Practically everybody is at Sandra's house tonight since her parents are out of town. Her house is full of total losers and popular kids alike; she doesn't discriminate. The radio's full blast, some people are dancing, others are outside smoking cigs, some are in the basement and I have a feeling that some couple is taking up occupancy in Sandra's parent's room.
Both Beth and Lindsay are off somewhere with their boyfriends. And I'm here...alone. Alejandro was busy tonight. Again. If he's not working a shift at his delivery boy job, it's babysitting his little brat sister Pilar.
Valentine's Day is less than a month away, but I have a sinking feeling he'll be-wait for it-busy! Damn it. I haven't had a moment alone with him since Sunday. It's been an entire freaking week and it's felt like an eternity. God.
While Beth and Lindsay are off having fun, I'm upstairs moping around. It just makes me feel even worse when I hear the couple in the bedroom laughing and moaning. Part of me wishes it was me and Al in there. Yeah, I'm missing him pretty majorly if I'm even thinking about making out or anything with him in public where somebody could walk in on us...
Groaning, I shuffle away down the hall and that's when I heard an extremely bizarre moan. There's several more moans, a groan, some unidentifiable noise, and then...silence. Just as I'm wondering if the sounds have stopped, they start up again and I walk towards the noise to investigate, figuring out that it's coming from Sandra's room.
When I peer inside, there's a figure curled up in the Feedle position on the floor. I'm so bored, my curiosity gets the better of me and I flick on the lights.
Of all the people it could be, it's Harold the nerd. The walking encyclopedia of useless trivia facts and the one white boy I know that can rap.
His red hair is messed up and he's not wearing a shirt. The longer I stand there and watch, the louder his sounds get. The situation is getting awkward and I'm just about to leave, but that's when Harold sits up and then pukes his guts out all over the floor. Like a volcano, he keeps going, keeling over and it's almost an entire minute before he stops. It's so disgusting, yet I just can't look away.
Groaning, he looks as white as a sheet when he slumps against the edge of Sandra's bed.
Next to him is a huge pile of green, gloppy puke...It makes me want to puke. Cringing, I look away and my first impulse is to run away-
"Heather...is that you?" he called out weakly.
Biting my lip, I turn and look at him, furrowing my brows. He looks so limp and sickly, more sickly than usual. Not sure what compels me, I wander over, crawl across Sandra's bedspread to avoid the puddle of puke, and then step off when I'm near Harold.
Harold looks up at me and smiles weakly, trying in vain to look strong. Then he just frowns and I'm not sure what to do as he sits there and tears start falling down his face from beneath his glasses. Desperately, he looks up at me and the deep sadness in his eyes...it just gets me.
"I don't know why I did it..." he croaked, shaking his head. "I don't know why...I cheated on my sweet LaShawna. I'm gonna lose both my best friend and my girlfriend if they find out what happened. It's just...I don't know what was going through my mind!"
I reach out and help Harold get to his feet and then help him sit up on the bed. He's still crying and that's when I hear a clink. There's a beer bottle on the floor...
"Kate's here..." he hiccuped. "We were just sitting in a couple of lawn chairs out back. She looked like she was upset and she mentioned that Arnold was spending more time with a foreign exchange student than her. And then after that, we started kissing and even though nobody saw us...I ran off. I ran up here and then I...I..."
Harold cut off after that, burying his head in his hands. I felt like one of those bartender guys, listening to the clients complain about how crappy their lives are. But, even though I don't really know Harold, I couldn't help feeling sorry for the guy. He's the last person on the planet that I'd expect to see something like this happen to.
For several minutes, Harold continues to sit there and sob silently. Helpless, I pat his back and just stay put. "It'll be okay," I tell him over and over again.
He looks up at me, doubt in his eyes. "Kate made the first move, Heather, and I didn't stop her...I...don't know why I..."
"You guys are good friends, right?" I really don't want to play therapist right now. "You'll find a way to figure things out..."
"You...you really think so?" Harold asks, hope in his eyes.
