COMING NOVEMBER 14th, 2013
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“Oh shit,” Kayla hisses suddenly. “I didn’t know he’d be here.”
I look to where her eyes are riveted. It’s unmistakable who she’s talking about. Amid the chaos of the wiener throwing and drunk flail-dancing to the Black Eyed Peas is a single island of still calm. He’s gotta be six feet at least. His shoulders are broad, and everything about him is lean – his waist, his long legs, his ridiculously sharp cheekbones. His messy hair isn’t quite blonde, but isn’t quite brown either - more like a tumbleweed color. Next to me, Kayla is ogling him with all she’s got, and she isn’t the only one. Girls froze when he walked in, and guys are throwing him stink eye. Whoever he is, I can already tell he’s one of those people who are popular in all the wrong ways.
He walks further into the party, keeping to himself. Normally you nod at people as you walk in, or look for someone you know in the sea of the crowd. But not this guy. He just walks. He doesn’t have to push or shove his way through – people part naturally. It’s like he’s got an invisible shield around him. He wears a permanent bored expression, like everything around him is completely uninteresting.
“That’s Jack. Jack Hunter,” Kayla whispers. “He never comes to parties like this. They’re way beneath him.”
“Beneath him? He’s in high school, Kayla, not the royal goddamn court.”
“He’s got a nickname around here; Ice Prince. So he sort of is royalty.”
I laugh. When Kayla’s face remains serious, I stop.
“Wait, you’re not kidding? You guys actually call him that?”
She flushes. “Well, yeah! Just like we call Carlos the Mexican quarterback Hot Tortilla and the creepy guy with too many knives who likes to hang around the library Creeper McJeepers. Jack is Ice Prince because that’s what he is!”
I splutter another laugh, and this one must be too loud, because it makes Jack look up. Now that he’s closer I can see his face well. Kayla’s whispering ‘he’s cute’ to me, but that’s not it at all. He’s not baby-faced cute in the way girls giggle about during sleepovers and between classes. He’s handsome; the kind of lion-eyed, sharp-nosed, broad-lipped handsome you see in Italian suit ads. I can see why they call him Ice Prince. Aside from the thick fog of pretentiousness that follows him, his eyes are the color of a lake frozen through – a blue so light it looks almost translucent. And they’re looking right at me. Kayla makes a noise disturbingly similar to a small monkey and hides behind my shoulder.
“He’s looking at us!” She hisses.
“Why are you hiding?”
Kayla mumbles something into my shirt. I roll my eyes.
“You like him.”
“Not so loud!” She pinches my neck and pulls.
“Ow, ow! You can’t have my vertebrae, I need those!”
“Then don’t say dumb things like that so loud!”
“But you do like him!”
She twists, and I yelp. Our din is doing nothing to avert Jack’s eyes - or anyone else’s. I manage to pry her fingers off the part of my nervous system that makes sure I keep breathing and duck into the bathroom to pee. The toilet’s a mess, and I pat it in sympathy on my way out. Stay strong, buddy. One way or another, this will all be over soon. Either we’ll all drop dead of alcohol poisoning, or your bowl will erode from the acidity of the gallons of vomit you’ve been subjected to. Do they give you retirement benefits? No? They should. We should protest. Picket. Toilet Union United.
When I’m done talking to the toilet in a completely sane manner, I walk out to the exact thing I didn’t want to see; Kayla, downstairs again. But the boys are leaving her alone. All except one. Or rather, it’s one boy she’s not leaving alone.
“I don’t u-usually see you at these kinds of parties,” Kayla stammers to none other than Jack himself. He scoffs.
“No. I don’t particularly enjoy rolling in mud. Tonight’s an exception.” He looks around the room, his lip curling. “But you do, I’m guessing.”
“W-What? No, I mean, I’m just Avery’s friend. She makes me come. I don’t even really like these parties –”
“Your speech is slurred and you’re stumbling. You can barely control your own body. If you have to get this drunk to stand the parties your friends make you go to, you’re an idiot who’s made the wrong friends.”
Kayla’s expression stiffens, like she’s been slapped, and then her eyes start watering. My blood begins to boil – who the hell does he think he is?
“That’s n-not what I meant –” Kayla starts.
“And you look exactly like the type of girl to stay with friends she hates. They probably hate you, too. It must be easy, hiding it behind all that booze and all those name brands.”
Kayla’s tears overflow onto her cheeks. Jack sighs.
“You’re so spineless you collapse into tears the second anyone says the truth?”
My heart’s thumping in my chest. My fists squeeze so tight I can’t feel my fingers. I shove the red-faced boy who tries to hit on me again aside and launch myself through the crowd. Kayla isn’t my friend. No one here is. But she’s been four seconds of nice to me - true nice, not Avery’s sugary poison of inviting-me-to-the-weird-test-party nice. And four seconds is more than I ever thought I’d get. It’s the most I’ve had in a long time. Jack’s lip quirks up in a sneer. Say it. Say one more thing, pretty boy. I dare you to.
That’s the first time I punch Jack Hunter’s face. And as my knuckles connect with his stupid high cheekbones and he staggers back with a furious blizzard brewing in his icy eyes, I somehow get the feeling it won’t be the last.