You Belong With Me
If you could see that I'm the one who understands you.
Been here all along so why can't you see?
You belong with me.
You belong with me.
Every Friday night the boys always ended up at Nicky's Bar and Grill to start out their night. It was a tradition that had been in place since they were twelve or thirteen and it began when Reid Garwin dared Pogue Parry to walk into the bar and order a beer. Pogue, who looked about twenty even back then, couldn't pass up the fifty bucks Reid waved in his face as an incentive.
I had been with them that night since my parents and the boy's parents' were all out for the evening. We were supposed to be at Tyler Simms' house watching movies and eating the pizza my mother brought over for us before they left. The boys had just reached the age where it became "cool" to steal from their parents' liquor cabinet and smoke half-finished cigarettes they found on the sidewalk. Being two years younger than the rest of them, I firmly believed they were all going to die of some sort of alcohol-related complication and I would have to call my mother and explain the whole thing. To keep me from crying—or ratting them out—they had to let me tag along when they got bored sipping at the whisky they had found in Mr. Simms' study.
On the verge of tears, I clutched Caleb Danvers' hand as Pogue marched inside, cocky and confident. We had "borrowed" Caleb's mom's Mercedes and they made me sit in the front and share a seat with Tyler, who rode shotgun. I was terrified. Not even eleven years old in a stolen car with a bunch of boys who had never driven anything more complicated than a four-wheeler. I remember being absolutely positive that at any moment the police were going to drive up and arrest us all. Reid taunted me from the back seat, telling me that I was going to have to share a cell with a drug dealer or a murderer. Looking back it seems a little farfetched, considering Ipswich's almost non-existent crime rate. But back then, I believed every word. Tears were threatening to spill over when Pogue ran out of the bar, grinning from ear to ear. He had a Bud Light bottle in one hand and Reid's fifty in the other.
After that, the boys went back each and every weekend. Nicky refused to serve them more than one beer a piece until they hit about fifteen, but the boys were loyal customers and now in their senior year of high school Nicky would serve them anything they wanted.
The bartender knew us all by name and usually gave us the first round on the house. By ten o'clock, though, we were all way past our first round.
I'm not sure what everyone's plans were to start out with. Reid had mentioned a party he and Tyler were going to swing by, Caleb and Sarah were supposed to go out for "date night", and Pogue and Kate had planned to go to some fancy dinner in Boston. I had planned on getting to bed early, like I usually did on the weekends. But by the time I remembered all of this it was clear to everyone that we wouldn't be going anywhere any time soon.
I was watching Reid and Tyler kick Aaron Abbot's ass at pool, knocking back shot after shot of tequila while I waited for one of the boys to declare I had had enough and take me home.
It didn't seem like anything special at first. Kate and Pogue were arguing over by our table, but they almost argued if one of them was drinking. They each had beer cans in their hand and Kate was waving her arms so wildly that the ugly brown liquid sloshed out of her cup and onto the floor every time she finished a sentence.
At first it was funny. Kate's voice always got so shrill when she yelled at Pogue and her face contorted into what reminded me of the expression a rabid squirrel might have as he attacked a jogger in the park. I laughed as I watched the two of them duke it out over something that must have been silly, based on the annoyed look Pogue had.
"What's with you?" Tyler asked, smiling at me. "You drunk yet?"
"No, I'm not." I couldn't hold back my ridiculous giggles. "Kate is freaking out about something. They're arguing."
Tyler grinned as he followed my gaze. "Jesus. Again? I don't know why they don't just break up already."
I nodded. "Me either…"
"You're up baby boy," Reid called.
As Tyler lined up his shot I snatched up his drink and took a few gulps. Beer never really suited me, but I felt I could use a little liquid courage. I finished his bottle, burped in the most unattractive way possible, and slammed down my hand on the pool table.
"Really, though," I said.
Reid momentarily took his eyes off the game to glance at me. "What?"
"Why don't they just break up already? She's such a fucking bitch." This wasn't the kind of language I usually used when I was completely sober and it made Tyler laugh.
"Oh c'mon, Kate's not that bad," Reid put it as he got ready to take his turn.
I scowled at him. "Yes she is!"
"Rosie." Tyler patted my back. "You just hate her because of the way she and the other cheerleaders hazed you last year."
