Chapter 7: Blame
One thing about Alex that would probably remain the same until the day he died is the fact that he didn't give up. He always saw things as a challenge and he always coveted a victory when he had his mind made up. He refused to admit it, but I knew him better than he knew himself. I never would have thought for a single second that he'd be jealous and chasing after me, seeing me as the prize of the challenge. The even scarier part was that he was capable of killing anything or anyone that got in his way and I was afraid of Andy getting hurt because of me. Andy and I had the potential to be something beautiful and healthy, but with Alex back in the picture, I could feel it slipping through my fingers.
I wanted to be good and behave myself in order to do right by Andy. I wanted to block out the rest of the world just to see how serious we could get. But I just couldn't help myself. When I weighed the options, dangling myself in front of Alex's face like it was feeding time at the zoo with me being the meal, I wanted to have as much fun as possible. Making him jealous was just too fucking exciting. I made sure that all of his friends and associates knew that I was acting like the last conversation we had never happened. I would hang all over Andy in the hallways knowing that his minions would run back and tell him. The sad part about Welch is that people are almost guaranteed to gossip and tell fucked up versions of the truth. I learned a long time ago to feed information to someone that you knew would run their mouth just to make sure that they would have a huge hand in delivering your message with little to no effort.
Every time I saw Alex at sporting events or parties, I could tell that he'd received my messages. His pissed off facial expressions were everything I needed to feel like I was on top of the fucking world. He always hated to let his emotions show. He knew that I would notice that he was angry and he thought I would be the first one to shoot him a text in an attempt to make things better. That led to him ignoring my messages for a while and then we'd be back on each other again. It was all just a huge fucked up game that made him feel like he was king of the world.
That shit was beyond out of the question now. I wasn't going to beg him to be with me simply because that only fueled his ego in the past. I wasn't going to fall back into the same old bullshit again. I thought things were going pretty good with me and Andy when he wasn't acting funny. He knew that I wasn't going to blow him off, but I could tell that he felt a bit insecure. He always acted like I was just settling for him and Alex had so much more to offer. He often complained about how I would get tired of him and his sort of boring lifestyle and kick him to the side for Alex one day. I didn't want it to bother me, but it often seemed like a good idea. At least I wouldn't have to listen to his bitching. It was annoying, but it was still better than being used by someone that wasn't sure how to deal with their emotions. Between the two of them, I would have been a fool to side with Alex in search of my happily ever after. For the first time in my life, I felt like I was good enough to get one of those and it was a possibility if I stayed with Andy.
"Just try to relax. You'll have fun," I said as I placed my hand on Andy's thigh. "You know this isn't my scene," he said sternly. It took a lot of convincing, but I was able to drag him to a party with me. It was mostly to give him a peace of mind. He never really made it a big deal when I went out, but people were dropping bugs in his ears here lately because they would see me and Alex in the same room. The last time I decided to go out turned into one big screaming match that still annoyed the fuck out of me to this very day. I eventually decided that it would be easier to just make him tag along so he could see that there was nothing going on with his own two eyes.
I turned to look at him with puppy dog eyes, making my bottom lip quiver just a little as I batted my eyelashes. "Fine. But I'm only doing this for you. I'm not drinking," he said, sounding defeated. "You don't have to. There will be no peer pressure." He didn't know it, but my favorite thing about him was that he was so careful. He always made sure that he wasn't impaired so he could always be aware of his surroundings. When he would hang out with me, he always looked out for my safety and that was something that I was incredibly thankful for.
We sat in the car for a few more minutes just as the sun fell and hid behind the mountains. People were surrounding the front door of the entrance at Raymond's, waiting for the rest of the members of each individual clique before going inside. Ashe and Brina knew that I was going to catch up with them after they pre-gamed since I was bringing Andy along. This was definitely going to be something new. I usually had a shitty time when I didn't pre-game, but I had to make sure that the atmosphere wasn't going to scare the shit out of him.
"We can dance and just have fun with each other. It'll be alright," I said happily. Even though he didn't care, I tried to tone it down a bit when I was getting ready. Usually I went all out with my hair and make up for a party and wear one of my most provocative outfits, something short, mesh, or see through. Tonight, I kept it simple with a lace tube top, black jeans, and Chucks. My make up only included black eyeliner and filled in brows. My hair was pulled up in a high ponytail. I didn't want him to freak out if other guys were staring at me like I was a piece of meat which was typical when Ashe, Brina, and I showed up. It was always a good time when we showed up. We weren't like the other girls. We showed up to show out. We'd throw back our drinks like one of the guys and we'd still be good to go. We were content with dancing with each other instead of bouncing our asses on random strangers. We didn't go out just to dress up and receive attention. We were there to have a good time and feel free without giving a damn.
