Redemptive: Ch. 1

Thursday, May 30, 2019


This party will be the death of me.

The invitations were sent in gold envelopes, exclusively to the top ten people in my life. It was supposed to be an elegant affair, the kind with expensive champagne and fine cheeses, chocolates, and conversation. Instead, though, the pretty stationary had been rendered useless, the invitations spreading over Twitter like butter on hot bread, the words parent and free turning elegance into an epidemic of frat-house proportions. 

My end-of-Spring-Break cocktail party had officially become a chaotic, high-school kegger.

“Hey!” my best friend, Chelsea, shouted over the thumping bass of the music. “Camille! This is like the best party ever!”

Chelsea took my hands, and tried to twirl herself in some dramatic dance maneuver, but her movements were too sloppy and uncoordinated, and I wound up steadying her instead.

“Thanks, love,” Chelsea said. “I think I need another drink. Do you?”

Chelsea’s dark, glittery eye-makeup was smudged around her eyes, her bright red lipstick was bleeding around the edges of her full, puffy lips, and her paper-thin, shoulder-grazing, platinum blonde hair was slightly kinked in various places. She looked like a walking advertisement for domestic abuse, but it was no secret Chelsea had really just spent the past hour in the guest bedroom in various horizontal positions with Ike, the school’s basketball captain and her on-again, off-again fling.

“Chels—” I started to tell her perhaps she should take it easy, but then I noticed Chelsea’s eyes narrowing at something over my shoulder, and I knew she wasn’t listening.

“What the hell,” Chelsea said. “This is so not okay.”

As Chelsea stomped away, I turned around to see what she was so upset about, rolling my eyes when I saw Ike playing tonsil-hockey with one of the many skantily-clad girls surrounding him on the dance-floor-slash-living-room. Ike was something of a celebrity, mostly because of his law-firm-partner dad’s celebrity client list, though his Abercrombie-model looks didn’t hurt his status either. It was rumored that Ike had recently landed an audition to play Megan Fox’s love interest in a film scheduled to begin shooting shortly after our high school graduation, putting Ike on just about every wannabe it-girl’s to-do list in our Malibu radius.

“Ah, looks like I showed up just in time,” my boyfriend, Ty, said as he wrapped his arms around me. “What did I miss? Or is the show just beginning?”

I turned around, and kissed his lips, running my fingers over the stubble on his jaw and smiling.

“Nothing much,” I said. “Chels and Ike were in the guest room for an hour, and now he’s clearly gearing up for round two with someone else, which she isn’t happy about obviously. Oh, and I’m not sure if you noticed or not, but this is definitely not what I had planned for tonight. It was supposed to be elegant, and grown-up, and classy, and somehow I ended up with this mess instead. My parents are so going to kill me when they get home because there’s no way—”

Ty kissed me to stop me from speaking.

“Cam,” he said. “It will be okay. I’m here. Relax. Enjoy yourself. I’ll help you clean, I promise. Everything will be fine. Except that group of girls Chelsea is about to fight.”

I laughed. “Thank you for that. By the way, how’s your mom?”

Ty shrugged, and said, “Still dying.”

His mother had been diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer three months ago, which had quickly progressed, mostly due to her refusal to quit smoking.

“Still smoking?” I asked.

“Unfortunately. She accused the nurse of stealing her cigarettes, and wanted me to fire her. I told her it was for her own good.”

“I bet she didn’t take that well.”

“Nope. That’s why I’m here.”

“I thought you were here for me?”

“I’m always here for you.”

He kissed the top of my head, and we both turned to watch Chelsea as she grabbed the bleach-blonde ponytail of the girl who had been making out with Ike. A circle formed around them as Ike led the crowd into a chorus of fight, fight, fight. I groaned, and buried my face in Ty’s shoulder. Ty chuckled, and hugged me closer.

“You have to admit it’s kinda funny,” he said.

“I need a drink,” I said, breaking away from Ty to head toward the kitchen.

Surprisingly, the kitchen was empty, despite the diminished tower of food piled high on the table, and the liquor-store selection of alcohol lined up on the marble-island counter. I felt the tension in my body melting at the break from the chaos in the other room.

“Nice, isn’t it?” Ty asked as he joined me in the kitchen, leaning up against the counter as I poured myself a shot of tequila. “And you wonder why I don’t like parties.”

“I don’t wonder. I know exactly why you always show up fashionably late and leave disturbingly early,” I said, my face puckering as I downed my shot. “I just like giving you a hard time.”

“Ah, the story of my life,” Ty teased, taking me into his arms and burying his lips against my neck.

I could feel the shot of tequila warm in my belly, a slight buzzy feeling, slowly drifting to my head. I closed my eyes, and tilted my head back, my long, glossy black hair spilling down my back as I wrapped my arms around Ty’s neck, curling my fingers in his thick, dark hair.

“FIVE, FOUR, THREE, TWO, ONE! POUR!”

The collective countdown from the living room jolted me from my moment of bliss, and I rushed to see what, exactly, was being poured. I arrived in the living room to see Chelsea with her arm slung over the shoulders of the girl she had been fighting with, both of them giggling as they dumped a cup full of beer onto Ike’s step-brother, Zeke, who had been hung upside down by his ankles over the stair banister.

Zeke thrashed and coughed as the crowd continued to dump the contents of their red solo cups on him, but Ike and two other basketball players were holding him too tightly for him to possibly break free on his own.

“OH MY GOSH!” I yelled. “STOP! YOU’RE GOING TO RUIN THE CARPET!”

Ike, and the two other players let go immediately and ran off. Zeke landed on his head, doing a backwards somersault before sitting up, drenched, red-faced, and looking disoriented. I quickly grabbed a towel from the linen closet underneath the stairs, and handed it to him as the crowd dispersed.

“I’m so sorry! Are you okay?” I asked.

Zeke looked up at me with a pained expression in his dark eyes, his thin, cracked lips trembling, and his angular jaw tensed. I couldn’t tell whether he was about to cry or scream. Probably both.

“Does it look like I’m okay?” he asked, standing up. 

He tossed the towel aside, and ran off. My mouth dropped open as I stared blankly at the towel on the ground, a stab of guilt twisting in my gut.

***

Zeke had always been the epitome of average. 

He was neither smart enough to make the best grades in class, nor challenged enough to struggle with assignments or tests. He wasn’t bad at sports, but I had never seen him play any outside of gym class. He stood at a height of about 5’8” with slightly stooped shoulders, and typically dressed in ordinary jeans and a simple t-shirt. If he had any friends, they all shared the same invisibility cloak.

I would probably never noticed him at all if Ike’s father hadn’t married Zeke’s former model mother, linking Ike and Zeke together. 

Not that the two ever took the newfound brotherhood seriously. 

The two brothers probably would have continued existing on entirely different planets if Ike hadn’t been pulled over after a drink too many on his way home from a party.

Though his father was able to dismiss any legal charges against him, Ike was still punished for his behavior. However, his punishment was simply having his keys taken away, and being forced to have Zeke drive him everywhere he needed to go. Ike’s father was probably hoping the arrangement would bring the two brothers closer together.

But instead it often led to Zeke being treated like Ike’s personal slave.

However, Zeke seemed to take the unfair arrangement rather well. As far as I could tell, he never complained. While Ike partied on inside, Zeke would sit in the car, playing games on his phone, patiently waiting to take Ike home.

Therefore, though I didn’t approve of the way Ike treated Zeke, it was easy to forget about. It was easy to chalk it up to typical Ike hi-jinks, and forget Zeke even existed. So, usually, everyone did.

But I wouldn't.

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