Chapter 4 – Ribs

ANNALISE

“SHOTS!” I hear my already drunk best friend shout at she impatiently downs another small glass of alcohol. We had been sitting at the bar of Danger Night Club for almost an hour now. “Come on, come on, more! I want to be able to swim in it!” She screams to the bartender as I take another drink of water. “You know, Lise,” Cassidy pauses to talk to me, “The effort is a nice idea, but it’s not going to last.”

 

“What are you talking about?” I reply, trying to understand my drunk friend.

 

“Staying dry, that’s what I’m talking about. I know you’ve only drank water since we got here. You don’t really think you’re going stay alcohol-free tonight, do you?” She replies, her words so badly slurred that it took me a moment to understand her question.

 

God, the night just started.

 

“No, I’m just taking it easy tonight. We drank enough after last night’s party anyway. Plus, I want to remember some of my first week of college.” I reply as I take another sip of my water. “You on the other hand, should be slowing down, it is just past 10 o’clock.” I continue, trying to sound casual yet serious.

 

“God,” Cassidy begins, her tone of voice causing me to prep for a drunk complaint. “You know, I was excited to move to college to get away from my parents, not to find new ones my first night at a club. Let me have fun,” She whines, proving I was right to prep for a drunk argument.

 

“You can have fun without taking 6 shots your first hour at the club.” I reply, playing my usual role as the mother of my friends. “You can dance with guys and have just as much fun,” I say, proposing a soberer and age-appropriate alternative.

 

“I’d rather not. Guys never make me happy for longer than a few minutes.” Cassidy replies, drinking more while eying Reed, who was on the dance floor, clearly having a blast with Nova and Brent. She glared as they seemed to be having fun. She was jealous and terrible at hiding it when drunk.

 

“Oh,” I say as I realize what was going on. “You like Reed, and you’re jealous of Nova because he likes her.” I state, knowing it was not a question.

 

“You think I’m jealous of Miss Valedictorian gone druggie? You really think I’m dumb enough to get jealous over a guy? Let alone Reed?” Cassidy, through more slurred speech, asks. She was spitting out questions in attempt to make the conversation more about everyone else instead of her.

 

“Well no one can help being jealous, it’s okay. You just-” I am interrupted by Cassidy shouting, once again.

 

“Bartender! More of whatever you gave me already, please!” She demands, proving she was trying to escape the situation. “I know I’m going to need it as long as my friend here keeps acting like my mother rather than my friend.” Her reasoning made me roll my eyes once again.

 

“I only am because you need it,” I reply, trying to calm her down.

 

“You see; I’m just not used to getting what I need when I need it. I always get help too late. Like right now,” Cassidy replies, less slurred than before. “Bartender!” She shouts toward the poor club employee. “Come on, I don’t have all night! Don’t worry about the tab, I have enough moola.” She says while pulling out her share of Nova’s bail money. “Ah, thank God we got that extra money. For once Nova was helpful-” She says while waving the cash around.

 

“Bartender!” I interrupt, “I think she’s had enough. Thank you though!” I shout over her as the bartender begins to approach. “Just give us the tab,” I say as the bartender nods. “Put that away,” I say pushing her money back toward her clutch.

 

“No! I want another drink!” Cassidy shouts to the bartender, scaring him away completely. “Ugh!” She adds as the bartender goes to another costumer. “Lise, you don’t own me.” She screams, flipping her glare towards me over as the volume of the club’s music increases.

 

“You need to slow down, Cass!” I shout as the bass of the song playing drops, causing an explosion of noise. The dance floor looked inviting. “Let’s dance,”

 

“No, you go. I’ll stay here.” Cassidy replies, turning back toward the bar.

“We both know he’s not going to give you anymore,” I say, spoiling her plan. “And I know everyone here can see you’re clearly too drunk for your own good.”

 

“Is there anything you don’t know Annalise?” Cassidy asks, her voice drenched in annoyance.

 

“What?” I respond, confused. “Cassidy, you need to come with me. You’re causing a scene.” I say, grabbing her arm in attempt to bring her to the bathroom or somewhere where we could talk without shouting.

