Charity watched Zach and his roommate leave. She smiled hoping that this time Zach had found someone worthy of him. She liked Waylon even though he kept to himself most of the time. Anyone who could bring a smile to Zach’s sweet face couldn’t be bad she thought. Sighing she glanced towards the door trying to decide to go back inside or go home. She hated parties. She’d rather stay home and play video games.
Walking towards the door she pasted on a smile. She promised Hannah she’d stay for at least a couple of hours before leaving. She doubted Hannah would count the time she had spent alone on the porch as party time. The loud music vibrated through her chest out of sync with the rhythm of her heart.
She stood on the edges trying to find anyone she recognized. Her gaze swept across Ryan and that girl. She glanced over her attire wondering what Ryan saw in her. She smiled too much Charity thought. Her spine stiffened as the girl leaned a little too close to him, her hands a little too low on his hips. Charity’s eyes focused on Ryan’s face observing the uncomfortable grimace he was giving the girl. Vincent seemed to be doing everything but standing on his head to get her to notice him. Where was Hannah? Charity scanned the room for her best friend.
“Let’s get out of here,” Hannah said coming up behind her causing Charity to jump.
Holding a hand to her heart Charity demanded “where did you come from?”
With a dismissive wave of her hand Hannah repeated “let’s go.”
With a final longing glance towards Ryan she nodded following Hannah outside. “What’s wrong?” Charity asked observing how jumpy and agitated Hannah was.
“The nerve of some people,” Hannah complained as if she hadn’t heard Charity’s question. “Hitting on me when he came with her.”
Not Vince then Charity thought realizing how little his abandoning Hannah had affected her.
“All of this was to get me jealous,” Hannah continued “how could he use Teasha like that? She’s my friend. I can’t just fall all over him like she doesn’t exist.”
“Donovan?” she asked confused “you like him?”
“Who did you think I was talking about?” Hannah demanded stopping to stare at her.
“I don’t know,” Charity told her realizing that she had blocked most of what Hannah was telling her out so she could concentrate on studying. What had Hannah told her that she never really heard? “I’m sorry” she muttered “I’m a terrible friend.”
“Not really,” Hannah sighed releasing a pent up sigh “I’m the terrible friend. I was the one who had to tell you everything without first making sure you were listening.”
“Well I’m all ears now,” Charity told her with a grin “tell me all about this boy who has you all hot and bothered.”
Ryan took a step back from Trinity attempting to put space between them. His eyes kept scanning the room for either Charity or Hannah. “have you seen the girls?” he asked Vincent leaning in close to be heard over the music.
Shaking his head Vincent reached for Trinity “do you want to dance?”
She glanced over at Ryan who hadn’t seemed to notice his friend coming on to her all night. Disappointment washed through her. She wasn’t used to being ignored, forgotten or not being the center of attention. Linking her arms through Vincent’s she smiled warmly up at him
“I’d love to.” Her eyes turned to Ryan frowning at his lack of attention. Turning to Vincent she said “I hope your friend’s are ok.”
“Oh” he shrugged unconcerned “you’ll have to forgive Ryan he’s been hung up on one girl for years. This is the first real date he’s ever been on.” He smiled down at her “he’s totally blowing it too.”
His smile gave him a boyish charm that Trinity found endearing “you know you’re absolutely right. He came here with me but all he’s done is worry about her.”
“He doesn’t know what he’s missing,” Vincent said holding her lightly in his arms.
Trinity looked into his eyes ignoring the glasses that marred his features. He wasn’t the type she normally went for. There was something that was drawing her to him. She tried to ignore the little voice warning her to not get too close. That this one wasn’t like the rest. Tonight was for fun not worrying about something that might be a complication further down the road.
Donovan glared after Hannah’s retreating figure. This was not how he saw this playing out in his head. Shoving his hands in his pockets he walked towards a door needing some air to clear his head. Shock immobilized him when he found Teasha and some guy in what looked like an intimate embrace. Here he was feeling guilty for the way he had used her only to find her doing the same to him.
He forced his feet to move and stumbled back the way he had come. “Hey watch it,” a familiar voice said. Ignoring it he rushed to the other exit needing to get away from the warm stale air. The loud music that wouldn’t let him think while the walls seemed to close in around him. Leaning on the porch railings breathing hard he didn’t notice that someone had followed him until the same voice asked “are you alright?”
