dedication: to my dorky friends. you guys. i love you so much.
notes: this is my life. i'm still trying to find the scattered pieces of my brain. two-day hangover, what?

title: a walk around the world
summary: All beautiful things are good and wild and free.

.

.

.

.

.

The heat of the game is infections. It burns underneath her skin and she shakes with her nails biting into the skin of her face. She'll have crescents dug in, later, but she doesn't mind. It seems to be a good game—not something she understands, but a good game, anyway.

"What? What just happened?" she asks as people behind her begin to scream their enthusiasm and her friends mutter under their breaths.

"Fuck that play. Fuck it."

And she still doesn't understand.

They hit half-time and she loses herself in a book as the sun shines fierce as fire, sinking into her hair and turning her whole world into a thick sheet of blazing chestnut silk. The book is about fire, and burning, so she thinks that it is eerily appropriate with the turn her life has taken. She turns the page—

Only to have it snatched away from her.

She looks up and blinks. "Hey, give that back!"

"No! We are making you cool! You can't read books at a football game! Go get me a beer, woman!" he orders. There is a smile twitching at the corner of his lips so she knows that he's teasing, but still.

"You," she says, "are impossible. Give that back and I'll get you your stupid beer if you promise to come with me to get it."

He grins widely, and hands her the book back, no protest. She rolls her eyes skyward, towards the perfect stretch of robin's-egg-blue, unmarred by clouds or even the faintest hint of the coming evening. Everything is bright blue and yellow, the happy primary colours of her childhood. She tucks the book away into the safety of her bag. It's her favourite book; it would not do to lose it. She only has one copy, and it's special.

She looks down at him. "You coming?"

"Yeah, yeah, go on, I'm right behind you."

She doesn't believe him for a second, and she's right not to; when she gets to the stairs back up to the university platform, she turns around and looks for him and he's still sitting down. She steams and stomps her foot. He is so irritating!

"YOU ARE A JERK," she screams over the murmur of the crowd.

He laughs and does get up.

"You are a jerk," she informs him with her hands on her hips.

"I got that," he says. He shrugs like it doesn't matter.

Maybe it doesn't.

The horn blares while they're still in the midst of getting him his beer. Then the team they're cheering for loses and they all sit in a hot car and listen to Daft Punk so loud that they nearly blow the speakers. This feels like university. Like real life and dancing in the dark of a dirty club and the heat—the heat lingers in everything, in the seams of her jeans and the tips of her fingers, trailing through the last vestiges of sanity she has. And she bounces in perfect time to the beat in her head—harder, better, faster, stronger. It's the best thing she's done in a long time, laughing with these people that she's known since she was a small child even though they lost.

It's not the loosing that matters, anyway. It's the being together.

And the picture that her best friend takes in the car is perfect. Just a wisp of a smile, the corner of her glasses, and her hair, dark and everywhere in the wind from the open windows. The car drags in the breeze and it is summer, late summer, August's golden happiness extending almost into October.

The world is beautiful today.

Everything is beautiful today.

/ / /

And they're gorgeous, all of them. Five girls, dressed to the nines, all sitting around a masterpiece of cupcakes, giggling over cherry whiskey and Disney princesses. It's silly and simple and good; very much them.

She doesn't even know where the time goes. Suddenly it's six-thirty and they have to leave.

They take the car and stop at the liquor store. The refrigerated cold bits at her legs, icy air across bare skin sends chills up her spine and gooseflesh rippling like waves. She giggles, still tipsy, and nearly trips over her own feet on the way out. They stuff five coolers, a bottle of gin, and a bottle of tequila in her bag. It's a magic bag that's endless, bottomless, full of tricks and wonder. It holds everything and doesn't even look stuffed. She's pleased with this. They all are.

They toddle to the bar, toppling over high heels and higher expectations, perfectly content to tumble into the mall in expensive clothes. It's a lovely gesture, but no use because everything is too busy staring at them to say anything, anyway.

They sit in the dim bar, in a haze of old blue cigarette smoke. She's bopping along to Billie Jean in the background, listening closely to what the others go on and on about. It's a birthday and a good time. Her skirt rides up eight inches on her thigh, and the boy sitting next to her—who are you? When did you get here?—drags a finger up her leg. The trail is a path of heat and she shudders.

