I’ve been to these parties before and know the bathrooms can be pretty disgusting even before the big rush to use them is on. So I excused myself to use the rather decent ones there while Dan polished off the pizza. By the time I returned, the table had been cleared and I wasn’t able to spot Dan anywhere, which seemed odd because he’s so tall. It was Billy who spotted me and sidled up next to me.
“Dan had to run to the auto supply store real quick,” he said. I gave a start. “Sorry, didn’t mean to spook you.”
“’S okay. Was I really gone that long? “ I suppose my annoyance spilled out with my words. He grinned wryly.
“Car nerds, babe. You run second to the machine. Better be okay with it or you’ll be in for a bumpy ride.”
I frowned. Yes, I had my “agenda” and no, I wasn’t looking for long term, marriage material or even someone to tag along with or have to tow along to holiday dinners back home, but the idea of taking the proverbial backseat wasn’t –pardon the pun—sitting well with me at that moment. “Nice,” I quipped.
“Sorry,” Billy steered me to Lindsey who was enshrouded by a throng of whooping testosterone. “Hope you don’t mind, but I offered to take you with us and he’ll me us there.”
What was I supposed to do? What could I do?
Lindsey reluctantly allowed herself to be pulled away, but not before shouting out the address of the party. I blinked. She then added: “it crosses eleventh.”
Suddenly I was anxious to get going.
“How do we get there?” Billy was asking Lindsey who was busy fiddling with the radio.
“Turn left,” I called out from the backseat. He glanced into the rearview mirror appreciatively at me. “Right at the next light and then down six blocks.”
Lindsey took over from there. Turned out we were in a neighborhood across from the swanky one Highlights lived in. Oh how I ached to take a walk and go hunting. Instead, I drank beer and pined, staring at the rooftops glowing from a distance with that expensive ambience lighting people with too much money like to casually toss around.
Dan showed up, but I gave him the cold shoulder. Not too cold. He was my ride home provided I let him stay close enough and was sure he hadn’t been drinking too much. But he didn’t’ seem to notice, instead, he thought it was something else.
“Hey!” Lindsey cheerfully grinned, weeding her way over to us. “I’m putting together some teams for a game of beer pong, wanna play?”
“Beer pong?” Dan blinked. I elbowed him.
“Sure, we’ll play,” I quickly said.
“Awesome! Go line up over there,” she pointed at a table across the way, set up in the partitioned off driveway.
“What’s beer pong?” He leaned in and asked as I began moving toward the table.
“You going to play?” Billy wove his way up to us.
“I want to, but Dan doesn’t know how.”
“That’ll suck, then. Why don’t we partner up and then he can watch,” Billy suggested, looking up at Dan.
“Cool, I could do that,” Dan nodded and Billy waved him to follow him around to the other side of the table next to him, across from me and began explaining the game.
How it works is you have a line of people on either side, each with a plastic cup filled with beer. The first pair drinks all the beer in their cups, then rests the cup on the edge and smacks it down, hopefully with enough velocity at the right angle so that the cup turns upside down. Once both cups are over, the next pair goes. It’s difficult to get the cups to flip over the first time and some make it even more exciting by refilling the cups if yours doesn’t flip correctly the first time. I, myself, prefer quarters especially on windy nights—but that night, although it was chilly, the air was still.
Billy and I were the third pair and had quite a wait as the two before us were having trouble getting their cups to flip. Dan tired of standing around waiting and wandered off, no doubt to talk shop with a couple of buddies he bumped into earlier in the evening.
“You any good at this?” Billy called over to me. I simply grinned and shrugged. He comically rolled his eyes, then chugged his beer and set down the red cup for the flip. I held my breath. It didn’t work. The cup bounced off the edge and tumbled downward. He snatched it up and traded it for another, set it down and waited for me to go.
“Watch carefully,” I said before I guzzled mine. He did and much to both of our surprise, the cup landed perfectly on the table. Wow, we both mouthed, eyes wide open as we stared at one another. “Your turn, hot shot,” I jeered.
