Lyle takes his fifth shot of tequila in the hour he and Aly have been at the party.
He licks the line of salt off his hand, winces at the strength of the tequila, and bites the lime for effect.
“You know what? I should go punch his face in right now for what he did to you.” Lyle lurches forward towards his best friend and points in her face for emphasis.
Aly smiles into her red solo cup. With a little…a lot of alcohol in him, Lyle becomes her biggest romantic cheerleader. Always willing to give advice or dole out grevious bodily harm to lousy ex-boyfriends. “He didn’t do anything. He just…” She trails off.
Lyle shakes his head. But this party, sticky with too many people and cheap beer, is not the place to talk about it.
Aly watches as two girls– one pulling up her too tight dress, the other, completely obliterated– sulk away from the large beer pong table against the wall.
“C’mon,” She pulls on Lyle’s arm, “Pong’s open.”
The two squeeze between the couch full of people and the counter heavy with booze. With a deft head nod towards the victors, Lyle has reserves his and Aly’s spot. He racks the plastic cups efficiently. He never turns down an opportunity to play and win any sport.
Aly just watches. The guy on the right has shaggy blonde hair and a two-day-old scruff, paired with a white tee and jeans. His buddy looks like he hadn’t slept in a week– rumpled button down, messy short brown hair, worn jeans. Coeds line the table to watch.
Lyle, with all of the subtlety of a peacock, throws his shoulders back, squints to aim, and shoots. It lands in the center cup. Whoops echo from their opponents…and from everyone else watching the game.
Blonde hair raises his eyebrows and turns to her, “Bitch cup. Your boyfriend has to drop his pants…unless you’d like to do the honors.”
Aly rolls her eyes. If only Becca, Lyle’s actual girlfriend, were here, she’d chew this guy out for challenging her uber-competitive boyfriend, then snack on Lyle for accepting it.
Lyle knocks back a shot and unbuckles his jeans. Consequences be damned.
Aly ogles the set up. For her, this is a game of luck, not skill. Perfect arcs and precise shooting stances are lost on her. She tosses and hears the welcome ‘plunk’ of the ping pong ball landing in water.
The boys shoot next. Both land shots effortlessly. Girls tipsy on weak beer and cheap wine congratulate them with suggestive smiles.
The game continues and Aly’s luck wanes. She misses the next few shots and sips her beer as punishment. Lyle misses too but insists on dousing himself with tequila and vodka.
“Y’know what, Aly,” he says just a bit too loudly, “you should find that motherfucker and give him a piece of your mind.”
Aly’s smile strains. What was there to say?
Her and Dave had met at a party just like this. They talked, flirted. She kept her hands from shaking by holding a beer. Why not give it a chance? She went back with him to his room. Clothes started coming off. Quickly, too quickly. The kissing felt perfunctory, their bodies moved awkwardly. He lay on top of her and she didn’t feel anything. She felt body heat, muscles tensing. But with the lights out, she had lost connection. She didn’t want to have sex. He grabbed her hand placatingly, coaxing her. She refused. She dressed, left and avoided looking him in the eye as she walked out.
“Lyle, I think the tequila is going to your head a little too fast.”
He tosses his back and forth. “You don’t think I know what happened. I do. He was a jackass. So don’t you dare let what he did get to you. Guys would jump at a chance to have you.”
Even for Lyle, this is a bit much. Aly raises her eyebrows.
To emphasize his point, Lyle grabs a stranger by the arm and drags him around, “Man, would you have sex with her?” Lyle starts leaning on him.
She balks and misses the stranger’s appraising look. She turns to the guy to apologize. He’s only a few inches taller than Aly– five nine, five ten– with clipped brown hair and a lanky body. And bright blue eyes. When she looks him in the eye, she looks away. “Sorry…my friend is very drunk.”
He smirks. “I know the feeling. He should probably sit down and put the shot glass away.”
Lyle starts up again, “I’m fine!” Aly tries to make eye contact; his eyes tremble and never focus.
“Let’s go outside. Air might help.”
Aly stays put. A stranger, away from people. Clearly not inebriated. Someone not moments away from passing out needs to know that she’s leaving. She surreptitiously texts her roommate and slips her phone into her purse.
They walk outside and sit on the concrete stoop. They drop Lyle on a cheap lawn chair. Once the door closes, the sound drops to a whisper.
“Thanks for that,” she says.
“For helping bring him out here or helping you escape defeat?” He’s referring to beer pong.
She smirks, “I guess a little of both.”
He sticks out his hand, “I’m James, by the way.”
There’s nothing to say without downshifting into useless banter. Aly lets the silence sit there.
“What was your drunken friend on about earlier?” James is looking forward.
She threads a loose piece of hair behind her ear, “Nothing. Just your everyday college drama.”
“Ah. That’s why he propositioned me.” He’s keeping a straight face, but she knows he’s dying to break out into a smile.
She laughs, “You don’t get that all the time?”
He shakes his head, “No, this is the first time a guy has asked me to sleep with his girlfriend.”
“Best friend, not girlfriend.”
“I’m not sure if that makes it better or worse,” he harrumphs.
“Lyle is…strangely protective sometimes.” James snorts in response. Another long pause. Aly turns back to check on Lyle. “I need to get him back to his room.”
“You need some help?”
“No, I’m good, thanks.” It’s a knee-jerk response. He’s attractive; she’s a little bit wary. Lyle is floating in and out of consciousness. Aly smiles at James and heaves Lyle to his feet to make the trek home. “Good night.”
With brute force and sheer determination, she drags Lyle into his house, onto the couch to sleep off the alcohol. She collapses on the loveseat next to him and before she can move, she’s asleep. The last thing she thinks of is a pair of bright blue eyes.