Read Life of the Party Online

Authors: Christine Anderson

Tags: #romance, #god, #addiction, #relationship, #cocaine, #overdose, #bible, #jesus, #salvation, #marijuana, #heroin, #music fiction, #rehab, #teen addiction, #addiction and recovery, #character based, #teen alcohol abuse

Life of the Party (8 page)

BOOK: Life of the Party
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His eyes
scanned the page for what seemed like eternity. I grimaced at my
own stupidity. Why couldn’t I’ve just let it go?

Grey raised his
eyebrows, and then he glanced at me. His blue eyes were …
surprised? Amused? I couldn’t tell. Then, he chuckled slightly,
shook his head, and a smile broke over his perfect lips.

I didn’t want
him to see my utter relief at his reaction. With an effort to seem
completely calm and in control of myself, I shook my head at him,
as if the whole thing were totally immature and beneath me, and
then stalked out of the waitress area. I could hear Grey chuckling
again from behind the counter.

This time I
didn’t mind.

 

 

The night
continued. It was Charlie and I, alone, again, but I actually came
to find I didn’t mind it. Charlie knew what she was doing, and
albeit lazier than Sophie, it was actually a nice change. She was
wearing a dress tonight, low-cut and white with little pink flowers
on it, like the kind someone would wear to a wedding. Her high
heels clicked on the brown tile floor of the waitress area. Her
hair was half up, half down in blond curls, her make-up done to a
tee. She looked gorgeous, and I couldn’t help admiring her. If Grey
didn’t go for her even, what chance did I really have?

Charlie caught
me staring. She smiled at me and motioned with her hand to outline
her outfit. “It helps with the tips,” she admitted, “You should try
it. Not that you don’t look good. I like your skirt.”

“Thanks.” I
looked down at myself, at my bright pink turtleneck and black
pencil skirt. My dark curls tumbled down from the loose ponytail I
wore; I had comfortable, practical black skate shoes on. I smiled
at Charlie, I couldn’t help it. I wanted to hate her, I really did,
but she was so beautiful, and so damn cool. I couldn’t help but
want her approval, her compliments.

“I like your
style.” She confessed. Her pink lips smiled at me. “Sometimes
though, a little cleavage, it goes a long way.”

Near the end of
the night, I saw the proof. Her Styrofoam cup was loaded with
change, five-dollar bills mixed into the coins. Mine was full too,
but nowhere near hers. I considered her advice. It might be worth
it.

Grey ignored me
the rest of the night. Well, mostly. Once, we happened to look up
at the same time, and our eyes met, and he gave me the most genuine
smile I had ever received from him. It lasted only briefly, before
he turned away and his expression resorted back to its normal,
stoic appearance—but I was overjoyed. I couldn’t help but feel like
I had made some progress, however small. If nothing else, I’d made
myself memorable, and that seemed a victory in itself.

I was painfully
aware of him the entire night. I knew every move he made, every
word he said, every time he left for a smoke break. A few times I
debated just “happening” to go outside at the exact time he did,
but I wasn’t ready for that. I wasn’t near brave enough. Instead I
worked away, mostly silently, trying to do the best job possible so
he’d notice, making my orders perfectly legible and exactly how
he’d want them.

When the open
light was finally shut off and the staff had gathered at the tables
for coffee and cigarettes in the traditional manner, I joined Riley
at his table, but I sat so Grey was in plain view. He had changed
into dark jeans and a long sleeved grey shirt, his leather
bracelets were back, his hair messy out of the confining bandana.
The breath caught in my throat just looking at him, even from afar.
The guys with him were laughing, flicking their cigarettes messily
at the ashtray. I was surprised to recognize both the guitar player
and the drummer from Serpentine, Grey’s band.

“Hey, I didn’t
know they worked here too.” I whispered to Riley, motioning with my
eyes. He turned briefly to look over his shoulder, popping his gum
as he did so.

“Who, Zack and
Alex? No, they don’t work here. They work at some lumberyard
downtown. They’re always around though, scamming free food and
stuff. They’re in Grey’s band, and Ralph doesn’t seem to mind.”

“Who is this
Ralph? I keep hearing about him but I’ve never seen him. He didn’t
even hire me. That Mark guy did.” I nodded towards the spiky-haired
blonde trying to wrestle a cash-out slip from the register. He was
young, maybe twenty-seven or thirty, with a healthy obsession for
eighties rock. Even now, Cheap Trick could be heard playing
somewhere in the back of the kitchen.

