Authors: Lili Wilkinson
Tags: #JUV026000, #book
âMaybe later,' he says.
I want to burst open with joy and pride. Hah! He wants to be here with me, Tahni! Not dancing with you. Put that in your plastic cup and chew on it!
Tahni looks at me for the first time since she stumbled over here, and I'm a little scared by her expression. It's not the kind of face that you point towards your best friend. I squirm. But then she smiles, and it's like clouds racing away and the sun coming out.
âDid you see Nina's bedroom?' she says, giggling. âShe has a
âReally?' I ask. âWhat a princess.'
I put my hand on Ben's, and we link our fingers. Tahni's eyes flicker. The clouds return.
âI need another drink,' she says, and wanders away, calling for Chris and his âmagic tongue'. Gross.
Ben and I kiss some more. A popular song comes on, and everyone squeals and rushes to the make-shift dancefloor at the far end of the room. Ben wraps his arms tighter around me.
âYou're not going anywhere,' he says.
I have absolutely no desire to go anywhere. I could quite happily stay here for the rest of my life. I could just sit on this fancy floral sofa and pash Ben until the day I die.
Unfortunately, there are some aspects of living that get in the way of pashing. One of them is my bladder. I give Ben a final, parting kiss, and stand up. He pouts.
âI won't be long,' I say.
âCan you get me a refill on your way back?' he asks, holding up his empty plastic cup.
I smile. Ben winks at me.
âDon't get lost,' he says.
As I negotiate my way through the crowd, I feel as though people are looking at me with respect. Even envy. I am a Real Girl with an Actual Boyfriend. I exist. I have scaled the social ladder. And frankly, I like the view from up here.
I climb the stairs to the bathroom. There's a queue. I'm sure there's another bathroom, but I'm afraid to open any doors in case I disturb carnal activity. There are things a girl doesn't need to see. I wonder if Tahni's managed to clobber Chris Stitz over the head and drag him into a private corner yet.
Two people stumble out of the bathroom. Eww. I hope they didn't do anything on the toilet seat.
A small blonde girl ahead of me in the queue (I don't know her, she must go to another school) is looking a little green.
âAre you okay?' I ask.
âYeah,' she says, swaying a little. âI'm fine.'
The queue moves forward.
âDo you go to school with Nina?' she asks. She seems to be having trouble focussing on my face.
I tell her I do, and ask her how she knows Nina.
âWe do calisthenics together,' she says.
I try not to snort. Tahni and I always laugh at the calisthenics girls. Tahni says they're all called Sharon or Kelly, with long blonde hair in a head-scrapingly tight ponytail, and are only doing calisthenics because they're not bendy enough to do gymnastics.
Right now it looks like this Sharon-Kelly couldn't even walk in a straight line, let alone twirl a baton.
The bathroom door opens, and Sharon-Kelly goes in.
I lean against the wall and wait. I replay the delicious scene when Ben blew Tahni off in my mind. I really don't know why she's being such a cow. I suppose she's jealous.
But she has a new boyfriend every week. Isn't it fair that I get my turn? I've NEVER had a boyfriend before. Maybe she's jealous that mine is better than all of hers put together. But that's what happens when you have standards.
The bathroom door opens, and the Sharon-Kelly comes out. She's looking less green.
âI'm sorry,' she says as she walks past.
I walk into the bathroom.
Sharon-Kelly has thrown up, and she's completely missed the toilet. Actually, it looks like she might have got some in the toilet, because there's vomit on the toilet seat. It is seriously like a scene from that old horror movie where the girl's head spins round and round. Perhaps Sharon-Kelly was practising some kind of Esther Williams-style calisthenics routine, but with vomit instead of water. I am astonished that such a small girl could have so much vomit in her. It
For a moment, I wonder where Nina's mum keeps the cleaning product. I wonder if I can find a mop and some disinfectant. But only for a moment.
Because cleaning up the drunken vomit of some calisthenics girl I met five minutes ago is the kind of thing that Old Midge would do. Boring, responsible Old Midge.
