This is an old story. I wrote this near the beginning of college, before I even knew writing was what I really wanted to do with my life. Since then it’s been revised over and over again to the point where I can’t see it objectively anymore. Still, I can’t seem to let it go. If anyone has any thoughts on this, I’d love to hear them.
Party at Andre’s
Twelve minutes: that’s how long it had been since Andre had left behind the experience of two fires, one chemical spill, and having his joke of a lab partner forget halfway through the procedure that it was his job to keep track of the data.
He paused beneath a street lamp and pulled out his watch to examine it, ignoring the feel of the cool night air as it brushed against his skin. Even though he had seen the watch hundreds of times before, he still took a moment to admire its craftsmanship. It was a fine piece of work, an old fashioned Swiss model with intricately carved hands and numbers. It was a graduation gift from his grandfather, one of the few his familial predecessor had ever given him.
According to the watch it was close to ten-thirty p.m.: the lab had ended over an hour later than scheduled. Andre grimaced and broke out into a jog. As he ran the wind began to pick up, ruffling his usually neatly combed black hair, but he couldn’t stop to fix it. He still had a long night’s schedule ahead of him, and less time than he’d like to do it in, but if he hurried there was still a chance he could get it all done.
Less than a minute later he rounded the corner and smiled as he reached his home’s street. Well, actually it wasn’t really his home. It was a house owned by the university that he and Walt were leasing for the year, but as far as Andre was concerned it was close enough. As of this moment there was nothing he wanted more than to grab some of the macaroni and cheese he had left in the fridge, and have a quarter of an hour to eat and unwind before he had to start his homework.
He was a few blocks away from his destination when he heard something that gave him pause. It was a low, rhythmic thumping, pulsated through the air and coming from somewhere up ahead of him. If he had to guess, he’d say one of the neighbors was having a party, but he had no idea which one. It had only been a week since the start of the fall semester and at this point he knew his professors better than the people who lived in the apartment above him. It could have been anyone.
The irony of that last thought didn’t strike him until a few moments later when he found himself standing frozen outside of his front porch. His eyes were fixed on the flashing lights and his eardrums strained in protest as loud music erupted from the walls and windows. Four words immediately came to mind. “God damn it, Walt.”
A cold chill ran down Andre’s spine as he burst through the door to his house and saw at least sixty people crammed into a living room that was meant to hold ten. The posters he and Walt had hung in the living room were now a torn mess of paper on the floor. His favorite lamp had toppled from the side table it had been sitting on while its shade resting on some man’s head, not to mention that every surface had someone dancing on it, some of which he was positive weren’t meant to support the weight that was being placed on them.
As if in response to his thoughts, the small brown coffee table near the couch, a gift from his parents, began to visibly splinter and crack. A scantly clad (and obviously drunk) blonde girl he had never seen before had just climbed on top of it. He tried to rush over and pull the girl off, only to be not so gently repelled by the large mass of people surrounding her. He knew he was going to have to end this quickly if any of his furniture was going to survive the night, and to do that, he needed help.
Andre grabbed the first person he saw, a reasonably sober redheaded girl he recognized from one of his classes last year, and asked her heatedly, “Where’s Walt?”
The girl blinked at him before slowly answering, “Umm…I’m not really sure. What’s he look like?”
Andre let out an exasperated sigh and grabbed the next person he saw to ask the same question. It took him six tries and gave him a growing migraine, but he finally found someone who had some clue to the whereabouts of his worthless housemate.
Unfortunately that did nothing to improve his mood for two reasons. The first was that he ended up being told by a more than moderately drunk freshman (their school had rules against that sort of thing!). The second had to do with the fact that the kid had pointed to the first room down the hall, his room.
Andre stormed down the hallway, trying to ignore the smell of marijuana and the numerous couples in varying stages of undress that had chosen the floor as their make out grounds. But despite his best efforts, he could still feel himself blushing.
“Get a fucking room, you two,” he snapped as he stepped over another couple sprawled out across the floor of the hallway. The girl’s shirt was missing and her partner’s hand was furiously working at her bra clasp, seemingly with little success.