It had finally faded to twilight when we got out to head inside. "It's now or never, I guess," he said with a shrug. My heart raced and I was ready to have fun. I was even more excited because I didn't have to pretend that I didn't live for partying and drinking in front of him . I was bouncing in the passenger seat when he got out like he always did to open the door for me. As soon as the door opened, I hopped out, throwing my arms around his neck and almost knocked us to the ground. He chuckled as he steadied himself. "Stay calm," he said with a wide smile. "I can't help it!" I giggled. I pressed my body against his, holding onto him tighter as our lips met. "I'm just excited to have you by my side tonight," I said as I went in to kiss him again. "As long as you're happy." I took my place by his side, intertwining our fingers as we headed into the party.
More people were beginning to pile inside. The music was blaring loud enough to hear every lyric to the song from across the road where the cars were parked. It was getting harder to control my excitement. I never really acknowledged it, but dancing was one of my favorite things to do. The parties weren't about the drinks. Dancing was what it took for me to have fun. Music was what made me feel like I was on top of the world. There was nothing that could ruin my mood, especially tonight. I was basically strolling into a spotlight with Andy on my arm. By Monday, the hallways would be buzzing with people talking about us being together. In the past, I would have been mortified, but given the fact that my feelings for him were getting stronger, I just let the thought of the aftermath roll off of my back.
With the lights off, it took me a minute to scan the room in search of Ashe and Brina. Andy stood a little closer to me as more people filled the room. His grip on my hand grew tighter and from the corner of my eye, I could see him swallow nervously. I took a deep breath, praying that tonight would run smoothly. I even prayed for those around me to avoid any and every kind of confrontation because Andy was already shaking like a leaf.
"Angel Dust!" someone shouted over the music. My heart dropped into the pit of my stomach. Fuck, I thought to myself. The only people that called me that were the clowns that ran with Alex and Alex himself. That was an indicator that he would show up tonight and I knew that people were informing him that I was here with the guy he was trying to find out more about. He'd be walking through the door any minute now wearing a cocky smile and an even cockier attitude. I couldn't panic and cower in fear. For a second, I wanted to turn around and bolt out the door, but if I lost my shit, Andy was sure to lose his.
"Fuck you, Zeke!" I heard Brina's voice shout. I was pulled back to what was going on around me when I saw she and Ashe walking in our direction. The two of them saw the look on my face and knew that I was afraid of what could possibly happen tonight. When Alex and I weren't speaking, the harassment was ten times worse. Just like always, he could grope every girl in the room but if a guy even walked in my direction, offering me a drink or wanting to dance, he was ready to shoot up the place. That was another reason why I loved to dance without a care in the world with just me and my friends. Dancing with a guy wasn't worth all of the extra drama that was sure to come. I was usually alright when it was just me and I thought that I should have probably left Andy at home. They always fucked with me and they were definitely going to fuck with him.
Ashe leaned in to hug me. She lingered there for a moment with her mouth next to my ear. "If he shows up, we've got you," she said. She pulled away from me and I simply nodded, taking a deep breath to calm my nerves. We didn't want to make it obvious, but there was a chance that we were going to have to bring out the big guns just in case shit hit the fan tonight like I knew they would. "The night's not getting any younger!" Brina shouted, pulling us along as she bounced happily to be beat of the music. I shrugged and went along with them, looking at Andy when he cracked a smile.
Ashe and Brina herded us to the middle of the dance floor for everyone to see and I was surprisingly okay with it.
I glanced over my shoulder, looking at who was watching us. The crowd in front of the door parted like the Red Sea with Alex sauntering between them. I didn't think that it was immediately turning into a disaster. His arrival just kicked things up a notch and this was going to be a night I'd never forget. I made sure to lock eyes with him, winking to show that I was in the mood for chaos. I panicked for a minute, thinking about the trouble that I would bring upon Andy, but then I went back to not having a single fuck to give.
"Don't you fucking dare," he mouthed. I gave him a smirk and turned my back on him, ready to stir some shit up.
He watched my every move. It was like he was staring just to take notes every time Andy placed his hands on me. That made me want to put on an even bigger show like this was a game of cat and mouse. At one point, it even felt like we were a pair of magnets. When I would move to get out of his sight, he would move to lay his eyes on me once again. I couldn't deny the fact that I was doing a bit of teasing. Thankfully Andy didn't catch on.
