When Alex arrived, the party at Colin’s house already started. She could hear the booming dance music plus the mix of laughs and cheers. She could see girls in tight dresses chatting together as a group of guys played beer pong.
Yet, that was only the front yard.
Alex groaned and leaned on the fence of the house behind her, across the street of Colin’s party. She flinched as something crashed from the inside, unsure what to make of it.
The longer she watched, the more she second-guessed the whole thing.
Maybe she should just turn around and walk away.
Just then, a sports car made its way down the street.
Alex saw a few people point to the car. They seemed to recognize it—but it headed for Alex’ side of the street. She tried to peek through the windshield but the bright headlights blinded her.
The driver side of the car parked directly in front of her. It was then that Alex had a feeling she knew who was inside the vehicle. Her face remained passive as the black tinted window rolled down and revealed Jae Parker.
“Al” he said, his smile turning into his signature smirk. His hair was still a little wet, leaving the top of his shirt damp.
“Parker” Alex replied, not the slightest hint of surprise in her voice.
“What brings you here?” Jae asked. Alex moved out of the way as he climbed out of the car and locked it.
Alex nodded her head towards Colin’s house. Jae peeped over his shoulder towards it. When he turned back to her, there was an amused grin on his face, “You here to party?”
“No, Parker. I’m here to deliver pizza” she answered him sarcastically.
“I was betting you weren’t gonna turn up. Guess you’re manlier than I thought.”
As petty as it sounded, Alex felt proud to hear that—especially from Jae. Her ‘male’ ego soared up. Jae started to cross the street and when he reached the middle, he stopped and half-turned to look at her.
“You coming?” he tilted his head to one side, challenging her.
Alex grimaced. Her time was up. It was inevitable. She delayed it as much as possible. Not only by waiting from the other side of the street but also, by not taking a vehicle, not even her skateboard. She walked. Walked. And she took her sweet time too.
Forgetting her cowardice and holding on to Jae’s compliment earlier, she raised her chin up and walked over to his side.
Jae took long strides as they neared the front yard of Colin’s house. Alex half-walked half-ran just to keep up with him. People turned to greet Jae while Alex stuck by his side—even if it made her look like a lost puppy. As Jae talked to a few guys, Alex scanned the crowd of people and caught some girls looking their way.
One of them winked at her.
Alex decided not to make eye contact with anyone again.
“Who’s the midget?” She heard someone ask Jae. Her head snapped towards a college frat boy. Her temple throbbed as he bowed his head just to meet her eyes.
She wasn’t that small! Jae was just a head and neck taller than her.
“This…” Jae wrapped an arm around her shoulders and pulled her to his side, “…is my good friend, Alex.”
Good friend? Alex tried her best not to glare at Jae when he looked down at her with a smile. He merely laughed at her expression before he paid attention to the college boy again.
“‘Sup?” Alex nodded at the jersey-wearing frat boy. She kept her face neutral, trying to seem uninterested but not rude. It didn’t sound that easy.
She stopped listening when they continued their conversation but Jae still held a firm grip on her so she wasn’t able to get away. After about 10 minutes, the frat boy left and Jae led her into the house.
The door was open when they reached the front porch. A DJ booth propped up near the fireplace as party goers danced to the music. Alex caught a few people making out at the corners and she questioned her sanity again for nth time that night.
Colin came out of the kitchen with a beer in hand. He talked to a few people as he walked around the room, his smile never faltered. Then, his eyes found her and Jae and, in no time, he squeezed his way through the dance floor and engulfed them in a group hug.
“Hey, Alex” he shouted over the ear-shattering music. He released then and clapped her shoulder, “Glad you could make it.”
The impact hurt and it might bruise but Alex didn’t know how to answer him. Luckily, Jae spoke up just in time for Colin not to notice her averseness.
He led them through the crowd. Alex placed her hands over her pockets, just to make sure neither of her phones drop out again. After the dance floor, they reached the kitchen where plastics cups lined up on the island. A makeshift bar was made at the table in the next room.
Jae took a cup and drank it in one gulp. Alex raised an eyebrow at it.
She stepped away from him, finally free from his arm, and leaned against the counter. Alex resolved to not move from the spot. She presumed that if she stayed there, she would be safe from everyone.
“You’re not gonna drink, Alex?” Colin asked, waving towards the litter of plastic cups. She shook her head meekly.
“Cool party, Colin” Jae stated, already on his third cup of beer. Alex frowned. She noted how fast he drained each one. It almost seemed like he wanted to drown himself.
But that wasn’t any of her business.
Colin chuckled and punched Jae on the shoulder, “You know how the guys are. I don’t even know half of these people. I just need to play the role of a good host.’
“Well, I think you’re doing a great job” Jae agreed. Crushing and throwing the cup in his hand, he grabbed a new one.
“Easy on the alcohol” Alex couldn’t help but say, “What’s eating you up?”
Jae made no remark. Instead, he drank another gulp of beer. The guy had a death wish for a bad hangover.
At this, Colin also became concerned, “Are you still thinking about Logan’s secret girlfriend?”
Alex choked on her own spit. That was news to her. Logan had a girlfriend? Since when?
“Maybe” Jae answered smoothly, “I really hoped he would have told me about her especially after giving him her phone back.”
Alex’ mouth went dry. Wait, wait, wait… Jae thought that the phone belonged to Logan’s girlfriend? But the owner of the phone was her. How could it belong to Logan’s girlfriend?
Her forehead wrinkled at all the questions that came up. Clearly, Logan needed some explaining to do.
She shook her head, trying to stop a headache from forming. She at least to find out why Jae cared about it so much.
“What’s so important about this girl?” Alex asked, “So Logan could be dating someone. Big deal. It seems to be his business. Maybe he isn’t ready to introduce her.”
Or if her hunch is right, maybe she’d choke him into telling his friends that they ‘broke up.’
At this point, Jae seriously began to get wasted. Alex lost count of how many he drank in the last few minutes. His words started to slur, “No, no, no, no… you don’t know my brother like I do, alright? Trust me. Logan isn’t the type to hide a girlfriend. Unless…”
Jae threw a cup in the trash forcefully, “Unless it’s the same girl he used to date. That was one bad b*tch. I don’t want her anywhere near my brother and me again.”
So Logan did have a girlfriend? Alex thought. Did Jae just happen to mistake her for Logan’s girlfriend? Then, her eyes sweeped the room, noting that Logan was still nowhere to be found. Did he have a date?
Alex checked on Jae’s state again. For some reason, she felt helpless. She didn’t like that feeling—but she also thought that she didn’t want to be tangled in this bad blood. Logan certainly advised her against it.
Which made sense since the conflict involved only him and Jae. She wasn’t a part of that equation.
Her eyebrows scrunched as Colin caught Jae’s arm before he could fall. It baffled her to see Jae like this. So far, he seemed pretty calm whenever she was around him. Even when Logan said those things to him, he didn’t lash out and simply left the room.
Their fight clearly affected him a lot. Alex knew that the others worried about them as well.
She sighed. Maybe she could find out more… and then, she could decide whether to leave it or to get to the bottom of it.
“What happened?” Alex finally asked. Both boys stared at her for a few seconds. Her question didn’t seem odd to her ears. Wouldn’t anybody become curious about the situation?
She replayed the question in her head, finding nothing unusual—until it clicked. They were surprised by her voice. She used her normal speaking voice. The femininity must had caught them off guard.
“Wouldn’t you like to know?” Jae taunted. It frustrated her that he was right. He inclined his body towards her and leaned in, “Are you jealous, Alex? You could totally admit you’re gay. We won’t judge.”