"A pretty girl should never have to light her own cigarette." Ian Burgess gave the girl a smile and snapped his fingers. A small flame sprung up from the tip of his thumb. I
She cradled a gin and tonic in one hand, and her cigarette in the other. She wore shoes that looked more expensive than any single item Ian had ever purchased, and seemed to have had less actual material than her black, sparkling top that draped over only what was absolutely necessary to give the imagination everything it needed to go the rest of the way. Ian wondered if her pants would peel off, or if they would need to be cut away. He felt certain he would find out by the end of the evening, and vaguely sickened at himself for it being his aim.
"Aww, what a gentleman you are. I'm Melissa." She took a long drag from her cigarette and reached out to shake his hand. Ian took it and kissed it. He looked up at her over the back of her hand a moment, his eyes meeting hers in a sensual gaze he'd given somewhere in the neighborhood of forty other women. The coup de grace of the moment came with a dangerous, crooked grin that was more weapon than facial expression. _
She was his.
Ian could see it in her eyes. A couple more drinks, tell her the right things, and she'd be in the neighborhood of forty women, plus one. While she was distracted by his eyes, Ian poured the red Solo cup full of beer in the grass. "Can I freshen up your drink?" He asked, and released her hand. "I'm about ready for a refill, myself."
Melissa smiled. "I'd like that." Her eyes never left his, although when he walked away, they would be just as reluctant to leave his ass. W
"I'll be right back." Ian winked at her. "Don't go anywhere." He relieved her of her nearly empty beverage and strode away, weaving through a throng of twenty-somethings, all working their way through the same mating ritual he'd just completed, only with none of the ... flare. He stopped several times to light others' smokes, and at least one pipe surreptitiously smuggled into the shadows. A
Some Katy Perry song blared from inside, greatly minimizing Ian's desire to go anywhere nearer to the house. A war sprang to life in his head in which giving up a guaranteed night with ... whatever her name is ... seemed like a fair tradeoff. Ultimately, though, the night must go on, so he trudged toward the open sliding glass doors into the house. N
"Son of a bitch!" Someone shouted. "We Almost won that game!"
"Almost counts for nothing!" Tom shouted across the table at the two guys who had only lost the game of Beer Pong by two cups. He embraced Sammie and kissed her deeply, almost desperately. He released her for the briefest of moments to shout, "Drink!" Before diving back into the kiss. T
Ian watched them for longer than he thought he should have, but didn't care. Sammie had been through a string of horrifyingly bad relationships before finally dating Tom. He'd even had to step up and get in a fight or two on her behalf . . .. Ian shook his head and smiled in their direction before making the trek around drunk bystanders into the living room. Ian's breath caught in his throat. _
Brittney was here. At the party. And she was hitting on some fucking guy.
Ian ducked back into the kitchen, back against the wall, red Solo cup crushed in his fist. With each thump of the bass the wall vibrated against the back of his head. "Who invited her?" It was a stupid question. He knew it was the moment he said it. Every adult under the age of 30 in all of Magnolia was here, why wouldn't she be here too? T
Ian's mind concocted several ways of escaping the party, more than a few of them involving ziplining, or jumping from the roof onto a horse that would then gallop away. Realistically, though, he knew he'd have to face her eventually. How well he would be able to do so was all a matter of how drunk he was when he did it. He decided then that he needed to get so drunk he wouldn't remember that he'd even been at a party. O
"Ah, the old 'hiding in plain sight' trick. It's old, but good. How you doing, Flick?" Chuck Johnston leaned against the wall next to Ian, brandishing a pipe and a glass of bourbon. "Here, you look like you could use a hit." _
"Nah, man, I'm good."
"Right, no smoking."
"That shit'll kill you," Ian said.
