Vestige - Interlude: The Party
As the night fills the sky
All my fears are dissipating
'Cause I feel reassured
That I might make it through
And if all my luck should burn
Then I guess it burned for you
April 13th, 2012
I was sitting on my bed, back against the bed frame with my knees raised in front of me, holding up my laptop. I had been spending the last few hours writing an essay for my English class, specifically answering the topic question my teacher had given everybody: "How do our past experiences influence our decisions?". The question was simple enough, it's a pretty universally recognized idea that stuff that happens to us has an effect on our decision making. I mean, that's what it means to grow, right? You gain more knowledge as you live through life and form new memories, and that helps you make more informed decisions in the future.
I've never really been too good at writing anything analytical, especially non-fiction. Essays and research papers that required informed arguments that helped to prove your point? Those were an entirely unknown game to me, one which I had never managed to breeze through. Of course, we were supposed to use some of the books we've read this year as evidence for our arguments, so that at least made it a bit easier, even if most of the books were ones from nearly five decades ago and definitely out of touch at this point. The sound of my laptop's keys clicking as I typed away were the only sounds I could pick up in the room. I had my earphones in for a bit, but those always hurt my ears after a while, so I had taken them out.
Looking at the time in the corner of my laptop screen, it was 4:43 PM. I started writing as soon as I got home from class, so I've only been going for about an hour. Unfortunately, this essay is a non-insignificant amount of my course grade, so I needed to finish this as soon as possible.
God, it's a Friday! I could be out doing something actually fun with Shae and the other guys. Isn't that the whole point of high school? That's what it always seemed like in movies, at least, but I guess I've been a victim of false advertising.
After a bit more time passes, the sound of my phone ringing from my desk brings me out of my writing trance. I sigh, setting my laptop next to me on the bed, not wanting to get out of bed, but eventually forcing myself into maneuvering over to the desk, I grab the phone and flip it open, looking to see the Caller ID.
I instantly accept the call, it's almost second nature at this point. She calls me at least once a day so she can tell me about whatever person is pissing her off that day, or whatever drama she's heard from her other friends. I was never really one for gossip, or whatever, but I did appreciate talking to her.
I put the phone up to my ear, "What's up?" I say, a tinge of fatigue in my voice.
"Hey! Just warning you that I'm like five minutes from your place and you don't have a say in the matter." She replied bluntly. I can hear the sound of cars driving by on the other side of the phone, so she's obviously outside, confirming her words.
I take a deep breath before speaking, "...Why?" I said with exasperated sarcasm.
"Because! I have something to tell you, and if I say it over the phone then I seriously doubt it'll work out in the way I'm hoping it does."
"That clears up nothing, actually, and now I regret picking up."
"Even if you didn't answer, that doesn't stop your parents from letting their son's lovely goody-two-shoes of a friend stop by for a visit!" She exclaimed, a mischievous tone subtly layered in her voice.
She's not wrong.
"Wow, you make this sound like you're sneaking into a high-security building or something." I say, utterly confused at her motives. "Obviously you can come over, but I'm not exactly filled with confidence at whatever you're planning."
"Like I said, I can't tell you yet, but it's gonna be awesome!" She said. There was an unusual perkiness to her that made itself pretty clear over the phone.
Before I can say anything, I'm met with the dial tone, signalling that she had hung up. The only thing I can do at this point is wait for her to get here, I guess. She always lets herself in when she comes over, so I don't make the effort to meet her downstairs. A sudden ping sound fills the quiet room, seeming to come from my laptop. I get back into bed, looking to see where the notification came from.
It's a message from Tyler.
He's definitely the newest member of our little group, if even that. I'm the only person in the group that he's actually friends with so far, despite my efforts to bring him along on any plans we all make. I only met the Grey Wolf back in February, at the beginning of the second semester, in the school's photography class. Nobody I knew signed up for it, and due to our prestigious high school's advanced budget for technology, we were forced to be paired up for shared computer use in the Photography Room. I suppose Tyler was also fortunate enough to not know anybody in the class, as we ended up being paired together by the teacher. He was definitely someone I could only describe as uninterested, as the first week or two I spent with him in that class consisted of him either giving me one word answers or answering in the most blunt, bored tone he could manage. Though, it seemed that it took a bit of persistence on my part to push him to be more open, and since then he's grown to be a pretty great friend.
Tyler: u goin to that party tonight ive been hearin about?
Party? I wasn't made aware of anything like that, at least... not yet. Something in the back of my brain was telling me that Shae had ulterior motives about coming to my place so suddenly, but I'm still hoping that I'm wrong. I hate parties.
Jake: party? havent heard anything, are u going?
Tyler: thinkin about it
think its gonna be over at chris's place, guess his parents r gone for the weekend or somethin
Jake: chrisssss? ughh that guy is such an asshole
u dont havee to go, but itd prob be more fun to have someone u actually know there
The way he worded that was directed at me, but I could tell he didn't want to go on his own.
Jake: i guess ill think about it
Tyler: sickk, call me if u make up ur mind
Before I can type my farewells over IM, Shaela energetically bursts through the door.
"Jesus! You scared the shit outta me, don't you knock?" I said, mildly exasperated.
"Oh come on, I literally called you a few minutes ago, you had plenty of time to not make a situation where it'd be a bad idea for me to barge in," She replies, laughing, before setting her bag on the ground and dramatically falling into my bed. "Today was garbage."
