Saturday morning brought another work day – and I really should see about adjusting my schedule so I can sleep in on Saturdays once in a while. I was stuck with the manager, so no buying things from my stash until the next day. Once home though, I got dressed for the final stress relief party of high school. I wore my ripped jeans with a pure black tee shirt that had rainbow blocks around the edge of one arm and my canvas sneakers. That was the easy part. Moisturizing my finicky skin took far longer than it had any right to, and then my hair needed a lot of attention before it started to look soft and springy the way I like it to. My hair naturally has these big curls if I let it grow – and I had – but if I didn't care for it, the curls flattened into something that looked like a 2D video game. Getting my hair the way I wanted it and not ruining it with the tee shirt was a minor miracle, but one I was used to working. I shouldn't be putting in this much effort for this thing, but it was the last time I'd see these people, and I wanted them to remember me stylishly well.
A good final impression you could call it.
Andy had gone with an old standard – overalls and work boots. It made me think, as we rode to the party, that Bruce was truly an exceptional person to see past her clear desire to ward off humanity in general and find something he valued in her. Odd, too, that what he valued was her in the end.
“Looks like everyone showed up and then some,” Andy muttered as we pulled up to the house. She was right – there were a lot of cars. Maybe more people were driving, maybe there were more just because it was the last one? Who knew.
“Well, food, see what the distraction is for the video game competition and head home?” I asked.
“Maybe,” she muttered. She came to a stop and I walked a few steps ahead before realizing she wasn't with me. I turned to look at her, and she was glaring at me.
“What? Why are you giving me the death look?”
She growled. “Bruce is here.”
“Really?” I asked, looking around. “Why would he – oh.”
I looked at her with curiosity. “But...Andy. Did you invite him?”
She looked off to one side. “I didn't think he'd show up. See? This is the problem. Now I'm trying to be nice, and it's your fault.”
Now wasn't the time to tell her being nice wasn't so bad. I had to be on her side. “Do you want me to chase him off?”
Her lip curled. “How will you do that?”
“I can hit on him,” I said with a grin. “Making straight boys uncomfortable is a pleasure.”
She chuckled a little. “No. Leave Bruce alone.”
“I don't know,” I said airily. “He has his charms.”
She looked at me with a slightly more predatory gaze. “No.”
I smiled. “That ass though.”
“Don't make me hurt you.”
“Let's go,” I said. The house looks like a rambling farmhouse, and I've never bothered to find out if it in fact is an old, rambling farmhouse or just a facade. The outside is painted a pale yet sunny shade of yellow with white trim. It seemed like it was tasteful, but I always felt like it was a bit forced. Like...Stepford. Trying too hard to show how perfect it was.
The party was underway. I'm always a little surprised how many kids show up, there being no alcohol, but once again it was packed. I guess being a little later in the afternoon when it kicked off helped, because some people, like me, worked earlier in the day, and others probably had just rolled out of bed. This thing was usually done with by ten, or so I'd heard. I'd never stayed that late.
“Hey! More seniors!”
We were greeted warmly by Mr. Montgomery and directed through the house to the stuff going on outside. They had a table with food – wings, pizza, salads, burgers, dogs, chips and other assorted items. They had a section on the end for vegetarian folks and anyone who needed gluten-free stuff, so pretty nice spread really.
I turned just as Bruce made his appearance before Andy, holding a plate in hand. “I got you some wings with fire sauce.”
“Oh. Um. Thank you.” She looked at me and scowled. “Go find food.”
I grinned. “Okay.” I gave Bruce a playful leer. “Bruce. Looking good.” I'm not quite sure I imagined her growling behind me as I walked over to the food. I filled a plate and wandered over to watch people as they played lawn twister and threw water balloons at each other. A pool was the big thing this yard lacked that you'd expect to see, but otherwise there was plenty of carrying on, um, going on. It was more people than normal, but not so many that you didn't know who they were.
