“Anyway, here’s Wonderwall” Lou strummed the strings of a guitar – Lord knows where he had found it -, not really knowing which accord he was playing or if it even was an official accord at all. It didn’t seem too wrong to his drunken ears and neither of the guests seemed to mind either. He hardly knew the actual words to the song and whenever he didn’t, he just replaced them by oohs and yeahs. His singing voice could’ve been a lot better too, but even if he hadn’t been drunk, he wouldn’t have cared.
From across the room Finn was the only one cheering. He pulled out a lighter and waved its flame above his head.
That’s how everybody knew that it had to be already way passed midnight and that at least half of the provided alcohol had already dissolved into the blood of Alec’s party guests. Even Alec himself was far from being sober by now. This time he would be careful not to wake up with another blackout the next morning, though. He had gotten quite a few compliments for his party and that had encouraged him to have a few drinks for himself. It was getting late and there wasn’t much more to go wrong. If they had managed to pass the last few hours without having the police knock at the door, they’d manage to pass the next hours just the same. As long as he kept an eye on Henry, of course. Some idiots from the drama club weren’t to be underestimated either. He had seen Cassie only once this evening at the very beginning of the party but, naturally, they hadn’t said a word to each other. He wasn’t sure if he could trust her to watch over her own people.
Just when he was debating about whether to trust his own body and brain with another drink, Henry was taking the decision from him by showing up with two shots in one hand and two beers in the other. He handed one of each over to Alec without further comment, nodded three times as sort of a countdown before they both gulped down the shot. Alec shivered from the bitter taste and made a disgusted face that had Henry laughing loudly.
“You’re a wuss” He said and raised his bottle. “Cheers” He took a quick sip, then seemingly randomly asked. “It’s not that cold outside, is it?”
Alec shrugged. He really hadn’t been paying attention to the weather. There were a lot more important things to worry about. “Go outside and you’ll see” He suggested dryly.
“I already have…it’s just…” Henry’s gaze went towards the glass walls of the winter garden that provided perfect view to the backyard of the property.
“…I was thinking…”
Alec interrupted him. “You shouldn’t be doing that”
Henry frowned. He didn’t know what Alec was getting at. Had he missed something? “Do what?”
“Thinking. It never ends well. People get hurt, things get damaged. Not good”
Henry just laughed it off. “Anyway…where was I? I’ve been thinking…you’re parents haven’t covered up the pool yet. And we never got around throwing a pool party in summer. But we both know that everyone would’ve loved that”
“Henry, it’s November” Alec argued, but there was a spark lighting up in Henry’s eyes that immediately let him know that there was no way of talking him out of this idea.
“Yeah, that’s why I’ve been saying that it’s pretty mild outside…for November”
Sure. Maybe it was. For November. But it was still decidedly too cold to go for a swim if you’d ask Alec…or any of the other party guests…possibly.
Yet, half an hour later, Madeleine, Lexi, Leonora, Lou, Cassandra, Finn and Elena were standing alongside Alec and Henry by the pool. They had all stripped down to their underwear, wrapping their arms around their bodies, because already now it was freezing cold. Leonora was the only exception. She’d been holding on to the fact that they would all catch a cold and would miss school next week. She wasn’t going to be a part of that…but she somehow couldn’t stay away entirely either.
“You guys have to move a little…it’s going to be less cold” Henry encouraged his friends, but the only ones actually taking his advice were Lou and Finn who actually looked like they were ready to jump in. Henry was bouncing up and down and suddenly grabbed Alec by the shoulders. “You too” He chanted and pulled Alec with him as he leaped into the water. Alec cursed loudly until his mouth was full of chlorous pool water. He was coughing once his head popped back up. His black hair was covering his face nearly completely, heavy on his head, until he combed it back with only one slick movement of his hand. His skin was even paler than usual in the silver moonlight and his lips were already blue, trembling slightly.
The two boys jumping into the water completely unprepared had also gotten everyone else pretty wet. There was really no point in bailing out now.
