Jessica Barnes isn't known for being overly thoughtful or particularly aware of social issues.
She's one of those girls who owns a lot of things - a car that no seventeen year old girl should have, fast and flashy and extremely expensive; two walk in closets full of labels that you normally seen on movie stars; every accessory that a child of this age needs to survive is at her fingertips before she even has to ask for it.
Jessica Barnes isn't known for being smart or for being sharp or for being witty.
She's one of those girls that will have the road paved for her - no need to lay down the pavement with teacher-led knowledge or with hard-won grades; no need to aim for some Ivy League dream, it'll be handed to her on a silver platter; she has no need for hipster cred or fancy banter in her world of reality television.
Jessica Barnes isn't known for much, just another girl with bottle blonde hair and pouty lips.
Just another girl with an endless bank account at her beck-and-call.
Just another girl with a lot of time on her hands and a certain kind of reputation to uphold.
Jessica Barnes is, however, known for one thing.
Or, rather, four things.
May. July. October. December.
Four parties in one year. Just four, no more and no less. No cheesy theme to adhere to. No rules to abide by. If you bring alcohol, you are in. If you bring drugs, you are in. If you dress up or dress down, you are in.
If you show up, you are in.
Because Jessica Barnes doesn't know the capital of California and she doesn't know what the Senate actually does, but she knows that to have a successful party means you do not turn away any face at the door.
They go through this every so often, where he has too much to drink and she's not had enough to drink and instead of it blurring into a drunken touch that then turns into a drunken fuck, it turns into a fight.
His left hand grabs her ass and his right hand cannot keep up with the plastic cup of beer, so there is this shower of liquid onto her chest, rolling down between her breasts.
If she were as happy as he is, it might just make her laugh.
If she were in the mood for this, it might just make her strip down and give a cheap show and then she'd drag him to the car and they would make out.
But tonight, it just pisses her off.
"God, Aiden, you stupid fucking-"
"Oh, what? What now, Ash?"
"Get your damn hands off me."
"You weren't saying that last night, babe..."
"Yea, well, last night you actually looked like my boyfriend and not a douche-bag."
"What the hell? You on the rag or something?"
He chuckles and she shoves him, hard, until he bounces into other people trying to dance.
'Trying' being the word to focus on there as most of the people here are too trashed to bust out any moves, they just fall into one another and grope and grind some.
That's what Aiden wants to do. That's not what Ashley wants to do.
They go through this every once in a while, where Aiden looks at this hot girl and wonders why she has to be a bitch, where Ashley looks at this handsome guy and wonders why he has to be so fucking dumb.
But they always work it out. Might take hours. Might take days.
But they always work it out and kiss and say it is true love... or something close to that.
Sometimes, Ashley just thinks she doesn't want to be alone and that is all that is keeping them together.
A flimsy line of insecurity that they both name 'relationship'.
She walks away, letting him do whatever the hell he wants tonight, and stalks through the crowd and finally finds the front door.
Sticky with beer and sweat, shoes lost somewhere along the way and on the front stoop of Jessica Barnes house on the sixteenth of May, Ashley Davies sits down with a sigh.
They don't fight. They don't get into arguments about silly shit. They have the same friends and they like a lot of the same things - films about serious topics and songs by obscure bands, they both think dogs are better than cats... You know, stuff like that.
Everyone looks at them like the little couple that could.
And, maybe, in some other world that would fill Spencer up with more joy than she could ever hope to handle. In some other world, that kiss to her lips would signal a deep fire and Spencer would burn alive.
In some other world, Spencer could equate comfort with perfection.
But she doesn't.
And it makes her feel like an asshole, makes her snappy and moody and rude, makes her leave her girlfriend in that swarm of hormones that is Jessica Barnes party.
What's worse is that she has done this all before. Too many times before, running from safety, because she can, because she must.
She takes the knife and twists it just a fraction more into her girlfriend's heart.
She can hear that familiar note of desperation in Kate's voice. And if she were to turn around, take back the attitude and grin her way through the night, they'd be okay.
Kate would forgive. They would dance and drink and they'd stumble back to Kate's room and they'd make love like they always have.
And Kate would sleep.
And Spencer would be awake with her lies.
She should keep running, but she only gets as far as the front door. Chancing a look back, seeing Kate stare at her past a sea of people, and Spencer knows it would be kinder to cut this tether between them.
It would be an act of kindness to be honest.
But Spencer just slips outside, pulling the door shut with an all too steady hand, and leans against it and takes a deep breath and feels better than she should.
It's not like trees and grass here ever go brown. Life is always green. Life is always starting, never ending. Even with the sky dark and the stars out there beyond the thousands of artificial lights, those shades of green are in the background.
Soft on the soles of your feet. Whisper in the bolts of breeze.
They notice one another at the same time, one of them walking further out and the other one deciding to go back in.
