It was only week four of freshman year, and Mandy already had piles and piles of work to do. It felt like she had gone from no work at all to being pounded in the head with a giant textbook. Stress was high, and she could tell that everyone else was feeling it too. This Heaven and Hell party seemed like exactly what she needed.
She showed up with Lena, looking fabulous. Due to being a poor and busy college student with no car, she had not been able to pick up an actual costume. However, she had made do with a very short and tight white dress covered in glitter from one of Lena's "therapy crafts" sets (which had also ended up all over the rest of her body), some top-notch makeup, and a makeshift halo made from rolled up paper. Upon arriving, it seemed like everybody else's costumes were of about the same caliber.
They immediately went to find the alcohol—somebody had concocted something called "halo shots"—and then headed to the dance floor with some of Lena's classmates. The DJ was good, and they were having a good time sweating out all of their problems when Lena pulled Mandy aside suddenly.
"Hey, Mandy," Lena whispered in her ear, a little drunk. "The Heaven and Hell party has a reputation, you know. They call it that for a reason."
"I thought it was called that because we dress like angels and demons," Mandy shouted back.
"Well, yeah! That too!" Lena seemed to lose her train of thought for a second. "But also because this is the party where you get your seven minutes in heaven!" Lena grinned broadly. Mandy just rolled her eyes, though the action seemed insincere compared to her wide, amused smile.
"You got someone in mind?"
"Yeah, kinda." Lena gestured towards a handsome boy in a less-than-subtle way. Mandy laughed at the absurdity.
"Okay, go for it, I guess."
"Okay!" Lena suddenly looked scared. "Will you help me?"
"What? No! Just… go!" Mandy , still laughing, pushed Lena in the direction of the guy. Lena let out a little squeal and then turned to face the guy. Mandy turned away, looking for Lena's classmates, but it seemed like the group had dissolved. She decided to walk around a little bit and try to find that guy Daniel.
It didn't take her long. She found him standing in the corner of the room, wearing a ridiculous shirt that said, "JESUS IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON." He was alone, once again sipping from his own personal bottle of Jack Daniels. Mandy started to wonder if he was alcoholic. She smiled despite herself, feeling a little thrill in her chest.
"Hey, Daniel," she said, trying to sound confident. He turned around.
"Oh… hey," he replied, eyes a little dim.
Mandy moved a little closer. "How's it going? You enjoying the party?"
"Um… not really," he replied. She paused.
"Oh, well… you want to dance?"
Daniel seemed to scan the dance floor, contemplating the idea of dancing. Mandy waited an uncomfortable amount of time for his answer.
"You want to go upstairs and play video games?" he asked abruptly. "We have a lot of good ones."
Mandy followed Daniel upstairs, feeling a little disappointed to be leaving the party so quickly, and to do something they could easily do any other time. However, she was intrigued by this character Daniel, and she did enjoy playing video games. She decided to see how this was going to pan out.
"What game do you want to play?" Daniel asked, tripping slightly over one of the steps. Mandy wondered how long he had been sipping that Jack Daniels by the time she spotted him standing there in the corner.
"I don't know," she replied. "I'm good with anything. Maybe something multiplayer, like Super Smash Bros?"
"Yeah, I love Smash! But you play Melee, right?" He seemed oddly serious about this.
"Well, Melee is the one I grew up with, so I guess so."
"Good. Melee is the best one. Every real nerd knows that!" He stopped briefly at the top of the stairs to grin widely at her.
"Okay," she answered with mild amusement. "Well, hurry up! Show me how it's done."
Daniel led her to a dorm room with a bunk bed and a TV, and not much room for anything else. The sheets on the bottom bunk were spilling off of the bed onto the floor, with the blue comforter balled up on top of them. Two bookshelves—one tall and one short—held all manner of books and knickknacks, making the room look a bit cluttered.
"Oh," Mandy said quietly, "This is your room. I kind of thought… I don't know, that we were going to a common room or something."
Mandy felt a slight nervousness, suddenly reminded that she hardly knew this person at all. "Do you mind if we like… leave the door open? Just because…" She blushed, realizing there was no graceful way to end this sentence. "Well, because I don't really know you."
