Author's Note: Hey guys! New story! Title is subject to change and progress will most likely be slow after the first two or three chapters. Thought I'd warn you now. But once summer hits, things should get quicker!
Evan and Dev gave me the slip about twenty minutes ago, and I'd been circling through the living room, kitchen and dining area since then. So far, I hadn't seen any sign of them.
I don't exactly fit anyone's definition of a typical party girl, and yet by second semester of my freshman year, I've already been to more of these things than I can count. And this was by far the worst one. It had nothing to do with the too-drunk-too-function girls flailing around to a Jay-Z/Avril Lavigne mash-up, nor did it concern the too-cool-to-party hipsters talking around the room. And surprisingly, it wasn't even the too-manly-to-practice-basic-hygiene frat boys playing drinking games in the kitchen.
Instead, the crappiness of this party had everything to do with my best friend and her boyfriend, and my growing suspicion that they had ditched me to go have sex in a dark bedroom.
I first met Evan in my junior year of high school. I had seen her around before of course—at an all-girls school filled with blond prep robots, Evan stuck out like a sore thumb. She was wild, she wore bright colors, she was loud and she didn't mind getting in your face to tell you exactly what she thought of you. I, by contrast, was quiet, always tried to be kind to everyone and my main goal in life was to blend in. When I met Evan, however, I was failing in the last endeavor as Scott Johnston, one of the most well-known kids at our brother school, Lleyton Prep, had recently asked me out. This bought me immediate recognition in the halls and envy from most of the girls at school.
And while I welcomed the attention, it made me uneasy. I knew everyone, in the back of their minds, was wondering why Scott had chosen to go out with me of all people. I wondered this most of all. I was cute, not sexy, I was smart, but not a genius, I wasn't hip by any definition of the word, and I was not, by far, the most popular girl at Bellevue. But when Scott asked me out, I simply chalked it up to good luck and spent two months doting on him.
There was a common perception among the boys of Lleyton Prep that Bellevue girls were all sexually repressed and therefore 'easy.' Having already slept with the seven 'sluttiest' girls at Bellevue (some behind my back when we were dating, I later found out), Scott asked me out as something of a challenge. I never found out if there was an actual bet involved, but basically Scott had asked me out to prove that it wasn't just the slutty girls who would sleep with him. The worst part about all of this was that he was right—it wasn't just slutty girls. Because I did it. I slept with him. And the following Monday, everyone at school knew it.
I tried to ignore the self-righteous looks and petty gossip all throughout the day, but it was hard. It would blow over, I told myself, as soon as the next blond chick gets drunk and falls in a pool at some party. Or some guy at Lleyton is caught dealing pot. These things never lasted long, but that first day felt like forever. The worst was knowing that Scott had told people—I hadn't even told my friends. And we had both agreed to keep it quiet because sex, as he had said, was just between the two of us.
What a load of bull. During lunch, as I balanced my lunch tray and tried to navigate myself somewhere I wouldn't be stared at, I overheard a conversation. I'm not a nosy person, but I could tell at once that the conversation was about me.
"…I give him three days before he dumps her," one girl was saying in an unnervingly nonchalant voice.
"So stupid of her to give it up to him so fast," said another. "I mean, didn't she know it was going to be bye-bye, see-ya-later after he got what he wanted?"
"Wow Tiff," said another voice, louder and somehow more brusque than the others. "What excellent advice. I wonder why we all don't follow your wise words? That way we could avoid being caught in the back of Bobby McNaley's Chevy by the Vice Principal during junior prom."
There was a definite pause after that. Then, haughtily, "Well, at least I've got better sense than to screw Scott Johnston."
My phone beeped on my tray and I tried to balance my tray and grab the phone, but instead all of my food spilled out of my hands and onto the cafeteria floor. The four girls—Tiff, Jenna, Cammy and Evangeline—all looked over at me. I stared back. No one moved.
Finally, Evan stooped down onto the floor and picked up my phone from underneath Cammy's seat. It was open She got to her feet, holding the phone out to me.
I looked at the phone warily.