"Ugh, Claire decided to just not show up, I guess, on the day we're supposed to present that stupid History project? And, obviously, she didn't give me her part of the project or anything, so I had tell Mr Thomas about the situation, which was fucking embarrassing." She paused for a moment, taking a deep breath. "Luckily, he said he wouldn't reduce my grade for handing it in late, since I actually had my part finished. God, what a bitch- I must've called her like thirty times before class to get her to email me her part, and every time it went straight to voicemail - and she told me last night that she'd have it ready for today!"
"Have you gotten a hold of her yet?" I asked, closing my laptop and setting it beside me.
Shae turns her head to me, shaking her head, "Nope, she's been ghosting me all day."
"Sounds like typical Claire."
"Yeah, I shouldn't have partnered with her, but apparently I can't say no to anyone, so..." I chuckle lightly in response. "Anyways! I didn't just come here to complain to you!" She says, sitting up on the bed, now facing towards me.
"Right... So what was so important that you just had to tell me in person?" I say, sarcastically.
"Like I said, if I asked you over the phone you would've definitely said no, and my ability to pressure you into doing things isn't as effective unless it's in person!" She responded.
I subtly rolled my eyes, but it's clear she noticed from the stare-down she gave me, "Okay, so what is it?"
"Soooooo..." She says, trying to find the rest of the words, "There's a party."
"Wh- did everybody know about that party except for me?!?" I exclaimed.
Shaela's face quickly turns to an expression of shock, "Who told you?"
"Tyler did, like, not even five minutes ago." I say, bluntly.
"What? How does he know Chris?"
"Friend-of-a-friend, I'm guessing?"
"Hmm..." She hummed, thinking about something, "So, did you tell him you were going?"
"I specifically said I'd think about it, nothing definite." I made it clear in my tone that I wasn't particularly interested.
"Oh, come on, dude! It'll be fun!"
I didn't really have an interest in going, but I know it'd make Shae happy, plus it'd be nice to hang out with Tyler again even if we've only known each other for a couple months.
"...Fine. But, if Chris or any of his buddies start shit, I'm leaving."
"Lemme just call Tyler and let him know," I said as I grabbed my phone and flipped it open, finding Tyler in my contact list and dialling.
"You gonna bring him with-" The phone rings a few times before he picks up and I extend my hand out towards Shae in a shushing motion. She rolls her eyes, smirking.
"Hey? So are ya gonna go?" He said eagerly.
"Well, Shae showed up at my door literally right after you messaged me, asking the same thing!" I exclaimed in a fake-preppy voice. "So, I guess I have no choice since she'll probably just drag me there if I say no," I joked. She nods her head toward me in response.
"Oh, is she going too?" He inquired.
"Yeah, I guess so! Your place is kinda on the way to Chris', so we could probably meet you at your place and go from there."
"Yeah! Sounds good!" He quickly responded.
I laughed, "Okay, we'll call you when we get there?"
We exchanged our farewells, and hung up. The party wasn't for at least another hour or two, so Shae and I had some time to burn, of which I was entirely out of ideas. I figured I could at least spend this time actually being productive, so I grabbed my laptop and continued on writing my English essay as Shae resumed her previous conversation topic of stuff at school that was pissing her off. It was pretty entertaining, to be fair. She was telling me about how Chris had gotten in a fight with this other kid in our grade yesterday after class, which I wasn't lucky enough to witness, but it was obviously all anyone would talk about for basically the entire day today so word spread around fast. The part I hadn't heard about was that both Chris and the other guy, Nathan, got suspended for a week because of it. Chris was generally an asshole to everybody, including myself, so I didn't feel too bad about that. Although, I didn't know Nathan all that well. Other than having a few classes together, I don't think I've ever held an actual conversation with the guy. I think it was safe to assume that Chris was the one who started it, and Shae seemed to agree with me, even though she hadn't seen the fight either.
"But, apparently Nathan's gonna show up tonight!" She exclaimed coyly.
"...Remind me again why you want me to go to this specific party?"
"You'll have a great time! It's not like we'll be involved in the drama anyway so think of it more as entertainment!"
"I think you and I have different definitions of the word 'entertainment'," I joked.
"I'm sure you can go run off somewhere with Tyler if you're not having fun," She said, her tone reminding me of my mom.
"Oh yeah? What about you?"
"I can't just leave Alex at a party with Chris, those two start shit between each other so much and I'd rather not deal with the aftermath of that today."
"I'm guessing it's safe to assume that Elliot's going too, then?"
"He's not big on parties, but he'll usually go if everyone else is, unlike somebody," She says, gesturing towards me.
"Good one," I reply, unmoving as I keep typing away at my assignment.
"Well, we should probably leave soon since we're stopping at Tyler's place on the way.
I saved the document I had been working on, closing my laptop. "Sounds good to me!"
"I can't believe you actually agreed to go." Tyler joked as we walked towards the road from his house.
"Yeah, me either." I replied. I definitely didn't put in any effort in dressing up for the party, opting for a snug space-themed graphic tee, along with black jeans and a white zip-up hoodie. Shae and Tyler both stand on opposite sides of me as we walk down the sidewalk.
"Luckily I learned the subtle techniques in convincing you to do things against your better judgement, so now you get to have fun for once!" Shae exclaimed.
"It's not my fault that going to a party is literally the last thing on earth I'd do for fun in any normal situation." I retorted, putting my hands in the pockets of my jacket.