"Totally. Hook me up with a light?" Chuck raised the pipe to his lips and waited for Ian to provide the fire. He did. After dropping a massive cloud of smoke onto the pong table, Chuck asked, "So why are you hiding?" T
The look in Ian's eyes said everything needed, but Chuck waited anyway. The boy needed to learn how to be a man and face his problems. Emotional cruelty wasn't Chuck's Power, just something he was good at. He took another hit, this time using his own lighter, staring at Ian and waiting for an answer.
After heaving a huge, sixteen-year-old's dramatic sigh he answered. "Brittney's here." E
"Shit," He coughed. "We need to get you out of here. Come on, let's go upstairs."
"How the hell is that going to help? She's hitting on some guy. She's distracted and her back is turned, why can't I just slip out the front door?"
"Because when else are you going to be able to jump out of a window in a daring escape?" L
All he could do was stare back at Chuck. Bewildered. Flabbergasted, even. "Why - "
"Because it's awesome! But first, we'll need a distraction." Chuck poured his bourbon over his clothing and stepped into the living room. "You guys, some dude in the back yard just set himself on fire, you gotta check this shit out!" He turned back to Ian and held out his arm. "Give me a light?" L
Ian snapped his fingers and lit Chuck's sleeve on fire. "I don't know how you afford to keep buying new clothes all the time."
"It's totally worth it. Stay here." _
Chuck ran, screaming into the back yard, the flames spreading quickly over his flesh, fed by the alcohol spilled down his front. Dozens of people streamed out behind him, joking and laughing. In their haste to see the human torch nobody noticed Ian, huddled in the corner with his crushed cup and mostly empty cocktail. Their attention was elsewhere. In Magnolia, it wasn't a real party until someone got lit on fire or injured or died. Usually it was Chuck.
Tortured screams were met with cheers as Chuck danced around the back yard, a fire elemental come to life and chanelling the spirit of Kevin Bacon. Coincidentally, a house remix of Footloose started playing. Laughter and cheers erupted louder, but quickly died down as Chuck's once-folicking form became a gross, dying, immolated heap on the ground. Y
"Come on," Chuck said, once again standing next to Ian in the kitchen, "let's go. They'll be distracted for another few minutes, but they'll be back." Chuck pulled him into the living room toward the stairs. Everyone had left, even Marc and Aaron, though they stood just outside the front door, talking and smoking, completely oblivious to the fact that a man had literally been burned to death only moments before. Some people just can't appreciate a good spectacle, it's a shame.O
"Wait," Ian stopped at the bottom of the carpeted staircase. "Everyone is gone, why can't we just go out the front door?"
"There are people there, we can't just push them out of the way, ya jerk."
"We could ask them to move."
"And upset the balance of the universe? You monster."
"Really? The whole - "
"Dammit, you never have fun anymore. Come on, Flick."
Ian huffed, but relented.
"That's the spirit!" Chuck dragged him upstairs by the elbow. They ducked into the first room on the right, a messy, pink monstrosity, the kind you only see in bad movies to tell the audience that it's a stereotypical teenage girl that lives there. It even had posters on the wall of the heartthrobs of the day. The room completely lacked imagination. Chuck crossed it, hauled the window open, and leaped out. U
Ian rushed to the window in time to hear a loud, sickening SNAP, and to watch Chuck's neck snap beneath his weight. _
"Alright," Chuck said from behind Ian. "When you jump out, don't do that. Land in a roll."
For the first time in what had felt like months, Ian laughed genuinely. He hugged Chuck for a long, lingering moment. Tears fought their way out and streamed down Ian's cheeks. He found himself sobbing, and being hugged in return. "You'll be alright, Flick. It's just going to take some time." A
"Thanks, man." Ian took a step back and set himself up to jump feet first out of the window. He sat on the sill and looked back. "You're a good friend."
"Hey, what kind of a person would I be if I didn't kill myself to help someone in need? It's the least I could do. Now go. If you need anything, give me a call." _
Ian nodded and let himself fall from the window sill. He landed safely and walked off into the night alone. Even though his breakup still haunted him, he had a smile on his face
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