The Sequence of Kai
I wish I could still sleep things off.
When I was younger, whenever I argued with one of my parents (usually my father) I would just lock myself in my room and sleep. I was always less angry in the morning, less sad, less guilty. Whatever it was, sleep made it manageable.
I can still lock myself in my room of course but that doesn’t help when you can’t sleep.
The sun is setting outside. I can say that with certainty because I watched it rise earlier, this is the red of a sunset.
Trish’s party is probably starting soon….
Don’t think about that.
If I can’t sleep it off, I’ll walk it off. I put on my jacket and boots and go for a stroll.
It doesn’t take me long until I’ve found myself in Trish’s neck of the woods. I can hear the music and the sounds of people talking loudly. I’m sure if I get a little closer, I’ll smell the alcohol too.
I should at least go and say ‘happy birthday’, I don’t have to stick around.
As I walk up the driveway, I pull my hood up over my face. Annie should be here and that means other people I know will be too, I don’t want to start any awkward conversations.
The door hasn’t been locked, when I step inside, I find myself greeted with a hallway full of people and empty beer bottles. I try to slip by them but one of the shirtless guys blocks my path.
“Yo, you a friend of Trish’s?”
“Let me through.”
“Sorry girlie, this party is invite-only.”
One of his entourage high fives him, for some reason.
I try walking past them again, but he puts his body in the way.
“Look, I’m sort of like, the security here, OK? I can’t just let anyone through, you feel me?”
“Yeah, he can’t just let anyone through!”
His hypeman high fives him.
“Let me through or I’m going to hurt you.”
The two of them burst out laughing because they don’t realize how badly outmatched they are. Just as I’m considering knocking them out for real, Aaron squeezes between them.
“She causing you some trouble guys?”
“Yeah, you know this girl? Won’t show us an invitation.”
“She doesn’t need one, it's fine.”
“Ooooooh I see, go get ‘em, Ronnie!”
The two of them step aside while making obscene gestures and Aaron beckons me through.
“Did you enjoy that?”
“I thought you weren’t coming.”
“I assume you’re looking for Trish then, she’s out back.”
Aaron leaves me to my own devices and slinks back over to a girl he was apparently talking to. She points at me and asks him something, but he shakes his head. I’m sure he’s loving it.
Out back is something special. The pool from a few days ago has been filled in, some strobing lights have been fitted in and around it as well. To the right there’s 3 manned barbeques struggling to meet their demand, to the left an open bar that’s been disguised as makeshift.
There’s a lot of people both in and around the pool, as far as I can tell I’m the only one fully clothed.
After a few minutes of searching and a number of questioning stares, I spot Trish on the far side of the pool talking to a group of girls. I keep my head low and make my way over to her. When I get close though I see Annie is one of the people she’s talking to. In a moment of indecision, I freeze and she spots me.
“Is that Kai?”
Everyone turns to face me, and I quickly cover my face.
Trish rushes over and gives me a quick hug. She’s dry, thank god.
“I thought you weren’t going to come.”
“I felt bad about not coming to see you on your Birthday so…”
“Oh, my actual Birthday isn’t until tomorrow, it’s just the party that’s today.”
“Are you fucking kidding me?”
Annie buts into our conversation.
“Gonna say hi to the rest of us?”
I don’t look over at them fully. The rim of my hood obscures their faces, I don’t really want to see them, especially when I’m meant to recognize them.
“Come on Chels, let’s go get something to eat.”
Two of the girls get up and leave, one of them must’ve been Chelsea.
Trish grabs my wrist and starts leading me away, it’s becoming a pattern.
“We’ll be right back.”
The girls all answer Trish in unison as she drags me back into the house.
“I’m sorry I didn’t get you anything.”
“It’s OK, I’m just happy you’re here.”
She leads me up the stairs. All of the doors except the bathroom one have been hidden by Aaron, replaced by fake ones a foot or two to the right. Seems like overkill when you could just lock the originals.
“We gotta be quick about this.”
