Chapter 8 – Still Sane

JOSLYN

 

“Cassidy! No!” I shout as I watch Cassidy run into Reed’s room. I look over to the gay boys beside me. We glance at each other as we all seem to collectively hesitate before running in after Annalise and Cassidy.

Terrified, I ignore the fear as I follow Wes and Brent inside the room.

 

“AH!” I hear from behind me once completely in the dorm. The door slams and I jump toward Wes, who in return, turns around toward me while screaming.

 

“What the-” I say as I see Reed leaning up against the wall, laughing. He scared us on purpose. “You jack ass!” I say as I hit him.

 

“You guys are so freaking gullible!” Annalise says from further in the room. I look over to see her and Cassidy fall onto Reed’s bed, also laughing. They were in on the joke too.

 

“You guys are terrible,” I hear Brent say. “So what did you have to tell us, Reed?” He asks as Reed calms down.

 

“Oh,” He replies, his laughs continuing.

 

“Look at this,” He says, passing Wes, Brent, and I to reach for a cardboard box underneath his bed. He pulls out the box and we see dozens of full black water balloons. “Now, you think these are full of water, right?” He asks, but doesn’t allow us to answer. “Some are full of water, but not all.”

 

“What’s in the others then?” Wes asks.

 

“Black-” Annalise replies but is cut off by her friend.

 

“Gold-” Cassidy continues,

 

“And, um…” Reed begins to add on but pauses as if he forgot what he was supposed to say.

 

“And purple! Come on, it’s our school colors Reed.” Cassidy says before Reed can continue.

 

“Oh yeah, sorry. Looks like I won’t be getting the award for most spirited student. Darn,” He replies with sass toward Cassidy.

“Black, gold, and purple paint. That’s what in the others.”

 

“What? Why?” I ask, confused.

 

“Cassidy and I did this all the time back home. Whenever something bad happened and we just wanted to have fun, we would fill up water balloons with paint, find some open field close by, and have a paint war with our friends.” Annalise explains.

 

“With all the shit we’ve gone through just in these first few weeks of college I thought a paint war was a must. So go get your worst clothes and meet us behind the old football stadium in an hour. There’s a huge field of grass behind a line of trees and technically we’ll be off campus so Reed’s stoner police officer can’t arrest us.” Cassidy continues, returning Reed’s sass.

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” I ask, semi-smiling. This sounds fun, but I feel the need to at least act like a responsible adult.

 

“Nope, but we’re still going to do it!” Reed replies with an added laugh after. “When have we ever done something that we should?”

 

Collective silence takes over as the room grows deep in thought.

 

“Let’s do it!” Brent says, breaking the silence.

 

“Yeah!” Wes adds in, to my surprise.

 

“Wes!” I reply in objection.

 

“Come on, Joslyn. Last year you were all for doing crazy stuff cuz we were seniors. And I know we’re in college now, but still, what’s up with the sudden hesitation?” Wes responds, his voice exaggerated.

 

“I just think we should start acting like adults now,” I say as an idea appears in my mind. “Yeah, we should probably just study for finals. We could paint all over the place and then someone’s going to have to clean it up. And I know no one here plans on cleaning it up, right?” I ask, silence responding. “Don’t do it guys, we’ve gone too far.”

 

“What do you mean we’ve gone too far?!” Wes asks as I turn for the door. “I get that college changes people, but this isn’t like you, Joslyn. It’s like you’re going insane.”

I open the door to leave Reed’s dorm but pause before entering the hallway.

 

“You guys are so gullible!” I shout, my voice altered to mock Reed. I slam the door and turn back to face my fooled friends. “I’m still sane, you idiot. Come on, gay boys, let’s go get ready.”

 

The rest of the group is left speechless as I open the door once again and gesture for Wes and Brent to follow me to our dorm building. We were assigned to Fredrick Hall, so I figured we could walk back together just like we had walked to Reed’s dorm.

The two gay boys eventually nod and lead the way out of the dorm. As they pass me into the hallway, I stare down Annalise, Cassidy, and Reed.

 

“Consider it war, you guys against us. See you fools in an hour.” I smile slyly, shutting the door behind me as I enter the hallway.

 

“Oh, hey Nova!” I hear Brent say as I look up to see the seventh member of our group, of whom I completely forgot about.

 

“You just finish studying?” I ask her as she pauses to talk to us in the hallway.

 

“Yeah, what does Reed need? Is everything okay?” She asks, looking from Wes to Brent and then back to me.

 

“Yeah, we’re actually going to have a paint war tonight in the field behind the old football stadium. Reed, Cassidy, and Annalise filled up water balloons with paint and we’re going to throw them at each other.”