“Yeah, Mark’s
the manager. He’s a good guy. He’s here like twenty-four seven too,
so he does most of the hiring and scheduling and shit. Ralph’s the
owner but he hardly shows, mostly if there’s firing to do, or in
the afternoon … he likes the nightlife. Don’t worry though, you’ll
meet him.” Riley sighed and rolled his eyes. “Ralph always insists
on meeting the new waitresses personally.”

“What is he,
some kind of perv?”

“Let’s call him
very bored and leave it at that.” Riley chuckled. I raised my
eyebrows but let it go. I was dying for a cigarette, and watching
Grey and his friends smoke was not making it easier. How could
Riley do it?

“Go ahead,
Zee.” Riley smiled. “You can smoke. I won’t renege on our little
contract.”

“What are you,
reading my mind now?” I chuckled, but reached gladly for my
cigarettes.

“It’s not hard
to read your mind when you’re so damn predictable. Go ahead.”

“Is it very
hard?”

“No. Don’t
worry about it.”

“Okay.” I knew
Riley was lying, but I was also desperate. I tried to keep the
smoke from reaching him and inhaled happily. I glanced at Grey and
his band mates again over Riley’s shoulder. They seemed to be
planning out their next gig. I paid close attention, trying to hear
the date of their next show.

“So, how’d it
go anyway?” Riley wondered quietly, noticing my rapt interest in
the table behind him. I shot him a puzzled look. “With Grey,” he
explained, “isn’t that what you got this job for? So, how’d it
go?”

“Well ….” I
smiled, and told Riley the whole shameful “screw you” story, my
voice quiet enough that we wouldn’t be overheard. My friend was
laughing by the end of it and he shook his head at my
foolishness.

“Leave it to
you, Mackenzie. Grey’s a jerk to everyone here, some days worse
than others—it takes a while to warm him up. Most people just
accept it and try to ignore him. Not you though. You’re probably
the only person that has ever stood up to him.” He shook his head
again, and chuckled mirthlessly.

“What?”

“Nothing.”
Riley muttered. “I just bet you made an impression, that’s
all.”

“I wouldn’t
count on it.” I argued, but at the same time, I desperately hoped
so. I blew my smoke out and glanced at Grey’s table again. The band
mates were totally immersed in conversation, a serious one, by the
looks of it. I watched carefully, wishing that Grey would look at
me again.

“Yeah, you made
an impression. Of course you did.” Riley sighed quietly in his
chair. I was aware of his eyes on me, but was too busy looking at
Grey to acknowledge him.

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER
8

 

My life was in
the doldrums. I couldn’t really pinpoint the exact moment it
happened, but suddenly my schedule was full with work (of all
things) and I was home relatively early every night, giving me
ample time for homework (or it would’ve, had I wanted to do it).
Stone sober during the day and most nights, stuck at Ben’s house
watching the same damn movie every weekend and basically just all
out bored. Riley was pretty much non-existent these days, somehow
he had drifted farther and farther from me. I saw him only in the
mornings when we drove to school and the random nights we happened
to work together. The rest of his time he seemed to be spending
with fat Emily—or the “Christian,” as I called her.

In all my spare
time, I had done a little reconnaissance work on Riley’s little
friend, and my discoveries were unsettling to say the least. Emily
ran a lunchtime group, Faith … something … Soldiers, maybe, I
couldn’t remember what it was called, but it was the very meeting
that my friend Riley disappeared to every day. He thought I didn’t
know, and he refused to talk to me about it or her, which could
only mean they were becoming serious. The thought made me nearly
sick to my stomach … I could practically watch him slipping away. I
tried to keep a brave face and not nag him too much, remembering
our little pact and attempting to stay positive for him. I clung to
the daft hope that we’d make it through this rough patch and find a
way for us to be together with our friendship still intact,
somehow, uncommon interest’s aside.

But I just
didn’t see how it would work.

I had made
little to no progress with Grey either. On the days we happened to
work together, which weren’t very often, his moods changed so much
that I was confused on the best of days. He was never openly
hostile again, but he ranged between totally indifferent and
nonchalant to smiling at me openly from behind the order counter.
To say I was baffled was an understatement, but at least he was
being generally friendly. And totally gorgeous, of course.

