The others roared with laughter as I spit it out and tried to wipe the excess off of my tongue with my finger. "Hahaha! Take it easy, babe! It's not APPLE JUICE!" Kristin giggled. Despite the fact that I was covered in alcohol and had just made a complete fool out of myself, I laughed right along with them. When I looked around me, even Sebastian was grinning quietly. It's so rare to see a full smile on his face. It was so beautiful to catch a glimpse of it. Even Scout chuckled a bit, instead of shooting daggers at me like he usually did. And at once, I was a part of the group. I fit! I couldn't believe that I actually fit!
"Thatta boy!" Cyrus said, patting me hard on the back and making me cough a bit more. "Now then, why don't we slow this party down a bit and mix this with something, huh?"
"You're supposed to MIX this with something?" I asked.
"You are if you want your liver and kidneys to survive the night, yes." He said. "Well, unless you're Kriegar. But he's a special case."
"He's 'special' in MOST cases." Scout added.
"Nothing special about me. The rest of you are just pussies, that's all." Kriegar replied, and chugged back the bottle for a healthy dose. How in the hell can he DO that, anyway? That shit tastes like a boiling hot bottle of bleach mixed with cheap cologne!
"Dexter, why don't you run over and get us some coke or something." Dex whined and clung to my side even tighter. "Dex?" Cyrus repeated, and with a pout, he let me go. "He'll be here when you get back. I promise." He smiled in my direction, and Dex got up to run towards the drink table and coolers, nearly toppling over along the way. I swear that kid is gonna break his neck running like that one day.
So there we sat, all of us. For the next hour I sipped coke mixed with that horrible devil's brew added to it. The coke helped, but not that much. Still, with every sip it got easier to take. My throat seemed to get loose, and almost go numb. After a while, it actually started to taste kinda good. My whole body felt relaxed and tension free...and suddenly my smile became so 'easy'. Someone could have read me a random name out of the phone book and I would have giggled myself silly. Dex, who had curled up next to me again the instant he returned, was sharing a cup with me, the both of us taking sips back and forth. And then he craned his neck forward, and kissed me sweetly on the lips. My first reaction, as always, was to back away from it. I was in public. People were here, they were watching. Kyla was watching. To be seen kissing another boy was...a terrifying idea. And yet, when he leaned forward again to steal another kiss from me, I let him do it. In fact, I even allowed myself to enjoy it a little, as his tongue shyly moved in between my lips, and his hand ran a small circle on my stomach. Then he smiled at me, laid his head back on my shoulder, and snuggled up again. I peeked over to see if Kyla had seen that...and the look on her face...I couldn't really read it. I think she blamed it more on them than she did on me, but there was no confusion that it had actually happened. And when our eyes met, she looked away. And I just didn't care.
I heard some movement behind me, and Cyrus scooted down a bit to sit at my side. He pointed out to someone walking across the beach and asked me, "Wesley...who is that?"
"The boy. The one walking over past the radio. Who is that?"
I peered out and saw that same alluring youngster that had me so captivated earlier. "Oh him? That's Jack's cousin, Dallas. He lives around here somewhere."
"I see. Very interesting." He said softly. Dallas had that amazing glow about him that no one else seemed to notice. But I could see it. In fact, I could feel it. And it kept my attention focused on him at all times. "Invite him over." Cyrus said.
"What?" That certainly snapped me out of my thoughts.
"Invite him over to join us. I'd like to talk to him."
"Um...I don't know if he'll..."
"Don't worry about all of that. Just go over, and ask him to sit with us. We'll take it from there." His voice was calm but commanding. There was no room to doubt his order, no matter how pleasantly he delivered it.
"O-o-ok..." I said, and I stood up. My head was spinning a little bit, but I still had my balance. Besides, it's not like I had that much to drink. Geez, I'm surprised that I drank anything at all. This is so not like me.
"And hey, bring us a new bottle, will ya?" John Boy said, tossing the empty 151 bottle in my direction. I caught it one handed, and he smiled warmly at me. I'm surprised I caught it at all, much less when I'm this intoxicated. But somehow....it was easy. Besides, I could never figure out how John Boy could throw it to me with such accuracy. I suppose it was easy for him too.