Picking up his pace, Andre tried to keep his mind focused on the many ways he was going to make Walt pay for this. Already several interesting ideas were coming to mind, one of them involving a padlock for their bathroom, cake mix, and some triple strength laxative.
Andre swung open the door to his room, ready to rip his housemate a new one. The words died in his throat as he realized he probably should have asked what Walt was doing in there before barging in.
There are just some things about Walt that he did NOT need to see!
“For the love of God, Walt! On my bed!?”
The reaction to his call was both instantaneous and surprisingly gratifying. There was a surprised shriek followed by a thump as his roommate was flipped off the bed by the girl he had been lying on. The girl took advantage of Walt’s sudden departure and used the sheets to cover herself, but not before Andre was able to glimpse a flash of bare, lightly tanned skin and the soft curve of her hips…among other things.
‘Is that a thong?’ he wondered before the sheets completely hid everything from view.
Shaking his head, Andre dragged his attention off the naked girl and focused a hard glare on Walt, who was scrambling around to find his boxers and put them on. All Andre could do was close his eyes and wait for the shuffling to stop.
When he opened his eyes again, Walt was standing a healthy distance away from him, his shaggy brown hair disheveled and his green eyes shifting uneasily. It was the typical “caught doing something wrong” stance that Andre had seen more than once in the two years they’d known each other.
“Walt,” he said in as calm a tone as he could muster, “What the hell are all these people doing in my house?”
Walt held his hands in front of him in a placating gesture. “It’s a house warming party,” he said. “I figure we should have one since this is the first time we’ve got a house off campus. You know, to show all our friends how awesome our place is. It was supposed to be a…surprise…” Walt faltered under his housemate’s venomous stare.
“‘A house-warming party’?” Andre parroted incredulously. “Walt, there has got to be at least sixty people in the living room alone, there’s marijuana in our hallway, not to mention the fact that there are freshmen passed out all over the place! By whose twisted definition is this a house-warming party?!”
Walt seemed to carefully consider this question for a few moments before giving a noncommittal shrug. “Someone who knows what it means to actually have fun?”
Andre’s eyes narrowed. “I know how to have fun. It’s just that my idea of fun doesn’t include destroying my house.”
“Your idea of fun doesn’t include much of anything,” Walt retorted. “You spend all of your time writing papers and studying for exams that aren’t happening for months.” Andre opened his mouth to retort, but Walt rose to cut him off. “Besides, you may live here but this is my house too, damn it. I had every right to throw this party.”
“Not without telling me first!” Andre growled.
“If I had told you, you would’ve said no!”
“With good reason! Those people are ruining everything! Or haven’t you noticed since you decided to copulate on my sheets! Do you have any idea what those sheets cost!?”
“They’re sheets! What’s the point in having them if you never put them to good use!?”
Andre felt something snap within him at that particular comment. If Walt wanted to play dirty, then Andre was more than willing to do the same. In an eerily calm manner, Andre lifted his wrist up, looked at the face of his watch intently for a couple of seconds, and said in a matter-of-fact tone, “Ten minutes.”
Walt looked over at his housemate in confusion. “Ten minutes?”
“That’s how long you have to get these people out of the house before I call the police to do it for you. Although with the two strikes on your record, they might not stop there.”
Walt visibly paled. “You’re bluffing.”
Andre didn’t answer immediately, choosing instead to check his watch again. “Now it’s nine minutes and fifty-two seconds.”
Walt was gone in an eye blink, either forgetting or not caring that he was still only wearing a pair of boxers as he ran through the house in a frantic effort to remove the current intruders. Andre watched him leave with a growing sense of satisfaction. He knew it was a cheap shot to exploit Walt’s record, but with someone like him Andre had to take his leverage where he could get it.
Closing the door, Andre quickly realized he had landed himself at a rather uncomfortable crossroad. He was more than aware that there was a naked girl lying in his bed behind him, but he also knew that outside of the room his house was being destroyed. He didn’t particularly want to see either sight. Well, maybe he wanted to see the first sight, but he knew he shouldn’t.
‘God damn it, Walt,’ he thought again.
Andre stiffened as he heard the sound of shifting sheets and began to silently beg whatever deity was watching that she was just getting dressed. He didn’t think he could handle it otherwise.
