Publish Date: 08/31/2015
I swing my leg over the edge of the window ceil, hitting the nightstand before landing on the hardwood floor below my feet.
“Shh!” Violet hisses. It’s barely audible over my pounding heart, but my adrenaline allows me to figure it out and soften my steps as I tiptoe across the room. Tonight ranks at the top ten of things I’m sure I’ll go to hell for. I’m not proud of myself at this exact moment, but it’s not as bad as most of the things I do. Sneaking out to party all night. All teenagers have to try it at least once right?
“We still need to make it to my room and then we’re in the clear,” she says, before putting her ear to the door and listening to make sure no one is out in the hallway. Her parents have a tendency to roam the halls late at night. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, strangers appear on their doorstep. They knock until Mr. Cromwell gets out of bed, cursing the entire time, and gives them what they want. A fix is a fix, and an addict doesn’t have manners. At least the ones I’ve met.
“Quit your complaining and get out of my room.” Violet’s older brother, Mischa, pulls his shirt over his head, flips his MP3 player on, and flops onto the bed still wearing his shoes and jeans. I divert my eyes from his smooth chest and curse the tequila buzzing through my veins. Alcohol does crazy things to me.
His sister throws a pillow across the room at him and hisses. “You shut up, Mischa. Just because Mom and Dad always let you off the hook for anything and everything doesn’t mean I want to spend the entire summer break grounded.”
Violet slides to the floor with her back against her door and puts her face in her hands. She’s still drunk. In fact, so am I. Believe it or not, I’m the more responsible one, so I always feel the need to make sure she’s okay. I put my hand on her clammy forehead and put a wastebasket in front of her.
“If you puke, be quiet,” I tell her as I pull pieces of her purple streaked hair away from her face. The insistent bickering between the two siblings is almost too much to take at times. Violets had too much to drink, but not enough to cause alarm. She’ll be fine.
“You two aren’t my problem,” Mischa mumbles. “You wanted to go on this little adventure with me, I didn’t invite you along.”
“Hey,” I protest. “You were the one who handed her the beer.”
He puts his hands behind his head. “I handed you a beer too. Doesn’t make your big ass my responsibility. Now if you don’t mind, get back to her room before my parents wake up. It’s almost dawn.”
I give him a slightly frazzled look, but don’t dare argue. My ass isn’t big, either.
I know he’s joking with me like always, but I have to hold back from walking over to the mirror and looking at it.
“Did you at least have fun tonight?” I ask.
“Just as much as you did, and I saw how much fun you were having with that bowtie guy.”
Bowtie guy has a name, but I can’t remember it. I think I possibly had a class with him freshman year. It doesn’t really matter though. He was cute, available, and in the right place at the right time. Putting my hands on my hips, I wink. “A little jealous are we?”
He isn’t amused. Instead, the muscles in his face tighten up, and he straightens up as if he’s trying to make a very serious point. “I don’t get jealous, especially not over you.”
I do the normal teenage eye rolling. All I want is to pass out in Violet’s bed before her parents start blasting Rush on the record player. God-forbid teenagers sleep in on a Saturday morning.
Violet’s room is right next to Mischa’s. We would have snuck out her window, but her parents nailed the thing shut after they caught her climbing out a few months ago. She wasn’t so much as climbing in as she was trying to sneak in one of her many conquests. It’s funny how different Mischa and Violet are treated. I don’t have any brothers or sisters, but you’d think the same rules would apply to all the kids.
“Can I have my keys back?” I hold out my hand. He gives me a mysterious grin before reaching into his pocket and pulling out a small gold keychain. He dangles them above my head, beyond my reach.
“Can you say please?”
I swipe at them once. “Gimme my keys, Mischa or I swear you will never drive it again.”
My threat makes his green eyes soften. I’m his and Violet’s personal chauffeur. While my parents bought me a car at sixteen, their parents can barely keep one of their own running. It’s constantly breaking down, which means I have to help them get groceries at least once a week, take Violet to school, and drive us to all the parties.