"Oh yeah? And what do you consider a 'normal situation'?" Shae asks.
"Any situation where you guys aren't the ones trying to get me to go! I'm only doing this for you two, y'know." I said, looking over at both of them.
"What about Elliot and Alex?" Tyler chimed in.
"They aren't the ones asking me to go to this party." I sarcastically remarked, trying to keep the conversation light-hearted. "Speaking of the party- this is Chris we're talking about, there's gonna be beer, right?"
"Uh, duh?" Shae replied.
"Yeah, that's a definite no for me, I'm already enough of a disappointment to my parents,"
"No one's making you drink, Jake. At least you'd be safe if some old hag called the cops about the noise." Shae said.
"I think at that point we're guilty by association, so we'd just make a run for it if that happens," Tyler joked.
"Dude, the chance of me outrunning a police officer successfully is about as likely as me not wanting to punch Chris tonight."
"And the chance of you winning that fight is just as low!" Shae retorted, Tyler laughing in response.
"I specifically said 'want' because of that very reason!"
"Wow, I'd pay money to see you fight that guy." Tyler said, nudging his elbow into my side.
It isn't a secret that I'm not exactly athletic. I mean, I'm definitely not weak, but fighting basically any animal of a similar size to mine was not a situation that favoured my victory.
"That sounds more like just getting the shit kicked outta me for your entertainment." I remarked, lightly punching Tyler's shoulder in return.
"Absolutely worth every penny!" Shae exclaimed. Luckily, the place wasn't any more than ten minutes away from Tyler's place, so I didn't have to endure listening to these two talk about me getting beat up for much longer.
We finally make it to Chris' house, and I'm suddenly filled with an impending sense of regret. Obviously, my parents would never in a million years agree to me going to a party like this. As far as they know, I'm just spending the evening hanging out with Shae at Tyler's house. So yeah, this entire night had a lot of potential for disaster.
Shae can clearly see my hesitation, because she grabs my hand, leading me up the walkway, Tyler following closely behind.
"I wonder if Elliot and Alex beat us here?" She says, knocking on the front door.
"I doubt they had anything to do earlier, hell they probably came straight here after school, knowing Alex." I said, laughing.
Our conversation is cut short by the opening door, revealing the familiar black cat.
"Oh, look, the Stephenson kid brought his girlfriend!" Chris exclaimed mockingly, looking back into the house, before peering around my shoulder, "And... Tyler?" He said, inquisitively.
I lean over, blocking Tyler from his line of sight, "Yeah, hey, not dating by the way!" I said. I've known Shae since I first moved to Vestige, around the time I turned five years old, so it wasn't uncommon for rumours to go around that we were dating. I've always thought of her more as a sister, if anything.
"I asked them to come!" Tyler said. That was only partly true, but according to Tyler, they've been 'somewhat-friends' for quite a while now, so saying that would at least mean less mild-harassment from Chris for tonight.
"Oh, uh, okay... come on in! But you're on the hook for any shit they pull, Tyler!" He said, opening the door wider.
The party had been going on for a few hours at this point. I could recognize most of the animals here from school, but not enough to actually hold a conversation with any of them, so most of my time here had just been spent with Shae and Tyler. The place hasn't been incredibly crowded luckily, but there were easily about forty others in this part of the house alone. I'm assuming only high school grades were invited, but there were a considerable number of students to meet that requirement. The issue at hand for me, other than how crowded this place is, is that both Shae and Tyler ditched me to go... somewhere? I think Shae saw some of her friends and went somewhere with them, but Tyler was pretty secretive about where he was going, only telling me that he'd be back in a bit. So I've been standing here in this random corner of the house with a drink in hand, trying to make myself look busy and not awkward, which is exactly why I didn't want to go to this party in the first place!
"Jake!" A voice shouted from a ways away.
I turn my head in confusion, revealing Alex, walking towards me from across the room.
"Oh, Alex! Hey! What's up dude!" I finish the last bit of my soda, waving at him. Because this was Chris' party, there was obviously beer too, but I didn't feel like coming home drunk and my parents finding out.
"I didn't think you'd wanna come to something like this! Feeling the regret yet?"
"I like parties! It's the times like these when I'm standing in a corner by myself with nothing to do that I hate, which seems to happen every time I go to a party!" I exclaimed, pausing for a moment. "Okay, maybe I do hate parties- I've had to explain this so many times today I'm about ready to jump into Lake Ambuscade."
' "Wow, sounds like somebody needs to socialize instead of stewing in a corner for the rest of the night!"
"Socialize? Really? I know just about everybody here and just about none of them are worth talking-"
"Hang with me and Elliot, then? Justin set up some racing games in the other room, we were gonna join, but we could use a fourth... You in?" He said, his tone obviously trying to sound coercing.
"God, please, anything to get me out of this corner for the next three hours." I said, Alex returning my words with a laugh.
"Well, come on then! We'll have to hurry if we want to get one of the good controllers!" He exclaimed, motioning to follow him.
As we move through the various cliques, I recognize a few faces here and there, though not enough to actually want to talk to them. There's been music playing since we got here, and I have yet to recognize a single song, they all seem to be some form of drone-y bass-heavy music that I can't say I've heard in any normal situations. I'm doing my best to follow Alex, although he keeps weaving between the other animals faster than I can keep up, resulting in me having to shove past everyone near me in an effort to speed myself up. Luckily, it seems that no one notices me anyway.