 

“We meet at the field in an hour. Wes, Brent, and I against Reed, Cassidy, and Annalise. You decide which team you want to be on,” I say, cutting to the chase, happily feeling like a bomb-ass bitch.

“You guys against them?” Nova replies, momentarily looking down in thought to decide. “Is that even a question?” She asks quickly after considering both teams. “You guys for sure,”

 

“Good choice. Text Reed and say you can’t hang out tonight, say you’re too behind in school work. You’ll be our secret weapon.” I reply, feeling very secretive and smart.

 

The gays boys respond with casual remarks of agreement and excitement. A few YAAAS’s and hummed mhmm’s fill the air before Nova replies.

 

“Sounds like a plan,” She says, returning my sly smile.

 

“Let’s walk her back to her dorm before we go back to ours, I want to tell her about what Danny did at the funeral!” Brent says with excitement as we all make our way down the hallway.

 

“God, Brent. My father’s funeral wasn’t a season finale of RuPaul’s Drag Race; it isn’t meant to be a topic of excitement.” Wes complains as Brent disregards his comment.

 

“Oh God, what happened? Who’s Danny?” Nova asks, laughing at Wes’s complaint.

 

Brent explains the whole funeral experience to Nova as we walk her to Linden Hall. His explanation takes us right to the front door of the building, leaving little room for other topics. Wes at first was annoyed by Brent’s persistence to tell Nova everything, but he eventually softened up as Brent made us all laugh several times about how, and I quote, ‘Clearly no one in that sanctuary understood the meaning of the God-graced album Born This Way by Lady Gaga, or else they wouldn’t have declared that gays were going to hell. No, there’s a gay throne for every queen in heaven, and they were too straight to understand that.’ or, my personal favorite, ‘That homophobic preacher had TERRIBLE fashion anyway. His robe was clearly bedazzled by the world’s cheapest glue gun, and his color scheme was so 1990. I was surprised anyone even gave him their attention.’

 

Our laughs take us back to Fredrick Hall, where we all as quickly as possible change into our cheapest clothes. Brent’s jokes had slowed us down, but we weren’t complaining in the slightest. We all agree to meet each other in the lobby, and after putting on an old freshman-year t-shirt from high school and my gym shorts from PE class, I walk to the elevator and press to go down to the main floor. It opens and I see a girl on the phone with a full bag of books hanging on her side.

 

“Yeah, and tell Louis to stop calling me Mainstream Monica, I’m not mainstream and he knows it. If I was I’d be going to that party at the sorority house, but instead I’m studying for finals, with you guys, for the next week.” I hear Ms. Mainstream Monica say into her phone. I hear a voice respond but I can’t understand what they’re saying. “Yes, I’m bringing the plot outline of The Color Purple. You don’t have to worry,” She pauses as the voice on the other side of the call responds. “Okay, bye.” She says, hanging up the phone.

 

The Color Purple, huh. I won’t be looking at any outlines of that tonight, but I will be covered in it.

 

“Ugh,” Mainstream Monica sighs while putting her phone in her pocket. “Sorry about that, my friends and I are just really stressed about finals.”

 

“You’re fine, I hope it all goes well.” I reply as the elevator opens to the lobby. I follow Monica out of the elevator as she speeds walks to the exit. On her way out, however, she drops a book from her overflowing bag. I speed up to grab it and tap her shoulder to give it back. “Here, you dropped this,” I say as she flashes a white-as-pure-light perfect smile back at me.

 

“Oh, thanks!” She replies through the whitest teeth I’ve ever seen.

 

She continues her walk while putting the book back in her bag and I turn to see Wes and Brent waiting for me, sitting on a sofa beside the other elevator. I gesture for them to join me and examine what they were wearing.

 

Wes was wearing the same old choir shirt from freshman year and his own pair of shorts from gym class. We looked like twins. Brent was wearing a t-shirt from a ballet factory from his home town. He explains that he dances despite not being the best at it. We make our way to the field and see the other team waiting for us with the box of water balloons beside them.

 

“Text Nova and tell her to hide behind the trees once she gets here. Then, when she feels it’d be best, tell her to run in and join the fight.” I tell Brent as we make our way to the middle of the field.

 

“The rules:” Reed says as we come within hearing distance. “1. Wes and Cassidy get the first throws, because they’re the ones who’ve gone through shitty events.”

 

Fair enough.

 

“2. You can’t hold more than three balloons at once.”

 

Okay.

 

“3. No cheap shots. No crotch shots, head shots, boob shots.”

 

I could blame that on bad aim.

 

“4. The box stays here. We all grab our balloons, go back to the edges of the field, and on the count of three charge at each other. We play until no one has any balloons left, and then repeat.”