"Oh. Okay." Daniel only seemed confused as he left the door open and strolled over to the TV, hooking up an extra controller to the dark blue GameCube.
"Wow," Mandy said, "I haven't seen one of those since like, middle school."
"It's the prime Nintendo console," he replied proudly, holding a finger up in the air. "Simple, yet elegant. Before they introduced that stupid motion sensor technology that didn't even work and just caused people to throw their controllers through the TV." He paused as though waiting for an answer.
"I see you're very passionate about this."
He handed her one of the controllers and booted up the console. When it was time to choose their characters, she decided to play as the green-clad swordsman, Link.
"Ha! Beginner's move!" Daniel exclaimed. "Everyone knows the real most powerful character is Jigglypuff!" He selected the fluffy pink Pokémon in question. For their battleground, he chose one of the stages from the original Nintendo 64 game. She smiled softly at the sense of nostalgia that the background music evoked in her.
As a player, Daniel put up a pretty good challenge, but his inebriated state allowed her to surprise him a few times and gain the upper hand. He gasped and released a stream of playful expletives as she blasted his character off of the stage twice in quick succession. She laughed at his passionate response.
"Watch this!" Daniel said, standing up and dramatically holding the controller over his head as he landed a surprise blow on her character, causing her to fly up in the air and lose her last life. Mandy shouted, "No!" as victory slipped from her grasp. Daniel did a little happy dance, accidentally kicking the GameCube in the process and causing it to turn off.
"Shit!" he gasped, reaching down to examine the console.
"I'm sure it's fine, Daniel. Those things are durable. You probably just need to unplug it and plug it back in again."
As she stood up to help him, he turned abruptly to look at her, leaving their faces very close to each other. Suddenly and without precedent, he kissed her. Mandy was taken aback for a moment, but decided to kiss him back. To be honest, this was kind of the way she was initially hoping this night would go when she walked in the fraternity door.
Daniel's fingertips pressed against her hips, pushing her back onto the beanbag she had previously occupied. His hands were warm. They felt foreign, but not unwelcome. As Mandy met Daniel's eyes, she felt a jittering in her stomach. This thing with Daniel was happening, all of a sudden. She smiled, and then kissed him again. It felt natural—not monumental, but good. He wasn't her dream boy, but she liked him.
The next moment, they were making out—smooth, easy. Natural. They rolled onto the floor, Daniel's body over hers in a push-up position. All of a sudden, Daniel seemed to lose his balance and teetered onto his back, falling next to her.
"Um, are you okay?" Mandy asked, hovering over him with concern. "Here, maybe you should stand up for a minute." She pulled on his arms until he was standing in front of her. He stumbled and wavered. Realization hit her as she noticed the near-empty bottle of whiskey on the floor and remembered that Daniel had been drinking the entire time they had been playing their game.
"Hey Daniel," she breathed out, "maybe we should save this for later."
Daniel looked confused, and then angry. "Oh, I get it," he muttered out, staring at the floor to his right. "You don't want this. This is a mistake. Okay, fine. I get it." He pulled up the hood on his jacket, looking like a sulking child.
"What?" Mandy replied in surprise, wondering where this was coming from all of a sudden. "What the hell? No. I just thought you might be a little too drunk for this. Like… maybe another time."
Daniel rolled his eyes so hard his entire head moved, and then looked at her like she was incredibly stupid.
"Mandy, I am not too drunk for this."
Mandy assessed the situation. Daniel had yanked the string on his hood so that it was now pulled tight around his face.
"You seem pretty drunk." There was a moment of silence as they both looked at each other. "You're drunk and I'm tired, so maybe it's better if we just… you know, take a rain check on… this."
Daniel stared off into the corner for a minute, and then huffed, rolled his eyes again, and turned to face the wall.
"I get it," he said quietly. "I get it. Forget you."
"I said forget you."
Mandy watched him for a minute while he watched the wall. He seemed serious about this. Unbelievable.
"Um, okay." This was not okay! She felt a series of emotions: Confused, angry, disappointed. She decided it would be best to leave. Within a minute, she was already down the stairs and out the door. She hoped Lena was at least having a good time.