A Love Letter to Whiskey(11)


by Kandi Steiner

“Like I said, he was a great boyfriend. Amazing, even. But we both knew it wasn’t going to last. And it’s totally okay.”

“No it’s not!” I couldn’t figure out why I was so horrified by her news, but I just couldn’t let it go. “He listens to classical music, Jenna. Like come on, what other guy do you know who listens to classical music?”

“Um, no one?”

“Exactly!” I said, exasperated. “And he has goals. He wants a family. He has the best sense of humor but he can also be serious when he needs to be. He’s like the pegasus to your unicorn.”

“Okay…”

“And he’s a good friend. Like, the best kind. He treats his mom like a queen and that says something about a man. And he drives a bright cherry red Jeep, Jenna! He surfs!”

“Oh my God, I get it!” she finally huffed, tossing her hands up before crossing them over her chest. She rolled her eyes. “Jeeze, maybe you should date him.”

I had nothing in my mouth to choke on, but I choked anyway. “What? No, no way. He’s, no Jamie is your boyfriend. You guys are perfect together. Jamie and I? No. We couldn’t, we’d never. No way.” I was stumbling over my words, slurping my drink too hard in-between sentences. I was officially the furthest thing from cool about the whole situation.

And Jenna noticed.

She narrowed her eyes. “I was joking, spazz. What is up with you? Why does this bother you so much?”

Jenna was scrutinizing me, waiting for a confession of some kind. I stared back at her for a minute, frozen, and then finally forced a long, deep breath before covering my face with my hands. “Ugh, I don’t know. I’m sorry. I just really thought you guys were good together.” I sighed, scrubbing my hands down my face and letting them slap into my lap. “I just want you to be happy. But clearly you’re fine with this and it’s what you want, so of course I support you. It’s just my job as your best friend to question big decisions like this and make you think about them.”

She was still watching me, eyes wary, but she smiled. “I love you, B. Even if you are thirty-five shades of weird.”

“Love you too, bestie.”

I forced a smile and changed the subject, all the while replaying our conversation in my head and wondering how Jamie would take the news.

I must have texted Jenna a million times that night asking if she’d done it yet, but she hadn’t. She waited four days to break up with him, and once she told me it was done, I waited again — for him to text, for him to show up at my house, to want to take a drive. But he didn’t. He didn’t say a word to me. Not the night it happened, or the night after, or the week after. Jamie completely ignored me and Jenna both until the night he graduated.

And that was when I met the other side of Jamie Shaw.

IT HAD BEEN MORE THAN three months since I’d had a Friday night off.

Since I needed every single Friday off in the fall semester for the games, I had to make up for it once football season was over by picking up the Friday slack at the grocery store. But now, school was out, the seniors were currently walking across the stage at our high school gym, and I was less than an hour away from stepping into the role they just left vacant.

Senior.

It felt strange, calling myself a senior, like when you say a word too many times out loud and it stops making sense. The plan for that night had been to crash the grad parties, say goodbye to our senior friends and toast our new reign. But Brad Newman’s parents had surprised him with a trip to the Bahamas, flying out immediately after graduation, and so the biggest grad party of the night had, in turn, been cancelled.

Jenna made a joke earlier that week when we found out, saying that we should throw a party at my house. I don’t think she expected me to say, “Let’s do it!” Hell, I didn’t expect me to say it. But I was high that week, feeling the rush from the transition, and my mom was going to be out of town. Why not throw a party?

So instead of getting ready to go out, Jenna and I were setting up my house, lining the counters with booze most of the seniors had worked together to get for the occasion and cranking the music on my mom’s old five-CD changer stereo. We were both dancing as we mixed punches with too much alcohol, broke out my mom’s favorite shot glasses, and put on lipstick that smeared too easily on the rims of our red plastic cups.

“To us,” Jenna said, her cup tapping mine. “The new seniors.”

“Seniors, Jenna!” I squealed, sipping my drink quickly before wrapping her in a crushing hug. “Can you believe we’ve made it? From pigtails and sandboxes to high school seniors.”

“I know, it’s crazy to think about,” Jenna agreed, her eyes glossy as she shook her head. We were standing in my small kitchen, her leaned back against the counter while I straightened everything for the fifteenth time. “I couldn’t have gotten through all these years without you.”

I paused, smiling at my best friend. “Me either.” Lifting my drink to my lips again, I kept my eyes on the counter when I asked, “Do you think Jamie will show?”

It seemed I was more affected by that possibility than Jenna was, because she simply shrugged, shaking her blonde hair over her shoulder and adjusting the spaghetti straps of her thin tank top. “I doubt it. He went ghost on us after I broke up with him. I imagine he’ll probably end up at a different party, if he even goes out at all.” She frowned. “I think I broke his heart, B.”

I took another, longer drink, letting the fruity sting of the alcohol sink in. “I should turn the air down. It’s probably going to get pretty hot in here.”

I couldn’t have known how right I’d be about that.

The party kicked into gear slowly, a few people trickling in around nine followed by a few more and it continued like that until my house was completely packed. The music was too loud, thumping through every room as tables were cleared of picture frames and knick knacks and replaced instead with drinking games of various types. With how often the front door opened to let new people in and the back door opened to let people out to smoke and drink in the back yard, it became a pointless task to try to keep it cool. South Florida was hot in June, plain and simple, and I gave up trying to fight that.

Still, if I wasn’t able to control the temperature inside, I needed to find another way to stay cool. The alcohol was cold, but still sent a heat wave through me with each new sip. I was in the middle of a flip cup game with Jenna and a slew of people I didn’t know very well when I gave up and decided to go for the next option — taking clothes off.