Sweat matted my forehead and prickled the back of my neck.
I was breathing hard, so hard. The lights are so bright, almost blinding me. People are all around me, squeezing my hands, like their one in pain.
Then, I hear a voice telling me its time to push. Dazed, I look over to the doctor and he tells me again that it’s time. I lean my head back on the pillow and concentrate. I push as hard as I can and again I hear the doctor giving me directions.
“Okay, Claire, one more push. Come on, you can do it!”
I ball my fists up and push even harder, just wishing it were over. A few minutes later, I feel relieved and a baby cry fills the room.
The room’s atmosphere has changed to happiness instead of stress and I lay my head back on the pillows and smile.
My breathing is shallow, and I want a shower. I lie under the covers, and close my eyes for a moment. All I need is a moment of rest.
“My mom should be home soon.” I hear him say. I open my eyes and see him looking at me from the bathroom doorway. He’s only wearing his boxers and he’s drying his hands with a towel. I look at his face, trying to read it. It’s like a mask, covering every emotion he has, especially his eyes.
After a moment I nod my head and start to gather my clothes that lay on the floor. He watches me until I get dressed and stand up from the bed, brushing myself off of any stray hairs.
I thought after all that, it would be different. I mean, I’m not saying he has to declare his love for me or anything, but not….this.
I walk over to the window, remembering.
“Tonight’s the night!” Jane explained as she ran up to me and Amber in the hall way.
“What’s tonight?” Amber asked for both of us as we stopped at my locker. Jane rolled her eyes and smiled her mysterious smile. I eyed her warily and glanced at Amber who also looked wary.
“Well,” Jane started. “You know how my parents are going on their like, fortieth honeymoon or whatever?”
Amber and I nodded as she continued.
“Well, they left this morning, leaving me and the house to ourselves for the weekend and all of next week!” She exclaimed excitedly.
Amber’s smile stretched across her face and I could already see Jane’s scheme forming in her head.
“Oh, come on Claire! Lighten up.” I just shook my head.
“You know that if your parents catch you having a huge party they will never leave you alone in that house again.” I shut my locker and started heading toward the doors.
“Well, who said I was going to have a huge party?” Jane asked as we headed toward my car. This time, I laughed out loud. “Because you have a huge party every other time your alone in that house so why would this time be different?”
I looked at Amber to get her opinion and she nodded in agreement.
When we both saw the anger starting to gleam in her eyes, Amber quickly said, “But they’re the best parties around! You know that by now, Jane.”
Again, she rolled her eyes and said in an exasperated voice, “Oh, I’m having a party alright.”
Amber and I looked at our friend in curiosity and confusion. Jane wasn’t the type to go bragging about her parties or one of the snooty girls in school, but was mature about everything. Sure, her parties were the huge, typical drunk high school parties but the one’s that no adults ever found out about.
After a minute of neither me nor Amber saying anything, Jane leaned in close and said in no more than a whisper, “Tonight’s the night.”
When she didn’t elaborate, I leaned against my locker door and asked, “The night of…?”
She rolled her pretty eyes and laughed. Amber looked at me and I could practically hear her thoughts: that our friend was insane.
“Jane! Just hurry up and tell us before I go insane!” Amber practically screamed.
Passerby’s looked over and some people stopped talking to try and eavesdrop.
Jane stopped laughing and pulled us into a tight circle. “Shh! don’t be so loud!”
I was getting tired of waiting for my friend. Usually I had more patience with her but today just wasn’t a good day.
“Okay, so we know you’ll be having a party but you always have parties… what makes this night or this party so special?”
I shut my locker door and turned toward her and Amber, waiting for a response.
“Let’s walk and I’ll tell you.” I rolled my eyes, but started to head toward the school doors.
Once outside, I could immediately feel the sweat prickling the back of neck. It was early September; school had started not even two weeks ago and yet summer showed no sign of ending.
We walked in a horizontal line, watching other people get into their cars or unlock their bike from the bike wrack.
We lived in a relatively small town where everyone knew each other and you could walk everywhere. Boone, North Carolina was a good place to live if you were a small town type of person. Personally, I couldn’t wait to get the hell out.
As we walked off of school property, kids around us started to slim until we were on the sidewalk, walking towards my house.
“Okay, now spill!” Amber commanded. Jane laughed and tossed some of her auburn hair over her shoulder. “Yes, I’m having a party tonight. And before you both get all ‘why didn’t you tell me?!’ let me explain. I just found out my parents where going out of town this morning when I woke up and no one was home and the only clue I had was a note on the kitchen counter explaining they needed time away and would check in.”