Now I'm just frustrated. I just can't do heart-to-hearts. "Why are you telling me?" I fume at him.
I'm not drunk. I'm not Kate or LaShawna or his best friend. It's not my freaking problem. So...why am I here trying to comfort Harold? It doesn't make any sense. Then I turn and look at him and he looks at me, his green eyes almost as serious and somber as they could be when he's actually sober.
"Remember ninth grade?" he asked.
"What about it?" Great, I'm playing his stupid game by responding to his question.
"We were biology partners," Harold reminisced. "We had a partner project where we had to make a model of the internal organs of a frog...You came over to work on it and some guy named Tony had broken up with you. You tried to deny that you were upset and insisted that you were 'over' him, but I knew differently. After that, you told me that Tony had really hurt you. And then I cheered you up. We kinda had a moment..."
"I know you're a good person, Heather," Harold said with a small smile. "Not the person that the world sees."
There's clear tear streaks on his face and he looks like a mess. He continues to smile and look at me insistently. Instead, I look away from him and look all over and anywhere else in the room other than his face, because I'm not quite sure how to respond to what he just said. What I really don't get is how he went from blabbering about his own love life problems to an obscure event that happened freshman year that I...really wanted to forget about.
"I promised you I wouldn't tell anybody and I won't," Harold said, as if reading my mind.
Reluctantly, I turn back to look at him and he's still smiling. Now he's really beginning to creep me out. He's creepier drunk than he is sober. Seriously. And I could barely tolerate the guy before. Looking back on it, I can't believe I actually tried to convince my Spanish teacher last year to let Harold tutor me over Al.
"Harold...?" LaShawna appears out in the hallway, looking around.
Like a little kid, Harold scrambles behind me and places his grimy hands on my shoulders. "Hide me," he begs.
Disgusted, I bat his hands away and then call out to LaShawna: "Hey! He's in here!"
LaShawna turns and her eyes widen as she enters. First she looks at the puke puddle, then at Harold as he scrambles to the head of the bed like a caged puma. More concerned than angry, LaShawna walks towards him and extends her hand. For a second, Harold resists, then he ambles towards her, starting to tear up and cry again.
That guy really can't handle his alcohol.
"Hey Heather, could you help me get Harold to my car?"
I take a quick look at the two of them and I can feel the "no" on the tip of my tongue. Then my brain interferes and, for some reason, I remember that late night last year when Kate appeared out of nowhere and tried to tell me about how Jose was meddling in the election. Then I remember that same girl coming up to me and Alejandro as soon as she was back from the hospital, apologizing for her involvement in Courtney's schemes and telling us that she'd be happy to listen to whatever problems we had with the school.
It had been Harold standing next to her when she did that. And then it had been Harold that'd made some of the biggest efforts to get our prom in New York City last year even though he'd failed. Harold that secretly told me he'd voted for me as prom queen over Courtney or Elaine...
I'm not sure what compelled me to do it, but I helped LaShawna cart Harold down the hall, out the front door, and past a long line of cars to where her purple PT Cruiser was parked. I even supported Harold while she unlocked the doors of her car. As soon as LaShawna had Harold sitting in the shotgun seat, she turned towards me and smiled. We'd been silent the entire way here; Sandra's house, full of the throbbing rhythm of the stereo and the sounds of people talking, sounded far away.
"Thanks Heather," LaShawna said simply. "See ya at school on Monday."
I waved as she climbed into her car and then I watched as she drove away, watched until her car turned left down another street and wasn't visible anymore.
As I stood there, I looked up at the sky, the stars, the full moon. It suddenly occurred to me that LaShawna hadn't even asked what was going on with Harold or why I was the one in the bedroom with him. No fingers of blame. No drama. Her first reaction was just to get her drunk boyfriend home and clean up the situation.
Looking down the street at the sign at the end, I watched the cars zip by. Whooshing sounds and bright lights.
I've known LaShawna since fifth grade and from the very first moment we ever met, neither one of us really liked each other. Everybody knows that we hate each other's guts, that we're rivals. Yet there's weird times like this when we help each other out when nobody else would. We know things about each other that nobody else does.