He lowers the keys a bit. When I reach out, he lifts them higher just to spite me. “Now come on. No reason to act that way. You know you love me.”
My face heats, which I hope he doesn’t notice in the dim moonlight. If he only knew.
“I hate you, Mischa Cromwell.”
“No, you don’t. You love me. All the girls love me.”
“That’s disgusting. You’re Violet’s brother.”
“So?” He lets the key dangle down further, but this time allows me to snatch it from his hand.
“Thank you. And for your information, you’re too old for me.”
He gathers his dark hair into a ponytail, exposing his high cheekbones and smooth skin. The front isn’t quite long enough so it falls back into his eyes. “Now come on. I’m twenty-one, you’re sixteen. It’s legal in Georgia.”
“And if we cross the line into Tennessee… I suddenly become jailbait.”
He stills, thinking over what I said. “I wouldn’t do that anyway. You’re like my little sister.”
It’s painful to hear, but I keep a still expression. “Violet would kill you.”
I try to walk over to where my best friend lay passed out on the floor, but he grabs my hand. My blood pressure quickens. I can feel the hormones pulsing through my veins, begging me to slap him and jump him at the same time. The problem is, this is just a game to him. Flirting with all of Violet’s friends. But this is the first time he’s done it to me. We’ve attended dozens of parties, spent hours in the car together, and even slept in the same bed, but I’ve always been sexually invisible to him.
I’d spent every waking moment trying to get Mischa Cromwell to notice me. I’d parade around in cute little clothes and try to seem grown up. For years, I lived in the shadows of every other prettier, skinnier girl. I’d see him on the street, at the diner, at the fair, and wish he’d look my way. He was the town bad boy. The guy all the parents warned their daughters about. Last year, the greatest thing happened. Violet was assigned to me for private tutoring in the after-school program where I volunteered and suddenly we were best friends. I had my in.
“I can’t help it you got so hot. What happened to your...” He puts his fingers to the bridge of his nose.
“I got contacts.” I instinctively reach up and run my fingers across my eyebrows. Those things made me look dorky.
“And the…” He nods to my chest with a look of hunger in his eyes.
I cross my hands in front my low cut shirt and take a slow deep breath to keep myself from fainting.
Don’t pass out.
But he’s flirting with you. Really flirting with you.
“I’ve obviously grown up.”
“You sure have.” He wiggles his tongue at me in a way that makes my insides molten hot. He grabs my arm and pulls me onto the bed with him. As we hit the mattress, I can already feel him hard against my thighs. I’m not a virgin, but he’s had way more experience than all the other boys I’ve been with combined. I let myself wonder for a moment how it would feel. No doubt, he’d know all the right moves. He’d be able to satisfy me in the ways the others hadn’t.
“You’re drunk, Mischa,” I say, pretending to play hard to get. All he has to do is say the word, and I’d give everything up for him. Violet being passed out in the corner is the only thing stopping me from kissing him right here and now. I think with my heart, he thinks with his dick. It’s a messy situation if you ask me. A ticking time bomb for failure.
He pushes my brown hair off my face and looks me in the eyes. “How many guys have you been with, Cody?”
I push off of him into a standing position. A sudden need to impress him flows through me, but my real number is embarrassing. More than I care to admit.
“Just a few.”
Before he can answer, I walk over to Violet and kick her with the edge of my shoe.
“Violet, wake up. We’re in Mischa’s room.”
She stirs and opens her eyes slightly. “How did we get in here?”
“We just got home, remember? We need to get in your room before your parents wake.”
I bend down and throw her arm over my shoulder. She’s smaller than me by almost five inches and at least four sizes. Blonde hair, blue eyes, and beautiful. All the things guys go crazy for.
Me, on the other hand, am curvy, tall, my teeth could be a little straighter, and my butt could be a little smaller. I hate my cheeks and my eyes are too small.
“Can you take me to the liquor store tomorrow…or I guess that’s tonight? I’ve got some heavy plans,” Mischa says, hopping off the bed and sprinting across the room towards the door to open it.
