Sometimes her mind went to very dumb places. Vanessa probably had been inside her car on her way to the party when she wrote the post, safe from being spotted by Ian.
Her randomly walking down the street, even though driving was much faster, at around the same time Ian decided to walk down the same street. It was improbable. The universe would really have to be trying to fuck with her.
Did it matter though, if Ian and Vanessa flirted and make out, maybe have sex? It might be a tad awkward if Vanessa found out they were good friends or if Ian found out about her deal with Vanessa’s dad but it wouldn’t ruin anything. Ian wouldn’t approve but he wouldn’t try to stop her. There was a good chance Vanessa wouldn’t care at all.
The thought bothered her and she couldn’t figure out why.
It wasn’t – couldn’t – be jealousy. Cameron was aware of and met several of Ian’s old girlfriends and one night stands, she hadn’t been annoyed at all. And she didn’t like him in that way at all. He was cool and good-looking but she wasn’t a relationship person, didn’t want or need one.
Cameron made a beeline straight to the refreshment table and poured herself a drink.
The scent of bad breath and sweat was overwhelming and someone here apparently had a thing for really shitty, really loud music. Something to dull the senses was exactly what she needed. Might even make the party tolerable. It was worth any decrease in other departments.
There was no point in seriously attempting to tackle the Vanessa problem tonight. If she knew a damn thing about turning your life around and becoming a model citizen she wouldn’t be doing Park this favor at all.
“Woah, save some for the rest of us. That’s like your third.” He stood to the left of her, filling up his own cup with beer from the other keg. His head barely turned in her direction. He looked too old to be at a party made up of mostly teenagers and the occasional young college kid. In his thirties with a messy untrimmed beard, glasses that hid bright blue eyes, his brown hair was tied into a small ponytail, and his sleeves were rolled up, showing off colorful tattoos covering his arms. Rainbow dragons, by the look of them.
“Who are you, my dad?” Cameron retorted. She took a sip.
The corners of his lips curled upwards into a slight smile. “Was that a crack aimed at my age?”
“It wasn’t. If I wanted to say something about that I would have called you or a pedophile,” Cameron said, idly, staring into her cup instead of him. “Except it would be really witty and hilarious when I said it.”
“Pedophile? Woah, hey, I live here. My little brother is the one throwing the party.” The comment had caught him off guard, his words tumbled out of his mouth, a touch too defensive.
Cameron shrugged exaggeratedly.
He tried to cover up his scowl by downing the contents of his cup.
She didn’t hide her smile. “Don’t you have anything better to do with your time than hang out at your baby brother’s party?”
“Don’t you?” He leaned toward her until their shoulders touched. “No offense but you don’t seem like the kind of girl who would be willingly going to one of these.”
“What kind of girl am I then?”
He waved the hand carrying his cup, as if the words would materialize if he spun it fast enough. “You have that look to you. An ‘I’ve seen some shit’ look mixed with an ‘I’ve done some shit’ look.”
“I was joking about the pedophile thing but now I think I was – “
That look of disgust flashed across his features again. He put his cup on the table. He put his newly freed hands on her upper arms, holding her in place. “Would you stop with the accusations for a sec and listen? I’m trying to impart some wisdom to a young soul like yourself, one I do not want to sleep with, cool?”
It would be really easy to get out of his grip and knock him onto his ass.
“Well, lay it on me, wise old man,” Cameron said.
“You get out of here, you go home, and you follow every rule your parents or teachers or bosses tell you to do. You be the good girl you should be and enjoy your life.”
She had hoped it would have been at least a little entertaining. “Says the random forty year old dude I just met at a party.”
“Says the random forty year old dude you just met at a party,” he repeated with the same bored inflection. “Trust me on this one, you’ll be happier in the long run if you listen to this random dude. I’ve been there and it won’t give you what you need, or want. It’ll bring pain and misery to you and everyone who will stand by you.”
She furrowed her brow. “Hey, who the hell are you, really?”
He patted her arms and let go, retrieving his cup. “Just a random dispenser of good advice.” He gave her a small smile as he walked backwards and merged into a crowd of rowdy teenage boys. She went after him but he was gone. She looked through the whole house. There were a lot of people making a mess and making out but no creepy old man with tattoos and glasses. He had appeared and disappeared too easily.
