Chapter 1 – Tennis Court

BRENT

“And just like that, everything will fade into Euphoria! Your stress, regrets, desires, mistakes, gone. For the rest of the night. Into oblivion. Just by taking this! Do it, you know you want to, join your new classmates!” I barely hear Reed shout over the overwhelming sound of deep EDM bass lines and the party going on around us. “COME ON BRENT,” He continues, this time even louder. His face, illuminated frequently by the changing lights, was already sweaty from dancing. “What are you stalling for? Don’t worry about the cost, man. I paid for it already with that scholarship money!”

 

“That’s horrible Reed! That’s supposed to go to your education!” I shout back in protest as bodies dance around me. The mood was room was frantic.

 

“Oh trust me Brent, I’m learning! Now are you going to take this or are you going to keep being a pussy?”

 

“I- I’m not a pussy- I’m-” I quickly attempt to defend myself but am interrupted. I feel a body press up against mine and shout over my shoulder towards Reed.

 

“Fuck you Reed, you sexist asshole! Give me the fucking drugs. Brent here’s too nervous to try.” The voice, belonging to a beautiful girl named Nova, pierces my ears as I try to maintain some sort of dignity.

 

“What?! No way! Nova Sangston, the shining star of Bellview, wants to do acid? You’re seeing this too, Brent?! Has hell froze over or are we in Heaven?” Reed shouts in amazement as I step back to make room for Nova.

 

“Neither. You’re in purgatory, dumbass. Let’s party.” Nova says, reaching towards Reed. “Come on, I don’t have all night.”

 

“Alright, alright! Here you go!” Reed shouts, reaching in his pocket. He becomes more and more excited as he pulls out two small strips of paper. “One for Nova,” He says, handing her a strip. I watch in curious amazement as she places the strip underneath her tongue. Not believing my eyes, I watch as the valedictorian from some private all-girls school out East willingly takes acid at her first college party. “And one for me, because Brent here is too afraid-” I interrupt, stopping Reed before he can continue by taking the second strip from his hand.

 

“You’ve clearly had enough,” I claim as I quickly place the strip under my tongue instead. I couldn’t think too much about everything, right? “If Miss Valedictorian will do it, so will I. Like Nova said, let’s party.”

 

“SHIT! Brent isn’t a pussy!” Reed shouts, his brown eyes widening as he throws his arms towards the ceiling in a pure, childlike excitement. “You’re not too bad Brent, are you? Oh, perfect!” He suddenly sounds more excited. “Here comes the lady lover himself, Wes!” His focus alters toward the someone behind me. After staring a second, he continues. “Over here, man!” His sentences were separated by insane laughter. “You’ll NEVER believe what just happened!”

 

Reed was right. How could they when I couldn’t believe it myself? I just took acid at my first college party…

 

I felt great though.

 

“Brent, what’s going on?” I hear someone shout from behind me. I go to turn around to see who was talking and am met halfway by Wes Greens- a tall, slim, dark haired boy with distinct facial features. He was someone all the girls chased, and he loved playing hard to get.

 

“Wes, I thought you weren’t going to come,” I struggle to sound sober as the lights seem to leave an imprint in my vision for seconds after they flash various colors throughout the room. “I’m so, so sorry…” I say, feeling the need to apologize.

 

God, no better way to show that you’re high for the first time then by apologizing right away.

 

“Brent, you’re fine. I came with Joslyn to meet new people, but in this crowd it’s almost impossible. She’s dancing with some girls over there, so I have nowhere else to go. What did you take?” Wes asks as I tried to comprehend all he was asking.

 

“I took- uh, Nova? What did we take?” I say, obviously now slurring my words. “Nova?” I repeat after a second of no response. I turn to see where she went, and witness her making out with Reed.

 

“Damn! I thought she didn’t like him, isn’t that what she said to us at orientation?” Wes shouts as I stare in amazement. I suddenly begin to laugh hysterically and Wes joins in.

 

From there, the music seems to get louder and the lights somehow become more intense, leaving longer imprints in their wake. I turn back to Wes, studying his features in a way I never have before. His laughter fades and is replaced by a dynamic smile, changing how I see him. I reach out to touch his hand, and he accepts the invitation. I once again study his features before proposing something else.

 

“Let’s dance, yeah?” I propose, somehow right before a swell in the music. My judgment between reality and fantasy soon become more and more elementary as it was when I was a carefree child. I find myself soon dancing on Wes’ body, facing away from his dynamic smile, staring in amazement at the echoing lights. The music of the party leaves deep impressions on my hearing and the people around us seem to dance together, all in slow motion.

