Her eyes felt like she’d taken them out, scrubbed them with exfoliator and then stuck them back into their sockets without rinsing them off. Instead of trying to peel them open immediately, Riley just lay there for long minutes. She was on cold, hard tiles and her muscles protested when she shifted, so she stayed still, trying to remember what the hell had happened last night.
This was the third time in as many days that she’d woken with a blank slate where her memory should have been.
With a groan, she pried her eyes open and forced herself to sit up. Looking around, she recognized Joey’s scabby bathroom with the stains around the toilet and dirty clothes spilling out of the hamper in the corner. The first time she’d been here it had disgusted her, but she’d since grown immune and now, with vomit in her hair and a killer hangover, she fit right in.
Pulling herself up, she stumbled over to the sink and drank straight from the tap, before stripping off her clothes and climbing into the shower to wash away the night’s activities.
There was a hickey on her breast and she examined it dispassionately as the warm water sluiced over her.
Whilst she was washing her hair with boring, male-scented shampoo, the door opened and someone padded over to the toilet and started peeing. She peered around the curtain long enough to find out that the guy was completely naked and definitely wasn’t her boyfriend, Joey.
The guy turned to wink at her before she ducked back behind the curtain. He flushed the toilet, laughing at her startled squeak as the water ran cold, before leaving. She didn’t hear the door close, but it didn’t bother her. The things she’d seen and done in this house meant she wasn’t one to embarrass easily.
The thought made stomach heave and the last of the night’s sins appeared, tasting of gin and burning her throat. When had she drunk gin?
Suddenly exhausted, she crouched down on her haunches and rested her head against the wall, watching her vomit swirl down the drain. Honestly, she was amazed there was anything left in her stomach to throw-up; she couldn’t remember the last time she’d eaten anything substantial.
After picking herself up, she wrapped herself in a threadbare blue towel which was draped over the radiator and used someone’s toothbrush to eradicate the acidic taste clinging to her teeth and tongue.
Her makeup was a mess; mascara ringed her eyes making her look like a hung-over panda and the residue of lipstick was smeared around her mouth. She wet a corner of the towel and cleaned herself up as best she could, scrubbing her face until it shone pink. It made her cringe to see how young she looked without her war-paint.
When she was ready she left the bathroom and headed to Joey’s room, stepping over people passed out in the hall. Riley heard others stirring in several of the rooms she passed, however, for the most part the large house was quiet. Last night must have been an awesome party.
Joey’s room was the largest in the house, yet the clutter made it look small. Picking her way around piles of dirty clothes, discarded takeaway containers that were growing lives of their own and other stuff, she grabbed a pair of sweats and a t-shirt that looked mildly clean. They were huge on her slender frame, but they’d do.
On the bed, Joey lay naked beside an equally naked girl with a cherry blossom tattoo covering her back. Riley stood admiring it for a minute; tattoos had never appealed to her personally but it was very pretty.
Perhaps another girl would have been jealous as the sight, but not Riley. She and Joey weren’t exclusive and that was the way she liked it.
Leaving the room, she hurried down the stairs, becoming aware of the stench of weed that permeated the house. She glanced into the living room as she passed and saw someone draped over the sofa, snoring loudly. On the low coffee table, a bowl of multi-colored pills took pride of place amid beer bottles and cigarette packets. At first glance they looked like M&M’s, but Riley knew they were nothing that innocent.
It was a miracle no one had died last night, or any of the nights before.
Riley knew how stupid she was being, getting mixed up with drugs. Her mom was a model, so she had grown up hearing the stories of her misdeeds and being warned away from the dangers of drugs and over-indulgence. For her twin sister it seemed to have worked, but then Terri had always been the strong one.
Outside, the midday Texas sun shone hot and bright in a clear blue sky. She’d lost her shoes over the course of the night and the sun-warmed pavement burned her soles as she padded toward St. Joseph’s University, but she liked the pain. It was a small punishment for all the things she’d done wrong.
Walking through campus, she garnered a few strange looks in her baggy clothing, but since it was a Saturday morning and most of her fellow students had spent Friday night partying like her, not many people were around to gawp.
Once she reached Willow building, where she shared a room with her friend, Chloe, she took the elevator up to the sixth floor. She was so glad it was finally fixed; they had spent the first few weeks of term trekking up and down the stairs and although it was great for her legs, she didn’t think she could handle it right now.
When she reached the room, she realized that she’d also misplaced her handbag with her purse and keys in it. Luckily, she could hear music and voices on the other side of the door.
Chloe answered when she knocked, laughing and disheveled, and Riley looked inside to see Parker, her roommate’s boyfriend, on the bed.
Riley smirked. “No prize for guessing what you two were up to! Chloe your hair’s a mess.”
“You can’t talk,” Parker called in that sexy Alabama drawl of his, “you dirty, little stop-out.”
That struck a little too close to home, though she knew he was only joking, but she forced a smile as she walked into the room and sat down cross-legged on her bed, pulling one of her fluffy pink pillows into her lap.
