At First Sight (excerpt)
“Welcome to your first college party, my boy.”
Dropping his arm around Abel’s shoulder, Mason Parke gave his cousin a firm squeeze as he pressed a red cup into his hand. “Welcome to the jungle,” he said.
Gazing down at the brown liquid in the cup, Abel took a deep breath and swallowed it down in one gulp, struggling to subdue the discomforted expression that tugged at his features until the burn in his throat subsided. Clapping him hard on the back, Mason said, “That’a boy. C’mon.”
Following Mason into the large house, Abel gazed around at his surroundings in awe. It was everything he expected out of a Frat party, only louder, stuffier, sweatier. The music blared from the large speakers scattered strategically, and pulsated through each room. Bodies occupied every inch of space, most of them moving, most of them against one another. Almost everyone he passed had a drink in their hand, and when they reached the kitchen, Abel realized why.
The table, the counters, even a line of coolers stationed against the wall, were occupied by alcohol. Cans of beer, bottles of rum, vodka, whisky, scotch, mixers, soft drinks, and enough untouched water to fill a well. Large kegs sat in the corner, all surrounded by people.
Mason poured himself and Abel another plastic cup of whisky. “Excuse me, ladies,” he said, meeting the gazes of two girls as he reached past them for ice. He grinned that grin of his, the one that no one— especially not any members of the opposite sex— could resist since him and Abel were kids. When they were younger, Abel had wished they’d been able to spend more time together, if only to learn how to emulate his older cousin’s irresistible charm. Not that Abel had any problems enchanting the pants off— sometimes literally— a girl or two of his own. But when Mason got a girl in his sights, when he looked at her the way he did, smiled at her the way he did, spoke to her the way he did, the results were always in his favor. Always.
“I don’t mean to interrupt, but you both look beautiful tonight,” Mason said, lowering his eyes as if he had an ounce of shy in even a single bone in his body. Of course, they both giggled, yucking it all up. Before either one of them could reply, he said, “Anyway, enjoy the rest of your night.”
Tapping Abel, he turned to walk away but one of the girls grabbed him. “We were just about to do shots. Want to join?”
“Us?” Mason said with false surprise. “Shots? Yeah, that sounds good. What do you think, Abe?”
Abel nodded. “Shots sound fantastic.”
“Alright, then, shots it is,” Mason said.
“I’m Elaine, by the way,” the taller girl said, extending her hand to Abel. She was pretty, Abel thought, but nothing special. He couldn’t imagine there weren’t at least a dozen better versions of her wandering around the place. Still, he justified, she wasn’t a bad start to the night.
“Abel,” he replied.
Her friend, shorter, blonder, with big blue eyes and pink slits for lips seemed too busy laughing too hard at one of Mason’s jokes to offer her name. “That’s Liz,” Elaine said. “You guys go to East Pine?”
“Mason does,” said Abel. “I start next week.”
Elaine tilted her head to the side and grinned. “A freshman, huh? Fresh meat?”
“Hey,” Mason cut in, “Not that fresh.”
They all laughed and Liz held up two cups. “Here guys,” she said, handing them to Elaine and Abel. Once she and Mason had theirs, they all raised them. “Toast, to the first of many,” Mason said.
The first of many what? Abel wondered. Shots? Parties? Girls? Maybe all three. Either way, he swallowed down the shot quickly before consuming another, each reaching his stomach smoother than the last. By the time he started on his second full drink, he felt the buzz of what he’d already ingested.
“Well, it was nice talking to you girls,” Mason said. “We’re going to circle the room, but hopefully we’ll catch you later?”
Looking Abel straight in the eyes, Elaine smiled and said, “Hopefully.”
He took another sip from his cup and nodded. “Nice to meet you.”
Two girls danced on either side of Abel. Both of their hands were on him, moving up his back, down his chest, around his neck and over his shoulders. They pressed themselves to him, let him press himself to them. His fingers groped them, each of them, in places he never imagined touching a girl he’d never spoken a word to. But it seemed as if the music and the flashing lights and the alcohol consumed all of them— their thoughts, their bodies, their inhibitions. Was this college? he wondered, looking down at the girl before him. Her head only came to his chest, as it was with most girls, and her head was thrown back, eyes closed, bottom lip tucked under teeth. She was sweating and her low cut shirt left little to the imagination, and her arms were around his neck. It was like a fantasy, something he’d always dreamt about when he pictured himself in college, but never thought it would actually happen. Would it always be like this?
He felt a hand on his face, pulling his gaze toward its owner. Another girl, he realized. Elaine. Her eyes told him she’d had plenty more to drink since he last saw her. Her lipstick was faded, a thin layer of sweat made her skin glisten under the dim lighting. “Dance with me!” she yelled over the music, tugging at his hand.