A ghost, almost.
“Why thank you,” Ian said, grinning as he approached her. He stole the red cup from her and frowned when he realized it was practically empty at this point. “I’m going to get us more.”
Thoughts of random dude went out of her mind, leaving her as fast as he had. “That your apology for being late?”
“I don’t apologize ever,” he said without a hint of shame. He drank what little remained in the cup and ran off in search for more.
Seeing him reminded her of Vanessa. She was probably here by now too. Cameron pulled out her phone. Vanessa hadn’t posted anything else. Too busy partying to take pictures or too drunk to write out a coherent message to the world.
Oh, oh, maybe Cameron ought to orchestrate a car accident. Nearly dying would certainly be a wake up call. It beat the hell out of sitting her down and forcing her to watch after school specials.
Ian returned with two cups filled to the brim. “I don’t know if I want to ask what you’re thinking about,” he said, nearly shouting so he could be heard. Someone had cranked up the music while he was gone. She hadn’t noticed.
“You really don’t,” she admitted.
He cupped his ear with one hand. He hadn’t heard, she guessed. Ian pointed to the door and then they went outside for some fresh air and conversation they didn’t need to yell to hear. “What did you say?”
“I said you were right, you don’t want to know what I was thinking,” she said.
“Plotting murder again?” A more sober Cameron might have been able to tell if he was joking or not.
He shook his head, still grinning. “You’re terrifying, you know that Cam?”
She kicked him in the shin. Ian stumbled, spilling beer onto the grass. “No nicknames, you’ve already been warned many times before,” Cameron said, solemn.
“How did I forget you were a violent drunk?”
“Head trauma induced amnesia?”
Ian punched her in the arm. “If you weren’t always working and do whatever we could have this level of fun all the time.” He took a step forward, invading her personal space. “Or next level fun, if you’re up for it.”
She scoffed. “That a challenge, motorcycle man?”
He fished in his pocket for a second. He handed her a gum packet, one of the big round ones with a top you flicked open. “I’ve been saving those. We had a hell of a lot of fun last time we did those, remember?”
Cameron didn’t need to open it to realize what was inside. “Oh, I remember. You almost got arrested.”
“Your fault. You were just going to leave me in front of a trashed cop car with a baseball bat.” He took it out of her hand, flicked it open with his thumb, and shook out a couple onto his palm. “You want one or what?”
The pills were small, the size of a fingernail, each was engraved with a letter and had a different color. They all had different effects to it, depending on the color.
It sounded fun. The future, Klein, her probation, all of it felt so distant, separated from her by an ocean wider than Avocet itself.
“Must have cost you a fortune,” Cameron said, plucking a red one out of his hand.
He shrugged. “Money’s made to be spent.” Ian nodded approvingly at the pill she picked. “Red sure is your color.”
These weren’t ordinary drugs. They were special, the really expensive drugs made by inventors. They were known for being stronger having less negative effects on the human body. Some, depending on who made it, could do really crazy shit. She had seen a guy swallow half a dozen pills and then proceeded to bench-press a car that had been parked on the street. In a way, they were more dangerous than regular drugs.
Ian took his time in selecting his own color. He went for a green one with a little H on it and dumped the rest of the pills back into the container.
The moon hung in the sky above him, illuminating him. His dark curly hair looked nice in the moonlight, darkness all around them.
He tossed it into his mouth, no hesitation. He chased it with a gulp of his beer.
She did the same.
The pill was chalky, more like candy than medicine. They dissolved quickly and easily. The both of them were bound to be feeling the effects within a minute of swallowing.
A sharp, high pitched laugh caught her attention. She turned. Walking up the path and steps to the front door was Vanessa surrounded by a group of friends also laughing. They went in as a group and then they were gone, out of her line of sight.
She felt dizzy. Everything got a lot clearer and for her, that was saying something. Her vision was basically perfect already. Colors became brighter, shadows got longer, the moon grew two sizes. It was warped.
The strangeness faded. Things returned to their natural color, shape, and size.
Cameron took a red pill because she liked the look of it. She hadn’t spent any time thinking and remembering what the colors and letters actually meant.
Red was used often as a symbol of danger.