For a brief moment, I wonder if we'd be friends in "an alternate universe" as a sci-fi nerd would put it...
I looked back towards Sandra's house, wondering if I should go back to the party...Probably nobody was looking for me anyway. If I left right now, nobody would even notice. Turning away, I looked all around me, at the long line of cars, listened to the loud and cheerful sounds coming from Sandra's house. Feeling my heart beating steadily in my chest, I looked around, vaguely hoping that Lindsay or Beth would come out of nowhere and start running down the sidewalk, calling my name.
Then I pulled my cell phone out of my jeans pocket, checked for any missed calls, any new text messages. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. The empty screen pushed the full extent of my situation down on me. It made my insides twist, made me feel cold and hollow. It felt like the darkness of the night was falling down on me like a lead weight. I could feel the desperation, the tears prickling at the back of my eyes...
A tear almost escaped, but I reached up and swiped it away, forcing myself to keep my composure. I'm strong; I don't cry.
That's when my cell phone started ringing and I fished it out of my pocket. The caller ID had a number I knew by heart.
"It's not Alejandro," said the voice on the other end. "It's his mother. I just found his cell phone here and...you're the first number on his speed dial. If he's with you, could you tell him to come home...?"
"Um...he's not with me, Mrs. Burromuerto." It was so painful to say those words and I don't know why.
"If it's not too much trouble, could you find him?" she asked, her voice concerned. "He didn't really specify where he was going."
I roll my eyes. Overprotective parent, much?
"I'll try to find him..."
"Thank you so much, Heather," she replies, sounding relieved. "Feel free to come over, too, okay? I have cookies..."
I hang up the phone before she can say anything else. Mrs. Burromuerto's like the second mom I never had or wanted; she's stricter than my own mom. And twice as mushy. Every time I've come over to Al's house, she tries to pinch my cheeks and tell me how cute a couple Al and I are. It drives me nuts. She's like, a mom and grandma rolled into one. A turbo mama.
Sometimes I really don't know how Alejandro puts up with her...
What's got me is that he doesn't have his cell phone with him. Alejandro takes his cell phone with him everywhere just because Turbo Mama told him to, except when he doesn't want her-
Oh, shit. I know exactly where he is.
Out of habit, I reach in my pocket and shoot off a text message to Linds and Beth as I search for my car. My new silver convertible's parked between two ugly-ass probably pre-owned cars. Thank God my parents are rich or else I'd have to drive a car like that.
It feels so good to slide in behind the wheel and wrap my fingers around it. I had to wait so long to get my driver's license.
Going at least two or three miles above the speed limit, I make it home in under twenty minutes or so, park my car right behind my parents' cheesy and matching purple cars. Ever since they got those, I've never really understood why they like to be matchy, one of those couples that has everything match. It's so...tacky.
Quickly, I jog across the front yard and as soon as I hit the back yard-just like I suspected. Alejandro's sitting on the grass with his arms wrapped around the shaft of a guitar, looking up longingly at my bedroom window. He can be so freaking adorable when he's not actively trying to look "sexy" or "handsome." Yeah...he's attractive if he's trying, but, oh screw it, he's good-looking no matter what he does.
It's been an entire week since I've seen him now and, as usual, he knows exactly how to tug at my heart strings. I can feel my heart beating faster and I want to run up to him and nuzzle him, cuddle him, kiss him, hug him...He makes me act so unlike myself.
Ooh..I can barely stand it as I try to stealthily creep across the yard towards him.
That's when he stands up, lays the guitar aside and looks directly at me. Cover's been blown. Before I can take another step, he covers the distance between us in two giant strides. He leans in, pressing the tip of his nose to mine and hypnotizing me with those entrancing green eyes.
"I've been looking for you," he said, wrapping his arms around me. "I...wanted to make up for not seeing you all week. I'd never want to avoid seeing you. Oh, Heather...I missed you so much..."
How does he always know the right thing to say? After what I've been through tonight, that's exactly what I was wanting to hear. It just makes me that much happier that he's here. I reach up and grab one of his hands, squeezing it and smiling at him.