“Is your sister here?”
I turned, wing in my mouth, to see the speaker. Madison Bowers, one of four Madison's in our graduating class. I think. They may have cloned more.
“Aww,” I cooed at her, or tried. You try to coo with a chicken wing in your mouth. “I told you she's not a lesbian. I know, I know, appearances and all.”
She looked at me oddly for a moment. “I know she's not a lesbian. She's a slut.”
“You just say that because she won't put out for you.”
“What? Revealing your inner desires? Oh, come-”
“Please. I'm just glad I got him first.”
I gave her a look that I hoped said both I don't know what she means and I don't care what she means.
She rolled her eyes. Glancing around she changed from someone I didn't like much to someone kind of scary; I began to think the Stepford-like house had infected her.
Caleb Montgomery, whose parents were throwing this party, turned at hearing his name called. He was playing and had a large wet spot on one shoulder, probably from a water balloon, and had elected to wear a tee shirt with sweats rather than a sweatshirt. Very sensible if you like that sort of thing. His hair...his hair. If an egg fell out I couldn't have been less surprised.
He smiled, his bright white smile and waved. “Hey. Get some food and come play!” Then he turned to rejoin the action by smashing a water balloon over someone's head.
“We're together,” she said smugly.
I attempted to repeat my not understanding-slash-not caring look, but putting more effort into it.
“All you can do is make stupid faces,” she snapped.
“Yes. But I can stop. You'll still be stupid.”
“Jerk,” she snapped again, then turned to the food and left me in peace. It was a little funny to think she had taken it to heart that Caleb's virtue needed defending. As I finished my food I thought about that – Caleb's virtue. He'd dated here and there like just about every guy in our class. There were a few 'high school sweetheart' couples. Paul and Kelsey. Noreen and Justin. Pam and Brianna – though depending on the day they might feel like being Brian instead of Brianna. Those three were pretty strong, but everyone else was basically up for grabs.
Oh. Steve Fowler was taking his shirt off. That made things more interesting, and that feeling multiplied as a bunch of guys followed suit. Theoretically they were letting their shirts dry while making the girls wet, but I think it was more about the latter than the former. Either way, I enjoyed the sights.
I was thinking about hitting Madison with a water balloon. It was hard to decide, because if her shirt got wet then the guys might like that, and she might like that. Or she might be outraged and, I admit, I'd be kind of a dick to be entering her into a wet tee shirt contest without her consent. Then again, I don't like her very much. I was still debating when Bruce sidled up to me.
“No. I'm not falling for your charms again,” I told him firmly.
He smiled crookedly. “Nice to know I have charms that work on one member of your family.”
“I'm not getting involved!” I said with authority.
“I'll let you grab my butt,” he offered.
I fixed him with some side-eye.
“Hunter,” he said, practically a whine.
“Where is Gatherer?” I asked.
I sighed. “I'm Hunter, she's Gatherer. Where's Andy?”
“Uh, that's what I wanted to ask about. She's hit the bathroom like four times. She says she feels fine, but she's not really herself.”
I thought for a moment. Oh. Shit. “Did she eat the wings?”
“No,” he said with a frustrated note in his tone. “I made sure she got the fire sauce. She loves fire sauce.”
I bit my lip. “Where is she now?”
I sighed. There is only one thing that stands between Andy and fire wings. “Tell her you think this is lame and you want to go chill. Take wings with you to sell it.”
He didn't respond right away, and I looked over at him to find him nodding. “I don't know exactly what's going on, but I trust you.”
“Then you're an idiot. I don't trust me.”
He shrugged that sort-of-adorable angular body of his. “You tell me my girl needs to get out of here, I'm going to do that.”
“Don't tell her she's 'your girl,'” I said quickly.
He smiled that crooked smile. “I'm a nice guy, not a stupid one.” He turned and headed to the table where he scooped some wings and fire sauce into a small bowl and headed back inside.
