The Sea of Tranquility(9)

by Katja Millay



Drew pulls into my driveway just after midnight and I know immediately that no good can come of this. I put down the pencil I’ve been using to mark down measurements with and watch him get out of the car and walk towards the garage.

“Dude, I need a favor.”

“Of course you do.”

“I need you to take Nastya.” Take Nastya? At first I wonder where he wants me to take her, until I glance down the driveway and see what he means.

“What? No way.” I look past him to the dark figure slumped over in the front seat of the car. “What did you do to her? Is she even conscious?”

“Nothing. No,” he says defensively, following my eye-line back to the car. So now we’re both standing in my garage, his arms crossed, my hands shoved in my pockets, watching through the windshield of his car for signs of movement. “She just drank too much.”

“Too much of what?”

“Flame throwers.” He avoids my eyes when he says it.

“What ass**le gave her flame throwers?” He looks at me without answering which is answer enough. He’s an idiot. A flame thrower is grain alcohol mixed with cherry Kool-Aid. He might as well have chloroformed her. “What were you thinking? She weighs like 25 pounds.”

“Yeah, OK, Dad. Thanks for the lecture, but it’s not really solving the problem. Besides, how was I supposed to know she couldn’t handle it? She looks like a badass.”

“A 25-pound badass.” It’s true. She does look like a badass. I’ve seen her arms, and she’s ripped which is kind of weird and scary all at once because it just seems all wrong on her. She’s really small and fragile-looking, and at the same time, it’s like she’s some exotic teenage mercenary, all rock solid, dressed in black, ready to take somebody down. None of it makes any sense. It’s kind of disconcerting. She’s like an optical illusion. You look at it from one angle and you see the picture and you think you’ve got a lock on it and then it shifts and the image changes to something entirely different and you can’t even find the original picture anymore. It’s a serious mindfuck.

“Josh, seriously. I can’t take her home like this and if I miss curfew again my mom will rip my balls off.” He’s not really making his case with that point. I’d pay good money to watch Drew finally get nailed for something. Drew’s mom is the sweetest woman on earth, but there’s one person who can piss her off like no one else and he’s standing in front of me, begging for a stay of execution, or maybe just a stay of castration. I won’t say no. He knew it when he came here. The asking is just a formality. I never say no to Drew.

I walk over to the car and open the passenger door. I try to wake her up and ask if she can walk into the house. She stirs a little and opens her eyes. I’m not even sure they focus on me and then her head drops forward onto her chest like it’s too heavy for her to hold up and I know there’s no way she’ll be walking anywhere. She barely even moves when I drag her out of the seat and pick her up to carry her into the house.

“Shit, Drew,” I mutter.

He leans against his car and exhales. “True story.”



When I pry my eyes open, it takes me a minute to try to figure out where I am. And I do try, really try, to figure out where I am and I have no freaking clue and that seriously scares the crap out of me. I reach up to brush my hair back out of my eyes so I can look around and attempt to determine what the hell is going on. The only three things that I know for certain took place last night are that one‌—‌small elves climbed up my body and tied my hair into a mass of tiny knots, two‌—‌I must have slept with my mouth open because something crawled into it and died and three‌—‌I was sucked through a vortex into some animated world where an anvil was dropped on my head.

I lift my hand to my forehead and press, trying to relieve some of the pounding as I attempt, not without effort, to sit up. I’m on someone’s couch. Someone’s couch. Someone’s couch. And as soon as I remember, I’m wishing I could forget.

“Good morning, Sunshine!” Josh Fucking Bennett. By now, I’m pretty sure that if I were to find his birth certificate that is exactly what it would say. I don’t have time to figure out why I’m here or what he’s playing at with the fake, overwrought cheeriness, because he doesn’t even take a breath and I wonder if the real Josh Bennett has been abducted by aliens, or maybe the elves carted him off after they got done with my hair. “I’m glad you’re awake. I was starting to worry that you might not be feeling well. You know, with all the projectile vomiting last night.” I wince, from either physical pain or embarrassment, I’m not sure which. He sees my discomfort but it doesn’t stop him. I think he might actually be encouraged. “No, don’t you worry your pretty little head over it,” he says with mock sincerity, then pauses, looking me over. “Well, today, maybe not so pretty, and last night, definitely not so pretty, but still, don’t worry about it. It only took four or five towels to soak it up and I think the smell will go away after a day or two. Hopefully it won’t stick that badly to your hair. I did what I could, but a ponytail probably would have been helpful.” Josh Bennett cleaned up my puke. Fabulous. He’s getting even now and having far too much fun doing it. I can’t decide which is worse, angry dad Josh Bennett or sarcastic, mocking Josh Bennett. I’d like to punch them both in the throat right now but I’m not sure I can lift my arm.

Why the hell am I here? The last I knew, I was with Drew, at an overcrowded party, drinking something that tasted suspiciously not like alcohol. I look down at myself, eternally grateful for the fact that I am still wearing the same clothes I was in last night, even if they have what I am now sure is throw up splattered on them. At least Josh Bennett didn’t have to strip me and let me wear his boxer shorts. The thought gives me little comfort. Maybe because I’m just now realizing that, while my clothes are still on, my bra is suspiciously MIA. I try to look around to see if it’s lying on the floor or something, but it really hurts to move my head.

