After sifting through my strange collection of clothing, Aislinn and I chose an outfit we both deemed suitable for me to go out in; a loose white t-shirt with a big print of a woman’s face across the front, tucked into a black body-con skirt. To my surprise, Aislinn commented that she thought my skirt should be longer to preserve my modesty but didn’t push the point any further.
She chose a longer white skirt and blue t-shirt, her aim appearing to want to stay understated but I feared she would stick out like a sore thumb. But I didn’t dare mention this to Aislinn. For all her beauty and grace she had one of the strangest tastes in fashion I’ve ever known. She never wore jeans, a staple of any young adult’s wardrobe, and her skirts never came any higher than a quarter of the way above her knees. But most of the time her skirts came right down to her ankles and she wore strange long dresses that covered both her arms and legs. She hadn’t struck me as the prudish type, but maybe her father’s protective nature had managed to seep into her choice of clothing.
Owen knocked on our door to ask if we were going yet as I was finishing my make up. Aislinn let him in and he slumped down on her bed as I focused on getting my mascara right, by back to him.
“Come on, how long can it take to put a bit of lippy on?” Owen complained. “The party will have already started.”
“I’m sure it won’t have ended by the time we get there,” I replied, snapping my mirror shut and turning to face Owen, one hand on my hip. I could see his eyes widen as he took in the full force of my outfit. It made me feel uneasy and unsure what to do with myself. “Well, if you’re ready to go,” I said, grabbing a bag from my bed. “You ready Aislinn?”
“Yes,” she replied, noticing the tension. “Let’s go.”
The three of us hurried out of the building and along the semi-dark streets towards Lily’s house. She’d given me both an address and street directions telling his how to get there but it turned out the house wasn’t that far away from the campus so it only took us minutes to walk there.
“Nessie!” I staggered backwards in my small heels as I was assaulted by a whirlwind of hair as soon as I entered the house. “I’m so glad you came.” Lily was holding a bottle of something in her hand and had clearly had another few before the party started because she was unsteady on her feet as she stepped back.
“Hey, Lily,” I replied. “Great party. I didn’t realise there would be so many people.”
“Neither did I,” she replied. “But Harry has a lot of friends.”
“These are the friends I brought,” I said, pulling Owen and Aislinn forward. “Lily, this is Owen and my room mate, Aislinn. Guys, this is Lily from my lectures.”
“So lovely to meet you,’ Lily exclaimed, hugging both of my friends before embracing me again. “I must talk to you later on but I’ve got to get you a drink first, follow me.” She grabbed my hands and dragged me through the people milling around the entrance and towards a door at the back of the corridor, which I discovered was the kitchen. She went to a counter filled with bottles of one kind or another, took one and popped the cap for me.
“I’m not drinking,” I insisted as she thrust the bottle towards me.
“Don’t be silly,” she replied. “You’ve been a good girl all week, it’s time for you to let your hair down a bit and have some fun.”
I didn’t have the energy to fight with her and didn’t see the harm in having just one drink to satisfy her so lifted the bottle to my lips and drank.
“Much better,” she said, hugging me again. “Look, I’ve got to go say hi to some more people but come and find me later and we’ll have a chat.”
“OK,” I replied as Lily wandered off into the crowd of people filling the house. I was left alone and with no one I knew to help me. Lord knows what had happened to Aislinn and Owen but for the moment I had to accept that I was alone. I looked around at all the unfamiliar faces, making eye contact with no one as I looked around the room.
A hand on my shoulder made me turn around and look straight into the chest of a complete stranger. I looked up and saw that the guy that had caught my attention was about a foot taller than me and I had to crane my neck up to see his face.
“Sorry, am I in the way,” I said, hastily moving aside for the stranger to get past.
“Not at all,” the friendly giant laughed, “I just wanted to say hey. I haven’t seen you at one of these before; you one of Harry’s new friends?”
“I’m a friend of Lily’s,” I corrected. “We’re in the same History lectures.”
“Ah, a first year,” he said, lifting a bottle of beer to his lips and taking a swig. “So are you enjoying life at uni so far?”
“It’s good,” I replied. “I’m not sure I fit into this particular aspect very well though.”
“I think you fit in just fine,” the guy smiled, his eyes fixed on me as he appraised my appearance.
“Nessie?” Another hand on my shoulder made me turn away from the stranger who had approached me and brought me face to face with Owen who had a concerned look on his face. “There you are, I was worried I’d lost you.” He put his arm protectively around my shoulders and I wasn’t sure if I was happy about it.
“I was just mingling,” I replied, trying to appear independent in front of my new acquaintance. “This is…I don’t think you told me your name.”
“How rude of me, I’m Lloyd,” he said, holding out his hand for me to shake. “And you’re Nessie I assume.”
“Yes,” I replied, “and this is my friend Owen, we live together on campus.”
“Ah, another newbie,” Lloyd said, smiling at Owen too. “Well, I guess I should leave you two to mingle. It was nice meeting you.” As he walked away I felt a pang of sorrow. I liked Lloyd but he clearly didn’t feel quite the same about me.