(Part Three) Jacob
His name was Jacob and we had met at one of Jess’ sorority sisters’ house party. Jess was in the middle of her pledge month and dutifully dragged me to almost every one of their open house parties. By the end of the month I couldn’t wait for Friday and Saturday night. I caught myself daydreaming in the middle of my lectures about what I would wear that night, if I needed to impulsively purchase a new purse to match my new silver top. My cell phone was glued to my hand. We would text constantly about the night to come. Maybe I would wear her blue dress with the nude sandals or the red halter top that showed my belly button. I did just get that piercing, might as well show it off. God, what will my parents say? Doesn’t matter, I am eighteen.
Jess had successfully done what everyone else in my life had tried but failed – she brought me out of my shell. I embraced makeup and hair gel, enjoyed the attention of boys, and sometimes even encouraged it. Making small talk with strangers was no longer a daunting task to fear and hide from but an enjoyable pass time. I flirted, flipped my hair, made eyes at the cute boy across the room, and learned that I actually loved alcohol. Once you got past that burning feeling it actually wasn’t that bad. And best of all, it made me feel good, bold, and strong.
“Dare you to dance on top of the table,” said this tall blonde boy. I already had two cups of jungle juice and was feeling pretty good about myself.
He was really cute. Tall but not awkward and lanky, I could see the muscles beneath his blue polo. He was tan and his hair was long enough to brush against his forehead. I fought against the impulse to reach up and play with the ends. He smelled like sweat and the ocean. It was making it hard to concentrate.
“You want me to dance up on that,” I giggle, pointing towards the table covered in half empty beer cans and a dirty bong.
“Hell yeah! I think you’d look hot up there.”
“I don’t know,” I waffle looking down at my skirt. I chose the extra short red one Jess forced me to buy a few weeks back. This was the first night I was brave enough to wear it. I thought I looked hot, but the idea of dancing on a table in it in front of everyone made me feel like that cowardly girl back in high school.
“Oh come on!” He flings his arm over my shoulder, giving me a little squeeze. “I bet you would look great up there.” His eyes travel from my face down to my chest and hang there for a few seconds. Usually I would be flattered by this gesture but the way his eyes linger make me uncomfortable. Handing me another mixed drink I can feel his hands slip to my back and push me roughly towards the table. I look around for Jess, someone, anyone I can call to come and rescue me. But I see no one.
“Don’t be shy.”
And so I go. Placing my newly-emptied cup on the same table I found myself stumbling up on, the blonde boy whispers for me not to fall. I can feel the effects of the last drink starting to make my limbs feel heavy and unsteady. The table is sticky with layers of old alcohol and food. Please God, don’t let me fall. A couple other boys start to gather around the table, chanting, pumping their fists in the air to the loud house music playing in the background.
“Dance baby!” The blonde boy points at me to one of his friends. “Best night of our lives bro.”
I couldn’t really say anything. All eyes were on me now. My body jerked and swayed with the music and each hip thrust just made the crowd shout louder. I don’t like this. Where’s Jess? I keep looking around for her but she hasn’t been back since disappearing to one of the back rooms with one of the frat guys from earlier. So I keep dancing. The room is spinning and my heel slips. Barely managing to catch myself on the corner of the table I start to climb down but the blonde boy pushes me back onto the table.
“You’re not done yet, baby. Dance! Dance!” His friend laughs. I don’t like the way they are staring at me now. Their leers are hostile, like predators taking stalk of their prey. I don’t want to continue dancing but I don’t want to do anything that will make them upset. I’m stuck.
“Take my hand.” The voice is kind, soft. My eyes have difficulty focusing on the hand stretched out towards me. The first thing I notice are his eyes. Rich brown with flakes of green. Long eyelashes are framed by light brown eyebrows. They are beautiful. Too beautiful. Unable to look at them for more than a few seconds my eyes focus back on the hand.
“Here, take my hand. I’ll help you down.”
I grab the offered hand and almost fall off the table. Arms circle me and guide me threw the booing crowd.
“Man, she was just getting started!”
“What the hell dude. Why’d you stop her?”
Each shout comes at me like a punch to the stomach. I can feel blood rush my face. I am ashamed and drunk, which makes it all the worse.
“Sorry,” I say to the boy holding me up. I realize I don’t know his name. “I’m sorry. I feel so embarrassed. You didn’t have to do that. Now all those guys are going to be mad at you. At me.”
Sitting me outside on the back porch my eyes fill with tears and remain glued to my feet. Pieces of dried food and alcohol have clumped along the sides of my heels. Jess is going to be mad. They’re hers.
“Hey, look at me,” says the boy next to me. I shake my head, keeping my face down between my legs, eyes glued to the ruined shoes.
Gentle hands cup my cheeks and guide my face up. His eyes are even more beautiful outside in the moonlight. His hair is the same color as his eyebrows. Trimmed short and just above his ears his face is uncovered. I can see a small, faint scare above his right eyebrow. Maybe a childhood accident. His face is etched with barely any baby fat remaining. Broad shoulders stretch his grey sweater tight across his chest and jeans with a few strategically placed rips brush the top of a pair of old converse. I take him in, all of him.
“Are you ok?” he asks.
“I am now.” I look down again. “Thanks for doing that. For pulling me out of there. I don’t know why I did that.” I wipe away the few tears running down my face.
“It didn’t really look like you had a choice. Connor can be an ass. He’s not a nice guy, I would stay away from him if I were you.”
“The guy with the blonde hair that pushed you up there. Don’t you know him?”
I look back up into his beautiful face, creased with worry. Fresh shame washes over me. “No, I just met him tonight.”
“I see.” I can see his disappointment. Any minute now he’s going to get up and leave me alone on the porch. Where’s Jess? I want Jess. We sit in silence. I keep waiting for him to get up and leave. My body starts to shake. I don’t know if it is from the cold or fear of being left alone. Somehow my hand ends up in his. Did he take it? Did I give it to him?
“It’s going to be ok.” He rubs my hand between his. I can’t help but notice how warm and soft they are. The rubbing is calming. The ground starts to spin again and I let my head fall into his shoulder. It is warm as well. MY body stops shivering. Guess I was cold.
“That feels nice,” I mumble into his chest. His face turns towards me and nods softly. I look up and smile. He smiles back. I can’t help but believe it’s real.
“Let me walk you home.” He helps me up from the porch. “Do you have everything? Do we need to wait for anyone else?”
I take one quick glance back inside. I still don’t see Jess. “No, just me.”
“What’s your name?”
“I’m Jacob. Here take my hand.”