The Lonely Hearts Club
Page 14

 Elizabeth Eulberg

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We got out of the car and walked to the house. Suddenly, some guy burst out of the front door, startling both me and Tracy as he ran toward the bushes and threw up.
Paul appeared in the doorway. "Dude, that is so not cool," then he started laughing and gesturing for people to come and watch.
Tracy cleared her throat, hoping that Paul would notice that she'd shown up.
It worked. "Hey, guys!
He motioned us to come inside, and I felt my heart start pounding. the odor of cigarette smoke stung my nose. My mom was going to kill me if she smelled cigarettes on me. And I didn't mean kill in a metaphoric way.
Paul grabbed a random plastic cup from the table in the hallway and took a swig. "Keg's in the kitchen. Help yourself," he instructed. then he vanished among the mass of bodies in the next room.
I glanced at the door, hoping we could make a quick getaway. When I looked back, Tracy was already on her way toward the kitchen.
I hesitated, but began to follow her through the crowd of people. I scanned the room for familiar faces, but only recognized the standard football players and cheerleaders who Paul hung out with. Over in one corner were those two freshmen girls from the cafeteria, Missy and Ashley. Naturally, guys were all over them.
We reached the kitchen and saw the line for the keg. Tracy leaned in, and I couldn't make out what she was saying over the music blaring from the stereo in the living room. then she screamed, 'Are you going to drink?" I shook my head back and forth.
"Okay, good," she said.
I was glad to know Tracy still had some sense left in her.
"You can be the designated driver then!'
On second thought.. .
My head started throbbing in time to the beat of the bass. As Tracy waited in line to get a beer, I tried to stand around like I belonged there, even though I felt so out of place, like I was on display.
"Woo! Who's gonna shotgun a beer with me?" Todd screamed as he entered the kitchen. "Margarita!" He came over and placed his arm around my shoulder. "My girl Margarita is here, all right! time for the partay to start!" He started doing what was probably supposed to be the robot, but he'd obviously already had one too many to pull off any dance moves.
Ryan came into the kitchen and looked a little concerned when he saw Todd grabbing me. "Hey, Todd, I think there are some freshmen girls in there wanting to hear all about your interception that got us into the Regionals last year."
Todd ran over and gave Ryan a high five. "that's awesome! I don't want to disappoint the ladies." He left the kitchen as Ryan shook his head.
"thought you needed some saving," he said to me.
"thanks, he's, ah .. ."
"Wasted. I keep telling him that one of these days he's going to get caught. Coach Fredericks would kick us off the team if he caught any of us drinking,"
I nodded, but couldn't help notice that Ryan was also holding a cup. Was I going to have to drive everybody home?
"I have to admit, I'm a little surprised that you ended up coming," he said.
"Why? Am I such a loser that I wouldn't come to some stupid keg party?" I was taken aback at how defensive I sounded.
"No, no, not at all." Ryan held his hands up. "I didn't really think this was your kind of crowd. to tell you the truth, I'm relieved to see you. At least there's someone here who can talk about something other than sports or drinking or . . . well, you know." I was sure he was referring to the breakup. He gave me a smile as he pointed to his cup, which was filled with a dark liquid. "I'm getting some more soda -- do you want some?"
I nodded, thankful that I didn't have to do a keg stand to hang out with Ryan. He walked over to a counter and put some ice in a cup for me while Tracy returned from the keg line and started to drink.
"I can't believe how many girls are here," she said. "Well, wish me luck -- I'm going to go find Paul," Before I could say anything, she had taken a deep breath and was out in the living room,
"Do you want to get away from the noise?" Ryan screamed over the music. I nodded, and we walked out to the far side of the backyard and sat under a big willow tree.
"Hey, I've been meaning to ask you -- did that list ever work with your parents?" Ryan asked.
"What list?"
He ran his fingers through his hair, "Top ten Reasons Penny Needs to Get a Car."
I couldn't believe he remembered that. "No, the list didn't work. Not even with such gems as number six: Another venue to listen to Beatles music"
"So, how often do you work at your dad's dentist office? it seems like every time I have a checkup, you're there."
"Oh, not that often. Just a few days a week -- extra pocket money" I started to shiver, wishing I'd worn a sweater.
He took off his letter jacket. "Here, wear this." I took the jacket and put it on -- it was way too big for me, but warm.
"So, did you and Diane have fun the other night?" he asked.
I looked down at the ground. talking to Ryan about Diane was making me uncomfortable. they seemed to talk a lot, but how was that possible? I usually pretended that any guy I had broken up with (or gotten dumped by) didn't exist anymore. Or, preferably, was dead.
"Yeah, um, is that weird for you?" I asked.
He studied me for a second. "I know that this might sound weird and I probably soundlike a big loser, but Diane has been such a huge part of my life the last few years. I cant imagine never speaking to her again. As much as people can't seem to grasp the concept, we re still friends."