde snorted rudely and dodged the topic by asking, "Say, didn't you like Austin, that guy who works at admissions?"
The blonde asked curiously, one well-plucked eyebrow arched. "By who?"
Alyssa grinned. "Hey, good match."
Erica rolled her eyes. "You dated Austin back as a freshman, right? So you'd know him. But do you know anything about Gwendolyn?"
"Other than that girl needs to get out more often? No."
"She's the secretary of Kappa Kappa Kappa now," Erica wondered out loud thoughtfully.
"Yeah, I think so," said Alyssa.
Erica wrung out her dress, now soggy. "I mean, isn't Gwendolyn only a freshman? That was fast."
Alyssa shrugged. "Rachel seems to think her capable, and Gwen isn't nearly as gung-ho as dear old Rach, our pious little vice president." There was clear contempt in her voice as she said this.
Not a little apprehensive, Erica glanced over to her and asked, "Still on each other's bad sides? What's been going on between you two exactly?"
The other girl groaned. "Not even you could have missed this."
The brunette finished rinsing off her hands, drying them on a paper towel. "I—" There was another pause. "I don't like it when you two bicker." The blonde exhaled and impatiently swept some wispy hair out of her brown eyes. Placatingly, Erica said, "Couldn't you let her and George take their natural course? I thought Rachel was once a good friend of yours."
The other girl stamped her foot angrily, "I've only been waiting for the last year!" She started pacing back and forth on the shaggy rug. "Greg clearly can't stand her anymore—and Rachel..." Alyssa let the torrent of words out, unable to hold back any longer, "is—I don't even know her anymore. Maybe I never did." Brown eyes darkened momentarily. "I mean, she's so different than what I thought she was." The girl flicked a wisp of hair out her eyes. "She used to want to have a bit of fun and be spontaneous, and actually joked around every once in a while. Now? She's a total stick in the mud, and I can't remember last when our sorority threw a really good party. All these stupid fundraisers and she with Cassie, they're turning Kappa into a complete Dudley Do-Right organization. I didn't join just to pander to the good cause of the week every breathing second that I'm awake."
Erica bit her lip, and for a moment, there was only the sound of water dripping from the shower head. The room had not cooled down, despite Alyssa's shower being long over. "Rachel always had a serious side; it's just...taken over or something. Doesn't help things that she hasn't been sleeping well lately..."
The blonde grimaced. "I do not want to hear about their glorified sex life!"
"They're fighting, not screwing!" The other girl stamped her foot impatiently.
"Same difference," muttered Alyssa lowly. Erica acted as if she hadn't heard that comment.
"Rachel and Greg are really unhappy with each other. I think they've grown apart." The brunette immediately knew that she had said the wrong thing when the blonde had perked up at this. Hastily, she added, "Greg never was very responsible, and I think part of that is my fault in babying him." Her eyes were downcast. "He doesn't tell me anything anymore." She asked suddenly, "Why do you want him in the first place?"
Alyssa's curiosity was piqued, always eager for details on her latest would-be target. Ignoring the question lobbed her way, she asked, "Are you sure you don't have a crush on him, Erica?" she teased off-handedly. "Like ten million other girls on campus?"
Erica blanched. "God forbid. He's my younger cousin by two months. And," she added before Alyssa could open her big mouth, "while I know we can legally marry in this state, I'd rather avoid the having 'children with ten heads' bit." The blonde started snickering. "Not all of us southerners are into the incest bit," Erica muttered.
Alyssa shifted moods immediately, something not uncommon. "Shouldn't you take into thoughtful consideration the happiness of your cousin? I know you two are close."
"Not that close," Erica quipped. "But really, Alyssa...don't you think that you should keep your personal stake out of this? I mean, Greggy's got enough problems."
Alyssa's brown eyes narrowed to slits. "Don't you dare think that I'm the—do I smell chocolate?"
Their argument stopped and Erica shrieked, "My brownies!" She bolted out of the bathroom.
Alyssa sighed, about to turn back to the mirror to fix her hair when it happened again.
Her neck prickled, and she saw a movement out of the corner of her eye. She turned, and looked around the disheveled bathroom, but no one was there. Besides the dripping of the green silk dress into the sink beside her, there wasn't any sound either.
Alyssa growled under her breath. Was she going insane? She swore she had seen her reflection move on its own and wink at her.