"Hey, there's a message on there!" Jenna said, pointing at the phone in Evan's hand. I reached for it, but Cammy was quicker, swiping the phone away from Evan. The three girls read it in a few seconds, and then Jenna smirked.
"Just as I thought," she said smugly, snapping the phone closed and placed it in my hand. "Don't take it too personally, Meredith." She spun off in the other direction with Cammy.
"A word of advice," Tiffany said. "Try waiting three months before you spread your legs." She gave a fake smile and left.
It was just me and Evan as I lifted my phone with a shaking hand and flipped it open.
The message was from Scott. I don't think this is working out. The text read. Let's see other people.
I could already feel my eyes welling with tears and scrambled to get out of the cafeteria as quickly as possible. It wasn't until I had reached the double doors did I realize that Evan was following me.
"Hey—you okay?" she asked, struggling to keep pace as I charged down the hall, heading toward the parking lot.
"Please just—leave me alone," I said through sobs. She ignored me and followed me all the way to my car.
"Scott Johnston is a rat bastard and what happened was not your fault," she told me firmly.
I wiped my nose.
"The bell is about to ring," she said next.
I couldn't stop crying. I had never skipped class before.
"What do you have next?"
"Biology," I sniffled. "Vanloo."
"I just had Vanloo," she informed me. "We have a sub. Watched a movie. Come on. " She led me to the door of my car. "I'll stay with you."
I got in unsurely. She circled around and hopped in the passenger side. We sat in silence for a few minutes.
"I feel like Carrie," I told her.
She turned towards me, her feather earrings swinging. "The Hitchcock movie?"
"Yeah," I sniffled. "That's the one."
"You have any music?" she asked after another long silence. I opened the glove compartment where all my CDs were stashed and she chose a soft, mellow Elliott Smith album and slid it into the CD player. I turned on the car.
"You should tell people he's lying," Evan told me as strains of acoustic guitar filled my Camry.
"I can't do that," I said. "Everyone already knows anyway."
Evan shrugged and plucked at a loose thread in her vest. "Then tell everyone his penis is really small."
Despite the fact that I was still crying, I burst into laughter.
There we were. Two completely opposite girls, sitting in a car, cutting class, laughing and crying. We didn't talk about everything, not that first day, but by the time school ended and Evan was getting out of my car to go to her own, I knew one thing. I might not have been able to trust the Scott Johnstons, the Tiff Bergands or the Jenna Platts of the world, but I could trust the Evangeline Michaelses.
On about my third trip around Joe's apartment, I finally had to submit myself to the fact that, yes, Evan and Dev were getting it on a few feet from where I was and yes, I would have to wait until they were…finished and then pretend like everything was okay. I sank down on one of the unoccupied back cushions of the couch and lay my head against the cool leather. If anyone bothered me about sitting by myself at a party and looking dreary, I would just pretend I was completely plastered. It had worked before.
Behind me, the owner of the apartment (who, not surprisingly, I didn't actually know) was talking to two other guys about Sports Center or something. Another guy broke into the conversation.
"Hey, uh, Joe, I think someone's having sex in your bedroom," the fourth guy said nonchalantly. "Oh shit, dude, really?" Joe said, sounding peeved. "That's so effing awkward. I mean, don't these people have any manners?"
I turned around to get a better look at the conversation. The guy who had made the announcement shrugged and looked unconcerned while Joe continued to seem agitated.
"Yeah, so, good luck with that," the nonchalant guy said as Joe charged off into the kitchen, either for reinforcements or another drink I didn't know.
Then the Sex Announcement guy came around the other side of the couch and I had to pretend like I wasn't listening. Unfortunately, he sat down beside me and cracked open one of the beers he was carrying.
"So what, did something eat your cat?" he said conversationally. I looked around to see who he was talking to and quickly realized the only viable candidate was me.
"Well, I figure you've got some reason why you look so pissed off at the world. And you don't really strike me as one of those perpetually angry, filled with ennui type girls," he added. "So what is it? Your cat died? You got a B on a Social Psych test? Your mom called and told you she's turning your room into a home gym?"
"Would you please go away and not bother me?" I asked him.
"What was his name?" he asked.
"Whose?" I asked, confused.
I rolled my eyes. "Would you shut up about my cat? I don't even have a cat!"
