Narrator: Junior Archvale
I placed my right ear against the door, back to her, and heard the two men inside the bedroom moaning in unison. Then I turned around to look at Crystal, "I think you should go sit in the bathroom."
She blinked, "Huh?" I wished she hadn't worn so much make-up. It doesn't befit her. Or maybe it's just me, preferring natural beauty.
I tried to be subtle, "Greg is in there."
"And?" I wasn't sure whether to admire her indifference, be disgusted at how quickly she let him go, or question its validity.
"Kieth's bedroom?" I ventured. Those two thin strands hung in front of my face, like droopy antennae. The rest of my hair fell loosely over my shoulders in a long, effeminate mane. I was glad I had a goatee, and nearly sideburns, to counter that impression.
She leaned her head forward, raised her eyebrows and widened her eyes, giving me a questioning look. I couldn't help but touch her hand, gently and slowly. Soft, painted nails a pale pink.
I watched her tuck a curled strand of her own hair behind her ear. Then I drew her hand into a firm grasp. Our eyes met, and I knew that now was the time to be blunt, "They're fucking each other's brains out."
She was startled, and I reckon that's the first time she ever heard a foul word come out of my mouth. I could see the tears beginning, again.
"I'm sorry," I said. "But I'm not going to lead half the dance-party into the pool without permission. I have to knock on his door. Besides, I feel the need to remind him of his duties."
"And h-how can you," she sobbed, "how can you put up with what you'll see in there?"
"I'm a tolerant person," I said sternly, hoping she wouldn't get the wrong impression. "Open-minded and liberal. It won't disgust me."
"Two girls one cup?" she referenced.
"Okay, that kind of stuff is not what Kieth's into. And don't you know Greg better than to think that..."
"It seems I didn't know Greg at all!" she raised her voice.
"Careful, they might hear you," I whispered.
"Oh, no they won't, I know how loud a lover he is," she said, voice callous.
I flinched at the thought of him with her, thanks to the growing feelings I had for her. I couldn't help but ask, "Y--"
"No," she said, before I'd gotten a word out. "Tonight was supposed to be the night."
"Just," I firmed my eye contact with her, "stay out of their sight, please."
And then I knocked three times, quite hard, against his door.
She fell back into the shadowy corner of the hall.
"Who the fuck?" I heard a muffled yell. It had sounded like Kieth.
He opened the door just a crack, "Oh, it's you," and the realization prompted him to open the door all the way, revealing both of them butt-naked. Greg's lean, muscular body was lying on the bed, on his back, with his legs in the air above him. I quickly averted my eyes, as soon as I realized what I was looking at. Kieth grinned for a brief moment, staring into my eyes, "Has the dyke decided to put on a strap-on and join the real party?"
"The rain has stopped," I said in a monotone voice, as if I was oblivious to my surroundings and unfazed by his implications. "I'm requesting use of the pool and hot tub."
"C'mon, wouldn't you rather come in here?" he teased.
"I wouldn't get wet in there," I said, maintaining indifference, eyes never straying too far from his face.
"Whaddya mean? Greg's wet mouth is wiiiide open for you."
I put on a sly grin, tilted my head slightly to one side, "Erotic asphyxiation is risky, Kieth. You know better than to scarf, right? Now, I don't think we'd want to risk choking your boyfriend, would we?"
Crystal giggled from the corner of the hall, while Kieth looked down at my crotch. My pants were off now, yes, but I was wearing my swimsuit as I had been all along. I knew there was nothing out of the ordinary to catch his eye.
"I won't be able to let you confirm that unless you let me jump in the pool," I teased.
He had a thoughtful look on his face, jaw leaning to one side and eyes narrow.
"What's wrong, Kieth, is Greg not a big enough match for you?" I asked, oddly enough using what little I thought I'd seen to my advantage.
"Don't make me tie you up," Kieth snarled. I'd finally elicited anger. However, he motioned with his hand for Greg to remain on the bed. Yeah, direct hit to the ego.
