I wasn't sure where I suppose to go from here.
He left and I had an aching hole beating through my stomach, threatening to push me over the edge.
How could one scrap of fabric be the final sentence in our relationship?
Was what we shared really that easily destructible…was Marcie really able to punch a permanent crack between us like the foundation we stood on was as thin as tissue paper?
I clutched the fabric angrily in my hand, not entirely sure why I had stuffed it my bag and hidden it from Vee's view.
The damage was done. The tiny pink neon monstrosity had pretty much sealed my suspicions true.
Patch never really cared about me. His feelings for me were as sheer and cheap as Marcie's thong.
I laughed sourly into my knees, tears prickling and falling freely off my cheeks, making water puddles on my jeans.
What was I suppose to feel first- what was the proper emotion to sink into? Whatever it was overcame me, a whirlwind that rushed fast at me, made my breath suck in and my stomach tighten. My crying was violent but muted, thrashing hard within the small confines of my folded up body. I wanted to leave...run out the door and into the woods, look back only when this time and place was a memory.
But I knew …that was an eternity from here. My heart was so overwhelmingly in pain I was sure another five seconds I wouldn't be responsible for what happened next.
In between a sob the gentle hum of my cell phone vibrated near my hip. Not bothering to answer I wiped my tear stained cheeks and swallowed for what felt like the first time in hours, finding my throat scratchy and sore from trying to hold my crying in.
Again my cell went off and acting off sheer impulsiveness I flipped the lid and barked into the receiver, "What?"
" Whooaa," I heard Vee's startled but slightly amused voice reply, " is it someone's time of the month."
I had to hand it to her. She knew how to push a different button, a needed distraction from my black hole of a day. My annoyance with her was a daily occurrence, one we both entertained and toyed with routinely.
" You know why I'm upset," I hoarsely responded, already sick to death of crying over him. My life shouldn't be a revolving door that swings open only when he decides to be present. " I don't want to talk about it so don't even try."
Vee snickered lightly, but there was a lace of sympathy in her tone," Good because I don't want to hear it anyways. You know how I feel about Patch. He isn't worth the breath it takes to talk about him."
I knew what came next and I didn't want to hear the cliché pat on the back line of encouragement.
" You're better off Nora. You can do so much better."
At that precise moment I wanted to scream so loud the battery on my cell phone would crack. She was wrong! Didn't she understand there was nothing better when I had had a taste of the best! When I had known what it was like to be with him and not want for anything!
But the main reason I was so infuriated had nothing to do with Vee and her sense of duty as a friend.
No, that would have been too easy for me.
I was mad at myself. Mad because the gut instinct to defend him rose up so quick and tangible when she started even saying his name, the instinctive reaction pinned me speechless.
" Hello? Earth to Nora!"
I could hear her tapping her impractical high heel through the phone. I shuffled a bit, licking my lips to gain some semblance. " Yeah sorry…" I cleared my throat and gave her the perfect gift wrapped response, "You're right. I'm better off. I know...it's just hard…"
" Wellllll," she slightly giggled. I could almost see her beaming through the phone, " Than I have the perfect pick me up solution..."
Ugh. Vee's idea of a pick me up solutions somehow always ended in disaster; a personal invitation kinda disaster for yours truly.
" Sorry but no thanks." I tried half heartedly to sound genuinely apologetic.
" I haven't even told you what it is yet."
" Oh…" I flared a nostril, "right."
She sighed, feigning annoyance. " Okay so Rixon told me about this party near Beech street. You know where all those mansion are grouped together...it's supposed to be really hopping...lots of hot college guys and empty rooms..." she accented the end with an enticing squeal.
Rolling my eyes, I wiped under my nose and pretended to sound disappointed that I couldn't attend. The last subject I wanted any part of was boys. My dad was right…they were all trouble. Especially the immortal ones. " Sounds like a blast. You and Rixon behave."
Like I knew that would tame the beast that is Vee. She was nothing if not tenacious, but I wanted for once not to focus on making her happy or doing the right thing. Right now wallowing in self pity with a box of stuffed oreos and a Heath Ledger movie was pretty much the only quick fix solution I was interested in.
" You are not staying home Nora Grey," her tone parental and non negotiable. Very Vee- like minus the mom voice. Last thing I needed was another stand in parent. " This party is exactly what you need. Get your pasty butt up, get gorgeous and Ill pick you up in an hour."
" Vee," I warned with fresh anger, knowing her threat wasn't idol, " I'm being serious. I don't want any part of this stupid party. Having some college frat boy grope me while he sticks his beer- stenched tongue down my throat isn't exactly therapeutic for my state of mind."
There was silence for about thirty seconds. I paused thinking she had hung up but I checked the screen…than heard her quiet sigh. " What do you think Patch is doing right now?"
My body clenched involuntarily. God only knew what his unholy doings were or who with…
As if reading my mind she went on carefully, and for her I knew that took discipline. " Nora, he left. He didn't even try. He moved on so quickly…what the hell does that say? You think I want you sitting home wasting your time thinking about him when I know he didn't even have the decency to really try with you. .." I thought she was finished and my insides unglued from their fisted position, " You're beautiful…you're smart and funny…you could have any guy…stop acting like he's the last man on earth…I mean it when I say you're better than that."
Shaking a little, I wiped a palm on my jeaned thigh. That was probably the deepest Vee had ever gotten with me. She was a far cry from the sentimental type and I admired that about her. Emotions were messy and complicated and I didn't have the built in broom to clean up my own mess, forget about anyone else's. " Ok," I whispered, not even sure what I meant.
" Ok, what?" She pushed incredulously, already hopping back on the party wagon.
