Erin woke the next morning with an awful headache. Her stomach felt like lead and her body shivered every time she tried to move. Eventually, the need for a drink of water forced her out of bed, each step making her feel more and more nauseas and the pounding in her head worsen. She tried to remember as much as she could about last night, but everything after the cake fight was somewhat fuzzy. She remembered the taste of cherries, which now churned her stomach just thinking about it, and a cold walk with no shoes. An examination of the tights on the floor at the side of her bed confirmed this, as both feet of the tights were now shredded with holes.
Erin slowly finished her glass of water before pulling on her bathrobe and making her way downstairs. She wasn't sure what to expect, as she knew she was in a huge amount of trouble for getting drunk, but she knew that she didn't have the patience for any of it right now. She found the shoes she'd worn last night strewn across the welcome mat, her feet aching as she took each step, courtesy of wearing them all night.
There was nobody in the dining room or the kitchen, but Erin found two aspirin and a note from her dad that he'd made a smoothie for her that always used to cure his hangovers. She found the mixture in the blender and poured it, smiling at her father's considerate gesture. She knew she'd be lucky to get a nod of acknowledgement from her mother.
"How are you feeling honey?" asked her dad as he walked into the dining room.
"Rough," she groaned, dropping her head into her hands.
"Last night wasn't like you," her dad said as he sat down next to her, not angry, but definitely not impressed by the state she'd come home in.
"I know," Erin sighed. "But I was trying to stop a friend putting herself in a dangerous position." She took a sip of the smoothie. "I drank it so she wouldn't." Her father gave her a weak smile.
"You see," he said. "That sounds more like my daughter." The tender moment was interrupted by Erin's mother screeching from another room.
"Richard!" she yelled. "Richard is she up?"
"Yeah," he called back. "In here."
"Shit," Erin muttered under her breath, which her dad tactfully ignored as her mother entered the room.
"Right young lady," Her mother spat as she stopped in front of the dining room table. "We need to talk." Erin met her mother's gaze, hoping that something heavy would fall on the house and crush them all.
"Look," her mother began. "I know that you obviously don't give a damn that your father and I are trying to do what's best for you, but you have never." She paused, pursing her lips as she pointed her finger more sternly towards Erin. "Never," she repeated, louder this time. "Disregarded my rules so blatantly before."
What followed was a rant about how ungrateful Erin was for all her mother did for her, which she was so used to that she just tuned it out, but then her mother went on to paint last night as a deliberate defiance, making out like she'd left the house looking to get drunk. This Erin couldn't ignore as it was blatant lies. She argued back, knowing that her mother had already made up her mind about what supposedly happened last night and probably wouldn't be dissuaded.
"That's not what happened!" Erin shouted, angered by the false picture her mother was painting.
"Of course it was," her mother yelled back, now furiously red in the face. "I wasn't born yesterday. You and those delinquent friends of yours have set out to undermine me the moment you met them."
Erin's anger rose into a fury. Calling Ian and Miranda delinquents was laughable. They weren't out stealing cars or vandalising property, or bullying others like the so called 'normal All American' kids were. They were an introverted book nerd and a girl who loved fantasy worlds because her own life was miserable. Sure, they were frosty and looked intimidating, but only because life had been so unkind to them at such an early age. They looked after her like nobody else did, and were so much more complex than her small minded, judgemental mother could ever comprehend.
"They didn't make me drink," Erin argued. "In fact, Ian was furious when he saw I was drunk, but took me home anyway, because he'd promised to look after me." Erin's throat hurt with the force of her shouting, so angry that she was on the verge of tears. Ian. She froze. The kiss. His birthday. Today is his birthday.
"Well he didn't do a very good job if you managed to get drunk on his watch," her mother spat back, scoffing like the idea of him being responsible was hilarious, despite the fact Erin had never known him be anything but. Oh god, she thought. She's going to kill me when she realizes that he's more than just a friend now.
"It wasn't his fault some asshole dumped half a sheet cake on him and he had to go clean up," Erin argued, the anger turning the tone of her voice spiteful. "He left me for thirty minutes tops, and was livid when he saw I'd gotten drunk in that time. This really wasn't anything to do with him. You should probably thank him for getting me home safely."
"And didn't you raise me to help others in need," Erin continued, fighting the urge to point out the hypocrisy in this since her mother was the most selfish bitch she'd ever met, but Erin was trying to come out of this with as little grounding as possible. "I only drank to stop Miranda getting in a worse state than she already was. It wasn't even that much, and I only did it to help someone else."