"Great party, ain't it?" shouted Barry into Erica's ear. She winced; she was going to be deaf for days afterward. The decibel level of the music was so loud that the very walls seemed to be vibrating, and they had no choice but to shout over the din, Not only that, but she wasn't very fond of Barry, though he was decent enough sort to share an occasional dance with. While he was a good friend of Greg's, he was a bit too much of a womanizer to let her guard down around, not to mention the drug dealing bit. Although Erica thought that he still held a torch for Alyssa...
Cassie, the current president of Kappa Kappa Kappa, was over by the punch bowl (already spiked), chatting with Rachel, whose dark hair was noticeable from even this distance, despite the shadowy room. Intermittent lights highlighted the sequins on the showy gowns that the girls wore. Erica had long discarded her shoes to dance in her stockings in the middle of the floor. The food was excellent, if a bit fussy and surreal with how neatly arranged it was.
They were in one of the Sheraton ballrooms and it looked like the party had been a hit, everyone thoroughly enjoying themselves. There had been some beer, and luckily, Erica remembered to bring her ID for once, nursing her second cup.
The brunette looked around. Where was Greg? And Rachel had disappeared...uh-oh. Her stomach growled and she sighed. First things first.
Erica moved towards the doily-strewn snack table, grabbing some fancy hors d'oeuvre—she couldn't figure out what precisely it was—she bumped into Austin and Gwendolyn heading out of the ballroom.
"Hey, Gwendolyn," Erica greeted the slender Asian girl cheerfully. "How do you like the party?"
Erica herself was a stout, perhaps chunky, girl with brown curly hair. She tended to be a bit socially clumsy sometimes. Though she had a cheerful disposition, not prone to jealousy, she couldn't help but envy the tall, aristocratic elegance of Gwendolyn, whose graceful silences made her an excellent spokeswoman for Kappa Kappa Kappa. Her long black hair was kept in luxurious waves, and she had perfect complexion and general good looks.
She was a cool beauty, who kept her expression carefully schooled blank, and Erica briefly wondered about her upbringing; she had heard thirdhand that Asian families were strict.
"It's fine. Parties aren't really my thing," Gwendolyn said. "Have you met Austin yet?" She gestured to the man standing next to her, quietly staring out at the crowd of writhing people, his dark eyes distant.
"Oh, yes," exclaimed Erica enthusiastically, blushing. "How are you doing, Austin?" She did not hold a grudge at all. They were so cute together! And I still can admire him from afar, can't I?
Austin blinked slowly, and turned to look at who had spoken, and had an almost startled expression. As if he was struggling to drag the words out of a quicksand trap, he sleepily responded, "Been...better. I feel...dazed."
"And confused?" finished a giggling Erica. "I think you've had too much to drink."
Gwendolyn smiled faintly, indulgently, though the curved lips did not reach her eyes. "He's been recently emancipated, actually."
The other girl grinned. "So you're like, one of the few people here who's actually legal?" She was about to nudge Gwendolyn, but the Asian hated being touched. "Unlike you?" Erica gestured awkwardly.
Gwendolyn neatly shrugged.
"...yeah." Austin gave a weak smile, agreeing. "You…what are you…up to?"
The brunette stared blankly for a moment, before stringing the words together. "Oh. I was wondering, have you seen Greg?" She bit her lip and wondered out loud, "Need to stop a potential...ah, you know how it is." She clamped her mouth shut to prevent herself from blurting out that one of the most well-known couples on campus was having relationship problems. Though Greg and Rachel had been arguing so frequently and loudly that it was becoming more and more difficult to cover up.
"Don't know," Austin hiccuped.
Gwendolyn hauled him to his feet in a surprisingly strong grip. "I think I saw Greg by one of the outdoor pools. As for you," she lightly shook a teetering Austin, "I'll be taking you home now." A gentle reproach, and Erica's cheeks flamed.
Gwendolyn helped Austin past the ballroom door, turning to look back at Erica expectantly. The other girl saw Gwendolyn pausing in the doorway, the chill from outside the ballroom rushing in. Her white dress, coupled with her pale skin, made her look like a ghost, and the image made Erica shiver. Alyssa was right; it was cold today.
"You're going home tonight with Greg?" Gwendolyn asked.
The brunette said, "Yeah...Rachel and Alyssa will be coming along too. Why, do you and Austin need a ride home as well?"
"No, I know that your car's not big enough to hold us all," Gwendolyn took a few steps towards Austin, her high heels clacking as they headed down the hall. She paused, and turned back to Erica, while Austin rested against the wall of the brightly-lit hallway. "Oh, Erica?"
