Three weeks in, Carter was becoming bored with college life. His classes were mostly repetitive of high school; he was anxious to get into the real medical education. But for now he was spending most of his time reviewing what seemed like basic concepts of chemistry and biology, and re- reading books for literature which he become bored with after speeding through them in high school. His social life was turning out pretty uneventfully. Gram kept asking him to come along to some party or another, but Carter always had an excuse. Tonight he and Cory were going down to a club, and once again Gram was begging Carter to come with them.

"Come on, what are you gonna do, man? Sit around here reading all night? I mean, you don't even have any good music to listen to!" Gram said as he changed from sandals to his tennis shoes.

Carter stared intently at his copy of Things Fall Apart, trying to interest himself in the philosophy the book spouted. He was having trouble getting into it, though. Sighing, he looked over the book at his roommate. "Maybe some other time, Ok?"

Gram shook his head and gave Carter a berating look. "Uh-uh, that's not working this time. It's always 'some other time' with you." He grabbed the book and tossed it across the room onto a desk. "Tonight," he said as a grin spread across his freckled face, "we party."

*************************

Carter trailed behind Gram and Cory as they lead the way into the club. Realizing you had to be 18 to get in, Carter reached for his wallet to show his ID. But the man at the door never asked for it, so Carter relaxed and replaced his wallet in his back pocket.

Inside the air was slightly smoky and full of chattering voices and loud music. Carter tried not to stare too long at any of the various, slightly inebriated patrons sitting at the bar as he followed his companions down to a few open stools.

"Three beers," Gram said casually to the bartender. Anticipating questions about their age, Carter tensed slightly. But once again, there were no questions asked. Carter briefly wondered if they knew what kind of legal trouble they would be in if someone reported them serving alcohol to minors. Cory and Gram took their beers and left the third on the bar. For a moment, Carter just stared at the bottle.

"You thirsty or what?" Cory asked, giving Carter a daring glance.

Smiling confidently, Carter grabbed the beer and held it aloft. "Cheers," he proposed.

Gram looked at him for a second, then exchanged glances with Cory. The two basketball players laughed and shook their heads. With a lopsided grin, Gram clanked his bottle against Carter's then took a swig. "Cheers!" he shouted boisterously, spreading his arms in exaggerated congeniality.

After a moment's hesitation, Carter gulped down his own beverage. The burning sensation in his throat caught him slightly off guard. He coughed a little, and the other young men laughed.

They stood for a few minutes, sipping their drinks and looking around the club. Then Cory nudged Gram on the shoulder. "Hey, check out that brunette," he said, pointing towards a young, pretty woman swaying slightly, alone near the dancefloor. Setting his empty bottle on the bar, he gave a mischievous smile to his friends. "Wish me luck!" he said as he strode over confidently toward the girl. He immediately began talking to her in an animated fashion. Carter found himself looking on in envy.

Noticing his roommate's expression, Gram laughed. "You're pathetic, man."

"What?" Carter asked innocently, snapping his attention to his friend.

Gram shook his head. "You need to find yourself a girl, man."

"I don't know," Carter said, raising his voice a little above the din of a new, louder song. "I'm not really interested in a relationship right now."

With a smirk, Gram asked, "Who said anything about a relationship?" He stayed grinning for a moment at Carter, who was staring back blankly, then shook his head. "Look, just have a good time! I'm going to go dance!" Before Carter had a chance to ask what he was supposed to do in the meantime, Gram had disappeared into the crowd.

"Hey, buddy," a voice from behind him said. Carter turned to see the bartender staring at him expectantly. "You gonna pay for those three beers?"

"Oh, um." Carter looked to the dancefloor, and saw Cory occupied with the giggling brunette. A look of frustration passed his face. "Yeah," he said, turning back to the bartender and getting out his wallet. "Those three and another one for me." He leafed through his substantial stack of bills, looking for a ten. The burly man next to him raised a curious eyebrow at him, and Carter smiled back, not really sure what was so amusing. The man shook his head and went back to his drink as Carter handed the bill over and took his second beer. He drank it as casually as possible and looked around the establishment.

"Hey there," a sultry voice to his left said.

Carter turned to see a busty woman in a red dress smiling wildly at him. His eyes widened a little as he managed to say. "Hello."

"I haven't seen you here before. You must be new. I'm Lola," she said, offering her hand to him. It smelled of heavily applied perfume.

He shook her hand lightly and replied, "Carter." He decided it sounded more interesting than 'John', and it was what everyone at school seemed to prefer anyway.

"So Carter, you want to dance?" she said.