 

“I didn’t know you could dance like this, what you’re doing feels great,” Wes whispers in my ear, just loud enough for me to hear. His voice sends chills down my spine as I feel like I have melted in his hands.

 

Pleasing him made this Euphoria even better. I inhale as he grabs my hair and kisses my neck once. He breathes deep and seems to hesitate before whispering again, “I can’t do this, though. You’re high and I’m sober. And people are watching,” He then backs away from me, forcing me to turn around and face him. I’m disappointed as I search for his dynamic smile, which has disappeared. Despite my thoughts, I’m speechless for too long and Wes continues. “I’m sorry, Brent. I’m just going to go find Joslyn.” Wes says, continuing to back away before finally turning around. I watch as he disappears into the crowd of people.

 

I’m left speechless on the dance floor, staring at Wes as he walks away. Euphoria didn’t last nearly as long as Reed claimed it would.

 

After a few seconds, I turn to see Reed and Nova still dancing with each other, exchanging kisses and laughter as Wes and I were a minute ago. After seeing that, I decide to leave the dance floor to find a bathroom.

 

I struggle to make it through the crowd, which seems to have gotten tighter than I had originally noticed. Everyone was still dancing, however no longer in slow motion. The lights started to creep my senses out as the imprints they left became too powerful and the music attempted but failed to drown out my thoughts.

 

What just happened? Where did I get the courage to grind on someone? Did Wes like guys too? Why did he kiss my neck if he didn’t want me? Who else saw us dancing? I try, but fail to answer any of my questions due to my lack of a controllable mind thanks to the acid I took. I instead just sit by the entrance to the bathrooms, watching the crowd of partiers dance to the music.

 

The lights continue to leave imprints, echoing blues, reds, greens, and purples, as the dancers seem to switch into slow motion as the music slows and then back to normal speed, almost faster than reality, as the music accelerates to a climax. I witness the aftermath of another drop in the bass line as another familiar face separates themselves from the crowd of dancers.

 

The face belonged to another member of my orientation group. Her name was Annalise, Lise for short, and her eyes had a kind of soft, caring characteristic you’d find in any genuine friend. She walked over, sat down beside me, and spoke quietly, just loud enough for me to hear.

 

“I saw what happened with Wes, are you okay?” Her voice was as gentle as her eyes.

 

“Is Wes gay?” I ask, my words not as slurred as before.

 

“No idea, I just met him yesterday too. He does seem like the type of guy to lead a person on though,” Lise spoke, brushing glitter off her tight-fitting dress. “Is this your first party?” She asks, staring with me toward the crowd.

 

“Yeah,” I reply. “It is, and it’s a lot more than I expected. There’s so many people, and they all seem so confident. They’re all so brave. I mean, to be able to dance like that, and seemingly know everyone sees that you’re so brave, it’s impressive.” I continue, watching the lights blend into each other.

 

“You know what? I’m going to let you in on a secret,” Lise begins, “Most of them aren’t confident. A few are, obviously, but most of them are faking it. It’s just a facade they put on to convince people like you that they are stronger than they seem. But they’re just like the rest of us. Don’t let it fool you.”

 

“Why do they fake it?” I ask, curiously wanting to know the answer. “Why do they try to seem stronger?”

 

“Like I said, they’re weak. They want to feel stronger, complicate their reality. Real life can be boring, disappointing, sad, unfair. But here, by tripping on acid and dancing with strangers, people feel safe somehow, it’s like a haven from reality.” Lise’s voice seemed tired but full of wisdom. She was what people called an old soul, a wise young adult with a collection of knowledge far beyond their years. In a former life, she could have been the wisest elder of a native tribe, understanding the importance of everything in life.

 

“Annalise! There you are, I was looking for you,” A voice calls a few feet away, breaking the thoughtful silence Lise had created. “Oh, I’m sorry, did I interrupt something?” The voice belonged to Cassidy, Annalise’s lifelong best friend. They explained during an ice breaker at orientation that they decided to go to Bellview together after being friends and going to the same school for over a decade.

 

“No, you’re fine,” I reply quickly. Lise turned back to me before responding herself.

 

“We were just talking about the party, it’s Brent’s first.” Lise says, patting the floor beside her, inviting Cassidy to join us on the ground.

 

Cassidy was crazy, but in a good way. She met everyone in our orientation group with her glowing smile, which seemed to be trademarked by how often she showed it off. As an outgoing girl, she was no stranger to the party scene.

 

“Crazy, isn’t it?” Cassidy begins, exhaling as she slid down to the floor. “God I’ve danced enough to never have to work out again. I’m exhausted.”

 

I was somewhat glad Cassidy had showed up and Lise invited her to join us on the floor outside the bathroom. She was outgoing and commanded the attention of all those around her. I needed a distraction, and Cassidy would be that. Lise probably could’ve told I needed to switch the topic, and saw Cassidy as the perfect escape route.

