A work of fiction, where a loyal coed, well out of her element, finds something meaningful in the last place she expected…
by: Carolynn Kingyens
Norah was attending a frat party with Tara O’Toole, her best friend since the fourth grade. It was their first college party and both girls were excited to drink from those infamous, red plastic solo cups and let loose after their first week of classes at Wheaton College, a private school about thirty miles outside of Chicago.
Norah watched as Tara straightened the last section of her chestnut-colored, naturally curly hair. She always admired her best friend’s beauty. She’d wished she was exotic-looking like Tara. She resented her pale, granola-like appearance, even though people often compared her to a younger Gwyneth Paltrow.
Norah stood at least six inches taller than Tara, and would subconsciously slouch to lessen the degree of distance between their differing heights, unless Tara wore her favorite, chunky-heeled boots. Tara liked to dress up more than Norah who felt more comfortable in jeans and a hoodie. But tonight, she wore her favorite jeans that were strategically ripped, and a fitted, gray and black flannel shirt to highlight her svelte frame. They’d stared into the mirror together one last time before heading out.
“This is going to be an epic night,” said Tara.
Norah stopped walking and looked down before replying:
“Promise me, Tara, you won’t take-off again like senior prom.”
Tara walked back toward Norah, who was standing directly under the flickering, fluorescent light of their dorm’s long hallway.
“I promise, Norah. I got you.”
Tara loved Norah, but found her to be a little needy sometimes. She wished her best friend was more confident and outgoing, especially in large crowds, where she tended to slip away into the background, or disappear entirely like a clichéd Cinderella, minus the glass slipper. Norah’s perfect night with Tara would include a long chat over hazelnut coffee in a dimly-lit coffee house that no one had ever heard of, whereas Tara loved a loud house party, the louder the better. She came to life in a room full of people, and could work it like the bright, shining star she was. Norah would stand back and watch on in awe at her best friend’s ability to socialize with ease. Though their height and personality differed, they’d somehow managed to remain best friends for nine years, half their lifetime.
Within ten minutes of arriving at the party, two giggling, drunk girls, who’d recognized Tara from one of their classes, walked over and dragged her away from Norah. Tara immediately turned around and mouthed, I’m sorry. Norah had a nagging suspicion the same scenario at prom would play out again, and it just did.
Norah walked from room-to-room in the old Victorian mansion that housed Wheaton’s most popular fraternity, looking for a quiet spot to hang out while she waited for Tara to eventually come find her. Norah found that sweet spot at the rear of the mansion in what appeared to be a former library. She’d immediately noticed, upon walking into the room, a tall, slouching boy propped up against the wall wearing sunglasses, even though it was nighttime, and dressed like a second-hand vampire. Norah found a big, comfy-looking chair to disappear in, before closing her eyes altogether. She could feel the thumping, pulsing base of the DJ’s music under her feet. How she’d wished she was anywhere but here.
“Excuse me, is this seat taken?” asked the vampire, resting his hand on the back of the big, comfy-looking chair.
Norah slightly jumped before replying.
“No, no. Please sit down,” she replied, adjusting her slouching posture to one that commanded more attention. “I’m Norah. What’s your name?”
“Jimmy Russo. I’m not a student here, more like a friend of the fraternity.”
Intrigued, Norah pressed, “Friend? How so?”
Still wearing his sunglasses, Jimmy replied, “Let’s just say I provide a service to the brothers, a medicinal service.”
“Drugs?” asked Norah, looking somewhat shocked.
“Mostly pot. It’s the good stuff, none of that synthetic crap. So why is a pretty girl, like yourself, all alone with a freak like me?” Jimmy asked, changing the subject. “Shouldn’t you be off partying with my boys?”
Norah didn’t know what to say when people called her pretty.
“I’m waiting for my best friend. She’s the life of the party. I prefer the quiet. Parties and large crowds are not my thing.”
Pivoting, Norah then asked, “Can I ask an obvious question, what’s up with the sunglasses at night? Am I missing something? Is that a thing now?”
Jimmy smirked before replying:
“You mean to tell me you’ve never heard of Corey Hart’s song, “Sunglasses at Night?”
Norah shook her head no.
“C’mon, it’s a classic,” Jimmy said, shaking his head in disbelief. “Kids these days,”
Norah and Jimmy got on perfectly from that point forward. He eventually took off his shades, and she eventually forgot where she was. They laughed, played chess, and danced in that back room until Tara, who was completely sloshed, found them. Norah immediately rushed to the side of her best friend, whom, by now, was slurring her words.
Norah helped Tara sit down in one of the comfy-looking chairs she and Jimmy had sat in earlier in the evening, before she casually walked back over to him, and passionately kissed him goodbye. Norah wrote her phone number down on the palm of his hand. Before leaving, she turned around and mouthed Call me.
Jimmy watched on in awe and wonder. His lips still tingled from her kiss. He put on his sunglasses, and began to walk through the clusters of passed out students who’d lined the hallway. Once outside, he walked in the opposite direction of the students, all while whistling a familiar tune.
Carolynn Kingyens’ debut book of poetry, Before the Big Bang Makes a Sound (Kelsay Books), can be ordered through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Greenlight, Book Culture, and Berl’s Brooklyn Poetry Shop. In addition to poetry, Carolynn writes narrative essays, book reviews, micro/flash fiction, and short stories. She resides in New York with her husband and two amazing daughters.