Amber and I listened, letting all the information sink in. Jane’s parents were notorious to just up and leave whenever they pleased. She was used to it by now, and basically lived on her own as it was. Her parent’s didn’t care what she did and she didn’t care about them as long as they didn’t start to care. Even though she was only sixteen, she was basically an adult… when she wanted to be.
“So this morning I started my own rumor that there was gonna be this huge party at my house tonight with booze and everything, hoping that Luke would hear about it and decide to come. My plan worked, and he came up to me before lunch saying he couldn’t wait until later, winking at me before he left. Can you believe it?!”
Not giving us time to answer, she continued, now absorbed in her own story.
“So during lunch hour I ran out to the store and bought all the food and stuff and got Julia to get the alcohol. The party starts at ten, but really, it won’t start for me until Luke gets there.”
She laughed and looked over at me and Amber, examining our expressions. We had both heard about the party in the halls, and were a bit annoyed that Jane hadn’t told us but figured she had an excuse and would explain at lunch. But when she didn’t show up for lunch we were concerned.
Now, it all made sense. The moral of her story was that she finally got the guy she’s been after all summer to come to her party.
We reached my house by now and walked inside.
“So, what should we wear?” Amber asked, trying to hide a question she was bursting to ask.
“Something adorable, like always” Jane said. Then she added, “Did I mention that Mike is coming with Luke?”
Amber squealed and hugged Jane delightedly. Mike was Amber’s long time crush, since pre-school practically. Everyone knew he was interested in Amber but there was never a good place for them to actually hang out and Jane finally put it all together.
I smiled at them both as they leaned against the kitchen counter and I got them some snacks.
“So what did you get for the party?” Amber asked now that the tension was gone.
Jane pulled a bag from her backpack and started pulling out chips and soda and other various snacks.
“Oh, nice.” Amber nodded in approval.
“Oh, and these.” Jane reached in the bag and pulled out a small blue box.
I stopped what I was doing and stared.
I had expected the chips and soda and maybe even a cigarette pack, but not this. I glanced at Amber and she had the same expression that I probably had on.
When no one said anything, Jane sighed and put the box down.
“Don’t tell me,” she said. “That you didn’t get what I was hinting at?”
More silence followed. For the fifth time in a matter of twenty minutes she rolled her eyes at us.
“The party won’t start until Luke gets there? Ugh, you guys! While everyone else is having a good time and dancing and everything me and Luke where gonna sneak off and… well you know.”
That was all I said. Jane stared at me, her mouth hanging open in shock.
“You heard me, Jane. I said no. I will go to your party, I will drink, I will dance, I will have a good time but I refuse to let you have sex with practically a stranger.”
I turned my back on both of my friends and started washing dishes that were left in the sink.
“Jane, please don’t.”
It was Amber who said it, and the way she said it gave me the hint that I was about to witness a Jane who wasn’t happy. I didn’t care. I wasn’t about to let my friend do something so stupid.
“How dare you. How dare you, Claire Johnson to tell me what I can and cannot do. You aren’t my mother and you can’t stop me from doing anything! How dare you, you little–”
“Jane I’m not trying to be your mother. I’m trying to stop you from doing something that you’ll regret for the rest of your life.”
I turned around and looked at my best friend. She crossed her arms over her chest and looked down. Amber kept glancing between me and Jane. By the way she looked at me, I could tell she agreed but was too scared to say anything. That’s how she always was.
“How do you know I’ll regret it?” Jane asked, finally looking up.
I walked over and put my arms around her.
“Because you don’t know him, Jane. You aren’t even dating. Do you really want to give it all up on someone you barely know? Think of all the things that could go wrong. And what if it turns out that you don’t really like him at all? You’ll have to live with knowing that you gave it up to someone who didn’t deserve it. Is that really what you want?”
She put her arms around me as Amber came over and joined the group hug.
“I guess I didn’t think about it like that. I just like him so much, I want him to see how much I like him.”
“I know you like him, Jane, but that isn’t the way to show him that you like him. You’ll get a reputation for being easy, and you don’t want something like that.” Amber added.
Jane nodded her head and took a deep breath.
“I guess I can show him I like him some other way, can’t I?”
“Of course you can!” Amber said. I nodded my head in agreement.
We hugged each other for another minute and then broke away to start eating the snacks I had put out.
“So what should we wear?” Amber asked again, getting back on topic.
We all talk about the party and finish our snacks. I could already tell that this was gonna be an amazing night.