When we arrive in the other room, it seems to just be another living room, but decorated with a galore of punk band posters, shelves holding more DVD cases than I would ever care to count, and even a mini-fridge. Maybe Chris is the type to have a 'man cave' or something? Just hearing that phrase almost makes me want to vomit, but there aren't any more accurate words that come to mind. The room isn't massive or anything, but the TV resting upon the wall across the room seems to challenge that idea, looking almost eighty inches in size. Luckily no randoms from the party were in here, sitting about ten feet away from the TV is Elliot, leaning back in a purple bean bag chair that seems almost three times bigger than him, and Justin, the cougar I'd only known slightly through Alex, laying down sideways on the couch directly in front of the gigantic screen.
"Whatttt! You took the bean bag chair? Lameee..." Alex whined.
"You're the one who wanted to go get Jake, you snooze you lose!" Elliot retorted, looking oddly proud of himself.
"Damn, wish I had a room like this at my house..." I mumbled, looking around the room.
"Are we gonna play or what?" Justin said, cutting through the momentary silence.
"Duh!" Alex claimed.
Justin sits up, taking the spot on the couch closest to Elliot. I opt for the leftmost seat, and Alex sits in-between the both of us. Elliot grabs the other three controllers and tosses them over at us, one by one. Luckily, there weren't any garbage third-party controllers, so at least none of us would have to deal with that. I will admit, it did feel kinda weird going to someone's party just to play games away from everybody, but I would be lying if I said I didn't prefer that, even though I rarely play games, if ever.
After Justin turns the console on, he goes through the menus, launching the game. I can't say I recognize the title, but it seems to be a pretty standard racing game. He goes into the custom mode, opting for a four-player split-screen match, choosing 'R1' as the category of cars to race in. As everyone chooses their cars, I scroll through the list, not really knowing what to pick. I've never been good with car stuff, so I pick an 'Aston Martin Lola' just based on the number-rating system the game ranks the cars with.
"You guys ready?" Justin asks.
"Oh yeah, get ready to eat my dust you guys!" Elliot exclaims, challengingly.
"Oddly prideful words for someone about to lose!" Alex replies, laughing.
The countdown begins, as the cameras slowly show the view of each car as it moves to the rear. When it starts, I somehow manage the fuckup of spinning my tires out, leaving me a few seconds behind the others as the car swerves back and forth. I curse under my breath as I try to regain control of the car, and swiftly pick up speed. The track seems like nothing I haven't seen before, a typical professional track, with rows and rows of audience seating to the side. Unfortunately, I'm now in last place. The next few moments of the track are a few quick corners, allowing me the chance to catch up, at least a little.
Unexpectedly, the track turns off of the main road, going into a forested area. The road is considerably more narrow at this point, so it takes a conscious effort to not drive into the trees by the asphalt. It looks like the road stretches on forever, as I still can't make out any upcoming turns. I guess the car I chose for the race had a better top speed than Justin's, as I'm quickly catching up to him, moving into third place. I'm gripping my controller to an uncomfortable degree, but I can't seem to relax the tension as I try to make my way into second place. I don't think I can pick up any more speed in this car, so me moving up is reliant on the road staying straight for just a bit longer. After what feels like a lifetime, the front of my car finally starts making it past Elliot's, then the midsection, and finally, I'm in second. The sound of all four car engines is drowning out any remnants of the video game music, and I feel the sudden urge to curse out whoever turned the TV volume up this high. My eyes are focused entirely on Alex's car as I make my final push into first place. If I were actually driving this fast in the real world, I'd be scared out of my fucking mind. Out of nowhere, Alex, and the others, begins to slow down considerably.
It's at that point I notice that there is a sharp right turn rapidly approaching. I've been pushing the top-speed of this car since the beginning of this stretch of road, and now I'm going too quickly to stop in time. What's the button to use the handbrake, again? I figure that the only way for me to not fuck up this race for myself is to try to drift around the corner. Considering I've never played this game before, it's going to prove to be a challenge. But, it's either that, or just ending up in dead-last again.
I hold down the A button, and pull the joystick as far to the right as possible. Suddenly, all I can hear from the game is the loud skidding sounds of my tires against the asphalt. To my surprise, I cut the corner a bit early, now going over the grass. I try to do a bit of directional-corrections and start heading back onto the track. Going over the grass definitely slowed me down a fair bit, but it definitely was a significantly better outcome over just crashing into the wall. And, to my surprise, the corner of my screen reads... first?!?
"How the fuck...?" Alex questions, seemingly in disbelief.
"I wish I could tell you." I replied, eyes wide at whatever the fuck just happened.
The distance I managed to gain on Alex isn't by a whole lot, but there's only about a quarter of the track left before we reach the finish line, so I have a chance at winning this. The track hurriedly changes from the forest as it reenters the main track. The long, straight roads seem to end as the road becomes a slow series of sharp turns, never giving me the opportunity to get back up to speed. It seems like the high top speed was my only advantage, because at every corner we take, I turn my camera around, revealing the other cars inching closer and closer to me.