There isn’t anyone upstairs right now so Trish glances down to see if anyone is looking back. When she thinks it’s clear, she opens the invisible door to her room and we slip inside.
“Oh my God, it’s crazy out there!”
Before I can ask her why she brought me here, she grabs a present wrapped in silver paper from her bed and pushes it into my chest.
I do as she says, albeit with some hesitation. I tear off some of the paper and see red fabric. It’s obvious what this is. When I rip it all off what I find is the swimsuit I was looking at yesterday, along with the invite I’d thrown away.
“Trish, I… it’s your birthday, I should be getting you a present.”
“Like I said, I’m just happy you came. I’d be even happier if you stayed and if you’re going to stay, you need to change.”
She smiles warmly at me. It’s unfair. I tried my best just to be here at all and she wants more from me.
“I’m going to get a drink, I haven’t had anything yet. Come down and have one with me, OK?”
She doesn’t wait for my answer, she just slips out of the room. She’s leaving me with, what she considers to be, a choice. It really is unfair.
Half an hour later I slip out of Trish’s room into the hallway. Half of that time was spent deliberating, the other half spent trying to remember how to tie a bikini so that it doesn’t fall off.
It’s cold. The house, I’m sure, is warm. It’s just that I haven’t worn so little in years.
I pass by the two guys from earlier who tried to stop me getting in, they whistle at me as I do.
Aaron is still in the same spot I last saw him but now he’s so engrossed in his ‘conversation’ with that girl that he doesn’t notice me. I wonder if Trish has noticed that?
I slink through the mess of bodies in the kitchen to the back garden and head over to the bar where I met Trish earlier. She’s not there.
“You’re not getting away this time!”
Someone grabs me by the arm and sits me down at one of the tables that have been set up across the lawn.
There are two girls sitting across from me who I don’t recognize. My assailant, who turns out to be Annie, sits down in between them and suddenly their faces become a bit more familiar.
The one sitting to her left with the long brown hair is Fiona, she’s got a couple more piercings than I remember but it’s her. On Annie’s other side is Rose, her hair is short and pink now, nothing like the long dirty blonde pigtails I remember. She’s as pierced as she used to be though.
“Oh my god, Kai, it really is you!”
“We haven’t seen you since before the start of year 13.”
“It’s so good to see you again!”
I’m not sure who said what really, I don’t know how to respond, I don’t know these people anymore but they’re acting so familiar.
“Me and Rose were just about to go get some drinks, do you want anything Kai?”
“I’m fine thanks….”
“Ok but don’t go anywhere, we have so much catching up to do!”
Fiona and Rose go up to the bar and I sink into my chair to hide, my arms covering my body. I shift my eyes left and right to look for Trish but I find myself met with a concerned gaze from Annie.
“Are you scared to talk to us or something?”
“No… it’s just… I don’t know who you are. Any of you. You’re trying to treat me like you did when we were younger… I’m not that person anymore.”
Annie struggles a bit to hold back her laughter.
“Is there something funny about that?”
“You think we’re trying to treat you like we used to? None of us even could if we tried.”
“What do you mean?”
“What I mean is….”
She shows off a diamond engagement ring on her finger.
“Are you showing off or something?”
“No! Don’t be so cynical. Look…”
She points across to Fiona and Rose at the bar.
“What do you think, those two are doing now?”
“I mean what they’re doing with their lives!”
I think about it for a moment. If my memory serves….
“Rose wanted to be a doctor, right? And Fiona was always going on about acting.”
“Rose is a hairdresser and Fiona is doing medicine.”
“Really and I’m getting married! And Chelsea well….”
She casts a glance over at Chelsea and Becky, who are all over each other.
“Did anyone other than you see that coming?”
I stand up to leave but she puts a hand on my leg to stop me.
“I’m sorry, I know, I’m not meant to know that.”
She looks at me pleadingly, only letting go of my leg when it stops feeling restless in her hand. Then she continues.
“Look, my point was that you’re not the only one that’s different, we all are but we’re still friends. We want to get to know the new Kai, the one who’s dyed her hair, the one who’s friends with a new friend of ours, the one who works as a maid.”