And yes, I stared at his butt. Just in case he turned around, of course.
Ugh. It's a good thing he's not gay or I'd be tempted – and that's never a good thing. So thinking, I turned back to the shirtless boys and enjoyed that for a little while. It was a strange thing, ogling those guys from my graduating class. They'd made me miserable, and I didn't like them and had no plans to ever see any of them again, yet I could still appreciate their outsides while knowing the insides were rotten as hell. I got lost in my thoughts for a moment as I watched Kelvin looking so hot, even though there was something in his expression that revealed that he was a few fries short of a happy meal.
My thoughts involuntarily turned to Andy. If she was having her monthly visit, I knew she'd jump at the chance to bail on this. She'd likely only stuck it out to look tough in front of Bruce or to try and let him have fun. That was the trouble with being part of a couple – you didn't always have fun if your other half wasn't. Unfortunately, if she left, I'd have to walk home. It was only forty minutes, but I wasn't looking forward to it. I'd have to leave before it started to get dark, because out here dark meant country dark – complete lack of light.
Beyond the boys – and now some girls – who were carrying on there was a series of greenhouses with everything the Montgomerys grow. The arched buildings stretched out in long rows, one after the other. I used to think it was just flowers, but they have vegetables they sell to markets, they run a farm stand and I'd heard they were going to grow pot and sell to dealers. It was a lesson in diversification, except it was all about plants, still. So sort of yes, sort of no?
“Hello, Hunter.” The voice was warm and female, and I turned to face Mrs. Montgomery, legit one of the nicest people. Still kind of Stepford, though.
“Hi. How are you?” I asked, giving her a smile.
“Oh, you know, mix of things,” she sad coming to stand beside me. “He's next to last for graduation, so it's bittersweet. How are your parents handling you and your sister graduating?”
I sensed she wouldn't want to hear about the Only Fans discussion.
“Oh, not too badly, I don't think. Andy has a paid internship with the county she's really looking forward to, and I was accepted up in Binghamton.”
“Oh, staying close; that's so nice! Caleb is going to Binghamton as well, but I think he may be getting an apartment – at least he wants one, but – well, we'll see. I don't like the idea of him being alone.”
I wasn't sure what to say to that.
“You'll be eighteen soon, won't you?” she asked.
“Yep. Next week.”
She leaned toward me. “Maybe you'll get a fancy car!”
I chuckled. “I'd need to get a license then, so probably not.”
She laughed. “Most kids seem to be champing at the bit to get a license, but you've always gone your own way. I find that so wonderful, that you do your own thing,” she said with a really warm smile.
“Um, thank you,” I said and tried my smile out again.
“I better go make sure no one is trying to get pregnant behind the greenhouses,” she said with a little squint of her eyes and a tight smile. “Always nice to see you, Hunter. Say goodbye before you head out tonight!”
“Okay, I will.” She was always so damn nice to me. It's not that I'm not worth being nice to – I can be a dick, but I have good qualities too. She's always been...very sweet to me, though. Less Stepford than she can appear to be at times.
“Yes! Round one! Let's goooooo,” one of the guys hollered, and the crowd moved toward the sliding glass doors that led to the downstairs. It seemed the video game challenge was about to start.
I saw Madison in the crowd. I wish I could say – well I could, but I'd be lying – that she had a resting bitch face or she fell over and smashed her face into the grass, but she was walking just behind Caleb as the trash talking started in earnest. I trailed behind the crowd, though it wasn't as much fun this year without Andy to snark with.
I found a bit of unoccupied wall that had a decent view of the TV and watched the games start. Caleb almost always wins these tournament things – he's got ice-water in his veins. Carlos Rodriguez always gave him the hardest time, but rumor had it some guys had really been working on their game to challenge for the bragging rights that came with winning. I mean, yay? Go team?
“I was wondering.” I turned my gaze behind me to where Madison had sidled up. “What's it like to be in a family of sluts?”
