I shook my head.
“No. I just moved here from
Ohio. We just met, actually.”
“Great. You’ll love it,” he promised. “We’re all having a good time.” He howled something which Axel mimicked and then we were all out on the dance floor. Nearly an hour later, and two more rounds of drinks, Charlotte Lily announced she had her house empty. Her parents had gone away for a few days and her sister was at a friend’s until very late.
I saw that it was approaching ten and knew that Mother darling would be upset if I didn’t get back by eleven, but I wasn’t even sure which bus to take. Before I could express any of my concerns, everyone was up and moving toward the entrance. When we burst out on the street, my ears were ringing and my throat felt like I had swallowed sandpaper because of how much shouting I had done to be heard while we were dancing. The beer had just enough alcohol to give me a buzz, and for a moment, I felt a little unsteady.
“Whoa,” Wyatt said, taking me around the waist. “You all right?”
“Yes,” I said quickly.
“Hurry,” Charlotte Lily screamed, “we can catch this bus.”
Everyone ran, Wyatt pulling me along. When we got on the bus, I wasn’t able to talk to Charlotte Lily because we sat boy-girl. The bus trip only took about five minutes, but as soon as we got off, I pulled Charlotte Lily aside.
“This is my first night here,” I told her. “My sister wanted me back by eleven.”
“Why? You don’t have any school to go to tomorrow. It’s summer. We’re not college students taking a summer session. We’re free, like we’re supposed to be.”
“I know, but my sister and I just arrived and…”
“She’ll be happy you made new friends so fast. That way you won’t be in her hair,” Charlotte Lily assured me. I started to shake my head. “C’mon. My house is just ahead. We’ve got to do it for Kathy Ann. Axel looks serious.”
I gazed back at them. He had his arm around her. Together, I thought, they would sink a rowboat. He looked like he weighed two hundred and fifty pounds. Charlotte Lily giggled and moved back under Birdy’s long arm. Wyatt seized my hand and began to ask me questions about where I had lived, what interested me. I was nervous because he was the oldest boy I had ever been with and yet he didn’t seem to care about my age. He told me he was going to get a B.A. in public administration, but he might go on to law school. When he asked me what my interests were, I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t want to sound young and stupid, so I said I was still thinking about it.
“Smart,” he told me. “Don’t make a decision too fast. Explore. That’s the fun of being young, you know, discovery. If you don’t have fun now, when will you, I always say. What do you think?”
“I guess,” I said.
“You guess right,” he said.
Charlotte Lily’s house was a large, two-story colonial-style home, all gated.
“We can’t drink too much of Daddy’s booze,” she said before opening the door. “He measures the bottles.”
“Just put in some water and he’ll never know the difference,” Wyatt suggested.
Charlotte Lily laughed.
“I’ve done that already,” she said.
The house was as impressive inside as it was outside. She wanted us to stay in the living room-den area and immediately put on some music that came through speakers in every room. Then she and Birdy prepared drinks, measuring the vodka and gin carefully and replacing it with water.
“It’s too bright in here,” Wyatt told Charlotte Lily. “Can’t you do something about that?”
“Sure,” she said, and turned the lights down very low.
“Dance?” Wyatt asked me when the music became slower. I looked over at Axel and Kathy Ann. They were already kissing. “C’mon, show me those Ohio moves,” Wyatt teased, getting up and pulling on my hand.
“I don’t have any moves,” I said. He put his arm around my waist and tightened it so that I was practically attached to his hip. Then I felt his lips on my neck. I jerked back, but he held on firmly.
“Easy,” he said. “We’re just getting to know each other.”
“I know enough,” I said sharply.