“Who invited him?” Angie said in a whisper as she leaned over to her friend covering the side of her mouth with her palm. She eyed their classmate from afar.
Casey shrugged her shoulders. “How am I supposed to know? I’m not hosting the party.” She took a drink from her red plastic cup and smiled. “God, this is so good!”
Angie jumped and turned to face her friend. She looked at her quizzically. Why was it a good thing Allen was there?
Casey noticed Angie staring and she pointed into her cup with a wide grin. “Mom and dad haven’t let me have soda in so long.”
“They’re trying to cut out sugar, which means I have to cut out sugar.” Casey said with a groan. She rolled her eyes and put one hand on her hip. “I mean, they can make themselves suffer all they want, it’s their lives, but why drag me into it?”
Angie nodded absentmindedly. She was already looking back at Allen, who was leaning against the back wall alone. He didn’t even have a drink in his hand. Angie followed his gaze as he watched people walk by him, none of them bothering to cast him a quick glance him.
Angie peeled her eyes away from Allen and turned her head only to see Casey right in her face. She had a deadpan expression.
“Are you listening to me?” Casey asked.
“What was the last thing I said?”
Angie opened her mouth but nothing came out. In fact, she had forgotten Casey was beside her let alone having a conversation with her.
Casey sighed but she was smiling. She downed the rest of her soda and placed the empty cup on a nearby coffee table. Casey stepped over one of their classmates lying on the floor – he was fine, conscious even – Angie had no idea why he was on the ground but she was afraid to question it. Angie watched as Casey got farther away and felt her face grow hotter and hotter the closer Casey got to Allen.
What was she doing? They had agreed to stay together during this party. Why was Casey going toward Allen? As far as Angie knew, Allen and Casey had never spoken to each other before. They didn’t have classes together, Allen probably had no idea Casey existed.
Angie gasped when she saw Casey take Allen by the hand and pull him away from the wall. He looked as shocked as she did. Angie could see his mouth moving as he was being dragged but Casey never looked back and said a word to them.
Angie wrung her hands together nervously. Were they coming over here? Casey was totally bringing Allen over here. Why? Why would Casey do that?
Angie and Allen had a couple classes together, but she didn’t think he knew she existed. Angie always sat in the back of the class, Allen always in front. Allen always raised his hand and participated in class, Angie always had her head bowed with her phone under her desk texting Casey. In between texts she would stare and admire the back of Allen’s head.
Casey arrived standing in front of Angie. She pulled Allen closer forcing him to stand beside her. She smiled looking back and forth between the two and motioned with her hands for them to get together.
“Have fun. I’m gonna get more soda.” Casey announced. She picked up her empty cup from the table and disappeared into the crowd.
Angie watched her walk away. She wanted to call out to her friend but no words would come out. The place was too crowded anyway; Angie doubted Casey would hear her. Or she’d just ignore her friend’s pleas.
She slowly turned to look at Allen. Yep, he was still there. Right in front of her. Staring into her eyes.
Angie pressed her lips together in embarrassment and looked at the ground. She played with the curls of her hair twirling her finger around.
Angie’s eyes grew wide still staring at the floor. He spoke. What did that mean? What should she do? What did he want?
Allen’s face came into view upside down as he bent over to look at Angie’s face. She’d press it into the ground if that wouldn’t be deemed weird… then again, that kid was still lying on the floor. Maybe she should join him.
Instead Angie stiffened standing tall again. Allen jumped standing upright again. He looked at her with concern – or was it nerves? Did he think she was a freak?
“Are you okay?” he asked.
Angie nodded. It was a lie, but what else could she say? Nothing, apparently. She hadn’t spoken since he stepped into her bubble space.
“Look, I don’t really know why that girl brought me over here. If you want me to leave, I will.” Allen said. He jerked his thumb over his shoulder pointing back to the wall.
Once again, Angie had opened her mouth but nothing came out. He stared at her expectantly. Angie felt her face flush again. The room was beginning to feel like a desert. Did no one know how to work an air conditioner? This place was packed with people, turn a fan on! And was that B.O. she smelled? She hoped it wasn’t her.
“Yeah… Okay. I’m going to uh, go back. See ya.” Allen said slowly backing away. When he turned his back and began walking away, it was then Angie noticed she had her nose in her armpit. What was wrong with her?
She stiffened again bringing her arm down by her side. She looked around hoping no one else saw that. When Angie glanced to her right she saw Casey shaking her head. Of course. Of all the people to see what an embarrassment Angie was.
Casey made a confused face and mouthed, “What are you doing?”
Angie shrugged. She didn’t have a good answer for her and she certainly wasn’t going to shout across the room.
Casey pointed and Angie read her lips again. Angie shook her head in response. No, she was not going to follow him.
Casey narrowed her eyes and pointed to Allen again. She said something different, but it was through gritted teeth so Angie couldn’t make out what she was trying to say. She could guess though.
Angie sighed turning her head to look at Allen from afar again. He was leaning against the wall again watching the bustle of party-goers around him. Why did he even come if he was just going to stand by himself and not mingle with anyone?
She looked down at herself. Oh, right.
Angie cast a side glance at Casey not wanting to meet her friend’s gaze. Casey stood with both hands on her hips staring Angie down like a disappointed mother.
This was it. Angie drew in a sharp breath and took a step forward. She stepped over the kid lying on the floor – he was playing a game on his phone now – she weaved in and out of the crowd of kids. No one noticed her as she pushed through them.
When she made it to Allen she stood in front of him. He didn’t notice her right away. He was staring at a couple of boys playing foosball. Angie suddenly couldn’t move now. Her feet were planted into the ground and the rest of her body felt numb. She wasn’t sure if this was as far as she was getting or if she was going to fall flat on her face.
Allen faced forward again. They locked eyes right away and Allen gasped surprised. Angie swallowed a lump in her throat. She was just as surprised as he was.
Yet, as they stared at each other, Angie felt the heat disperse from her cheeks. The feeling came back to her legs. Her heart sped up a little bit but she didn’t know if that was from nerves or because Allen had seen her again.
He remained silent and Angie couldn’t blame him. In fact, she wouldn’t blame him if he left the party right then and there. Could this be classified as stalking? Maybe, she wasn’t sure. She was being a creep at the very least.
Angie cleared her throat and scooted closer to the wall. She stood beside him pressing her back against the wall. She turned to look in the opposite direction as though she didn’t notice he was there.
He was still silent and so was she. All Angie could hear with their classmates talking, shouting, playing games… Was Allen still standing there or did he talk that as an opportunity to run?
Angie bowed her head to the ground and slowly lifted it to the left hoping Allen was still there.
He was. She lifted her head all the way – he had to be at least a foot taller than she. They locked eyes again.
Allen smiled. Angie couldn’t help but smile back.