Where the Blame Lies - Mia Sheridan



The lights flashed, music pulsing as a crush of bodies twisted and gyrated on the dance floor in front of her. Josie felt both taken over by the sensory input and still oddly removed. Some innate other-ness in the mix of these carefree partyers, beautiful and exultant under the shifting strobes. Snap out of it, Josie, she demanded of herself, giving her shoulders a small shake. Have some damn fun.

What was wrong with her anyway?

“Cheers,” Reagan said as she came up on Josie’s right, thrusting a glass forward and breaking her from her moody thoughts, at least momentarily. “To living our best life.” Josie took a breath, rallied, forcing a grin as she took the gin and tonic and clinked Reagan’s glass. She sucked in a drink. “This place is packed tonight. Oh! There he is.” Reagan raised her hand and began waving wildly in the direction of the door where a tall, good-looking blond guy spotted her and waved back, making his way through the crowd to where they stood. He leaned forward and kissed Reagan’s lips. Josie looked away, giving them a moment of privacy as they greeted each other, her knee bouncing to the beat.

Reagan pulled on Josie’s sleeve. “Evan, this is my best friend, Josie. Josie, this is Evan.” Reagan practically purred as she said his name, and Josie barely refrained an eye-roll. Reagan had been crushing on the guy from her geology class for months, and he had finally asked her out two weeks before. They were already an item, though she couldn’t help wonder how long he’d last. Her best friend’s relationships with men were initially intense, but ultimately temporary.

Evan smiled. His teeth were very white and very straight, gaze sharp as he took her hand. His stare unnerved her slightly, and she wasn’t sure how to account for the strange feeling. He said something softly.

“I’m sorry, what?” she asked, leaning forward.

He leaned toward her too, and his mouth came close to her ear. “I said, we’ve met before.”

She leaned back. “Oh, I’m sorry . . .”

He shook his head. “House party on Stratford a couple months ago.”

“Oh.” She feigned sudden recognition, though she had absolutely no memory of meeting him. “Right. Nice to see you.”

He gave her a wry smile as though he knew she was lying and leaned away.

Reagan pulled him by the hand, jostling a girl next to her, who gave an annoyed look. “Let’s dance,” she singsonged loudly. “Come on, Jos.”

Josie held up her already-empty glass. No way was she going to be the third wheel in some weird three-person dance circle. “I’m gonna get another drink first. Want one?” she called as she moved away from the throng of swaying bodies. Reagan shook her head and disappeared into the revolving fray.

Ten minutes later, fresh cocktail in hand, Josie returned to the edge of the dance floor. She spotted Reagan and Evan dancing near the middle, Reagan holding her glass slightly out in front of her. Josie sipped at her drink. She hadn’t eaten much for dinner and the alcohol was acting fast, sending a pleasant buzz through her body. Her muscles relaxed. A guy in a red shirt grabbed her hand and she lurched forward, almost spilling her drink. The guy laughed, the sound swept under the loud pulse of the bass. He struck a pose meant to be funny, and Josie laughed, beginning to move with the stranger as they were pulled into the gyrating crowd. She downed the rest of her gin and tonic, closing her eyes as they danced, spinning, whirling, finally feeling a part of the people there rather than removed. Separate. She was one of them. A carefree college girl. She just needed to act like it. She needed to let go.

Bodies pressed close, and Josie could feel sweat dripping down the back of her neck. The guy in the red shirt moved directly against her and for a minute she let him. The music boomed, lyrics about a record spinning around. Josie felt like she was spinning too. The guy’s hand moved over her ass, back up her hip. Why not? He was cute and Josie smiled flirtatiously. He smelled like clean sweat and cologne and when he leaned toward her, she smelled beer on his breath. Josie closed her eyes, the vision of two little smiling faces filling her brain. Her eyes shot open, and she spun away from the guy she was dancing with, putting distance between them. He laughed, but annoyance