"Yeah?" she asked.
"I've been working with Rachel for the fundraisers for Kappa. I've learned a little about how she works, and—" Here Gwendolyn paused. "Does she seem awfully tense and sleep-deprived to you lately?"
"It's nothing!" said the abashed brunette rather defensively. "She's under a lot of stress with the transfer of power, and graduation coming up, and..." She grimaced. "To be honest, I'm really worried about her sometimes. She throws herself hard into these do-gooder works for philanthropy that I wonder when she takes time off for herself, you know? It's like she's possessed, how much she puts herself into them."
"Hmm..." Gwendolyn sighed. "All right. Thank you. Well, I bid you adieu."
"Oh, okay," Erica nodded in understanding. "Gonna go find my cousin. I'll see you later."
"Goodbye," offered Gwendolyn, and Erica turned and walked back into the warm ballroom.
"What...did you do to me?"
Gwendolyn didn't even turn her head. "Austin, are you usually this accusatory when you've had too much to drink?" She looked at him, at last, and graced him with a whimsical smile. "You should watch how many shots you—"
"Damn you!" he shouted, then clutched his aching head. "Ugh, I can't deal with this."
Gwendolyn hauled him up with one manicured hand. "That'll teach you, won't it? Next time you won't be so curious," she said cheerfully. "Let's get you back to your dorm."
They stood in the open, cold air by the waters of the swimming pool. Their images in the water rippled back and forth leisurely, a brisk breeze separating and putting the reflections back together. Yet their reflections never merged together, the distance between them distinct. Rachel stood, tall and proud, glaring at her boyfriend, while Greg was hunched on a pool chair, his scotch sitting untouched on a nearby plastic table.
"'M dodging the whole issue. I never should have stayed with you, damn the consequences—this is not the healthiest of relationships..." He had been reduced to speaking in half-coherent mumblings, his head pounding, buzzed from the alcohol. He had just gotten so tired of all this damn arguing. He barely even heard Rachel's reply.
"—that interfering, retarded bitch, all the others in between, and now my dear friend, and yet—why do you bother to stay with me if you don't want to?" She was demanding.
"—because the alternative may actually be worse, but considering the hell we've been through the last couple of years I'm starting to think it may be a risk worth taking." At Rachel's darkening expression, he didn't even flinch, "I know you'll never leave me. You adore me too much for that." Mockingly, "I was your first true love, your first real boyfriend, the one that you couldn't ever let go. You'd never be able to bear it if I ever left you." he ripped into her. Booze had made him deranged, too honest for his own good.
"How dare you play with me like this! Don't you even understand the harm you've done, especially to her?" No need for either to explain who Rachel meant by her, they both knew very, very well.
"Hey, you just called her a retard, not me."
"I didn't mean it! I'm just so angry—" Rachel was practically spitting the words out. She cut herself off as they both realized that there were eavesdroppers.
Rachel wasn't tall, but with her long legs and a luxurious hourglass figure, they made her stand out from the crowd. Her long dark hair could be spotted from a distance when it was left down, as it was thick, but it was usually kept in a severe bun. She was finely-featured, somewhat pretty. At the moment, wisps of hair fell around her face, and her cheeks were reddened with anger.
Greg fell into the more ideal standards of male beauty, all strong, broad shoulders and muscles, with tousled brown hair highlighted by the sun. Finely-chiseled facial features made him one of the campus heartthrobs, though his looks were rather generic. There was a tic going on in one of the muscles in his face, and he finally said, slowly and deliberately, "Why don't we give ourselves up? Why torture ourselves? And don't give me that same tired old bullshit."
Rachel's face twisted and she looked sick. "I can't believe you sometimes! Can't you dredge up a little re—"
"Shut up, Rachel. It's all your fault in the first place." He turned away.
"You're so selfish—" She threw up her hands and backed away. "I refuse to talk to you when you're in this kind of mood." Turning away, the tail of her red sequined dress swishing in the air, she sneered when she saw who was approaching. "Here comes another vulture," she muttered so only Greg could hear, and stomped past Alyssa.
"What were you talking about?" demanded the blonde as she walked towards them, a little unsteadily.
"You could never understand," Rachel bit out.
Alyssa sneered, "Of course, Saint Rachel doesn't even experience life at the same level at the rest of us mere mortals." Before things could escalate, however, Erica popped her head through the open doorway.
"Hey, Greg, Rachel." Erica smiled sweetly. "Alyssa. What's going on?"