“Do I look alright?” he asked gulping in air.
“That’s why I’m asking,” Ryan shrugged giving the boy space.
Donovan eyed him a moment before chuckling a little “sorry. I just had one of the worst nights ever.”
“Tell me about,” Ryan smiled “mine hasn’t been that great either.”
After swapping stories of their night’s adventures Donovan asked “what do I do? I like Hannah. Probably more than I should.”
Ryan laughed “dude you’re going to be doing good if she ever talks to you again.”
“What if I grovel?” Donovan asked.
“Groveling would be a step in the right direction,” Ryan shook his head “I doubt making Charity jealous would accomplish much for me either.” He sighed wishing he had just come to the party with her as friends instead of asking Trinity at the last minute. At least he would have had some fun. “Hannah told me you like games,” Ryan said after they had stood on the porch in silence for several minutes.
“Yeah” Donovan said sounding cautious.
“She was telling me about this game you were playing,” Ryan turned to him a twinkle in his eyes “the way she described it sounded an awful lot like Sims Effect 4. I’ve seen demos but nothing like what you have.”
“Well um,” Donovan looked over his shoulder as if checking to see if they were alone “it is Sims Effect 4. I sorta hacked a copy.”
“Dude,” Ryan playfully punched his shoulder “that’s awesome.”
Grinning Donovan offered “let’s go back and play. Unless you want to stay here.”
“Naw I’ve had my fill of parties,” Ryan said “besides how often do I get a chance to play a game that’s not available yet.”
“Where are we going?”Divia asked a note of concern in her voice. It had been at least ten or fifteen minutes since they left the party and they were driving along rows and rows of old abandoned warehouses.
Marzia heard the raw fear in the younger girls voice “it’s alright. Nothing to be afraid of.”
Divia nodded despite her concerns. A serial killer would say the same thing. Don’t worry. I’m not going to hurt you. She really was an idiot Divia thought. She barely knew Marzia yet she allowed herself to get into a car with her alone. She could hear her father’s voice loud and bombastic in her head telling her to run. “Maybe I could see this place another time?” she suggested “I really should get ice on my ankle.”
“We’re almost there now,” Marzia told her “I just want to show you what you helped inspire.”
“I’m…” how could she tell this beautiful girl no? How could she tell her that she was so freaked out she wanted to go home? “Ok” she mumbled against her better judgement and her father’s screaming in her head.
Marzia turned down a well lit road. The buildings started to look in better condition than what they had just driven past. She glanced over at the girl beside her noticing the tension relax in her profile. Poor kid must have thought she was being taken some place to die or something from the look on her face. Pulling into a deserted parking lot she announced “we’re here.”
Divia’s eyes darted around the semi dark lot scanning the area. She tensed when Marzia put a hand on the small of her back “wh where are we?” she asked.
“My studio,” Marzia said her teeth flashing white in the dark. Opening the door she said “come on I want to show you what I’ve been working on.”
Divia fumbled almost tripping in her haste to follow the girl inside the dark building. At least it didn’t look abandoned like the buildings they had driven past. Walking up the stairs Divia observed that the building was well maintained. Her nerves were calming down from the trip hammer pace they were humming along at. She walked through the door that Marzia held open for her. Looked around, her eyes widening in wonder as the lights came on. “These are wonderful,” she cried smiling at the paintings that surrounded her “did you paint all of these?”
Nodding Marzia stepped towards a covered canvas “I did. Ever since I met you I’ve been inspired to paint again.” She bit her lip a sad look in her eyes “I didn’t think I’d ever want to paint again.”
Turning in a small circle Divia clapped her hands “they’re wonderful.” She bounced over to Marzia taking her hands “I wish I was this talented.”
“Do you?”Marzia asked her eyes misting over “do you really like them?”
“Of course I do,” Divia shyly looked away before leaning in close her lips lightly caressing Marzia’s cheek. The shock in Marzia’s eyes had Divia stepping back muttering apologies. “I’m sorry I thought….” turning she fled from the room.
“Divia wait,” Marzia called after her “don’t go,” she cried following after her. She found the girl at the bottom of the stairs “you haven’t seen the best painting yet.”
“Please I just want to go home,” she cried refusing to look at Marzia.
Taking her hand Marzia squeezed it lightly “why do you want to leave?” she asked hoping the girl would look up at her.
“I’m sorry,” she gasped her cheeks turning crimson “I thought…” She stopped tugging her hand free.
