Chapter 14: Ryan

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Immediately upon arriving at Alex's, Ryan headed for the keg.

All his teammates were there, and they poured him a drink he chugged immediately, while they were pouring another one. That one he drank slower, while he waited for them to pour a third for Monica. "What are you supposed to be?" he asked Lance, who had a red beach towel tied around his neck and held a hammer.

"Duh. I'm Thor."

Ryan squinted at the carpentry hammer in his friend's hand. "I'm pretty sure Mjolnir doesn't look like that."

"What?"

"Mjolnir – Thor's hammer. I'm pretty sure it doesn't look like that."

Already Lance was turning away. "I'm already too drunk for this much nerdiness."

Ryan swallowed down a mouthful of the sour beer and went to find Monica. He didn't really need to find Monica – Monica would most likely have found her friends already, and usually the girls drank wine or mixed drinks, so she probably wouldn't want the sweating beer in Ryan's hand. But it was the gesture that mattered. Monica would remember that at the beginning of the evening Ryan had brought her a drink, and she'd probably get so drunk later that it wouldn't matter if he completely deserted her.

Sure enough, Monica had found her girls. They were in the dining room. The shining table, under a crystal chandelier, was covered in liquor bottles and shot glasses. "Ryan!" she said, dragging him over. Her lips were bright cherry red from whatever concoction she was drinking.

"Double-fisting already?" asked Liz, who wore a bright red dress with polka dots and her dark hair piled up into a bouffant.

"Look, see? I'm Bonnie and he's Clyde!" Monica clung to Ryan's elbow.

"Watch the beer." He held out one of the cups to her. "I brought this for you."

She scrunched up her nose. "Ew. We made martinis. Want one?"

"Nah, I'm good." Ryan tilted his cup back and finished off his second beer of the evening.

"Oh, fine. Come stay with us. We're gonna play a game."

"I'm gonna go back and hang with the guys," Ryan said, and extracted himself.

Ryan couldn't stop thinking about Jacky's phone call. He wished he had Jacky's cell number so he could text him. It was a pretty big party, and Alex's house was huge. He ended up in the backyard, once the alcohol had warmed him up enough that the chill didn't bother him. The guys were playing beer pong, and Ryan watched for a while, quietly sucking down beer after beer and becoming increasingly worried.

"Yo, you see that one-arm kid? He's got the best costume, man..."

The underclassman talking wasn't someone Ryan recognized, but his words brought Ryan out of his vague stupor.

"Who invited him?" said someone else.

"I did." That was Nina. "You have problem?"

"Nope. No I don't."

"I can't believe he came," said Matt, right behind Ryan. "I don't think he's been to a single party, like, ever."

As Ryan finally focused on where Matt and Nina were, Nina was saying, "I will go talk to him."

"I'm in the middle of a game," said Matt.

Nina gave him a look and headed into the house. She was wearing all black, leggings and a tight top, with cat ears on her head.

Ryan watched her go, numbed by the alcohol. He both wanted to see Jacky and didn't want to see him. He hated that someone just referred to Jacky as "that one-armed kid."

"I'm gonna go to the bathroom," he told no one in particular, and headed inside.

A lot of people had arrived since he'd arrived. A lot. Alex's parties were usually pretty big, but this was the biggest he had seen. Of course, Alex's parents weren't even in the country, and while his parties had been busted by the police before, Alex never really got in trouble. He passed a darkened room where a cloud of smoke wafted out. He peered inside, thinking maybe Jacky would be in there.

"That is such a bad-ass costume," he heard a girl say in the hall.

"Yeah it is," agreed her male companion. "Huh, you could even say I'd give my left arm for a costume like that."

The girl groaned. "Oh my god, you and your puns."

Ryan pushed past them, and that's when he got his first glimpse of Jacky's costume, and his mouth fell open.


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