Normally, I enjoyed spending time with my family during the holidays, but I just wasn’t feeling it this year. My eldest cousin Roman, had taken notice in the midst of the family reunion happening in his backyard and mentioned a bonfire that a few of his friends were invited to on the other side of town. I wasn’t in the mood to party, but I was told there would be alcohol and weed and I was in desperate need of some right now. I begrudgingly agreed to accompany him despite knowing I'd have to watch how much I drank around Roman. His alcohol tolerance was pitiful and his mother would chew my head off if she found out I wasn't looking after him.
My baleful thoughts had grown exponentially the moment I arrived to my family's ranch home. Especially when they started asking about my mother, who had chosen to stay in New York instead of joining us this year. Although things between us weren't sunshine and rainbows at the moment, I still wished she'd understand things didn't always have to be her way or the Devil's way.
That battle had started when I was thirteen and I had picked up a thing or two about self-defense from the streets of the Upper Side of Manhattan. Meeting Carlos and the rest of the crew in high school had done nothing but allow me to gain a pack mentality, in which I had taken advantage of and used it against the bullies in school who dared to try and mess with me.
Sophomore year of high school was a particularly hard one, considering there were a significant amount of deaths in my family and group of friends during those three hundred and sixty-five days. My fists had no self-control at the time and had blurred the lines between being trolled and being bullied and reacted to any minuscule comment that had triggered me.
My mother had been the one to show up every single time to the principal's office. She wouldn't look at me until we left the building and walked through the door of our tiny two-bedroom apartment. Not a single word escaped her mouth until dinner was done. It was almost as if she knew the guilt was already eating through my soul and she was merely letting nature run its course. Her silence had always been worse than her sermons.
Hence why I had to get away from her this year for Christmas. I couldn't stand to hear her lecture me once again about my smoking and drinking habits. There was only so much my patience could tolerate and it was running on thin ice every single time in her presence lately.
Roman killed the engine to his Mustang and passed over the lit joint as we exited his car and headed down to Sylvan Beach, where the party was in full swing. The fire pit stood proudly a few yards away from the calm water, a few sitting logs placed around it for people to sit on. A couple of coolers and kegs were scattered about on the sand and I wondered which one was harboring the hard liquor.
I could hear my mother's voice in the back of my head at the mere thought of grabbing a bottle. I despised how she had planted it there without my permission and how I mostly drank to tune it out. I would've talked to my therapist about it, but seeing as I told him to fuck off and have a nice day during our last pricey session, I didn't think it would go over too well.
Before I could even open a beer, another familiar voice stopped me dead in my tracks. I looked up, blew smoke into the frigid December air and noticed just a couple of yards away near the waves stood Sophia. She was arguing with someone. A guy from the looks of it. Not the same one I saw her with at the airport. No. This one was definitely not him. This guy was taller and looked like he kept himself in shape out here in the country and of course looked nothing like the creepy heavy-set guy older guy who Sophia seemed in a hurry wait to get away from before we ran into each other at the airport. That guy gave me really bad vibes and I wasn't sure why Sophia had taken a liking to him.
Her love life was none of my business. And I had to keep telling myself I didn't care. Otherwise, I'd cling to the fact that I didn’t expect this from her. She didn’t look like the type to cheat on someone she cared about. Again, I didn't know that much about her. However, nothing was ever to be taken at face value and Sophia had turned out to be the prime example of that.
As Sophia's mystery guy pulled her into his arms to try and calm her down and sealed the intention with a kiss on her lips, my hunch was pretty much confirmed. I wasn't a jealous person, but I did envy the kind of intimacy he had with her. Sophia had her concrete walls up so high, she had no clue what anyone else could possibly offer her, or vise versa.
I hunkered down into the sand and opened up my beer, blowing away new smoke before I took a sip. As I realized I was paying too much attention to something that didn’t concern me again, I downed the beer in my hand and finished the joint in between my fingers just as Sophia's friend Marina steered away from her circle of friends, and aimed in my direction as soon as she noticed me.
“Hi! I didn’t know you were in town.” She sat beside me, with her own beer in hand. As far as I knew, the legal drinking age here was also twenty-one, but it seemed rules didn’t matter to her in her own town either. I was growing fond of Miss Marina.
“Sophia didn’t mention it?” I asked, as I reached for another beer and opened it.
“Umm...no. She likes to keep her secrets.” she answered, her gaze trailing over to Sophia and her other boyfriend. Huh. I wondered what that was about. Was Sophia keeping secrets from her own best friend too?
Nope. Nope. Nope. Didn't care. I swear I didn't care.
“I can see that,” I agreed with her. Marina chuckled as she shook her head and took a swig from her own beer.
“Don’t take anything that happens tonight personally,” she claimed and I raised an eyebrow at her cryptic warning.