I felt the rise of surrender reach my lips, fully aware I was going to regret this in about an hour. " Ok, I'll go."
Her shouts were muffled but audible none the less. " Yesssss! It's gonna be so much fun!...I promise."
I guess it took less than hour. Or maybe I was just still suffocating from something entirely different: a burden that wouldn't lift till I had music and people surrounding every inch of my atmosphere.
" Yeah…well see," I smiled tightly into the receiver, " ok let me go and try to look beautiful."
" Look in the back of your closet," Vee rushed, out of breath. I guessed her victory dance was still in full throttle, " I was rummaging through the other night while you were in the shower…you got some cute stuff."
She would. "Alright..see you soon." This conversation needed to end five minutes ago. I wanted to kick myself for picking up the phone? See Nora, that's what happens when you act before you think!
" Toodles..be ready!"
I clicked the end button but I could still hear her excitement ringing in my ears. I plopped the phone on the bed as I eyed my closet like I would my worst enemy.
Sighing, to the ceiling I made my way over…wondering where my night with Heath Ledger had gone.
The music could be heard booming like a low earthquake from where we parked, which was about a block and a half away. This, I wearily told myself, was not the best of signs.
Climbing the ornate patio stairs to the front door felt like a small hike...there were people scattered everywhere, the lawn-which looked too perfect and trimmed to be real- the balcony…the silhouettes in the windows looked like a rush hour subway station.
The house was exploding with inebriated, fun loving, ready to get stupid humans…all except one now.
" You look like you're getting ready to have a root canal." Vee scolded from behind me, casting me a slanted brow as she did a once over on my choice of apparel for the evening. I didn't have to be John Edwards the t.v. psychic to predict her next statement.
" Could you have dressed any more down…you look like you're ready for a sleepover Nora, not a wild party."
Rixon stifled a small laugh. I shot him a killing look, knowing it would have little effect on a guy like him. He at least had the decency to act remorseful, shrugging his shoulders and tilting his head to the side.
" You look fine to me love…trust me, no ones gonna be looking at your clothes with a face like that." He winked for good measure and if the guy had been anybody else I would have asked him what bull was he pedaling today, but Rixon was genuine. A least he seemed so, but considering he was cut from the same cloth as Patch…
" You ready to do this girl?" Vee flipped her bob out of her face, her perfect porcelain skin shimmering under the summer moon light. Her eyes were smudged dark and sexy and her lips were glossed over with a tinted pink. Her summer dress clung to her all her generous curves, accenting her full figure to model status.
In moments like this I had to remember not to be jealous, to remind myself she was the sister I never had. Not part of the competition. But catching my reflection in the rear view mirror on the way here, I couldn't halt that pang of envy that submerged out of nowhere. I was reed thin with long unmanageably thick hair. My face was bare except for the hint of mascara and peach chap stick I threw on…I knew I wasn't trying...how could I look alive when everything I was made up of felt dead inside.
" Ready as I'll ever be." My voice already lost in the sea of voices and music.
Rixon led the way, taking Vee's hand from behind without looking back...she tugged the loose end of my shirt and I gave her my hand..my body plastered between two gigantic behemoths. The claustrophobic factor kicked up about a notch, but Vee, who didn't struggle with showing her aggressive side, yanked and I was out of the death trap before real panic could set in.
" The kitchen…" she mouthed and pointed at me…I was guessing that was our destination. She began to dance to the music as we walked…the crowd loosening up a bit. I peeked around my hair which was falling over my shoulders, using the translucent barrier to sense the vibe of the party. Nothing out of the ordinary, nothing I hadn't seen before…kids my age, maybe a little older, drinking till they were numb...laughing for no reason…hooking up for even less than that.
All the norm.
Vee had made her way into the middle of the kitchen with Rixon who was grabbing a Bud light...she found me through endless amount of people and rolled her eyes. I read her mind right away and laughed softly to myself. Hopping didn't even begin to describe this party...did the girl take an ad out in the town crier or something?
Leaning against the corner of the kitchen opening I sighed with a smile...forcing myself to relax and enjoy myself.
You could do this.
Nothing was here that was going to harm you, Nora.
And that's when I heard Marcie's laugh. Or should I say hackling shriek.
Talk about speaking too soon.
My back was to her, so thankfully if I stiffened or showed any kind of reaction she wouldn't be aware. Not that Marcie Millar noticed anyone but herself…maybe Patch.
"Patch," my voice shook as his name involuntarily left my mouth. He was here. Not even half of a second had passed when the recognition took over, flooding my senses like an indulging self-depreciating drug.
I was a full on idiot. How could I have not seen this coming? Every single event that happened anywhere within a hundred mile radius of Portland, Maine…Marcie Millar, social debutante of the year, attended.
My first instinct was to hide. My stealth skills were barely existent, but with the human traffic parading through the halls, a few ducks and zig zags and I could perform a pretty decent disappearing act. I could slip out the back door or some bedroom window, call Vee on my cell and tell her I got puked on and walk to a bus stop…or hail a taxi. Anything...a horse and buggy, piggy back...the options were endless as long as they didn't include staying in the same location as my ex guardian angel.
I couldn't be positive he had even spotted me yet…his attention was probably on his new girlfriend. My nostrils flared out in disgust at the unnatural image of those two together in any meaning of the word.
Turning fully towards the wall, I had a barricade of at least five people in front of me, and believing I was well concealed slipped closer into the darkness of the hallway. I made sure to keep my body semi into the kitchen slash living room area so I didn't appear like I had just joined the living after a long stint in a nut house.
With the corner wall half way blocking my face I peeked through my cascading hair, bending down to pretend and fix my shoe…but I stilled in mid position… my eyes instantly finding and locking with his.