Chapter 7

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I sit on my bed back at Alice's house, staring at the cream-coated cupboard, running through reasons why going to this party is a very bad idea.

Reason one; I have absolutely no nice clothes to wear. I swear my ass has grown and I've gotten taller since the last time I went to anything that resembles a party. What if I'm missing out on a trend, like halter-tops or high-waist jeans?

Reason two; I'm nervous about seeing Nick. There is something about him that makes the normal, law-abiding girl I keep so tightly locked inside suddenly start to protest. The girl that has never been in love, that is still afraid of her future and dreams about flying, like a bird out of a cage. I don't know what it is, but even thinking about him brings a smile to my face. And butterflies to my stomach.

Then there's reason three. Not a pleasant story. A contributing factory as to why I'm such a hard-ass bitch all the time is because of what happened to me just under a year ago at the last house party I went to.

It was soon after Rusty had been kicked out of the Southbend Bikers. I was riding with a crew who used to host parties at people's houses when they were on vacation. It was sort of their thing. It never really excited me, and parties were overrated in my books. I started young. I mulled around the house and talked to a few people I knew here and there. One of the members introduced me to a friend of his who had just joined their sister crew on the north side of the city. He was a sleazebag if there ever was one. We flirted because I'd had a couple of drinks but I was never into him. Eventually I lost interest and concentrated on finding a window of opportunity to ghost and get the hell out of there.

Somewhere along the lines I lost track of my drink. I think I put it down on my way to the bathroom and didn't realize until I picked it up again, consumed it and began to feel dizzy that it had been spiked. It was a rookie mistake, one I'd made a point to avoid in my earlier days but somehow forgot that night. I didn't have anyone I truly trusted to look after me so I panicked and fled the house out the backdoor. I only made it so far to the bushes by the gate before I collapsed. Breathing heavily and trying to keep conscious, I crawled my way to the driveway and turned left up an alley. I thought that if I could get to the end, I might be able to find my bike parked on the curb. There used to be a disposable cell under my seat that I used for emergencies. I wanted to call Alice. I was dizzy as all hell and everything span around me as if I were in a tumble dryer, but I crawled well enough.

It was then that I heard a low voice behind me.

"Hey, Jess." I knew it was the sleazebag. I recognized his moronic, slurred tone. "What are you doing, babe?"

I crawled the rest of the way so fast my hands and knees were left grazed and bloody as if I'd run them down a cheese grater. I knew his type like the back of my hand, so I hadn't been worried when I was sober. Suddenly I was about to pass out and he loomed upon me like a dark shadow, smirking and chuckling at my weak attempt to escape.

"Where are you going so fast?" He asked me and caught my hands, pinning me up against the wall of the alley. I struggled feebly, but it only made me have to catch my breath again and lose focus.

From then on I only remembered several things. I remembered his hands keeping mine squished against the concrete wall. I remembered his slobbery, wet attempt at kisses all over my face and neck. I remembered the feeling of my shorts being unzipped, my underwear sliding down my legs. I remembered his mocking laugh, his pleads for me to stay quiet, to not squirm. To enjoy it. I remembered the pain and the tears and the throbbing of my mind as I struggled between consciousness. But none of those feelings compared to the shocking realization that I could do nothing to stop it.

Then I remembered the morning after and waking up back inside the house on a chaise lounge with my clothes back on. I don't know how I ended up there, but it didn't matter. I had the disgusting feeling that I was dirty and no amount of showering would ever make me clean again. Drugged and raped in a dirty alley ... not the most perfect 'first time'. Since then, I haven't set foot in another house party. That, among other things, is what makes me so goddamn nervous.

But this time will be different, I assure myself. The pep talk seems to help immensely. For one thing, you're with a cop. You're not alone and you're protected.

"Trying to figure out a way into Narnia?" asks Alice's voice from the door. She sighs. "I've been where you are babe, and let me tell you, it's just a big fat disappointment."

I stand up immediately and stop staring at the wall. "I ... I've been invited to a house party tonight and I have nothing to wear."

Her warm smile breaks into a grin. "I have some things that might fit you."

"Alice," I say with a sigh of relief, "I thought you'd never ask."

"I knew something was wrong when I saw you sitting there, glaring at the wardrobe like you were about to rip it apart." Her voice dies out as I follow her down the hall.

Alice's room is about as neat and collected as the rest of the house, except I can totally tell which side is hers and which is Shane's. There is a pile of dirty clothes stacked up in the corner of the room next to an old-school acoustic guitar. On the other side is Alice's dressing table covered in scented candles and jewellery hanging from the mirrors and neat little photographs of her and Shane on their overseas trips. I smile at how simple and mundane their relationship is.

Alice swipes through her hanging clothes for something that might not only fit me but actually make me presentable. Eventually she pulls out a short-cut dress, flowing with rough silk. It's a cute halter and revealing at the back, coming halfway down the spine. Stunning purple melts into deep black at the bottom. It will go perfectly well with my raven-black hair.

"Here, this will look great on you." She hands it to me, almost regretfully, but smiles all the same.

"Thanks Alice, I really appreciate it."

"Just don't get drunk and throw up all over it."

I roll my eyes and take it to my room.

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