New Midge turns around and walks out.
There's no one queuing behind me, so I saunter down the hallway, and pick a door at random.
Paydirt. It's the master bedroom. There's a moving lump under the covers, but I ignore it and speed past to the ensuite.
Then I pee (relief!), wash my hands, fluff my hair and go back downstairs.
New Midge is confident. New Midge is popular. New Midge is beautiful.
I get Ben another beer, and return to our couch.
Except he isn't there.
My stomach lurches, and I can smell the vomit from the bathroom again. But I tell myself not to be silly. He probably needed to pee, too.
I scout the room to see if he's in the kitchen or coming down the stairs.
I do see him.
But he's not in the kitchen. Or coming down the stairs.
Dancing with Tahni.
Except I'm not sure if you call what they're doing dancing.
She's has her arms wrapped around him, and is pressing her whole body against him. Her head is on his shoulder, her face towards his neck. Is she
his neck? She can't be.
I immediately try to assess Ben's body language. Is he enjoying this? Did he choose to dance with her? Did she force him into it? I can't tell. His hands are on her waist, but he could be gently trying to prise her away. He is nothing if not polite, after all. Surely if he was enjoying it, if he wanted to be there, then he'd have his arms around her. He doesn't. His hands rest uncomfortably on her waist.
I stand there, open-mouthed.
How could she do this to me? She's my best friend, and here she is, sleazing onto my boyfriend! We've been friends since kindergarten!
This has to stop. I have to do something. People are looking at me, looking at Tahni and Ben, whispering, nudging. I am being
. I see a girl with
on her face. Oh no. Not yet. This isn't over yet. Surely Ben's just being polite. Surely.
I march into the crowd, elbowing people aside. Ben doesn't look particularly shocked or guilty when he sees me â I figure this is a good thing.
âYou Australian girls are very friendly,' he says with a lazy smile.
I ignore him, grab Tahni by the shoulders and yank her off Ben. It's like trying to get a limpet off a rock. She clings to him and makes a pathetic drunken moaning noise.
âWhat do you think you're doing?' I say, shaking her.
When I let go, she immediately tries to attach herself to Ben again. I notice his neck has lipstick on it. Tahni's make-up is smeared all over her face. I pull her away again. Her face twists slowly into a weird combination of hurt and angry and apologetic.
âWhat?' she slurs. âWhat's your problem? We're just having a dance.'
I can't bear to look at her. She is so pathetic.
What happened to the crazy, happy girl who used to make up extra calisthenics competition categories, like Hair-Bleaching and Eye-Squinting and Cat-Fighting?
People are still staring at us. If this was a movie, I'd slap Tahni, and she'd vomit on my shoes.
Tahni shoves her face towards mine. She stinks of alcohol.
âYou think you're so perfect,' she says loudly. âYou think that you're all perfect with your perfect family and perfect grades and your spelling and your perfect perfect boyfriend.'
I don't say anything. I want to say
Yes! Yes I do! I do think
everything's pretty perfect right now. Until you came along and ruined
âWell guess what,' Tahni says. I think she's crying. âNot everything is perfect. Life isn't perfect. I'm not perfect. And I'm sick of being the dumb one. I'm sick of being the funny, stupid sidekick to little miss perfecty-perfect.'
I feel like she's slapped
across the face. âWhat are you talking about?' I say. âYou do nothing but tease me about how square I am, and how I'll end up lonely with cats.'
As I say this, I'm suddenly aware that I'm surrounded by people. I don't want Ben to hear this. I turn to him to see if he's laughing at me, but he's not there. I can't see him anywhere.
âThat was the only thing that was
!' says Tahni. She's really sobbing now, thick full tears that smear down through her eyeliner and mascara, making wet, black trails down her cheeks. âThe one thing you weren't perfect at. The one thing I can do that you can't. And you stole that, too, with your perfect, too-good-to-be-true boyfriend.'
my perfect, too-good-to-be-true boyfriend? I'm looking around. I want to find him and get back to the happy, glowing, king-and-queen-of-the-party feeling. This is not my idea of fun.