“It’s actually less cold in the water” Henry announced and just when Alec was about to disagree, there were two more splashes and Finn and Lou had joined them in the pool. Next was Lexi. Alec suddenly felt her weight on his shoulders as she had to cling to him to keep herself above the water. He felt her whole body trembling and the warmth of her body pressed so tightly against his was actually quite pleasant in the cold water. So he let it happen.
Last but not least Madeleine and Cassandra joined them, leaving Leonora still fully dressed and watching them from the outside. She had decided to sit down in a little garden chair that was standing a few metres away from the pool, so she wouldn’t get splashed with cold water. She had a kind of distant expression on her face as she was watching her friends having fun. She had made her decision. She wouldn’t join them. But as she watched Henry jumping on Alec’s back to try and push him under the water and the girls screeching as a huge wave of water hit them right across the face, she couldn’t help but smile. After all these years it still amazed her how different Alec was whenever he was with people he really cared about. And how she had never been able to get this kind of reaction from him. It was almost as if he had a set number of smiles and laughter he’d be giving to only well-chosen people in his life. And she just wasn’t one of them. Watching it from a distance was all she could do…and most of the time it was enough.
Actively moving inside the water was actually helping a lot with the cold and between all the screams and laughter they had soon forgotten about the very likely possibility of getting sick tomorrow morning until their fingers had turned wrinkly and their lips had turned a light shade of blue. Their trembling bodies were impossible to ignore and their fingertips felt like they were going to fall off any minute now. Even Henry, who had refused to admit to the cold, was shaking visibly.
Leonora was still there. As she noticed the state her friends were in she went into the house to get enough blankets and towels for everyone, so they wouldn’t have to expose their naked skin to the cold air for too long. Everyone was thankful for her thoughtful help, but she just waved it off with a smile.
There was still a pretty good crowd inside. Some had started playing beer pong, others were drinking for no reason at all. The majority of freshmen had already gone home. Others had passed out on the couch, but the party was clearly still alive even if the numbers were dwindling. The short beach party had mostly gone unnoticed among the other guests. Only now, as everyone was stumbling back inside, all wrapped up in blankets, the girls naturally cuddling up to the next guy they could grab and Henry holding on to Alec despite the fact that he wasn’t a girl, some people were lifting their heads. They didn’t really care about having missed the fun outside, though, because there had probably been plenty of fun inside as well. The still ongoing music and the general mood inside the living room spoke for themselves.
Just then the curly haired twins that had supported Ricarda at the election stormed out of the kitchen, giggling hysterically. One of them was holding an empty bottle up and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if they had emptied it all by themselves. “Who’s up for a round of spin the bottle?!” One of them asked loud enough for everyone to hear.
Of course Finn and Lou were joining the game and so did Elena and Cassie. Alec would’ve had doubts about it, but everything was blurry and funny and Henry was dragging him to the centre of the living room where the game was going to take place, according to the twins who had already sat down on the floor. Everyone else who’d been outside joined them, but neither of them could be bothered to put their clothes back on when the towels felt so soft and warm on their skin. At some point Alec had ended up sharing a blanket with Lexi, but it was – surprisingly – okay. Maybe he’d regret it in the morning. Maybe it would just be a small detail that he’d forgotten about soon enough. Maybe it didn’t matter. In fact, nothing mattered that much anymore. Not even the fact that the girl from the karaoke bar – Enya was her name – had joined them as well.
One of the twins - Cade or Caleb, Alec couldn’t tell them apart - started with the first challenge. “Let’s start this simple…whoever gets chosen by the bottle will have to tell all of us about their recent crush and – don’t lie to me – everyone has got a crush. Always. Even if it’s just a tiny one. However, if the crush is present in this circle, you’re not going to simply tell us…you’re going to show us. By kissing said crush. On the lips” Thus, he gave the bottle a good spin.
Elena’s face lit up as the bottle stopped, pointing at her. She didn’t hesitate for a second and gave Finn, who was conveniently sitting next to her, an affectionate kiss. “Well, that was boring” Finn grinned into the kiss before they both drew back, the familiar butterflies in their stomachs as always whenever their lips touched.