He was actually beginning to let loose and enjoy himself long enough to take a few shots, which shocked the hell out of me. Turns out, he actually had rhythm and made it a point to have his hands all over me like he knew that someone was watching us. It was actually a turn on. Tonight hadn't been as bad as I expected. Alex actually looked intimidated and scared. I didn't know if he was about to attack Andy and tear the party up or if he was going to run away like a little bitch, but the look on his face showed that he was absolutely shook.
For the few minutes that I was able to pry Andy's hands off of me, me and Ashe took to stumbling into the bathroom to check on Brina as she hurled her stomach contents into the toilet. The three of us always knew our limits, but Brina was known for getting fucking trashed. She was the one we usually had to end up babysitting when the party was about to wrap up and the night was still young.
"Goddamn!" I screamed when more vomit hit the water. It was fucking projectile, like she was straight out of the Exorcist. "I'll never listen to you bitches again!" she moaned before puking again. "Listen to us?! You never listen to us! Why start now?!" Ashe shouted, throwing her hands into the air. I crouched down beside her, holding her hair back seeing as though I was the only one between us that could handle the smell. Vomiting never bothered me. It was rare that I ever got that fucked up. I hated the feeling of your mouth watering right before you'd spill your guts. I hated the smell and not being able to stand up straight. I hated dry heaving until my stomach was sore. I was a cry baby when it came to being sick, so I usually did whatever I could to avoid it.
"Alright, time to get up," I said as I pulled her head out of the bowl and wiped the tears off of her cheeks. "I'm not ready yet. I'll have to go home," she groaned. "No you won't. We'll pump you full of Gatorade and you'll be fine," I said as I pulled any remaining strands of hair from her face. This was the only way we could tell that we were all true friends. Most of the girls would come to parties in packs and would split up, some leaving with guys and some passing out. None of them cared enough to make sure they got themselves back together after having too many drinks.
Brina crawled up on her hands and knees before pushing herself off of the floor. Her clothes were fine with not a drop of her stomach contents on her outfit. Her eyeliner was barely smeared from the tears, and her hair was easily fixed by running her fingers through her locks. She stood in heels, a little wobbly at first, but she was able to regain her balance quicker than we expected. "Thanks," she said as she spit in the toilet one last time and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. "No problem. What are friends for?" I said smiling warmly at her. She had bounced back and that meant that she was going to be able to hang a little bit longer and avoid drinking for the rest of the night. The three of us washed our hands, straightening out our outfits, and marched out of the bathroom, proud that things went much more smoothly than they ever had before.
Ashe and Brina stuck with each other as they headed toward the dance floor again. Andy stood patiently by the doors to the bathrooms, waiting for me. "You must have a strong stomach," he said in my ear as the music continued to roar. "We do this all the time," I said with a shrug. I pressed my body against his and he responded by wrapping his arms around my waist. With all of the sweaty bodies surrounding us, grinding on each other as a slow song faded away, I felt my heart race like the party was just getting started. He planted a kiss on my forehead as if we were the only two people in the room, giving me butterflies, before guiding me back to my friends.
"Aye! Listen up!" Jamari shouted boastfully. Everyone in the room turned their attention toward
him, struggling to find him in the dark. It was always a joke throughout the school that he was so dark that you couldn't see him in the dark unless he was smiling. I always thought people were being assholes, but I finally saw what they meant. I squinted my eyes and could only see a dark figure with strikingly white teeth holding what looked like two Brisk iced tea bottle up in the air."I got Crown, E&J, and Henny and I bet, not one nigga in this bitch can out drink me!" As my eyes adjusted to his topless frame, excitement sparked in my heart once more.
I had know this kid for as long as I could remember. He was always a good time. Every time there was a party, there he was, giving it life. I remember us as kids back in our kindergarten days, but I never thought he'd end up being as hardcore as he was, especially with his mom working at the Board of Education with a pretty damn good reputation. My friendship with him always fell into the category where sandbox love never dies and I was always down to joke around and bullshit with him.
At this very moment, I felt like his challenge was directed toward me. I said nothing and stayed glued to Andy as Jamari continued to wave the bottles in the air with the rest of the guys at the party avoiding eye contact with him. I had been pretty good for the last few hours, but this was an opportunity that was entirely too good to pass up.