"Nothing," said Rachel shortly. "I was just leaving."
The brunette frowned at her departing back, and then after a few moments' indecision, she said, "Greg, I'm going to go talk to her; I think she's upset. You'll be okay?"
He waved her off impatiently and said, "I think I can deal with Alyssa's tender mercies, eh?"
Alyssa wiped at an imaginary tear. "You wound me, Greg."
Erica rolled her eyes, but she trusted her cousin not to do anything stupid. And she was more concerned about Rachel, who seemed to be the more upset of the two.
"Rachel, there you are," Erica said. They were alone in one of the many ubiquitous Sheraton bathrooms, where Rachel stood by the sink, her French-manicured hands curled, hawk-like, her dark eyes almost black in the lighting. The flamboyantly red cocktail dress she wore stood out against the bland colors of the tiling.
Silence reigned in the empty room for a few minutes, and Rachel, Erica thought, strangely wasn't crying, like she usually was after an argument with Greg. Her eyes weren't even red-rimmed. She seemed to be mostly blank. The brunette wondered if that meant she had reached the end of her rope.
She cleared her throat, and Rachel straightened, brushing off some imaginary lint off the dress. "I apologize. I didn't...I wish you didn't have to see that." The sentence came off rather stiffly.
"No need to be so formal with me, Rach, considering that I've seen worse," Erica said, sotto voce. "Besides, I would've heard Greg bitch about it later on."
The other girl was untying her loose black hair, letting it fall down. She plucked a comb out of her purse, pursing her lips. "Really. I wouldn't be surprised."
"Don't be silly!" Erica cried. "More like I would've weaseled it out of him sooner or later."
Rachel shook her head gently, untangling a knot, and her reflection in the mirror revealed a very tired-looking girl indeed. Her next words only added to Erica's concern. "How can you stand him sometimes? Be so close to him that you forget where you end and where he begins?"
"'M not as close you two supposedly are," Erica reproached. She watched the listless combing from the mirror. "Oh, please, let me help you with that." she snatched the comb from Rachel's half-hearted drags, and began to card through the thick locks in earnest. "You'll never get the tangles out that way."
"And how would you propose I—"
The brunette relaxed and said airily, "Oh, with some hair types—like, say, Alyssa's, you treat them gently and delicately, because the hair follicles break easily. They don't hold up well under stress. Because of their volatile nature, you should always have a hand out the window—to see how the weather is, in order to get ahold of it." She hummed, happy to be on a subject she was comfortable with.
"As for you, Rachel, your hair's real interesting. Even if it's stubborn and static for the most part, there's hidden depths to it. Just need to work on maintaining the balance." Erica had combed out most of the knots by this time, and started pulling it up into a bun, tsking, "I wonder why you keep it in this spinster's bun all the time? It has such potential to be so much more, but something's holding you back."
The other girl shrugged, not wanting to break the lull that had settled over the both of them.
"Greg's hair," giggled Erica conversationally, "He could never control his hair either, but because it's so wild. He never liked having his hair plastered to his head either, restrained by mousse or gel. He loves it free too much. He can be very good to it, when he chooses to be, but he's too lazy to manage the right aspects of it."
Rachel had relaxed considerably under Erica's ministrations, and when Erica was done placing her red scrunchie back in her hair, she asked unguardedly, "Greg and I—do you think that...we're incompatible?" She sighed, tucking an overlong bang behind her ear. "Scratch that. More importantly—even though we have such different personalities..."
Erica blinked, feigning an affected chortle. "I thought we were talking about hair types?"
Rachel sighed and rubbed a hand over her face. "...never mind." She straightened her dress, looking at the mirror with her too sharp eyes and her button nose. She had no idea what was in Erica's head—sometimes she seemed insightful, other times, a squirrel was at the controls, she swore. Maybe it was just Erica's way of dealing with overwhelming social situations.
Rachel just wanted someone she could speak straight with, like she had once... She and Alyssa had had too many misunderstandings in the last couple of years to really be able to connect anymore. They only were forced together because they were in the same sorority, and now, Alyssa was after Greg, and Rachel didn't know whether it was because Alyssa genuinely wanted him, or she just hated Rachel that much.
It didn't help that her relationship with her boyfriend was so vulnerable now either. Rachel didn't want to admit it, and could only do so when she was alone, but Greg was right on all accounts in his drunken mocking of her. The dark-haired girl didn't know if she could ever let Greg go. She would do anything to keep him.