“I’ll think of something better then” Elena announced with the bottle already in her hand. She didn’t think about it for long, though. “Now, with most of us wearing a minimum of clothing…exchange one article of clothing with the person on your right…in front of all of us, of course” She smirked and spun the bottle, hoping it would stop at someone wearing nothing but underwear and…it did. To Alec’s misfortune, it stopped in front of Lexi and, thus, affected him as well, because he was sitting to her right. Luckily they had the giant towel wrapped around them and therefore covered themselves for the most part while doing their duty. Lexi was lucky with Alec’s underwear hanging loosely from her waist, but Alec wasn’t really the kind of guy who could pull off apricot coloured lingerie. It was the game, though. And Alec hated losing just a little bit more than wearing lingerie. At least when he was drunk enough. Apparently.
“Be tickled by the player opposite to you” It was the first thing Lexi could come up with from the top of her head. Everyone was already making eye contact with the person opposite to them, just in case, but in the end, the bottle stopped at Leonora. She was embarrassed, but out of all the possible people she was kind of glad that it was Cassandra who sat across from her. She wasn’t very ticklish, though, and the challenge ended pretty soon.
Leonora wasn’t good at thinking about really embarrassing or, God forbid, sexual challenges and stuck to something more innocent. “Talk in a fake accent for the rest of the game…it’s up to you which one it’s going to be…but it has to be recognizable…”
Cade was the victim, but he naturally had great fun spending the rest of the night talking in the worst and probably offensive British accent anyone had ever come across. “Bloody hell” He said for no reason at all. “Spin the bottle again after it has stopped and ask the second person that is chosen to marry you. But I demand an honest and sappy proposal. I’m talking tears of happiness here, guys!”
The bottle chose Caleb. His beautiful soon to be fiancé was going to be played by Enya. What an honour. He threw himself down to his knees right in front of her and was barely able to hold back fake tears. “Ireland. Land of the potatoes, green hills, sheep and – evidently - land of the most gorgeous woman on the entire planet…the entire universe! I’ve known you ever since you came flying here on what I can only imagine was a pink heart shaped cloud of love…a couple of weeks ago and I can’t stand to look at you…” He sniffed, drawing a key ring from his pocket. His gestures were overdramatic, just as his brother had demanded it. Enya played along in exactly the same manner. “…without also seeing a ring on your finger. My ring. I’m asking you, my sweet potato, with all these people surrounding us being our witnesses…do you want to marry me?”
Enya was sobbing by now and threw herself into Caleb’s arms. “Of course I will” She said and patiently waited for him to put on the key ring. “It’s beautiful” She gasped, but soon enough both of them burst into laughter.
Caleb quickly thought about another challenge. “Go upstairs and play dress up with whatever you find in the bedroom wardrobe…the only rule is: You have to crossdress”
The bottle stopped at Cade – again -, but he was super happy to run upstairs. It took him five minutes until he came back down, dressed in a long, purple silky dress, a feather boa and an over the top hat. He’d even put on make up. “My name is Cade Wrigley and I am a lady. I do all kinds of lady stuff” He announced while coming down the stairs, still talking in a ridiculous British accent the way he was supposed to.
“Now, I really need to see some action, guys. Full on French kiss a random person that will be chosen by the bottle as well”
The bottle stopped at Madeleine first. It didn’t seem to matter where the bottle would stop next because most of the people in this room surely wouldn’t have minded being kissed by Madeleine…even the girls could’ve done a lot worse. Unfortunately, there was one person who was probably praying to God that she wasn’t going to be the one…unsuccessfully. Leonora was about to give the bottle a slight kick as it stopped in front of her, hoping that maybe no one would notice. But it was too late. All eyes were on Madeleine and her. Especially the guys were very interested in what was going to happen next. Only then Madeleine’s and Leonora’s eyes met as well. Leonora’s features had hardened. If Cade was wearing drag and Alec was wearing lingerie, there was really no excuse for why she couldn’t just get this over with and kiss not just another girl, but especially Madeleine. She wouldn’t have minded if it had been anyone else. But it just had to be the person she disliked the most. Madeleine was as hesitant and doubtful as Leonora, but their choice was sort of taken from them as someone started cheering and clapping. Soon everybody else joined in and the two girls were drawn closer to each other by pure pressure of the group.