 

“No!” Cassidy shouts back, pulling her arm away from my grasp.

 

“You think this you’re so smart, huh? You think you know everything, don’t you? You think I need a parent figure to guide me even in college, you think I’m too drunk, you think no one will give me more alcohol, you think I’m drinking because of Reed, you think I’m jealous of Nova, well you know what?!” She shouts, getting up from her stool at the bar. “You know what I think?” She asks, “Go ahead, say it, you do know everything, don’t you?”

 

I respond with silence, trying not to add fuel to the already inflamed situation.

 

“I think you’re full of shit.” Cassidy says quieter than before, breaking the silence. She shakes her head in disgust and begins to back up from the bar. I have no time to think as my drunk friend quickly disappears into the vivacious dance floor.

“Cassidy!” I reply as she begins to disappear into the crowd. “Wait, Cassidy! Where are you going?” I shout, losing her to the overwhelming sea of bodies and flashing lights. “Shit!” I say as I turn back to see where we were sitting before. “Here, keep the change. I’m so sorry about her. I’ll go get her now.” I say to the bartender as I grab my share of Nova’s money and put it on the bar counter. Before running after Cassidy, I look for our friends in attempt to get help but instead see Nova, Brent, and Reed still dancing in the distance. I notice Wes talking to some guy and Joslyn close by dancing with other people. Everyone seemed too busy to help. I was going to have to go get Cassidy myself.

 

I should just call myself her mother at this point, shouldn’t I?

 

I begin to push through the crazy crowd as what Cassidy said earlier resonates in my mind. She said she never gets what she needs when she needs it, and she was right. The more I think about our past, the more I remember Cassidy always being robbed of what she deserved. Before tonight I would say she was needed, but now I understood,

Cassidy wasn’t needed, the world was just careless to her.

 

Thank God that I hadn’t started drinking yet. The countless partiers in combination with the loud music and flashing lights alone was making my perception of everything distorted. I know I would not be able to comprehend anything if I was even the least bit intoxicated, like Cassidy.

 

That fact scares me, even if I am sober. Obviously, Cassidy’s already gone and now she’s somewhere in this crowd too. She could have a panic attack, which wouldn’t be at all surprising to me. If she were to freak out, it wouldn’t be the first time it’s happened. Almost every other time she’s partied at a club nothing good came of it. At her other club outings, she’s ended the night either puking, passed out, lost, in a panic attack, or some combination of each.

My thoughts only worsen as I continue through the mosh pit without any glimpse of my helpless friend. The countless possibilities of her current state mock their way through my mind as I try to stay focused on locating her. Clearly, my motherly instinct was not helping at the moment.

 

I make my way to the end of the dance hall and find myself by the restrooms. I see a drinking fountain between the male and female bathrooms and pause my search for Cassidy. I don’t realize until I see the fountain that I’m still thirsty once again. After a short hesitation, I decide to get a drink, with the reasoning that I deserved a break after making it through the crowd. I hear several different types of noises other than the thumping bass of the house DJ’s remix now that I was a distance away from the source of music. Puking, laughing, and terrible drunk singing from either bathroom fill the air as I lean down to take a drink.

 

A few seconds of thirst-quenching perfection is suddenly interrupted by screams. I spit out the remaining water in my mouth and quickly take a step back. With an interior of pure fear and exterior of pure determination, I attempt to locate the source of the screaming, and after a few seconds, I find the source was coming from inside the female restroom. I run into the bathroom as the screaming intensifies and hear a voice shout from one of the stalls,

 

“Get off me! I told you no!” I hear a familiar voice scream between intense cries of pain. I soon discover the voice belongs to Cassidy. “GET OUT OF ME!” I hear her agitated shout out again. Was what I was thinking happening actually happening?!

 

“What the fuck?! Cassidy?” I shout from outside the stall. “Cassidy!” I shout again as I notice her high heels hit the floor momentarily.

