Arranging Fate

Chapter 28. Conflicted (Garret)


Nadia is as good as her word. Not only does she not talk to me for the entire drive home, but she also manages to avoid talking to me for the next four days as well.

It's-- something I don't understand, although Emily assures me that it's quite common amongst girls in a general sense, so it's safe to assume that I'll be remaining in one whole piece for the time being.

Not to say that Nadia's any less psychotic than she normally is. In fact, she's quite her usual self (save for the part about not talking to me), and over the past two days, has remained quietly obsessed with Natalie over the wedding Jae mentioned.

"He didn't say it was his own wedding," Nadia hisses into the phone. Vaguely, I can make out Natalie's mumbled reply. The volume on the phone is that loud. "Well of course it couldn't be his own. How many people do you know say that they're going to a wedding, and meaning their own? Don't normal people just say they're getting married?" Sighing irritably, Nadia happens to glance my way. Catching me staring, she gets up and leaves the room.

I never realized the girl had so much self-control. Amazing.

It all comes to a screeching halt on the night of Natalie's graduation party, of which Nadia informs her parents while hopping into a pair of jeans right there in the hallway. She's out the door before they can answer.

As aunt Kathy was unable to attend the ceremony, it is up to me to regale her with a full and complete synopsis of the scorching sun, the endless wait, the thunderous applause, the deafening, responsive roar and the flood of tears. It could be a drama in its own right.

"Did you meet Khevan's parents?"

"Yes aunt Kathy."

"And Natalie's parents?"

"Yes aunt Kathy."

"And what did they say?"

"Who, aunt Kathy?"

"Natalie's parents, of course."

"Ummm....they said it was nice meeting me and that they'd heard so much about me, and didn't they think it was too early for me to think about marriage."

Aunt Kathy looks thoughtfully at the cup in her hands. "And you replied with?.."

"I said that it was nice meeting them as well, that Natalie had really great parents and that my parents will arrange for what they think is best for me because they're my parents and parents do things that way."

Aunt Kathy smiles. "Good boy."

"It's a reflex, actually."

"Even better."

The phone call doesn't arrive until a few hours later. And next thing I know, aunt Kathy's hauling me off my bed, throwing me down the stairs and shoving me out the door with my carkeys in hand. I manage to catch the end of her last sentence before the door swings shut, which is something to the effect of 'at Natalie's house'. So to Natalie's house I go, which isn't too far away. Upon my arrival, I find out three things. The first, being that Natalie's graduation party must have included her entire graduating class, because I wind up parking at least five blocks away. The second, that her parents must really love her or they must really love to throw parties because everyone's got a drink in their hand, and there's at least two mini-bars setup in the backyard with a hired bartender to boot. The last, I find sitting (sprawled, actually) beneath a tree next to some boy whom I've never met before, but who I'm fairly sure would definitely be counting knuckle imprints on his face if she weren't in the obviously-comatose state she put herself in.

I place my hands on the front of the guy's shirt and haul him to his feet.

"Hey, get your hands off me!"

And dump him to one side.

"Argh...what do you think you're doing?!!" he slurs, trying to walk steadily back to where he was sitting before.

My dad always told me not to be too harsh on drunks-- they're dunk, after all. What can you do? It's not their fault they can't handle their liquor, and if they feel the need to drown their worries away, then who am I to interrupt a private moment like that?

So two conclusions come to mind: 1) this guy is way too young to have to drink his worries away, and 2) what does worry have to do with pawing another unconscious drunk?

Stumbling over, he lays a rather heavy hand on my shoulder and I suddenly feel the need to bring this guy back to consciousness. You know, my civic duty and all that. So into the pool he goes. Luckily, he's at the shallow end and after much spluttering and choking, he finds his way to the edge. Gripping onto it like a drowning man, he sobs, "You fucking asshole! I hate you!" over and over again.

I squat down beside Nadia and slap her cheeks lightly. "Hey. Wake up." I try shaking her a bit. "Nadia. Get up, it's time to go home."

Huge green eyes pop open, albeit a little glazed, and gaze at me steadily.

"I was wondering when you'd show up," she says.

Sliding one arm around her middle, I pull us to our feet. "You know, I'm trying to figure out how much you drank to get yourself this wasted," I say conversationally and sniff once more. "You didn't have that much."

Nadia pushes me away. "Don't touch me." Burping softly, she proceeds to walk carefully across the yard and out to the steps of the driveway. At the sidewalk, she looks around. First one way, and then the other, all very, very slowly.

"You can't drive home drunk," I tell her, reaching for the keys in her hand.

Pulling her hand away with what she must think as 'quickly' in her intoxicated state, she also winds up pitching her whole body backwards as well. "I'm not drunk," she informs me calmly from her position on the ground.

"Of course not." I use both hands in trying to pry her fingers loose.

Nadia watches me placidly. "You could just ask me for them, you know."

Alright, alright. Lowering myself to her eye-level, I face her. "Can I have your keys."

"No."

"May I have your keys?"

"Nuh-uh."

"May I please have your keys?"

"Nope."

After five whole minutes of this, Nadia is looking rather bemused while I am this close to wringing her neck.

"Can you at least walk to my car?" I ask, exasperated.

She thinks about this for all of two seconds. "I don't think so."

"Why not?!"

"Because I'm kind of tired. I don't think I'd be able to make it to your car." Nadia peers into the darkness. "Where did you park again?"

I throw my hands into the air. "Are you really tired or are you just too lazy to walk?"

Her green eyes focus on me, then rapidly unfocus. Okay, so she's at least trying. But still.

"What if I left you here while I went to get the car?" I suggest wildly, knowing full well that the probability of that occurring would be slim to nil.

