The party was just as Roe had suspected, full of people who were either drunk, sweaty, or an obnoxious mixture of the two, which proved to be just as maddening as ever. Of course, she used to come to these parties and think the complete opposite. It's funny how things sometimes change.
Liv had borrowed a short black dress from Roe, one that had been pushed towards the back of her closet because she hadn't worn it in close to a year. Liv had paired it with a simple silver bracelet and a set of edgy heels. She looked incredible. But, Liv usually looked incredible.
"I still think you should have borrowed that dress of mine," Liv said to Roe, who glanced down at her own outfit. She had chosen a pair of dark jeans and a simple black tank top. It was nothing compared to Liv, but Roe always felt confident and comfortable wearing the particular combination.
Roe shrugged and pushed her auburn hair behind her shoulders. "Didn't feel like getting beer spilled on a perfectly good dress."
The two of them pushed their way through a bunch of people that were dancing, later having found Meg, who was talking with a few of their other friends. Liv and Roe grabbed a cup of beer from off the kitchen counter and joined the group.
The content of the conversation was nothing out of the ordinary. Meg was the most social one out of three of them, and she maintained a large circle of friends. A lot of them were either cheerleaders or played sports in high school and liked to reminisce on their glory days.
Tonight in particular, one guy, Jonathan, was talking about a game he had played his senior year. Roe was fading in and out of the discussion, and found herself completely disjoined when she heard a familiar song play over the sound system.
It was Two Door Cinema Clubs 'Something Good Can Work.' This surprised her as it was a far cry from the regular hip hop and rap that blasted the speakers at these parties.
Roe then turned back to the group, although she remained mentally removed from the conversation. She was too busy silently singing the song lyrics.
"How did you do it again, Roe?"
Roe flashed her eyes in the direction of the voice and found a guy with black rimmed glasses and hair that looked like it took him over an hour to style. She recognized him almost immediately. His name was Damion; the type of guy who tried to appear as though he were interesting, however was anything but.
"Huh - Do what?"
Damian nudged his glasses and crossed his arms. "The senior prank you pulled."
"What about it?" she asked, as the incident came flying back in fragments.
"Where did you find the pig?" he asked.
Roe smiled to herself remembering the prank. She and a few other seniors had decided to bring three pigs into campus and labeled them with a plaque hung around their neck "1,2 and 4." She remembered how long the teachers and other staff had searched for pig number three.
"They belonged to my aunt. She was happy to help," Roe answered.
"Yeah, good times," Damion said.
Another song had just come on. And, it was also not on the hip hop and rap continuum.
"You guys hear that?" Roe asked loudly to the group who all looked around and then back to her.
"Yeah, a bunch of people having a great time!" Scott erupted.
"No, the song," Roe clarified, and directed them to listen to The Strokes 'Last Nite.' She was met with total indifference.
"Oh, yeah, what about it?" someone asked.
Roe felt, in that moment, at a loss. She smiled to the group and said, "Nothing, never mind." And, much quieter, added, "It's just a really great song."
And they all continued back to their original conversation.
It was then that Roe decided to make her exit from the group, which proved to be easier than she thought because nearly no one noticed her leave. She pushed her way through the throng of dancing bodies that all seemed glued to one another. Apparently the song choices didn't affect the spirit on the dance floor.
She reached a large couch with a few people lingering on one end. They were completely engaged in conversation and Roe was able to slip past them and claim a spot at the opposing end. This had been her spot for the last few parties she had attended at this house. Once she grew past the point of handling the mundane events of the party, she found herself this spot and squandered her time until it was socially acceptable to leave. Or until everyone blacked out. Whichever came first.
A new song had started playing, although, this one she didn't recognize. It still followed suit with the last two songs in being quite different than normal.
Roe guessed maybe the regular DJ had decided to pick an alternative party playlist, and silently hoped that no one would change it as it was providing her with some entertainment while she waited out the rest of the night.
