We were partying at Cole's house, because his parents were never home, and he had a steady supply for everyone. In Black Hills, everyone needed their fix, everyone chose their poison. I supposed that those choices said a lot about the person. Cole's house loomed over us, a threat to the sky about, snarling as it reached out to tear it down. When Xander and I arrived, the party had already started. Just before stepping out of the car, he reached over and gave my hand a tight squeeze. I could only smile in response.
"Reina and Xander," Loren greeted us. We were descending the stairs into his finished basement, where the usual group was sprawled across a pair of couches. I reached up to push a strand of unnaturally blonde hair from my face. "It's about time you show."
I raised my hand to wave at him, watching intently as he brought a burning joint up to his lips. Xander had already gone in, working his charms even on such a small crowd. I could only remain frozen at the bottom of the staircase, enchanted by the way he moved across the room. I could have sworn that boy was contagious. There was no doubt I'd been infected by his spell.
Xander grabbed a can of beer and tossed it to me before pulling out a bottle of Jack Daniels for himself. Since he spent a good majority of time at Cole's house anyway, he kept an extra there. Xander was the sort of boy who, unlike most of us, didnt just stick to one poison. Mostly he downed whatever was handed to him. Perhaps that made him brave. He went to sit down in a chair off to the side of the room. Reaching out to encircle my wrist in his hand, he pulled me into his lap.
"It keeps the demons at bay," He whispered into my ear. I shuddered against him, relishing in the feel of his warmth against me. One thing was certain: Xander was what was keeping my own demons at bay.
There was never a time I felt more invincible than when I was with these friends. They brougt me up to a place so high, so blissful, I was unbreakable. Eventually, when the moon was above us just enough to cast a mystical sort of glow into the room through the small windows, the party took a twist. The harder stuff began t come out. I remained in the chair, studying the scene with wide eyes. Loren snuck out his vile of snowy white powder, and through my own minor haze, I could only watch him snort it up in awe. Then he took Melissa by a fistful of jet black hair and all but literally dragged her from the room. And we went on, unfazed.
"I have a goal," Cole announce what must have been hours later. Everything was still feeling off-center, but I was mostly focusing on Xander's fingertips tracing my arm up and down.
"What's that?" My best friend asked of him.
Cole turned his head, seeming to stare off into space, into an absolute nothing. "I want this to be the happiest year of my life. I don’t want to give a fuck about anything. Because when I'm getting my diploma in eight months, I want to be able to take it without regret."
A legitimate grin crept across my lips. I raised up the lit cigarette I was holding, letting the tendrils of smoke drift up and fill the room. "No regrets," I murmured. The words fell lightly from my lips, mixing into the blur of smoke that was dancing around us all, encasing us in its warmth.
"No regrets," Xander repeated against the bare skin of my neck. I shivered a little but tried to pass it off as a chill. Then I took a lengthy drag and exhaled, and hoped to whatever unperceivable forces that this year wouldn’t deal such a horrible hand after all.
"You owe me big time," Wynter smirked as she plopped down next to me on the bus. I had my pounding head resting against the cool glass window in a vain attempt to stop the pain of the migraine. Wasted, of course.
"What for?" I groaned, resisting the urge to rub at my exhaustion-filled eyes so as to preserve my makeup.
"When dad got home, he almost went to check on you," she replied.
Of course. The explanation of why I'd disappeared until two am hadnt crossed my mind until I'd been sneaking back into the house, reeking of booze and smoke, still tingling from a twisted combination of high and the feeling Xander had left on me.
Wynter assured me she'd taken care of it, and I had the utmost faith in her. She was brilliant, really. I ran my long fingers through her perfectly straightened hair, silently telling her how much I loved her. I didn’t know what I would do without that girl sometimes. Maybe she drove me crazy, but in truth she was one of the few things keeping me sane.
Life went on constantly, never slowing, never deferring. At school, the jocks dominated, filling the halls with their glory and their tales from the field. Teachers crammed us with homework, determined to set us on the right path. My friends and I laughed out way right through life, careless even as we withered away.
At home, I was but a ghost. My mom spent her time in her own haze, one I usually neglected to acknowledge. She lived down so low it was a miracle she could claw her way back out. My dad worked nonstop, an attempt at some normalcy. When he was there, he could easily forget about his bi-polar junkie of a wife or his two twisted daughters.
I seldom ever talked about my mom. She'd chosen her path, like everyone must. If she was contented to sit in the shadows and push a needle into her vein, more power to her. I only worried about the way it effected Wynter. Since my sister had realized the truth we'd tried to spare her from, a new sort of darkness had washed over her. Her icy blue eyes lacked the luster that had once made them shine.
It was easy to get swept up in the tide of Black Hills, to get carried away in the predictable pattern of life in the godforsaken town. Already we were pushing a month back at school.
Around me, I thought I could feel the atmosphere shifting. People I thought I knew, people I knew I loved, were changing. As I stood by, I had only to decide if that was for better or worse.