The Party (A short story by Tyler Scott Hess)
“I want to go back,” she screams. But we can never go back. Not after what she did.
The night started out the way it always does when Tommy throws a party. I tossed my pack in the backseat of my pickup truck and hopped in the driver’s seat. Jillian scrambled to catch me before I left campus, jumping in the passenger side.
“Are we still going to Tommy’s tonight?” she asked.
“Of course we are,” I told her. “We have to go pick up Stephanie first.”
“Not this again,” she said. Her teeth grind whenever I mention that name. “Tommy didn’t speak to us for three months after the last time you brought her. Don’t do this to me, Wade.”
“She’s cool,” I replied. “You don’t have to worry about Steph tonight. She’s gotten her life together since the last time you saw her.”
I wasn’t completely honest. The truth is that I hadn’t seen Stephanie since that night, and I hadn’t planned on talking to her again, but she called me every day for two weeks begging for forgiveness. My mistake was not in forgiving her, but rather in pretending that it meant everything was fine. She hadn’t changed a bit.
When we arrived at Stephanie’s house, which technically speaking was her brother’s home, it was Jerry who greeted us. He was sitting on the porch, polishing a rifle I remember seeing the last time I was here.
“Haven’t seen you in awhile,” he said. “Did she tell you some sob story about how she’s changed?”
That should have been enough for me to get back in the pickup and turn around. If her own brother didn’t believe her version of the truth, then I don’t know what I was thinking. But I shrugged my shoulders and waited for her to bust out of the front door.
She came outside wearing jean shorts, a loose fitting white and black tank top, and enough perfume to fumigate a strip mall. She skipped out of the front door, sneered at Jerry, and leaned in to give me a kiss on the cheek, avoiding eye contact with Jillian altogether.
I’m surprised Jillian didn’t sucker punch her right then and there. Maybe she feared reprisal from Stephanie’s gun-toting brother, but I don’t think he would side with his sister on anything these days. I’m not quite sure why he even lets her stay there. I would suspect his decision is greatly influenced by their mother, but I haven’t been around them enough lately to put forth further speculation on the issue.
“Let’s go,” I told the girls as I tipped my cap to Jerry. The tires spun out as we left the gravel driveway and made our way out to the country. If there’s one constant when it comes to one of Tommy’s parties, it’s that he is unpredictable. None of us have been invited since Stephanie made a fool of herself at the warehouse downtown, but I reminded him that he owed me a favor when I heard about his plans to throw a bash on the old Decker Farm.
The windy roads made for a long journey out of town, with the sun falling quickly over the hills along the way, providing plenty of time for short, cutting conversations for the two hour drive.
The moon is up and the stars are out by the time we find the place. It’s a well known farm to anyone from town. The local schools used to take field trips here before the owners passed away and the farm was left to rot. But that makes it perfect for tonight’s scheduled event.
We were far from the first guests to arrive. The dirt lot was filled with cars parked in no particular order. Music filled the air, the bass pounded through the barn walls, and lights were flashing on and off through the doors.
“Alexander!” I shouted as I slide out of the truck. “It’s been a long time, man.”
He looked at me like he had better things to do with his time than deal with me. That’s when I remembered that the last time I saw him was when he was dragging Stephanie out of the warehouse by her hair. There’s a reason why they call him The Muscle, and it’s not because he walks around showing off. He’s Tommy’s head of security whenever he throws a party, which is every two to three weeks. And he reserves his energy for moments of action.
Alexander looked over his list and said “Alright, you can go in.”
I tapped him lightly on the side of the arm, leaned in, and apologized for last time.
“Just make sure she’s in line tonight,” he said. “I won’t give another warning.”
I nodded my head and followed the girls into the crowd. I could only hope the music and hundreds of sweaty bodies would keep the peace. I grabbed Jillian by the hand and took her to the center of the dance floor, leaving Stephanie to roam around free. I tried to keep my eye on her, but she was lost within a minute’s time.
I wanted to forget my worries, losing myself in the beat, until I heard distinct screaming coming from a distance. I reluctantly turned my head to see her spewing vitriol in Tommy’s scrawny face. He did not look amused.
I rushed over to the scene, Jillian following close behind.
“What do you want?” she shouted at me. “You think I came here with you because I still have feelings for you? I don’t. I came here to give this worthless pile of garbage a piece of my mind.”
Tommy took this as an opening to motion for Alexander. I looked for Jillian’s hand to scramble away from this mess. But there was only one problem. Her hand was balled up in a fist and thrown wildly before I could do anything about it. She struck Stephanie on the jaw like a veteran. I could see Tommy pointing and laughing as she laid on the ground.
I picked Jillian up and tossed her over my shoulder. I zigged and zagged my way through the crowd before anyone could stop me. “I want to go back,” she screams. But we’ll never go back to one of Tommy’s parties. They’re not fun anymore.