Chloe smacked his shoulder as she sat down beside him, smiling across at Riley. “I’m guessing you had a good night. What happened to your new dress?”
“I spilled something down it, so I chucked it in Joey’s washing basket.”
The dubious look on her roommate’s face echoed her own as she considered her actions; her dress was never going to get washed, it would simply sit festering in the mound of dirty laundry that seemed to constantly stay in that bathroom. She was sure Joey brought new clothes rather than washing the old ones because to this day she hadn’t seen him in the same shirt twice.
Riley shrugged. “I’ll just buy a new one. We can go shopping tomorrow.”
Chloe’s face dropped and Riley laughed. The college couldn’t have paired two more unlikely people; whilst Riley never passed up an opportunity to party and enjoyed dressing up and doing her make-up almost as much as she loved dancing the night away, Chloe was quiet and reserved for the most part. The only thing they had in common was that they were both freshman who’d started college two years later than most of the other students. Yet, Chloe had quickly become her closest friend, closer even than her twin sister. Despite that though, Riley still kept some secrets.
Not wanting to answer any more questions about her night, she gathered some clothes and disappeared into the bathroom to change and apply fresh makeup. When she came out again, they were both otherwise engaged. A book in hand, Chloe lay with her head in Parker’s lap as he watched what sounded like a football game on his phone, one hand absently stroking her thick, brown hair. Riley had to look away; they were so cute it was painful.
Rifling through the multiple makeup bags which held her vast collection of nail varnishes, she selected a bright, obnoxious shade of pink before removing the red from the previous night.
Stretching her leg out, she bent over to apply the first coat and heard Chloe say jokingly, “I wish I was that flexible.”
Riley turned her head to stick her tongue out at her friend, but her stomach clenched and her heart twinged, reminded of promising gymnastics career she’d lost.
For a moment, she craved a hit of something, anything to take her mind off the past, but she pushed it down; she liked to dabble, but she was not a drug addict, she did not need it to get through the day. Instead she forced herself to concentrate on the task at hand.
After a while Chloe and Parker decided to head to the cafeteria for lunch; they invited her to join them but she declined, blowing on her nails to dry them as she flicked carefully through a magazine.
When she got bored, she decided to go and retrieve her purse from Joey’s, before going shopping. Shopping always helped her feel better and, since she had plenty of money, it was a hobby she didn’t have to be ashamed of.
This time she walked across the quad dressed in a short summer dress with a mask of makeup on her face, sandals slapping against the ground and her long hair curled and fixed in place with an abundance of hairspray.
Now, only a few short hours after her “walk of shame”, the campus was alive with noise. Students basked in the bright Texas sun; some of them were studying beneath the shade of several large oak trees, but most were chatting with friends and sound of laughter carried on the breeze.
An oval football soared past her and she stopped in her tracks as a pair of huge linebackers came racing after it, almost crashing straight into her.
“Don’t tackle the lady, boys,” someone yelled good-naturedly and she glanced over to see Dawson, one of Parker’s friends, jogging toward them.
Hand on her hip, she pouted at him. “Am I not worth tackling?”
Chuckling, Dawson came to a stop. Bare chest tanned and glistening with sweat, he was a pleasure to look at. “Darlin’, any man with a working cock wants to tackle you.”
Preening, she flicked her hair over one shoulder and batted her eyelashes, before turning to the linebackers who were returning with their ball and striking a pose. “Is it true,” she teased, “would you do me?”
“Right here, right now,” one of them responded, scanning her up and down with a leer.
She turned to the other and found him blushing all the way to the tips of his ears as he studiously avoided meeting her gaze.
“Well,” she grinned, leaning over to squeeze his bicep, “what about you?”
“I… I have a girlfriend.”
“We’re only talking figuratively,” she laughed, but didn’t remove her hand.
“Well… I guess… maybe… yes?”
Riley bit her lip and looked up at him through her lashes; his embarrassment was absolutely adorable.
“You’re so cute. What’s your name?”
“Trent,” he answered, swallowing tightly.
“Trent,” she purred, “it was nice to meet you. Maybe we’ll see each other again some time.”
He shuffled backwards, ducking his head as his face reddened further, the tips of his ears practically glowing.
As Trent hurried away, his friend lingering for a moment before following, glancing back as Dawson came to stand next to her, slinging an arm casually over her shoulders.
“You realize you just terrified the poor kid? I bet he’s never met a girl like you before.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” she sniffed, pushing his arm away because he was getting her all sweaty.
Hands lifted in surrender, he backed away, a huge grin splitting his face, a dimple appearing in each cheek. “Nothing, nothing, just pointing out that Trent’s not quite your speed.”
Tilting her head coquettishly, she asked, “How about you, are you more my speed?”
Dawson laughed, a full-throated belly laugh that shook his shoulders with the force of it. “Darlin’, you’d eat me alive.”
She wasn’t sure whether she should be offended or not as he walked away. For a moment she watched as their game resumed, before shrugging and heading on her way.
She told herself that she didn’t care what people thought of her. It wasn’t true, of course, but lying to herself was becoming a bit of a habit.