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  • Home > Monica Murphy > Slow Play     

    The room is hot, so crowded with bodies seemingly moving to the beat as one and I dance right along with them. Water bottle clutched in one hand, my phone clutched in the other, arms above my head, trying to lose myself in…something. Anything to help me forget, at least for a little while. The guy dancing next to me is all sloppy moves and flailing arms made extra dangerous by the full cup of foamy beer in his hand.

    I know this because I watch in horrified wonder as he drips foam all over the floor, some of it dripping all over him. If he gets any of that cheap beer on my costume there’s going to be hell to pay.

    With an artful turn my old ballet teacher would’ve been proud of, I spin away from him, noting the disappointed look on his face. Oh well. He’s so not my type. None of these guys are really my type. I’m here with my new friend Kelli. We suffered through the first month of our statistics class together and bonded over a near fail on a quiz.

    Mutual suffering is a great way to form a friendship. Kelli and I have become close these last few weeks. She introduced me to Jade, one of her best friends. And tonight, Jade introduced me to Lucy, who is going out with Jade’s boyfriend’s best friend.

    Yeah, that’s a mouthful. But they all seem really sweet and the boyfriends are super hot so I guess that’s something, right? Making new friends, avoiding hot rich guys—because these guys are rich, I’m at Jade’s boyfriend’s house right now and this place is huge—acting like a normal girl no one really knows.

    Just the way I prefer it.

    Pushing past some irritating jock I catch leering at me whose idea of a costume is wearing his football jersey—so original—I head for the kitchen in search of another bottle of water or a soda or something nonalcoholic. I’m the designated driver tonight by choice. When you watch your parents drown their feelings with liquor to help them forget their misdeeds, you tend to avoid it.

    At least, I do.

    “Alexandria!” Jade smiles at me and waves, then resumes arranging brownies on a plate, brownies that look fresh out of the oven. More like smell fresh out of the oven. The rich scent of chocolate lingers in the kitchen, masking the gross combination of body odor, beer and weed that permeates the air. “I can’t get over how great your costume is.”

    I do a twirl, my feathery white wings wobbling from where they hang on my back. The flimsy halo feels like it’s going to topple off my head at any moment and I reach up to right it. Last year I went all out on the costume I’m wearing when I bought it for another Halloween party, back when I thought I had money and not a care in the world. A different kind of party, a different kind of life, I’m not that girl anymore.

    I never will be again. That girl wouldn’t have been caught dead wearing the same costume two Halloweens in a row…

    “I especially love the feathers,” Jade says, nodding toward them. She’s all kickass female power in her Robin costume. Her boyfriend Shep is her partner in crime fighting. He’s been walking around the house all night long murmuring in the huskiest voice he can muster, ‘I’m Batman.’

    His throat is probably going to be killing him by tomorrow.

    “Thanks,” I finally say, reaching across the island to snatch a tiny square of brownie off the plate. I take a bite and immediately moan with pleasure. Not only is it good, it’s warm. Like straight out of the oven, just as I hoped. “Oh my God, so delicious,” I murmur after I swallow.

    “Homemade,” Jade says, beaming with pride. She pushes the plate closer to me. “Have another one.”

    I shake my head and inelegantly shove the rest of the brownie in my mouth, then lick my fingers clean. “No, thank you. I don’t normally eat sweets.”

    Jade frowns. “Why not?”

    Because my mother drilled it into my head from a young age that sugar is the devil. That anything that tastes or feels good is really bad for you. But she’s gone. I don’t have to worry about her watching over me, monitoring every calorie I consume, every mile I run, every page of homework I do.

    I’m on my own now, so why am I still letting her control me?

    “Screw it,” I mutter as I grab another piece of brownie and eat it in two bites.

    Worth every second.

    Laughing, Jade picks up the plate and starts toward the French doors that lead to the backyard. “I’m going outside. Want to join me?”

    “I’ll stay here and man the kitchen.” Somehow, no one’s in here at the moment, which is weird. The keg is outside but there’s still stuff to drink in here, plus the food.

    “I’ll be back in a minute. These brownies will fly.” With a quick smile flashed in my direction, Jade turns and pushes through the door, pulling it shut behind her.

    I head over to the ice chests that sit against the wall, rooting around in one until I find a fresh bottle of water. I crack the lid off and take a long drink, extra thirsty after eating the brownies. The music still pounds from the living room, so loud I can hardly think and a girl wearing a sexy witch costume goes dashing by, giggling uncontrollably as she passes me and heads out into the backyard.

    Running my free hand over my hair, I glance down at my skirt, noting how short it is. I’d been all about attracting guys last year. This year, not so much. I’m trying to be low key and this costume is the farthest thing from low key with its dipping neckline and thigh skimming hem. I saw plenty of guys checking me out earlier, no doubt intrigued by the virginal white dress and feathery angel wings. I almost look like I could’ve strutted right off the Victoria’s Secret catwalk.

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