They were still kneeling on the ground, now so close that their knees were nearly touching. A deep breath. An intense stare down. Then suddenly a kiss, filled with so much passion for anger and hatred that it left everybody speechless, including Madeleine and Leonora themselves once they had broken the kiss. They were breathing heavily now, their cheeks flushed, shoulders slightly trembling. They hardly noticed everyone around them clapping as they quietly returned to their places. It went without saying that they both avoided looking at each other for the rest of the game.
“Spin the bottle again and then sit on the lap of the person the bottle is going to choose. For the rest of the game” Madeleine gave the bottle a good spin once she had come back to her senses.
Finn was the first victim…with Cassie being the second. The two of them were close and even though Finn was quite heavy on Cassie’s lap, there was really nothing that awkward about it. It could’ve been way worse.
“Kiss the most attractive person in this room” Finn winked. “I know it’s going to be me, so don’t be shy”
The bottle stopped at Enya. She thought about her choice for a long time. Sure, Finn would’ve been right on top of the list, but she knew about him and Elena and she really didn’t want to cause trouble…even though there was no female force that could’ve dragged Finn away from his girlfriend. Of that she was sure. Then, of course, there was Alec. She’d kissed him before. She remembered that well and as her gaze met his…she knew that he remembered too. She smiled at him seductively and did her best not to giggle as his shoulders relaxed deeply satisfied with himself. He thought he had won. God, he was so full of himself. Still, she crawled towards him until she nearly sat down on his lap – which angered Lexi visibly – and cupped his face. Their lips were already almost touching, but she changed her mind last second. A twinkle in her eyes gave away that this had been the plan all along. She stole a quick, but longing kiss from Henry and returned back to her place.
Henry laughed at Alec’s misery and received a light punch from him in return. “You didn’t really think I was going to lose this one to you” He laughed.
“Seduce the person on your left…by using your lips…only! You are not allowed to touch the other person’s lips, though” Enya winked and gave the bottle a spin. It stopped right in front of Henry who could hardly have been happier about this random choice. He was already rubbing his hands as he turned to his right where, of course, Alec happened to be sitting. Already now, Alec was a hundred percent done with this challenge. He was a hundred percent done with this whole game, to be honest.
“Oh, this isn’t really fair, is it? You’re already seducing me with that lingerie” Henry sighed dramatically while Alec was shifting uncomfortably once Henry got near him.
“I didn’t drink nearly enough to have forgotten about all of this by tomorrow morning”
Henry laughed. “You won’t want to forget this” He lifted his hands to demonstrate to everyone that he was not going to use them and put them behind his back afterwards. He was anything but shy and hesitant as he started out by full on sucking and nibbling his friend’s neck with such determination that it would sure as hell leave a mark in the morning. Alec would remember…even if the alcohol got the better of him. Alec squirmed and stretched his neck, in hopes to get out of Henry’s reach, but only ended up making the sensitive skin on his neck more accessible to his best friend and his mission to win this challenge.
“Am I allowed to use my hands?” Alec wined. He was about to push Henry away when he felt him shaking his head and someone else from the group denying his wish out loud. The sweet scent of already consumed alcohol reached up his nose as he felt Henry’s tongue wet against his skin, his soft lips working their way down his chest. He tried to be disgusted and oh Lord, he would’ve been for sure…under different circumstances. If he hadn’t witnessed a kiss between two of his female friends just a few minutes ago, for example. Or if Lexi’s underwear hadn’t been this revealing.
He gasped as Henry left a bite mark on his shoulder, but the sensation of the light pain quickly died down as he felt Henry’s hair brushing against his skin as well as further teasing kisses all over his torso.
