Reflections – A Novella – Part 6
I wandered around in little circles until I caught a glimpse of him across the dance floor. I took three quick steps and knocked into an outlandishly tall blonde. The impact caused her to spill most of her drink on her top.
She spun around, glaring at me, “Watch it b…” Her lips twisted into a humourless grin, “Laney,” she snickered. “Of course.”
I tried to offer some kind of apology, even as I pressed to move past her. She smacked me, hard, the palm of her hand connecting solidly with my right cheekbone. I fell back a step; more shocked then hurt really; my mouth gaping. I was staring at her in awe thinking that there was something familiar about her… something…
She drew back and splashed what was left of her drin k in my eyes. With a snort of disgust she turned her back on me and sauntered away.
Still a little in awe, but relieved to see her leave, I turned and hurried off towards the bathrooms. I needed to do something about the burning in my eyes and the juice dripping down my chin. The harsh overhead fluorescents were horrid, but at least the room was unoccupied. I half-scurried, half-stumbled to the counter, turned on the faucet and began splashing handfuls of cool water on my face.
That’s when the inevitable finally happened.
I looked up…
… into the mirror…
… at my own reflection.
It wasn’t me on the other side of the mirror. It couldn’t be… could it? Could I really have aged so greatly in a week? Could my ordeal over that short period of time really be responsible for stealing so much of my youth?
My face was too thin, as though I’d recently known famine. My skin was too taut, drawn firmly across my bones. My hair seemed too wispy, the brown of it too dull and those electric blue streaks too gaudy and surreal. My complexion was wrong; almost greyish; sickly. My eyes were sunken, their shade too pale, and there were thick, black, greasy-looking rings beneath them. There was a scar that arced from the tip of my left eyebrow halfway to my chin. It was remarkably thin, as though it had been drawn along my flesh with a razor. It was the remnants of a long healed wound, and yet it was as red as fresh, ripe raspberries. Like the rest of my body, my face was a canvas of bruises, but I knew in time they would fade. What they’d leave behind though, was hardly a consolation.
My past and present bent, blurred and twisted together until one was hard to tell from the other. Time spun up and away from me. It took on a life of its own as it hurled me backwards, forcing me to see… to know… to accept.
It was Claire’s idea.
Amanda was hesitant, as per usual, and I’d just dropped off into thoughtful silence, as too was quite typical. I sat quietly weighing the positives against the negatives in what Claire had suggested. Claire, in her characteristic exuberance, was insistent. She was completely in love with her plan.
“My dad will take my car away if we get caught,” Amanda reasoned. “I just got that car. Claire, I love that car.”
Claire rolled her eyes and giggled. “Then we won’t get caught. Tina said she’d cover for us; for all of us. We just tell our parents we’re going to her place so she can help with our history project. She’s a history major… it’s the perfect plan.”
“It’s a school night,” Amanda countered.
“But the project’s worth 30% of our overall grade,” Claire insisted. “And it is very generous of Tina to offer up her own free time to help us out.” She winked.
“God Claire,” Amanda sighed. “We finished that project three days ago.”
Claire smirked. “Ya, but they don’t need to know that, do they?”
It was me that tipped the scales. That usually seemed to be my roll in our little group; I’d just let them argue things out until my mind was made up. “It’s really only a little lie, Amanda.” I said. “We say we’re going to Tina’s for help with the project. We are going to Tina’s. And… if it makes you feel better… we can even take the whole stupid project with us and get Tina to just kinda, you know, look it over. For her… educated opinion. That way, really, it’s barely even lie at all. No big deal. C’mon… it’ll be fun.”
Two against one; majority rules; Amanda caved.
The party was a lot of fun. It wasn’t the first time any of the three of us had drank; we weren’t little children after all; but it was the first time we’d ever drank with college kids, and the first time we didn’t have to get home to at least one of our houses at the end of the night. Infinitely cool, Tina had made arrangements for us to spend the night at her apartment, promising to get us all to class in the morning.
We clung mostly to ourselves at first, as was our way at social functions. We’d been inseparable since kindergarten… friends for life. We’d been talking about the new guy in school; some kid from Toronto with a major chip on his shoulder, but a hell of sexy way –we all agreed– of carrying it around.
That’s when I first saw him standing on the patio.
He was tall and well built. No overly bulky, just lean and shamelessly sexy. His brown hair was tussled by the mild breeze; slightly messy, somewhat boyish. He had the most perfectly masculine bone structure and that slow, lazy grin.
My breath caught in my lungs. The air around me seemed to grow warmer by the second. My heart pounded furiously in my chest; the fevered rhythm of it filling my ears until I could barely hear the music and the voices around me.
He’s too old for you, Tina warned.
Yes, I thought, too old for me. At least three years my senior, maybe more.
And then he’d looked around and caught me staring at him. Our gazes locked and for just a moment it felt as though nothing else existed on this earth but those brilliant blue eyes.
There was that seductive way his lips curled into a smile… a smile just for me… and then he was coming inside.
I felt my cheeks flush. I chewed nervously at my lower lip.
He glided right up, confidant, almost arrogant and seemingly unaware – or at least uninterested – of anyone else in the room. His voice was deep, soft and entirely enthralling. From the moment he spoke his first words to me, his simple introduction, I was lost. I was instantly, utterly and completely in lust.
