Confrontation on the Stairs

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“Nothing happened ... yet. But she’s so lit she, I mean, she doesn’t know what she’s doing.” He stops kicking the grass and stares back at the house as if he’s trying to see through the walls.

“She can take care of herself, Ben. Stop being a hen and have some fun for a change.” But even as I say it I can see Ella in my head, tugging her skimpy skirt down on her thighs. And The Captain of Ass Wipes is in there with her. And now I’m staring at the house too.

Kelly comes out and walks tiptoe across the yard, a bottle in each hand. “Oh, you’re still here,” she says to Ben as she hands me a bottle. She takes a long sip from the other.

“Ben, Kelly,” I say pointing to each of them as if they couldn’t figure out who is who. They kinda grunt at each other and the three of us stand there looking at our feet. I know Kelly wants Ben to leave. I should want Ben to leave but now all I can think about is Ella, drunk, in her stupid costume.

“Wanna go for a walk?” Kelly finally asks me. When I look up at her she rolls her eyes towards Ben.

And Ben gets the hint. He looks at Kelly and I can actually see his slow brain put all the facts together. “I need a drink,” he announces and turns and stalks away without saying anything more.

“What’s up with him?” Kelly asks. I shrug ’cause I don’t know how to answer. How do I explain the freak that is Ben, following his sister around at a party? I mean, who else does that? But when I look back at Kelly (she’s doing this new face that’s more a bitchy grin than a pout) I can’t get Ben’s words outta my head: She’s so lit, she doesn’t know what she’s doing.

“Hey, let’s go back in,” I say. The grin disappears and she glares at me.

“What was his problem? Who was that girl he was talking about? Eleanor?” She puts her hand on my arm again but it doesn’t have the same effect as before.

“It’s Ella.” I try to say it cool, but my voice sounds annoyed.

“Okay, Ella. Who is she anyway?”

“Ella’s his sister and my ... my friend.” Huh. Friend doesn’t seem to cut it. And now I’m worried too. Thanks a lot Ben. “Look, I’m sorry. Really. But I gotta go in.” I step towards the house. “Coming?” I ask since she hasn’t moved. Kelly nods but her smile is gone. Instead she’s kinda frowning and looks confused. She walks beside me to the house but doesn’t take my arm like she did on the way out.

When we get to the door she shrugs out of my hoodie and hands it back. “I’m gonna go find my girls,” she says in a kinda sigh. She smiles though, and says “Good luck,” which is nice of her since I just blew her off.

Kelly disappears into the dancing crowd and I go looking for Ella. I need to find Ella. Suddenly, I have to find her so badly that I can’t think of anything else. I go past groups standing in small circles yelling to each other and a few couples who were oblivious to the crowd around them. Karen’s dancing with Jake, who’s staring off into space and not even listening to the beat, by the way he’s half-assed moving. Ella’s not in the living room, or in the hall. I walk down to the kitchen and I see her there. Her back’s to me and she’s leaning up against Sam at the counter. Face to face. Actually mouth to mouth, literally. His arms are around her, slithering as his hands wander up and down her back and grope her ass. I take a step forward and feel a hot burning in my palms where my fingernails are digging in. Stop. Walk away. I need to before I do something stupid. What is wrong with me?

I turn around and go back down the hall and up the stairs. People gawk and jump out of my way as I race past. They probably think I’m gonna puke or something, I move that fast. In the bathroom I shut the door and press my hands against it, then my forehead. The wood is cool and the muffling of the music is a relief to my head. My buzz is gone, left by a wicked headache and a spinning sickness. I drop my hands and there are small red dots on the white door. I look at my right palm, three small red lines where my nails actually cut into my hand. I grab a tissue and wet it, wipe the marks off the door, then off my palm. The red doesn’t come back until I squeeze the puffy part around each cut and the blood seeps making the lines turn red again.

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