The new and improved Little Lionman with an alternative beginning.
A slight, warm summer breeze drifted in through my open window, along with the never-ending sound of people all around Manhattan. The old neighbor across the street had his window open, and his fifties music filled the air. I wouldn't admit it to my friends, but I actually kind of enjoyed the old tunes.
"Nikki!" My friends shouted up at me, following up with some laughter. If I knew them as well as I thought I did, I'd say they were hitting the vodka a little early. "Hurry up, we're gonna be late. Well, later than we already are." More laughter and giggling.
I put my head out of my window and grinned down at them. "I'm on my way down. Be quiet, though. My parents will kill me if they find out I snuck out again!" I climbed out onto my fire escape and carefully made my way down the ladder.
The moment my feet touched the ground, Lucy waved a flask in my face. I didn't really want any, but to appease her, I took the flask from her and drank from it.
"Alright, let’s go," I said, anxious to be gone. I looked back up at my window, and noticed the old man staring down at me. Even from two stories below him and in the gathering darkness, I could still see the disappointment in his eyes. I felt guilty, but didn't fully understand why. It wasn't any of his business what I did.
"Nikki, come on! Don't you want to see Gill?" Lucy taunted. I pushed the old man out of my mind and ran to catch up with Lucy and the others.
"Shut up," I growled.
"Oh, come on, lighten up. Anna's parties are the bomb. I'm so excited. Her parents are finally gone for a week. I was beginning to think Anna would never throw a party again." Brittany giggled.
Lucy ran her fingers through her silky blond hair, and turned to face me, walking backwards. I was impressed. I could barely walk forward when I was drunk.
"You know, Gill was talking to me the other day. He said he's really sorry. He was drunk, and that other girl just came on to him. He didn't mean it. He still loves you."
"I don't care. Lucy, he cheated on me. If he really loved me as much as he says, he wouldn't have done it in the first place. The fact that he was drunk doesn't mean anything," I replied, taking the flask from Brittany and earning myself a "Hey! I wasn't done with that!"
"Look, will you just talk with him? He really is quite a catch. I'd take him, but he's so hooked on you."
I thought I was done with the flask, but I decided that I would need another drink if Lucy kept this up.
"Whatever, Lucy. I just want to have a good time, that's it. Can we stop talking about Gill, please?"
"Fine. But he's not going to wait on you forever." I rolled my eyes, and handed the flask back to Brittany, who drank from it greedily.
At the party, I got to see some of my friends I hadn't seen since school got out. The music was loud, and the air was stuffy, but no one seemed to mind.
"Hey, Nikki!" I looked around for someone calling my name an hour later. It was a boy I'd seen around the halls once or twice at school. I think he'd recently lost a lot of weight, and so he was slowly being accepted as one of us. I tried to remember if I'd ever talked with him before.
"Hi! I don't know your name, I'm sorry!" I shouted over the speaker I was standing next to.
"I'm Jake!" I looked around for Lucy and noticed her staring at me. The look in her eyes said, "No, sweetie, it's social suicide if you're caught talking with him."
"Look, I heard about you and Gill, and I wanted to say I'm sorry that he treated you like that."
"That's great, Jake, but if you think I'm on the rebound, you're way out of your league with this one. I'm not interested." I left him standing by the speaker, dumbfounded and returned to Lucy and who was currently flirting with some college frat boy from out of town.
"Lucy!" I tugged on her arm.
"You'll have to excuse me." She gave him her most dazzling smile and escorted me a few steps away. "What, Nikki? Did you not see that guy? He's hot! I have a shot with him."
"Yeah, that's great, Lucy. I have a bad head ache. I want to go home." Before we could say more, a tap on my shoulder interrupted me.
"Hi, Gill. Nikki was just saying she wanted to talk with you. Now, if you'll excuse me, college frat boy is awaiting my return."
I was incredulous. I couldn't believe her!
"Lucy was lying. I don't want to talk with you." I pushed past him and made my way for the door, careful not to bump anyone in the drinking, dancing crowd. I was furious with Lucy, and decided in a split second that I didn’t need her to walk me home. I wasn’t that drunk, I could do it on my own.
Out in the hall way, the air was much cooler and I could breathe again.
"Nikki, wait, just hear me out!" Gill pleaded behind me. I spun around to face him.
"Okay, I'm listening." I stared hard at him, waiting for him to explain.
"Nikki, I love you. I never meant to hurt you. I was drunk, I wasn't fully aware of what I was doing. She came on to me, I didn't have time to process what was happening, what I was doing. I'm really sorry. Can't you forgive me, just this once? It'll never happen again, I swear."
His blue eyes were really intense, and he seemed genuine. He didn't look like he was drunk yet.
"I'm still deciding if I can trust you or not. Whether you meant to hurt me or you didn't, that doesn't change what happened. It still hurt all the same."
"I know, baby, and I'm really sorry. What can I do to make it up to you?"
"Do you promise you'll never do it again?" I asked, still not totally sure if I should forgive him yet. I did love him, though.
"I promise. Baby, I love you. You know that."
"Okay. But you're not totally off the hook." He grinned and picked me up and hugged me.
Our lips met in a passionate kiss as the door opened and Lucy and Mr. College Boy came out holding hands.
"Oh, sorry. Don't mind us," Lucy trilled, leading the boy down the hall and away from the party, giggling at nothing. I was worried about her, but I knew she'd never forgive me if I intervened with her and her new fixation.
Gill laughed. "It looks like Lucy's getting lucky tonight." I rolled my eyes.
"Yeah, well, you're not." I growled.