I looked back to the screen. “I'll ask your dad later.”
“That was weak,” she scoffed. “Especially when everyone knows your sister rides dicks like there won't be any left soon.”
“Well, it is a commodity,” I said, not really caring that it didn't make much of a retort. Who cares if Andy likes sex? I decided to ask. “I mean, she likes sex. You don't? Or just haven't found the right muff to dive into?”
“Pig,” she sneered. “Too bad Brett's not here so you'd have something to do.”
I shouldn't get mad or hurt about that anymore. I mean, time heals and all that bullshit. As it happens this particular wound was always leaking from under the bandage, and some people liked to poke it enough that it can't ever heal. Like Madison.
“You're just jealous you didn't get him,” I said with no real venom. Thinking of Brett always made for a strange swirl of emotions. He'd been my first for a lot of things – first time crushing so hard I thought my chest would collapse. First time falling in love. First kiss. First real French kiss. Those didn't last. It was also the first time I was pushed to my knees, but not the last with him. First time and many more with a dick in my mouth. First and more of him finishing on my tongue. He tried to do me once, but it had hurt too much.
The summer before 9th grade had been filled with new things, and when the school year started too many things collided at once. Too many lopsided sexual encounters with Brett. Too many times where we only met as if we were sneaking – which of course we were, I just wasn't in on it. Then he broke my heart and told everyone how he'd been getting great blowjobs from me, how easy I was and worse. Then he moved, since his dad was military.
And I'd had a broken heart. I'd also had the school talking about me and what I'd done with Brett. To Brett. Boys were uncomfortable around me, because if you were male and my friend there might be a rumor I was sucking you off, too. It was lonely and embittering and left me with a strong desire to avoid my peers.
And people like Madison.
“Well, I got Caleb,” she said, bringing me back to the present.
“Not that hard to do, probably,” I said. “Flash your vag at him? Or did you just fondle his nuts a little and promise him some fun later?”
“Oh, I'm going to fondle him. I wish your sister was here to see, but you tell her, okay?”
I'm not sure if she walked away or not, but she stopped talking, and that was just as good. The first group of four had their game end, and I'd missed some of the distracting that had been a growing part of these contests. One girl had let her skirt twirl up a bit, and another had been playing with a guy’s hair. Fairly tame stuff, especially compared to the near-groping that had happened last time. I was kind of hoping for that for a cheap thrill.
The next group sat down. The match had barely started when Madison draped her arms around Caleb from behind. He stayed steady as if she didn't exist. She ran a hand over his chest, pausing near his pecs, but still he didn't react. I wanted her to run her fingers through his hair, because there had to be a knot or six, or maybe a bird’s egg would finally fall out. Instead she glanced my way and then latched onto his earlobe.
He started laughing and leaned away from her. “Stop! It tickles!” He shook his head and kept on racing. Madison, unperturbed, went in again, and he tilted his neck as if pinching a phone between his shoulder and face and told her to stop. Aww. His earlobes were ticklish. That has to be one of the weirdest and neatest things ever. The people in the room were making a lot of noise, and the pressure was on. Madison continued her attempts to distract Caleb – not sure why she didn't want her boyfriend to win.
It was a racing game, and I could describe the turns and various dirty tricks the guys employed on each other, but who really cares? I was watching the distraction attempts way more. Some girls were trying to copy or one-up Madison on the remaining guys, and it was getting a little hot. There were definitely some nipple teases and some lips on necks, and every one of these guys would wreck or spin out or whatever you call it – except Caleb. He was undaunted by the pressure of the crowd, the ministrations of his girlfriend or even the tension of competition. He won easily.
One guy waved his hand in disgust at the loss and knocked over a drink, which landed in two guys’ laps. Fortunately for Caleb he was home, so he went to change while the other guy went to hose off his shorts or something.