Tahni glares at me. For a moment I think she's going to say something else, or throw up on my shoes, but she doesn't.
âI need another drink,' she says.
Chris Stitz appears beside her. âI think you've had enough,' he says.
Tahni slumps against him and presses her face up against his neck. âChris,' she says. âLet's go upstairs. I want another hickey.'
She tries to put her hand down his pants, but he takes it gently and places it on his shoulder. Then he wraps an arm around her, and gives me a sort of wry smile. âI'll take her home,' he says. âI've got money for a taxi, and she lives near me.'
It's only when he's dragged her from the room that I remember I am supposed to be sleeping over at her house.
I go into the kitchen to find Ben. He's resting against the counter, another beer in his hand, talking to another blonde girl I don't know. He's leaning towards her with his little half-smile.
smile! He only looks at
, with those warm eyes. She's totally into him â staring up at him through her slutty eyelash implants, playing with her platinum hair extensions. Her skirt is very short. She laughs, and reaches out and touches his arm in an âOh, you!' sort of way.
Ben glances up and sees me. He winks at me and mouths
and waves me back into the living room.
I am suddenly very out of my depth. I go cold, and start to feel queasy.
The party isn't fun anymore. The music is too loud. There are too many people. They're all drunk and pawing each other like animals. Three girls are doing vodka shots off the coffee table. Another girl is dancing wearing only her bra and undies. Five boys are having a skolling competition in the kitchen. The floral couch is now occupied by a couple who seem to be practically having sex.
My stomach is churning and I can smell the calisthenics vomit from the bathroom. Every time I close my eyes I can see it, splattered all over the floor and the toilet seat. Little chunks of carrot and pasta.
I need fresh air.
I stumble out the front and throw up into the perfectly manicured lavender bushes. I feel like I've come full circle. I should have done it on the way in and saved myself all the bother.
I want to go home.
I find my mobile and check the time. It's 3 am.
Mum did say I could call at any time of the night.
I'm shivering. It's not cold, but I can't stop shaking. I just want to go home.
I dial Mum's mobile number. She answers after three rings, her voice all sleepy and confused.
âMidge?' she says. âIs everything all right? Are you okay?'
âI'm fine, Mum,' I say. âCan you come and get me? I want to come home.'
âOf course, sweetheart,' she says. âI'll be there in ten minutes.'
âI'm sorry it's so late,' I say. I am trying hard not to cry.
âI'll see you soon,' she says, and hangs up.
It's the longest ten minutes of my life. I huddle on Nina's front steps, trying not to cry, and trying not to think about Tahni and Ben and the blonde girls and the party. I'm also trying not to think about the bitter taste of vomit in the back of my throat. I could go inside for water, but the thought of seeing Ben with the eyelash-batting, hair-extension-twirling, arm-touching blonde almost makes me throw up again.
I try to distract myself with spelling difficult words. I try to think of one for every letter of the alphabet. Accommodate. Barbiturate. Camaraderie.
I can't get Tahni's tear-and-make-up-smeared face out of my mind. I can't stop seeing her pressed up against Ben.
Diphtheria. Exacerbate. Furlough.
Ben leaning towards the blonde girl. Vomit all over the bathroom.
Gnarl. Harangue. Intravenous.
I'm nearly at the end of the alphabet (ukulele, vicissitudes, witticise) by the time Mum arrives.
âYou're sure you're okay?' she asks.
I nod. âSorry to get you out of bed,' I say. Then I notice what she's wearing. âWhy are you wearing work clothes?' I ask. âHave you been home?'
Mum laughs. âI fell asleep at the office,' she says. âWith my head on the desk. It's lucky you rang. I might have been there all night.'
I reach forward and turn the heating on full blast.
âWhy didn't you go home with Tahni?' Mum asks. âDid you have a fight?'
I swallow. âNo,' I say. âShe wanted to stay at the party, and I was tired and wanted to go home.'
Mum says nothing. I don't think she believes me.