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Bentley (Hawthorne Brothers Book One)(2)

By:M.L. Young

“If they’re hot, I’ll take three!” Maggie said, at which they both laughed.

I sometimes felt like the tertiary friend, like I wasn’t in the loop with the two of them. I knew they loved me, and that they’d do and had done anything for me, but there was a bond there that I couldn’t compete with. After all, I wasn’t the same as them. I was the weird college girl, forgoing the typical experience for something atypical. That wasn’t normal—at least to everybody looking in.

As we pulled onto Greek row, cars lined the streets as a few different frat houses hosted parties. Puking in the front yard, people running around on the sidewalks and street, and music so loud it shook my windows foreshadowed something that I knew I wasn’t going to enjoy. I wasn’t even parked and I was already thinking of when I was going to be able to get home.

“There’s a spot,” Maggie said, pointing ahead.

I gently pulled in at the front of the line before backing up a little and turning off the car. The girls hopped out, shivering a little as they felt the air. My tights provided some comfort, a small amount of solace that wasn’t much of a consolation at all.

People were talking on the stairs with red plastic cups in their hands. The music was so loud I winced a little. Two people, a guy and a girl, drunk out of their minds, were having sex in the bushes as two other guys watched intently. As we walked inside, the music blasting, we took off our coats and put them in a pile with the loads of others as Maggie and Nina started to shake their bodies a little and already start dancing.

“Let’s get some drinks!” Nina shouted to the two of us.

We walked into the kitchen, where tubs of jungle juice were both sitting and being brewed. A keg was in the corner, with brave participants doing stands on top of it, while a bunch of snack food was laid out on the counter and some of the overly drunk were shoving chips and pretzels in their mouths, beer stains plaguing their chins and shirts.

A a guy who was sweating as he slung drinks and kept them coming for the hordes of people handed us three cups. I sniffed it first, thinking it smelled a little fruity, before taking a sip and feeling the singe and burn of the alcohol inside.

“God, that’s strong,” I said, coughing a little.

“It’s so good,” Maggie said, sucking down a little more.

“It’s like drinking jet fuel or something,” I said as Nina laughed a little.

“Come on, we need to find some cute guys,” Nina said as she pointed all around.

I followed them around as they scouted out guys and tried to be coy about it the entire time. One of them kept looking at Nina, by far the prettiest of the three of us, as Maggie pointed him out and she batted her eyelashes and tried to flirt. It didn’t take long for him to come over with a friend, a guy who kept smiling and sipping from his cup, as she and Maggie tried to play it cool like they could take them or leave them. I guess they felt like they had a strong hand, and I think the guys did as well, as they caked on the charm and attempted to make sure that no other guys would get to talk with them for the night.

“Do you have anyone for our friend?” Maggie asked.

“No, sorry, we came just the two of us,” one of the guys said.

They looked at me with a “what do we do” face. I could tell they wanted to talk and make out with these guys without making me feel like they were ditching me and leaving me behind.

“Go ahead, I’ll be fine,” I said, their pretty little faces perking up.

“Thanks, Anna!” Nina said before she dragged her guy out to dance.

I moved back towards the wall, my cup up towards my lips but the liquid not going down, as I wasn’t sure I could stomach even a thimbleful. There was a part of me that liked being a wallflower, with nobody really bothering me or expecting all that much from me. I got to be social, at least somewhat, while not having to go crazy and do things that I wasn’t comfortable with.

I watched Nina and Maggie, mainly making sure they were safe, as I watched the minutes tick by on an old wooden clock that hung above the mantle of the frat’s fireplace. How long were we staying? I wasn’t expected to stay the night, was I? I couldn’t just leave them here.

With my mind racing, I walked over and dug through the pile of coats before finding mine and putting it on. I walked outside into the cool air as the humidity of the house quickly vanished and I could feel the air freezing small beads of sweat on my brow. I wiped them away and sat on the wooden ledge of the porch before taking out my phone and flipping through Instagram. Surprisingly nobody tried to talk to me, maybe because of my phone and what I thought was an obvious disinterest in being here, but after another fifteen minutes of freezing my ass off on the ledge, I knew I needed to do something.