“I know. I didn’t think I would. I know you, Nikki. You’re not like that.” I couldn’t be sure, but I thought I heard a touch of disappointment. “Hey, are we going back to the party?”
“Yeah, sure. Why not?”
An hour later, Gill and I were still dancing together. Occasionally we’d forget about the music, and he’d pull me into a long kiss that grew wetter and wetter as he became more drunk with each plastic cup that came his way. Eventually, I was grossed out and wouldn’t let him kiss me anymore.
“Come on, Nikki, lighten up. Drink a little” he slurred.
“No, Gill. My head ache is back, I want to go home,” I whined, sliding down the wall to sit on the floor. I had hoped things wouldn’t spin so much from down there, but I was wrong. The air only grew more stale and stuffy.
“Your head wouldn’t hurt so much if you’d have a little more to drink. It helps, trust me.”
“I can’t yet! In case you’ve forgotten, I’ve only just forgiven you for cheating on me,” I reminded him as I tried to stand back up. Gill didn’t appear to have heard me, though, because he bent his head over my neck; I can only assume he was trying to kiss me. His hands slid down my back and came to a rest on my butt, his lips now moving along my jaw line.
I pushed him away. “Nikki,” he groaned.
“Gill, I love you, but I don’twant to do this now. So take your hands off of me; I’m going home.”
I walked through several curling and swirling clouds of smoke on my way to the door; I didn’t even bother guessing what they were from. Before opening the door, I made sure I had my cell phone on me—which was the only thing I’d brought with me, aside from a few dollars tucked inside my bra.
“Nikki, calm down, it’s just a bit of fun,” Gill growled as he came up beside me and opened the door for me.
“Oh, did you decide you were going to try and be a gentleman and walk me home?” I sneered.
“Yes, as a matter of fact, I did. You’re not usually an angry drunk? What’s gotten into you?”
“I’ve had a head ache for the last hour and a half.” I replied curtly as I stepped out into the hallway. Again, I drank in the fresh, cool air. The pounding behind my eardrums dissipated a little.
I woke up the next morning with a bad head ache, but otherwise I was in one piece. I didn’t remember the walk home, but it must’ve been okay. I tried to remember if Lucy had walked home with me or not, but the last I saw of her had been when she’d been fraternizing with a college boy.
I also remembered how she had left me alone with Gill. I guess I owed her now, since Gill and I got back together after all. Despite that, though, I was still mad at her for betraying me like that.
I looked at my clock, and it said that it was noon. Not surprising, considering I was out all night.
I suddenly remembered my parents, and wondered if they knew. Mom was probably at work now, but would dad still be home?
I checked myself in the mirror to make sure I didn’t look alarmingly suspicious in case he was home. I didn’t look too bad, although I was still dressed in my clothes from the party. I smelled like alcohol and sweat. I changed into sweat pants and a baggy tee shirt before I left my room. To my great relief, dad wasn’t home. I could’ve handled if mom knew I’d snuck out, but dad had a short temper. If dad knew, he’d either stay in my room all night to make sure I didn’t go anywhere, or make me sleep on an air mattress in their room. I shuddered at the thought, and appreciated once again just how lucky I’d gotten this time.
I heard a key turn in the lock, and held my breath, hoping it would be mom stepping through the door and not dad.
“Oh, good, Nikki, you’re up.” My mom said as she made her way to the kitchen.
“Hey, mom. How’s work goin’ so far?” I asked, though I didn’t really care.
“Oh, you know, people put stacks of paper work on my desk; I slowly sift through it all, secretly cursing every one of the managers who were too lazy to do it themselves. The usual.” I laughed and greeted her with a hug. “Oh, Nikki, honey, you stink. Take a shower, please, before someone chokes on your stench.”
“Hey!” I laughed nervously, glad she didn’t recognize the bitter odor of alcohol. I was careful not to breathe too close to her.
“So what are your plans for today? Are you going to go hang out with Lucy and Brittany?”
“No, I don’t think so. I might go see Gill later.”
“Oh, sweetie, please. I’m not going to try to tell you who you can and can’t date, but you can do way better than him. He’s bad news if you ask me. Besides, I thought you were done with him. Didn’t you say you two had gotten in a fight? Gosh, I don’t remember, but it was something silly.”
“Uhm, yeah, something like that. But we worked it all out, got past it. So, why were you and dad fighting the other day?” I asked, groping for anything to change the subject. It worked a little too well. Mom stopped in her tracks and stood frozen for a moment. Clearly, I’d struck a nerve without meaning to.
“Oh, it was nothing. So, are you excited for school to start next week?” Mom asked changing the subject again.
“Wait, it starts next week? What’s today’s date?” I’d completely lost track of time this summer.
“Today’s the twelfth. OfAugust. You start Wednesday. Don’t tell me you’d forgotten.”
“Okay, I didn’t forget,” I lied. Mom shook her head at me and smiled. “I just chose not to think about it at all.”
I left my mom to eat her lunch, knowing she only had so long before having to return to work again. To busy myself, I took a shower and when I was done with that, and smelling much better, I watched a movie. Lucy and Gill bombarded my phone with text messages, wanting to hang out. But I was enjoying my time to myself, so I told them I’d gotten in trouble for sneaking out and couldn’t do anything for the next few days. It was much easier than explaining why I didn’t feel like going anywhere. They didn’t really grasp why anyone wouldn’t want to spend time with their friends.
Because I lied about being in trouble, the next couple of days weren’t very interesting. I mostly stayed at home and read a book, something I hadn’t done in who knows how long.