His set up was more careful, more precise and entailed a prolonged eye-leveling gaze complete with his tongue protruding from his teeth. I covered my mouth to keep from laughing. And then, with one sudden, fluid motion, he set the cup into the air and we watched as it turned and fell, teetered then wobbled coming so close to the edge that everyone watching gasped and several who hadn’t, snapped their heads in his direction just as it came to a standstill. He did it! I spontaneously broke out into applause.
“Where’d Dan go this time?” He asked as he handed me another cup of beer and we playfully toasted one another.
“Probably off talking about cars,” I answered trying not to let on that it bothered me.
“I’m sorry,” he said and I could tell by the way his blue eyes looked into mine that he meant it.
“Don’t be. It’s not your fault. If anyone’s to blame, it’s me for even thinking…”
“Don’t do that to yourself. You don’t deserve it. I happen to think you’re worth more than that.”
“You do?” I stared at him openly. He nodded. Some guys know about cars, others know how to work girls. Billy was the later. “Thanks.”
“So come talk with me,” he guided me by my elbow. “Where are you from?”
“Suisun,” the lights faded behind us as we neared the street.
“A little. Not the town as much as home. What about you?”
“I’ll bet you don’t miss that much,” we sat on the curb.
“I do actually, a little. There you’re no-body. Here, well, seems like no matter where you go, someone knows you. I kink of like blending in better.”
Made sense. I nodded as he fished a pack of cigarettes out of his pocket.
“Want one?” He offered. I’m not a smoker, but have been known to have one or two when I’ve been drinking. They were Marlboro’s. I nodded. He pulled one out, put it to his lips, lit it and took a hit, then handed it to me as he twisted his lips sideways and blew the smoke out.
“De nada,” he lit one for himself then slid the lighter and pack back away. Lindsey’s laughter rose up over the crowd. Billy grimaced and shook his head. I was filled with questions like how long they had been together, had they known each other before he moved here or since, was it serious? But then I heard myself asking why did I care? Why was it my business? Why did I want to know? I watched him blow a smoke ring instead.
“You don’t strike me as a quiet one,” he said as he watched the circle float up toward the streetlight. I laughed. “You’re not, are you?”
“No, not ordinarily. My dad calls me a chatterbox on steroids.” Billy chuckled.
“So why aren’t you now?”
I succumbed to a stupid, coy shrug. “I guess it’s because I’ve been trying to work a puzzle I overheard earlier today.”
“Yeah? What about?” His head pivoted as he looked at me. I stared ahead at a Jeep parked across the street as I recounted the conversation I overheard at the diner.
“Spooky,” he said with a mock shudder. I grinned. “Don’t you think so?”
“No. I’m curious more than anything.”
“Really? I’d think someone like you would be a little freaked out if not completely,” he flicked his butt out into the road. I smashed mine into the cement curb then dropped it into the gutter. “Fear is the basis of evil,” I quipped. His head fell back as he laughed lowly.
“So what are you going to do?”
“I haven’t figured that out just yet.” A group of shadows moved past us. We watched as several people stood down the way, looked up and down the street then crossed and headed up a side street back into the shadows.
“Wasn’t that Dan?” I squinted.
“I wasn’t really paying attention.”
I turned to look at him and saw him staring at me. He flashed a toothy smile.
“Do you care?”
“I guess not,” I breathed as his face moved closer to mine. My heart fluttered as the warmth of his body radiated against my face. His lips pressed against mine slowly, then parted as did mine. I tasted the cigarette and the beer as his tongue filled my mouth. My head swam deliciously. No, I didn’t care, not one little bit.
“I think,” he said as he pushed his lips against mine then pulled back just a bit. “I should take you home before I’m not able.” He pulled his keys from his pocket and pushed up from the curb then extended his hand toward me. I grabbed hold of it and let him pull me up. “Unless you’d…”
“That’s fine,” I nodded. He nodded too.
“We’ll drive by that house on the way.”
My heart pounded excitedly.
Important Note: This next portion is being stripped from the posted version of the story due to it’s ‘adult’ nature. Those who know me and vice-versa, have my email address and are interested in reading the removed portion of the story may ask. Of course, if you’re asking (Mom) make sure you really want to be doing that…