I can see the finish line on the mini-map, just a few more turns away. I know that I'm not gonna be able to distance myself from Alex and the others at this point, so my only feasible strategy is to keep moving, cutting the corners as fast as I can, and getting to the finish line before they can pass me. Unfortunately, Alex's car seems to be getting too close for comfort now, meaning I might have to take some risks to ensure I can stay in first. As we approach the final turn, leading into the finish line, I realise I'm gonna have to try to drift this corner. I can feel my pointer finger practically cracking the plastic on the controller from the amount of pressure I'm putting on the right trigger. In a final plea to win, I push down on the A button, pulling the handbrake. The car starts to smoothly skid around the corner. Luckily, there are barriers on the sides of the road this time, preventing me from sliding onto the grass. To my surprise, the drift seems to work better than expected. That is, until, like the fucking idiot I am, make a slight overcorrection towards the left barriers as I exit the drift. I managed to avoid driving directly into the wall, but it did slow me down a bit.
Alex is immediately behind me, and I put all of my strength into accelerating towards the finish line. I'd be fucked if I broke the controller, cause I can't really afford the fifty dollars to buy a new one, but winning this race is more important to me at the moment. The finish line is only about five-hundred metres away, and Alex is slowly beginning to pass. All I can do at this point is push the gas as much as I can, and pray that I can cross the finish line before he can get back into first place. The finish line gets closer and closer, and it seems like it's gonna be too close for me to accurately tell the winner. I can feel my heart pounding in my chest from how stressful this fucking game has been, and now, we're about to find out whose efforts paid off. As each car makes its way over the finish line, each of our dedicated sections of the screen turns to slow motion. When it's finally over, the text fades in on each screen, revealing our place...
"FUCK!" I shouted, realising I had been holding my breath since the final stretch of the race.
"HA! Dude, you suck!" Alex exclaimed, playfully shoving me.
"I think that was the most effort I've put into anything in my life." I said, setting my controller on the coffee table in front of me.
"Wow, that's dramatic," Justin remarked.
"Yeah, that's the usual for Jake," Elliot replied, laughing.
"You probably woulda won if you picked a better car, dude. That track was way too close-quarters so you should've gone with a car with better acceleration." Alex said.
"Wha- do you own this game?" I questioned, looking accusatory.
"...Yeah? It came out a few months ago, pretty popular right now." He replied.
"Ugh, this is what I get for playing with a bunch of gamers." I exclaimed, applying a disgusted tone to the last word.
"Not my fault you only play like one game a month!" Alex joked.
"Even then, I was like this close to beating you anyway!" I said, gesturing a minuscule distance between my thumb and pointer finger.
A voice interrupts our argument, coming from right outside the room, "Uh huh...
Really? That's bullshit! Come on...
Dude, give me a couple of days, I'll make it right!
Yeah, I swear."
It seems that we all stopped talking to listen in at the same time. "That sounds like Tyler... who's he arguing with?" Elliot asked. I can't make out the voice of whoever he's talking to, it just sounds like mumbling.
They seem to pause for a moment, and the sound of a single set of footsteps can be heard.
"Fuck..." Tyler says to himself, still out of view.
"...I should probably see what's up, you guys can keep playing without me." I say, getting up from my spot on the couch.
"Yeah, you do that! Less competition for me," Alex exclaims, laughing to himself.
"Hey, I can still beat your ass at this game, I know exactly which car to pick this time!" Elliot argued.
"Yeah, right! Guess we'll find out!"
I leave as the three start up another game, kind of glad I don't have to have another near-heart attack from playing again. When I get back into the dimly-lit hallway, Tyler is nowhere to be seen.
I look around, heading into the main room of the house to see if I can spot him. It's pretty difficult to see anything, because of how dim it is here, plus the sheer amount of animals crowding up the place. Despite that, I manage to spot the Grey Wolf a ways away, hurrying quickly into the bathroom.
As I shove my way through a few groups of teens, I almost fall over a few times, gaining confused stares from a few in the room. I lightly knock on the bathroom door, waiting for a response, "Hey, you okay Tyler?" After a few moments, I'm returned with no answer, "...Tyler-" Before I can finish my sentence, Tyler swiftly pulls open the bathroom door, pulling me in and shutting the door behind me, before sitting down on the side of the bathtub. As I'm about to say something, I hear the sound of him sniffling.
...Is he crying?
He's looking towards the floor, so I can't confirm it visually, but the sound definitely gives it away.
"Whoa, what's wrong? Did something happen?" I asked worriedly, not yet choosing to bring up the argument we overheard.
There's a few seconds of silence as he tries to bring himself together, not very successfully. "I- I... I don't- I don't think I can-"
"It's fine, you don't have to tell me if you don't want to," I tried to reassure him. He raises his head for a moment to look at me, trying to find words to say, instead opting to go back to crying, head in his hands. I've never been good with situations like this, so I sit down next to him, putting my hand on his upper back, softly patting.
"I'm sorry- I'm a fucking idiot. I shouldn't have asked you to come."
"Hey! I've been having fun! Don't worry about me, it seems like you're the one who shouldn't have come." I joke, in some effort to lighten the mood.
Shit, was that inconsiderate of me to say?
To my surprise, he manages to let out a light laugh, "Yeah, I'm starting to realise that."
"...Do you wanna leave, then? They know I didn't want to go here in the first place, so you could just say you're being nice and walking me home." I didn't know if he would actually take up that offer, but I know some guys have a weird thing about not wanting to seem 'uncool' and leaving a party early was definitely considered that.
He thinks for a moment, still sniffling pretty noticeably. "...okay, just- give me a minute, I don't want to go out there looking like this." He mumbles, looking towards the door.
