The Jock by J.L. Beck



This is not my scene. I repeat to myself three times as I walk down the sidewalk and toward the row of houses Arabella told me to meet her at. She said it was a small gathering, intimate. I should’ve known better. It was a house party she’d invited me to, at the football frat house to be exact. Every part of me wanted to turn around and run back to my dorm, but then I heard my mother’s nagging voice at the back of my mind.

“This is your one chance to make friends, to explore. Take chances, sweetheart.”

So here I am, taking chances.

The fall air had a chill to it that I could feel in my bones as I forced my legs to move. Wrapping my arms around my middle, I will the cold away and trudge forward. I’m only wearing a thin sweatshirt and a pair of yoga pants. I don’t dress up.

Now I kind of wish I had. Music blares from four houses down, and I can hear the heavy thump of it from where I’m standing and see people spilling out onto the road. The house is like an overfilled bag bursting at the seams.

As I stare at the crowd ahead, their bodies getting closer, I mentally run through my options. I could turn around, walk back to the dorm and tell Arabella I was sick, or I could walk into that frat house, smile, drink, socialize a bit, and then leave. There is no harm in dipping in and out. I don’t have to stay long.

Stopping for a moment, I let myself weigh both options fully. As badly as I don’t want to go into this party, I know I have to. I desperately need to make friends.

I have Jude, yes, but she has a boyfriend and a baby. My other best friend, Mia, is at Blackthorn Elite, forced to attend the prestigious school because of her rich father.

All there is here at North Woods is me, and Jude, my old roommate, now married to the man of her dreams.

So when Arabella who is somewhat popular, invited me to come, I said yes.

Gritting my teeth, I decide to go through with showing up and continue walking down the sidewalk. The sound of laughter and talking meets my ears as I grow closer to the crowd of people. They’re all holding red cups and smiling, looking as if they’re having a great time. If you can call getting trashed and waking up with a hangover fun, I guess.

No one looks at me or says anything as I skirt by them. This is definitely not a small gathering. Smoke permeates the air, and I choke back a cough as I walk up the steps of the two-story house.

Stepping onto the porch, I’m met with stares from three guys who I’ve never seen before. They look older, too old to be in college, that’s for sure, and the way their eyes move over me, makes me shiver.

Ignoring them, I walk into the house and stop dead in my tracks just over the threshold. There’s a ping pong table in the center of what used to be a dining room, the infamous beer pong game taking place, with a group of guys and girls huddled around it. In the living room, all the furniture has been pushed back to the walls, to make space for a makeshift dance floor. There are small clusters of people everywhere, and two girls making out on the couch.

Frozen in place, I’m not even sure where to go next.

Run, Blair. Run out the door.

For someone as smart as me, you would think it would be easy to navigate a party, but there’s a major difference between being book smart and knowing how to be social. I’d rather be reading a book, interacting with fictional characters than talking to real people. That’s just how I am. Plus, fictional characters don’t judge you or make you feel like complete shit.

Like a ghost, I move deeper into the house. My eyes dart over each person’s face as I search for Arabella or anyone that I might know while still trying to act as if I’m not completely out of my element. I smile, but it is forced and probably comes across like a shark showing its teeth, I can’t imagine how I look.

Most of the girls I see at this party are in skirts, or tight jeans with crop tops, that show their bellies and hips. Their makeup