He let her pull him from the embrace of the two girls, neither of whom seemed to notice, and into hers. As if on cue, the music switched to slow, sexy tune. Elaine wrapped her arms around Abel’s neck and they began rocking back and forth. “I love this song,” she told him.
“Yeah, it’s a good one.” She giggled and dropped her head on his chest. “What?” he asked.
“Nothing, it’s just that…” She paused. “Don’t think I’m a slut or anything, but this song always makes me want to have sex.”
Abel’s eyebrows went up. “So why don’t you?” he asked.
She shrugged, and he wondered how girls could be so transparent. She’d basically came out and said it, why didn’t she just come out and say it?
Direct and uncomplicated. Straight to the point. Did they really need to waste the next five minutes beating around the bush? Did he really have to stand there and pretend to convince her to do something she’d already decided to do? Maybe the very first moment she set eyes on him.
“I don’t get much action these days,” she said.
“I can help you out with that,” he replied, “if you’d like.”
She giggled again, shook her head. “What could you possibly help me with, freshman?”
He stopped dancing and took a small step back. “Let’s go somewhere and I’ll show you.”
“Look at you. Starting your semester off right, huh?”
“Mine and yours, too, if you let me.”
She shrugged. “I’ve been drinking.”
“Me, too. My car’s parked outside.”
With that, she threw her head back and laughed. “You want to fuck me in your car? You’re not in high school anymore, freshman. My place isn’t far from here.”
“Your place? Just yours?” Abel couldn’t fathom such a luxury. He still lived in the tiny house he’d grown up in, with his parents and his younger sister. Him and Jade had shared a room up until just a few years ago, when they’d finally converted the basement into a bedroom for him. It was still dingy and damp and barely large enough to accommodate his height, but it was the only place in the entire house that afforded him a shred of privacy.
“I have two roommates, but they won’t mind.”
“Alright then,” he said, scanning the party for Mason. He knew his cousin would be proud. Getting laid only halfway through his very first college party. By an older girl, at that. Elaine was at least a junior, he’d guessed. His eyes moved across the whole room, then stopped abruptly upon falling on her.
She was dancing by herself, eyes closed, arms raised above her head, the sides of her full lips turned up into the shadow of a smile. She stood on the piano, above everyone else, but as she moved to the sound of the sultry beat, Abel guessed that she’d forgotten about the mass of people just below her. With a half empty bottle of whisky in her fist, her hips rocked and dipped, her free hand moved down her torso and up again, through the wild, thick bushels of unkempt curls that kept falling in her face and over her shoulders. It moved freely with her bobbing head, never staying where she moved it. Not that she seemed to notice too much.
Abel watched the slow roll of her waist and the graceful bounce of her behind, round and plump against the thin cotton of her white shorts. The back of her shirt was split completely open and his eyes moved up her long spine to where her curls reached down just past the small of her back. How long had she’d been there? At the same party as him, in the same room as him? How long had she been up on that piano, dancing like that? How had he missed her?
“Brave girl,” Elaine said, snapping Abel out of his awe-induced daze. “Wearing sandals to a party like this.”
Indeed, the girl’s feet were covered by nothing but the tan straps of her sandals, and Abel realized that even her shiny, red toenails were something to be desired. “Are you ready?” Elaine asked, nudging him. “The song is about to end. I may lose the urge.”
Abel didn’t want the song to ever end. He never wanted the girl atop the piano to stop moving. “How ‘bout I meet you at the front door in five?” he told Elaine, barely looking back at her. “I just have to go let Mason know I’m leaving.”
“What is he, your keeper?” he heard her ask, but he was already walking away from her, making his way through the crowd.
As Elaine had anticipated, the song ended. To Abel’s dismay, the girl stopped dancing. She took a swig from the whisky bottle before letting her eyes flutter open, but when they did, they fell right on him.
It was as if she could feel him making his way to her. For a moment, she stared at him, and he stared back at her, suddenly more aware than ever of how large the room actually was, and how difficult it was the maneuver through a thick horde of drunken college students.
Suddenly, the girl spun around as if someone called her name. Someone was saying something, speaking to her. She was looking behind her, down at the crowd. Don’t get down, Abel silently begged. He was afraid of losing her. But whoever it was that got her attention, was helping her off her small stage. “Wait!” Abel yelled to her. But there was no way she could hear him over the music. She wasn’t even looking at him anymore.
When he reached the piano, he shoved desperately through the remaining people that stood in his way. He could still see the back of her head as she, too, made her way through the dancing swarm. It wasn’t until he reached the kitchen was he free from the crowd’s stuffy, sweaty embrace. And there she was, too. Just feet away from him, so painfully within his reach.
And standing before her, grinning that grin of his, was Mason.
Abel instantly deflated. Of all the girls in the entire party, why did his cousin have to be speaking to her? Her.