 

Reasonable.

 

“5. Whichever team drenches the other in the most paint wins.”

 

Sounds like a plan.

 

“Got it?” Reed asks, looking from Wes, to Brent, and then to me. We all nod and he continues. “Great. Alright, grab your balloons.”

 

We all pick up three balloons from the box and make our ways to either end of the field. As I reach the tree line, I see Nova waiting to run in.

 

“Wes, Brent, over here.” I say, trying to cover her up. Once they come closer we from a huddle and I hand Nova a balloon.

 

“Aim for Reed,” I say, smiling. She comes out of hiding, takes the balloon, and hides again as I shout out. “Crap! I dropped one!” I pause as Wes and Brent smile in understanding.

 

“Too bad!” We hear Reed shout back. “Looks like you’re starting with two balloons.”

 

Now he deserves to get hit by Nova.

 

“Ready?” I hear Annalise ask from across the field.

 

“Yeah!” Wes responds, breaking up our huddle. “Let’s go!”

 

“Alright, on the count of three!” Cassidy shouts. “1…2…3!”

 

Wes and Cassidy charge toward each other as Brent and I slowly make our way toward Annalise and Reed. Wes and Cassidy throw their first balloons at each other, laughing as they both miss.

 

“Shit!” I hear Wes say as he retreats somewhat.

 

Brent takes on Annalise as I take on Reed. I watch both Brent and Annalise in my peripheral vision as my opponent slowly advances toward me. I purposely look away from Reed, giving him the opportunity to throw his first balloon. He does and it hits my lower leg, splattering gold paint across my right calf.

 

“Huh, gold. Looks like I’m already a champion.” I say, sprinting at Reed. I tackle him to the ground and push my first balloon into his chest. Purple splashes all over his grey shirt and my hand. I wipe my now purple hands all over his face, transferring the color as he tries to push his face away in disgust. He’s caught spitting out purple and I quickly push away from him to get back on my feet. With one balloon left, I had to be careful. Reed still had two, so I had to make him miss his next throw.

 

“Shit, you’re hard core.” He says, standing up, balloons in either hand. “I didn’t even think tackling would be a part of this.”

 

“You set the rules, not me.” I reply as he walks his way toward me. I watch him as he shakes his right hand in an obvious attempt to distract me. I watch his left and instead and he throws the balloon in his right. The balloon hits my shoulder and water splashes onto my t-shirt. I laugh as I attempt to wash my hands off using my now soaked shoulder but the purple paint smears instead. I stop, knowing I was only spreading the paint.

 

Reed and I were even now. Both with one balloon. He charges at me and grabs me by the waist. We fall to the ground and he holds my hands down as he smirks at me with a purple complexion. I struggle to get out but am unsuccessful.

 

“Whatcha gonna do now? Huh?” He asks, laughing. I manage to get my purple hands to rub down his forearms despite his grip as he struggles to stop me. The more covered in paint he was, the better, even if it wasn’t from the initial impact.

 

I manage to distract Reed long enough for Nova to run over and squish a balloon onto his back. He quickly bounces up from his position on top of me and chucks his last balloon at Nova.

 

The black from his last balloon splatters across Nova’s stomach and she laughs as the balloon stains her shirt. I manage to take advantage of the momentary interruption and throw my last balloon at Reed’s stomach.

 

Gold splashes across his stomach as he is caught surprised again.

 

“I thought you were studying tonight?!” He shouts, looking over at Nova.

 

“Nope, surprise! Nice back by the way!” She replies, laughing. She walks over to me and we exchange a high five as Reed turns around. His back was covered in black paint. Only after touching Nova’s hand do I remember my hand was still wet with purple paint.

 

“Shit!” I say. “We’re supposed to stay as paint-free as possible!” Nova in return just shrugs it off and we look back at Reed.

“Now the teams are uneven,” He says, turning back around.

 

“Not if I can help it!” I hear a familiar voice shout out over the other battles taking place from the other side of the field. Brent was covered in black, Wes in gold, Cassidy in gold, and Annalise in purple. We all laugh as we see each other. The voice from the other side of the field continues. “LET’S GO!” The voice shouts, shocking the game to a pause. The volume of the voice, belonging to Mainstream Monica, silences everyone. We watch like statues as she drops her bag of books and grabs one of Cassidy’s balloons. She sprints over towards Nova and I, and Nova doesn’t get enough chance to react before she drenches her in water.

 

“Shit!” She says as the balloon reveals it contents. “Hi, I’m Monica. I went to school with Annalise and Cassidy. I love this game. I’m great at this game.” She then directs her attention towards me. “Book study didn’t go as planned. I’ll be on Reed’s team. Next round!”

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