I took the bottle and walked towards the party, looking behind me every few steps as the others watched from the rocks. Then I approached Dallas slowly, so as not to frighten him off. "Um...hey, Dallas."
"Hey, Wes." He looked away from my eyes, no doubt still affected by my weirdness earlier.
I wasn't quite sure how to even talk to this kid. I didn't even know him. But as I looked back to see Cyrus urging me to do it, I tried to make him an offer. "You know...if you're bored over there...or anything...my friends and I are having a few laughs on the rocks. I mean...if you wanna come over, that would be cool."
Dallas' untouched beauty was so enchanting. Even in his hesitation, he seemed to be perfect. He was definitely a Sebastian in the making. He looked over at the others on the rocks, then back down at his feet. "Jack says I'm not supposed to talk to those guys. He says...they're weird."
"Well, I'm over there. And I'm not weird, am I?" I asked him.
"Um...I dunno..." He said.
"It'll be fun. My friend Cyrus...he wants to talk to you."
"Yeah. He thinks you're cool enough to sit with us. He's the one that told me to come ask you." I got more confidence as I watched him take the bait.
"Well..." He said, looking back to see if his cousin was watching. "...I dunno.." He said again, a blush creeping into his cheeks as he struggled with the desire to see what was going on over there. Dallas looked down at the empty bottle in my hand. "D-d-do I have to drink?"
I sorta moved the bottle around to my back to keep it out of his sight. "Huh? No. Of course not. Dallas, you don't have to drink anything. Promise."
He thought about it for a second, peeking back over at his cousin before looking me in the eye. "...Maybe....for a few minutes or something..."
He started to give in, and that's when I heard, "Hey faggot! Where have you been keeping yourself these days? I thought maybe you didn't wanna see me any more, sweetheart." I turned to see Quinn standing behind me with three of his buddies, all wearing the same team jacket.
This was more than an insult though, this was an interruption in Cyrus' plan. And I couldn't have that. I turned my back on him and looked at Dallas again. "So what do ya say? He really wants to meet you. They all do."
"Hey! I'm fucking talking to you, pipsqueak!" Quinn said louder, now walking over to us.
The commotion had gotten Jack and Kyla's attention, and when Dallas saw them looking, he shied away from me entirely. "I think I better go. Thanks though." He said, and walked off to be with his cousin and the rest. Dammit!
"You don't hear me talking to you?" Quinn said, storming over, his friends already grinning at the chance to humiliate me again.
"What the fuck is your problem?" I said through gritted teeth. Cyrus asked just ONE favor of me, and I failed him. All because this jerk's got a hard on and is looking for a fight every five minutes.
"Who the hell are you talking to, pee wee?" He said pushing me back a few steps.
"You know, I wouldn't even acknowledge you if you weren't constantly making an ass out of yourself."
"Is that what I'm doing? Huh? Making an ass out of myself?" He pushed me again.
"Is this what you do? You try to make yourself look like a badass in front of these people by picking on somebody smaller than you? Is that how you get your jollies?" I said, provoking him even more.
"Maybe it is! What the fuck are you gonna do about it, faggot!" He pushed me even harder this time, but my body began to react. I couldn't explain it, but it suddenly swelled up with this immense energy. It felt like an entire army was behind me. Inside me. I was practically invinceable. And my muscles seemed to grow and tighten, my feet took their balance in the sand, and I stared directly into his eyes, refusing to back down any further.
"Don't put your hands on me again. I'm warning you." I said, letting the empty bottle in my hand slide down secretly until I was grabbing it by the neck. Quinn laughed at me, looking around at his friends.
"Can you believe this kid?" He said. And even though he didn't touch me, even though his head was turned, even though I could have walked away and left it at that...something inside of me snapped. I could feel the eyes of Cyrus and his gang watching from the rocks, not moving, but waiting. This was my moment. And I wasn't holding back any more. I didn't have to.