 

“Oh really, find any guys worth your time?” Lise asks, a smile decorating her glittered-face.

 

“None that play for our team. Brent on the other hand, might find some pretty nice guys here, if you know what I mean.” Cassidy says, emphasizing the last few words of her reply. “Answer me this: Why are all the hot guys in college gay? I mean, it’s great that they can be who they want to be finally, but come on! Seriously, the straight ones are just gross,” Cassidy spoke while lifting her hands up above her head in a type of defeated proclamation. “Hell, even you’re hot, Brent!”

 

Her compliment caused us all to laugh obnoxiously. Soon, the party seemed distant as ever, along with the worries of reality.

 

“You know; the gays should really give the rest of the male population some tips on literally everything they do wrong. Their fashion for one, that’s tragic,” Cassidy continues, causing more laughter between the three of us. “And a lot of them still smell! It’s like they’re still in 6th grade when everyone first started to stink,”

 

Lise and I reply with even more laughter as people walk in and out of the bathrooms on either side of us. Our laughter dies down and Lise breaks the approaching silence.

 

“How many people do you guys think are puking in these bathrooms right now?” She asks, lazily pointing toward both bathrooms, one on either side of us.

 

“Well I know that girl Joslyn from our orientation group was in there a minute ago. She’s beyond wasted. I guess that’s just what happens when you smoked too much weed and drink too much vodka!” Cassidy explains, adding an obviously fake Russian accent to the word ‘Vodka’, causing more laughter. She pronounced it as if it was spelt ‘vuadka’.

 

“Please tell me you’re not taking Russian as your language requirement,” Lise comments through a small break in her laughter.

 

“Oh no, I’m taking Spanish, I have to know how to ask for drinks for our spring break trip to Buenos Aires!” Cassidy replies, this time adding a Latin tongue trill to the end of her sentence. She then joined us in laughter.

 

“Oh god that trip is going to be great-” Lise’s reply was cut short by the music suddenly stopping with a sound of a record scratching. The former fading lights disappeared along with the music as a normal fluorescent light replaced them. The room was suddenly so bright I had to shelter my eyes. Our momentary escape from reality was over.

 

“¡Ay caramba! ¡La policia esta aqui!” Cassidy shouts as the room fills with a different kind of chaos, though I didn’t understand what she was saying.

 

“What?” I shout as I’m pulled up by my arm from the ground by Lise.

 

“The cops are here,” Lise says through a smile.

 

“Oh,” I reply, noticing the blue and red police lights outside the frat house we were in.

 

“Time to book it! Follow me,” Cassidy shouts, “¡VAMOS CHICOS!” She screams, followed by yet another Latin tongue trill and more laughter.

 

Understanding her perfectly now, I am dragged by Lise, who was right behind Cassidy, through a window back behind the house. Lise lets go of my hand to follow her bilingual best friend through the window of the second story. Too excited to object, I follow in her wake and soon find myself holding on to a gutter railing outside the fraternity to make it to the ground without jumping. I slowly inch my way down the railing and make it to the ground not long after Lise.

 

Cassidy, Lise, and I then sprint away from the house, through other parties at other fraternities, past a field and then finally to Bellview’s athletic park.

 

“What are we doing here?” I shout as I sprint to keep up with the bilingual partier and her wise best friend.

 

“No one will find us at the tennis courts.” Cassidy replies as she slows down.

 

We run a few more yards before our feet hit the pavement of the Bellview Bangels tennis court, desperately out of breath. As we gasp for air, we hear more students approach the court, also exhausted from the sprint.

 

“Shit, who’s that?” Lise asks as we look over to the other side of the court. We watch as three figures slowly walk toward us.

 

“Holy shit, it’s you guys.” Cassidy says while deeply exhaling. She begins to laugh slightly as the faces of the three others appear under the lamplight illuminating our side of the court.

 

“Wes? Joslyn? Nova?” Lise says before joining Cassidy in laughing.

 

“Hey guys, crazy party, huh?” Joslyn asks, before collapsing onto the pavement of the court, laughing obnoxiously.

 

We all join her in both laughing and laying on the court. We look up at the stars as I feel virtually unstoppable.

 

“God, college is going to be great,” Nova says through the laugher.

 

“Our orientation leader would be so proud,” Joslyn comments.

 

“Wait, guys-” Lise says, blatantly as the laughter dies down.

 

I swallow some air as we all wait for Lise to finish her sentence.

 

“Where’s Reed?” Wes and Lise ask simultaneously.

 

He’s not here. The boy with the acid is missing.

 

Shit.

 

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