"Yeah, that's fine." I said, continuing to rub around his neck area.
This definitely wasn't how I expected the night to go. But it was a sort of 'two-birds-with-one-stone' kind of situation. I get to help out Tyler, which is usually the other way around, I get to leave early, and hopefully Shae stops bugging me about going to parties, at least for a while.
Now that I think about it, that analogy is pretty messed up.
A few silent minutes go by as I sit next to the still-crying Tyler, waiting for him to recollect himself. Even though he hasn't actually said anything here, in the two months I've known him, this is probably the most vulnerable I've ever seen him. When I first met him, it was pretty accurate to describe him as the kind of guy who acts like he never feels emotion. Hell, even I refuse to be open about my feelings, but most of my friends see through that nowadays. Even now, I don't really understand why I do that. I guess it's just easier to not talk about shit like that? Is that why Tyler does it?
"I think I'm good now," He said, shaking his hands as he stood up.
"Okay, let's get out of this dumpster fire." I sarcastically remarked. Tyler shot me a confused look in return. "Whatever, let's just go."
I open the bathroom door, grabbing his arm as I lead him out into the main room. Almost immediately the voice of a certain black cat perks up behind us.
"Oh? And what did you two get up to in there?" Chris remarked, laughing, "I didn't know you guys were THAT kind of friends!"
God damnit. This stupid fucking feline.
"Yeah, it's too loud out here for me, I needed a break, he came with." I explained, Tyler standing closely behind me with a confused look on his face. Just roll with it, dude, I think to myself, knowing I probably shouldn't say that out loud.
"You know, I would believe that, but normal guys actually just go outside when they need a break." He replied.
"Well, hey! That's where we're going right now, so it all checks out!" I say in the bitchiest voice I can muster.
"Heh, sure thing, Jake." He said, sounding weirdly satisfied with himself. I didn't want to spend any more time in this fucking house than I needed to, especially while talking to Chris, so I continue on, pulling Tyler by the hand towards the exit. After a few moments, we make it to the front door. I promptly open it and we both head outside.
We're immediately greeted by the light of the moon and the starry sky as we head down the walkway toward the street. One of the few benefits of living in such a backwater town was the absence of any significant light pollution. I've been to Portland a few times for school field trips and such, and seeing the sheer difference in visible stars was absolutely staggering. I could only imagine what it would be like to go stargazing in the middle of nowhere.
"At least it's a nice night out." I said.
"Yeah..." Tyler replied, his mind clearly in a completely different place.
"I should probably tell Shae where we went, so she doesn't freak out trying to find us back there." I joked, pulling out my cell phone. Texting on my flip phone was an arduous task, but I didn't want to call her, so I had not much of a choice.
I send the text, and close my phone, returning it to my pocket. As we walk down the road, we stew in the silence, the only auditory sounds coming from the party still close by, and the local crickets chirping.
I won't lie, as much as I usually appreciate quiet, this is the loudest silence I've ever been stuck in. It goes on for more than five minutes. I could tell he wanted to say something, and I was eager to find out whatever was going on that started this in the first place. But, like the coward I am, I try to lighten the mood.
"Hopefully that satisfied your quota of me going to parties with you for a while, cause I do not plan on having the energy for something like that again for at least a few months." I said, awkwardly laughing. He doesn't respond, at least for a while, as he raises his hand, scratching the back of his neck nervously. "...Uhh, are you sure you don't wanna talk about it? I mean-"
"Can I tell you something?" He interrupted, his voice still cracking like it was in the bathroom.
"...Sure?" I replied, slightly confused.
"It's just that- I don't really know- like what-"
"-to say? Just think for a minute. No rush." That's what my dad always says whenever my mind spirals. I used to be really anxious, although I've been getting better at controlling my thoughts in the past few years.
When I went to text Shae a few minutes ago, my phone's clock read 9:48 PM. I'm supposed to be home at ten and we're still at least twenty minutes away, not even including the detour we'll take to get to Tyler's place. Which brings me to the realisation that, when we get to his house, I'm gonna have to walk the rest of the way home by myself, in the dark. If I get murdered by some serial killer this late at night I'm gonna fucking haunt Shae from the afterlife-
"I think I'm gay," He quickly says, his voice holding a noticeable increase in energy compared to what I've been used to tonight.
Well... can't say that's exactly what I was expecting. Was I expecting anything in particular? I honestly don't know anymore. His words took me by surprise, my brain is kind of scrambled right now. I look over at him - he's looking back at me, probably trying to gauge my reaction. I did my best to conceal any facial reaction, but it's pretty clear that my lack of a response is starting to become noticeable.
"Well, like- I don't know. I guess I've just been thinking for a while, and it makes sense... all things considered." He replied anxiously.
"That- That's great! Does anyone else know?"
"I only really realised a few weeks ago, so... no. But compared to anyone else, I probably trust you the most to not like- tell anyone?" He said, looking over at me again.
"Well, I appreciate the completely undeserved confidence you have in me," I joked, realising too late that now probably isn't the time for that, "Yeah, I promise I won't tell anyone."
"Thank you," He replies, a genuine smile strewn across his face.
