Oh dear. Am I starting a new story? Why, yes I am. Let's see where this goes, shall we?
It all began at the end of my fifth semester in college.
Cliché way to start a story, I'm well aware, but it does the trick. It was the last weekend before exams, and thus the last chance for the student body to get wasted. It was unnaturally warm for December, and we took full advantage. I looked hot, and I knew it, but I may have had a couple too many screwdrivers.
"I'll dannnce w'you for a minute but I got'sta sleep sometimes. Yerra nice man. Timmy boy. Timmyyy Kimmyyy."
I can't say I made a good first impression. My arms were slung around my best friend's shoulders, a tall Vietnamese boy I'd known since middle school named Tim Kim. Seriously.
"Got her? Make sure she doesn't—fuck." I stumbled as my left hand was passed to the shoulder of another boy, someone I didn't know. I ended up on my ass, and from there my upper body sort of slumped onto the floor. I made no effort to move.
I get really lazy when I'm smashed.
"She is really drunk, man. Are you sure she's not gonna throw up?" mystery boy asked.
"Yeah, she holds her own. In all the years I've known her, she's never puked from alcohol. Come to think of it, she's never puked at all. Don't worry man. Your couch will be fine."
"Hmm? Couch? Timmy you're leaaaving me?" I pouted from my position flat out on the floor. Actually, it wasn't even a floor, it was the concrete landing outside of mystery boy's apartment.
"Janey, sweetie, you'll be fine. I know Charlie from CS. He's a good guy. His apartment's closest, and believe me I wish I could stay with you, but I've got my Orgo exam in the morning. You'll be fine."
"Do you promise? Cause I am trusting you Tim. I may be drunk but I'm not stupid," I sat up. My head spun but I must have concentrated all my effort on steeling my expression, because he grabbed my hands and pleaded with me.
"Jane. Just get some sleep. Charlie's great, really. He has a couch all nice and set up for you. If he tries anything, I'll kick his ass, don't worry."
"But that leaves the option open for him to try something! You said he wasn't going to! I don't want you to kick his ass, I want nothing to happen to me!"
I'm a pretty cynical drunk as well.
"Charlie? Can you try and calm her down for me?" Tim looked to the other guy for help. He came over and looked into my spinning eyes.
"Hey, Jane? I'm Charlie. I'm a stand-up guy, so my mother says, and I would never hurt you. If I try anything, I'll kick my own ass. Okay?"
Charlie had big brown eyes. I hardly listened to what he said, but his eyes convinced me.
Next thing I remembered, it was morning.
A sweet smell shook me into consciousness. It was cream cheese, and butter and sugar. Cinnamon rolls. I moaned and stretched, groping around to piece together my surroundings. It was a couch, and I was under a blanket. All my clothes were still on, but my shoes weren't. My hair was down, and my skull ached.
"Fuck me, I can't remember last night."
I heard some footsteps, but my eyes felt like they were glued shut. I made a noise approximating a question.
"Jane? How are you feeling?"
I didn't recognize the voice, and my eyelids still weren't cooperating.
"Like shit. How are you?" I managed to lift my head above the nest of hair and arms below it. I hoped that my response was at least somewhat intelligible.
"I'm…just dandy. I'm not the one who drank myself into tomorrow though."
My right eye popped open at that. It wavered for a second on a blue oven mitt, then snapped up towards a round blurry brown thing I took for a head. In a few seconds the blur resolved itself into the face of a boy, with dark wavy hair and a little bit of stubble. A second later I could make out a cute smirk, and a glint in his big dark eyes.
I sighed with a little groan of pain, and turned my head the other way, into the crook of my left arm. My forehead, hot and throbbing, rested against my forearm while I breathed through a veil of my own hair.
"Don't make fun. I don't exactly do this often, you know." My voice was surprisingly strong considering my position.
"I wouldn't know, would I? All I have to go on is last night."
"Yeah, well. Bah." Regularly I'd have a comeback to that sort of thing, but hangovers are pretty lethal to my wit. There wasn't much I could do, and my eyes felt like dry sponges. With each breath I felt my consciousness get removed another step from reality. It's weird when you can feel yourself falling asleep.
It wasn't meant to be, however.
"Jane?" he spoke softly, but only an inch or so from my ear. My head snapped towards him, and my eyes both opened. The movements resulted in a giant pulse of pain from my eyelashes through my fingertips. I groaned and mumbled.
"Well, it's morning."
At this point my eyes were entirely open, and I glared with all the force I could muster.
"So don't you have…things to do?" His eyebrows tilted up in question. It was really cute.
"What's your name?" I asked. Even when I'm sober though, I have a terrible memory. With the addition of copious amounts of vodka, there was no chance I would remember a new name. I was surprised to remember my own.
"Charlie. Charlie Baker? Remember?" He did that eyebrow thing again. Adorable. I chuckled.
"Remember? Yeah right." I blinked a few times and yawned widely. My mouth tasted pretty rank. Morning breath meets cotton mouth. Yuck.
I sat and stood up in one motion, and swayed forward. Charlie grabbed my hips from where he sat in the chair opposite the couch. I suppressed a smile. "I'm okay," I said, and he released his hands quickly. Not too quickly though, and I was impressed by the majorly awkward moment he avoided.
If only to push my luck, I stretched my arms up over my head languorously. I felt my top slide upwards, exposing my midriff. I was wearing my "cleavage top," and the strap had already slipped off my shoulder while I was sleeping. I like to play with boys when I'm drunk, too, and I'm sure I'd had enough that it wasn't out of my system yet.