Nadia nods. "That's fine." And promptly falls flops over on the ground like an air-strangled fish.

"Waarrggghh!" I dive for her head before it splits open on concrete. Her eyes are spitingly closed.

I struggle with an inner demon for the moment, who's strongly suggesting that I dump her on this sidewalk and just go back home, for all that she's being so damnably and obviously-purposefully difficult. Who does she think she is?! The cause of all my misery thus far, making me go on stupid trips, forcing me to talk to people I don't want to, blackmailing me into attending ceremonies I'd otherwise pass on and subjecting me to the torture of her insane dad, could my life possibly be any more humiliatingly dejected--

Oh.

A hand has clamped down onto the back of my neck (to keep me from bolting, I suppose) and something very warm and sweet has covered my mouth, pulling the breath from my lungs in one swift motion. Or it could be the sharp intake of breath that I'm holding for dear life lest it burst out at an inopportune time. Like now. Her arms are pretty strong for someone who's one drink away from completely wasted, but then again, so are a drowning man's-- but that's probably not a very good image to compare it with.

My eyes slide shut of their own accord (it has been my firm belief that kissing with your eyes open is not only rude, but almost frightening in a very corpse-viewing kind of way), and the party in the background seems, quite suddenly, far away.

And it's... nice.

Nadia isn't very good and you can tell she's not very practiced, but her lips are soft and linger for a long moment afterwards, until I think I'm starting to see stars due to lack of oxygen. That and the fact that my neck is beginning to hurt because her entire body weight is hanging off it. In the back of my head, I'm wondering what we must look like, two teens on the sidewalk-- when Nadia lowers her face from mine, hands still locked around the back of my neck, and looks at me seriously. "You're awfully cute when you're mad like that."

I exhale slowly. Very, very slowly. Which only magnifies the pounding of my heart by ten-fold, much to my dismay. And to further solidify the obvious shock I'm going through, a hundred questions are now flying through my head at light speed. What was that for? Why? Do you realize what you're doing? Do I even know what I'm doing? Are you insane? Or am I the insane one, for actually enjoying it?

Shutting my eyes against the din inside my brain, I focus on the single thought that keeps me from returning the... favor.

A decent guy doesn't take advantage of someone who's drunk.

And Nadia's drunk.

"Don't look at me like I don't know what I'm doing," she says.

I sigh, ignoring the growing cramp in my neck. No, you do know what you're doing. You're just not coordinated enough to keep yourself in an upright position and you can't control your reactions any more than you can control yourself to tell me, out of all people, that I'm cute when I'm mad.

"I'm not drunk," she insists.

If Nadia hadn't been drinking, then she would have been in her normal state of mind. Which means she would have never have even thought about kissing me to begin with. Since she *has* been drinking, then she's *not* in her normal state of mind, which means that...

I take a shuddering breath....

... that her kiss doesn't mean a single damn thing.

The ego and pride flare up all at once, indignant at the thought of being kissed by someone who doesn't care. But logic is as logic does, and that's the way things go.

Unwrapping her arms, I pull Nadia to her feet despite her feeble protests, and sling her arm over my shoulder. I wrap my arm around her waist and hold her against my side as we make our way to my car, parked as it is five blocks away. Halfway there, she passes out, slumping against me like a ton of bricks. But that's alright. Slinging her onto my back, the walk isn't as far as I'd thought. Her breath is warm against my ear and I'm wondering if she's going to remember any of this tomorrow.

A part of me hopes she does. Maybe because I want to know if she meant it or not.

The other part of me hopes she wakes up with a severe case of amnesia that won't ever come back.

And to tell the truth, I don't think I've ever been more apathetically confused until now.

-----

Aunt Kathy and uncle Will don't even have to ask to know what sorts of liquids their daughter ingested at the party. Wordlessly, I hand Nadia over to uncle Will, who drapes his unconscious daughter over one shoulder and steps carefully up the stairs.

"Were there alot of other students there?" aunt Kathy asks worriedly.

"Yeah."

Aunt Kathy shakes her head. "They always throw parties like that. It never occurs to them that their guests might not even be of legal drinking age, but if the guests like it, then they'll go all out to provide it for them." Aunt Kathy looks at me shrewdly. "But that doesn't bother you, does it, Garret?"

I shrug. It comes with the territory. You don't go out with mom and dad to big parties and client dinners without learning to hold in at least two screwdrivers and a black russian. It jacks you up the first time or two, but you get used to it. Unfortunately.

Reading my blank expression like a book, aunt Kathy leans forward to give me a hug and I'm suddenly wishing I was home. "Thank you for getting her home, dear."

"Sure."

Trudging up the stairs, I notice that Nadia's light is on and that the door to her room is slightly ajar.

I pass it and let myself into my room, shutting then locking the door, and praying that I was home instead of here.

-----
Comments:

>> Very, very hesitant to go in this direction, mostly due to pacing. 'Is this the right time to do this?' is, indeed, a very good question I've been asking myself all week. Ehhh... I don't know. It sure does change alot of things, in my mind. If this was very far off from the story, shoot me an email, okay?

> Charmed-Fantasia >> Really??? Your parents did the 'hook-up' thing with you too?! Waaahhh, no way! How did it go? :) I'm glad you like the topic matter-- much thanks for your review!

> Kaika Nozomi >> Jae, an interruption? ahahaha Yeah, that might be it. How's that saying go again? 'Trauma builds character'? ehehehe ^^ More fluff.. ah yes. Getting to that, too. Whee!!

> DevilishlySticky >> Thanks for reading, dude! And the review, too. ;) I'm on my happy-cloud now... ehehehe

> ex >> Yep yep!! :) :) Editing away to my heart's content!!