That evening I kept my jeans and pulled on a dress-top. I put on some light make-up and met Poppy in the hall.
“Pretty,” she said making me blush a little. I mumbled my thanks and followed her outside. Jeremy was waiting outside wearing dark jeans with chains and a jacket. I stuck out like a sore thumb next to the both of them. We grabbed one of the buses and twenty minutes later had walked from the bus stop to a normal looking street of houses. It was pretty clear were the party was as people sat on the front garden while music and lights blared from within the house itself.
We didn't bother knocking since it was an open invitation thing. Inside bodies crowded, I felt a little overwhelmed and unsure what to do.
“So … see anyone you know?” I asked, having to raise my voice over the music. Poppy yelped a name but it was too high-pitched for me to make out. I followed them through the crowds to where a guy was leaning against the wall, watching the others students carefully.
“Hey,” Poppy exclaimed, drawing a surprised glance from the guy. He had uneven layers of brown hair that half covered his face with pale skin. She turned back to me quickly, taking both my hands in hers.
“Me and Jeremy have to go do something real quick. But you stay here okay? Rhys'll take care of you,” Poppy said. Though her wording was a little odd. I opened my mouth to ask her what was going on but she and Jeremy took off too fast. I looked back at the guy who didn't appear overly pleased with babysitting duty.
“Hi, I'm Michelle” I piped up nervously.
“Rhys. I didn't expect Poppy to make a friend so fast,” he said with a tight smile. Why did I get the feeling this guy didn't actually like either of them that much?
“I wasn't expecting a friend so quickly either. But I guess I should expect the unexpected in university, right?” I said with a laugh. The laugh grew nervous when I realised he wasn't going to reply. I gazed at the people around, seeing a group of people who were deep in some kind of debate. I wanted to see if I could join in but I'd never been good at introducing myself to people. I twiddled my fingers nervously, sensing that Rhys was the more anti-social type.
“The redhead is called Isabelle. She a friend if you want me to take you over there,” Rhys said.
“Oh, sure. That'd be great,” I said. Did he want to get rid of me that quickly? I wouldn't complain, I felt uncomfortable around him to be honest. The girl looked up as we approached, watching Rhys more than me. The feeling I was missing something grew more.
“Hello Rhys,” she said nonchalantly. Her friends sent him a glance as well before returning to their conversation.
“Hey. This is Michelle. She's a friend of Poppy's,” Rhys explained. She turned to me, her expression decidedly friendlier than it had been with Rhys.
“Pleasure to meet you,” she said, patting the empty space of sofa next to me. I sat down and turned to thank Rhys but he'd already disappeared in the crowd. I frowned, wondering if he was okay.
“Which college you from?” she asked, picking up and taking another sip from her beer bottle. I realised now that they were playing a card game. One of the guys reshuffled and handed me some cards along with the others.
“Emmanuel, studying English lit, you?” I asked.
“Kings college, doing computer sciences,” she replied, picking up her cards and scowling at her hand.
“What are we playing?” I double-checked with the guy who'd handed out the cards.
“Cheat,” he replied. I nodded with a grin. One of the few card game I was good at. I was relieved it wasn't poker, I didn't really have the money to waste. A few minutes later and I knew all their names and was proudly proclaiming the cheaters correctly.
“Damn, what are you, psychic?” Isabella joked. I shook my head whilst dealing a new hand to everyone.
“Just got good intuition. And Harry always scratches his nose when he's lying,” I said, sending the blond-haired boy a pointed glance.
“Not true,” he muttered, though I could see the smile he was trying to fight. I laughed at him and stopped. I looked around, a feeling of unease taking hold. No one else seemed to notice it or my sudden change except Isabella.
“You okay?” she asked.
“Yeah, I just-” I stopped mid-sentence and stood up.
“I'm going out for some air, see you guys in a bit,” I said. They waved me bye while Isabella sent me a concerned look. The feel of the cool night air calmed my flushed skin. So many bodies in a space had made the house so warm. I wondered over the front lawn, not wanting to go into the crowded garden. The sound of movement reached my ears and I went to the main street, heading towards it. The closer I got the more the grunts sounded like fighting. I kept going, hoping I wasn't about to walk into something much more inappropriate. I was at the entrance of a side street when someone rushed out and barrelled head first into me.