Sundays were
probably the worst though. On Sundays, Marcy made a point of coming
to our house so she and my mom could work on wedding plans, which
in turn meant I had to help with wedding plans, and that Greg the
dick would also be there, in his collared shirts, saying unfunny
things that made my parents laugh. Sundays couldn’t go by fast
enough. It’s hard to choke through a whole day with a fake smile on
your face when trying to be enthused about something that held no
interest at all.

Worse yet, with
graduation approaching quickly, the warm, hazy air of summer only
encouraged all manner of wild, teenage activity. Yet I was stuck …
trapped in a routine that disabled me from enjoying any kind of
young summertime fun. Riley and I had grand plans for this time of
the year, a wicked camping trip up river somewhere, all the booze
and drugs we could want. I would’ve been willing to go to the other
parties too, held by kids we really didn’t hang out with, but I
didn’t want to go alone.

Riley was out
and Ben, Toby and Jacob weren’t really willing to go either, they
preferred to hang out at Ben’s house and get high without having to
socialize with anyone else. Not that I blamed them. I’d sat many
times, for hours, while the three of them laughed—just laughed,
pretty much non-stop, at who knows what. They didn’t need to go out
to be entertained. But I craved some craziness, some … opportunity.
A little drama in my otherwise lacklustre life.

I sighed,
finishing the loop on my binder that made the doodled flower
complete. If something exciting didn’t happen soon I was going to
lose my mind. The teacher was going over materials we should study
for finals, but I ignored him. The very thought of those dreaded
exams bored me nearly to tears. I began work on another
flower—another, larger, grander flower than the one before it. It
seemed that if I wanted something to happen, I’d have to do it
myself. And I was just on the verge of crazy enough, to be brave
enough, to make it happen.

I had my plan
in action the moment the bell rang. I nearly sprinted down the hall
towards Riley’s locker, smiling victoriously when I beat him there,
and turned to wait. Kids rushed by me on their way to the cafeteria
or to the parking lot and their awaiting cars, some pushed through
the nearby doors to begin the walk uptown to the closest
convenience store. I spotted Riley coming down the hallway, but the
smile fell off my face when I saw Emily close beside. The people
had to move around them instead of barging through the middle,
because to my horrified eyes, Riley’s hand was wrapped tightly in
Emily’s, their fingers as intertwined as their eyes seemed to be,
completely oblivious to all those around them. Completely oblivious
to me.

I felt like I
couldn’t breathe. Like I had been kicked in the guts, like I had
been horribly, brutally betrayed. I took a breath to steady myself,
to try and talk some rationalization into my befuddled brain. Riley
wasn’t mine, I had never claimed him in that way. So why did I
hate, with every part of me, the fact that he was holding Emily’s
hand? I couldn’t answer that question. I just hated it. I fought
the urge to run over and tear his hand from hers and make him look
at me. Maybe that would snap some sense into him.

I can’t imagine
what my expression must have been. Riley did look up eventually—it
was inevitable as they came closer—and when he saw me his face
became alarmed. But his hand was still tight around hers.

“Mac? Are you
okay? Did someone die or something?” He asked.

“… No … no—” I
choked out. My throat seemed to have closed. I shook my head
instead of trying to talk.

“What’s up
then? Oh, hey, you know Emily, right?” Riley looked down at the
chubby girl and I saw it then … how his dark chocolate eyes warmed,
how his face seemed to beam at the sound of her name on his lips.
He loved her. I knew he did. I wanted to cry, right there in front
of them. How did this happen? How did I let this happen? I felt the
panicky tears start climbing up my throat, and I gulped to hold
them in.

“Yeah, sure,” I
barely looked at her, “hey, Ry, do you think I could talk to you
for a minute?” My voice was a raspy whisper.

“Yeah, of
course. I’ll just be a minute, okay Em?” He smiled again at her.
“Save me a seat?” She nodded submissively and grinned.

“Sure. Just
don’t be late, okay? Bye Mackenzie, nice to see you.”

I gave her a
tight smile. It was probably more like a grimace, but at least I
tried. Emily galumphed off down the hallway and I let my breath
out, the tears held at bay for the moment.

BOOK: Life of the Party
6.72Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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