(This month’s writing prompt is Party Animal: Have you ever gone to a party you didn’t want to leave? Or do you hate parties? Write about it!)
Grace hunched down into the cab’s middle seat, breathing deeply and trying desperately not to throw up on Marcie’s new dress or Hannah’s rhinestone shoes. She was by no means an expert on this sort of thing, but Grace was pretty sure that upchucking on someone was a party faux pas.
“Are we there yet?” she asked through clenched teeth. “I’m going to have a heat stroke.”
Marcie and Hannah stopped nattering on about whatever it was they were nattering about and gave Grace some room in the crowded backseat. Marcie lowered the window. Grace sighed as a cool gust of autumn air hit her face.
“Better?” asked Hannah. Grace nodded and leaned back against the seat, eyes closed. “Good, because we wanted to tell you something. Before we got to the party. Josh is going to be there.”
Grace’s stomach lurched, and she whipped her head up and glared at her friends.
“Josh. As in Josh-who-dumped-me-for-that-hag-with-the-huge-tits Josh?” Marcie and Hannah exchanged guilty glances.
“I’m sorry we didn’t tell you,” said Hannah, grabbing Grace’s hand. “But we didn’t think you’d come if you knew.”
“Damn right I wouldn’t have come,” muttered Grace, then yelled so the cab driver could hear. “Excuse me? Can you let me out?”
“Sure thing,” replied the cabbie, flicking off his meter. “But we’re already where you wanted to go.”
Grace sighed as the cab coasted to a stop outside the brownstone. Marcie climbed out first, smoothing her dress as she went. Hannah pushed lightly on Grace’s shoulder with her own.
“I know seeing Josh and hag-tits isn’t what you wanted, but this will be a fun party. You probably won’t even run into them.” Grace sighed again. “Give it thirty minutes, for me? If you still want to go home then I’ll pay for your cab.”
“What are you two doing in there?” Marcie asked as she leaned down to pay the cabbie. “Let’s go!” Feeling like a lamb led to slaughter, Grace climbed from the cab and followed Marcie up the steps.
“Can you stick close, please?” Grace asked Hannah as Marcie flung the door open and yelled a loud greeting to the room.
“Come in, come in!” welcomed the hostess with a wave of her glass. “Hang up your coats and join the party!”
Grace took her time removing her sweater, mentally preparing for the nerve-jangling slog ahead. By the time she made it into the main room, Marcie and Hannah were too involved in socializing to pay much attention to their party-shy friend.
Fortunately by sticking close to the wall, Grace was able to make it into the kitchen without fanfare. Most of the “real” food was gone (thanks to Marcie’s insistence on being “fashionably late”), but at last Grace spotted the desserts.
“At least there’s cake,” she muttered. She cut a large piece of chocolate cake and flipped it onto a plate. Taking a bite her mother would have called “unladylike,” she turned around to watch the party from a safe distance.
And then she saw him.
Josh. Of course he would show up at the exact moment she was preparing to eat a metric ton of sugar. Of course he was as handsome as ever. Of course he spotted her and started her direction.
Swallowing her mouthful of cake in a cold lump, Grace lunged for the hallway. She hadn’t seen her, but wherever Josh was, hag-tits surely wasn’t too far behind. And that particular meeting was something Grace needed to avoid at all costs.
She flung open the first door she came to and slammed it behind her, heart hammering. She heard the dull thud of Josh’s shoes come near, stop, then retreat back into the sounds of the party.
“Damn it,” Grace whispered into the darkness. She reached out to the wall on her right and flicked the light switch to find herself in a large closet. “Huh. And they say these houses don’t have enough storage.”
Grace found that by squishing some winter coats out of the way and stacking a couple sturdy-looking boxes, she was able to get comfortable. Which was good, because there was no telling how long she’d have to squat here until Marcie or Hannah came looking for her.
“At least there’s still cake,” Grace shrugged, scooping up another bite and enjoying its chocolatey goodness.
Suddenly the door of her hiding place flew open, and someone was staring down at her.
“This isn’t the bathroom,” a male voice said confusedly.
“No, but it is occupied,” snapped Grace. “So go away.” The man scowled and opened his mouth.
“Hey Ben, where are you?”
Grace recognized Josh’s voice and gasped. Before she could stop herself she grabbed the man by his stupid skinny tie and yanked him into the closet with her. She pulled the door shut, then turned to face the closet’s new occupant.
“Um…what’s going on?” the man asked, nearly tripping over the hem of a long winter coat.
“You were about to blow my cover, is what’s going on,” replied Grace. “And you’re in my spot.” The man snuffled away from the stacked boxes. Grace took her seat again and glared at the interloper.
“I didn’t mean to interrupt,” the man explained. “I was looking for the bathroom, and Josh said—”
“How do you know Josh?” interrupted Grace. The man shrugged.
“I’m the TA for his Sociology class. He invited me out, although I’m not sure coming along was a great idea. I’m not much for parties.” He shoved some coats out of the way and made room for himself on the floor. “So what’s your story?”
“Yea. I’m sure it’s a good one. Who spends a party holed up in a closet with a piece of cake the size of her head? Inquiring minds want to know.” Grace poked at the cake with her fork.
“I’m avoiding someone. Josh. We broke up and now he and hag-ti— his new girlfriend are here. He saw me and I panicked.”
“Clearly.” Grace glared a little harder at the man, who held up his hands in mock surrender. “My bad, I’m sorry. Name’s Benjamin. Grad student, teetotaler, introvert.” He held out his hand, and after a moment Grace reached out and shook it.
“Grace. Bio major, non-smoker, copes with fear by hiding in closets and eating cake.” The two smiled at each other.
“There you are!” bellowed Marcie as she flung open the closet door. Grace yelped in fear, her plate flying from her fingers. Cake and icing went everywhere, and Marcie stepped back to avoid getting splattered. Grace and Ben were not so lucky.
“Shit,” Grace spit through clenched teeth. She glared up at Marcie. “Can you stop going around flinging doors open and yelling? You scared us!”
Marcie glanced knowingly at the closet’s two occupants.
“Well look what we have here! Grace, are you playing Seven Minutes in Heaven?”
Grace lunged out of the closet, forcing Marcie to step back into the hall.
“We weren’t making out,” she said, picking chocolate off her shirt. “He was looking for the bathroom.” Marcie goggled.
“Speaking of which,” came a voice from the closet, “I do actually still need to find the bathroom. Can one of you tell me the way?” Grace and Marcie parted to let Ben out, and Marcie — still goggling — pointed down the hall. Ben dipped his head in thanks.
“Much obliged.” He turned to Grace and smiled. “Well Grace, it’s been quite the evening. Maybe I’ll see you around sometime.” He reached out, pulled one last piece of chocolate icing from Grace’s shirt, and headed down the hallway.
Marcie elbowed Grace.
“Who was that?I knew you were trying to get over Josh, but I didn’t think you’d hook up with a total stranger. You’re such a boss!”
Grace grabbed her friend by the shoulders, turned her around, and pushed her back toward the party.
“Your fawning adoration is all I require. Now can we please call me a cab so I can go home? This party sucks.”
As she herded Marcie down the hall, Grace heard the bathroom door open. Just before she went around the corner, Grace turned back to see Ben smile and wave at her. She smiled back.