“Hey, sugar. I’d like you to meet my friend, Alex. He’s a really nice guy and can give you a good time” Lauren heard Max say to a brunette girl that stood near them. She could only see the girl’s black curls that framed her face and her black dress that hugged her curves.
“Hey!” She waved at Alex, “Nice to meet you.”
Alex smiled politely, “You too but I’m not interested.”
“Alex, that is not how you get laid.”
“Let him go, Max!” Lauren interrupted, finally reaching them. She pulled Max’ hand off Alex and stood between them, “The double date is one thing but this is stepping out of the line.”
Lauren stood her ground like a queen. It was enchanting. She could command a room if she wanted to. Carla was no match for her.
Alex’ arm felt stiff from the tight grip. Pain seeped through her veins as the blood reflowed back in her arm.
“Hey…” she whispered softly to Alex, “You okay?”
Alex managed a nod, not trusting her voice. Her pulse still raced. She couldn’t imagine what would have happened if Lauren hadn’t come.
“Come on, let’s go.”
They both ignored Max and Lauren immediately led Alex to the backyard where things were more relaxed. When Alex looked over to the direction Lauren headed for, she noticed a swing hanging from a tree.
They stopped right in front of it, Lauren sitting on the swing. She kicked her legs and started to sway.
Alex sat under the tree and rested her back on the trunk. She hugged her knees.
They stayed silent for a few minutes. Alex found it quite nice. The noise from the party filled the background while the swing creaked a little from age. They felt no pressure to talk.
“Feeling better?” Lauren piped up. Alex turned her head towards her as she dropped off the swing to sit next to Alex, their arms barely touching.
“Much. Thank you” Alex gave her a reassuring smile. Well, she hoped it looked like that. The turn of events felt quite overwhelming but one of them, at least, was over. Was getting laid really the only way to prove her ‘masculinity?’ It sounded like a load of s***.
“Don’t mention it” Lauren waved it off with her hand, “Besides, she didn’t look like your type.”
Alex barked out a laugh at her honesty, “No, she wasn’t.”
“Good. You can do so much better than her, anyway” Lauren winked, making Alex laugh harder.
“Max sure knows how to pick them” Alex said, continuing the joke.
At this, Lauren rolled her eyes, “It’s disgusting. I live across the street from him. He always flirts with me in the morning.”
“Seems like he only has good taste when he’s sober.”
Lauren giggled, “I guess so.”
Their laughter faded, the quiet settling in again.
Alex wondered what could have happened if Lauren hadn’t been there. She seemed to be doing a lot of wondering since the school year started. Did the universe really want her to be exposed? Was she being punished for the lies? It hadn’t really mattered before since she spent most of her time alone. Now, it seemed that all the reasons why she refused to mingle with people came rushing in.
They never seem to stop.
When she broke the silence, her voice was softer, “Has he always been like that?”
“Max? Nah, he was pretty normal as a kid” Lauren frowned for a moment. Then, her eyes looked up at the sky. Alex followed her example, “That’s the big question, isn’t it? What happened?”
Alex nodded in agreement, “That’s true. Must have been big.”
Lauren shrugged, “Or he just developed raging hormones.”
Alex noticed that there were only a few stars out. The moon was also missing. It looked sad if that was even possible. How was the sky supposed to look sad? But it did. It was beautiful—except it was incomplete. It was like a person. The only way for a person to shine brightly like the night sky was to find the pieces that completed him/her.
Alex thought she was out of her mind for comparing the sky to a person.
“You know, Alex ” Lauren whispered. Alex looked at her but Lauren still stared at the sky.
“What?” a cool breeze kissed Alex’s cheek.
“I wish you talked to people more” Lauren finally turned to her. Her eyes held Alex’s, “I bet a lot of people will like you once they get to know you better.”
“I like to keep my circle small” Alex gave her a tight smile. Lauren’s words affected her more than she wanted Lauren to know, “I don’t need a lot of friends. I just need real ones.”
Lauren shook her head, “You’re not even drunk and you’re philosophical.”
Alex chuckled. Lauren had really good skills at lightening up the mood, “Savor it. It only happens occasionally.”
“I’ll try to remember that,” Lauren joked. When she pulled her legs up to hug her knees, her voice turned serious again, “So, does that mean Jae, Logan and Colin are part of your circle? I’d say Max too but he kind of ruined that tonight.”
Alex gave her answer a careful thought. She couldn’t truly count them since they didn’t really know her—except maybe Logan. He did know her more than the other guys… but, at the same time, there was still so much things a lot of things that he didn’t.
That was where Alex drew the line. They wouldn’t be able to know all of her. She had to set up walls at some point. It wouldn’t be fair for her to be part of their circle while she hid parts of her life from them.
But maybe they would know someday. If they would, hopefully they’d be able to understand and forgive her.
“Well, they do have potential” Lauren laughed at that. Alex figured humor was a good way to handle the situation, “I can be quite difficult so they still have a lot of tests to pass.”
Lauren didn’t say anything after that.
“Are you… are you close with the Parkers?” Alex couldn’t help but ask after Lauren shared that she knew Max as a kid.
“Jae and Logan?”
Alex nodded. Lauren didn’t hesitate to give an answer, “I’ve known them since middle school. But I have moved out of town and have moved back alternatively for a good number of years. Why do you ask?”
Lauren left? She hadn’t mentioned it before. Maybe that was another story for another time, right now, she needed to know more about the twins’ relationship.
“I just noticed that they don’t get along much” Alex shrugged like her heart didn’t pound with nerves. She really wanted to know if Lauren knew what went down between the two but if it happened after she moved, Alex guessed she wouldn’t.
“That’s an understatement” Lauren snorted, “Logan almost hates Jae’s guts.”
“Why is that?”
Lauren shrugged, “It has always been like that since I met them.”
Her answer didn’t satisfy Alex’s curiosity. There had to be a reason. It had to be that girl and it had to be a really good one, “Were you ever curious to know?”
“Of course, I was” Lauren’s voice dropped a little, “It seems to be a really touchy subject though so I let it drop.”
“Huh…” Alex decided to leave it alone for a bit. It sounded like she knew more than Lauren did at that point.
So Alex changed the subject to something else she wanted to know, “Does Logan miss parties often?”
Lauren’s eyes grew wide at her question, “I’m not too sure but I’ve heard Max whine about it one morning. He said Logan never parties. The only times he’s ever seen at a party are when Jae throws one at their house.”
Alex grimaced. That answer wasn’t comforting. If Logan didn’t go to parties then, why did he tell her he was going tonight? Was it just a ruse? Was he out in an emergency? Was there even an emergency? As Alex thought about it more, the angrier she got.
She needed answers and she needed them now, “That’s funny. I thought he’d be here since we talked about going.”
Lauren seemed as clueless as she was, “That is strange. He practically left you to fend for yourself.”
“It’s a good thing I have you, aye?” Alex nudged Lauren’s side.
Lauren lit up instantly. Her positive energy was contagious, “I’ll paint his toenails pink if you want.”
Alex laughed, “Thanks but I think I can handle it”
“Suit yourself” Lauren sighed disappointedly. Her child-like earnestness made Alex grin, “But if you change your mind…”