Chapter 3 - Spin the bottle

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1995

Most people laughed, even Mei-Ling. I had a feeling she knew Penny was drunk and thought it was karma.

I crouched down to help Penny up. A dull green stain that looked like a nasty bruise covered her white top. Tiny dark green slashes of grass covered her pink skirt.

'Hey Penny, how was the trip?' someone shouted. Penny raised her grass speckled chin to look at me and a tear spilled down her cheek. There was no way I'd let her cry in front of everyone, so I took her trembling hand and led her around the side of the house.

'Oh god, oh god, oh god,' she whispered as she followed me out to the front verandah. It was empty except for a swarm of moths banging against a lightbulb. A burst of laughter erupted through the living room window, momentarily drowning out the music.

'They're probably all laughing about me!' She slumped on an outdoor chair and I crouched down in front of her. 'Sammy, I'm so embarrassed.'

'It's okay, just tell everyone how drunk you are and they'll think you're cool,' I reasoned. 'Everyone else is drunk. They'll all be falling over soon too.'

'Yeah, but this stack was early on. Everyone will remember it.' She was definitely right, so I stopped talking and started brushing the grass off her.

Behind me came the sound of a throat clearing. It was Martin.

'Hey Penny, you okay?'

'Not really.' She sniffed and wiped her cheeks with her palms.

'Don't worry, I've stacked it in front of the school before.' He stepped cautiously towards us. 'Remember when we were in year five and I fell down the stairs getting off the stage at the school assembly?'

'Oh yeah, that's right,' I said.

'The mintie I was chewing went flying and hit Mrs. Dempster's knee cap. It stuck there on her stockings and she didn't even notice. Remember?'

'Yeah.' Penny gave a weak smile. 'That was so funny.'

'And remember when I fell on my bum doing a cartwheel in gym last year?' I chimed in.

'Everyone still remembers that Sammy,' Penny mumbled.

'Well, the point is that these things happen to everyone.' I sighed as Martin sat down next to Penny. I'd take that as my cue to leave, then. I looked back as I walked away, wondering what would happen between them. The truth was, neither of us had ever been left alone with a boy before. Was Penny nervous? Excited? Embarrassed? What would they talk to each other about? Would he try to kiss her? I wanted to know what was going through the mind of my best friend.

I returned to the party and was startled to find Bec and Mei-Ling standing with Robin. Robin was doing most of the talking, telling Bec how much she liked her dress. It was hard to tell if Bec looked thrilled or terrified.

'Hey Sammy, I hope Penny's okay,' Robin drawled sympathetically. 'She really stacked it, huh?'

'She's fine,' I replied. 'She's outside talking to Martin.'

'Oh how cute!' squealed Robin. 'Do you think something's happening between them?'

'I don't know,' I answered cautiously. I didn't want to say anything that might make Penny the target of even more teasing.

'I bet they get with each other.' Robin clasped her hands together. 'This calls for a celebration. You guys want some goon?'

'Really?' asked Bec. I expected her to fly into her monologue about how drinking was for idiots, but she looked excited. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that Robin was asking. No one turned Robin down.

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