“What? Watching Water World in your boxers?” Violet gives her brother the finger and stumbles against me.
“Whoa there!” I cry out.
“Shhh!” She sprays my face with the smallest bit of spit, and I wipe it away with a look of disgust.
“Say it, don’t spray it.”
Her eyes are glassy but she still manages to slur out some words. “Just take him tomorrow. Maybe he’ll buy us some vodka.”
Mischa sticks out his bottom lip causing the cutest dimple to show in his left cheek. I can’t say no to that face. His eyes sparkle with amusement, as if he knows exactly what he’s doing to me.
“Mischa…I have a date tomorrow night.”
“With who? Some little boy? Please?”
Violet joins in with him by placing her arms in front of her in a pleading pose. “Please, Cody! Help us get drunk.”
With an exasperated sigh, I drop my shoulders. “Fine. One ride to the liquor store. You pay for my gas and buy me a few bottles of liquor.”
Mischa spins around and falls back on his bed. “You’re the best, girl. I really owe you one.”
You have no idea.
Violet and I sneak back to her bedroom, locking the door behind us. After flopping down on her twin-size mattress, I curl up next to her and close my eyes. He said I’m the best. The best!
I can’t open my eyes. Sleep is so close. “Huh?”
“Do you wanna sleep with my brother?”
I’m not sure what to tell her. She knows I’ve had a little bit of a crush on him since grade school, but she doesn’t know the extent.
“Why do you say that?”
“You two were flirting back there.”
“It’s just fun and games. Why? Would you be mad?”
She doesn’t answer right away. “No, but it would be weird.”
“Well not to worry. Mischa is twenty-one, lives at home with no job or no car. Why would I want to hook up with him?”
“The same reason why every other girl sleeps with him. He’s hot.” She makes a gagging noise.
“He is cute.” And with those last words, I roll over and try and savor the one solid hour of sleep I’ll probably get.
As expected, I’m awoken a few hours later by Tom Sawyer blasting through the speakers of Violet’s father’s record player. I hold a cotton pillow over my head but it does little to block the bass vibrating the small house.
“I hate your parents,” I mumble. I long for the comfort of my own bed, my own room, but sneaking out of my place is unimaginable. My parent’s set the alarm every evening at ten o’clock whether I’m in bed yet or not. My mom is too drugged up to even realize when I’m there or even care when I’m gone.
Violet doesn’t answer; she’s used to sleeping over the music. I get up so I can get showered and go home. I creep down the hallway, careful not to run into Violet’s mother. The entire house smells like pot, which means both parents are up. I sneak through the hallway, but check the living room before I walk past. There’s a stranger in the living room and Violet’s dad is weighing something out on a digital scale. When I’m certain no one is looking, I hurry past through the hallway. I’m almost in the safety of the bathroom when Mrs. Cromwell steps out of her bedroom across the hallway.
“Cody! Don’t you think that it’s about time? I always swore it would be, but I don’t know where to go.”
My mouth is open slightly, unsure of what to say, so I smile and nod. Violet’s mother is slightly schizophrenic. I’ve caught her talking crazy to herself on more than one occasion.
Once I’m in the bathroom, I pull off my clothes and start the shower. In my bra and undies, I pull my toothbrush from one of the drawers and squeeze a bit of toothpaste on it.
Midbrush, the bathroom door flies open and Mischa comes barreling in with only a pair of boxers on.
“Get out, I gotta piss.”
I should move, but I’m in such a state of shock at Mischa opening the door I could of swore I locked, that I can’t.
“Whatever.” He lifts the toilet seat and as the sound of him peeing fill the room, I quickly spit out the toothpaste and rinse my mouth out. I want to peek. I should peek, but I don’t. I throw my shirt back on before Mischa can sneak a peek, but the sting from someone slapping my ass causes me to spin around with a horrified expression.
“Did you just smack me?”
“Sure did. There’s only one bathroom in this house. Better believe I can get in whenever I feel like it. Though I figured Violet was in the shower. Sorry, but it was an emergency.”
