Double Digit | Chapter 14 of 40

Author: Annabel Monaghan | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 1389 Views | Add a Review

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SAY NO TO PEP

DRESSING FOR A TOGA PARTY IS pretty straightforward for anyone who’s ever seen Animal House or has Internet access. The necessary materials are a white sheet and maybe a little ivy for your hair, for extra credit. How hard could this be? Very.

Tiki was, as promised, seriously hot in her toga and all ready to go by the time I got back to our room. She had a sheet and an ivy crown waiting for me, and I was completely focused on being a good sport. I’d been a drag for the past few weeks, flipping between my obsession with my ex-boyfriend and my obsession with Oscar. But now I was there and I was game. But not for an off-the-shoulder toga.

“But that’s what a toga is. And you’ll show a little shoulder . . .”

“Put me in something asymmetrical, and I’ll be showing a little seizure.”

“Fine.” Tiki made me a two-shouldered toga that draped down the center in a way that I could deal with. But to compensate for the frumpy way my shoulders were covered, she took a pair of scissors to the bottom, turning my toga into a mini. “Nice. Let’s go.”

The second I walked into the party, I regretted going. I longed to be back at my desk in Marcello’s office waiting for documents and tinkering with Oscar. A toga party, as it turns out, is just Halloween’s Roman sister. And I can’t stand Halloween. All the girls, and a lot of the guys too, took this as an opportunity to show as much skin as possible. I was sure I was the only person in the room wearing a bra. The energy in the room was kicked up about thirty notches from the energy at a normal party, and I blamed the sheets.

“Digit, you seem like a dud. And I need you to focus. I’m not going to tell you to have fun, but I am going to tell you to act and look like you’re having fun. Howard just walked in right behind you.” She threw her head back laughing, like she’d just heard her first knock-knock joke. “Now you. You laugh too.” I started to laugh a little. “More. I’m funny. Get into it. I’m the life of the freakin’ party.” Tiki was definitely teetering on the brink of wacko. So I started laughing harder and then for real at the insanity of standing there in a mini-sheet pretending to be hilarious.

“What’s so funny?” Bass was standing there with a girl. Said girl was wearing a seriously slutted-up toga, cut short and barely covering the one obligatory shoulder. Bass was in khakis and a plain white T-shirt. Plain.

“Where’s your toga?” I felt so stupid. How could he get away with not wearing a toga? It seemed like cheating.

“I don’t wear sheets. This is Tammy. Tammy, this is Digit and Tiki. They live on my hall.”

“Hi!” Tammy seemed kind of drunk. Or annoying. Or too perky? Or not quite perky enough? I’m not sure what crime I was trying to pin on her, but I did not like Tammy.

“We’re going to go dance.” Tiki pulled me over to the other end of the room closer to the band. There were enough people dancing that I could kind of blend in and only partially embarrass myself. It’s funny how in a big crowd no one really sees you at all. We were just one big mass of skin and flowy white cotton, and, well, after a few songs, I decided I kind of liked toga parties. At least it was different from the nightmare I imagined—the one where there’s a big circle of people around me watching me try to bust a move. No one needs to see that. No one.

The band took a break, and we found Tammy and Bass by the keg. “So, Bass. No guitar tonight?” Tiki poured herself her second beer. I would not have normally mentioned it, except that she drank it like a marathoner on mile twenty-one and immediately poured herself another.

“No. I’m not playing tonight, just a spectator. Slow down there, Tiki. I don’t want to have to report you.” He was half kidding, but also half not.

I decided Tammy was actually too perky—that was the problem. She chirped, “Bass, you totally should play tonight! You know, that’s where I met him! A few weeks ago at the coffeehouse, he was playing with his band! What a night! Unforgettable!” Yep, I remember it well. “There they are!”

Tonight’s band came over, and they all gave Bass that half-handshake, half-hug thing that guys do. Introductions all around while Tiki poured herself another beer without Bass noticing.

“What’s with you? Slow down,” I mouthed. She nodded her head to the corner of the bar in response. And there was Howard with a third girl. Not blond and not Tiki. A really painfully pretty brunette. “He’s a jerk.”

“I know. And I’m going to go tell him.”

“No.” I grabbed her arm. “You’re not.” And that’s when I realized that Tiki was on a path to making bad choices that were going to lead to really, really bad choices.

I turned to Bass for help, as he was in a position of semi-authority here, but he wasn’t there. The music started up again, and all eyes went back to the stage. The band was gone, and it was just Bass onstage with an acoustic guitar playing the first few bars of “Crash Into Me.” If you looked up “cheap tricks to get girls to swoon” in the dictionary, you would find an audio link to that song. And while I, too, can easily fall victim to such cheap tricks, I was amazed by the mass of girls that made its way closer to the stage, powerless drones. And no offense to Dave Matthews, but if you put that song in the hands of a younger, maybe handsomer guy who has the sense not to wear a toga to a toga party . . . well, it shouldn’t be legal.

Tammy was front and center. I couldn’t see her face, but I could imagine its perky delight. I pulled Tiki into the crowd, partially to see better and partially to widen the distance between Howard and her. She had filled her cup again and seemed a little wobbly.

“Tiki, just listen to the music. He’s good, right?”

“Sure. But let me go back there. I just wanna tell him . . . I hate him so much.”