He hasn’t stopped talking, but I have no idea what he’s saying, even though his voice seems to be inside my skull. He’s still on the ponytail thing. Something about them being a requirement for drunk girls. He’s doing nothing to lower his voice. In fact, he might actually believe he’s on a stage somewhere projecting to the back of a theater, because that’s how loud his voice is. He’s obviously annoyed and why shouldn’t he be? It’s the ass-crack of dawn on a Saturday morning and he’s up with a strange girl on his couch‌—‌the same strange girl who projectile vomited in his bathroom last night while he tried to hold back her hair. I think I may just have to cut him some slack. Like a whole crapload of slack, especially when he goes into the kitchen and returns with a glass of ice water which I desperately need right now. I look at the glass in his hand as he offers it to me. It’s a pathetic, short glass tumbler. Is he some sort of conservationist? I’m going to need about eighteen of those right now. I take it, gratefully bringing it up to my lips and immediately gulping it down. The liquid is at the back of my throat before it’s coming right back up again. What the hell? Vodka. I spit it out, not even conscious of where it goes, and start retching. My stomach clenches and convulses but nothing else comes up. I glare at Josh Bennett who is staring at me now with a look of what? Disbelief? Repentance? Fear?

“Shit! I didn’t think you’d actually drink it.” He grabs the glass out of my hand. What did he think I was going to do with it? Bathe? “I thought you’d be able to tell.” He looks at me with apology. “It was a joke. Obviously a shitty one,” he mutters under his breath as he runs back to the kitchen and returns with yet another towel. This boy will be doing laundry all day. I wonder how he’s going to explain this to his parents. It’s a miracle they aren’t out here already, wanting to know what’s going on. I yank the towel out of his hands and get down on the floor to clean up my own mess. Even if this one was his fault, I’d rather not owe him anything else. He stands over me while I mop up what remains of the vodka I sprayed across the floor. I realize what I must look like, down on all fours, my hair, my face, my clothes, a reflection of the cruel joke that has been this night.

I look up and glower at him, angry just for the fact that he has witnessed my utter humiliation and that, as much as he’s glorying in my downfall, I owe him some debt of gratitude. Drew, on the other hand, is another story. I owe him a fate worse than death. I think I may have preferred to have him dump me on my front porch for my aunt to find rather than putting me at the mercy of Josh Bennett. As soon as the thought crosses my mind, I know that maybe it’s not so true. But it feels like it should be true. I realize I’ve been glaring at him through my entire thought process and I wonder what my face must have betrayed because he’s smiling at me now. Smiling. And it’s almost a real smile, though I can’t be positive, because I’ve never really seen him smile. At school he wears the same unchanging expression, day in and day out, like nothing in the world touches him on any level. And that brings me back to my alien abduction theory, which I’m starting to consider as a real possibility, when he speaks.

“You really want to tell me to f**k off right now don’t you, Sunshine?” He’s not done playing with me yet. I narrow my eyes when he calls me Sunshine again, which is a tactical error; because now he knows it annoys me and I have a feeling he’s enjoying annoying me. “What? Sunshine fits you. It’s bright and warm and happy. Just. Like. You.” And that’s when I lose it. I can’t help it. As shitty as I feel right now, as stupid as I look, as angry as I am at myself, at Drew, at Josh Fucking Bennett and drinks that taste deceptively like cherry Kool-Aid and nothing else. The ridiculousness of this whole situation slams into me all at once, and for the first time in forever, I laugh. Maybe it’s not even real laughter. Maybe it’s just the deranged cackling of a very unstable girl, but I don’t care, because it feels good and I don’t think I could control it now if I tried. Now the smile is gone from his face. Moved from his to mine, and he’s wearing my confusion. He’s looking at me like the insane girl I am. I may have actually surprised him. You win, Josh Bennett. You earned it.

When my hysterics subside, he takes the vodka-laden towel from me and goes back into the kitchen. I study the room for the first time. It’s simple. There isn’t much in it that’s modern. Almost everything in here, except for the couch, is made out of wood, which shouldn’t surprise me. None of it goes together. I don’t think any two pieces of furniture in this room match in any way. Every piece is a different style, a different type of wood, a different finish. I wonder if he built any of it. The oddest thing is that there are no fewer than three coffee tables in here. The one in front of the couch I’m sitting on is really nothing to look at. It’s all square edges and plain and the finish is wearing off across the surface where people probably spent years putting down glasses without using coasters. It might not seem out of place, if not for the fact that there are two more across the room, and they are anything but plain. The two of them are from another world and I walk over to get a closer look at them. They don’t even appear to be coffee tables in the traditional sense, but I don’t know what else to call them. They look old. Ornate and understated at the same time. I have no idea why they would be shoved, unceremoniously, against the wall on the far side of the room. I kneel down and reach out to run my fingers along one of the curved legs of the table closest to me, but then I hear Josh coming and I head back over to the couch. I don’t need him thinking I’m, thinking I’m what? Fondling his furniture? I don’t know. I just don’t want him thinking anything.