Looking to the motley group of dancers, he frowned. The only kind of dancing he had ever done was ballroom, and that certainly wasn't going to help out in this case. And unfortunately, he was gifted with very little natural rhythm. "No thanks, I'd rather just relax, I think." He took a drink of his beer, trying to look confident but failing.

Lola smiled a little, and turned back towards the bar. "That's fine." She twirled a finger slowly in her icy drink. "Relaxing is good for you. Just sitting back, taking everything in." Her eyes shot over to meet with Carter's, and he could see the spark in them. His mouth went a little dry, and he started to drink his beer again. While he was, she leaned over and whispered in his ear, "It's two-hundred for the night, if you wanted to know."

Choking back his drink, his eyes widening in surprise, Carter sputtered, "W-what?"
"Well it's pretty obvious," Lola said. "A guy like you down here with all that cash, just hanging around the bar. I know you're type perfectly." She looked at him seductively and moved a hand toward his shoulder.

"Wait," Carter said, flinching away. "I think you have the wrong idea. I'm just down here with my friends... to hang out... just to hang out." He was gradually edging away from her.

Lola's face fell a little bit. "Oh, I see. Well..." she trailed off. Looking at Carter once more, she saw how tense he seemed, and her face fell. "Uh-huh, see you around kid," she huffed as she turned and left.
"Hey, Carter!" a loud voice behind him and a hand on his shoulder startled the already nervous Carter. He spun around a little too quickly to see Cory and the brunette standing behind him. "Having a good time yet?"

"Sure," Carter said, forcing a grin. The brunette looked up at him with lazy eyes and smiled.
"I was just going to tell you that Linda and I are going to go... someplace else," Cory said, inducing a giggle from the obviously drunk girl. "So I'll be taking my car. Just wanted to let you know. You and Gram can take a cab. See ya around!" he said with a wave as the girl dragged him toward the exit.

"Another beer?" the bartender asked with a bemused look on his face.

"Yes, please," Carter said with a sigh. He drank morosely for a while, occasionally glancing to the dance floor looking for Gram. Every once in a while he would see his red haired head above the crowd as he jumped almost spastically. And they call this dancing, Carter thought. Finally, Gram exited the group, sweating and out of breath.

"What, you never danced?" he said through ragged breaths. He motioned to the bartender, who slid him another beer, which he began to drink down in gulps.

"Didn't feel up to it," Carter said. An anxious look from the bartender, and he sighed, pulled out another bill, and handed it over. He barely noticed the gruff man who had been sitting next to him getting up and heading casually for the exit.

"What did you do, then, man?"

"I drank," Carter said almost proudly.

Gram smiled and laughed. "Well at least we got you out of the dorm room. It's getting late, though. Where's Cory?"

"He left with that girl Linda."

"The brunette?"

"Yeah."

"Great!" Gram exclaimed loudly. "Now we have to get a cab." He turned to the bartender. "Where's your phone?"

"Out front."

"Ok, well if you can manage to pull yourself away, Carter, do you think we can leave?"
Carter answered with a nod, and the two young men headed for the entrance. It wasn't until he began moving that Carter noticed everything becoming a little bit blurry. He shook his head, and stumbled out the door behind Gram.

Suddenly, a man sprang from the shadows and threw a punch which connected solidly with Carter's right jaw. His head snapped to the left, and he fell to the ground. The man, now towering over him, reached down and plucked his wallet from his back pocket. He took the money from within, tossed the wallet on the ground, then took off running. As Carter's vision cleared slightly, he recognized the departing thief as the man who had been sitting next to him at the bar. He groaned and wiped the blood from his lip.

"Hey, man, you all right?" Gram said with concern as he looked down at Carter.

"Yeah," Carter managed, moving his aching jaw around to stretch it out. "Shouldn't we call the police or something?"

Gram looked at him for a moment, then laughed. "The police aren't going to care about something like this. They could care less about some drunk kid getting mugged." He offered a hand to Carter and pulled him up.

Carter scowled. "I'm not drunk," he insisted, though he had trouble getting the words out clearly.
"Sure," Gram said with a smile. "How much money did you have?"

"I don't know," he replied with a shrug. "Couple hundred dollars."

"A couple hundred?! Geez, with a roll like that, I would have mugged you myself. What the hell were you thinking, man?"

"I dunno," Carter said, squeezing his eyes shut. "But could we go home before the spinning gets worse."

"How many did you have?"

"Three."

Gram cackled in amusement and slapped his leg. "Three? Only three! This is the first time you've drank, isn't it?"

"Well, technically," Carter said softly, opening his eyes slowly. He saw Gram shaking his head and laughing under his breath, and at first was a little chagrined. Then, he smiled and joined in his laughter.

Gram slapped him on the back. "Come on man, let's call a cab and get you home before you pass out."