"You wouldn't tie me up tight enough. You wouldn't take it from me hard enough. You wouldn't hit me often enough. You'd be too merciless. And I wouldn't love you enough not to feel the pain," I stated matter-of-factly. "Which is why I'm not the one sitting on your bed right now, playing for the other team."
Now, Greg was laughing.
Kieth dropped a hand onto my shoulder, and Crystal gasped. I left my senses open, ready to call my bluff. But as his arm made its way to my neck, I was sure I wasn't going to feel that telltale warmth from him; and probably not from any other man.
"You have a wild imagination, CJ."
"Pffft -- I'm sorry," I said to Kieth, my voice suddenly full of emotion: condescension. "It seems I'm too much of a feminist to have a single shred of bicuriosity. Oh well."
"What a shame," he said, letting go of the strand of my hair he'd been touching at that moment.
"What a shame, indeed," I said smugly. There had been no warmth.
"Sarcasm doesn't become you," Kieth said as he began to close the door.
"No, it doesn't," I lied, in the same tone as my previous statement.
"I'll put some pants on," he said obligingly, "Pool's all yours."
He shut the door in my face.
Crystal made her approach, head low and yet gazing at me through her lashes, passing just below her brow. There was a twistedly amused smile on her lips. It quivered there, threatening to display her teeth and maybe even burst into laughter.
I coughed, the awkward silence getting to me.
"Only you could have pulled that one off," she praised. "Why weren't you intimidated? You're taller than the average person, but Kieth's a giant, a whole head taller than you."
"Well, I knew he wouldn't rape me. His morality has been tempered by the bullying and torture Greg's betrayal once put him through," I said. "That was just banter. And furthermore, I think he saw you reflected in the corner of my eye."
"Or the lipstick mark I left on the inside of your sweater's collar," she said.
I knew, in this day and age, normal lipstick wouldn't leave a mark. Thus, her kind of lipstick was only worn by women who intended to leave a mark. And since it was obvious that she'd come to the party only intending to kiss one person, this confirmed what she'd said: tonight was supposed to be their night.
"How much did you prepare for tonight?" I ventured.
"What do you mean?"
"You've lost weight. You're wearing lipstick that leaves a mark. From the looks of things, you've been to Victoria's Secret recently. Need I go on?"
She blushed and then looked down, "I was looking forward to surprising him tonight. You're very... observant. I planned it when the party was announced, weeks ago. And I know my cycles well enough, that..."
They wouldn't have needed to use birth control?
When she trailed off, I closed my eyes and shook my head from side to side ever so slightly. I knew better than to judge. Heck, I knew better than to expect myself to necessarily wait until marriage; especially after the circumstances of my nephew's conception... and the warmth I'd never felt from Crystal.
"I need to be honest with you, as well," I said.
She looked at me, delicate brow furrowed. For just a moment, her eyes darted toward Kieth's door.
"I -- sort of, err... brought a date tonight," I told her, unaware of Kieth now standing behind my back. "Except, she plays for the other team. And I didn't know until... I made a complete fool of myself."
"Well, isn't this interesting," Kieth observed, that damn smug edge in his voice. "You're not the only one, Crystal."
He had made me jump, in surprise. I spun around on the heels of my bare feet, voice angry, "Except Penny, who Crystal doesn't remind me of one bit, didn't pretend to be something she wasn't, nor did she make a public display of infidelity."
"Look," Kieth said. "Easy, tiger. Greg's sorry, really, he almost couldn't go through with things once we got upstairs. He's been lying to himself about it, even repressing some of the memories we had together."
"That's not what I saw," I said, trying to get the image of Greg's gaping rectum out of my mind.
"Well, a pendulum gains momentum, CJ," he said, pausing. "And lube helps."
"Tee em aye," I said, Too much information.
Crystal's beautiful face was veiled in a silent scowl. Her fists were clenched. It was foolish, but part of me thought some of that anger might be towards me.
Finally, Kieth led the way downstairs. As we passed through the dance floor that was their family room, I got compliments on my black and white gothic-ish swimsuit while Kieth got cat-calls for being shirtless. Oh, wait, there was also a 'Put your shirt back on, queer!' remark. Crystal, however, was given several greetings and... one slap on the backside.