"Miranda," sighed her mother. "I knew that no good tramp was behind this."
"She didn't force it down my neck," shouted Erin. "She'd have been happy to drink it herself and put herself in the hospital."
"Well maybe she should have," her mother replied, venomous contempt dripping from each word.
"Karen, that's enough," Erin's father shouted, disgusted by her comment. "That's a child you're talking about."
"One that's never stepping foot in this house ever again," declared Erin's mother. "As for you, you're grounded for two months. Effective immediately." Erin's chest sank.
"But I have plans today," she argued.
"You should have thought about that before disobeying my orders," her mother responded dismissively. Erin felt herself start to panic, her chest tightening and heart beating faster. She couldn't not see Ian today, she couldn't.
"But its Ian's birthday," she stated, hoping his assistance in getting her home would be enough to win them round. "You shouldn't punish him for this. Just let me start the grounding tomorrow."
"Do you think you're in a position to bargain with me?" Erin's mother questioned, eyebrows raised furiously.
"Maybe she's right Karen," Erin's dad interjected.
"Excuse me," her mother said incredulously, turning her attention away from Erin to her father.
"She didn't say she doesn't respect the grounding, just that she wants to see her friend on his birthday before it happens," he explained, keeping his voice calm and measured. "And he did bring her back here safely, and before curfew like he promised."
"He's a really good guy," added Erin quietly. She refused to sit and let her mother believe lies about Ian. "If you bothered to get to know him at all you'd see that."
"If I let you out," Her mother began to ask, her eyes narrowed in scrutiny. "Will she be there?"
"No," Erin answered immediately, knowing exactly who she was. "She's working today." Erin caught her breath, which was still tight in her throat. "And I was hoping she wouldn't be there. I'm kinda mad at her for getting stupid drunk last night, and I was hoping to spend time with Ian without her, so you wouldn't need to worry about Miranda being there."
"Why so desperate to spend time without her?" her mother questioned, a mocking tone to her voice. "You two were clearly close last night." Erin swallowed. She knew that she needed to bite the bullet and tell her parents everything if she had any hope of winning this one concession.
"Because my friendship with Ian is a little more than that now," she confessed. Closing her eyes to avoid seeing her mother's face.
"Oh no it isn't," she replied. "You're grounded."
"That decision was made before I got drunk last night, so I don't think it counts," Erin retorted, mentally reprimanding herself for being so sarcastic when she was trying to get on her mother's good side. "And I really like him." Before Erin's mom could react, the landline started to ring.
"I'll get it," said Erin, darting up out of her seat and moving over to the phone with the highest amount of energy she'd managed all day.
"Erin, its Ian," the voice at the other end of the line announced. The sound of his voice immediately made Erin smile.
"Richard, don't let her answer it!"
"Hello," she replied, her voice warm from smiling.
"How's the head this morning?"
"Bad," Erin answered. "How are you?"
"Pretty sure I still smell like vanilla frosting," Ian replied, which made Erin chuckle. "And currently waiting for my mom to get back home."
"So you've not tried to hunt down your birthday presents then?"
"Well I know one of them is Kel's old van sat in the garage," Ian explained, while Erin tried to move as far away from her approaching parents as the phone cord would let her. "So that makes the hunt a little easier, but I figured I'd just wait for her to get back home."
"Happy birthday," she said.
"Thank you," he replied. "Although I was kinda hoping you'd be able to say it to me in person. Grounded?"
"Majorly," Erin confirmed, glancing hopefully at her parents. "But I'm hoping they'll let me start tomorrow."
"Those are some tough odds," said Ian.
"I know," Erin replied. "But my dad's fighting my corner, and I've already told them not to punish you for my mistakes."
"Do they know about everything that happened at that party last night?" asked Ian, meaning did her parents know about them.
"Kind of," admitted Erin. "I did tell them about us."
"And how are they taking it?"
"Discussing it now as we speak," she answered, noting that her parents had stopped trying to confiscate the phone from her, and were now having a conversation of their own.
"I really want to see you," Ian admitted, which warmed Erin's chest and made her anxiety ease.
"Me too," she replied, smiling at the thought of his being as desperate to see her as she was him. "Maybe you could just turn up and rescue me."