He raised his eyebrows in an expression of surprise. Surprise that I didn't have a cat or surprise that I actually had the nerve to yell at him, I didn't know.
"So if you won't tell me your cat's name, will you tell me yours?" he asked.
I looked at him warily. On the one hand, he had barely been talking to me a full minute and he was already pissing me off like no other. On the other, he had been talking to me for almost a full minute, which was more than I could say for anyone else at this party.
"I'm Meredith," I told him, a little colder than necessary.
"Meredith," he repeated. "I'm Garth."
"Nice to meet you," I muttered.
"Would you like a beer, Meredith?" he asked, sounding bizarrely polite for a somewhat drunk college kid.
"Sure," I answered. He had brought two, after all, and it didn't look like he was planning to have both. I cracked it open and took a sip. Beer wasn't my favorite drink, but I tolerated it, at least. And if anyone here had an excuse to get drunk, it was me.
"So what's a normally straight-laced girl doing getting drunk at a party like this?" he asked.
I took another swallow of beer. "What makes you think I'm straight-laced?"
"Same thing that made me think you have a cat and that you're taking Social Psych," he replied.
"Well I don't have a cat, and I'm not taking Social Psych," I told him.
"So am I wrong about all three?"
I hesitated. Compared to Evan, I was definitely what you would call 'straight-laced.' She was always the one who would get trashed at parties and make out with random boys, while I was always the one there to drive her home at the end of the night and console her when her boyfriend texted, saying he was tired of her antics. Wild and crazy just wasn't me, but that had stopped bothering me a while ago.
"I guess not," I answered, taking another sip.
He must have heard the dismay in my inflection, because then he said "If it'll make you feel better, you can pass judgment on me."
I glanced at him. He was extremely lanky—skinny almost, with slightly overgrown dark blond hair swept across his forehead. His face was angular, which made his clear blue eyes stand out even more. My first thought was that he looked like the kind of indie rocker boys that hung out at The Knitting Factory all the time. His attire—white collared shirt, blazer and a green scarf—added to that impression.
I took my eyes off him, lest he think I was checking him out or something. "You like to talk about artsy movies and Kafka, you think that anyone who ever liked Dashboard Confessional is a disgrace to humankind, and you'd go gay for James Russell Mercer."
He gave me that same surprised look.
"What? I hit the nail on the head?" I asked innocently.
"Never actually liked Kafka," he said. "And while Dashboard Confessional is pretty whiney, I don't begrudge anyone who liked them."
"As for James Mercer?" I asked.
"I'm human, just like the rest of us," he told me solemnly. After a slight pause, he leaned forward and said, "So, are you drunk enough yet to tell me why you're sulking?"
I stared at my half-empty bottle of beer and then back at him.
"It's stupid," I said, taking another long sip.
He shrugged. "You're probably right. Girls rarely get upset for intelligent reasons."
I glared. "I'm not upset."
"Oh, sorry," he replied. "My mistake. Just pathetic, then."
"You know," I began bitingly. "Why are you even talking to me? If I'm so pathetic, shouldn't you be conversing with more suitable people?"
"Pathetic," he began. "Is not by nature a bad thing. Pathetic is interesting. Pathetic has a story. Which is more than I can say for most of the people here."
"So you're talking to me because you're hoping my sob story will be more interesting than an in-depth discussion about the Yeah Yeah Yeahs new album?"
He blinked. "Sure," he answered. "If that's how you want to put it."
"Well," I stretched and sat up. "Sorry to disappoint you, but my sob story is only about as interesting as a discussion about the formation of rocks."
"I'm a geology major," he deadpanned.
I felt myself flush for a moment before I realized he was messing with me. "No, you're not."
He grinned. "Damn. I thought I had you."
"Not even close," I replied.
"I tell want to hear your story," he told me.
I rolled my eyes and started to get up. Then I stopped. "Fine. You know what. Here it is: that couple, the one having sex in Joe's room?"
Garth looked a smidgen surprised that I knew about that. "Yeah?"
"That's my best friend and her boyfriend," I finished shortly, tensing up.
He didn't say anything for a moment, and I didn't relax.