I cross my hands in front of my chest. “You’re a boy. Go pee outside.”
“Yeah right, and give everyone in Betty a free view of the goods?
“Yes mam.” He gives a friendly salute, but his eyes still travel over my curves.
He slips out the door, and I relock it behind him. Unwilling to let him catch me naked, I jump into the shower with my underwear still on. It’s hard to wash with the fabric covering me, but somehow I manage to clean the necessary parts. I get out and with the towel around me, shimmy out of my bra and panties. Safely back in Violet’s room, I get dressed.
“Did you know your brother can get into the bathroom while it’s locked?” I pull my shirt over my head.
She stretches her hands over her head, still half asleep. “Yeah, he does that sometimes.”
“Well he caught me in my underwear.”
She snickers and sits up in bed. “Speaking of peepshows, wasn’t last night wonderful?”
“I suppose for you,” I mumble. I throw on a maxi dress and pull my brown wet hair into a bun on top of my head.
She spent the entire night making out with some random guy, and I spent most of the night watching over her to make sure she didn’t get raped by some random guy.
Her eyes get wide as she suddenly remembers today’s plans. “You still taking us to the liquor store?”
“Yeah, but not until after dinner, okay? I have a date with Aaron tonight.”
“Really? That drunk? He’s so annoying. Why don’t you dump him?”
I grab the rest of my stuff from the floor of her room and stuff it in my large purse.
“I don’t know. He’s nice to me sometimes plus he’s got his own place now.”
She leaves it at that because she and I both know what I really mean. He likes me. Aaron isn’t that bad. He’s kind of cute, but there’s nothing special there. The sex is boring, his roommates are annoying. I could go on and on with the things he does that bugs me. He’s a year above me and a senior who graduates in just a few short weeks.
“I’ll drop by after dinner. See you later.”
I swing my bag over my shoulder and blow her an air kiss before making my way out into her living room.
“Leaving so soon, Cody?” her dad asks. He’s hunched over the coffee table that’s covered in empty sandwich bags. I can only imagine what’s he’s gonna fill them with.
“Yup, my parents just called.”
He motions toward the chair so I sit for a brief minute. He talks a bit more about something I don’t care about. I pretend to be interested, but instead my thoughts keep drifting toward how much Mischa and his father look alike. Same tall build, long hair, beautiful eyes. Mr. Cromwell has not aged well. Drinking, drugs, and stress will do that to you. His eyes are that same clear sea green as Mischa’s. It’s no secret that Mr. Cromwell broke a few hearts in his time, and Mischa is well on his way to breaking his father’s record.
“Here’s some new product. Why don’t you try it and let me know what you think?” Mr. Cromwell hands me a baggie with white powder. I’ve never tried cocaine before, but in the interest of not being rude, I push it into my pocket.
I go home to make an appearance and sleep the rest of the day away. At five o’clock, my Mom and her friends wake me with their laughing outside by the pool. I try and sleep over it, but the damage has already been done.
Rolling out of bed, I open my blackout curtains, letting my eyes adjust to the bright sun. She’s having some sort of luncheon I didn’t know about. Not that my parents tell me about their plans often. I had a nanny until I was twelve, but by then I was old enough to take care of myself. My mother is one of those people who believe appearances are everything. There are two parts of our town. The community on the east side, where we live, and the rundown houses on the west side. The school, post office, grocery, and main street are all that divide the two worlds. If my mom ever caught me hanging out at Violet’s place, she’d threaten to disown me.
Downstairs, I grab my favorite mug out of the cupboard and make some coffee. I only pray my mom stays outside until I’ve had a cup or two.
The back door flies open, and I cringe. No such luck.
“Dakota, I didn’t realize you were home.” Her voice is crisp, like nails on a chalkboard.
“My cars in the driveway.” I turn away and fill my cup. My mother and I aren’t going through some teenage crisis, we’ve never gotten along. I’m a minor annoyance on the backburner of her life.
“I’m leaving for a charity luncheon in New York in an hour. Your father wanted me to remind you to visit your grandmother tomorrow.”
