“Are you sure Mama and Papa won’t find out where we are?” Jasper asked for what felt like the hundredth time.
Phoenix just laughed as he continued making his way through the huge, beautiful house toward the kitchen. They’d been at the party for barely five minutes, and his brother was already panicking. He definitely needs a drink.
“It’ll be fine.” Tam gently rubbed his hand up and down Jasper’s back for a moment. “You saw Phee… He totally nailed that Bluff check!”
The other boy laughed in reply. “Yeah, you’re right… I’m sure it’s gonna be fine.” Jasper smiled softly at him. “Thanks.”
As they finally entered the kitchen, Phoenix was pleased to find several full cups laying out on the counter for the taking. He picked one up and handed it to his younger brother. “Here you go!” He cried happily.
Jasper eyed the liquid in his cup uncertainly. “What is it?”
“No idea… Just drink it!”
Bryce let out a small cheer as the younger boy took a large gulp of his drink.
“BLEGH!” Jasper smacked his lips unpleasantly, wincing. “Is it supposed to taste like that?! It’s disgusting…”
Phoenix laughed. “It takes practice… but you’ll get used to the taste after a while.”
Tam nudged Jasper gently in the side. “Hey, sounds familiar, doesn’t it?”
The other boy giggled, smacking Tam playfully on the arm as he did so.
Though he had no idea what was so amusing, Phoenix was relieved to see his brother loosening up already. He lifted his own glass and took a long sip. Jasper was right — whatever concoction was in those cups was terrible… But then, who drank alcohol for the taste anyway?
“Alright, everybody have a drink?” Phoenix asked his friends with a smile.
They all nodded, raising their glasses.
“Perfect… Let’s go!”
The party was already in full-swing by the time they’d arrived. It was easy to blend in with the crowd and mingle for a while. But, much to Phoenix’s dismay, it was not long before he was left to do so on his own.
Bryce and Meg had wandered off together like they usually did. And, with every drink they each had, Jasper and Tam seemed to be paying more and more attention to each other, and less to him.
Feeling like a third wheel was already bad enough… But a fifth wheel? That was even worse.
Still, Phoenix managed well enough mingling on his own. It wasn’t exactly how he’d planned on spending his evening… But at least Jasper was having fun. And there was certainly no shortage of other people he could talk to.
In fact, he was just about to strike up a conversation with a couple of his classmates when he felt a soft tap against his shoulder.
“Oh, hey Gigi.” Phoenix felt his cheeks grow warm at the sight of her, and he could not be entirely certain whether the alcohol was to blame.
Much to his dismay, she’d been avoiding him at school all week. This was the first time he’d spoken with her since their awkward rendezvous in the closet last weekend. One look at her face told him she was a little tipsy… Though she definitely seemed less drunk than she’d been the last time he’d seen her.
“Hey, Phoenix. I was hoping I’d see you here tonight. I’ve really been wanting to talk to you.” The words spilled from her mouth very quickly. It was difficult to catch all of them. “I’m sorry I didn’t do it sooner. I should’ve talked to you at school, but it felt really weird and I didn’t wanna do it front of Marco or anything… ”
“It’s okay.” He assured her. The alcohol seemed to bring out a softer, more vulnerable side to her, just as it had before. It was refreshing to see it again. “Wanna sit down?” His head was already becoming pleasantly fuzzy… sitting down for a few minutes would probably do him some good.
With a grateful nod, Gigi followed him toward the couch.
Phoenix felt his heart rate climbing as she took a seat beside him. Something about having her so close made him excited, but nervous too… Why? They’d both already had their hands down each other’s pants before… Shouldn’t he be able to handle sitting next to her? He just felt so much pressure. Alright, just stay calm. Don’t blow it!
“I just wanted to apologize.” Gigi quickly broke the brief silence that had fallen between them. “For what happened last weekend, I mean. I’m not usually ‘that type of girl’, if you know what I mean?” She bit her lip nervously. “I just had way too much to drink and you’re just so cute and I…” Gigi shrugged, leaving the sentence unfinished. “I know it made things super weird between us, and I just wanted to say sorry.”
He smiled softly. “You’re talking like it’s all your fault or something… pretty sure we’re both equally to blame.” He laughed for a moment. “And I’m not usually that type of guy either… But for what it’s worth… I really liked it.” Of course, there were some parts of it he’d disliked too, but he wasn’t about to tell her that.
He watched her already-flushed cheeks grow darker. “I liked it too.” Gigi confessed. “But I was thinking maybe we could, like… ‘start over’ or something? Pretend that stuff in the closet never happened… Maybe actually get to know each other better or something?” She suggested.
He raised an eyebrow at her. “But… we already know each other, don’t we?”
“Barely.” She laughed softly. “We never really had any classes together before this semester, did we? And now, all I really know is the Phoenix who goes to the gym and tries out for the talent show… And I guess who gets drunk at parties too.” Gigi shook her head slowly, smiling. “But that’s not the real you, is it?”