"Let me guess…you're completely head-over-heels for your friend's boyfriend," Garth said at last. I started to think maybe this whole reveal-your-secrets-to-a-complete-stranger thing was a bad idea.
I didn't say anything, so he assumed he was right. Which he was. He started to laugh.
"I am so glad my pathetic little problems are so amusing to you," I said sweetly, and then started to get up. Anything was better than getting laughed at.
"I'm sorry," he said, but he was still chuckling so he couldn't have been that sorry. "Sorry. It's just so…you know."
"No, I don't know," I snapped. "Now if you don't mind, I'd like to leave before I completely humiliate myself."
As I got up, I glanced down the hall and saw Evan and Dev coming out of the bedroom, Evan giggling as Dev's arm came around her. Garth got up next to me as I stood there, staring at my unrequited crush and my best friend together.
Garth looked from me to them and then said, "You've got to be kidding."
My attention snapped back to him. "What?"
"That's your One True Love?" he asked, staring down the hall again. "That guy?"
"Um," I said, because to say 'yes' would embarrass me more. "Do you know him?"
He let out a short laugh, like the bark of a dog. "Oh, I know him," he said darkly.
I raised my eyebrows at him. It did not sound like a peaceful relationship. When I turned back to Dev and Evan, I saw that they were coming down the hall toward us, but had not yet spotted us.
I felt a little queasy, and I didn't think it was from the alcohol. "Shit. I'm not ready to talk to them right now." I started to turn away when Garth grabbed my arm and led me into the kitchen, which was a lot brighter than the living room. He led me right past all the frat boys and the empty bottles of beer and went out onto the back porch, sliding the door shut behind us. The noise immediately cut out to a muffled drone and a few far-away shrieks of laughter, which I assumed was coming from the chicken fight on the lawn.
"Thanks," I said, plopping down onto one of the white plastic chairs and glancing behind me, where people bustled around inside.
Garth leaned onto the rail of the porch and looking out into the night. It was chilly, but I didn't mind much, and I closed my eyes.
"So how'd you meet," Garth asked after clearing his throat awkwardly.
"You and Dev."
"Oh, um…economics class last semester," I told him. This felt strange. I didn't want to be talking about Dev with this guy. "Can we talk about something else?" I asked him, my voice pitched higher than usual. "Please?"
Garth shrugged noncommittally.
I could tell it was up to me to make conversation. Then again, Garth also had the choice to go inside and enjoy the party instead of sulking outside with me.
"So, uh…what do you think of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs new album?" I asked with an awkward laugh.
"C'mon Mer, you can do better than that," he said, smiling. I balked at the truncating of my name.
"Okay," I answered. "Um…who would win in a fight, Robert Smith or Pete Townshend?"
Garth laughed out loud. I could tell he was impressed, though whether it was by my choice of conversation or my knowledge of indie music forefathers I wasn't sure.
After a moment, he said, "Pete Townshend. I always thought Robert Smith was a bit of a pussy."
"Fair enough," I answered evenly. I glanced to my left, where there was a huge gnarled old tree. It swayed a little in the breeze and looked both spooky and beautiful in the moonlight. When I turned back, Garth had sat down next to me in the other plastic white chair.
"Do you mind if I smoke?" he asked, pulling out a pack of cigarettes and a lighter.
I shook my head. "No. Evan does it all the time." Though, she never asked me if I minded.
He lit the cigarette and took a drag. "Evan?" he asked quizzically as he exhaled.
"My roommate. Friend," I answered.
"The one getting it on with Dev?" he asked. I gave a short nod in response. I wondered if he was afflicted with short-term memory, because I remembered putting a moratorium on this discussion just a few minutes before.
"Sometimes, life just deals you a shit hand," Garth said, exhaling more smoke. "Sometimes it's a crappy, deadbeat dad." He turned to me. "Sometimes it's an unrequited crush that slowly breaks your heart."
I felt my lips part, but my words took their time. "What do you do, then?"
Garth gazed back out at the sky and flicked some of the ashes off his cigarette. "You wait for things to get better," he said with a shrug, looking down at his lap. "And if they don't, you fake it until they do."