Suddenly, Roe was no longer alone. She snapped her head to the side and saw Ben, wearing the same thing he was in class this morning.
"Can't seem to leave me alone, can you?" Roe greeted.
"Well, a big 'hi' to you too." Ben smiled broadly and leaned back into the sofa.
"Since when do you come to these? Can't say I've ever seen you here before."
Ben grabbed a few chips in a bag from off the coffee table. "Maybe you weren't really looking."
Roe then grabbed some chips. "Well, if you don't mind, I'd like to be left alone, thus the huge bubble I had created for myself on this couch."
"Which I conveniently popped," Ben added.
Roe pursed her lips together. "Isn't there a bowl for you to smoke around her somewhere?"
Ben seemed to find some humor in this. "Ah, well, had I wanted to do that, I would have stayed home."
"Precisely," Roe agreed. "Ah, dammit." The song on stereo had morphed back into a radio standard.
"Something wrong?" Ben asked between a mouthful of chips.
Roe brought her feet up to the couch and hugged her arms around them. "Nothing." She glanced over at Ben who was waiting for her to continue. "They finally played a few good songs and now it's back to one-oh-five point shit again."
"So you enjoyed a little of the early alternative selections?"
Roe looked at him suspiciously, and answered. "Yes."
Ben didn't respond but held a sturdy smile, making Roe wonder whether he had been responsible for the change in pace. She was about to ask, but was stopped by a large body flying towards her. The body fell onto her lap with hands that pressed against her hair, chaining her to the couch.
"Christ, Scott. Get off of me!" Roe yelled pushing his heavy body with all her strength.
Scott budged but only slightly despite her giant efforts. He was totally inebriated, the smell resting on his breath bringing back a quick flash of memories.
Hands moved over her body. She was laying flat on her back now. Her hands at her sides but useless. His hot breath poured over her, the scent making her want to vomit. Yet his hands still moved.
"Hey! Get off of her."
Roe snapped back to reality. Ben had stood up and was pulling Scott from off of Roe. He finally succeeded, after much resistance on Scott's part, and Ben flung him to an empty spot on the couch. Roe immediately threw herself from off the couch with her new found freedom, her heart racing fast and her mind shutting nearly everything out.
She nearly jogged for the front door and didn't turn around when she heard Ben calling after her, "Roe! Roe! Are you okay?"
When Roe emerged from the base of the staircase in the morning, she was met with the husky smell of her father's aftershave, signaling that he was still present in the house. Roe checked her watch. The time read five minutes until eight o'clock.
A rare occurrence, Roe thought.
She walked into the kitchen where she found her father sitting at the dining table, a newspaper spanning across the space in front of him. A cup of coffee was placed off to the side, with steam rising in curvy swirls from the top.
"Morning," Roe said.
Lee, his back facing her, turned his head to give her a quick look, and replied, "Morning."
Roe sauntered over to the kitchen counter and found a half full pot of coffee. Grabbing a mug from the open cabinet in front of her, she offered her father a quick thanks for making extra coffee and went to grab milk out of the fridge.
Lee did not respond to her vocally, and instead nodded his head but one time.
Things had felt clinical between the both of them for some time now. Their exchanges were shallow, and they never spoke about anything besides how their days were. It wasn't always so. Roe remembered a time when she had been very close to her father, back when he wasn't primarily focused on his job. Back when he would come home and give Roe a kiss on the cheek and a hug and talk about whatever suited them. But that had been a different time. A time before the loss of Roe's mother. And, when that day occurred, nothing remained the same between Roe and her father. There was a huge shift, and Roe hadn't the slightest clue of how to address it. It was easier to let it be than try to work through it. Her father seemed to not shed one ounce of concern over their relationship, so why should she?
"Alright, gotta get to class," Roe said, chugging her cup of coffee and grabbing her bag from off the kitchen table. "See you tonight?"
