Chapter 7 – After

Chapter 7 – After

Hardin has already disappeared into the house, which is great because maybe I won’t see him again for the rest of the night. Considering the number of people crammed into this place, I probably won’t. I follow Steph and Nate into the crowded living room and am handed a red cup. I turn to decline with a polite “No, thank you,” but it’s too late and I don’t have a clue who gave it to me. I put the cup on the counter and continue to walk through the house with them. We stop walking when we reach a group of people crowded on and around a couch. I assume they are friends with Steph, given their appearance. They are all tattooed like her, and sitting in a row on the couch. Unfortunately, Hardin is on the right arm of the couch, but I avoid looking at him as Steph introduces me to the group. “This is Tessa, my roommate. She just got here yesterday so I figured I would

show her a good time for her first weekend at WCU,” she explains.

One by one they nod or smile at me. All of them seem so friendly, except Hardin, of course. A very attractive boy with olive-toned skin reaches out his hand and shakes mine. His hands are slightly cold from the drink he was holding, but his smile is warm. The light reflects off his mouth, and I think I spot a piece of metal on his tongue, but he closes his mouth too quickly for me to be sure.

“I’m Zed. What’s your major?” he asks me. I notice his eyes travel down my bulky dress and he smiles a little but doesn’t say anything.

“I’m an English major,” I say proudly, smiling. Hardin snorts but I ignore him. “Awesome,” he says. “I’m into flowers.” Zed laughs and I return one.

Flowers? What does that even mean?

“Want a drink?” he asks before I can inquire further about flowers. “Oh, no. I don’t drink,” I tell him and he tries to hide his smile.

“Leave it to Steph to bring Little Miss Priss to a party,” a tiny girl with pink hair says under her breath.

I pretend not to hear her so I can avoid any kind of confrontation. Miss Priss? I’m in no way “prissy,” but I have worked and studied hard to get where I am, and since my father left us my mother has worked her entire life to make sure I have a good future.

“I’m going to get some air,” I say and turn to walk away. I need to avoid party drama at all costs. I don’t need to make any enemies when I don’t have any friends to begin with.

“Do you want me to come with you?” Steph calls after me.

I shake my head and make my way to the door. I knew I shouldn’t have come. I should be in my pajamas curled up with a novel right now. I could be Skyping with Noah, whom I miss terribly. Even sleeping would be better than sitting outside this dreadful party with a bunch of drunken strangers. I decide to text Noah. I walk to the edge of the yard, since it seems to be the least crowded space.

I miss you. College isn’t very fun so far. I hit send and sit on the stone wall waiting for his reply. A group of drunk girls walk by giggling and stumbling over their own feet.

He responds quickly: Why not? I miss you too, Tessa. I wish I was there with you and I smile at his words.

“Shit, sorry!” a male voice says and a second later I feel cold liquid soak the front of my dress. The guy stumbles and pulls himself up to lean against the low wall. “My bad, really,” he mumbles and sits down.

This party could not get any worse. First that girl called me prissy, and now my dress is soaked with God knows what type of alcohol—and it really smells. Sighing, I pick up my phone and walk inside to find a bathroom. I push my way through the crowded hall and try to open every door on the way, none of them budging. I try not to think about what people are doing in the rooms.

I make my way upstairs and continue my hunt for a bathroom. Finally, one of the doors does open. Unfortunately, it’s not a bathroom. It’s a bedroom, and, even more unfortunate for me, it’s one in which Hardin is lying across the bed while the pink-haired girl straddles his lap, her mouth covering his.

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