Catch up here.
I exit my small walk-in closet wearing a simple fitted royal blue rayon sundress. I move to the bathroom and run a brush through my hair then fish out a berry colored lipstick from the makeup drawer.
I headed to J.D.’s from Brad’s the Saturday Night before finals. I rounded the corner and Jerry stumbled my way from the stairwell.
“Where ya goin’?” he slurred.
“To a party,” I answered warily.
“Come with me ‘n party.”
“No thanks, Jerry.”
“Come on,” he begged.
“No,” I said emphatically and attempted to go around him but he blocked me.
He leaned over with his lips puckered.
I took a step back. “You’re drunk. Just go.” I lifted my left arm out to the side and pointed with my index finger.
He stepped towards me and leaned over again. I brought my right hand up and slapped his cheek. His head followed the force of my hand then slowly turned back to me.
“I said, NO! I have a boyfriend, you ass!” I grabbed the sleeve of his t-shirt, dragged him to the apartment, and shoved him through the door. I pointed to Brad as he jumped up from the sofa, “Tell him when he’s sober if he tries anything again, he’s toast.”
“Are you okay?” Brad asked me as Jerry staggered to their room.
“He just tried to kiss me. Twice.” I held up two fingers for emphasis then I paced the living room shaking my hands trying to work out the adrenaline coursing through me.
“But are you okay?”
“I’m pissed off, Brad!” I stopped pacing and set my hands on my hips. “I can’t take any more of this. He went too far this time. You have to talk to him.”
“I will, I promise.”
Jerry lumbered back out to the living room towards me with his arms wide. “I’m sorry, Ari.”
I jumped back as Brad intercepted him and held him back with his hand on Jerry’s chest. “Don’t even think about touching me.” I seethed.
“But, I love-”
“You don’t know the meaning of the word!”
Paul and Philip stood gawking in their doorway as Jerry lurched forward and Brad pushed him back.
“Don’t let him follow me.” I turned on my heel and walked out. I ran up and down a flight of stairs several times to work out the shakiness.
“Hey, babes,” J.D. greeted smiling and leaving the kitchen as I arrived. Our lips brushed each other’s briefly. “I was about to call down and see if you were still there.”
“I was waylaid by Jerry,” I said exasperated as we sat next to each other on the sofa.
“What happened?” He laid his right arm around my shoulder.
I settled into him and leaned my head on his chest. “He wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer and made a pass at me. I slapped him the second time he tried then dragged him back to his place. Brad said he’d talk to him.”
He squeezed my shoulder. “We can stay back and Paul and Philip can borrow my car.”
“I’m okay. I want to see Max in case I don’t see him next week.”
Mark and Dan returned with friends and cranked up the volume on XTC playing from their room.
I sat up suddenly uncomfortable and twisted at my waist to face J.D.. “Do you mind if I lie down until we go?”
He drew me in and kissed me on the head. “Go ahead.”
I lay prone on J.D.’s bed with my right knee bent, my head facing right, and his pillow tucked between my body and my arm.
“Ari,” J.D. softly called me back from slumber.
I blinked my eyes open. He sat next to me on the bed with a hand on my shoulder.
“We’re getting ready to go.”
“Okay.” I stretched and released his pillow.
The guys enter Max’s house through the front door and lost themselves in the crowd. I navigated my way through the maze of dancing bodies to the kitchen and filled a red Solo cup with water.
“Ari!” I heard over the Bono crooning through the speakers. I spun around and searched through the throng for the voice. Max broke through grinning and kissed my cheek.
“Where are the guys?”
I shrugged. “Out there somewhere.” I gestured with my cup towards the masses then gulped down some water to hide my uneasiness. “Who are all these people?”
“Friends of my roommates.”
J.D. entered the kitchen and circled his arm around my waist. “Hey, Max.”
“Hey, mate. Where’s Paul and Philip?”
“In the hallway doing shots,” he answered distantly. He grabbed my cup of water with his free hand, took a swig then handed it back.
I looked at him curiously. He ignored me and seized my left hand pulling me behind him through the horde. Max followed with a hand on my right shoulder. We joined Paul and Philip with three guys whose eyes were already glazed.
“Ari!” Philip called. “Shot!” He offered me a shot glass with clear liquid in it. He held a bottle of Stoli in his other hand.
I took the shot glass, threw it back, and let the liquid fall down my open throat. I passed the glass back to Philip.
“WOOOOO!” the drunken strangers hooted with J.D. and Philip.
I did three more shots after the others in turn. We moved to the furniture-less dining room about fifteen minutes later. A bottle of tequila was making the rounds.
“CHUG! CHUG! CHUG! CHUG!” everyone in the room chanted when J.D. took the bottle. At least four fingers of the golden liquid were left in the bottle along with the worm. He angled his head down at me with a cocky grin and I gave him a pleading look. He strode into the middle of the room, pressed the bottle to his lips, and upended it.
I spun around to Paul. “Stop him,” I implored.