There was a lull, and Madison gave me a very smug, satisfied look. What the fuck was up with this chick? Did I sacrifice her in a past life or something? She's over here being all slutty with Caleb, yet pointing fingers at me and my sister? Whore. Some of the losers were playing a round, so I went to find a drink and thought about heading home.
Except then I had a bad idea. I mean it was a good idea, but it was also bad. I would never see these people again, and I had to leave soon anyway. It might piss Madison off. And hey, I do like making the straight boys uncomfortable.
I wandered back into the game room, and the four losers were just finishing up. Girls were sitting in their laps, some guys were trying to 'no-homo' distract their friends. I took up station a little closer and sipped my drink as I waited for Caleb's turn to come around again. I think they had broken this thing up into brackets, but I don't know where that was and I didn't care who won or who was in what position or round. I was just waiting for Caleb to sit so I could piss off Madison.
As I waited my skin started to pound and my heart was sweating. No, that doesn't sound right. I mean I think that's what was happening, but I was too busy trying to make sure my stomach didn't just eject my nice wings and stuff all over these...people. People who'd made me miserable. Hmm. Maybe throwing up wasn't off the table....
Of course I hate throwing up. I mean yeah, you feel better after, but while you’re nauseous it's the worst. And then the feeling of the stuff coming up your throat – like, going backward of how this is supposed to work – and then your jaw locking open while you spew all over Queen and Country? No, thank you. So, no puking on the douches. At least, that's the hope, because my stomach is still rolling like I'm seasick while standing in a game room.
Finally, Caleb sat down. My nerves sped up and my heart felt wired. No, that also doesn't seem to be how things are supposed to be. Shit. Am I feeling in reverse? Is that a thing? Caleb had changed to mesh shorts and I knew my plan was going to be helped by that – as long as my body didn't go into spontaneous collapse from the stress.
The game started and I glanced around for Madison. This was only worth it if she could see. I inched forward and started to wonder if the little twit had gone home, but no. She was about two feet behind the couch the guys were on, talking rapidly to one of her...what do you call a pair of scavengers? I whipped out my phone and looked up what you called a group of vultures. Ah. A committee. There's a joke there somewhere.
Replacing my phone in my pocket, I moved forward, flicking my gaze from Madison down to the floor in front of me so I didn't face-plant and ruin this. I paused and waited for Madison to look my way, but she wasn't. I glanced at the screen, and I had no idea how far along the course they were.
“Dude. Distraction is one thing, but just standing there and blocking is a douche move,” someone called out.
That did it. Madison looked and I dropped down. She could see me, but I started to crawl on the floor until I was in front of Caleb. I glanced up at her to make sure she was looking, and oh boy was she.
Caleb had mismatched socks on – one above his ankle and another a no-show. I started to touch his exposed shin, just teasing the fine hairs, and he twitched but remained focused. Others saw what I was doing and assumed I was going for a distraction, and they started to chatter, increasing the noise level and my tension level. I glanced up and Madison was focused on me like a laser. Comments reached my ears, ones I'd expect from a crowd toward me on my knees in front of a boy.
Please, please do not let me throw up on Caleb's crotch.
I glanced at Madison, and her lips were drawn down to a thin line. She crossed her arms and tried to move forward, but people were packed in tightly at the back of the sofa, and she couldn't quite get to Caleb. I increased the pressure of my hands on his skin and moved up to his knees. I let my gaze flick up to Caleb's face and caught him glancing down, though his eyes didn't widen in surprise or even hesitate before returning to the screen.
I squeezed his thighs just behind his knees and he jumped a little. That area is always a little ticklish, but I wasn't really aiming for that.
“Stop it!” I swear that was Madison. I moved my hands slowly over the tops of Caleb's thighs, then squeezed a little. I glanced up at her, and she was so angry. I was pretty sure I'd gotten even with her swiping Caleb from Andy, for her comments and most of all for bringing up fucking Brett and tearing that scab off again. I glanced back at Caleb. He was flicking his gaze from the screen to me and back. He wasn't blushing. He wasn't sweating or anything. I glanced down. Oh. Well, blood may not be rushing to his cheeks, but it is still, um, flowing.
