Asher tried to keep a straight face against the unpleasant burning as the amber-colored liquid passed his lips. He placed the bottle back on the edge of his desk, still fighting back a grimace. He tried his best to smile through it.
“Okay, how much did you say that shit cost again?”
Oliver shrugged as he double-checked his tie in the mirror. Asher couldn’t understand why he kept fussing with it. He already looked absolutely delicious as-is (not that he’d ever tell him that).
“A few hundred, maybe? I dunno.” Oliver replied at last. “Mom’s liquor cabinet is full of all this fancy crap she never even touches. Only pulls it out when she has a director over for dinner or something and wants to make sure she lands the role.” He added, laughing softly. “She won’t even notice it’s gone though, don’t worry.”
Asher watched as his friend also took a swig from the large bottle. His cheeks felt a little warm, but otherwise, he couldn’t really feel anything yet. Asher wasn’t used to drinking hard stuff like this very often. How long was it supposed to take to kick in? He tried in vain to remember one of the articles he’d once read about BAC.
“Alright, putting on my eyeliner was WAY too easy… Which means I need another drink!!” Lily burst into Asher’s bedroom, now finished adding the final touches to her makeup in the bathroom.
“Sssh! Keep it down, Lil.” Asher scolded gently. “If Mom and Dad hear…”
Lily finished taking a long swig before replying. “Ash, it’s FINE. Your parents are usually cool with us drinking over here, aren’t they? And isn’t the drinking age like, 12 where your mom’s from?” She asked with a giggle.
“I think it’s 14 or 15.” He corrected her. “And yeah, they don’t mind it when we’re just hanging out HERE, but I’m not sure they’re gonna be cool with us showing up to the dance completely shit-faced.” He explained. “So just… try not to broadcast it? Please?”
With a laugh, Ollie grabbed the bottle of whiskey and handed it to Asher before taking a seat on the edge of his bed. “Dude, you need to chill… Have more of this.”
“I am chill.” Asher insisted, though he did raise the bottle to his lips once more and took another large gulp of the disgusting liquid. “Just not sure my parents will be if they find out.” He choked out over the harsh burning as he sat beside his friend.
“They won’t find out.” Lily assured him. “We’ve just gotta practice good poker faces! Or… sober faces?” She shrugged. “What we’ve really gotta worry about is when we show up for the dance… Did you guys hear the rumors about them making everybody do breathalyzer tests at Prom last year?” Lily asked her friends nervously. “Think they’ll do it at Homecoming too?”
Oliver appeared completely unconcerned. “If they do, leave it to me… I’ll make sure Mrs. Dunford lets us in, no matter how drunk we are.”
Asher felt a bit of relief at Oliver’s words. He knew that what his friend said was true — their school principal was an unapologetic fangirl of Oliver’s mother. Mrs. Dunford practically pissed herself with excitement any time Callie showed up at the school for a meeting or conference. It was hysterical. And all Oliver ever had to do was mention his mom, and he could get away with just about anything.
“And speaking of drunk…” Oliver looked between his two friends as he spoke, eyeing them appreciatively. “I dunno if it’s the booze finally kicking in or what, but can I just say that we all look fucking hot as hell right now?”
“Right?!” Lily responded brightly. “Steven’s gonna cry his eyes out when he sees what he’s missing!!” Her words were slightly slurred as she mentioned her ex.
Oliver nodded enthusiastically. “Ooh! Wanna make out in front of him tonight?” He offered Lily, a mischievous glint in his eye. It was hard to tell whether he was joking or not. “Make him think we’re fucking or something?”
She giggled brightly. “Yeah!”
Asher’s face fell. Even if it was just a trick to make Lily’s ex jealous, it saddened him to imagine being left as the third wheel yet again. Just when he finally thought he was free!
Oliver seemed to notice his friend’s change in expression. “Hey, we can work on making Landon jealous too!” He grinned at Asher as he spoke. “I mean, I’m down if you are…” He gave his friend a little wink, sending a little flutter through Asher’s stomach as he did so.
Asher felt his cheeks grow slightly warm under Oliver’s gaze… though maybe it was really just the effects of the alcohol. Oliver always made those kinds of flirty little jokes when they’d been drinking, but Asher knew he didn’t really mean it. He was such a tease!
Asher tried his best to just shrug it off. “Ha! As if. And besides, it’s not like he’ll even be able to see anybody over the wall of fangirls he’ll have surrounding him anyway. Not that I can blame them…”
As quarterback of the football team, it was practically a requirement that a pack of horny underclassmen cheerleaders followed Landon around at every social event, fighting for his attention. It was equal parts pathetic and funny as hell.
“Well, the offer still stands!” Oliver replied, still smiling. His voice was even louder this time, usually one of the telltale signs that the alcohol had started taking effect.
Before Asher had a chance to respond, the loud creaking of his bedroom door opening reached his ears. “Hey, Lily… Do you mind if I borrow some lip gloss?” Penelope asked, barging right in with the others.
“Jesus, Penny! Ever heard of knocking?” Asher cried in annoyance.