"What are you doing?" she asks him.

He grins and shrugs and does it again. "Touching you."

She's known him for all of half an hour. She doesn't even know his name.

She's also weirdly okay with it. Tonight she's single, free as a bird, and she's going to revel in it. There's no one waiting at home, and she's not going to pretend that there is to make everything okay. She's not going to pretend that everything is okay because it's not—not at home, at least which is partly why she wanted to get out, anyway.

So she smiles at him and drops a hand to his thigh in return. They stay that way for a while. Three hours, almost, and he drags his knuckles across her skin. She shudders, and ignores how close his fingers are to the hem of her skirt. She barely knows him. What is she even doing.

She doesn't move away.

They stay that way until the group (who are you? When did you get here?) slides outside for a smoke and to wait for the limo. She lights up a peach cigar—it's not a habit yet, but it's starting to get close though she doesn't want to admit it because she's always had an addictive personality—and they wait and wait. It slides by slowly like syrup or maybe molasses, dripping down her throat; too sweet, too thick.

Then the limo pulls up, and they're inside. The sun is long gone and it's a dark thing, lit by neon white LED lights along the roof. She sits by a girl she's never met and they get along swimmingly, enough that they share a cooler and the disorienting experience of staring up at mirror over your head. The windows are open to let the air in because it is so hot.

And the night's barely begun.

They get into the club, and the dancing starts. They've been dancing together all day, but it's nothing like this. The pounding chills through her, and she loses herself. In the flashing lights and the heat—the heat—it's wonderful and new and sparkly and she can feel the alcohol shimmering through her like a mirage.

It's an amazing feeling, this being lost in the music and alcohol. She could be anyone; in this club she's nameless and faceless, just another girl with bubble dreams and wonder in her eyes. She screams laughter and throws her hands in the air, pressing in a circle of people that she's only met that night. And she dances and dances.

She dances for so long that she can't even remember doing anything but dancing before. Was there anything before? She doesn't know. Doesn't care. She pulls someone she loves close and smiles into his shoulder.

Sweat trickles down her spine, and the world spins and swirls and there's ice in her mouth. Its cold trickles down her throat, and she blows a cold breath of air along his throat. She watches the gooseflesh rise and she thinks of earlier that day, in the deep freeze of the liquor store, and she smiles.

It's good to know that even after everything she can still affect him like this. But then, he is her weakness, and he stares at her with alcohol-glazed eyes and she knows, she knows that she cannot deny him. She takes another piece of ice in her mouth.

"You are so fucking drunk," she says. She rolls her eyes.

And he just grins. "Yeah, I am."

He snatches at her waist, and it's in the flash of a strobe that she steps into his space. Perhaps the dark will conceal the shame that she knows is sweeping through her right at this moment, but mostly this is just a pretend game for children. She knows that there is no hiding this. There is no hiding this.

The ice in her mouth melts and she wants to kiss him with cold lips on the middle of the dance floor.

But she doesn't.

It is so hot.

And still, she dances.

They all do. They all dance and dance, her three oldest male friends wearing hilariously awful Captain Morgans hats. She doesn't even want to know where they got them, but she's sure she'll hear the story in the morning.

She laughs too loud, talks too fast, listens too often, says too much. That's the way she likes herself, and she won't be changing anytime soon. It works out, anyway.

Things blur for a little while, then. Alcohol always does this to her. She can feel him holding her hand with his arm around her shoulders, and that feelings lingers for a long time even when she's sure he isn't around anymore, off on some grand adventure. They tumble outside to smoke a cigarette—cigar, anyone?

She and a friend light up and it is peach smoke on her tongue. Peach smoke and ice. Her lips are still so cold. So cold.

(But not cold enough.)

She smokes and breathes in deep. She smokes and smokes until the thing is down to a nub, and then she's about to throw it away. Yeah, she has a problem, but at the very least, she only bums them and nothing else. She drops it to the ground and stamps her foot on it to put it out.

