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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/books/entry_id/998200-No-Strings
by Seuzz
Rated: GC · Book · Occult · #2193834
A high school student finds a grimoire that shows how to make magical disguises.
#998200 added November 13, 2020 at 12:10pm
Restrictions: None
No Strings
Previously: "A New Leaf

You don't want to start your new life by moping at home or socializing with your parents and a lot of other old people at the country club. But neither do you want to hurl yourself into a shark tank like the Warehouse. Joshua Cheswick's party seems like a nice, safe alternative.

And if Karl and his friends happen to show up too? Well, you can be nice to them while keeping aloof. It's not like anyone knows that you and Karl have been knocking boots.

Amanda has been uncharacteristically silent all day, and you've gone on social media only enough to reinforce your feeling that that's a cesspool you'd really like to crawl out of. But when Amanda contacts you to ask about your Friday plans, you lay a false trail for her and the others by telling them that you'll be out at the country club with your parents. Soon, all the plans are set for you and your usual set to meet up there along with some other kids from around the city.

And when you ditch them for Joshua's, that will be the first signal that you're shaking off your old friends for a new set.

Around about seven you start getting ready. Joshua is a stoner-wannabe rather than an actual stoner—a kid who sports a wooly tangle of chestnut hair, tie-dyed t-shirts, dirty cutoff jeans and sandals, and very retro tastes in music. But it's all a pose, and you're pretty sure that Marc Garner, the clean-cut captain of the Westside soccer team, smokes more pot than Joshua. But that makes Joshua's exactly the kind of safe but bohemian scene that Kelsey likes, and you dress accordingly in a very short, sleeveless, black silk dress cinched at the waist with a thick, strap-like belt with a giant silver buckle; half a dozen silver and turquoise bracelets unevenly distributed between both wrists; strappy sandals that tie up just below the knee; a toe ring; and bolt-like silver studs in each ear. The effect, as you admire yourself in the mirror, is obviously expensive without being too flashy. You accessorize with a tiny purse on a string-like strap, and a few buds from your own marijuana stash and a small bowl to smoke them in. You also take along a few hundred dollars folded up in a silver money clip, which you can drop with Joshua to help defray his expenses. As you stride out to your BMW, you almost feel like you're on your way to a Hollywood party.

* * * * *

Joshua, being an Eastman student, lives on the northeast side of town in a modest-sized ranch-style house. There's already a small crowd there, and you have to park halfway down the block and hoof it over.

The doorbell is answered by Tina Branson, one of Alyssa Randal's friends, and you and she exchange bright greetings and a quick, casual hug. Tina expresses surprise at seeing you; you roll your eyes and tell her it was a choice of Joshua's or the country club with your parents, which made it no contest at all.

Despite all the cars, the upstairs is empty save for Joshua's parents, who are watching TV in the living room, and a few Eastman kids pouring themselves some colas in the kitchen. Tina leads you over to a door that opens onto a narrow flight of wooden steps leading down into the basement, which is where Joshua and his friends like to hang out. It's a big space, almost like a second, underground floor, that has been turned into a rumpus room. The walls are lined with knotty pine, and the cement floor is softened (slightly) with cast-off scraps of office carpet. There's a dumpy brown sofa and lots of beanbag chairs.

Also puppets. At least two dozen marionettes dangle by their strings from the low ceiling, and they drift and clatter gently against each other as the party crowd stirs the air, which is already faintly acrid with the smell of pot. It's dark, too, with the only light coming from the half-dozen lava lamps that sit on wall-mounted shelves. Zither music buzzes softly as an undertone to the conversation.

You flinch at the sight of a shadow-cloaked figure in a wide-brimmed hat, perched on the arm of a sofa. So Karl's here, you think. That could be awkward. You slide over to the side of the room and lean against another sofa, where a guy and a girl are sitting. You introduce yourself, and they introduces themselves as "Ricky" and "Eileen." She has long, tangled hair that could be any color in the dark; he wears the kind of shapeless ball cap that you used to wear, but is dressed more nicely in a heavy sweatshirt and jeans, and his hair is much shorter.

"So, you come with anyone?" Ricky asks after you've introduced yourselves.