“Hey!” I scream, hitting and kicking the door. “GET OFF HER!” I scream as I attempt to knock it down. My eyes fill with tears as I am unable to break the lock. “Cassidy!” I shout again as her screams slowly grow quieter. “No, no…” I say, panicking as I turn to see an open stall beside the one Cassidy’s locked inside of. I run into it, stepping on top of the toilet to see. I lean over the top of the stall divider and inside of the next stall I see her, now silent, pressed up against the edge of the stall with some disgusting guy thrusting into her. “GET OFF HER!” I scream again, this time with tears running down my face. I reach down and take off one of my heels and lean as far as I could toward the rapist. I repeatedly hit him with the sharp end of my heel and he eventually stops thrusting into Cassidy and unlocks the stall to run out of it. I chase him out of the bathroom, throwing my heel at him as he escapes into the crowd. “RAPIST!” I scream as I throw the heel.

 

“What?” I hear Reed ask right beside me. Beside him Brent and Nova stood, looking just as concerned. They must have been getting a drink of water from the drinking fountain. “Who?!” Reed asks. “Did he hurt you?” He follows my finger as I point toward the direction of the rapist’s escape.

 

“No, he hurt Cassidy.” I say just before Reed and Brent sprint off to find him. I turn back into the bathroom to get Cassidy and feel Nova follow me in.

 

We make it over to the stall where Cassidy was laying on the ground, now passed out.

 

“Oh my god,” I cry out, collapsing to my knees beside her. I pick her upper body up and hug her tightly as Nova stands in the doorway of the stall. “No, no, no… If I hadn’t have scared her off this wouldn’t have happened, I’m such an idiot! She was drunk, I shouldn’t have let her go…”

“Lise, she’s bleeding,” Nova says, stopping my worried banter. I pull away to see Cassidy’s red-stained underwear.

 

“No, no,” I say shaking my head in a devastated disbelief. “I promised I’d never let this happen to her…” I say, wiping my tears. “We have to call for help,”

 

“On it,” Nova replies, stepping away. “Make sure she’s breathing, and keep her head propped up.” Her voice, reminding me of the voice of someone suddenly revealed to something so disturbing it’s dehumanizing, was stripped of its usual uplifting qualities. “Hello?” I hear her begin the call in the distance.

 

“I’m so, so sorry–” I whisper into Cassidy’s ear as I rock back and forth with her in my arms. “I will make sure from today on that you get what you need exactly when you need it, I promise you that. You’ll never have to wait for it ever again.”

 

The tears streamed down my face as I held my best friend, the only friend I really needed. And she needed a friend now more than ever, and I was going to be that. I owed her that much.

 

The rest of the night consisted of me getting a taxi to take us back to my dorm room. With Cassidy always beside me, I felt like I was finally doing something right. The ride back in the taxi was silent despite the few necessary remarks of the taxi driver. Otherwise, our thoughts filled the air instead of audible noise.

I sighed as I realized Cassidy was finally safe from the night, and our eyes were dry because we both had already cried out all the tears we could. She leaned on my shoulder as I watched the city lights pass through the window of the backseat. She didn’t make much noise and I didn’t question her. I could only imagine the trauma she had just gone through, so whatever behavior she presented now I knew I had to adapt to. She wasn’t her usual bubbly self. No, instead she was silent, quiet, hollow, broken, and violated. The only way I thought I could help was through holding her, reminding her she was safe now, and that we were going back to my room. That managed to satisfy her for the moment.

 

Through the silence, the drive seemed oddly peaceful despite the violent events of the night. I knew it was almost over as the sky was beginning to light up from the glow of the campus lights. Like the million little stars floating thousands of miles away in the night sky, the streetlights and lamps within dorms surrounding us lit the area, blocking out the night as much as possible. It was as if the lights were constellations pointing to a peaceful paradise where darkness was defeated. We turn the corner of my dorm’s street and I hear a voice from beside me break the increasing silence.

 

“You’re the only friend I need,” Cassidy whispers, reading my mind through closed eyes, suddenly awake.

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