Sarah crept out of the bathroom and slowly stumbled her way downstairs to where the noise of the party was coming from. It seemed that everyone, except the select couples who had already snuck off to the remote corners of the house, was already crowded into the living room and spilling out into the main foyer in front of the stairs. Sarah made it to the entry of the living room, and then waited until something, or someone, invited her in. Jeff was the one having the party, but she only knew him as the guy who got out of gym class because he had asthma. There was always a party somewhere when the firefighter convention was in town, and this year it was Jeff’s home address that was passed around through texts and whispers in the hall. Jeff’s dad was a firefighter and had made it a date night with Jeff’s mom, leaving their home vulnerable to the whims of their puberty-stricken-asthmatic son. Sarah’s head began to spin a little as she scrutinized the room. Dalmatian trinkets and toy fireman hats were being passed around and thrown on the floor, adding to the chaos. Sarah hated coming to parties, but always felt like she had to go so that she could laugh with everyone on Monday morning about how Corey had squirted alcohol out his nose, or Samantha had made out with her best friend’s brother, or how Landon had brought weed. The only thing that made parties a little bearable was to sneak off to the bathroom and chug some of the Sambuca she guarded in her faux-designer bag. Finally her eyes locked on Phil across the room. He was waving at her, or waving to someone next to her – close enough – she smiled as big as she could and started to make her way through the throng of bleary-eyed strangers. As she got closer, Sarah realized that it wasn’t Phil, and while turning to find another familiar face was confronted by an unfamiliar one with a buzzed haircut and a tight white T-shirt that showed the sweat under his arms.
“Hey – have we been introduced?” said the voice belonging to this stranger’s face.
Sarah blinked and turned to walk again into the roar of people, but was jolted back in front of this leering face with a fierce grip on her arm. She looked down to see the indent of his fingers in her skin. All at once, the spinning of the room that had threatened before seized her again. With all the strength she had left, she pulled herself away from this stranger and ran out of the room and out of the house; away from this man with the sweating armpits and from all these people who did not know her. She knew that even if there was something to laugh about on Monday morning, she wouldn’t feel like laughing.