Before Quinn could turn around, before the smile left his arrogant face, I swung forward with that empty liquor bottle and connected it to the side of his head! The glass shattered into a million pieces and he never saw it coming. His friends jumped back in shock! They covered their mouths with their hands, and their eyes popped out of their sockets. They weren't prepared for someone to actually strike back for a change. The laughs stopped, and just as a warm trickle of blood ran down the side of Quinn's cheek, I dropped what was left of the bottle and swung a fist to hit him in the face! He reeled backwards, dazed for the first few blows before he was actually able to defend himself. I heard both screams and cheers from the other people on the beach, but I simply kept wailing on him with everything that I had. It felt like it was all happening in slow motion, my fists swinging wildly while he tried desperately to swing back. Every punch relieved me. My father hates me, my mother doesn't wanna defend me, Kyla doesn't understand me, Sebastian doesn't love me, Darryl framed me to get me here...fuck the whole goddam world! The whole beach seemed to rush over to see what was going on, but there was no time to break it up. I was much too angry to let them stop me from giving this asshole what he deserved. His head was still bleeding pretty badly, but he attempted to fight back regardless. I took a shot in the nose, one in the side, and one in the mouth, but kept swinging. And before I knew it, I had knocked him clear back on his ass.
"Son of a BITCH!" I shouted, and kicked him hard in the stomach. "And the NEXT time you fuck with me..." I kicked a huge cloud of dirt in his face. "...The next time you even call my fucking NAME..." I said, stomping down on his chest. "...You get more of the same! Got it?" I gave him another frustrated kick, and spit blood on the back of his jacket. Then, I looked up, my eyes connected with every single person in that instant crowd that had gathered around us. I stared them all down, and dared someone to step forward. Anybody! None of Quinn's friends bothered to step forward. In fact, they looked as if they were waiting for MY permission to even help him up off of the ground. I looked down at he mess in front of me, Quinn's blood on my shirt, bruises on the end of my fists, and the dumbfounded looks on the faces of everyone around us. I felt a river of blood run out of my nose, and my cheek was slightly swollen from the shots I had taken to the face...but I was the one still standing. It didn't even hurt all that much. Not really. And to think that I was actually SCARED of that asshole! I was literally quaking with the adrenaline rush running through me, and a smile spread out on my face. Kyla and Jack were horrified, and Dallas was standing on his tip toes to try to look over everyone's shoulders. I turned my back on them all, grabbed another bottle of free liquor and a twelve pack of beer from the table, and looked back out to the rocks. Where Cyrus and the others were waiting for me. All standing on their feet, feeding me the energy to do what I just did. Filling me up. I was stronger than ever.
I came back, and offered the twelve pack to the others, as if it was a gift. And everybody took one. Cyrus gave me a look of such unbelievable pride. Now THAT was th reward that I was looking for. "You ok there, tiger?" He asked, wiping some of the blood away from the side of my mouth. I winced a bit from the sting of it, but smiled anyway.
"I feel great!" I said, wiping my mouth and nose off on the short sleeve of my shirt. "Just great!"
He ruffled my hair again as we watched Quinn limp with some assistance from his friends to sit in a dark corner of the pit. And with a chuckle, he asked me, "Hey Wes...what did you do with the last hour of your life?"
I laughed outloud at the question. "I KICKED SOME BITCH'S ASS!!!"
And the others all shouted out, "YEAHHHH!!!!" in unison around me, shaking their beers up and pouring them out all over me! The fizz sprayed me from every angle and showered me with alcohol. I opened my mouth to catch some of it, but that was definitely not the purpose. Once they ran out of ammo, Dex jumped into my lap and rolled around like a wild ferret, trying to soak up the mess into his own clothes while I laughed at his frenzied effort. It was a breakthrough in everything that I knew to be real. And I could have cried from the joy I felt at that moment. This was the kind of love I had been looking for my whole life. Right here...surrounded by the family I needed. God, it felt good.
Cyrus, leaned forward, and kissed me deeply on the lips. I didn't pull away, not at all. Even with the pressure on my bruised lips hurting me. I reached up and held the back of his head as our embrace became more passionate. My soul was his now. He could have it.
He leaned back, and said, "Why don't you come home with us tonight and celebrate? We'll make a space for you." I looked into his eyes, and with a smile, I gave him the answer he wanted.
"Where else am I gonna go?"