Lee glanced up from the paper and did a double take towards his daughter, as if he just now realized she had been speaking to him. "Oh, erm, maybe. I have a project I've got to finish up today. I might be home late."
Roe plastered a fake smile to her face, threw her bag over her shoulder, and headed for the front door.
She had received the exact answer she was expecting.
On the drive to class, Roe's mind danced around the happenings of the weekend. The party Friday night hadn't ended on the best of notes for Roe, and her disappearance had caused Liv to take worry. Roe had received a text message from Liv not too long after she had left in regards to where she was. Roe had answered with a lie, stating that she wasn't feeling well all of a sudden, which Liv saw through nearly immediately. One of the things Roe could always count on was that Liv, no matter their differences, always knew when something was off with Roe, and never failed to help her through anything. It was what she loved most about Liv. Whenever Roe found herself in a situation that she deemed incapable of handling, Liv was there to sort through it alongside her. Liv had the ability to deal with emotions well, which Roe had always been grateful for, as she had never been equipped to wrangle her own.
However, the reason for Roe's exit from the party was something she hadn't even told Liv of. It was something that was too great and too confusing to even begin talking about. Roe wasn't even entirely certain of the reason, but, she did know that her mind tried desperately to push it into its deepest, darkest corner in an attempt to forget about it completely. And, Roe had been on the path to nearly doing so, however, certain instances kept transpiring that dug it up.
Once reached campus, Roe found a parking spot and shut her car off, stepping out into the bracing air with her bag thrown over her shoulder.
She glanced down at her watch and realized she was fairly early this morning. Poem and Songwriting class didn't begin for another twenty minutes. And, while she was sure she could bide her time somewhere other than the classroom, she decided against it and set her mind on heading to class. At least the room was sure to be nearly empty and quiet, something that sounded rather appealing to her at the moment.
When she reached the class, however, she noticed that quite a few students were already present and waiting for it to begin. One of which was Ben, who instantly looked up when she entered.
Roe diverted her eyes from his a moment later, and made her way to her desk, keeping silent while she withdrew all of the necessary supplies from her bag. She could feel Ben's eyes still on her as she did so.
"You sure know how to make an exit at parties."
Roe didn't glance in his direction, but answered simply, "I try."
She could hear as Ben shifted in his seat, obviously on the verge of asking another question, or at least thinking of one to ask. It didn't take long before the former came true.
"Was everything okay?"
Roe stole a glance at her watch. Class was still not due to start for another ten minutes, and so her options were to either converse with Ben or sit quietly in her desk and avoid him. She didn't particularly want to talk about what had happened at the party, and for good reasons. She didn't know Ben, and the event was uncomfortable for her to think about.
But, then he asked another question.
"Was it the horrible music?"
Roe chuckled despite herself. "That was it."
"I knew it!" Ben exclaimed. "Anyone who listens to a playlist called "club the night away" is bound to have repercussions."
"So it was you, then?" Roe snapped, turning her head towards Ben, who seemed to be caught off guard at the sudden emergence of her face.
"Erm, what?" he stammered.
"The music. You hijacked the sound system."
Now it was Ben who wouldn't look at her. "I was doing an experiment."
"Oh, really?" Roe asked more sarcastically than anything. "And what was that exactly?"
"I wanted to see if people noticed the change in music."
Roe waited for him to continue.
"And they didn't. Or at least they didn't care." Ben then paused, a thought still resting on his tongue.
"So, what were you expecting to happen?"
Ben shrugged. "Not sure. I don't know whether to be upset or happy about people not noticing."
Roe, too, had noticed that people didn't seem acknowledge the difference in music. She would have expected them too. And, what it meant to Roe was that maybe if more people were exposed to different music than the same recycled garbage that airs on the radio waves, they'd be more inclined to like it.
"Maybe you should do it again. Might break them out of their zombie heads."
Ben leaned back in his chairs, eyes grazing over Roe inquisitively. "Right, Ms. Cheerleader slash homecoming queen. Their zombie heads."