“You thought what?” Marzia asked her keeping her tone light, teasing.
“It doesn’t matter,” Divia took a deep gulp walking back up the stairs “what other painting did you want me to see?” The sooner she got this over with the sooner she’d be able to leave she thought.
A grin spread across Marzia’s face as she followed the girl upstairs. “The one under the canvas,” she said hoping Divia would get the hint and take the canvas off. When she reached the top of the stairs she found Divia standing transfixed in front of the uncovered painting. “Do you like it?” she asked her heart beating fast waiting for the girl to speak.
Looking up, tears making her eyes shimmer “is this what you see when you look at me?” Divia asked.
Nodding Marzia moved closer to her “you’re beautiful. One day I hope to see if my imagination did you justice.”
Blushing Divia ducked her head. Her hair falling forward hiding her face. she didn’t know what to think or feel as she continued to gaze at the painting. The only thing she knew for sure no one had ever made her feel this special or beautiful before.
Waylon turned to Zach “you don’t have to do this.”
“Yes I do,” Zach contradicted “if not now when? Dexter will try it another time when I’m even less prepared.”
Waylon nodded concentrating on the road. Zach was right. If Dexter was planning something it would be better if he were there as backup instead of waiting until Zach was alone. “Alright,” he said agreeing with him.
Glancing across the seat at him Zach detected the irritation in the man’s voice “you don’t have to come with me.” He sighed turning to look out the window. Waylon was probably tired of catering to his neurosis.
Waylon blew air out his nose “it’s not you,” he said trying to keep his frustration from his voice. “I’m just worried. I don’t like knowing this guy is on campus. I don’t like the idea of him wanting to see you when he knows everyone will be at a party.” He glanced over at Zach his eyes worried “it feels like a set up. He did it once. I wouldn’t put it passed him to do it again.”
“I thought of it,” Zach said quietly his gaze still on the passing buildings outside his window. They sat motionless and silent in the car for several minutes before Zach reached for the door handle. Taking a deep breath he got out of the car. The park was dark, quiet. He shivered in the cool night air. He walked towards the picnic tables comforted by the silent bulk of his roommate.
“I’ll wait here,” Waylon said coming to a standstill at the edge of the picnic area.
Zach searched the area finding a lone figure standing, waiting. Nodding he silently acknowledged Waylon’s presence before stepping forward. Every step brought him closer to the boy who had shattered his world. His blood ran cold as he recognized the boy’s face and fear prickled his skin. He stopped several feet away swallowing audibly.
Dexter stood up smiled at him closing the gap between them “I didn’t think you would come.”
“Don’t come any closer,” Zach said taking a hasty step backwards.
Putting his hand’s on his hips Dexter laughed “I’m not going to hurt you.”
Zach’s eyes narrowed “you already did that once. I don’t intend to let you again.”
“I didn’t have a choice,” Dexter said running a shaky hand through his hair “I hoped we could put the past behind us and start over.”
“Some things just can’t be forgotten or forgiven,” Zach told him “I don’t wish you harm but I don’t want anything to do with you either.”
“Please Zach,” he rushed forward before Zach could turn to leave “give me another chance. I’ll prove to you that I’ve changed.”
“Let me go,” Zach hollered trying to jerk free from Dexter’s hold.
“Not until you say you’ll give ma another chance,” the boy said frantic to keep the blond there with him.
“No” he shouted “you had your chance.”
Waylon didn’t waste anymore time before running forward demanding “let him go,” his voice furious.
“Who are you?” Dexter demanded his hands locked around Zach’s arms.
“I’m his friend,” Waylon told him stepping closer “now let him go.”
“Boyfriend” Dexter asked his grip relaxing.
“Yes boyfriend,” Zach asserted yanking his arm free “did you think I’d still be pining for you? You hurt me more than Bull and the others ever could. You stood there and watched. You denied having feelings for me. You told them I ffforced myself on you. I was lucky not to go to jail because of what you accused me of” he gulped in lungfuls of air.
“I wouldn’t have let that happen,” Dexter cried a distinct whine in his voice.
Shaking Zach turned his back on the boy “you can go to hell for all I care,” he said walking away.
Waylon watched Zach walk away, back straight not a trace of the insecure guy he had come to know. Leaning in close he snarled into Dexter’s ear “don’t contact him again or you’ll have to deal with me.”