“He’ll be fine,” he said dismissively.
“He won’t be fine, Paul.”
“Let him have some fun, Ari.”
I crossed my arms in front of me with my cup pressed against my left arm. J.D. returned to my side. I held out my water but he waved it off then went with Paul and Philip to do more shots.
“What’s with them tonight?” Max asked using his right shoulder to lean against the wall.
“No idea. J.D.’s worrying me.”
“He’s not himself. It’s like he wants to drink himself into the ground.”
“I’ve never seen him like this.”
“Me neither and I’ve known him longer.”
Everyone started clearing out an hour later when the music stopped.
“Babes!” J.D. called weakly.
I pushed off the wall and rushed down the hallway with Max in tow. Paul stood in the doorway of the bathroom with Philip right behind him. I squeezed past them and found J.D. sprawled supine on the floor.
I knelt next to J.D. and cradled his face with my right hand. A tear rolled down my face. “What have you done to yourself?” I whispered. “Why?”
“I’m okay,” J.D. slurred and wrapped his left hand around my wrist weakly.
“I told you he wouldn’t be fine.” I said to Paul acidly.
“Chill out, Ari,” he retorted haughtily.
“Fuck you, Paul.” I focused on J.D. “Come on,” I said trying to get an arm under him but he was dead weight. “Dammit, guys! Help me!”
Paul and Max managed to sit J.D. up and hooked an arm under each armpit then lifted him to his feet. He swayed between them.
“I’m good,” J.D. mumbled.
“We won’t be able to get him up the stairs back at campus,” Paul stated. “He has no control right now.”
“He can stay here,” Max offered.
“I’ll stay ‘ere,” J.D. muttered. He drew his keys out of his pocket and handed them to Paul. He took an over exaggerated step into the bathtub with Paul and Max still holding on to him then sat down stretching out.
“I’ll get him a blanket¸” Max said and left the bathroom.
I held my palm out to Paul. “Give me the keys.”
“No, you’ve had almost as much as J.D. and so has Philip.”
“No,” he said defiantly.
Heat rushed to my face and I felt myself shaking. “You can either give me the keys or I can call the cops as soon as you turn the key in the ignition. Now give me the fucking keys!”
He slammed the keys in my hand and stormed out.
Max returned with a blanket and pillow. He spread it over J.D. as I leaned down and tucked the pillow behind his head. His eyes were already closed. I pressed my lips against his forehead.
“He’ll be alright,” Max assured me as I straightened.
I took in a deep breath and exhaled to compose myself. We walked out of the bathroom past Philip, who followed us to the car. I unlocked the doors and waited for Paul and Philip to get in.
Max pulled me into a hug. “See you.”
“I’ll see you later, Max. Thanks.”
Paul waited for me to reverse onto the street before he started. “You’re a real bitch.”
I gripped the steering wheel tight. “I didn’t realize looking out for the safety of friends was being a bitch. It’s better than being an asshole standing by watching his friend drink himself into a coma.”
“He’s not in a coma.”
“Shut up, Paul. I already had it out with Jerry tonight, I’m worried about J.D., and if you keep it up, you’re going to put me over the edge.”
We were silent the rest of the drive. I walked with them as far as the stairwell then threw J.D.’s keys at Paul. They hit his chest with a thud and fell to the ground clanking as metal bounced off each other and the concrete. I continued on at a fast clip.
“Wait!” Philip called running after me. “Ari!” He pulled up next to me and kept up with my quick stride.
“Between Jerry, J.D., and Paul, I’m not in the mood.”
“J.D. wouldn’t want you to walk back alone.”
“Then J.D. should be here and not passed out at Max’s. Unless you want to tell me what’s going on, no one is getting what they want tonight.”
He threw his hands up. “Okay.” He turned and left.
I spent the next day holed up in my room studying for finals, leaving only to go to the cafeteria for sustenance.
Brad and Patrick were sitting together at dinner and waved me over after I filled my tray. Brad leaned towards me as I sat. “What happened last night?”
“Just Paul pissing me off more than Jerry did.”
“I think you pissed him off as much as he pissed you off.”
“So what happened?” Patrick repeated Brad’s question.
I recounted the events of the party last night as they listened raptly. “Something was really off between the three of them when we went to the party,” I stated at the end. “Did they talk to Jerry about what happened?”
“No. They didn’t say a word to him.”
“Are you sure?” I twirl the spaghetti with my fork absently.
“Absolutely. I was with Jerry the entire time in our room. Neither of them came in to talk to him. They wouldn’t say anything about the party either, other than Paul saying you were a bitch.”
“Dammit. I need to focus on finals.” I let my fork clatter on my plate.
“Then focus on finals. Deal with them later,” Brad said encouragingly.
I stare at my raven haired reflection. Focus, Ari.
The phone rings and I stroll out to my desk to answer. “Hello?”
“Hey, I’m downstairs,” J.D. says through the intercom.
“On my way.”
© Debi Smith, 2013