(Editors note: For the previous installment of this novel see here. This installment continues from Chapter One of Part One: Before The Lines)
“What’s up, TORP?” she yelled, and I felt some saliva hit my face, positioned as it was between her and the interloper.
He narrowed his eyes in momentary confusion. “It’s actually Reynolds,” he said, jerking his thumb backward. “You know Thorpe?” It took me a second to realize that this was the actual name of one of his friends, who was now taking a shot with his group.
Cara didn’t catch on as quickly, naturally, and just began to laugh. “It’s a joke, dude,” she said, weaving toward me as she extended her hand to the newly identified and pretentiously named Reynolds. “I’m Cara, and these are my friends…” she trailed off, and I waited to hear our names, but she seemed incapable of finishing her sentence and just smiled. Which was no problem for Reynolds, who had yet to look at the rest of us.
“My friends and I were wondering if we could buy you ladies a round of drinks,” he said, still not taking his eyes off Cara. My inclination to refuse what would probably turn out to be a roofie-laced beer was rendered moot as Cara climbed over me and stood unsteadily, pointing at the table from where he had just come. “I want one of those shots,” she drawled, and with that she stumbled into the fold of lookalike men.
“There go our free drinks,” Kennedy deadpanned, and we all grinned at each other.
“I don’t think I’d drink anything sponsored by those guys,” Abby said, echoing my thoughts.
A couple of seconds passed as we watched Cara sway her way through taking a shot and placing her arm on top of Reynolds’, a move he was sure to take as flirtation but, objectively, was more likely her attempt at remaining upright.
“Should we be worried?” Abby asked. “I mean…should we…intervene at some point?”
Silence descended as we considered our options.
“Let’s just watch from here for now,” I offered. “I really don’t want to have to hang out with those guys unless it’s absolutely necessary.”
Kennedy and Abby nodded in agreement, and by the time halftime rolled around, we were all feeling a little buzzed, with one eye on the game and the other on Cara and Company. As the crowd began to disperse from their tables for the mid-game break and mingle with each other, I heard whoops and decibel-challenging laughter over at Cara’s adopted table, and I turned to see them playing a sloppy game of quarters. One of the guys—Thorpe, I’ll guess, although it could have been Yacht or Thurston Howell—rather deftly bounced his quarter off the table and straight into Cara’s cleavage. I wondered where she had shed the suit jacket that was previously covering her silk camisole and had the sudden urge to drape an afghan around her bare shoulders. Before I could pretend to be her grandmother, though, I watched as Reynolds dropped his hand down her shirt and retrieved the quarter, holding it up like a trophy to the cheers of his fellow date rapists. He then turned to Cara and planted his beer-drenched lips on hers in what had to be the least romantic kiss in the history of mankind. Kennedy and Abby and I actually winced in unison. We turned to each other and wordlessly decided it was intervention time, stepping toward the table together.
“Girls!” Cara squealed, “I’m winning! Come watch!” I seriously doubted that Cara was winning at anything right now other than proximity to alcohol poisoning, and I whispered in her ear that maybe we should take a walk around the block.
“Walk?” she shouted back, shaking her head. “No, I’m gonna stay here. I’m having fun!”
Reynolds and the guy next to him were whispering, and he turned to Cara and threw his arm around her. “Let’s take this party back to my apartment,” he said in what was his drunken version of a sexy murmur. Abby, Kennedy and I glanced at each other nervously as Cara leaned her head on his shoulder and giggled her assent.
Kennedy stepped forward and grabbed Cara’s arm. “SWEETIE. I’m not joking. You’re wasted and you need to take a break. Come back to our table and drink some water for a minute,” she hissed. I felt like I was watching an angel-devil scenario: Kennedy at Cara’s left shoulder, Reynolds at her right. I also felt like I was on the losing team.
Cara pivoted underneath Reynolds arm so that it remained across her chest and looked at us. “I need to have fun,” she said, looking at each of us in turn (that, or experiencing triple vision). “I’m a big girl. I’ll be fine. I’m going home with a boy and I’ll call y’all in the morning.” She turned back to the table and left the rest of us consulting each other with worried eyes.
“She’s not going to change her mind,” Abby whispered. “We’d have to drag her, kicking and screaming, out of here. And she is WAY strong. I took a kickboxing class with her at Equinox.”
I turned to Kennedy, who at times like these was our fearless leader and had earned that role in numerous standoffs and insult-hurlings with misbehaving boys before. She looked around the table in disgust and stepped forward until she was right in Reynolds’ face. “I want your address and I want your phone number,” she barked, “and if anything happens to my friend, I swear to God I will hunt you down.”
Reynolds, who had probably been threatened before by women, if not law enforcement, stared at the three of us planted protectively around Cara and must have decided that the exchange of information was worth it. He recited the stats for Kennedy, who programmed it all into her phone then dialed the number for confirmation. A second later, Reynolds held up his ringing phone, the screen of which glowed with Kennedy’s digits. “Happy?” he sneered.
Kennedy sneered right back, then turned and put her lips next to Cara’s drunken ear. I couldn’t hear everything, but I did make out “no sex,” “herpes,” “condom,” and “scream.” Cara kept nodding her head and, when the instructions were complete, gathered us in for a group hug. “Love ya ladies,” she yelled. “I’ll be fine!” And the happy couple left the bar.
The three of us emptied out onto the street ourselves after we had paid our bill a few minutes later. “I feel that times like these call for a pre-crime division of the police department,” I announced. “And I feel guilty.”
Kennedy shook her head. “I know, but Abby’s right. Cara’s a twenty-eight year-old woman, and we can’t save her from every dickwad she meets. But just in case…” she held out her phone while Abby and I copied Reynolds’ information into ours, and I hoped to never have to use it.
To be continued