Dean had invited the three of us outside to smoke a joint and we’d accepted.
I could see Tina peering at us over her shoulder now and then, looking a little concerned, but she didn’t interfere.
Twenty minutes later, Amanda was giggling in the corner as a fat, orange cat clumsily tipped over someone’s beer. Claire had grown disinterested and had gone back inside to play on Tina’s computer. There were a few others still loitering near us, but I was barely even aware of them. Dean and I sat side by side on the porch swing, chatting idly about nothing really, just the usual getting-to-know someone shtick. For just a moment we fell into silence, and he was quick to produce a small, brown vial from the inner pocket of his jacket.
“Hey,” he said. “Have you ever tried ecstasy?”
I hadn’t and I told him as much.
He raised one mischievous eyebrow and grinned. “Wanna?”
By the time the drugs had started to work their magic, we’d managed to sneak away from the party.
It was so out of character for me. Claire was the boy crazy one; not me. Claire was the impetuous one; the spontaneous one; the sometimes carless one. I’d never been what one would consider reckless a day in my life. Yet there I was, sneaking off with some guy, not even telling my friends I was leaving, let alone where I was going. There I was so intoxicated by Dean’s presence that it never even occurred to me to worry about the choices I was making. I was under a spell. Hormones and lust had taken control of reason.
We sat alone beneath a small grove of trees. I kept sighing. It was as though, for the first time in my life, I was truly and completely alive. I was connected to everything. I understood everything.
He kept stroking my hair, my neck, my arms; it sent little shivers of pleasure rushing through me. It wasn’t sexual really; it felt deeper and more meaningful than that. It felt amazing.
I wasn’t even aware of the moment when lust gave way to love, but that moment came and went and left me its helpless victim. The rest of the world had ceased to exist. There was only me and Dean and nothing else mattered.
There was no topic we didn’t broach, and the conversation flowed with ease. We talked about our pasts, our futures, our fears and dreams. I asked about the tattoos on his arm and he regaled me with amusing anecdotes about how they came to be. I asked about the little star below his eye, and his answer made my feelings for him grow deeper still.
He said, “It’s to remind me now and then to come in out of the dark. When things get bad, or I lose my way, it’s there to remind me how to get back home again.”
I gave myself to him that night, right there on the soft grass beneath the trees and the stars. He was so gentle. He kept brushing little kisses along my jaw line, whispering sweet things in my ear; telling me he’d never met anyone like me, that I made him feel things he’d thought himself incapable of feeling.
The drugs had started to fade as the sun came up. From his magic pocket, Dean produced a little flap of white powder. It was the same as the ecstasy, he told me, just clearer; purer. It would help us hold onto the feeling a little longer.
I didn’t think about my friends, or my parents. I didn’t think about my father’s lectures on the choices we make in life. I didn’t think about how much trouble I might get in, or how much trouble my actions might bring on others. I just wanted to hold on to that wonderful feeling forever; I wanted to hold on to Dean and the idea of leaving his side seemed both terrible and insane.
I was hardly an experienced drug user, and I’d never had any intentions of being. I’d smoked a little pot in the past, and I’d done mushrooms twice with my girlfriends, but I’d never even considered chemical intoxicants. Yet somehow, in the course of that one evening, I’d graduated from swallowing a couple of capsules to snorting white powder up my nose.
And Dean was right; the feeling did hold.
It was Sunday morning by the time I made my way home again.
Out of concern for me, Amanda and Claire had come clean, confessing everything. The police had been notified of my disappearance and Tina had passed on what feeble information she had about Dean.
When I stumbled in on Sunday morning my parents had been furious, but their anger was overshadowed by their obvious relief to have me home; to have me safe.
A myriad of lectures accompanied the month of grounding I was given as punishment for my actions. It was clear that I had worried everyone. It was obvious that I had disappointed them too.
I could hardly be bothered to care; I was too busy thinking about Dean, moping around and missing him; wondering when and even if I would see him again. I fell under a heavy fog of depression. I moped around, moody and sullen, and completely uninterested in life. On top of that, I was sick for days.
A week Tuesday, just when I’d begun to think I had made a terrible mistake; as everyone kept insisting I had; Dean showed up at my school. I cut the rest of my classes to spend the afternoon with him.
He’d missed me, he said.
He loved me.
He wanted to be with me always; to take care of me.
He didn’t think he could live without me.
I ran away that very night, leaving behind only a short letter of apology and the feeblest explanation for my actions. With the few belongings I deemed most important and packsack full of clothes, I moved into Dean’s apartment on Homer Street.
The powder, the ecstasy, the weed; it ran freely and I couldn’t seem to get enough. Dean sold the stuff to maintain (as he said) his quality of life, and so it was always available in abundance.
For awhile, things were beyond good. We spent every waking moment together and he was true to his word; he did take care of me.
We’d go to great, sprawling parties, so far removed from the high school gatherings I once attended. The shy, sometimes withdrawn girl that I had once been began to melt away. In her place was this new, fearless girl that refused to shy away from anything; that reached out to grab great, heaping handfuls of life.
I felt daring.
I felt beautiful.
I felt special.
To be continued…