"And have your mom hate me even more?" he questioned, which made Erin laugh slightly, despite it being a very real threat. "When I'm trying to date you, no thanks."
"Erin, give us the phone," Her mother's voice interrupted, which made her regret laughing at Ian's joke.
"But," she stammered.
"It's okay Erin," Her dad said before she could argue any more. "Do as she says."
Erin listened, anxiety flooding her aching body as her mother spoke to Ian over the phone. From what she could gather, he was recounting his version of events to her, and being grilled about his feelings for Erin. Erin's mother reluctantly agreed to allow him over at the house so they could talk to him about last night and his budding relationship with Erin. His mom would be bringing him at 1pm, and staying during the whole conversation. Erin sighed with relief. It was a better result that she'd been expecting, and she still got to see Ian on his birthday.
In preparation for Ian's arrival, Erin went and got herself ready. She showered, put on some clean clothes and ate some plain slices of toast, still feeling nauseas from the hangover. She got his birthday presents from her room, and had them ready with her when Ian and his mom arrived at 1pm sharp.
Her mom welcomed them in, plastering her fake smile and her fake voice like she hadn't been screaming for hours this morning. She'd already began to make out like she was such a saint for even allowing Ian to come to the house given the circumstances, enjoying watching Erin be grateful for the scraps she was thrown. Do you see how forgiving we are (I am) for even considering suspending your grounding for a day, perhaps it will remind you to be less ungrateful in the future. Her words made Erin feel sick. She wanted Erin to fret over the fact they hadn't actually agreed yet, to watch her persuade them through sycophantic subservience. It was a disgusting power trip, because she knew dangling the one scrap of freedom Erin had asked for and have her degrade herself to fight for it was worse than grounding her outright.
All of them moved into the living room, going over the events of last night yet again, before moving on to the topic of Ian and Erin's relationship. Her mother and Connie did most of the talking, Connie's testimony to how responsible and decent her son was appeared to slowly be winning over her parents. Erin's father also thanked Ian for looking after Erin as best he could during the party and for getting her home safely. They managed to come to an agreement that Erin's grounding was to be enforced from tomorrow, and Ian and Erin were allowed to spend two supervised hours together with Connie.
Connie drove them to one of McKinley's parks, citing the fresh air as being good for Erin. When they arrived though, Connie didn't get out of the car, which left Erin confused. She admitted that she was going to let them have some time alone rather than watching them constantly, which made Erin's crappy morning infinitely better.
"Have I ever told you that I love your mom," Erin shouted over the top of Connie's car once she got out.
"Many times," Ian replied, leaning against the other side of the car as he waited for Erin to walk around it.
She met him at the passenger's side door, slipping her hand into his as they walked away from the car and out of the parking lot. They walked around the park hand in hand chatting about the rest of the party and how Erin's morning had been. There was a small vendor selling hotdogs, and Ian bought Erin one to make sure that she ate. They sat down on a bench while she finished off the hotdog, looking out over the small lake in front of them.
"As first dates go, this isn't what I pictured," said Ian, breaking a short period of silence. Erin smiled.
"But it's kind of perfect," she countered, looking out at the kids feeding ducks at the edge of the lake. "Considering how messy the rest of today has been."
"I guess you're right," Ian replied. "It's perfect in its imperfection. You're hung-over, and we're making the most of what little time we have before you're grounded."
"It sucks that we'll have to wait a whole two months before we can do this again," Erin sighed, resting her head on Ian's shoulder.
"Yeah," Ian agreed. "But I'll still sneak over to your place after school."Erin smiled.
"I know," she said, smirking at the deviousness as she buried her face into his coat. "But it's not the same."
"I'm sure we'll have plenty of time to make up two months of missed dates," Ian reminded her.
"I guess you're right," she said, sitting back upright. "It's not like you're going anywhere."
"I'm not," he replied, leaning in to kiss her.
"Do you regret waiting as long as you did?" asked Erin once she slipped back down to rest her head on Ian's shoulder.
"Not at all," he answered. "I think the timing was just right."
"You sure?" questioned Erin, shifting back up to give him a suspicious look. Last night had been overwhelmingly a disaster, and now she was going to be grounded for the first two months of their relationship. Surely asking her out sooner would have been better.
"Absolutely," he answered, smiling, evidently amused by her confused reaction. "Now come here, I don't want to waste what little time I have left with you discussing your grounding." Erin smiled, shaking her head slightly before allowing him to pull her in for a kiss.