Mitchell Beck, Bertram Gold and Gloria Motters are three young adults living at university in their first-year, away from their parents. Tonight, they're invited to a house-party where their lives about to get very... flustered.
Chapter 1: The Invitation
Narrator: Mitchell Beck
She looked at me as I packed up my things after class, like she was assessing me in every minute detail, for purposes I couldn't fathom. I certainly don't reckon it was the normal way a girl looks at a guy when she's interested. And when the frown stitched its way between her eyebrows, that frown I would always remember, I knew she had seen something that did not belong.
Maybe I had let one of my secrets slip from my lips. Maybe she'd looked hardeningly enough. Maybe I hadn't looked away easily enough.
I pursed my lips, eased my posture and glanced up at the ceiling while my hands did the work. I shouldn't have spent last night at my parents' place.
The classroom around us was awfully quiet as others packed up and left the tutorial group.
Still, Gloria's eyes were on me like magnets, and that made the hair on the back of my neck rise up. But they weren't just on me, they were on my things too. She watched my blue gel pen slide into my pencil case and the zipper secure my binder closed. The noose of my bag opened, and let my objects in.
I felt like an object in her eyes. It was different. It didn't feel right but it didn't feel all that wrong either.
Her voice was calming, a high alto, massaging its way between my ears like a whisper, "You're not going to his party tonight, are you?"
"I guess not. Glory, I'm still kinda thinking about it," I admitted. I could have played the fool, as if I didn't know whose party she was asking about. Indecision was not just my cornerstone of personality traits, it was my keystone, and if anyone so much as jostled it... I was afraid of how all the other stones in the pile would react.
"Would you like to go together?" she asked carefully. And quickly, she interrupted herself, "I mean, as friends, Mitch."
That's when I knew that she knew: I wasn't interested in her. But in Gloria's mind, there was probably a 'yet' attached to that statement: I wasn't interested in her yet. I wondered for a moment if it was there in my mind as well.
I wanted every syllable of my name enunciated; I deserve that much consideration and respect, right?
"I prefer Mitchell," I acknowledged. Again, I pursed my lower lip like it would have my answer. "Sure, I'll go. I don't really like Clay, but I guess I'll go. A lot of his friends are my friends, and maybe some I wish were."
"Oh. Why don't you like Clay?" she pressed. "You gave him your notes after lecture, when he invited you."
That was true. I did, after he had slept through class. And I don't know why I did. "I find Clay to be... kind of... what you'd call a..." good-for-nothing son-of-a— "Party animal." That was an understatement. "He's not here to learn, he's here to party and sleep through class. I had a moment of weakness and took pity on him the other day. But since then," I stopped myself short of telling her what I knew.
"Since then, what, Mitchell?" she asked me, like she really cared what I thought of him. And her eyes were on me again with that magnetism that was beginning to make me uncomfortable.
I stood up, pushing my chair back and swinging my bag over my shoulder. I swallowed the lump in my throat, and it tasted like distress. "Something happened that I'm not at liberty to discuss." Those words came out of my mouth and they just felt so honest and yet so stale... I winced.
"Well, all right," she said, following me out the door of the classroom.
I wanted to tell her, but I had no right to.
We walked through the halls of the college building in silence, until she broke it.
"It's nice to talk to you about something other than assignments, for once," she managed.
"Yeah, it'll be nice to see our friends tonight away from this all-consuming academic clout," I answered, opening the door for her as we stepped outside and into the cold October air.
It was late afternoon. The party was tonight.
The wind did something to her hair, something her time and effort never could, and for a moment I thought she was pretty. But that wasn't enough, I needed more than prettiness from her.
We were both living in the same residence building, as first-years, so there was no shaking her off my tail as I walked back to the building, trying to decide in the back of my mind which course readings I'd work through next.
Gloria just kept talking, "So, from what he's told me, it's a house party. His parents are out of town, so he and his older sister are having some friends over. Hopefully, not too many people. The address is on the Facebook event."
I nodded. "That always goes as planned."
"Yeah... oh, are you bringing your roommate? He got an invite too, didn't he?" Gloria asked. "I'd hate to think they left him out just because he's... the way he is."
If only it were so. If only Clay could have left well enough alone. "Yeah, Berty got an invite. But I don't think I'll be able to coax him away from that big philosophy research essay, but I'll see what I can do."
"It is a Friday," she pointed out, weaving her way between the students walking in the opposite direction and somehow still keeping up a conversation with me. "He doesn't go out much, does he."
"He's not a stereotype. He keeps it in his pants, from what I can tell. Doesn't have a boyfriend. Those two things make him easier to put up with," and easier to pity. I had to stop lying through my teeth, but I couldn't just tell her what had happened. "I mean, I'm no homophobe, but I don't wanna come back from the library to see some other guy in his bed." I'd rather there had been a guy in his bed, than what I came home to this morning after spending time with my parents. I didn't like seeing Berty like that, so broken down.
"Gotcha," said Gloria. "I first thought Veronica was a dyke. All those Tegan & Sara posters, and her haircut..."
"Who's Veronica?" I asked, still walking.
"My roommate," said Gloria, keeping pace with me. "But sure enough, she has a boyfriend. I envy that."
Yeah, you would. "Cool."
"And I can't wait to meet Clay's girl. I hear she's quite something."
I stopped dead in my tracks.
She spun around. We were at the door to the residence building.
"I beg your pardon, did you just say that Clay has a girlfriend?!" I demanded. But I knew the answer.
Gloria was puzzled by the anger on my face. She just nodded.
And the words just came out of me, like vomit, "That date-raping son of a bitch."
"Excuse me?" Gloria was stupefied.
I opened the door for her, and she walked inside with impatience. I didn't want to be saying more than I should with just anybody around listening. I was afraid of the righteous anger boiling up in me. Berty may be gay, but he's my friend! And what Clay did to him just wasn't right. And I couldn't tell her that. It wasn't mine to unearth.
I waited until we were in the elevator, alone. Thankfully, nobody got in with us.
She looked at me, and by then I knew that she had pieced it together. Perhaps she wasn't as dumb as I first thought. It was odd, but attraction sparked for a moment, weak and yet there.
"Is he okay?" was all she said.
"Would you be?" I hit the button for my floor.
She didn't hit hers. And that's when I knew it was going to be a long, long evening.