Since I’m not a big drinker, I don’t really want to hang out inside. It’s noisy and crowded, and way too close for me. But outside isn’t that much better, to be honest. It’s hot and sticky, thanks to the Virginia humidity, and the wider spaces between people out there will leave me vulnerable and open. More likely to be approached by someone I don’t know. By Lori, I’ll just say it. And Kevin wants me out there so he can introduce me around.
Again, to Lori.
Safer to stay in here with the drunks, really. And it’s still early enough, isn’t it? No one’s drunk yet.
I head down to the kid-friendly end of the table to snag a bottle of water. As I reach for one, a hand reaches past me out of the crowd at the same time, covering mine. Really, what are the chances we’d pick the same bottle?
On a table like this, where water’s in the minority? Pretty good, actually, I turn to see who the hand belongs to.
A woman my age stands behind me, the chin-length curly hair flaring out in a sort of pyramid shape to frame her pretty face. She has large, chocolate-colored eyes and a wide mouth that breaks into a grin. “Sorry!” she says with a laugh, removing her hand from the bottle. But it doesn’t go far; no, it drops to my wrist instead, rubs up my forearm, then pats my elbow, an intimate gesture from someone I just met. “I didn’t even see you there. You can have the water. I’ll take one of the others.”
That’s all I manage to get out as she reaches for another bottle of water. I watch her unscrew the cap -- despite the noise around us, I hear the seal break, the faint sigh of released air, every minute detail magnified a thousandfold in the spotlight of her presence. I’m staring, I know I am, but I can’t stop myself as I watch her raise the bottle to her lips. She drinks from it deeply, her throat working, damn she’s gorgeous. Those dark cottony curls, that bronzed olive skin!
With a sigh, she lowers the bottle, and I see a drop of water beading on her lower lip, in the corner of her mouth. It takes all the strength I have not to dab it away with my finger or, heaven forbid, with a kiss.
I love you, I think. God, I do, she’s perfect. This one, here, I want to tell my mule-headed brother. This is the type of girl I like. Hello? Why can’t you hook me up with her?
She isn’t looking at me but rather down the length of the table, and something catches her eye that makes her laugh. It’s a delightful, tinkling sound, like wind chimes, and infectious, too, because I smile without realizing it. “What?” I ask. I want in on the joke. I’m never leaving her side.
With the hand holding the bottle, she points at something. “When I heard there’d be cheap booze here, I thought Kevin meant he wouldn’t charge for drinks. I didn’t think he literally meant Boone’s Farm cheap.”
My face burns with embarrassment. “Yeah, I brought that.”
She’s in the middle of taking another sip of her water; now she sputters into the bottle as she laughs again. “Oh, I love it. Not the wine, I don’t drink. Got that out of my system back in college. But that you admit it. That’s great.”
“Well, I don’t really drink, either. I just had that lying around.” Which sounds even worse. Not only did I bring the worst wine to the party, I didn’t even buy it new. Somehow I don’t think this is one of those brands that gets better with age, either.
Ducking my head, I grab my own bottle and take a huge swallow of water. My mind is blank; I can’t think of a thing to say to her that might keep her here beside me. That would interest her in me. I brought the wine she’s laughing at. Why can’t the floor open up beneath me? I’d like to disappear now, please.