"Well yeah," I admitted. She was the reason I quit. "But it's not just that! She's so mean to Pogue. I mean, look at her." I gestured to the two of them, where they still arguing at the table.
We all looked. Through the smoky haze that never seemed to clear out of Nicky's and the awkward squint I had to do to see them clearly through my own drunken haze I watched Kate reach up and slap Pogue across his cheek. Even in the crowded bar twenty feet away I could hear the smack as her hand connected with his face. My jaw literally dropped.
"Shit," Reid muttered. He started towards them, telling us to "stay here" over his shoulder.
I went to follow and Tyler grabbed my arm, holding me in place. The jerky movement was enough to make me sway on my feet. I had always been clumsy but this was probably more brought on by all the tequila than anything else. Tyler met my eyes and smirked at me, realizing the same thing.
"What are you gonna do, Rosie? Puke on her?"
I scowled at him. "That happened once. And I apologized to you for that."
"Yeah, but my shirt will never be the same. There's a huge orange stain right in the middle of it."
His laugh says that he's forgiven me, but a twinge of guilt rises up in my gut. Or maybe it's bile.
"I am not going to puke," I told him firmly.
A crash pulled my attention away from Tyler. I looked back at Pogue and Kate just in time to see her throw a second chair at her boyfriend. Reid came up behind her and picked her up, pinning her arms to her sides and maneuvering her towards the door. She looked absolutely manic, kicking her legs and screaming every profanity I've ever heard at Pogue. I could tell by the expression on Pogue's face that he was barely holding all his anger in. The tight fists at his sides made me glad that Caleb had left Sarah on the dance floor to go talk to him.
"I can walk, Reid!" Kate screamed as they neared the door.
He unceremoniously dropped her, still planted firmly between her and the only clear path to Pogue. She glared up at him for a long moment, as if she was trying to decide if there was any chance she could barrel past him to throw another piece of furniture. With a huff, she swung around to face me.
"This is all your fault!" she spat, pointing a perfectly manicured nail at me.
I leaned away from her, bumping my back into Tyler's chest. He placed a protective hand on my shoulder and said coldly, "Go home, Kate."
It must have been then that she realized she had an audience. Everyone in the bar had stopped talking and was staring at her.
Kate wheeled around and marched out of Nicky's, her stiletto heels clicking as she went. A little deflated, I looked down at my own beat up pair of pink converse and sighed.
"I wish I had her shoes," I told Tyler.
He just laughed.
"Grab Pogue a beer, would ya Rosie?" Reid asked.
I nodded and stumbled as fast as I could over to the bar. Nicky gave me a lustful up-down as I approached. "Damn Rosie, you sure are growin' up fast."
"Well thanks, Nicky." I smiled sweetly at him, repressing the urge to shudder. Nicky had to be at least as old as my father. "Mind grabbing me a couple beers?"
As he filled the glasses Nicky glanced in the direction of our table. "Kate and Pogue not getting' along?"
"Guess not." I shrugged.
"Do me a favor and let me know if that crazy bitch comes back in. I don't want her breaking another one of my God damned chairs. Two is enough."
"Okay. Thanks Nicky!"
He slid the beers across the counter to me and I took several eager sips out of one. A little more liquid courage never hurt anyone.
By the time I made my way through the crowd over to our table Caleb had gone back to dancing with Sarah. The others were still playing pool, giving me a rare moment alone with Pogue. He had his head tilted down, one hand gingerly cupping the bright red hand print on his cheek.
"What'd you do this time?" I asked, handing him a beer.
Pogue looked up and smirked at me. "Aren't you a little too young to hear about this kind of stuff?"
I bristled, ready to fire back something rude or sarcastic, when Pogue laughed at my expression. "Don't be an ass," I told him. "Seriously though, are you okay?"
"Nothing a few more of these won't cure," he told me, holding up his mug.
I let the subject drop, downing the rest of my beer in a hurry. It tasted like what I imagined garbage water might taste like, but I didn't really mind. Unlike the boys, who all liked to pretend to be grown ups and down strong drinks because they "enjoyed" them, I drank with one purpose in mind: to get drunk.
"She thinks I'm cheating on her," Pogue finally admitted.
I looked up at him, watching his face wobble a bit through my drunken haze. "Aren't you?"