"Man, ya'll some pussies!" he shouted as the music started to die down. "No! You're just fucking crazy! Ain't nobody gonna drink that shit!" a voice that I recognized as Blue's shouted. I couldn't help myself. My attention was totally focused on how I was going to down a whole bottle of dark liquor without ending up in the back of an ambulance. Despite the fact that I was probably going to go into immediate liver failure, without even thinking, I had pulled myself away from Andy and was dragging a chair to sit at a table in the middle of the room. Everyone around me was in awe as they realized that I was the one that was going to accept his challenge. His alcohol tolerance was wicked and he didn't care. This wasn't new to him. But here I was, weighing almost nothing at all at five feet tall.
"Put up or shut up!" I screamed for everyone to hear me as I sat down at the table, slamming my fists down. "Awe fuck! Angel, you can't out drink me!" he shouted. A few people were chuckling, looking at me like I had lost my mind and was about to let him punk me. Others stared at me like I was intimidating them. That only fueled me even more."Sit your ass down and let's fucking find out!" I threatened, pointing at the chair that was across from me. "Bet!" he shouted, snatching the chair back so he could sit down.
The two of us sat across from each other with an entire liter a piece of the concoction sitting in front of us. "Last chance to back out," he said with a smirk, raising his eyebrow. I could see him clearly with the light coming from the few people that were recording the event."You know me better than that," I replied, struggling to hold back my laughter and contain my excitement. "Don't even stop to breath.. Down the whole bottle," I said, urging us to get started. Andy, Ashe, and Brina stared in horror. The knew that I must have had a death wish and they were probably praying that I didn't die after being totally stupid and careless. I'm not saying that they were wrong, but there was no way that I was going to stand back in the crowd like I didn't want to give it a shot.
Shaq and Blue hovered over us with sloppy smiles plastered on their faces. They were just as anxious as we were. "Aw fuck, this is gonna be messy," Ashe groaned, shaking her head as she held it in her hands. "I got this! Mama didn't raise no bitch!" I snapped. "No! Ariel raised a fucking psycho!" Brina snapped back. "A suicidal one!" Andy added. I chuckled, eager to make them eat their words.
Jamari and I locked eyes. The caps were off, sitting in the middle of the table with our hands wrapped around the bottles. My heart pounded in my ears and I couldn't wait to claim this victory. The smell of the mixture floated through the air, wrapping around my nose. I held my breath, afraid that it would cause my stomach to turn before we even got started. From the corner of my eye, Alex held up the wall across the room, grinning and laughing to himself. He knew that people always made the mistake of underestimating me and he always said it was a turn on when he saw how competitive and reckless I could get.
"One, two, three!" we shouted playfully in unison. For a second, I was taken back to the days of recess when we were always trying to beat each other at something. Even after all these years, nothing had changed. I hardly noticed the way the drink burned my throat and I didn't even realize that I had been holding my breath with my eyes closed as the bottle went on to feel lighter and lighter. It wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would. I opened my eyes to find him with his hand holding onto his throat while his bottle had a huge portion of liquor remaining in it. We all could tell that he was struggling. I was getting a little lightheaded myself and my stomach was starting to burn. I was beginning to doubt myself, but before I knew it, all of it was gone, right down to the very last drop. I instinctively slammed the empty bottle down on the table, causing the sound from the hollow piece of plastic to echo throughout the room. I could see that he still had well over half a bottle left.
Everyone around me cheered, some of them probably thinking that I was inhuman and some probably thinking about what they were going to wear to my funeral that was bound to take place in the next few days. I wailed uncontrollably with my arms in the air, still managing to be okay after downing that bottle. I jumped up from my chair with my legs feeling like noodles. I stood over Jamari who sat with his hand over his mouth. "Better luck next time," I teased, sticking my hand out to shake his. He couldn't reach out because he was struggling to hold back his vomit. He was able to move it for a second to chuckle at me before laying his head down on the table in defeat. "Nobody can fuck with me!" I shouted, dancing in a circle, wiggling my hips to taunt him even more.
I immediately dove into Andy's arms, connecting my mouth to his in a kiss much sloppier than I would have preferred. I was a little buzzed, which was shocking, but I was high off of the victory. He didn't seem to care. His hands traveled down to cup my ass as our tongues danced together with mine starting to feel a little numb. I pulled away for a second to look at his smile. I could have gotten lost in it forever. "You're crazy as hell, but I like it," he said as he lifted me off of my feet. I wrapped my legs around his waist preparing to go in for another kiss, but I was interrupted when I felt an arm wrap around my waist, tearing me away from Andy and throwing me to the floor.
I was ready to go into a full blown rage and beat the shit out of whoever ruined our moment, but I looked up to see that it was Alex. He couldn't contain his anger. I had only seen that look on his face one other time and it meant that someone was going to leave the party with the Grim Reaper.