I dove underwater to swim to the other side of the pool from the maniacal laughter. Panic made it hard to hold my breath, and I realised that I couldn't hide underwater forever from whoever it was that had just crashed my party. Trying to remember the layout of the building, I made for the side of the pool nearest the exit.
Through my terror, I struggled to compile a list of people who might be crashing my first and only birthday party. Although we were trespassing, the police didn't seem a likely candidate. It wasn't their style to cut the lights and laugh crazily, nor did it seem like a landlord's style. And it certainly wasn't my father's. He preferred to catch his prey when they were alone.
As I pushed out impeding thoughts of my father, I hauled myself over the edge of the pool, only to discover that I was on the exact opposite side of the pool from the door. Swatting at the edges of panic, I scampered around the side of the pool.
My path was blocked by a figure in a hoodie. Freezing on the spot, I debated my best option: into the pool or back the way I came?
"Hey, Rhea." The figure pulled off its hood.
I grinned. And promptly pushed a shocked Joey into the pool.
"Don't do that!" whined a still-shaking Isobel from the arms of Elijah. A grinning Tom, who had run off after Chrissy, stuck his head back around the corner. "Hey, Joey. You get here okay?"
"Yeah... yeah, I did." Joey was looking up at me and smiling a little. I jumped back in and splashed water at him, just for good measure. "What the hell, Rhea?"
"Don't do that!" I said.
Once I relaxed a bit, I asked him how he knew where we were. He glanced at Tom and grinned. “Tom texted and invited me. Said he didn’t tell anyone so it’d be a surprise. So I made it a surprise.” He frowned. “Everyone freaked out a lot more than they should have. Why is that?”
I didn’t want to tell him about my father. It would only make him worry. “You do realize that we *are* trespassing right now, right? So we were all a little extra on edge, but that’s what makes it fun, huh?”
He shrugged, and accepted the answer. “Sorry, I didn’t think of it that way.” I smiled, relieved that he didn’t ask any more questions.
“It’s okay. Don’t worry about it.”
We went on partying till after one. It was well past curfew for all of us, and we were definitely drunk. Joey volunteered to drive me home, since he was more sober than Tom or Chrissy. While I was less drunk than any of the three, I didn’t know how to drive.
It was cold as we walked to his car, but I was still feeling the warm glow of alcohol in my veins. Before he started the engine, though, he stopped and looked at me. “Why did you lie to me?”
“Lie to you?” My head was foggy, and it was hard to think.
“About why you all were so frightened when I showed up.” I must have looked startled, because he laughed. “Oh Rhea, never think you can lie to me. You can lie to everybody else, but you can never fool me.”
Uncomfortably, I told him the truth. “We were afraid it was my father. He followed us one day when we went to the beach, and Jamie says he’s been waiting for me at his apartment. He’s looking for me.”
“I don’t know.” It wasn’t a lie.
I looked Joey in the eye, and suddenly more than anything in the world, I wanted to kiss him. I looked at my lap. “What did you want to talk about, with what I said to Chrissy?”
He sighed, and looked uncomfortable. “I was really hoping to discuss that sober.”
“Whatever. Just tell me.”
He sighed again, and looked around helplessly. “Look, Rhea. I –“ He looked at me again, and seemed to get distracted. “- I really like you.”
A slow grin crept over my face. Best night of my life, this was.
Joey still looked upset. “But I can’t be with you.” My smile faded in confusion. Before I could ask, he rushed on.
“Rhea, I don’t want to hurt you. I know what path I’m set on, and I really don’t want to take you down it. It’d be fun for a while, but I can’t do that to you. I’m headed straight for hell, metaphorically, and I could never drag someone I loved down that road with me.”
He loved me? “I don’t care, Joey. I just want to be with you.”
“Rhea, no. You have enough problems without me. Plus, Jamie’d never forgive me, and I don’t want *him* pissed at me.”