I walked back inside, looking for the girls, before I found them and approached them.

“Nina,” I said, tapping her shoulder.

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

“I don’t really want to stay any longer,” I said.

“That’s okay, you can leave, it’s no problem!” she said happily.

“What about you and Maggie?” I asked.

“I don’t think we’ll have a problem tonight,” she said, running her hands down her date’s chest.

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“We’ll be fine, I promise. I’ll call you if we’re not,” she said.

“Okay, I’ll see you guys later then,” I said.

“Not if we’re lucky!” she said, alluding to the fact that she wanted to get it in tonight more than anything.

I turned around and walked back out of the party. The noise diminished the closer I got to my car. I turned the key, the wireless remote not working anymore, and got inside before starting it and revving up the engine. It sputtered a little at first, being stubborn and not wanting to start, but I kept at it, and eventually the little gauge with the engine temperature rose and let me leave.

I had a weird, eerie feeling as I turned onto the main road to go home. It was fairly country out here, our university town situated in the cornfields of the Midwest—a veritable outpost for anybody traveling through on a long journey to the big city of Chicago. This road, while generally not too busy even during rush hour, was a barren wasteland of dystopian nightmares on a Friday night like tonight. Everybody was out, mainly at parties, and only a few stray cars drove past me as I went home.

I must’ve been five minutes into my drive, dead in the country with frosty empty cornfields all around me, before my hunk of shit car sputtered out and the lights turned off. I coasted off the road, soon coming to a halt. I didn’t even need to press down on the brakes.

“Shit,” I said aloud.

I took out my phone, the cold already setting in, as I thought about texting Maggie and Nina. No, they wouldn’t be able to help. Not only that, but they wouldn’t even be looking at their phones right now, and they’d probably ignore me, thinking that I was exaggerating the situation.

I tried turning the key a few more times, but nothing. It must’ve been a dead battery—something that I should’ve had replaced almost a year ago, but spent the money on books instead. Damn you, education, for doing this to me.

I got out of the car, hoping I’d see somebody who’d help me. There was nobody around, at least not that I could see, and I wasn’t even sure if anyone driving past would stop to help me even if they did see me. It was dark and cold, so they might think I was some killer out here. I know I wouldn’t want to stop for a complete stranger.

I shivered as the cold bit through my special gloves that allowed me to still use my touchscreen phone. I didn’t have roadside assistance with my insurance, but I opened my insurance app anyway, as I knew that I wasn’t going to get out of here by closing my eyes and tapping my feet together three times.

Just as I opened it and began to type in some information, a car came across the hill in the distance towards me, going towards town. This was my chance. With my phone up and the screen lighting the night sky around me, I waved it in the air, the car’s brights going on. It seemed to be slowing down. Was it going to stop and help me?

The car, a hulking black matte muscle car that sent shivers up my spine even when the engine wasn’t roaring, came up and stopped beside me and I saw somebody shuffling around inside. I squinted a little, hoping to catch a glimpse of the driver, before the door opened, a wisp of fog circling around the bright headlights.

“Problems?” the man asked as he stepped out.

“Yeah, I think the battery is dead,” I said before he came closer.

Oh my God, it was him. Bentley Hawthorne. I went to high school with him, well, with his brother Cash, but he was there too, just a few years older than me. I think he was a senior when I was a freshman. Actually, he was the senior in school, and the object of so many girls’ desires. I hadn’t seen him since right before he graduated, though I overheard Cash talk about him a million times after that.

“What happens when you turn the key?” he asked.

“Nothing happens,” I said.

“Yeah, it’s probably the battery. Why don’t you go and pop the hood and I’ll swing my car around and give you a jump so you can get out of this cold,” he said.