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The Party

I wrote this for my creative writing final.

The Party

          Friday’s were by far the best day to host a party. People came relaxed, free from work and not far enough into the weekend to begin worrying about the pressures of the next week. Edward was a professional at hosting parties, a skill he had picked up from his mother, a woman who lived through her social life. During the years of his upbringing at least once a week their Upper West Side apartment would be filled with all the local socialites, friends of family, friends of friends of family, dates of friends of friends of family, and so on and so forth. Edward loved those parties. As a child Edward had always felt more comfortable around all of the adults than he did with children his own age, he absorbed himself in their talk of politics, social issues, and gossip. That is, until his nanny would seek him out from the circles of conversation and send him to bed.
          Edward was looking forward to tonight in the same way he looked forward to any social occasion. There was nothing special about tonight. There was no holiday, no recent success, nothing that warranted any sort of celebration. Tonight he was throwing a party simply for the sake of doing so.
          Edward waited with growing impatience for the caterers to arrive. However, his impatience was just a mask for what was really bothering him right now. Brooke. She’d said she would come. She’d said, “And is it okay if I bring a friend?” and he’d agreed. He should have argued.
          The buzzer rang, and he went to answer it. The caterers. He let them in, and retreated to his bedroom to let them do their thing. He lay down on his bed and stared at the ceiling. After an extensive examination he concluded the the ceiling was perfect, there wasn’t a thing wrong with it. Not only did it do an excellent job of separating him from his upstairs neighbor, which was the roof, but the paint was even and all ran in the same direction, and the corners were all ninety degrees. It was comforting to know that there was something perfect in this world of scars, and odd angles.
          The empty white expanse of ceiling soon left his mind blank, he thought about nothing in particular. Then Brooke walked into his mind. Striding confidently with that self assured walk of hers that could carry her anywhere. She appeared as she had the first time he’d seen her, walking across Washington Square Park through the rain to the Feminism and Theater class they were about to share, brandishing a bright yellow umbrella that stood out from the swarm of traditional black ones. He had made the mistake that day of not bringing an umbrella with him, and was thus in the process of being soaked when she had walked up next to him and held hers so that it covered them both. “Where are you headed?” she had asked. Turned out to be the same place she was. They had sat next to each other in the lecture hall. She had asked his name. “Edward,” he said. She giggled. “Why’s that funny?” he asked. “I don’t know, it’s just so… pompous. It makes me think of someone with a lot of money,” she said, not knowing she was speaking to a man with a large sum of inheritance attached to his checkbook, completing a degree in Gender and Sexuality Studies for no reason other than boredom. “What’s yours then?” he asked. “Brooke,” she said. And there wasn’t much he could say about that, other than, “Nice to meet you, Brooke.” “Nice to meet you too, Edward.”
          His cell phone vibrated in his pocket, a sensation that still made him jump. Brooke. A text message. “Probably going to be late this evening, sorry.” He sighed. This was just step one in the process of her not showing up at all. A process that he was all too familiar with. The buzzer rang again. The band. He sent them up to the roof to set up. He wondered if she was cheating on him. It seemed that they had been growing distant in the past couple months. She had always worked to keep a certain amount of distance between them, never letting him fully know her, rejecting the odd question seemingly at random just to keep him on his toes. It wasn’t uncommon for him to not know where she was. She made sure her life was hers, and his was his, and it wasn’t necessary that they know every detail, or where the other was at any moment in time during the day. This felt different though. It had all felt different, starting several months ago.
          “This is Damien,” she said, indicating the man to her right. “He writes.” The man was tall, with dirty blonde hair that hung at a careless length around his face. Just visible below it were his eyes, an almost unnatural blue, and looking at Edward in a way that made him feel this man could see everything about him. He had the sort of “starving artist” look to him, but was too well fed to pull it off properly. The man reached out his hand, which Edward shook with uncertainty that must have showed. And since then things had been different.
          Edward realized it was 5:00, guests would be arriving at 6:00, he had to get himself ready. He went to shower, shave, and dress. He wore a black suit with a thin lapel, and left the top two buttons of his shirt undone. He selected a tie he could put on if that turned out to be the trend, but he didn’t think it likely he’d have to come back for it. If all went according to plan tonight’s atmosphere would be casual and relaxed. Edward still had a half hour to kill until then though. He paced the apartment, straightening up. He moved a chair a few inches to the left, and then back to where it was, and then a few inches further to the right.