“Why would I?” Before she could answer, Sophia had abruptly joined us, no lover boy in sight.
“What the hell are you doing here?” she asked, her tone radiating exasperation, which I didn’t appreciate. But I did remember what Marina said minutes prior and calmed down. Whatever Sophia was going through, it seemed like she was looking for a punching bag to take it out on. Why people usually picked me as their tool to release baggage, I had no idea.
“I’m just gonna….go anywhere else but here! Bye ya’ll!” Marina slithered away from both of us while I gave some more attention to my beer.
“It's nice to see you too.”
“You didn’t answer the question.”
“Who’s the tone for? Me or the boyfriend?” I fired back and her eyebrows raised in astonishment.
“I hate men.” Her cold statement flowed into the night as she slumped down beside me and started stabbing the sand beside her feet with a broken seashell.
“I can’t say that the feeling is mutual. You seem to be very popular.”
“Why do you say that?” she queried, her head snapping back up to look straight at me. I held up a wavering smile, not exactly sure if I should spill the beans about what I saw at the airport and tonight. It wasn't my business after all.
“I have eyes you know.”
“Hmm. I wasn’t sure if they were working properly. I figured all they were used to seeing is the world spinning into chaos due to all that weed you smoke and all the alcohol you drink.”
“Well, I happen to like my bad habits. Not so sure you like yours anymore,” I countered and she studied me for a moment, before shaking her head full of wild curls.
“Why are you like this?”
“Charming? Yeah, I get that alot,” I interrupted and added a playful smile, which in return made her laugh. I was starting to like that sound. The voice inside my head told me I didn't deserve to hear it. And I drank some more to ignore that message too.
“So, since you’re so devastatingly charming and all, why are you single?” she wondered. I didn’t mind answering the question. It was in fact my most asked one. By my friends and family anyway. I’d had my fair share of relationships. If you could call them that. None of them meant a thing to me. Mostly temporary relationships that were mainly physical. I had no idea what it was like to be in love and from the looks of it, I’m not sure I wanted to find out either.
“Let's just say my exes would never be caught in the Faithful-Girlfriends-Hall-Of-Fame museum. I wasn't sure how much more enticing disappointment I could take from the opposite sex after that. So I decided to live the single life instead,” I answered her honestly, and watched for her reaction. She must be thinking of a thousand reasons as to why they would’ve all decided to be unfaithful to a guy like me. I didn’t care about the reasons anymore and when my thoughts lingered towards my time with them, I always let the weed and alcohol do its job at dismantling their memories. I wasn’t on the hunt for a new girlfriend or even someone to mess around with occasionally again. I spend most of my days trying not to think about all the bad shit I’ve seen and been through. That was enough for me to handle right now.
“Some people don't have that luxury when love is involved,” she finally spoke and rested her head on my shoulder, while the depth of sadness in her unsettling deep brown gaze focused onto the crashing waves before us.
“Truth or dare?” It was Roman's turn to ask me, and I sighed, downing the rest of my beer before I answered. I hated this mindless game. But I was too buzzed to drive myself back to the ranch right now. One round couldn't hurt before I sat somewhere to sober up.
“Dare.” The crowd cheered in relief since everyone had been playing it safe by picking truth so far. Most of the party was crowded around the fire pit now, while the rest were lounging about further down the beach. Sophia being one of them.
“I dare you to kiss a random girl while being blindfolded,” Roman dared, a wicked smile plastered on his stupid face as I winced but nodded, accepting the challenge. I got up from my seat on the log, dusting myself off as he wrapped someone’s scarf around my head. I walked away from the crowd slowly and relied on my sense of smell, heading in the direction of any perfumes I could recognize. To no avail apparently. All I could smell was the water and the smoke coming from the fire pit. When I finally felt like I bumped into someone smaller and softer, I smiled.
Was luck finally on my side tonight?
“I’ve been dared to kiss a random girl. Mind helping a guy out?” I pleaded, using my smile to seal the deal. The person in front of me made no noise. But I felt her move closer. I could tell it was a girl by the familiar soft scent of the perfume she was wearing. I didn't trust my judgement too muc since I was borderline intoxicated. Nevertheless, I know I knew that perfume from somewhere. I had no idea why my heart was pounding suddenly, but it was practically beating out of my chest as I felt her soft lips melt into mine. I reached for my blindfold once my hand cupped her smooth cheek while I deepened the kiss, curious to see who it was I was honored to be kissing, except her hand stopped me. Her lips pulled away from mine and I suddenly felt a draft enveloping my tall frame. At this, I took my blindfold off, disappointing the drunk crowd I had left. I looked around for the mystery girl, but found no one around who could fit the bill.
Whoever this girl had been, I couldn't shake the feeling that I knew her and that it was going to take alot more than my detrimental thoughts, bad habits and my aloofness to get rid of the memory of that kiss.