I laughed a little, feeling sick. “No, you don’t.” I couldn’t argue with him, not in this state. He was pretty drunk, too, though. Maybe he’d feel differently in the morning.
Joey started the car. Driving slowly, he carefully putted out of the parking lot and down the road to my house. As the drive went on, I started to feel worse and worse, thoughts whirling around my brain.
One thought repeated itself, stuck in my brain. The only stationary thought in my head: I can make him love me. He already said he does, all I have to do is change his mind about this stupid path thing. I can make him be with me.
We bumped into my driveway. The jolt pulled me back to earth. And suddenly I knew just how I could change his mind. “Come inside, Joey. Let me get you a cup of coffee to sober you up.”
He blinked a little, then followed me inside. I sat him down on the living room couch, then went into the kitchen to make him a strong cup of coffee.
Now what was my best asset? I was wearing fairly attractive underwear, but I didn’t know whether Joey preferred cleavage or butt. Hastily, I stripped to my black lace bra and panties, then poured the coffee into a mug.
I padded into the living room, carefully balancing the coffee. I mostly didn’t even spill it. Joey had his head in his hands. I cleared my throat a little, then bent from the hips to set the coffee on the coffee table, giving him a clear view down my bra. “Rhea, no –"
Shushing him, I stepped straight over the table. Mildly surprised that I kept my balance, I straddled his lap. Weaving my fingers through his hair, I pressed my body against his. “Rhea –"
“Shut up, love, I’m seducing you.” I unhooked my bra, which clasped in the front, and slid it off my shoulders. He was completely mesmerized now. I smiled shyly, then winked. His arms wrapped around my body, and I slid my hands up his back underneath his shirt. Pulling it off, I pressed my chest against him as his hands explored my body.
A sudden thought occurred to me. I hopped up, too quickly. When I’d regained my balance, I pulled Joey up and hurried him across the room into my bedroom. He stumbled in, and I shut the door behind us. Leaning against it, I smiled again, looking up at him. We bounced onto my bed, and suddenly he was on top of me. Pants and panties hit the floor. He was holding me in his arms, kissing my body. Joey pushed me down onto the bed. Through the haze of hormones and alcohol, I smiled at him again.
He entered me. It felt like I was being torn in two. I cried out in pain, and tried to sit up. He shushed me gently, petted my hair, pushed me back down, and continued gently.
An hour later, Joey was lying next to me, exhausted. It was two am. His head was on my shoulder, and he seemed content for the moment. I smiled to myself.
Then he sat bolt upright.
“Rhea – oh, shit! Oh my god! I’m so sorry!”
He hopped off my bed and continued to apologise, collecting his clothes from my bedroom floor. Joey rushed to the door, then suddenly turned back. “I’m sorry – don’t tell your brother.”
He disappeared, and suddenly I was empty. I laid back down and willed the tears away. But they just wouldn’t stop.
Seven am. My alarm was screaming at me. I threw it at the wall, then staggered painfully to the bathroom and proceeded to puke. What had happened? There were some interesting memories. I tried to sort through, walking back into my room…
There was a red bloodstain on my comforter. It was all true. I stripped the sheets from my bed in anger. Anger at what, I wasn’t sure. Whirling into the living room, I picked the cup up from the floor where it had fallen six hours ago. The coffee had spewed across the floor. I had a vision of Joey knocking it over, and threw the mug at the wall. It shattered with a loud crash.
An hour later, Tom picked me up for school. I’d managed to make myself look normal, but we were both too hungover to talk.
Joey wasn’t in class. Good. I didn’t know if I could look at him right now. I smiled at Chrissy and Isobel and Tom, but I couldn’t look any of them in the face.
The teacher stepped out from behind his desk. Just before I shut my brain off, though, he said something interesting.
“Class, before we begin today, I’d like to direct your attention to the empty seat in the back left corner.” Everyone turned to look. “As some of you know, your classmate Joey Thomas was in a car crash last night. He's in the ICU right now. A moment of silence for him, please.” And I'd never even kissed him on the mouth.