Roe regretted the words as soon as they escaped her mouth, and even more so now as Ben was looking at through a curious expression. It was as though he thought he had glimpsed a peak at her inner world. And maybe he had. Roe agreed with what she had said, but it wasn't something she preached on a regular basis.
"Look, not sure why I said that. Nothing to get your panties in a twist over."
"My panties are fine," Ben declared. "And, you know why you said that."
Roe scratched her head as she usually did when she was nervous.
"Because you believe it." Ben was silent for a few moments. "First the song lyrics and now this."
Roe sighed aggressively. "I'm not interested in your opinion of me."
"Even if my opinion of you is improving?"
Roe shot him a harrowing look through furrowed brows, but before she could muster a reply, Hoult graced the front of the classroom signaling the start of class.
The remainder of the hour consisted of Roe trying desperately to rid herself of the notion that Ben saw a bit of her that she didn't want seen, but never being able to fully do so.
Night had fallen. Roe was sitting on the couch at Meg's house watching a show on television with a few of their friends. Next to Roe was Liv, who sat beside Meg, while Scott and Mitch occupied the two leather chairs adjacent to the couch.
Scott had been shooting glances at Roe almost the entire duration of the evening. It was the first time the two of them had shared the same space since the incident at the party. Roe could tell Scott wanted to address what had happened, but was failing at doing so, which wasn't necessarily a problem for her considering she did not want the incident addressed.
"I hate the show," Liv said suddenly taking a sip of her drink.
"How can you possibly hate old episodes of Scare Tactics?" Mitch asked in disbelief.
"Because it actually pisses me off! I put myself in their shoes and get super upset at the family and friends that do it."
Everyone laughed, including Roe.
"Take pride in knowing I would never do that to you," Roe said, nudging Liv.
"Oh, I do. Except I don't know about the rest of you."
Meg then yelled, "Oh, and like I would sign you up for that?"
"I would sign you up for that, Meg," Scott said from the chair at Meg, but then darted his eyes to Roe, causing her to tense. Whenever they locked glances, it amounted to the same experience, Roe's muscles turning rigid.
Scott's eyes on hers may have appeared as a harmless action, but it caused Roe to feel sick to stomach. She then excused herself to the restroom. However, she did not go there, but instead went into the kitchen and poured herself a cup of water from the sink. The cool water felt good going down her throat, instantly calming her senses. She took a step to the fridge and glanced over all the pictures that graced it. There were many of Meg and her brother, Stephen, captured throughout various stages of their childhood. They look very similar next to each other, however, not so much when separated. Meg looked a lot like her dad, while Stephen resembled much of his mom.
It was then Roe was no longer alone.
"What're you looking at?" Scott asked, walking hesitantly into the kitchen.
Roe locked her gaze on a picture of Meg and Stephen as kids in a hot tub, even as Scott drew nearer to her. Pretty soon, he was close enough to reach out and touch. Roe stood frozen.
"Listen, I wanted to apologize for the party on Friday."
Roe swallowed hard and felt the urgent desire to dart for the back door leading to Meg's patio just behind her. She wasn't able to go back into the living room without Scott moving. He had her pinned.
"It's fine," Roe said hoarsely.
"No," Scott said. "It's not. I was drunk, and I shouldn't have done that."
Roe inhaled deeply as Scott, even still, found room to move closer to her. She braced herself against the counter opposite the fridge, wishing desperately she could disappear into it.
"It's just, I don't know, I wish things could go back to how they used to be, you know?" he whispered placing a hand on her shoulder, rubbing with his thumb in a vertical motion on her arm.
Hands moved from her arms to the rest of her body. The kisses grower more painful with each one. Her neck burned from them. He put his weight on her now, hands still moving fervently over her nearly naked body.
Roe squinted her eyes and shook her head, pushing the memory from her mind. She then summoned a bought of courage and pushed past Scott, and walked very fast, her heart pounding, back to the living room.