“Done!” Caleb said, tossing the controller aside. People were hollering, but I wasn't sure if he'd won again or not. He was standing and high-fiving, so I guess that answers something, and I was on my knees in front of him. The jokes just write themselves.
I got up and threaded my way from the room, heading to the sliding doors. Once outside I took a few deep breaths and was surprised to feel sweat drying on my skin. Jesus. It was sort of like a nightmare, kneeling in front of a guy while the student body stood in a circle to scream things at me.
I jumped and then saw Mrs. Montgomery crossing the lawn.
“Uh, yeah. I have to work tomorrow so I have to, um, get my chores done and do laundry – work uniform.”
“Oh, I'm so sorry,” she said. “You guys all worked so hard, you should be able to have some down time.” She smiled that too-warm smile. “I hope we see you this summer.”
“I'm sure you will. I work down at the outlet mall, you know. Walter B's.”
“Oh? I'll have to stop in, then!” she said, again smiling like she really liked me.
I just kind of felt your son up to get back at someone else, so...maybe dial back on liking me. Or pretending to.
“I look forward to it. I know the best sales,” I said and turned to go.
Well, that wasn't Mrs. Montgomery.
“Hey! Show some respect!” Mrs. Montgomery snapped.
I turned only because I didn't think it would be wise to leave Madison behind me unwatched.
Madison shrieked, “He just groped Caleb in front of everyone.”
“Well, you can still lower your voice and be respectful near my ears,” she said firmly. She glanced at me. “Groped?”
People started to come out of the house, and they were laughing. A few pointed to me and held up a few fingers, like...'V' for victory or something. Then Caleb was there.
“Yes, groped!” Madison said in shrill triumph.
“Caleb?” his mother asked. “What's this girl talking about?”
Caleb rolled his shoulders. “You know, the whole distracting me while I play so I don't win thing. Hunter was squeezing my knees and thighs, trying to tickle me.”
I was not. Trying to tickle, I mean.
“I don't see what's so offensive about that,” Mrs, Montgomery said flatly. “Young lady, I think you need to relax if you're going to be here. Who are you?”
“That is my boyfriend, and he groped him. He was going to blow him like he does guys at school!”
Wow. She was out of control, and I was getting seriously pissed, but Mrs. Montgomery blew her stack first. I mean, words were running together, and soon Madison was in tears as Mrs. Montgomery threw her out of the party. I mean followed her, hollering at her and making her leave. She'd never thrown anyone out that I knew of, not that Madison was a regular. I'd never been on the end of being defended like that.
“Uh, you leaving?” Caleb asked.
I snapped my attention back to him. “Yeah. Laundry to do; work in the morning.”
“Hang on. Andy left. I'll drop you off,” he said.
“Hunt. You just got accused of assault at my house. At least let me drop you off.”
“Your mom just napalmed her. I'm good,” I said and smiled. “Thanks, though.”
He shook his head, his hair staying oddly still for how messy it was. “You're stubborn. But I am, too. If you leave, I'm just going to have to pick you up from the side of the road. Don't make me do that – it'll take me away from my own party longer.”
Aww. That was sweet, sort of. “I'll hide in the trees so you can't find me,” I told him and grinned. “Thank you, though. Go. Enjoy your friends.”
He made a helpless gesture with his hands.
“You're taking your breakup pretty well, by the way,” I said as I was turning to go.
I paused and looked back at him. “You and Madison.”
He looked at me blankly. “You mean she was talking about me when she said boyfriend?”
I grinned widely. “You didn't know you were dating?”
He shook his head and laughed. “Nah. Oh well, guess I get to enjoy being single...like I was before.”