I felt myself coming closer to him, my stomach pressed against the arm of my chair. "What if you're sick of faking it?"
He looked up at me and I realized we were quite close. "Then…" he trailed off and lowered his eyes. "You fucking do something about it."
At this, and I don't know why, exactly, I found myself leaning forward to kiss him. Honestly, the way he said the word 'fucking' was really sexy somehow, and we were so close already and I was so tired of feeling left out and pushed aside and god I just wanted something for myself. If that meant a random hook-up with a stranger, then fine, I would take it.
As my hands went to cup his face against mine, his went around my waist, pulling me toward him so I was practically laying across the chair armrests. The kiss deepened quickly, his lips soft and firm against mine. Though I had initiated it, he was the one steering us, and as I felt the tip of his tongue graze my lower lip, I found I liked where he was taking us. I kissed him harder and he replied by sliding a hand into my long red hair and pulling himself as close to me as he could with the armrests in the way. At a certain point, I felt my chair starting to tilt sideways and in order to avoid the imminent disaster, I broke away from Garth.
We stared at each other, each breathing heavily, for what felt like twenty minutes, but was probably closer to twenty seconds.
"Um," I said, tucking a piece of dislodged hair behind my ear. "I—they're probably looking for me."
Garth glanced behind me into the apartment. To his credit, he looked completely unabashed, which I knew was in great contrast to my reddened face and general state of disarray.
As I stood up, he took out another cigarette and lit it, having dropped his first when I had pounced on him.
I stood unsurely at the sliding glass door and glanced back at him, wondering what, exactly, had just transpired.
"I'll see you around, Meredith," he said, as nonchalant as he had been when we had first met (all of ten minutes ago).
"Yeah," I answered faintly, preparing myself to go inside. "See you."
"Goodnight," he said, and I slid the door open and walked inside. My stride was careful, wary as I walked the length of the kitchen and returned to the living room. The sounds of the party seemed to dull the ringing in my ears, and made me feel like what had just happened outside was on a separate world from this one—a dream world, perhaps, where I made out with random boys and then left them without so much as an explanation. Though, in Garth's case, it didn't really feel like he was looking for one.
Evan and Dev found me quickly, as I stood, somewhat shell-shocked, beside the couch in the living room.
"Meredith!" Evan cried. I glanced up, a smile fixed on my face. Her hand was entwined with Dev's and she pulled him with her towards me.
"Hey guys," I said easily, though I felt my insides churn around at the sight of them together.
"We were looking for you," Evan said, though she didn't exactly mention what they had been doing before that. "See, I told you she was fine," she added to Dev. "He thought you were going to get date-raped."
I smiled and laughed nervously. "Uh, nope, all fine."
"You really should be careful at parties like this," Dev said to me, with a smile that both melted me and made me queasy. "Joe's a good guy, but…well, you never know who's going to be here."
I smiled again and started to feel a little ridiculous. Could my face make no other expression? "Well, everything's fine. Are you guys ready to go?"
Evan laughed. "Oh yeah. Let's get out of here."
The three of us headed toward the door, stopping to grab our coats on the way out. It was a short walk back to campus, though the air was decidedly chilly and it bothered me more than it had out on the porch with Garth. Evan had Dev to lean against and keep warm, but I had only my coat and pockets to stop my hands from freezing off.
Dev walked us back to our dorm and I quickly fled inside, claiming I was cold (which was not a lie). Evan came in a minute later, after what I'm sure was a particularly spectacular goodnight kiss from Dev. She looked flushed and giddy and I didn't know how not to hate her for it.
"Bed," I told her shortly, feeling that if I said more she would be able to get everything—my crush, my resentment, what I had done that night—from my words, innocuous as they might be.
"Kay," she replied happily. "I'm going to stay up a little."
"Kay," I mimicked, before retreating into the bedroom and collapsing on the bed.
Tomorrow, I decided, I would be over Dev.
End Notes: Let it be known, the nickname "Mer" is not pronounced "mer" as in mermaid. It's like the word mare. Which makes sense if you think about the name Meredith. Also, character pics are up on my profile.
Thanks for reading! Chapter two is in progess. Please send a review my way, thanks!