This is the second in a series of essays by Jen. You can read the first one here.
I stared into the full length mirror propped against Bekah’s bedroom wall. The girl inside stared back at me with a mixture of fear and excitement in her eyes. She was wearing a tiny jean skirt and a low cut red tank top with sparkly platform flip flops on her feet. Her legs, like the rest of her body were tanned a golden brown and the the highlights in her long champagne blond hair shone in the light from the bedroom lamp. The girls face looked perfectly smooth under the artfully applied makeup, her big blue eyes smokey with black liner and mascara. She was just 15, but could have passed for 18 if the room was dark enough. I turned from the mirror and smiled crookedly at my two companions, my eyebrows lifting in silent question. Bekah and Mary, huge smiles on their faces, squealed in unison before grabbing my hands and pulling my out of the house and into the waiting SUV.
As I sat squished between Bekah and Mary in the back seat, I convinced myself of two things. The first was that no amount of makeup was going to fool anyone into thinking that I belonged at this party. As soon as I walked in, I was going to be recognized for exactly what I was: a fraud, a poser, a loser. I was pretty sure that there would be pointing and laughing involved as I was promptly escorted out the door. The second was that I was going to barf. My guts felt like they were twisted into a thousand knots and some very unfriendly butterflies were maliciously chewing on those knots.
I held my breath as we walked through the front door of my very first high school party and stayed behind my friends as we made our way from the entryway and into the living room. I couldn’t help but stare as I took in all the beautiful people around me. I couldn’t believe how mature everyone looked. I crossed my arms across my chest as I noticed I was the only girl in sight without cleavage.What was I thinking? I had spent the last few years avoiding the embarrassing walk by the popular lunch tables and here I was creeping straight into the lions den. I so didn’t belong here.
To my left a few people I vaguely recognized from school stood around the stereo as Green Day blasted from the speakers. Three girls swayed to the music with drinks in their hands while others flipped through a stack of CDs. To my right were a group of guys sitting around the dining room table playing cards, cans of beer and red plastic cups littering the table around them. The most popular girl in school, the queen bee of Planet Perfect, sat on the lap of the the most gorgeous guy I had ever seen in person. As I gawked at them, she threw her head back and laughed as he wrapped his arms around her waist pulling her hard against his chest. She looked so confident and happy and at that moment I made a promise to myself. I would be that girl one day. I dropped my eyes as she looked in my direction. I hoped that she hadn’t noticed me and at the same time I prayed that she had.
I followed behind Mary and Bekah all night like a little lost puppy. I kept my eyes down and my mouth shut and just like I had hoped and feared, I was completely ignored. Alcohol was almost impossible to get your hands on and If you didn’t B.Y.O.B, you didn’t D-R-I-N-K. I had exactly two sips of Bud Light that night. Mary on the other hand had somehow managed to get her hands on a whole can. A few hours later, totally sober and very tired, I found myself sitting awkwardly on a couch in the living room listening to an utterly ridiculous conversation about why so-and-so hated what’s-her-face. I looked up from the meaningless chatter and noticed the first truly intoxicated person that I had ever seen stumble into the living room. He had a large see-through pretzel barrel, half full of foamy beer clutched under his right arm. It took me only a moment to recognize him. His name was Dan. Dan and I had gone to elementary school together, but back then he had been called Daniel. Dan had always been the shortest kid in class, but it hadn’t been so obvious surrounded by all those prepubescent boys. Now he stood out among the rest of the guys at the party, but what he lacked in height, Dan made up for in bulk. He was pure muscle.
I watched Dan as he weaved his way across the room. He looked like he was struggling through an obstacle course that only he could see. As he came closer to where we were sitting, Dan tripped over his own feet. As he fell, the beer from his barrel flew out and splashed onto me and all the girls sitting near me. We all quickly jumped up and screamed. My skirt was soaked and beer was running down my legs. Great! Now I looked like I wet myself! I didn’t have the nerve to call him any of the foul names running through my brain, but the other girls weren’t so cautious. Dan stood there with a confused look on his face and then glanced down at his beer barrel. It was empty and this upset Dan. He reached down, grabbed the first thing he saw, and chucked in our direction. Unfortunately, the closest thing at hand was a gray and white stripped cat who had just entered the room. The cat flew across the room and hit me hard in the stomach. I sat with a huff as the wind whooshed out of me. As I struggled to regain my breath, I looked around to see if the cat was all right. I saw a flash of gray as it ran around the corner and into the other room. Cat Man Dan smiled and walked into the kitchen to refill his personal keg as the girls around me threw insults in his direction.
I could feel my face burning with embarrassment as the girls giggled around me. Here I was, sitting in the middle of a group of the most popular girls from school, covered in beer and gasping for breath after barely surviving a run by catting. I wanted to crawl into a hole and never come out. I bet the cat knew of a good hiding place. Thankfully, Mary decided that she had had enough excitement for one night and asked if there was a spare room the three of us could sleep in. Nikki showed us to her parents room upstairs and then left us there to go rejoin the party. I wasn’t looking forward to sleeping in my beer-soaked clothes, but I had no other option besides stripping, which I was not about to do in this stranger’s house. We all climbed into bed and laid there laughing and talking about the night’s events. Mary grew silent. Bekah followed and before long I could hear the heavy breathing of sleep coming from both of them.
The bedroom door slammed open, the light from the hallway slanting across the foot of the bed. I sat up in time to see a figure step through the doorway. It was too dark to make out his face, but I could hear Cat Man Dan’s angry breathing from across the room. My stomach jumped into my throat. Mary and Bekah, roused by the noise, sat up as Dan stalked around picking up whatever he could get his hands on, throwing it across the room. Mary yelled at Dan to leave as a remote control whizzed passed my right ear. Dan looked up, just now noticing that he wasn’t alone. He dropped the laundry basket in his hand and walked towards us, grabbing the edge of the water bed, intent on flipping it over. The veins in his neck bulged and his muscles strained against the massive weight of the water bed. It didn’t budge. Mary laughed. There was a cruel edge to the melodic sound. He tried again. Nothing happened. Mary started mocking Dan, letting him know just how stupid and drunk she thought he was, laughing loudly as he grunted like a frustrated cave man. I desperately wanted to stop her. Didn’t she see how angry he was? She was only making it worse. Instead, I pressed myself hard against the headboard trying to get as far away from the conflict as possible, keeping my mouth shut. Then, as suddenly as he had come, Dan turned around and walked out of the room, leaving a stunned silence behind him. Bekah jumped up to shut the bedroom door. I watched to make sure she turned the lock before climbing back into the bed.
The whole exchange had taken less than 5 minutes, but as I laid back down on the bed, my muscles ached from the tension in my body. I curled onto a ball on my right side, pulling the blankets up as far around my face as I could. I was scared, a little claustrophobic and utterly homesick. I wanted to be in my own bed instead of stuck in this house with the party full of strangers downstairs. I closed my eyes and willed myself to fall sleep.
This is the second in a series of essays.
About the author: Jen grew up in Simi Valley and is now a young adult.