He leans back and tilts his head to smile up at you. Eileen punches him in the shoulder. "You go to Westside, right?" she says.

"Yeah. But Alyssa texted me, told me about this party. I like coming out to Joshua's." You hug yourself, because it's colder and danker than you'd like for the way you're dressed. "Even if the puppets kind of creep me out."

Ricky laughs and starts to say something, but you're distracted by the hatted figure, which has risen and come shambling over. At first you cringe a little at being discovered by Karl. But then you realize it isn't Karl.

It's Will.

"Hey Kelsey," he says. His voice is soft and a little thin. "I didn't know you were going to come out for this."

"Hey Will. Ditto." You can't help smiling at him. "I've never seen you out here before." That sounds a little snippy, so you soften it by adding, "Or maybe I've been unlucky and missed you."

He laughs, softly. "You just get here? You get anything to drink? What do you want?" he adds when you shake your head. "Then I'll surprise you." He walks off, and your eye drifts down to his ass. It's skinny and lost in the seat of his pants. He could never put on a lot of muscle, you find yourself thinking, but I bet I could talk Kelsey into working out more. My old carcass could use the beef.

"Does he go to Westside too?" Eileen asks. "There's so many hot guys out there." You leave it to Ricky to defend the honor the male student body at Eastman.

"Here, it's just a Diet Coke," Will says when he returns. "I remember you're okay with those. I'm being extra careful this time," he says as he hands you a plastic cup.

"We met cute at our last party," you tell Ricky and Eileen. "He dumped his drink on me, then sat on me."

"Jesus!" Ricky exclaims. "Were you plowed?" he asks Will.

"No, he was just really glad to see me," you say. "I'm glad to see you here tonight," you tell Will.

"I'm glad you're here too."

"What I mean is," you say, and run a fingertip over the rim of your cup, "I've always told people you don't get out enough. At least, I don't see you at enough parties."

His eyes fall. "I'm trying to get out more, be more sociable."

"I'm glad."

The conversation briefly falters. Then the music changes and Eileen leaps to her feet. "I want to dance," she says, and grabs Will by the arm. He briefly holds back, and you think he glances at you. Then, stiffly, he follows her into the middle of the room, where other dancing couples are starting to move.

That leaves you with Ricky, who doesn't ask you to dance, and over the techno-beat you ask him about himself. It turns out he's the lead vocalist and guitar player for an Eastman band, Margin Walker. He's dating a girl at Westside you vaguely know, Lori Sherman, but the two of them had a bad fight and he's taking a break from her, at least for a night. That, you figure, makes him safe to be with, and you settle onto the arm of the sofa next to him.

As the music plays, Will moves from girl to girl, dancing with an ease that leaves you feeling almost spiteful with envy. Kelsey is a good dancer—she's taken Dance classes along with her gymnastics classes—and the new you gets a lot of attention. Maybe not all of it the kind you'd want him to have, for after watching him a bit, Ricky leans over to ask you if he's gay. "I don't think so," you reply, but it gives you pause. With Kelsey at the controls, is there a chance that the new Will Prescott might turn out to be bi- or at least bi-curious?

Between Ricky's question, and your annoyance at Will's skill and popularity on the dance floor, it's not long before you grow restless and move toward the door leading up and out. You're just exiting the kitchen, though, when you hear your name called, and turn to find that Will has followed you up. "Where you going?" he asks.

"To get some fresh air."

He nods, glances back, then advances. "I'll come with you."

Your heart beats a little harder.

There's another couple on the back porch, which is dark, but they move off as you come out, and you and Will move to the opposite side as well, so that you're practically alone. When you rub your arm, Will asks if something's wrong.

"No. It's just— God, you're so much better at this than me. Getting out with people, I mean."

"I don't know what you mean. Meghan's party was the first time I'd been out to someone else's party in I don't know how long. You should know that."

"So this is like a fresh start for you too?"

"Yes." He pauses. "I thought we were going to be okay with doing that with each other. Each other's ... lives ... I mean."

That is what you said. But there's another meaning to "with each other," isn't there? Instead of heading out into a new life separately, maybe you could go together?

Next: "The Things You'll Do to Not Be Lonely

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