Days as a Freshman: 167
“Grace, you’re soaked” Rebecca tugged on my shirt and spoke into my ear, keeping her eyes on Justin and Sasha. The tension between them was palpable; I knew she could feel it too. “Why don’t you at least change your shirt? You can wear one of mine.”
I didn’t want to leave the living room. I didn’t want to leave Justin alone with Sasha. But Rebecca was right. I was practically dripping alcohol. Like I had just jumped into a pool full of Jack Daniels.
“Let’s just run into a room. I’ll wear my long sleeve and you can wear the camisole I have under it. It’s fine.” Rebecca kept pulling on my arm, her jitters obvious in the repetition of her actions. Even tipsy, Rebecca couldn’t let her guard down. She knew something was off. She knew something was crackling in the air, and she wanted to leave before the match was lit.
“I have to…” I looked up at Justin. “I have go change.”
“What?” Justin blinked. He looked at me as though it surprised him I was still standing there.
“I have to go change. Everyone spilled stuff on me.”
“Oh, shit, sorry, Grace,” Justin’s eyes widened as he realized that the cup he had intercepted from Sasha hadn’t just spilled onto the floor, but all over me as well. For a minute, the stoniness seeped out of his face and the boyish features pushed through, features that were scrunched in embarrassment.
“It’s fine. No problem. I’ll be right back.” I started to let Rebecca pull me towards the sea of people, keeping my gaze on the two boys. “Don’t…I mean…don’t do anything weird until I get back.”
I wasn’t sure if I had said the wrong thing, but as Rebecca pushed our way towards a doorway, I decided that someone had to say something. Justin and Sasha were communicating in half sentences. Like they wanted to talk about things in front of me but keep them just out of my reach.
But they couldn’t do that. Not anymore. I was tired of careening my neck from one person to the other, one story to the other. They were here. I was here. There was something that needed to be said.
And I was going to make them say it.
“Ugh. Alright. Make sure it locks.” Rebecca ushered us into a small bathroom and closed the door, pressing it until she was sufficiently satisfied that no one was going to come barging in. “You smell like liquor.”
“Yeah, well. Thanks to you and Sasha.”
I pulled my stained shirt up over my head, catching a whiff of what had spilled all over it. It was one of my favorite shirts; green, well worn, but still fitting. I wore it whenever I needed an extra kick of confidence. Now it was covered in stains that might never come out.
“Sorry. The alcohol must have hit me faster than I realized.” Working quickly, Rebecca took her sleeveless top off underneath her sweater, handing the camisole to me without actually looking. I couldn’t tell if she was embarrassed, trying to not to make me feel uncomfortable, or just too drunk to focus her gaze.
“Maybe we should just cut out of here early.” I switched shirts and looked at myself in the mirror, momentarily horrified at the appearance of my face in the harsh light. I was so pale. And young looking. And hardly like any of the other girls at this party. Could anyone else see how obvious it was that I didn’t belong?
Someone knocked on the bathroom door, his voice, like the rest of the crowd, muted behind the old wood. But even the volume in the background couldn’t stop my ears from recognizing Justin’s slightly subdued cadence.
“Hold on a second, we’re changing!” Rebecca pushed her hand against the door. “You know something is going on, right? Sasha and Justin suddenly can’t stand each other. It’s so obvious.”
“Grace, I need to tell you something!”
The knocking continued. I was afraid Justin didn’t hear Rebecca. I didn’t want him to think we were running away from him. “Rebecca, just let me open the door, okay?”
“Whatever’s going on, I don’t want to know.” She kept her hand on the door and looked right at me. “You know how I feel about Sammy. You know how I feel about this whole thing. I don’t want to know, okay?” She turned the knob and the door popped open. The noise from outside came rushing in, causing my brain to whirl once again.
“I don’t know how you feel about it, Rebecca.” I tried to grab her hand, but she was already pushing past Justin, keeping her face still and her eyes straight ahead. “Rebecca! Hold on—”
But the crowd swallowed her up, and Justin was suddenly in my view, walking towards me and closing the door behind him.
The bathroom suddenly felt small. Small and airless. Rebecca’s shirt suddenly felt small too, and I instinctively wrapped my arms around myself, sitting on the edge of the tub to keep some space between Justin and I. It was too much to be so near to him.
“Grace, I’m sorry. About the whole…about everything.”
“Everything?” I watched him lean against the sink, one hand holding the doorknob firmly in an attempt to keep it shut. “Why don’t you tell me what everything is then, so I can forgive you for it?”
Days as a Freshman: 167