Apple Juice

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Natalia pulls me
across the room until
we're nearly to the sound system
set up on the far side
of her living room.
Even with people in the way,
I can tell how huge
and expensive it looks,
and am again reminded
of her parents' wealth.
It's so loud that I
can barely hear myself think,
let alone the words that I
yell to her as I pull back
against her to get her attention.

"I don't know
how to dance,"
I protest belatedly
as she spins back around,
grinning a grin that,
had I not known about the alcohol,
might have made me think
of the Cheshire cat from
Alice in Wonderland.
As it is, it just
unnerves me a little.
"Why don't we just
go back and find Seth-"

"Come on,"
she wheedles.
"It'll be fun,
I promise!
Don't think about it
so much."

Without my knowing,
she's been pulling me forward
the whole time she's been talking;
she nearly bumps into
the dining table in the next room
as she spins around now,
briefly turning her back on me.
Those few seconds
give me enough time
to let my anxious gaze wander
around the room,
taking in the sheer number
of people crowded inside.
Our school isn't extremely large,
so it isn't hard to imagine
that most of the other students
from it are here tonight.
Not all, I know,
because Thias at least
is still at home.
The thought of my brother
puts a bit of a damper
on my mood -
I think I've gotten used to
constantly worrying about him
over the past few days.

Natalia interrupts my thoughts
before long as she
spins back around, clutching
two plastic cups in her hands.
she says simply
as she thrusts one towards me.
"Everyone knows you gotta
drink something before you dance."

"What is this?"
I ask as I frown
into the depths of
the cup she'd given me.
Whatever it is
is a pale gold color,
and looks almost like...
"Apple juice?"

She pauses for a second,
and then shrugs.
she giggles.
"Just hurry up,
or we'll miss the next song.
It's my favorite,
so we can't miss it,
or I'll be upset with you."

Maybe it's just me, but
Nat is starting to not
make much sense any more.
Probably just me.
Rolling my eyes, I quickly
drink about half of it
in a single gulp just before
she pulls me on again,
nearly making me spill the rest
all over myself.
It doesn't taste much
like apple juice, I find,
making a face at the rest
of the contents of my cup.
But maybe that's just because
of the way my heart
is beating in my throat,
the electric feeling in the air
as we make our way back
to the makeshift dance floor
just as the song changes.

I don't recognize it, but
Natalia seems to.
She chucks her now-empty cup
away from her in
a direction at random
and just laughs,
as if this is the most fun
she has ever had.
Her excitement and
the energy from the new music
seem to travel around the room,
picked up by the rest of
the party guests as
a new atmosphere charges
through their ranks.
Her eyes beckon me
to join her as
the crowd forms in around us.

And suddenly, it doesn't
matter that my personal space
has abruptly vanished,
or that I have no idea
what to do with myself
without looking like an idiot.
Maybe it's the music, or
maybe it's something else,
I don't know.
Shrugging, I throw down
the remaining contents
of my plastic cup before
tossing it away
like Nat had before
and letting her pull me
forward again.

Dancing at high school parties,
I find, is little more
than jumping in place
and yelling at intervals
and trying not to get squashed
by the much taller seniors
on your right.
That last bit
is definitely a problem for me,
short as I am -
but it all ceases to matter
when Nat laughs,
throws her head back
like she doesn't have
a single care in the world.
The way she looks at me,
and the way we seem to
melt in with the crowd
all around us
roots me in this moment,
makes my blood sing in my veins.
It's a wild feeling,
one I've never felt before.
Maybe this party wasn't
such a bad idea, after all.

The lights blur
all around us, dripping
all the colors of the rainbow,
and I find myself laughing too,
eyes briefly flickering shut,
the image of Natalia's bright smile
lingering behind my eyelids
like screen burn.
When I open them again,
I find Seth in her place,
his eyes alight with
curiosity and bewilderment
and his cheeks just as red
as Natalia's had been when
we'd first talked to her tonight.
"I found you,"
he whispers in my ear,
and a little shiver
runs down my spine.

But the song continues,
and I keep laughing -
because that's what you do
at a time like this, right?
Everything else ceases to matter
except for the music
thumping all around us
and the echoed beating
of our hearts in reply.
I barely notice as
he narrows his eyes at me.

"Where's Nat?"
I yell over the music,
almost immediately realizing
that it probably shouldn't matter.
Or maybe it should -
I don't know, because I
can't seem to sort out
what makes sense now,
other than the music living
inside my bones,
in my blood.
I should be embarrassed
for asking that, right?
I don't know.
So I just laugh,
and see briefly that Seth
looks a little more confused
than he had before.

"How much have you
had to drink?"
he wonders aloud,
leaning again towards me
so I can hear him.
His breath feels like moths
fluttering against my ear,
a sensation that isn't
entirely comfortable.
Spinning away from him
to rid myself of it,
I just throw up my hands.

"It wasn't apple juice,"
I hear myself complaining,
as if from a distance.
"She lied to me.
It didn't taste like
apple juice at all."

"I think we
need to go,"
he informs me -
but is interrupted as another figure
whirls in between us,
laughing in a voice that is
all too familiar to me,
but entirely unexpected.


I feel bad for all these cliffhangers but this chapter and the next one are both over 1000 words so I had to split them apart. That's always my excuse, yes. I'm sticking with it.

I found this hard to write at first because I, personally, have never drunk even a drop of alcohol in my life, so I have no idea how quickly it would realistically take effect, or how much it would take to make Matty act weird but yeah. Banking on the assumption that she hasn't drunk alcohol before, either... Idk. Feel free to correct me if I screwed this up.

(This was still fun as hell to write, though, just sayin'.)

If you guys liked this chapter, I'd very much appreciate if you would vote and leave me some feedback!! <3 I know this story is a lot weirder than Misalignment was but oh well, lol. Thanks for sticking with me, guys.

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