“It’s not.” Phoenix confessed, chuckling softly. “And I guess I’m still trying to figure out who the real Gigi is too…”
Was it the cool, confident girl at school who hung out with Marco? Or that shy, sweet girl he’d messed around with in the closet?
Or maybe they were both real.
Before she had the chance to reply, a loud cry of surprise filled the air. “FELIX?! Oh my God, hi!”
If he were somewhere else — hell, anywhere else — he might have been happy to see her again. Instead, a wave of dread washed over him as Amna took a seat on his other side.
“Hey, Amna.” He forced a smile. “Never thought I’d run into you here!”
“Me neither! A few friends from the football team dragged me along…” Her face fell for just a moment. “I’m still so bummed you couldn’t try out for the team. But it looks like you’re finally feeling better! How’s your training going?” She asked.
“Training?” Gigi asked, staring quizzically at Phoenix. “Training for what?”
“Football, duh!” Amna smiled teasingly. “I know hurting his foot was a huge setback. Still lots of work to do to get back out there, I bet.” Her face fell slightly once more.
Gigi continued staring at him. “Football? You play football too?” She almost laughed. “Maybe Marco wasn’t kidding about that huge list of hobbies, huh?”
“Wow, Felix… This, uh, friend of yours doesn’t really seem to know you very well…” A glimmer of something flashed across Amna’s eyes as she spoke. Bitterness? Jealousy?
“Felix? You mean Phoenix?”
Aw, fuck. Phoenix picked up his drink from the coffee table and chugged down the rest. It almost helped.
He placed his cup back on the table in front of him, trying to figure out what to say next, when another cry of greeting reached his ears.
Hallie staggered over toward the couch, dropping herself rather unceremoniously onto Phoenix’s lap. Every breath she took filled his nostrils with the bitter scent of vodka. Holy shit, she’s fucking wasted.
“Whoops! Sooooorry! Am I interrupting something?” She asked with a giggle.
Phoenix shook his head, trying as hard as he could to ignore the way she was wiggling in his lap. “Uh… It’s fine… We were just hanging out.”
“Um, Felix? Who’s this?”
“Why do you keep calling him that?!”
Phoenix desperately wished he had another drink he could chug down.
“Wowwwww…. No offense, but I never thought I’d ever see you surrounded by a bunch of girls at a party…” Hallie continued, ignoring the other girls’ comments. “But… here we are! Ha!” She squeezed her arms even more tightly around his shoulders as she spoke. Whether it was out of affection or to keep her balance, Phoenix wasn’t sure.
Amna finally rose to her feet, the disgust apparent on her face. “Um, well… I guess I’ll let you go? I should probably go find my friends again anyway. But it was really nice to see you again, Felix.” With a small wave, she headed back into the small crowd of partygoers.
“Who’s Felix?!” Hallie cried after her, much too loudly. Several people around them turned to stare.
Phoenix shushed her harshly, finally pushing her off his lap and onto the couch beside him.
Hallie simply giggled. “Sooooorry!”
“Holy shit… she’s a mess!”
“I know.” Phoenix’s voice was pained. “Sorry, Gigi… I didn’t think things were gonna get so weird…”
“Me neither.” She agreed almost sadly. She looked so uncomfortable. “Guess I’ll let you take care of Hallie… I’m probably gonna start asking around for a ride home soon anyway. I’m pretty tired. But I guess I’ll see you around?”
“Yeah, see you around… And I really am sorry, Gigi.” He apologized yet again. Why did Amna and Hallie have to show up?! Worst timing ever…
“It’s okay, Phoenix… Or is it Felix? I guess I can’t keep track anymore…”
Phoenix couldn’t tell whether she was angry or simply teasing him. She had already walked away before he could learn the answer.
“Finally! We’re alone!” Hallie cried out as soon as Gigi was out of earshot. “UGH! I thought they’d never leave.”
“Hey, why don’t we find you some water, okay?” Phoenix asked gently. “You stay here, and I’ll come back with some.”
“Noooo!” Hallie shook her head. “I wanna talk to you, Phoenix! Alone.” The girl rose very shakily to her feet. “Come on!”
She beckoned for him to follow as she disappeared back in the direction of the kitchen. Phoenix felt like he had no choice but to follow.
After taking several wrong turns, Hallie finally led him to one of the bathrooms which, thankfully, was unoccupied. As soon as they were both inside, Hallie locked the door behind them.
Phoenix sighed heavily. Why was she doing this? What could she possibly want to talk to him about? Especially when she’s drunk off her ass like this!
“Alright… What is it?” He asked her at last. “You’ve got me alone… So what do you want?”
Her lips curled into a smile. “You.”
A/N: Stay tuned… The party will continue Wednesday 😉