“Hey, um, Walt’s housemate?” came the girl’s voice.
“Yes?” he answered stiffly.
“Could you hand me my bra? It’s over by your right foot.”
Knowing full well that he was blushing again, Andre glanced down and saw that there was, indeed, a bra right by his foot.
This had to be some sort of bizarre punishment for something he’d done. That was the only explanation.
Without saying a word, he picked the bra up with the tip of his toe and flung it behind him.
“Thanks,” she said softly.
There was a short, uncomfortable silence that followed afterward, broken only by the sound of ruffling clothes.
“You really don’t want to go out there, do you?” the girl asked casually.
Surprised by the sudden question, Andre paused in the middle of checking his watch. Eight minutes and fifty seconds. “Would you if you were in my position?” he asked back dryly.
“Maybe,” she admitted. “Parties like this can be a lot of fun if you just let yourself enjoy them. By the way, you can turn around now if you want.”
Andre did turn around and noticed that the formerly naked girl was a rather cute brunette with deep blue eyes. She was sitting on the rumpled sheets of his futon, fitting the rest of her earth colored tank top across her ample chest and adjusting her skirt, which only reached about halfway down her thigh.
It was then that Andre realized he was staring and forced himself to stop. “My house might be destroyed by the end of the night. How exactly am I supposed to enjoy this?”
The girl gave him a small smile that seemed almost chiding. “The key word being ‘might.’ Not every party ends with a destroyed house; otherwise the campus would be little more than rubble by now.”
Andre hesitated for a moment, trying to find some flaw in her argument. There wasn’t one. “Maybe,” he said finally. Then he realized something. “I’m Andre, by the way,” he said as he stuck out his hand. “And I’m guessing you’re Jessica, right? Walt’s girlfriend?”
The girl’s hand froze halfway up to meet his and the smile on her face quickly faded and was replaced by a look of cold fury. “Walt has a girlfriend?” she asked.
A cruel silence spilled into the room, and all Andre could think to say were the same four words that had been echoing in his head all night. “God damn it, Walt.”
A second later he was saved from having to say anything more when a loud crash echoed from somewhere in the vicinity of the kitchen. Andre took that as his cue and bolted up and out of the room. He had no idea what could have caused that sound, but it couldn’t be good.
When Andre finally made it to the kitchen, it was looking considerably worse for wear. The legs of the kitchen table were broken and its surface was in two pieces on the floor, two of the cabinet doors had been torn off their hinges, and there were small pieces of broken glass and plates all over the ground where at least four people were currently rolling around in the midst of a fight.
He didn’t recognize any of the combatants, but he did recognize Walt, who was currently leaning against the refrigerator with his hand clamped over his nose, a small amount of blood leaking through his fingertips.
Walt and Andre’s eyes met and at his housemate’s questioning look, Walt muttered, “Some people didn’t feel like leaving.”
Andre considered trying to break the fight up, but before he had a chance to the music coming from the living room suddenly died followed by a panicked cry of “It’s the police!” from one of the partygoers that had everyone dropping what they were doing and scrambling for the exits.
Walt turned toward his housemate looking shocked and betrayed. “You said I had ten minutes!”
“You did!” Andre shouted back, every bit as frightened by this turn of events as Walt was. “I didn’t call them! I was bluffing!”
“Then why the hell are they here?”
Andre shot Walt an incredulous look. “You can hear the music from three blocks down the road! The neighbors probably called them!”
The police knocking echoed through the now-quiet house. Looking around Andre realized that everyone who was sober enough had already fled; the only ones left were the ones that were too stoned or drunk to move. There weren’t many of them but most were freshmen, something that obviously spelled trouble for Walt and he.
“Walt, what are we going to…?” The question died on Andre’s lips when he realized Walt wasn’t there anymore.
“Walt, you miserable coward,” he hissed to the empty room.
The knocking came again, louder this time. They were getting impatient. Andre hurried to the door, and with each step he found his mind racing towards the disastrous possibilities.
This house was currently in violation of more school rules than he wanted to think about. His record was flawless, so he doubted he’d be expelled, but this situation would be enough to leave a serious stain on his academic reputation. What if it affected his chances at graduate school? What if he couldn’t get a job?! He could end up as a hobo for the rest of his life!