The brunette was jostling Rachel's elbow. "C'mon. I want to have another drink." She grinned cheerfully. "This evening won't be complete unless we get properly sloshed!"
The other girl rolled her eyes. "You know I stopped drinking."
"Avoid the punch then; it's spiked," Erica said, her eyes dancing. "Oh. Maybe I shouldn't have told you that..." she trailed off, at the sight of Rachel tensing, her sharp eyes glinting angrily.
"What!" the dark-haired girl practically yelled. "What have I told you people about doing shit like that?"
Erica tried to calm her down. "Relax, everyone knows it was just a joke!"
"That crap is not funny," and Rachel marched out of the bathroom, determined to rectify matters.
The other girl trailed after her, rolling her eyes. "Saint Rachel to the rescue."
"I heard that!"
It really was a beautiful night, almost surreal in its perfection. The starry sky peered down at them, while the two of them, Greg and Alyssa, sat at the pool's edge together on a blue and white striped beach chair. The fenced-in pool was ringed with icicle lights, which were reflected in the waters nearby. The quiet lapping of water was the only sound for a while, apart from the distant thump of party-goers nearby.
They were at a raring party with his friends, with plenty of great, free drinks and a pretty girl who liked him...why couldn't Greg bring himself to be happy? Or at least, lose himself in sensation?
Remember the last time that happened?
Growling, he reached out and took a hard swill of the scotch, feeling the slow burn of it going down to his stomach. He was almost there. Pretty soon, he wouldn't be able to feel anything, and then—
Greg's stomach roiled and something caught his eye, and he hurled the cup to the ground, the translucent plastic bumping harmlessly by the poolside, amber scotch spilling onto the ground, before darkening the pavement.
"Greg!" Alyssa gasped, reaching towards him, then hesitating. "What happened?"
"I—" It would sound like he was hallucinating, voicing what exactly it was, so he told a half-truth. "I thought I felt something. Watching me. Or us, rather."
Alyssa, whirling her body around, shuddered. "That is really creepy."
He gave her a crooked grin. "I may have had too much to drink."
"So have I," she hiccuped delicately, and tossed her hair. "We—are a matching pair, yes? Full of mirth and lively cheer."
He let out a long sigh. She was a good-looking girl and reasonably witty. Blonde hair, brown eyes, decent figure, and pretty good in bed from what he heard from his friends. A bit easy, but everyone had their faults. Above all, though, she was such a contrast from his girlfriend; so fun and carefree. He sometimes felt he almost wanted her, which was rare because these days, he hardly ever felt anything. But maybe he could blame the alcohol on that. "I suppose here's where you're going to hit on me again, while I'm drunk and vulnerable, and you're charmingly intoxicated."
Alyssa shrugged. "Nah, that sounds kind of predictable, doesn't it? I'm going to circumvent the whole situation, and come to a compromise with you." She stood up, with her hands on her hips, announcing, "Suppose we just share one night together?"
Greg's lips curled humorlessly. "Reducing yourself to whoring yourself out?"
"Hey, isn't marriage itself considered a kind of prostitution these days?"
That startled a laugh out of him. "You...totally butchered that quote."
She faced him, a mischievous glint in her eyes that flickered a brief intrigue in him. "I mean, let's be honest with ourselves; you may truly love Rachel," her voice betrayed her disdain for the idea, and he could not tell whether Alyssa meant it for his girlfriend or the whole concept of love, "but sometimes she can be a real bitch about that damned pillar of society stuff, huh."
Greg looked at her, really startled this time. Perhaps there was something more to this girl other than the distraction. At least her persistence, anyway.
Alyssa arrogantly squared her shoulders, looking down at him. "Besides, we may or may not work together, come to think of it. So why should we go through the messy process of informing Rach, who's liable to freak at this whole plan, and summon hellspawn on your ass for daring to look at someone else?" She flipped a lock of blonde hair over her shoulder. "If we don't work, you can go back to her, and but if we do..." She smiled pleasantly. "I think it could be the beginning of a beautiful partnership."
He looked down, back to where his spilled cup was rolling back and forth on the ground in the restless wind. He looked at his hands, which were clenching and unclenching uneasily. And his good shoes, which shone under the spotlights around the pool. Against his better judgment, he was being coaxed into this; maybe he could just indulge his curiosity a little, he didn't have to go the whole hog and have sex with her. He had suffered enough, some good fun would be nice. Greg began unsteadily, his voice a little unclear because of his evident inebriation, "Listen...we can maybe give it a try. I can't promise you—anything really, because I'm...so..."