Caught in streetlamp glow and distant moonlight, Spencer sees a dark haired girl.
Backlit by the windows and next to pale granite walls, Ashley sees another blonde girl.
"You wouldn't happen to have a cigarette would you?" The blonde asks.
"Uh, nope, sorry." The dark haired girl replies.
The blonde sighs and runs a hand through her hair, eyes cast down to the floor beneath her feet.
"Guess I should have grabbed a drink on the way out then. Need to take the edge off, you know?" Spencer doesn't know why she is talking at all, rambling to some stranger at this party.
And Ashley doesn't know why she hasn't walked away yet, but she hasn't. Her feet feel cold on this porch and it would be nice to get cleaned up inside... and yet, she stands here and looks at this blonde girl and listens.
"Yea, I get that. I could use about, oh I don't know, ten more or something. Try to forget this night totally."
They lock gazes and they share matching smiles that are really smirks.
"That bad, hmm?" The blonde asks.
"My boyfriend is being a dick." The dark haired girl states.
Spencer nods her head, though she knows nothing of boyfriends. She has slept with exactly one guy and that was to make sure about being gay - and sleeping with that boy only confirmed what Spencer already knew.
Ashley knows that Aiden isn't really a bad guy. He is probably one of the better guys. He can do emotional when need be, can remember birthdays, is willing to rub Ashley's feet every once in a while. But... There is a 'but' in there that won't just go away.
"I mean, he spilled his damn drink all over me and didn't give a shit. He was still trying to get in my pants!" The dark haired girl exclaims.
The blonde sort of laughs and rolls her eyes.
"Yea, that's one of many reasons why I don't date guys... Not that girls are much better sometimes."
It could have been really awkward. It could have started a brawl. It could have turned into a million different things - none of them good.
But Ashley just shakes her head ruefully and Spencer shrugs her shoulders, as if they just figured out the mysteries of life in their brief conversation.
"Relationships suck, don't they?" Ashley muses aloud.
"Yea... Yea, sometimes they really do." Spencer agrees.
And Ashley doesn't go back in.
And Spencer doesn't leave.
Somehow, after one of them crept back into Jessica Barnes house and snagged about five bottles of beer and they drank until there was nothing left, they ended up about two hundred feet or so from that expensive castle of a home and that obnoxiously loud party and that wasted boyfriend and that mistreated girlfriend.
Somehow, the two of them were side by side in a hammock, lazily swinging back and forth.
And then not talking.
Toes grazing the lawn and sometimes bumping into empty glass strewn about, thighs pressed close and arms brushing when one of them would gesticulate.
It's the alcohol, sure. It's late, that factors in as well.
But Ashley feels comfortable and content, swinging here at some hour long past midnight and with Spencer beside her, swirling a sip of amber ale around before swallowing it.
They exchanged names during the first beer. They told tales during the second one. They laughed and joked during the third one. They found the hammock with the fourth one.
And there, net at their backs, they share the fifth beer.
Spencer is feeling calm and pleased, the slight caress of air over her skin and the slight warmth of Ashley's body so near, tasting another girl's mouth on the glass as the last drop goes down.
It tastes better that way, that's what Spencer decides.
All drinks should be shared, that's what Spencer determines.
Shared with a girl like Ashley.
And somehow, in between all the talking and not talking and the drinking and not drinking and the swinging and the stopping, Ashley finds her eyes on Spencer and Spencer is looking right back.
"Fuck, it's going to sound stupid..."
"No, really, it will."
"All the best things in life sound stupid."
Ashley silently laughs and it shakes Spencer's body and that makes Spencer laugh, too.
"That makes no sense."
"Yea, whatever. You are being, um, you know... evasive... or something..."
"Okay, fine, but if you make fun of me-"
"I won't. Promise. We are hammock buddies. I take this seriously."
Ashley reaches out before any internal barriers can fly up and prevent her from moving, her index finger coming into contact with the tip of Spencer's nose.
"You are drunk."
Spencer swats the hand away and then mimics Ashley's action.
"So are you."
They laugh some more and Spencer is pretty buzzed - not enough to be ridiculous, but just enough to buffer herself from recrimination - and so she leans forward and kisses Ashley's cheek, a loud smack of lips to flesh and with her hand cupping Ashley's face.
Spencer pulls the kiss away, but not the delicate hold to Ashley's jaw.
And Ashley doesn't swat at Spencer's hand. Quite the contrary, actually. Ashley finds her neck bending ever so slightly and her head tilts a little bit and it is really nice.
In fact, it might be the nicest thing Ashley has ever felt.
"I'm glad I met you."
That's what Ashley wanted to say, she's not even sure why, and she still thinks it sounds stupid. Incredibly stupid.
But Spencer likes the words, likes the person saying them and she cannot be bothered to find that sensation of happiness wrong.
"I'm glad I met you, too."
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