I grabbed a chip as we passed through the dining room and into the kitchen, where he opened the patio door, pushed two lovers off the kitchen counter, and hit the outdoor lights.
In seconds, the three of us set about pulling covers off the pools.
"Hurry up!" Greg shouted shamelessly from Kieth's bedroom window, "I'm getting really, really horny! I might just --"
"Go screw yourself!" Joshua yelled up at him as he came outside behind us.
"Precisely," said Greg.
I was shaking my head again, eyes closed, hand on my forehead.
"Are you all right?" Crystal asked me with sincere worry, somehow oblivious to Greg.
"It's nothing," I lied. "I just... need to grab something from my pants' pockets inside." My shoulders were tense. I needed another clonazepam, I was far too anxious. Hopefully, though, it wouldn't put me to sleep too early.
"Oh..." she said, for some reason I didn't understand.
"The hot tub should still be warm, we kept it running," Kieth told us as I walked past him and back inside.
I'd left my pants with my coat, after changing. So, I realized, I would have to make my way through the dance floor again.
Just then, Michelle came running past me, in her swimsuit. I spun around, like someone left in the wake of the Tazmanian Devil, and watched as she jumped, cannonball, yelling, "Spongebob Squarepants!" at the top of her lungs.
Needless to say, that left me scratching my head in confusion. And as she came to the surface, turning around to look at everyone standing on the bright, damp patio, I shook my fist in pretend anger, "I hate Spongebob!"
"Kieth," I heard Crystal's voice, hard and cold like the patio. "You go back up there. You finish what you were doing, as hard and as fast as you can, showing him no mercy, and you get your ass back down here pronto and chaperon this God damn party, or so help me, I'll make sure to Fed-Ex your balls to the rest of the Athletics Alumni."
I gulped. Somehow, I hadn't pictured a night this crude.
Kieth began a retort, but got cut short as she raised her voice to interrupt him.
"Chaperoning 101: Abstinence," her voice was loud, full of righteous fury.
I left. I have no tolerance for anger, in others or in me. It makes me cry. Through the kitchen, into the dining room, past the snack table and into the fray. My thoughts were a blur, drowning out the music.
Why did I play that first song? Why did I give that bastard my death-glare? Why did I bother to bring Adam... or Penny? Argh. Some poor, drunk soul is gonna throw up in the pool. And I'll blame myself, for bringing Adam here. And then some homophobic prick is gonna get intoxicated enough to pick a fight with Greg, who probably won't bother to even close that window he opened. Meanwhile, I'm starting to get the feeling that she wants me to give her the night he won't.
Moments passed. I got what I need, one pill out of my old mint box. It had a caricature of George W. Bush on the front, and was labeled 'Presidential Embarrassmints'. I had already taken my anti-depressants at dinner, before the party.
I know why I did all this: for my own selfish sense of amusement, and... loneliness.
I walked again through the dance floor, feeling alone despite how much the room is filled with bodies. People I knew, too. People I cared for. People I'd talk to on any other night. But all I felt was a bitter loneliness, as if there was a hollow shell lodged inside my chest. I closed my eyes, only to see crimson skeletons dancing.
I can't help but remember that voice I'd heard earlier, in the very same room: "Are you a pig?"
Shudder. Hopped to it. I wasn't hungry as I passed the snack table. Everything seemed to have lost its appeal. Tension built in my shoulders.
A glass of water from the tap, a big sip, and a pale orange pill falling between my teeth. And I swallowed. Then I downed the rest of the water in thirsty gulps.
I could feel the nervous excitement rushing through my veins. I could feel the tension clinging to my neck and sending pain piercing into my skull. And I was left, then, to focus on the relaxing feeling of the water falling to the depths of my body. I breathed deeply, yet found it foreboding.
I don't see this night going well at all. Oh no, here comes someone to ask me for a pill. Sorry to disappoint, but that wasn't ecstacy. Quick, CJ, I told myself, turn around. The ecstacy's outside!
I stepped outside, peeled off my t-shirt, and began to search the waters for Crystal.