"I missed you, too," I whisper back, feeling like we're even closer to each other now even though we're already as close to each other as we can get.
I don't really want to talk anymore. I'm happy, but I feel drained. The situation with Harold and LaShawna keeps running through my mind like a video on replay and my brain won't stop thinking for some reason.
Frustrated, I leap up at Al, wrapping my arms around his neck and kissing him. Barely a full minute into it, he pulls his trademark move: sticking his tongue in my mouth. That's his signal that he wants more than just a peck on the lips. Yeah, I need some of that right now. Me tackling him to the ground and wrapping my fingers through his hair is my green light to him tonight.
For the next fifteen minutes, we end up rolling around on my back lawn...making out. My cell phone rings in my back pocket, but I just ignore it. I want Alejandro so badly right now. Nothing else. No distractions. No more drama. After awhile, Alejandro pulls me away and glares, gritting his teeth as my stupid freaking cell phone rings for the thousandth time in my pocket.
"Answer the damn cell phone, Heather!" Alejandro groans.
"Okay, okay." I get up and fish it out my pocket, answer it.
"Hello? What the hell do you want?"
"Heather!" a familiar voice replied. "What the hell's up with you?"
"Duh, it's me," he replied. "I'm coming over right now! I can't wait to see you!"
"I can't wait to see you either..." I can hear the unsteady tone in my voice.
"See ya, kiddo."
He just hung up, not even waiting for me to say good-bye.
"Who was that?" I turn and see Alejandro, his arms folded, staring down at me.
"Just an old friend of mine..." I reply meekly.
Alejandro raises an eyebrow looking skeptic. And unconvinced. We stand there staring at each other for a long minute, Alejandro's eyes grilling me like a pair of a laser beams. Each passing second gets more and more awkward; I can feel my knees buckling. I'm not sure what to say here...
I spin around and there's Ryan, speeding at me like a freight train. A second later, he's kissing me like there's no tomorrow. Once he pulls away, we both hear a snort and turn to look at Alejandro.
He looks insanely pissed off...
Chris was slumped across the white sofa, the top buttons of his shirt undone and several empty glasses of tequila sprawled out across the top of his wooden end table. Sullenly, he stared at the TV screen, mindlessly watching whatever stupid reality show was on the air. Lately, he was becoming way too familiar with the TV line-up after midnight.
All over his walls he had posters of famous reality TV personalities and his desk was strewn with gossip magazines. For the past five years, he'd been stuck in this stupid little town as the principal of Cress High School. He'd been so miserable, but his misery had deepened even more last year as soon as that witch Blainely showed up. She had her eyes set on his job and...she was going to get it, too...
What he really wanted was to be famous, a world-renowned TV star, but instead he was a washed out leftover from a teen boy band that'd broken up years and years ago. He'd ended up going into getting a degree in education for Mummy Dearest, since she'd convinced him that his chances of becoming famous were slim to none, and then moving to the U.S. and picking up this crummy job.
As he sat there stewing in his own muck, Blainely came out of the bathroom, walked around the couch and then collapsed into his lap, wearing nothing but a white bath robe.
"What are you up to now, Chris?" she asked, touching his cheek.
"Watching TV," he slurred, glaring at her. What was she doing here?
"You look tired..." she said, playing with his hair.
"What the hell are you doing in my house?" Chris fumed, batting her hand away.
"You're at my house," she said, looking at him.
Chris blinked and then closed his eyes, willing it all to go away. The memories floated back to him: he'd been out drinking...with Blainely. And then there was some kissing and the rest was a great big blur...
"Elaine and Eli are out tonight," she said casually. "And you looked like you needed a fun Friday night with a female friend instead of that burly cafeteria worker for once..."
"Chef," Chris mumbled.
"Yeah, that's his name."
Tuning out the rest of what Blainely was saying, Chris let her grab his wrist and drag him up off of the couch.
Tonight was already his worst nightmare come true...how could much worse could things really get from here?