Suddenly, Henry broke his eager concentration by laughing out loudly and throwing his hands up in the air once he’d drawn back from Alec. “Clearly, I won” He cheered, but Alec’s response was decidedly less enthusiastic. He was just glad this was over, even though his skin was still burning up like fire where Henry’s mouth and tongue had been just a few seconds ago. Just the chemical reaction of skin on skin. Something he couldn’t control…unfortunately.
Henry, however, was still laughing with satisfaction about his success.
“Well, this wasn’t even a game” Alec complained, but clearly couldn’t overshadow Henry’s glee.
“Who cares? I’m obviously just winning at life” Henry returned to his place, still cackling to himself while Alec demonstratively covered his body entirely with the blanket.
Once Henry had gotten over himself, he was ready to announce the next challenge. “Someone’s going to put on the cheesiest song we can find and I want the next person to slow dance in the middle of this circle with another person that’s going to be chosen by the bottle”
He could not have been happier as the bottle pointed at Alec who was already trying to figure out how to wrap the blanket around his body in a way that would stick, so he wouldn’t have to be exposed entirely when he got up.
It turned out that Leonora was going to be his lucky partner. Sure, it could’ve been a lot worse. For both of them. Still, Leonora could physically feel the awkward silence between them once they were standing right in front of each other and the soft piano started playing. She kept telling herself that this was just a game. That Alec was gently placing his hands on her hips, because it was expected from him. For the same reason, he had abandoned his regular dress code. For the same reason she had kissed Madeleine and for the same reason he had just helplessly allowed Henry to seduce him. Just a stupid game and, yet, she couldn’t help her racing heart. He smelled like alcohol and chlorine, but there was still his very own scent underneath all of it. The scent that she would’ve recognized anywhere. She rested her chin awkwardly on his shoulder, but it didn’t quite seem to fit as perfectly as it was ought to be. Just like everything else about this situation. Her hands were wandering off, trailing up and down Alec’s back while she tried to keep her distance…emotionally as well as physically. The latter was a little harder to accomplish, since their bodies were pressed against each other so tightly that she could feel his hip bones against her body. Waiting until all of this was over and enjoying what would never be was all she could do until this damn song was finally over…
We’re so close to reaching
That famous happy end
This was not pretend
Let’s go on dreaming
For we know we are
And still so far
The music was playing quietly in the background. Crumbs of chips and popcorn were the only thing left inside the empty bowls on the table along with three emptied cups that used to hold tea inside of them. Hollie was curled up in the armchair. She had been asleep for the entire last movie. Chandley and Matt had occasionally passed out while watching as well, but they’d never been asleep for longer than ten minutes. The movie wasn’t over yet and it probably would’ve been better to just turn off the TV entirely, but Chandley and Matt were too lazy to get the remote control. The calming voices of Princess Giselle and Prince Edward remained a soothing background noise.
Right now Chandley once again awoke from a twenty second nap plus the five second confusion that followed after. He had sunken deep into the couch, his arms wrapped around his body, because he was feeling a little chilly. Unfortunately, Matt had accidentally occupied the blanket in his sleep.
“Matt?” Chandley whispered, but didn’t get any visible reaction. He tried again, a little louder this time, but Hollie was the only one reacting now, slightly shifting in her sleep. Chandley didn’t want to wake her up and he didn’t like the thought of actually waking Matt up either. But it was getting cold and he was tired, so he just grabbed the blanket and wiggled himself underneath it, even if that meant having to cuddle up to Matt. At least it was a lot warmer here…and so much cosier with his body leaning against Matt’s.
Chandley fell asleep with Disney princesses in mind and the way they had fallen in love so quickly. It seemed ridiculous to fall for someone so hard so fast…until it happened to you. Until it had happened to him. Maybe it was going to be the same with happy endings. They happened when you least expect them…or when you didn’t expect them to happen at all. Because you were in love with someone who could only love you back if you’d live in a different universe…if you were lucky.
Or maybe a Disney marathon just didn’t do him any good.