Drunk? Depressed? Indecisive?
"But I'll give it a try."
A pleased Alyssa curled up next to him on the chair, pressing her body to his side, and still, he felt nothing, despite the appealing way her body curled to his. "I can promise you," she said a little breathlessly, "that you'll have a good time."
It was well past midnight by the time they had all caught up with each other, outside in the chill wind at the entrance to the Sheraton. Rachel rode in the front seat, while Erica and Alyssa, both plastered to the gills, wobbled in, and were dozing the moment their heads hit the pleather. Greg, only a little more sober, started the car and drove off, away from the people, the flashing lights, and the sounds of the city.
"Would you believe it's May, and we're still turning on the heat?" said Erica, her speech slurred.
Greg turned to Rachel and remarked neutrally, "You're still sober."
"Drinking isn't fun for me anymore," Rachel said carefully. She was watching the streaks of light out the window as they zoomed down the interstate, accompanied by the whoosh of air.
The man turned away slightly, trying to focus his eyes. "Wasn't trying to pick a fight."
"Neither was I." Rachel said softly and stopped. "You drank a lot." Plain statement of fact, then, "Should you be driving?"
There was a long period where no one said anything, and Greg managed to steer fairly well, despite his drunkenness. Light snores were emanating from the back from Erica, and Greg peered at her fondly from the rearview mirror. Alyssa was warbling again, something about climbing mountains. Rachel began, "I'm a bit tired, Greg. I think I'm going to the dorms, to get some sleep."
Inwardly, Greg felt a tingle of excitement form in the pit of his stomach. Maybe...maybe this would be a fresh start. Perhaps it'd be best to let things die a natural death, maybe Rachel would get tired of him. "I'm fine with that," he began casually.
As luck would have it, Alyssa drunkenly chirruped, "The Sheraton is so second-rate, Greggy. Let's go to a Hilton, with four-star room service and everything!"
Rachel stared for a moment disbelievingly, and mouthed to Greg, "What?"
Unable to bring himself to care, Greg responded, "You heard her. She asked me out somewhere, though I didn't know where precisely."
"Right. You and I both know what she's after!" Rachel started to tremble with anger.
"And he wants it, don't you, Greggy?" cooed Alyssa. "You really should let your boyfriend out more, Rach."
Rachel's fists were balling up in her cocktail dress. "That slut would do anything to—"
"I'm r-right here, don't talk about me like I'm n-not!" Alyssa, stirred from her snooze, to her credit, only stuttered a little. "How dare you speak to me like that! You've always acted like I wa-wasn't as good as you were!"
"Alyssa, stop interfering!" Rachel ground out. "Greg, after everything we've been through, I—don't think I could...why this? Why now?"
"I realized I didn't have to be guilted into feeling like shit all the time!" Greg roared, the growl practically torn out of him.
Erica, now awake and panicking, said, "We ought to pull over—we're going to get into an accident!" She peered over the edge of the seat in front of her frantically. "Greg, how much did you have to—"
"Stop mothering me, cousin. Rachel, let's get back to school before we have this out. And Alyssa...let's talk about this later."
"I'm tired of waiting and waiting and waiting! I've waited for you for over a year, and you two are always fighting over everything. Frankly, it's a pain in the ass to watch, and I'm getting tired of it!" Alyssa blurted out. "Either get your acts together, or end it already!"
Erica said lowly, "Greggy. It is awful for us to have to mediate between you two all the time."
Rachel turned and yelled at Erica, "Don't you dare start on me too, Erica! Both of you have no idea what we've been through!"
Greg took in a breath, swerving past a honking SUV. Tension was roiling off his shoulders, and he wondered, as his head began to pound, how his life had come to this point. Rachel was right, but so were Erica and Alyssa, and he didn't know which to pick, because his eyes were swimming, and his world moving in and out of focus. He tried hard to focus on the road, but it was so difficult... "Everyone, shut up! Just...let me get off the interstate..."
The headlights caught the glimpse of a girl in white.
"Rose?" gasped Greg.
Metal shredded, glass shattered, and the world lurched alarmingly before the car was ripped away underneath them and all went black.
Well, that's the first chapter. God, how I miss being able to just format it normally... If you liked it, tell me, if you didn't, tell me that too. I'm really here just to try to improve my writing. Thanks for reading, in either case.