A few minutes go by as we walk down the road, absorbing the positive energy we created. Having only known Tyler for a little over two months, it definitely surprised me knowing that he trusted me more than anyone else to keep a secret like that... I mean, despite the short amount of time since I met him, I'm as close to him as I've been to Shaela for the past eight years. Maybe even closer? I barely even tell Shae about my actual problems, at least the non-surface level stuff. So yeah, I guess it makes sense that he would trust me with something so important, I know I would absolutely trust him if it were me in that situation.
"...So, do you think you're gonna tell your dad?"
He didn't say anything for a moment as he stared down at the ground beneath him, "I'll probably have to tell him soon, if he has to find out from some asshole that isn't me it'd make it ten times more difficult than if I just said it myself."
I agreed, and we let the conversation cut itself off as we finally approached Tyler's house. I followed him up the walkway and stood on the patio, making sure he actually got inside. He tries the doorknob eagerly, to no avail. Realising that it was locked, he reaches into his pocket for his key - again, to no avail.
"You've gotta be fucking kidding me," Tyler mumbled under his breath, clearly done with tonight. All of the lights were off in the house, signalling that his dad was not awake.
"Maybe you'll wake him up if you knock? Then he can let you in."
"Nonono, he thinks I'm staying at your place! If he finds out I went to a party I'm in deep shit," He whispered.
Of course. If I had to lie to my parents, why would I expect anything different from anyone else?
"Okay, uhh... maybe we can make that lie... not a lie?" I said, sounding weirder than I'd like.
Tyler looked at me, confused for a moment, eyes widening as he realised what I meant, "I can't let you do that, I've already forced you through too much shit tonight."
"Oh, come on, of course you can sleep at my place for the night! My parents think I'm at your house right now, so I can just tell them that we both went over there early in the morning. They love you anyway, so it won't be a problem!"
He didn't move at all, still looking reluctant, "Are you sure it won't be... weird? I don't want to put you in an awkward situation cause of w- what I told you."
"Dude, that couch in my room has a hide-a-bed if you don't want to share mine. Either way, we're friends, aren't we? I trust you."
After a few moments of silence, he speaks up, "...I guess so-"
"Great, then it's settled!" I said, putting my arm around his shoulder as I led him back down the walkway.
Once we make it to my place, walk up the creaky wooden steps of my patio as I fish the house key out of my pocket. Tyler's standing closely behind me, looking awkward as ever, clearly not knowing what to do with his hands as he switches between putting them in his pockets and clasping them together.
I turn the key on the lock and try the door, noticing that It's completely pitch black inside the house. My parents usually go to bed at 10 PM, and it was well past that at this point. I lock the door behind us as I reach for my pocket, grabbing my phone and flipping it open to use as a barely-useful flashlight. I take Tyler's wrist as I lead him through the furniture of my living room and up the stairs. The only sounds in the house come from the soft ticking of a clock in the kitchen, the sound of which has always freaked me out whenever I'd come downstairs at three in the morning. Despite my best efforts to be as quiet as possible, the old wooden boards of the stairs prove my effort to be futile as they creak with every step. I can only hope that both of my parents have fallen asleep by now, or else they'd definitely have heard us. As I take Tyler down the hallway, walls strung with various family photos and art fit for a motel, I hear no sounds coming from the master bedroom, relaxing some of my tension.
Once we make it to my room, I breathe a sigh of relief as I turn on the overhead light, hoping my mom doesn't find out and try to lecture me in the morning, "Okay, hide-a-bed or mine, your choice!"
"Hide-a-bed." He replies.
"Sure thing, lemme show you how to set it up," I say as I remove each couch cushion one by one. The couch is sitting directly under my massive bedroom window, illuminated by the glow of the moon. Under the cushions is a black folded-up contraption, bearing a metal handle. I grab the handle and start pulling the bed out from the couch. As the first section of the bed comes out, Tyler stands next to me and helps unfold the second section, and finally the third.
I move over to open the closet door, "I have some spare pillows and blankets in here."
"So, why do you have a spare bed... thingy... in your room anyway?" He asked.
"My cousins' family came to visit from the other side of the country a few years back, so my parents made the cousins stay in my room and gave me our old couch that used to be in the living room. They were here for like two weeks, it was fucking awful," I remarked, pulling a comforter out of the closet and unfolding it out on the mattress.
"That sounds miserable," Tyler sympathized.
"It was, but hey, now I got a sick as fuck couch in my room! And it works as a great place for certain friends to sleep when they wanna spend the night," I said sarcastically, looking over at Tyler as I grabbed the pillows from the closet, tossing them to one end of the bed.
He turned his head, baffled, "Was that a dig on me?" He questioned.
"Depends on how you took it I suppose," I replied, smiling cunningly.
"You're the one who offered, dude- are you sure you didn't drink at the party? You've at least doubled your usual level of sarcasm." He retorted.
"Nope, unless somebody spiked my soda!" I joked, but the realisation slowly set in, "Oh shit- maybe someone spiked my soda?!?"
"Don't freak out, I seriously doubt someone would spike your drink,"
"God, I hope so, if my parents found out I went to that party, that'd be one thing, but if I got drunk? I doubt I'd see the outside world for months," I sighed.
"Even if you were drunk, it's not like you would still be drunk in the morning for them to find out, anyway."
"Yeah, I guess you're right," I said, letting out a yawn shortly thereafter. "Fuck, I didn't realise how tired I am." Looking at my alarm clock, it was 10:37 PM. That wasn't terribly late, I've definitely stayed up later when there was an assignment due the next day that I forgot about, but even before I met up with Alex and Elliot, that party was just wearing me down. "At least I can sleep in 'till like noon tomorrow. You sure you don't need anything before I pass out from exhaustion?"
