Mike pauses mid sentence, eyes flickering away from me to stare. I turn to see what he’s looking at. The birthday girl twirls in the centre of the room. I grit my teeth at the look on Mike’s face as he stares at her.She twirls again, glass in hand, soft drink spilling over. It splashes onto her skirt and onto the floor but she doesn’t notice. She dances, and I can see her singing along and though the words don’t reach me I can tell she is out of time.
She spins, loses her balance and laughs breathlessly. That I do hear, as do most the other teens milling about the room. They all look at her with varying degrees of surprise, amusement and scorn. She doesn’t notice that either, because she is drunk and probably because she doesn’t care. They are my friends, not hers. I clench my fists together and turn my gaze back to Mike, reconsidering, yet again, why I continue to associate with these people.
‘Is she really that drunk?’ Mike asks.
I nod and shove my hands into the pockets of my jeans, ‘Yep, she really is.’
‘How much has she had?’
I watched the lights bounce off her beaded dress and reflect rainbows around the room, watch the two girls across the room point at her and giggle.
‘Third,’ I say.
Mike turns to me, eyebrows raised, ‘Seriously?’
‘Yep,’ I say, resisting the urge to roll my eyes at his incredulity.
‘How much booze is in those things.’
He says it as a statement, rather than a question, but I answer him anyway. ‘About a shot of vodka in each one.’
Before he can respond, she twirls around again and ends up in front of us, eyes bright and cheeks flushed. Her breath comes in short bursts and her chest heaves.
I grimace and bite down on the urge to tell him to keep his eyes on her face.
‘You’re drinks,’ I supply and she beams.
It’s a drunk smile and yet it is truer than the usual caustic grin she wears, and I know that one thing is part of the reason they’re all staring at her.
‘Aren’t they yummy?’ She says and then adds, ‘Almost as yummy as Pina Colada’s. Say why didn’t we have any of those?’ She asks taking my hand and twirling under my arm.
She lets go and steps over to Mike before I can answer.
‘Do you like Pina Colada’s?’
She looks up at him, eyes glittering beneath her lashes. I roll my eyes. Apparently she’s not so drunk she’s forgotten how to flirt.
‘Sure,’ Mike says, his voice high pitched.
He clears his throat and his eyes flicker over to me for a moment. I glare.
‘Great!’ She laughs.
The song changes and she darts away from Mike and twirls around the both of us.
‘The room is spinning!’ She says, laughing again as she twirls and loses her balance.
Mike is still staring. I clench my fists, and unclench them and shove them back into my pockets because it’s too tempting to punch him. I catch sight of some of the other guys staring. Guys that are in her class and wouldn’t give her a second look on a normal day.
‘You’ve only had three drinks,’ Mike protests. ‘It can’t be that bad.’
‘She’s a lightweight,’ I say.
She pauses mid twirl to pull her phone out, of the top of her dress. The screen has several notifications and she starts responding to one. Her fingers fly across the screen, rapidly punching out words. The intense expression of concentration on her face is a tell tale sign that she’s not quite up to standard, yet her speed is still impressive.
‘Really light,’ she says, looking up and then raising her eyebrows and saying, ‘Like a feather! I’m a featherweight,’ she giggles, and jams the phone back into the top of her dress.
Mike laughs, and lets her lead him back into the middle of the room to dance. I don’t stop them, though I consider how I’m going to word our next conversation.
It takes two hours for my friends get bored of watching her and move onto the next party. One that has more booze no doubt.
She doesn’t care, nor notice, when they start to trickle out. A few of them wish her a happy birthday, and she smiles at them, big and bright and unlike anything they’ve seen from her. I know because I can see it in their eyes as they leave, looking back at her with less malice than usual.
Only four people are left when she finally crashes. She sits down on the couch next to Mike and Drew, who are playing the xbox, and asks to have a turn. Before they finishing hooking up another controller for her to play, she’s asleep.
The boys laugh and I join in making fun of her as she snores softly on the end of the couch.
I sit on the floor in front of her and take up her controller and the three of us play xbox for another hour.
Then Drew heads off, claiming work in the morning, and Mike yawns and makes for the guest room.
I get up and look down at her, considering hauling her up to her room. Instead I go to the kitchen and fill up a glass of water, pop two aspirins and leave them both on the table beside the couch for her. Then I head to bed.
I’m almost asleep when the bedroom door creaks open. I have that split second of feeling of falling and jerk into wakefulness. The mattress dips, and I lean up to see her face.
‘You okay?’ I ask.
‘Yeah,’ she says, ‘Just have a headache.’
The glowing numbers tell me it’s been half an hour since I abandoned her to the couch. And though she’s still wearing her party dress, she seems sober.
‘Is anyone still here?’ She asks, laying back on the bed next to me.
She is silent and shifts, nudging me with her elbow.
‘I’m surprised you let him stay,’ she says.
She laughs, teasing and says, ‘You know why.’
‘Brat,’ I say.
She nudges me again, and I can just make out the grin on her face before she rolls away from me, yanking at the covers.
‘You have your own bed,’ I point out.
‘Night,’ she responds, ‘Thanks for the party. I dunno how much you had to pay everyone to turn up-‘
‘Don’t be stupid,’ I say, cutting her off.
She laughs again, softer this time.
‘Well, thanks anyway,’ she says. ‘It was… it was really fun.’
She means it. I smile into the darkness and roll to face the wall, our backs pressing together like they did when were kids and I was afraid of storms
‘Happy birthday, sis.’