Olivia Henninger

Smoke Escape

The party was as expected: big, loud, crazy, and I already couldn't stand another second of it. Although the last measly rays of sun still lingered in the sky, Aiden's party was already bouncing off the walls…and the ceiling…and the stairs. I would've bet my left nut that half of these animals wouldn't remember the party at all when they woke up hammered on their couches the next morning. Aiden said that this party was more wicked because it was the first party of senior year, but it didn't feel anymore hellish then our junior year.

These parties, among many other reasons, were why I despised Mr. and Mrs. Scarpelli. They constantly left town on the last weekend of the month. The Scarpellis never bugged Aiden and his sister as long as Aiden and his sister didn't bother them with "big kid troubles" that they "handle without Mommy and Daddy." Other then the occasional lecture they gave Aiden's little sister, I had only heard them from behind closed bedroom doors. They didn't really care if Aiden threw insane parties every last Saturday of the month. So, he did throw insane parties and I, Aiden's oldest friend and the only one of his friends trusted enough to have had house keys, always had to go to. Luckily, I hadn't needed to use those for a few months. Actually, screw luck. Veronica, Aiden's sister, stopped locking Aiden out because she knew that I made him study for SAT and took him with me on a few college tours. Then, of course, their parents returned from their trips the following Mondays and never noticed a damn thing or at least, they pretended not to. The crowds made me queasy and the noise beat at my ears drums, but Aiden, my best and probably only friend, needed me. Therefore, I dealt with the effing parties. Someone had to be there for that idiot. And that someone couldn't always be Veronica.

As if on a cue, I felt hellish heat waves as they slapped my gut and face. Before I could become woozy, I half shoved, half slipped my way through the horde to the sliding glass door at the corner of the room. My hand shaped itself around the worn handle that it had become familiar with from sneaking outside. I slid the door open gently because I really didn't want to be noticed and end up with a crowd for company. I stepped outside and quietly slid the door closed behind me.

The nasty din of gossip and the deafening beat of some explicit rap song became faint the moment I released the handle. It was as if the glass door trapped the racket from getting to me. The icy air was sharp in my lungs; I appreciated how delightfully the late September breeze pricked the goose-bumps on my skin. Head pointed up at the sky in relief that I wasn't going to die of heatstroke that night, I took in the view. A single shy star twinkled in the dark suburban sky. Through the lone back window of the living room, I could see Aiden getting intimate with some dumb blonde from chemistry on his mother's retched salmon loveseat. Sarah, maybe. No, it might have been Susan from his Trig class. Not that it mattered. The girl, who had moved on, to raking her fingers through Aiden's trademark copper waves, was just another fake blonde with a fake tan and little to no intellect. Easy prey for Aiden Scarpelli's charm. Chicks like her that didn't realize that tans rarely look natural in Vermont; this gave us real blondes a bad name. I smoothed over my pale slick mob in response to the thought.

"Lucky bustard," I chuckled, taking a seat on the second concrete step. My type or not, I still kinda envied his company. I knew his backyard would be vacant. If the party spilled outside, the mass shifted to the clipped front yard and left the shadowy jungle I sat in alone. Paranoia made me check anyway just in case some wasted couple had decided they wanted more room than the backseat of a car. No one was there like normal, so I pulled my baggie of my better stuff out my pocket, rolled myself a joint, and lit up with the purple dragon lighter that I had swiped out of dad's room. I didn't feel bad for taking his, since he had tossed mine in his most recent attempt to be a decent parent. Mom would have killed me if she knew I smoked. I should have been happy, right? I guess I never got the chance to see how distraught her I-just-found-pot-in-your-room-explain-yourself face would have been to know that I was following in my father's footsteps, doing the one thing she couldn't stand about him. I swear that I saw a face in the smoke that leaked from my lips and nostrils. Maybe if she was still around she'd ground me and I wouldn't have to deal with the fucking party anymore. I took in a long puff.

Dad was never much of a parent with Mom, and the mess he became without her somehow managed to be a worse father.

"I wanna be grounded! Hear that, Mom? Why don't you just down her right now and smack the hell out of me?" I half yelled, half laughed at that lone star dimly glowing in the dark. It seemed that I must of stood up too quickly and nearly fell over. But wait, Mom wouldn't have grounded me because thinking back I hadn't had my first smoke til the night after the…funeral.

The strange yet familiar reek of my own weed-breath seeped up my nose. The smell was enough to pull me back into reality. I leaned against the ugly white-pink brick of Aiden's house, inhaling a relaxing huff. I made sure to blow out slowly this time, my lips formed into a whistle; I gazed sleepily at smoke as it curled and swirled like snakes or maybe dragons, purple dragons. They danced. I slid down the side of the house into a sitting position. Probably scraped on my back from the brick. Felt pain. Probably looked like I shit on myself from the dew on the grass. Felt wet. Probably shivered my ass off with out my jacket. Felt cold.

The dragons twirled and transformed into ladies with lots of arms. I made a pattern of drawing in and then watching the smoke until my joint had been smoked to a butt. I flicked it into the dew sparkled weeds, and stood up. Yep, I looked like I pissed myself. I turned to the door about to rejoin Aiden's party from hell, but door slid open; I barely saw as Veronica's silhouette slipped out the door all spy-like and crashed right into me, which was not so spy-like. We must have fallen because suddenly my back was damp, my head was throbbing, the warm, petite body of Aidan's seventeen year-old sister was on my chest, and citrus scented black mane had covered my face. It knocked the breath out of my gut for what might have been for more than obvious reason. This wasn't the first time she had fallen on top of me, and wouldn't be the last either. If my stomach hadn't just been crushed it would have been hard to keep from laughing, when I could hear old man Carter's voice telling Aiden and I what Veronica reminded him of.

"I am so sorry," she pulled her hair back but had not looked at me, "I just had to get out of there. It is hot as Hades in July inside, and Rory just puked on the loveseat, and hell knows what that smell is in the bathro…"

"It's really fine, Stilts. I was taking a break, too," I struggled to get the words out since a teenage girl had just flattened my diaphragm. I lifted my face a tiny bit but a flash of chest skin passed my vision so laid back down. I had known this girl since before the birds-and-the-bees chat, so it didn't seem right to appreciate the slight curves of her chest when she was lying on top of me.

"Oh, Zane! Hey." Her face was inches from mine. Had it always been this symmetrical? Surely not, I'd have noticed. I couldn't recall her eyes being quite that green before either. Must have been the weed. "I should probably get off you now." She rolled herself off of me, onto her back, propped herself up on her elbows. I missed her warmth. "And you were reason I fell, so you are the Stilts, not me." She seemed a little pinkish in the soft lights but that was more likely because she just went from an oven to an icebox.

"No one else but you can be called Stilts. You are the only Stilts there is. Unless that is, you would like me to call you that little missy walks like she's wearin stilts on mud," I used my best Ol' man Carter impression and it took three minutes to be able to form any more words, we were laughing to hard.

"Would you care for a smoke, Ms. Veronica?" What was I even saying? Stilts didn't smoke and I knew it. She would of lectured me if it wasn't for mom.

"I don't smoke. Remember, no-brain-Zane." She smiled her cheesy teasing grin that made her look a lot like Aiden, and just looked at me for second. Her face switched to guilty, serious expression before she gazed at the sky and laid down flat again. "But I wouldn't mind watching the stars," she said as I found the singular twinkling star I screamed at ten minutes before, which was no longer alone in the sky but surrounded by its brothers and sisters.

"Yeah, that would be nice."

Her voice lingered between my ears, while I searched for the warmth of her next me. The party forgotten. Life felt nice.