51. The After Party

Alex bit the eraser at the tip of her pencil, frowning at the Calculus equation on her study table. She left the party just before midnight. Lauren offered her a ride and she reluctantly accepted it when she realized she didn’t bring her skateboard or her aunt’s car.

Unconsciously, she glanced at her phone to check for any messages. The time said that midnight had already passed. She wasn’t sure what she was waiting for. A text? A call? A drunken text or call? It was out of character for her to worry this much.

Alex had a mental debate in her head, forgetting her Calculus homework. She could call. Or send a message. That would help her. Then, she thought of how it would only become worse if she didn’t get a reply.

After Alex stared at her phone for about five minutes, she knew she had to do something. Before she could chicken out, she dialed Logan’s number.

A heartbeat passed, then, it started to ring. Her body shook from nerves. She didn’t know why that is when she had no reason to be. The guy just ditched her at the party. She had every right to call.

“Hey, caller. It’s Logan. Thank you for calling this number but, unfortunately, I can’t talk right now. My Superman costume doesn’t have pockets so I leave you at the hands of my wonderful secretary, my voice mail. Toodles.”

Alex’s face instantaneously changed into a deadpan look. It didn’t matter that no one could see it. She should have known Logan’s voicemail was as ridiculous as he was. She didn’t leave a message but she did call again a few times. After the third one, she stopped. She didn’t see the point.

When her homework was done, she ungracefully jumped onto her bed. Sleep claimed her as soon as her head landed on her pillow.

===

“Party over?”

Colin turned his head towards the front door. Lauren leaned against its frame, a small smile on her berry-colored lips.

He shrugged and took another empty cup from the floor, “I have some ground rules whenever the guys want a party. One of them is that the party ends at midnight.”

“Like Cinderella?”

“She seemed to know how to party, don’t you think so?”

As he continued to pick out the litter, Lauren stepped into the now sparse house with her arms crossed. She could see people outside also cleaning like Colin. The others moved the furniture back to their original positions.

It was quite a sight. She thought they’d be too wasted to move by now.

“Alcohol not one of them?”

Colin pressed his lips together. He got used to these kind of parties. It had sort of become a tradition of some sorts where the alumni, graduates of Woodlands, would come around to hang out with the juniors they left behind.

“The seniors, now college students, always bring alcohol” Colin began to explain, “We usually have a separate place for them to get their drinks.”

He tied up the trash bag filled with junk, already full, “As for everyone else, we usually mix them up with something to lower the alcohol content. Plus someone keeps a lookout that no one excessively drinks.”

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“Yeah, I saw that worked out well with Jae and Max” Lauren commented sarcastically. She saw the roll of trash bags on a side table and grabbed one. Colin moved the bag he just tied next to the front door.

When Lauren opened up the bag, he came back quickly to help her out. Together, they cleaned up the rest of the living room.

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“It happens sometimes. Normally, they’d be part of the clean up team but not today” Colin shook his head. It took a lot of work to convince Jae to sleep. The older Parker twin could be very stubborn if he wanted to. They almost had a wrestling match just to get Jae through the bedroom door.

It wasn’t the first time it happened. He knew how much the fight hurt Jae. Jae did his best to hide it and to seem unaffected but whenever he went to their house, the twins hardly talk. He also rarely saw them in the same room. Unless people spent their daily lives there, no one would notice this space Jae and Logan had in between them.

Colin peeked at Lauren, remembering what he had heard about after he went upstairs. Max definitely stepped out of line and he couldn’t really blame her for being irritated at the approval of alcohol in the party.

“But I’m sorry if they caused you any trouble tonight” He whispered. This made Lauren pause. She looked towards him and found sincerity in his eyes. Colin didn’t even give her a chance to be mad at him.

She sighed through her nose, “It’s not your fault but then again… maybe it is for having idiotic friends.”

“You’re right.”

“Huh?”

Colin smiled, “They are idiotic.”

Lauren laughed as they picked up the last bit of scraps. She helped Colin take out the trash bags as best as she could. She was surprised to see the front yard already spotless. She silently praised the guys for their good work.

“Aren’t your parents worried about the parties?” She couldn’t help but ask as Colin placed down the trash bags next to the bin, a number of other bags have already filled up the space around it.

Colin didn’t glance her way and continued to arrange the trash bags neatly, “Mom and dad are actually rarely home but it’s not like I don’t tell them about the parties. Mostly I give them just ‘need-to-know’ details. If you think it’s about the alcohol well, they had these parties before too when they were in high school so they already know. They just trust me to be responsible about it. Hence why I have some ground rules.”

When he felt satisfied about his handiwork, he headed back into the house. Lauren followed next to him.

“Where are they then?”

“Mostly at the capital city where their main office is” Colin answered smoothly, “Mom used to stay with me as a kid, of course, but I knew she missed dad a lot so when I reached high school, I told her she should go with him. I’m mostly fine on my own. Other than these parties, I do maintain good behavior.”

“I see” Lauren bit her lip. The inside also looked great. She couldn’t even tell it had a party about an hour ago. They both went to the kitchen and washed their hands.

Colin cleared his throat, “How is Alex?”

He pumped out some soap and offered the bottle to Lauren. When she didn’t answer, he added, “You took him home, right?”

The scene played in his head.

When he came out of the house, he saw them stand up from underneath the tree and went around the house to reach Lauren’s car. Someone had told him about Max’s misbehavior. He didn’t even look for him and went to the backyard to check on Lauren and Alex but upon seeing the two, things seemed to have patched up. He also could hear their laughter.

“Yea—yeah, I did. He didn’t really want to stay” Lauren rubbed the soap under her nails. They were longer than her fingertip so they sometimes get dirty.

“Excited for the double date?”

Lauren scrunched her nose, “After what happened with Max earlier, I feel like it would be a disaster.”

Colin rinsed his hands. He hadn’t a chance to ask much about it except now. He felt unsure on what to say and on what not to say. After all, it really wasn’t any of his business.

“But, at least, Alex would be around.”

“That is true but I don’t think the date is necessary” Lauren ran her hands under the faucet when Colin finished his turn, “We only agreed to it because we wanted to make Max shut up. I don’t think his girlfriend would even let him go.”

Somehow hearing those words again relaxed the tightness of his chest but only for a little bit. Something else was also squeezing it.

“And your boyfriend is not worried at all?”

Lauren snorted, completely familiar with this style of question, “Nah, he doesn’t get worried.”
“Oh, really?”

“Yeah, ’cause he doesn’t exist” she giggled, shaking her hands towards Colin’s direction. He closed his eyes to prevent any water droplets from poking his eyes, “That’s what you get for being nosy.”

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