For a moment, his younger sister seemed to be formulating some kind of witty reply, but her eyes went wide when they fell on the half-empty bottle that now sat on Asher’s night stand. “What’s that?” She asked curiously, stepping closer. “Are you guys drinking in here?!”
His heart sank into the pit of his stomach. “It’s none of your business what we do in my room!”
“Yeah, well it’s Mom and Dad’s business if you’re getting drunk before the dance!” She cried back at him.
Asher narrowed his eyes at the dirty little snitch. “You wouldn’t dare…”
“Wow, Penny.” Oliver rose to his feet abruptly, standing in between Asher and his sister. “You look amazing.”
The younger girl’s expression softened immediately at his words. “Thanks… You too, Ollie.” She batted her eyelashes at him as she spoke.
“You, uh, have any guys you need to make jealous tonight?” He asked, his smile widening.
Oh my fucking God Ollie, seriously?! It was all Asher could do not to leap to his feet in protest.
Penelope appeared completely flustered and confused. “Uh, no… I… What?” She laughed a bit nervously.
“Just a stupid joke.” Oliver assured her. He paused for a moment then, his eyes flicking back to the bottle of whiskey on the table. “Hey, you want some? We’ve got plenty.” He offered.
This time, Asher could not remain silent. “What the hell?! Ollie, she’s a goddamn Freshman!”
His friend just shrugged. “Same age we were when we started drinking, right?”
Penelope’s disapproval at her brother’s drinking seemed to have completely vanished. “Sure! I’ll try some!”
Lily handed her the bottle, and joined Oliver and Asher in watching Penelope take her very first sip of alcohol.
The fifteen-year-old coughed and sputtered the moment it hit her lips, spewing some of the amber liquid onto Asher’s carpet.
“Careful!” Lily cautioned her. “You don’t wanna ruin your dress.”
Penelope took a breath, then tried again, this time managing to keep the gulp of liquid down.
“Tastes like shit, right?” Oliver asked her with a laugh. “But it’ll feel good in a little bit. I promise.”
Asher was surprised to see his little sister’s lips stretch into a smile. “Thanks, Ollie.”
“Of course! Just… don’t tell anybody, okay?” He asked softly.
“I left my gloss on the bathroom sink, by the way.” Lily chimed-in then, smiling at Asher’s younger sister. “Use as much as you want.”
“Thanks!” Penelope gave Lily and Oliver each sweet smiles, then shot her brother a quick glare before making her way back into the hallway, closing the door behind her.
Asher rounded on Oliver as soon as the door closed, but his friend was one step ahead of him.
“I know, I know… But look — It was only one sip. She barely swallowed most of it anyway! And now she feels all ‘cool’ or ‘included’ or whatever, so she won’t tell your parents.” Oliver assured him. “You’re welcome.”
Asher let out a heavy sigh. “FINE. But what about you hitting on her? What the hell was up with that?!”
He shrugged, looking almost guilty now. “Hate to say it, dude… But your little sister’s kinda hot.”
A sort of strangled sound between a laugh and groan passed Asher’s lips. “Ollie, did you seriously just…?” He felt so torn between amusement, horror, and something else he could not quite name.
“Don’t act so surprised!” Oliver scoffed. “You should’ve known this was coming eventually. Being hot totally runs in your family!”
Asher laughed brightly. “Right, says the guy whose mom was named People Magazine’s Most Beautiful Woman how many years in a row? Dude, look in a mirror.”
Lily raised her hand then, shushing them. “If you two lovebirds are done flirting, I think I hear somebody at the door.”
“Shit.” Asher muttered, hastily shoving the bottle of alcohol under his bed. “C-come in!” He called, grateful that whoever was visiting this time had at least decided to knock first.
Elaina stepped uncertainly through the doorway, smiling shyly at them. “Sorry… Mom wanted me to come get you guys. She said she wants to get some pictures before the limo gets here?” Her eyes darted between the three teenagers for a moment. “Wow! You guys all look great, by the way.”
Asher smiled warmly at his littlest sister. “Thanks, Lainey. Tell Mom we’ll be right down.”
The little girl gave a small nod before disappearing out of sight once more.
Asher turned to smile at his friends. A pleasant warmth had begun spreading through his chest, and he knew that the alcohol’s effects were slowly catching up with him. Hopefully we didn’t overdo it… Guess we’ll see, huh? “Alright guys… ready to do this?”
“Hell yeah!” Oliver replied with a grin.
Lily smiled at her two friends as she rose to her feet. “Okay, so game plan for tonight. One, make Steven as jealous as we possibly can. Two, avoid Ollie’s ex like the plague. Three, commence phase two of Operation: Get Asher Laid.”
A bright burst of laughter passed Asher’s lips at her words. “Wait, what was phase one?”
“Getting you in a suit.” Lily replied with a shrug. “Ollie’s right. You look totally hot tonight, Ash.” She gave an almost wistful little sigh before making her way toward the bedroom door. “Let’s go!”
Asher eagerly followed his friends, a wide smile on his lips as he imagined how amazing Landon would look at the dance, and wondered what sort of excitement the rest of the evening might bring.