          He went back to his room and hit a button on the stereo system to make it play something. It shuffled through an extensive catalog of music and came back with a song he hadn’t heard in months, not since the last summer, almost 10 months ago. The notes fit into his mind like a key into a lock, and opened up a chest of memories from that summer.
          The evening was warm in a way that was pleasant then but would later pose a problem for getting to sleep. The waves rolled in and crashed methodically on the beach. Edward and Brooke walked hand in hand in the wet sand along the edge of the water line. The beach was deserted this late in the evening, leaving the two of them alone. It could only have been more perfect if they had been on the Pacific shore, where the sun would have provided a spectacular sunset out over the ocean, which for them was inland. Still, the key feature of the setting was Brooke, and she made everything else irrelevant. She shone in the few remaining rays of sunlight which turned everything golden. Her hair wafted in the gentle breeze which carried that wonderful smell of salt and stale sunlight.
          “I love… this place,” Edward said, having changed his mind partway through the sentence.
          “It is nice,” said Brooke.
          They walked on until it was dark, eventually getting back to the car and driving back to the house. That night they slept out on the dock, looking up at the vast expanse of stars. They seemed brighter that night than Edward had ever seen them before. He’d never looked at the stars with anyone before, and hadn’t realized what he was missing out on.
          The buzzer rang and Edward was pulled from his memory. He went to let in the first of his guests. He wondered who it was arriving slightly early. He opened the door. Jack. Of course.
          “Am I the first?” Jack asked, striding past Edward into the foyer.
          “As usual,” said Edward.
          “Brilliant,” Jack said and pulled out a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. Jack was a broker who traded on the floor of NYMEX, he survived primarily on cigarettes and alcohol.
          “If you must do that let’s at least go up to the roof,” said Edward. “If it smells like that in here people will think I’ve started again.”
          The band was still finalizing their setup in the far corner. Jack and Edward leaned against the railing on the west side of the building. The sun was setting, but the New York City haze obscured it’s brilliance. It was warm, at least for so early in May it was, and that was perfect for tonight.
          “So who’s coming tonight?”
          “The usual and I dunno.”
          “Brooke?”
          “She falls under I dunno.”
          “Huh.” There was a pause in the conversation, and then Jack continued. “What’s up with you two at the moment?”
          “I don’t know. It’s not like we’ve ever been the closest of couples, but recently she’s felt more distant even than usual. I just don’t know.”
          “Think she’s seeing someone else?”
          “It’s a possibility, anything’s a possibility with her though.”
          “Are you thinking about ending it?”
          “I’m not particularly motivated to at the moment, I’ll wait and see if things improve, if not then I guess I might.”
          “You used to feel very strongly about her, has that changed?”
          “Maybe, but it could just be we’ve moved past that new couple stage we were in for a while.”
          “I heard somewhere this guy did a study that showed love, the movie kind, only lasts six months. It doesn’t matter at all who it is, six months is all you have, after that the so called ‘spark’ is gone. Has to do with hormones or something.”
          “That’s rather depressing. Why does anyone get married then?”
          “That’s the question everyone asks, though generally they’re asking too late.”
          Edward heard the buzzer ring faintly downstairs. Jack stayed to lean against the railing and smoke, Edward went back inside to greet his next guests.
          Within a half hour Edward’s apartment was bustling with people. He moved from group to group, playing the gracious host, not neglecting to greet and chat with everyone in attendance. The band had started playing, food and drinks were being served. Laughter rang out every few moments, the lighthearted feeling spread to Edward despite his initial unwillingness to let it do so. A couple hours passed in this fashion, the sun went down, the band played louder, the party was in full swing. Edward went up to the roof and came upon a very drunk Jack.
          “Hey man, great party!” Jack said, exaggerating all the wrong syllables.
          “Yeah it’s all right.”
          “No seriously, it’s like out of one of those Smirnoff ads you know where all the people and hot girls get together to have some crazy party but really what makes it fun is all the vodka they bring and then it says “Be There” and you know what I’m talking about right?”