The bass-line's sirens song pulls them back inside. It's a blast of sweat and warmth that she can feel on her skin, especially in comparison to the night outside. Her skirt sticks to her legs and her shirt sticks to her chest and it is gross but she's okay with it. She's pretty much okay with everything, at this point. Nothing is really making sense and there are too many things going on to even really pay attention to the little things.

She just wants to be outside again, in the cool of the night. She finds the others, and they all slip outside to mix with the crowd of lovers and fuckers, smokers and slaves.

It's a good time. They all fit, this odd mix of people. She stands next to him and smokes his cigar—she knows, okay, she knows she has a problem, but now is not the time—and they hold hands in the dark, drunk and stumbling together out of the club half an hour later. She's starting to shake because she's never liked crowds, and too many people touching her freaks her out. His arm is hooked around her neck.

The whole group of them stagger out (lucky number thirteen—it's funny because that's the exact name of the club they just left). Her feet hurt like sin, five-inch hooker heels and she's looking at the stars spinning above her head. They wait for their ride, and curl into a corner together. She sets her head against his chest and listens to the thump of his heart. They hum softly to each other, and it's almost romantic, only really not. He leans down and touches her eye lashes, thick with mascara, and—

That's the last thing she remembers for a long time.

/ / /

She wakes up maybe two hours later, uncomfortable on a cot that sinks in the middle with broken springs. She's alone and disoriented, but only for a second. The cot is too uncomfortable and there's a bed a foot and a half away that only has one person in it.

She mutters too herself, hits the floor, and crawls to the bed.

She can't even remember who is sleeping there, and she really doesn't care.

It's entirely ridiculous, but she manages to slip underneath the covers. It's warm, but not too warm. She is content.

Her breathing evens.

Darkness.

/ / /

What are they even doing.

The sun shines through the window, weak and watery, and she can feel the person next to her shifting. She grumbles unhappily, and he chuckles in her ear.

"Get up."

"No," she tells him. "'M sleepin'."

"We're going swimming in an hour. You have to get up," he replies, and shakes her shoulder gently.

"I hate you," she mutters.

She forces herself up, waiting for the headache to hit her. When it doesn't, she's absolutely delighted. No hangover? That is fabulous, she thinks with a grin. But she is tired, because apparently it's nine o'clock in the morning and they didn't get home until three AM. The night's memories come slowly, and each is something savoured.

They are wild and beautiful and free.

All good things are wild and beautiful and free.

She lies in bed, remembering the sway of the music and the play of light across her skin, the sticky feeling of sweat on her collar bone, and how even though she was so thirsty, all she had had was ice cubes.

Her throat hurts and she thinks the sickness from the week is rearing its ugly head. She shoves it away without a thought and pushes herself out of bed, determined to enjoy the day and the water park that she hasn't been to since she was fifteen and more erratic than she is now.

The day is cooler than the previous, and she hugs her old best friend's mother close. The woman is a cloud of auburn hair and sweet perfume and she forces herself to not cry. This is not the last time they'll ever see each other, but it's a funny thing—this woman has always been there, almost a mother in her own right.

She just smiles and waves after one last hug, and then she slips into the car.

The water park looms; it's part of the largest mall in North America an it's an expensive thing, but it'll be worth it. It will so, so, so be worth it.

She ties his shoes together when he's not looking, and he ends up bunny-hopping half-way to the door while she falls all over herself laughing. His best friend half-carries-half-drags him to the door.

Her best friend pretends that she doesn't know any of them.

She links their arms and smiles brightly.

The world is beautiful today, too.

Everything is beautiful today, too.

/ / /

They spend six hours in the water.

She zooms down a slide with a scream caught in her throat.

It is wonderful.

/ / /

They're in the car on the way home. They sky is pale blue-grey-gold. It matches her mood too perfectly, a soft cover of calm but bubbling underneath with golden happiness. Spending time with these four people—two boys and two girls—it feels like family.

And she likes it.

He sits on her other side and whispers the words to the song playing softly through the speakers in her ear.

They are her family.

It is good.

All good things are beautiful and wild and free.

They are beautiful and wild and free.

.

.

.

.

.

fin.