7.2 - Live a Little

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She rose from the table and made a beeline to the bar, where her long blonde locks and sun-kissed limbs got the bartenders' immediate attention. Cloe sighed again, remembering how long she'd had to stand there waiting earlier, before the same bartenders had deigned to answer her research questions. By this point in her life, she was so used to that kind of thing that it was only just a little bit depressing.

Within seconds, the golden girl was returning with a big, pearly white grin and a tray full of brimming shot glasses. "Bottoms up!"

Everyone else at the table was quick to comply, naturally. Cloe tried to hide her grimace; shots weren't really her thing.

The beefy guy sitting across from Cloe plopped a glass down right next to her open notebook, some of the liquor spilling onto the notes she'd jotted down so far about the bar. "Come on!" he urged. "Just one. I promise it won't kill ya. Put the books away and live a little."

Live a little. The words echoed in Cloe's head; they'd just happened to strike a chord, bringing to mind a day from her past that she'd chosen to bury. The guy had meant well, but it didn't matter what he'd meant. It mattered what she felt. There were some memories she wanted to forget, some truths she wished she could deny, and if she couldn't, then-to hell with it. Maybe it'd be good to drown them out a bit.

Without another moment's pause, she took the shot.

A.D. 2005

"Come on — break some rules. Live a little," the boy coaxed her.

"Please just stop," Cloe groaned, shifting uneasily in her chair as he kept on poking her shoulder with a plastic ruler. Just her luck that her assigned seat would be right in front of the school troublemaker.

Every day of their sixth grade science class, he'd pester her to help him cheat on the next test, in hopes that he would pass. To sit at a slant in her seat, or something, so that he could peek at her answers. He said he'd even pay her cash. 'Live a little,' he would always say.

He had even more to say, today. "If you help me out, then I won't tell the whole school your super embarrassing secret."

Cloe felt her cheeks redden, relieved that he couldn't see, from where he sat behind her.

"You know. About that little crush of yours."

The teacher chimed in, just then. Not to call out the troublemaker for his whispers — she was so oblivious that she never really noticed — but to instruct the class to break up into groups for their next project. The groups were pre-assigned, she announced to the students' dismay. And to Cloe's horror, when she found out just who was in her group: the troublemaker, her crush, and her crush's despicable girlfriend.

Oh crud oh crud oh crud! Darn it! Oh fudge!! Her mind raced with middle-school versions of curse words. How did the motherfudger know about her dumb crush anyway?!

The groups all got together, Cloe seated next to the pain in her ass, across from the most gorgeous couple in school. Ryan and Gracie. The star athlete and head cheerleader. Ken and Barbie (except that Ryan was a million times more beautiful than any Ken doll, of course). Blah blah freaking blah. She really didn't need to watch Gracie petting her beau in the middle of class, her poufy blonde hair all up in his perfect face while they sat as close together as physically possible.

Cloe fully realized how cliché it was of her, the class's designated nerd, to be crushing on the hottest boy in school. She couldn't help it, though. Something about his dark blue eyes just did her in. She knew somehow, deep down, that Ryan wasn't her soulmate or anything. He was a nice enough guy, despite being so popular, but he didn't seem to have much of a personality. It was like her heart was drawn to him, but not for him, per se... maybe because he represented or resembled someone else, someone she hadn't met, just yet... It was all stupid, but that was how her preadolescent mind made sense of it.

At any rate, the thorn in her side was doodling obscene words and images all over the poster board on which they were supposed to submit their project. Was that a picture of a penis?! Ugh! Ryan and Gracie, of course, were too busy butterfly-kissing to notice or care.

She cleared her throat. "...Guys, can we maybe try to get started?"

Gracie shot her a mean-girl glare for interrupting her safari into Ryan's hair. "What's the big deal? It's not due till, like, next week. Nerd."

Cloe gritted her teeth. She really, really hated group projects.

"The big deal is that she's in love with your boyyyfrienddd," the boy beside her butted in, just loud enough for the couple to hear.

"Oh my God, what?!" Gracie exclaimed, pulling away from Ryan temporarily to gape at Cloe, something between an appalled gasp and a diabolical laugh escaping her pink bubblegum-flavor-glossed lips.

"Yep," the troublemaker confirmed with a wink, tapping a finger on the R-rated cartoon he'd just drawn. "She wants his..."

"But that's sooo pathetic!" Gracie squawked. "That's disgusting!"

Cloe wished the teacher hadn't fallen asleep at her desk. Without the aid of the fat lady's intervention, she had no clue how to stop this.

Gracie regarded her boy toy. "Isn't it pathetic and disgusting, Ry?"

At that moment, Cloe was stupid enough to look up into Ryan's eyes. And any hope that those dark blues had ever symbolized for her — any dream of some beautiful soulmate whom her schoolgirl crush maybe resembled, represented, or whatever — promptly died.

If he said anything, at least, she didn't hear. Walked out of class, not even bothering to sign out or pick up the hallway pass. Though she could hear the troublemaker's words and Gracie's giggles trailing after her. Oh my God look she's, like, sooo embarrassed... well, duh, she could never get a guy like this... obviously never been kissed... she's probably going to die a virgin... ha, ha, ha... blah blah freaking blah...

'Live a little,' he would always say. Sometimes she didn't want to live at all.

A.D. 2015

Oh my God, like, am I dying, well, duh, this sooo feels like death.

For some reason, the close-to-blackout voice in Cloe's head after she'd taken one too many shots sounded a lot like Gracie Wheeler. Ugh. Just what she needed, when she already felt like throwing up.

"Cloe? Cloe!"

Wait — she recognized that voice, that dovelike coo... oh, right!

"Heyyy!" she slurred, only just conscious enough to make out the silhouette standing in front of her. "Platinum princess person!"

Grey eyes narrowed in concern. "Dear, have you been drinking...?"

"Duh! Whatcha doin' here, old lady? Where's Profff?"

Miss Primor gestured toward the dance floor, which was virtually empty aside from one drunken professor flailing his limbs to the tune of trashy Euro-pop, wailing unintelligible lyrics.

"Trevor wanted to hit up the bars to unwind a bit. He's had... a lot on his plate, lately," Charliese explained. "Fancy running into you here, love — though it looks like you and your friends were just about to leave..."

In the meantime, someone was struggling to help Cloe stay standing upright, and also telling her in a heavy Australian accent that the gang was heading to another bar. Gang? Huh? Who was this surfer-looking chick anyway?

"But I wanna stayyy," Cloe whined in protest. "I sooo have to talk to Miss Primordial about how I can, like, write the future, oh my God-"

Oh crud, oh fudge... blackout time. Live a little? Try a lot. Yay for shots.


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