Andre shook his head as he reached out to open the front door. He was being irrational. Although it didn’t look it, this situation was still under his control. He just had to keep a cool head. Nothing bad would…
“G-good evening, officers.”
He was so screwed.
There were three officers standing at the door. The one closest to him, a middle-aged man with graying chestnut hair, looked upon Andre with a stern gaze. “’Evening,” he said gruffly. “Do you live in this house?”
Andre nodded his head, not trusting his voice.
“We’ve gotten reports of excessive noise coming from this residence. Would you care to step outside so we can ask you a few questions?”
Andre shook his head this time. “I-I’d rather not if it’s all the same to you, sir.”
The officer frowned. Andre’s answer clearly wasn’t to his liking. “Fine. Care to explain what all the noise was?”
“My…housemate had the music cranked up too loud,” Andre admitted somewhat truthfully. “I just got back a few minutes ago and I’ve been trying to get him to turn it down.”
“I see.” The tone the officer used didn’t make it sound as if he believed him, but he hadn’t tried to contradict Andre’s story yet. “There have also been reports of some drunken students in the neighborhood. Do you know anything about that?”
Andre felt a spike of panic rip through him, but he struggled to keep it from showing. “Should I?” he choked out.
The officer’s gaze seemed to bore into him for hours before he finally shrugged and said, “I suppose not.” He turned around and indicated for the other officers to back off, which caused Andre to give an inaudible sigh of relief.
The officer turned around briefly to give Andre one last glare, said, “Keep the noise down,” and walked off. The words “We’ll be watching you” went unsaid, but Andre heard them all the same. As soon as the last of them had stepped off the porch Andre shut the door and slumped against it, allowing gravity to take him down to the floor as he cupped his face into his hands.
A few seconds later he heard footsteps coming toward him in the dead silence of the house. He didn’t need to look up to know who it was.
“Remind me, Walt. Why are we friends again?”
“Ah, come on, man. It’s not that bad. The police are gone, aren’t they?”
Andre shot his housemate a wry look. “Yeah, after I lied to them. Fucking Christ, Walt, do you even consider thinking before you speak?”
“I always figured you think enough for the both of us.”
Despite himself, a small chuckle escaped Andre’s lips. Walt seemed to take that as a cue to offer him a hand up, one which Andre accepted.
“Besides,” Walt added, as if as an afterthought, “This just proves what I’ve been telling you all along. College life is made for these sorts of experiences. No worries, no consequences!”
At that very moment, as if the gods of irony themselves decided to play a hand, the blue-eyed brunette from before stormed into the room, clearly in a foul mood. Despite the obvious warning signs, Walt plastered on his most charming grin as he walked towards her.
“Hey, Angela, sorry about –”
Whatever he was going to say was cut off as Angela’s knee impacted against Walt’s groin. Andre winced in sympathetic pain as Walt’s eyes rolled into the back of his head and a soft whine escaped his lips before as he crumpled onto the floor.
“Bastard,” she spat.
She then began to walk in Andre’s direction. Andre quickly opened the door for her, making sure the broad panel of wood remained between them as he did so. She didn’t even spare him a glance as she marched out. He was grateful.
Once the coast was clear, Andre closed the door and looked over at his fallen friend, who had now fully curled into the fetal position.
“Can’t say you didn’t deserve that.”
Another pained whimper was his only response.
Andre rolled his eyes. “Hold on. I’ll get you some ice.”
In the short trip to the kitchen, Andre began to compile a list of things he needed to do. Picking up the beer cans, vacuuming the carpets, airing out the hallways, changing the sheets in his room (and possibly burning the soiled ones)…and that was just to start.
He somehow managed to find a barely soiled dish towel in the ruins of the kitchen and started filling it with ice from the freezer. The place seemed an even bigger mess than it was a few minutes ago, though he couldn’t imagine how that was possible.
With a soft sigh he finished wrapping up the ice and made his way back to his fetal-positioned friend, with one small detour on the way. Stepping into his room he pushed back his sleeve, unclasped the watch from his wrist and gently set it down on his desk.
He didn’t even want to know how long this would take.