"No, I'm okay, I think. And, thank you... Jake." He replied, smiling at me.
"No problem, dude!" I quietly exclaimed as I turned off the bedroom lights and hopped into bed. I can practically feel my muscles dissolve as I lean into the mattress, pulling the heavy blankets over me as I close my eyes.
I can't help but feel something itching in the back of my brain. I never did find out why Tyler was even crying back at the party. Was it related to what he told me after? He sounded pretty upset when he was talking to whoever it was in the hallway, too, so maybe that was why? We've already talked about so much shit tonight, though, and I definitely did not have the energy to have another huge conversation about something like that. It could definitely wait until tomorrow.
Soon, I feel my consciousness drift away, the only sound I can make out being the slow breathing of Tyler, across the room.
As I wake up, I'm blinded by the bright sun shining in through my windows, directly into my eyes. I glance over at my alarm clock, feeling incredibly groggy and sore, noticing that it's 11:13 AM. Usually, the latest I'd sleep in on weekends was only around ten, but I guess it took a lot of my energy yesterday to try to tune the party out. At least it's over.
I slowly sit up, yawning as I lean back against the bed frame. I glanced around the room, noticing that the hide-a-bed had been folded back into the couch, Tyler nowhere to be seen. I reach over to my bedside table to check my phone, finding an unread text from him, sent a few hours ago.
woke up early, figured youd want 2 sleep in.
will call u later, might have somthin big i wanna share, will see
A pair of oddly cryptic messages. Guess that confirms he isn't here anymore.
At least it was a Saturday, meaning that I had full permission to be a slob. I get out of bed, deciding to skip my usual shower until after breakfast. Other than the snacks that were out at the party, I ate practically nothing last night. I could almost feel my stomach turning itself inside out, so I hurried out of my room and downstairs to the kitchen to have some breakfast.
The first thing I notice when I get downstairs is my mom, sitting on the couch with a book. I head straight to the kitchen, trying not to make myself stand out.
"Jake! Finally woken up, I see." She remarked, still looking at her book.
"Hey, mom!" There's a moment of silence as I grab a bowl out of the cupboard, as well as a box of cereal, and begin to pour.
She speaks up, "Your friend, Tyler, seemed to be in a hurry to leave this morning, anything I should know about?"
"...Not that I know of? Like what?" I questioned as I poured some milk from the fridge, grabbed a spoon, and sat at the kitchen counter.
"Well, it's not like we didn't notice that you weren't home by ten like your father asked you to be, so obviously you must have a good excuse for why you didn't at least call to let us know you'd be late?" She replied. I could tell when she started talking all responsible-parent-like, it meant that she was gonna lecture me about something.
I sighed, thinking of the right thing to say. "...Well, Tyler was going through some things... so I was trying to help him with that, I guess. Time just kinda flew by and I wasn't able to get home 'till later."
"So he spent the night here? Weren't you at his house?" She asked as I ate a spoonful of cereal.
"Yeah... we went out for a bit and once I noticed how late it was I offered to let him spend the night at our house since it was closer," I said. Almost entirely a lie, but definitely preferable to the truth.
"Jake..." She said, setting her book down on the coffee table in front of the couch, walking over to me, and resting a hand on my shoulder. "You're sixteen now, obviously we don't expect you to tell us everything you're up to nowadays. But we worry about you! I worry about you. Just for future reference, please let us know if you're gonna be home late or anything like that."
"Okay, I'll keep that in mind," I said, looking up at her.
"Great! Now, I have to go meet a friend for lunch, please try not to burn the house down while I'm out!" She said as she grabbed her purse and keys off of the counter, hurring out the door.
"No promises, love you!" I said as she closed the door behind her.
Well, I guess that went... better than expected? I doubt she believed that story I made up, but I guess as long as I don't break curfew without telling them, I should be fine.
Having the house to myself wasn't totally uncommon. Considering my dad was gone during the day five days a week, and my mom would head out to go meet friends or run errands pretty often, I got some much needed alone time often enough to not go mad.
As I finish my bowl of cereal, I realise that I probably should go shower as soon as possible, considering the night I had. I put my bowl and spoon in the dishwasher and head back upstairs. I grab a towel from my room and head into the bathroom, grabbing my various fur care products out of the cabinet for after the shower. As I turn the shower on, I hear the sound of my ringtone going off in the pocket of my pants on the floor. I sigh annoyedly, walking over and trying to figure out which pocket my phone was in. When I flip open the phone, the Caller ID reads out Tyler's name.
"Tyler! What's up?" I ask eagerly, hoping to find out what the news he cryptically texted about was.
"Jake- fuck, I messed up, I shouldn't have- what am I gonna do?" He said anxiously, sounding almost out of breath.
"Hey! Slow down, what's wrong?" I questioned.
"I'm such a fucking idiot! Why did I think this would be a good idea? Jake, I'm so sorry-"
"Tyler! Calm. Down. Just take a few deep breaths," I said. After a few moments, I can hear his breathing steadying on the other side of the call. "Okay, good. Now, what's wrong?"
There's a short pause as he tries to find the right words to say. It sounds like he's been crying. What even the fuck has been the past twenty-four hours?
"Can- do you think I could crash at y- your place for a few more nights? I don't know what to do."