“I’m not a maid.”
“Then tell us what you are! That’s what we want to know!”
She chugs back the rest of her beer and slams it down on the table.
“Kai, no one wants to make you talk about awkward stuff, OK? No one is going to make you talk about what happened that summer or why you didn’t come into school that year. No one is going to make you talk about that stuff, but we do want to talk to you about something.”
As she finishes off her sentence Fiona and Rose return. They place a can in front of me.
“We got you a cider Kai, you don’t have to have it if you don’t want to.”
The two sit back down and look at Annie who gives them some sort of signal that means it’s OK to talk to me. Fiona’s smile turns malicious.
“So, I hear you’re a maid now.”
“I’m not a fucking maid!”
All three of them lose it at the same time. I don’t what it is. If they think the idea of me being a maid is funny. If it’s how animated I was in my reaction. Or if it’s something else.
But I don’t mind. It feels comfortable. A little bit familiar. I put my hand around the can and laugh along with them.
The next hour is both uncomfortable and refreshing.
After clearing up that I am not, in fact, someone’s maid, the three girls who used to be my friends start talking about their own lives. I do a lot of listening and not a lot of talking. I don’t have to; they’re drunk enough that they’re going to keep rambling on unless someone stops them.
At some point, they all get on to talking about how they met Trish. Similar stories for all three, Trish just walked up to them and introduced herself. Annie nearly spills her beer all over my chest as she turns to face me.
“So, what about you Kai?”
“What about me?”
“How did you meet Trish?”
“How does she say we met?”
“She doesn’t! We didn’t even know you two knew each other until a couple of days ago.”
“Where is Trish anyway?”
Rose looks around as she asks this and we all spot Trish at the same time, near the barbeques flirting with a guy.
“Ugh, he just won’t give up, I’ll go get her out of there.”
Rose stands up and heads over to the barbeques. I lean over to Annie.
“Is there something wrong? Trish looks alright.”
“She’s just being polite. She’s turned that guy down 3 or 4 times now.”
“Really? Are you sure about that?”
“I’m as surprised as you, the first few weeks of this year she kept talking about how hot he was but the second he makes a move she says no? Weird girl.”
By now Rose has reached Trish and pointed her in our direction. When she spots us, she waves and comes running over. Rose gives the guy a quick dressing down and follows her back.
“Kai! Hey!!! You stayed, I wasn’t sure if you stayed, I’m so happy!!!!!”
She might not have been drunk when I arrived but she sure as hell is now.
“Annie what time is it??”
“It’s half eleven.”
“Ohnooo! I have to get changed, we need to cut the cake soon!”
“You’re getting changed? You haven’t even been in the pool by the looks of it.”
“Oh, Kai! You’re still here! Yeahhh, I know but the, hic, but the pool will always be here tomorrow.”
“It’s a shame not to get one swim in during the party.”
“It's OK. I’m gonna go get changed. Annie can you go tell everyone that the cakes gonna be cut at 12”
Trish skips off in the direction of the house and everyone else at the table stands up. Annie turns to me.
“You wanna come with Kai? Good excuse to say hi to some people.”
“No, it's OK, I’ll stay here. I want to get in the pool to cool down anyway.”
“Ok, I won’t push you. We’ll see you later, OK?”
With that, the three of them go off to warn people about the imminent cake cutting. People start getting out of the pool and going inside. A lot of them walk past me as they do, I don’t recognise most of them, but I spot a familiar face here and there.
One of the last people to head inside is Chelsea. She passes me holding hands with Becky, who herself is trying not to glare at me.
Chelsea stops beside me and stands there even as Becky tries to drag her forwards. I don’t want her to say anything. Why can’t she just listen to her girlfriend and pretend like I’m not here? She doesn’t have to say anything. I already know what she wants to say.
“Come on Chels let's go inside.”
Becky drags Chelsea along with her and I slink further down into the chair I’m sitting in.
Annie was right, I had no idea what she wanted to say.