“Visit Nona, check.” I shoot an imaginary bullet her way with my pretend finger gun. She shakes her head to show her disapproval. Nona is my father’s mother, and not your typical old granny either. She speaks her mind, listens to rap music, and loves to dye her hair all different colors. I’m convinced my parents but her in a retirement home because they were embarrassed of her. Not me though. She and I have always been close.
“Do me a favor and go upstairs until I leave.” My mother checks her reflection in the microwave and runs her fingers across the wrinkles on her forehead that are covered by a pound of makeup. No matter how hard she tries to deny it, she’s getting older.
“Dear, have you seen my drink?” Someone burst through the backdoors, and when I recognize who it is, I almost spray my coffee out.
“Um, hello, Senator.” I say to our next-door neighbor. The guilty look on his face tell me he didn’t realize my mother had company.
“Dakota. How is school.”
I scoff and hop off my chair. “How’s your wife?”
I expect silence so I take my coffee and go back up to my room. Who knows if my mother is really having an affair with the senator, but I wouldn’t discount it. By the time my date with Aaron comes around, I’m feeling much more alert. I drive to the new apartment he shares with a few other guys in our class. It’s near the college where he will be attending in a few months, but not too far away. Betty is a small town, population just under one thousand. On a weekend, we only have ourselves to keep us company. If we want a good time, we go to Atlanta. When I pull up to the apartment, I see that it’s already packed with random strangers. I push through the crowd into the living room. It’s not hard to find Aaron among a bunch of guys huddled around a pool table. He’s the only one wearing a sport coat. Style over comfort.
All the guys wave when they see me. I wave back, but don’t get any closer. I don’t understand why there’s a party going on. We’re supposed to be having a nice quiet date night.
“Cody, come join us!” one of them yells.
Their acquaintances, but not really friends. We all go to the same school, but they’ve never talked to me there. None of them really knew I existed until Aaron and I began dating. He hangs out with the football players, I hang out with the members of the chess team. Hung out would be the correct term. I’m not on the chess team anymore. Too many weekend obligations. Correction, too many parties.
“Aaron, I thought we were going out for dinner.”
He holds up a bottle of liquor. “Sorry, babe. Just spent all my money on this little bottle.”
It’s not surprising, but I’m a little annoyed and irritable from my lack of food.
“Okay, do you want to get me something to drink?”
“What?” He attempts to yell over the sound of the music but is unsuccessful.
He hands his pool stick to the guy beside him and he grabs my hand to pull me upstairs. Once he closes the door to his room, he turns back to me and hands me the liquor bottle.
“I don’t feel like drinking tonight.” I push it away.
“I bet you feel like something a little harder then…” He motions to the front of his pants before kissing my neck.
“Aaron,” I warn. “I just want to go out on that date you promised me.”
“Some other time, I promise.” He hands me a joint and I take a small hit, hoping it will cure my hangover headache. I continue to let him rub up on me while kissing my neck. After a few minutes, I’m bored out of my skin. I don’t know anyone here, and sitting in the dark isn’t my idea of a good date.
“I don’t have time for this. I promised Mischa and Violet I’d take them to the liquor store and I’d rather get it over with.”
“Sweet! Can you bring us back a few bottles of tequila?” He digs around in his back pocket for some twenties. His entire paycheck will be gone by morning, and he’ll spend the rest of the week complaining about it.
“It’s an hour to the liquor store and back. I don’t feel like coming back out here tonight.”
I’m a huge pushover. I wish it wasn’t that way, but I spend too much time trying to please everyone. “Fine. I’ll drop it off, but I’m not going back inside here. You better meet me outside when I call.”
I grab the money from his hand and go back into my BMW. It’s a Saturday night. I should be out having fun. Football games, dates, and parties. Instead, I’m stuck helping other people get drunk. Because I’m such a good friend. Or possibly the worst friend in the world. I don’t know which right now.
I pull up my phone and send a text to Violet to let her know I’m on my way and to be ready.
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