This Orbit of Ours:

Chapter 1:

Someone had barfed in the bathroom again.

Cassie understood when someone got so drunk at a party that it ended up being either the toilet or the carpet. And as great as it was when they chose the toilet, the least they could do was not miss the actual bowl.

Especially when that someone was her best friend.

She wiped Jackie's face when a wet paper towel, trying to ignore the unbelievable odor and repulsion she felt.

"I am so drunk," Jackie said. Her usually bright green eyes looked dark and cat-like with the pupils eating most of them up. The gentle, chocolate colored waves that normally fell gently down her shoulders were tangled, knotted, and plastered to her forehead like a bird's nest.

Cassie sighed. "You're killing me here, you know that?"

"Cassie," she slurred, making the e sound at the end run on for several seconds.

Cassie waited, but either Jackie forgot or she had never intended to say anything in the first place.

"Come on. We're getting out of here," Cassie said, pulling Jackie up to a sitting position.

Jackie stood up, wobbling on her toes. "Where's Steve?" she said, scanning the bathroom as if he might be hiding behind the palm tree-studded shower curtains.

Cassie rolled her eyes, not even bothering to figure out which guy Steve was. "Maybe he's making out with a bush like half the other guys are."

"But," Jackie said, clutching Cassie's shoulders so hard, she winced, "He promised me a good night kiss. We were talking while he was playing Xbox, and he said right after he..." Jackie's eyebrows furrowed, struggling to remember, "Right after he blew up the alien's mothership, we could go on a walk and he would give me a good night kiss."

In Jackie's defense, she had just gotten out of a messy break-up.

In Cassie's defense, it hadn't been the first time she'd found her best friend passed out at a party. Or had to wipe up vomit.

"Cassie," Jackie pleaded, her bottom lip quivering. Cassie recognized a drunken tantrum on the horizon if she ever knew one. Which was how, even an half an hour later, the two of them were still at the party, searching for Steve.

"I don't feel good," Jackie complained, leaning against the beer table. For precaution's sake, Cassie moved five full cups of beer to the other end that Jackie wasn't leaning against.

"Then let's go home."

"But Steve…"

Cassie pinched the bridge of her nose. She'd already tried physically dragging Jackie out, but gave up after Jackie twisted away and nearly broke a supposedly priceless, antique tribal vase.

She was so done with these parties. So done with moping around for the first half of the party, stirring up small conversations with anyone she recognized who wasn't too drunk, and then spending the last half searching for Jackie and doing everything but drugging and chaining her to drag her out.

"You suck, you know that?" Cassie said, scanning the room for anyone who met Jackie's description of Steve.

In response, Jackie burped very loudly and giggled.

"Have you seen Steve?" Cassie asked for the thirty-sixth time that night. The girl in front of her squinted her eyes, shook her head, and stumbled back towards the dance floor. Cassie couldn't even remember whose house they were it. Some guy with a red mohawk and an endless collection of signed skateboards displayed throughout the house. Fortunately, they were all secured away behind glass cases. The rest of the house was devoid of anything extraordinary, with beige plaster walls, large windows with rosemary curtains, and hardwood floors. Decoration-wise, it was like a Christmas tree had exploded everywhere. Strings of Christmas lights were tangled along the stairway banister. Gold and silver glass orbs on the fireplace mantle looked less like pieces of art and more like spray-painted fish bowls. The fireplace wasn't on, but the room still smelled like burnt wood tinged strongly with alcohol.

Cassie hated tight, crowded places. The dozen of bodies in this room pulsed with heat, suffocating her. She wanted to get out. Now.

She turned, ready to drag Jackie and run, Steve or no Steve. Instead, she was met by a tall guy with short blonde hair, wearing a t-shirt that read, You can't run, but you can't fly. She wouldn't have noticed him at all if he hadn't been blocking her path to the door. Her eyes were at the same level of his collarbone, which was even more surprising since she'd been towering over eighty percent of the boys in her class since middle school.

He moved his lips to say something, but Cassie couldn't hear him because the music crescendoed to a high-pitched wail at that moment. She shook her head and pointed to her ear.

A few moments later, it quieted, and he repeated, "You have flowers in your hair."

Cassie blinked. She wasn't sure if it was some cheesy pick-up line she'd never heard of, until the guy reached out and plucked a pink petunia out of her hair. Startled, she ran her fingers through the rest of her hair, shaking tiny bits of dirt out as she did so.

She met the guy's eyes and simultaneously, they looked up. It was that exact point that a group of shirtless guys dumped the contents of a flower pot on them. The guy pulled her to the side, saving her from the brunt of the hit. She still felt soft mounds of dirt coalesce down her arm and the side of her face. She glanced up at the guy. He had a heavy coat of dirt on his hair, making Cassie think of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups for some reason, and she started laughing. He looked down at her curiously, and she quickly looked away.

The group of guys whooped and high-fived, leaping over the banister as a lanky guy sporting a red mohawk chased after them, screaming, "Those are my mother's petunias, assholes!"

"Oh no, where's Jackie?" Cassie said, pulling out of the guy's hand still gripped around her wrist. He gently released it and stepped back.

The area next to the beer table had been abandoned in lieu of the flower attack. She scanned the crowd nearby for Jackie, but unfamiliar eyes gazed back at her. Some guy with a college football t-shirt was being dared to drink a cup of beer with dirt in it, so Cassie backed farther away. She bumped into someone and looked back to see the Reese's Cup guy behind her, shaking dirt out of his hair. He froze, realizing she was staring at him.

"Sorry," Cassie blurted before running away. She charged up the stairs, pushing through couples canoodling at various intervals. At some point, someone who was trying to grab her butt missed and ended up pinching her thigh.

The hallway was a lot dimmer and emptier than downstairs, and she struggled to make out figures in the dark. She averted her eyes from couples doing who-knows-what and pushed further down the hall. Near the end, she thought she saw a head of long chocolate colored hair disappear through a door. She followed it, stopping outside the room. She sucked in a deep breath, hoping that she wasn't about to barge in on something she would spend weeks wiping the image of later, and opened the door.

She took a glance in, and immediately sighed. Jackie's frame was lit up from behind by a lava lamp. At the sound of the door opening, Jackie turned, but her pinched expression didn't change as she recognized Cassie. "They're gone," Jackie said, pointing towards the tousled bed.

"Maybe Steve was never her—"

"But he left his shoes," she continued, looking down at a pair of black sneakers. They were flashy with neon green stripes and striped shoelaces. They were clearly expensive, the kind you would pay big bucks for people to remember, which Jackie clearly did. "And her panties," she said, nodding her head towards lacy red underwear tangled with the bed sheets.

Cassie didn't know what surprised her more—that Jackie could still notice these things in her state, or that someone would be so drunk or stupid that they forget their shoes, or underwear.

"Jackie—" Cassie started uncertainly.

She threw up. The shoes received a hefty heaping of Jackie's dinner mixed with beer.

Cassie sighed. It still wasn't as bad as the last party they went to.

"Asshole," Jackie muttered.

And with that, they left.