Chapter 5 - Part 1

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Desi didn't have bad trips often. His body took to psychedelics like a child to a new toy: with obsessive indulgence. The only reason he limited his intake was because he believed there was truth in 'too much of a good thing'. He could count his negative experiences on one hand though, and in comparison to some of the stories he'd heard, his downers weren't much to complain about.

Desi was still completely sober, but this felt like a bad trip regardless. His heart must have been vibrating in his chest. Was he having a heart attack? Could you even have one at nineteen years old? He felt needles all over his skin, triggered by a cold sweat that had consumed him. It was eighty five degrees out with the sun down, but he somehow still had the shakes like he was hypothermic.

Maybe he'd be able to talk himself down if it was just a physical reaction. He'd managed to logic himself out of a downward spiral before. Unfortunately his mental state was dissolving along with his body this time. He tried to feed himself with reassurances. You're naive, Desi. Too kind. Easily manipulated. Too trusting. He lied. It was a lie. That's all. Just a lie. But as quickly as they came they were already gone to the white hot rage that ate up anything he tried to feed it, replaced with incoherents.

He just had to hear it from someone else. He needed someone to ground him, someone outside of the trip to tell him what reality was. When he shoved through the crowd back at the party, the bodies felt like ghosts. He only recognized Ashley through the mental fog thanks to her strawberry hair.

Her face lit with relief at the sight of him, but his expression must have been possessed like his emotions, because her look fell with his name on her lips. "Desi?"

"We're leaving," he answered. It didn't sound like him, but he'd felt the words shape on his tongue and leave his mouth, flat and monotone.

She gave him a curious look, turning it into an intoxicated, lopsided smile as she brushed him off. "Come on, don't be a buzzkill, it's barely twelve."

"Get up." Again, something felt foreign about his voice. It didn't fit. Like a bad dub. His pulled his shaking hands into fists to try and level himself.

Ashley scoffed, glancing around them since now the conversation among their friends had dissolved and they were garnering attention. She tried to dismiss him again gently. "I don't want to go yet, though."

"I don't care, I'm taking you home." This time, she decided to flat out ignore him, trying to re-engage in the previous conversation. Before Desi had even thought about it, his hand was around her arm, pulling her to her feet.

"Don't fucking touch me!" She reacted immediately, a slurred shout as she jerked free from the grip that Desi had already loosened in instant regret. She complied though, finally, adjusting her sleeve before shoving past him towards the exit. Desi inhaled, exhaled, then followed, out the door and across the front yard to his car with her.

Ashley collapsed into the passenger seat with a disgruntled huff just like Casper, only hers was noticeably more inebriated. He had debated even going to pick her up, wondering if it would just be easier to sleep off this bad trip and deal with it in the morning with a fresh head, but seeing her give a heavy sigh and flop her head to one side with an onset of dizziness, he decided it was good he was taking her home. Before something stupid happened.

Nothing was said between them at first; Ashley was too busy pouting about having to leave to really realize that something was off. When she finally remembered the sour note they'd left off on previous to Desi returning to the party, Ashley's grumpy frown turned into drunken regret.

"Desi... listen, I'm really sorry about Casper."

"It doesn't matter," Desi responded, feeling almost robotic now with his answers. He just needed to get them to Ashley's place. He just needed to lay down. Maybe he could have a joint once they got there and chill out. His head was starting to hurt. His throat felt arid. His knuckles ached from holding onto the steering wheel too tightly.

Ashley seemed unsure how to react to the non-response. She sat still, slouched over in her seat, but then she perked up with an idea. Leaning over the middle console between them until her chest pressed against Desi's arm, she swept her lips teasingly over his jaw, his neck, exhaled warm words to his ear on a whisper that smelled like liquor and cigarettes. "How 'bout I make it up to you tonight, huh?"

Usually it'd be more than enough to sway Desi's mood, but he was stuck in a loop of paranoid wonderances, spinning in his head and making him feel dizzy, light headed, sick to his stomach.

It was fine. It wasn't true. She wouldn't do that. It was a lie.

Her lips found the spot on his collar that he liked, a kiss turning into a playful bite.

But what if it was true? Maybe it wasn't too late? Maybe it didn't mean anything? How long had it been? How far had she gone? Did that even matter?

A roaming hand, following over to his side of the console, down his stomach, fingers teasing at the waist of his jeans.

Was it just a kiss? Or more? Had they met up? Gone out together? Snuck around? Did she fuck him? Did she like it?

"Don't." Desi grabbed her wrist away from his lap, using the grip to push her back to her seat, that unsteady, worrying rhythm finding his heart again. He could barely breath, and her handsiness was only making him think of other things. Things she'd done, not with him.

It wasn't true though.

He swore on a sharp exhale when the air in the car became too thick to stand. With the curse and the rejection, Ashley had finally figured out through her slow, drunken logic, that something was off. She pouted again, this time attempting to look cute though, hoping to win him over.

"Baby... what's wrong? I thought you wanted to have some fun tonight?"

He didn't want to ask her. Because it wasn't true. Asking was the final step, giving into the lie, giving into the paranoia. It was stupid, and he shouldn't need her reassurance. She shouldn't have to feel the sting of mistrust, of jealousy, just because Desi was letting his emotions get the better of him.

He couldn't help it though. His head was spinning and he needed it to stop. He needed her to say it, out loud. He needed her to rewrite his train of thought back to reality.

"You said you wanted to talk." Desi managed to keep his words level despite them threatening to crack with uneven emotions. The steadiness sounded weird though, too tight, and Ashley noticed.

She directed her gaze out the windshield. "We can wait till we get to my place, can't we?"

"No. I think I need to talk now." She heard the inflection in Desi voice, a tone he hadn't meant to put there but said far more about what Desi was asking than his words. "You have something you want to tell me?"

Desi kept his eyes on the road, glued straight ahead, staring until they stung. Still, he saw in his peripherals as Ashley's face shifted, her eyes widening and a frown line showing between her brows. She didn't respond, and the silence stretched for what felt like eternity for Desi, nothing but the growl of his engine and the pounding of his heart.

Then, Ashley cursed, and cursed again, louder, and lowered her swaying, drunken head to her knees to muffle a third expletive. Into the fabric of her jeans she muttered, "I told him not to fucking tell you..."

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