You would have to be blind not to notice the string of girls that came through his bedroom. Girls from school, girls from bars, girls from town, girls from Boston. Kate was a bitch, but Pogue was a cheating asshole. In all honesty, he may have deserved those two chairs she threw at him.
Pogue rolled his eyes. "Not with the person she thinks I am. And not anymore." He gave me a grin. "I've shaped up Rosie."
I tried not to blush at the way he smiled at me. "Well I don't believe that for a minute."
"I guess I'll just have to prove it to you." Pogue's wink was just a little too flirtatious for two friends who have known each other since childhood.
He held my gaze for a long moment and I had to look away.
"So, are you two still together?"
Pogue shrugged and glanced down at the two broken chairs that were still on the floor beside our table. "I don't know. Maybe? It's not like I actually cheated this time."
"Which makes up for every other time, right?"
"Right." His smirk reminded me ever so slightly of Reid's whenever he had some little skank cornered.
Maybe it was the two beers, or all the tequila shots before them, but for some reason I couldn't shake the sudden urge to kiss Pogue. This was weird, because before then I had never had the urge to kiss anyone. Sure, I played spin the bottle in middle school like everyone else. But it had never inspired anything more than a few butterflies and a sensation of relief when it was over. This time it felt more like a flock of geese navigating my gullet. Somehow though, it was in a good way.
By the standards of Pogue's usual hookups I was unbelievably innocent. Besides one awkward movie theatre hand job and a handful of dates, I was basically inexperienced. Usually it didn't really bother me, but suddenly I felt like I might as well have VIRGIN stamped on my forehead.
He was still smirking at me when I looked back at him, and for the first time in our friendship it made me a little uncomfortable—mostly because I had no idea what it meant. Pogue gave almost every girl he passed that same, cocky smile. It didn't mean anything special. It didn't even mean he wanted to hook up with you. It was like me saying "hey" or Tyler giving you a hug or Reid trying to pick a fight with you; totally normal.
It was hard not knowing exactly how I felt, even before I downed all the alcohol, and after the alcohol I was even more confused. Because of his stupid smirk, and how he was always flirting with absolutely every girl he knew. And because of the way Kate looked at me when she left—like I was the reason she was so pissed at Pogue. "This is all your fault!"
My eyes drifted from Pogue's eyes to his lips and back up again. "Pogue…" I began.
"You want another drink?" he asked. By his expression I had a feeling he was going to get me one whether I said yes or not.
"Sure." I tried to sound nonchalant, but I was grateful for the extra boost.
Almost as soon as Pogue vacated his seat, Reid took it over. "You look like you're about to do something very stupid," he observed.
I scowled at him and reached for his beer, which he pulled away. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"Oh please." Reid ran his hand through his blonde hair. I stared at those stupid fingerless gloves that he almost never took off to avoid meeting his eyes. "Tyler and I have been watching you two this whole time. You're drunk. Pogue is drunk and might be broken up with Kate. And you are about to throw yourself at him."
I scoffed, "I wasn't going to throw myself at him."
"You weren't? Okay. Fine. If you say so."
"No, Rosie. Think about this for a minute. Do you honestly think you have a snowball's chance in hell with him?"
That stung. I crossed my arms over my chest defensively. "I didn't say I wanted one, asshole."
"Hypothetically, then. Do you really think that you could possibly beat Kate? Or any of the other whores he fucks?"
Now I was positive I was drunk. Otherwise, there's no way I would be tearing up because of something Reid Garwin said. "But I like him Reid," I said quietly. "I've always liked him."
"I know. That's why I'm telling you it would be a mistake. Pogue Parry will rip your heart out and stomp on it."
I wanted to smack Reid, to make some sort of embarrassing scene like Kate did. But that wasn't really my style. Instead, I stood up planning to stride over to Pogue. When my eyes landed on him I smiled, but it almost immediately slipped off my face.
Pogue was leaning against the bar, sipping at his own beer while he handed mine to some girl in a tiny jean skirt and a pair of what my mother would refer to as "hooker heels."
"Tyler," I called. He looked up from his game of pool. "Take me home, please."
He nodded and I grabbed my purse and headed for the door. As I passed Pogue and his new friend he glanced at me questioningly, as if to say "you're leaving?"
"I think I've had enough to drink for one night," I told him, thinking I needed to get the fuck out of there before I did something I'd regret.