I relaxed with a sigh, and opened my eyes to find that Charlie had already started walking back to the kitchen. I pouted. Obviously he didn't feel like playing back. "Where's the bathroom?" I asked.
"Down the hall, straight ahead," he answered with his back to me.
I ambled to the bathroom door, passing a mirror on the way and avoiding it with my life. After I washed my hands, I turned the tap to cold and splashed my face with water. Then it hit me.
I'd been too busy being miserable to be embarrassed before, but this slight separation reminded me of my position, and whose fault it was. I had no right to be so bitchy. And I realized I might as well try and clean myself up and make a better impression on the poor soul who agreed to give my drunk ass shelter for a night. So I carefully edited my smeary eyeliner and smoothed my hair back, and rubbed my teeth, tongue, and gums with a fingerful of the toothpaste sitting on the counter.
Feeling at least somewhat fresher, I walked back out to the living area to see Charlie standing near the sink shoving a cinnamon bun in his mouth. I smiled and saw him look me over, a little surprised. That made sense though, as it was the first time he'd ever seen me actually standing straight.
"Shimmamon mun?" he asked through his mouthful, gesturing at the counter. I smiled again and shook my head. My stomach was still a little iffy. I watched him swallow and lick his fingers.
"Anything else then? Or something to drink? I think we have orange juice somewhere in here." He turned and searched the fridge, which looked quite dire from my vantage point.
"No thanks, Charlie." I said his name again partly to remind myself of it, somewhat over-pronouncing the R. He did the eyebrow thing again. Damn. "I'm fine. I just wanted to say thank you for letting me sleep here last night. I meant it when I said that's unusual for me, really. And given my uh—state, I don't think I could have made it home without getting arrested. So yeah, thanks."
I smiled again with my lips closed. My arms were folded over my stomach, and I was clearly uncomfortable. He was looking at me and I decided to look around the room instead of meeting his eyes.
"It's no problem, really. I'm glad to have helped." He nodded at me and I smiled again. Admittedly, the smile I kept showing was my awkward defense mechanism—a small pursed-lip grin that made my eyes squint and nose wrinkle. I do it whenever I don't really know what to say.
He started moving things around in the kitchen and I decided to revert to small talk. After all, all he knew about me was that I drank and was friends with Tim, and all I knew about him was that he lived here and was also friends with Tim.
"This is a nice place. Do you have roommates?"
"Yeah, two. Dan King and Eddie Talbot, if you know either of them."
"Oh yeah, I think Dan was in an English class I took last year."
"He's a funny guy. Once he got so drunk that he actually fell asleep right outside the front door. I guess he couldn't work out his key." We both laughed, and he walked a bit closer to me, eating another cinnamon bun. They were pretty small, those Pillsbury things in the cans that pop when you peel off the paper.
"You know, I think I might have one, they smell delicious. And my stomach feels all right now, anyway." I walked over to the counter and picked apart a roll from the round pan. It was gooey and sweet, perfectly baked.
"Yeah Tim mentioned you never throw up." He cocked an eyebrow again, and I rolled my eyes.
"Well, I guess I just haven't partied hard enough. One of these days though I'm gonna jinx it."
"Hopefully not. There's not many girls who can really hold their drink."
"I don't know if I can even say that though, I mean, you saw me. I wouldn't say my drink was entirely held. Held internally, maybe, but I still blacked out…I think." I narrowed my eyes at him. "I didn't do anything stupid after Tim left, did I? I can remember up till the point where…"—the point where Charlie looked at me—"I stopped protesting."
His lips formed a curious smile before he looked up, as though the answer was written on the ceiling. He wiped the side of his mouth before replying. "Nah, you just got settled and went out like a light. You snore, by the way."
"Do not!" I squeaked, but the glint in his eye made me grin. I looked down and kept picking at my cinnamon bun, probably in a subconscious attempt at being coy.
"So, um," he started, "I kind of, uh…" He scratched the back of his head and looked away. "It's getting kind of late, and I have some…stuff." He stood up and faced me with his hand on his neck. I assumed he was kicking me out, and I felt a weird mix of inexplicable hurt and general gratefulness for his kindness.
"Oh! Yeah, I need to get going, really, too. Um." I went to the couch to put on my shoes. "It was really nice to meet you Charlie. Thanks for all your help."
"I mean I—I wouldn't mind if you stayed and hung out normally, but my girlfriend's coming by soon, we need to study and stuff." His expression was genuinely apologetic, but I couldn't help a feeling of overwhelming embarrassment. All of a sudden I was just in the way, the stupid drunk girl who inconvenienced a guy who was just too nice to say no.
"Oh, don't worry. I understand completely."
"It was great meeting you though, hopefully I'll see you around?" He walked me to the door.
"Yeah, hopefully. And thanks again, man, I really appreciate it."
"No problem." It was the awkward goodbye-time now. I didn't know whether to shake his hand or give him a hug or what. So I just stood there.
"Good luck studying, then."
"Yeah, you too. Don't get into too much trouble, yeah?" What was this? I felt like a fucking teenager. I was only 20, but still. Pathetic. I went along with the awkward and gave a little laugh.
"I won't. Oh and thanks for the cinnamon bun! Bye Charlie."
"Welcome. Bye Jane."
And that's how I met Charlie.
The next time I saw him was 6 months later.