“Who doesn’t? Now stay here.” I put my arm around Tiki to keep her stable and close and watched Bass like the rest of the groupies. What was it about a guy on a stage? What was it about a guy with a guitar? Why was he looking right at me? He’s looking right at me. I went completely still and completely flushed. It’s almost like if that person onstage looks directly at you, they are redirecting all the energy they’re getting from the crowd toward you. It felt like a laser to the head. I had to look away.

And when I did, I noticed that Tiki was gone. She’d slipped out of my grip and was making her way toward Howard. I went after her. “Tiki. Stop. You are going to hate yourself tomorrow. Do not go talk to him. Let’s dance a little. Then we’ll go home.”

“No! You can’t stop me. I need to talk to him. I need to tell him how much I hate him . . . And how much I love him . . . and he has to take me back . . .” Oh my god, this is worse than I thought.

I dragged her, all five feet ten inches of her increasingly wobbly limbs, back toward the stage. I kept one arm around her waist and waved the other at Bass. I caught his eye, and he gave me a little upward nod as he sang. No, I was not saying hi. I ran through a mental list of universal gestures and only came up with the finger across the throat, meaning kill it or death. I combined that with a finger toward Tiki and a nod toward Howard and the brunette. Repeatedly. Until he finally understood and wrapped up the song a few verses early. My apologies to the disappointed girls, but Tiki was getting heavy and it is a pretty long song.

“Hey, thanks, guys,” he said into the microphone over what should have been enough screams and applause to shake Tiki back into sobriety. No such luck. I held her up while he put down someone’s guitar and jumped off the stage toward me.

“Is she okay?”

“God, I’m fine. Just let go of me. I need to talk to Howard.”

“Got it. Let’s get her out of here. But make it look normal. I don’t want Howard to think she’s a mess.” So in the most dignified way that we knew how, Bass and I each put an arm around Tiki and escorted her past Howard into the night. As we passed the bar, Bass laughed, too loud. “You’re right, this is kind of lame. Where’s the other party?”

When we got outside, we let Tiki take a break on the grass for a bit. I had a bad feeling about her nice white sheet on that damp grass. And she no longer looked hot at all. We stood and watched as she cried, the streetlight making her look even more tragic than she was. “Okay, I’m fine now, just let me go back in. I’ll be cool. I just want him to know how much I miss him . . .”

“No chance.” Bass pulled her up and put his arm around her waist and started walking back to the dorm. He turned back to me. “A little help?”

We made it back to our room and deposited Tiki on her bed. Bass went to his room and got her a bottle of water and waited while she drank it. “Just let me go to sleep . . .” Tiki passed out as I struggled to move her under the covers.

“Our work here is done.”

“Thank you. You going back out with Tammy?” The eternal question: What is wrong with me?

“No. I’m going back out with Buddy.” He turned to leave and stopped. “Wanna come?”

“Can I change?” I suddenly felt like an idiot in my super-mini toga. These things really only work in a large group.

“I insist.”

Back in my fashion comfort zone, I headed out into the night with Bass and Buddy. It was completely dark except for the streetlights. They were the old-fashioned kind, painted black, that let out a dull light. Exactly the right amount of light.

“Do you do this every night?”

“Save drunk girls from humiliating themselves? Most nights.”

“The walking.”

“I do. Buddy needs a lot of exercise or he tears up my room. Plus I like to be out here. I’m like a night watchman. During the day I check in on the trees. Somebody’s got to do it.”

“You have different trees out here. Like those old maples on Eastman Court. And the little cluster of weeping willows behind the Stata Center? Everything’s different here than in L.A.”

“I bet. For one, I hear people don’t walk in L.A.”

“We don’t. We like our cars. And the leaves don’t change. Which I guess is fine because I like palm trees just the way they are. But here it’s sort of dynamic. Like every day you wake up and the weather’s a little different, the light’s a little different. It keeps you on your toes.”

“That’s my favorite part.” We walked past the dorms and back toward the party. We could hear the muffled sounds of the band inside. Buddy stopped to sniff something, and we sat down on a bench to wait. This is the thing about walking a dog: You are really not on your own schedule at all. I wondered at the temperament of someone who could spend so much of his day at the whim of his dog’s nose.

“You’d like L.A. The people are really easygoing.”

“You’re the only person I know from L.A., and you don’t seem that easygoing.”

“No kidding.”

He laughed, and I opted to change the subject rather than delve into exactly how easygoing I am not. “That could have been a really ugly scene in there. Thanks for helping me get her out. I could have let you finish the song, but I was losing my grip on her.”

“She’s the one losing her grip. It’s got to be hard having a relationship like that blow up and then still having to see each other all the time.”

“I think it’s hard having a relationship blow up no matter where you are.”

So far we had been in the safe side-by-side walking position that lends itself to a free flow of words without any pesky eye contact, followed by a side-by-side bench sit that also allowed us to watch the dog or our shoes. But now he looked at me, straight on. “Don’t you have a boyfriend? The guy who was visiting that night?”

“Did. I haven’t seen him since then.”

“Oh. Sorry. What happened?”

“It’s complicated.”

Bass laughed and went to grab Buddy by the leash and bring him closer to us. “Complicated either means that you don’t want to talk about it or you don’t understand it.”

“Both.”

“Where does he live?”

“New York.”

“That would be tough, anyway.”

“That’s what I keep hearing.” Not only did I not want to think about John; I also did not want to rehash the ins and outs of why he may have broken up with me. Or whatever. “These days the only guy I’m interested in is Professor Halsey.”

“That’s unsettling.”

“He’s all I think about.”

“He’s eighty.”

“I’m from L.A. I have an open mind.”

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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