          “I do.”
          “Yeah, well it’s like that. Brooke ever show up?”
          Edward had managed to forget about her for the most part prior to this moment, the general goodwill that had accumulated in him dissipated instantly.
          “Not yet, haven’t heard anything since this afternoon.”
          “Hey man I’m sorry about that but you got to just forget about that bitch and have a good time you know? Here, let’s get you a drink.”
          They went in to the bar the caterers had set up.
          “Two White Russians.”
          “What? No. No no no no no.”
          “Yes. You need to lighten up and get in the party mood. This’ll do that.”
          “I don’t want a really bad hangover tomorrow.”
          “Don’t think about tomorrow. That’s your problem, you think about tomorrow too much, think about today.”
          “Today sucks.”
          “All the more reason to drink.”
          “Alright fine. But just the one.”
          “Excellent, here,” Jack said, handing Edward one of the drinks the bartender had placed before them and taking the other for himself.
          Edward drank, slowly at first, then finishing the rest within a few minutes.
          “You needed that more than I thought,” said Jack. “Lets go back to the bar.”
          And this time Edward didn’t protest.
          Half an hour later Jack and Edward were back on the roof, leaning against the railing and listening to the band play. Edward held his third drink in his hand and was debating whether or not it was a good idea to finish it.
          “This was a bad idea,” Edward said.
          “No, this was an excellent idea, this was an awful week and this is what I needed. You needed it too.”
          “What I needed was time to think, I did this to avoid that.”
          “Thinking is for people who don’t do. I heard some guy say that I think, and if he didn’t he should have.”
          “I think you made that up.”
          “There it is again, thinking, not good.”
          “I can’t do without thinking, that would be like… I don’t know. Something bad.”
          “That third drink’s really getting to you huh?”
          “You’re one to talk, your blood must be 80 proof by now.”
          “I can take it, you not so much.”
          “Whatever. I don’t know about you but I want to get out of here.”
          “You want to ditch your own party?”
          “I’m sure it’ll be fine without me.”
          “Where do you want to go?”
          “I dunno, out. Let’s just go, we can decide where when we get there.”
          “Alright, if that’s what you want.”
          The two of them left the railing and made their way through the crowd back downstairs.
          As they reached the lower level Jack exclaimed, “Hey look who showed up after all!”
          Edward looked around and saw Brooke in the foyer. Then he saw a man step behind her and remove her coat. Damien. He was too far away to hear anything being said but could see that she thanked him, and lightly touched his arm in the process of doing so. Edward thought they might as well just start making out right there in front of everyone and him. His clothes were cheap, and she had clearly dressed down for his sake. She saw him then, waved, and headed in his direction, but not without first tapping Damien to indicate that he should follow.
          “Sorry I’m late,” she said, and kissed him.
          “It’s fine, you haven’t missed much,” Edward said, although fine was possibly the last thing it was.
          “Hello again,” said Damien, smiling and reaching out his hand.
          Edward looked at him and was filled with a sudden rage. There was no question in his mind that this man and Brooke were having an affair. He wasn’t even sure why this made him so angry, but it did, he hadn’t felt fury like this before. His hand curled into a fist, and instead of shaking Damien’s hand he lashed out at his face. He struck him hard on the cheek, right below his eye. Damien fell back, knocking the drink out of the hand of a person standing close by, and then landing hard on the floor.
          “Edward!” Brooke exclaimed.
          Jack was standing next to Edward and reached out to restrain him, but there was no need. The room was quiet apart from the music and chatter coming from the roof, everyone stared at Edward. Brooke bent down to Damien, still on the floor.
          “Are you okay?”
          “Yeah, yeah I think I am.”
          Brooke turned back to Edward. “What on earth has gotten into you, what the hell did you do that for?”
          “Don’t act like you don’t know. Come on Jack, let’s go.”
          Edward walked past Brooke and Damien and out the door without looking back. Jack followed silently, closing the door behind them.
          “That was what I needed,” said Edward. “And now I need a drink, let’s go find a bar.”
          Jack continued to follow, despite the fact that any more drinking would put him at a serious risk of alcohol poisoning, and what Edward really needed was ice for his hand.


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