Armed with my red striped polo and favorite jeans, I was outside the fishbowl. Murph came out a minute or two later.
"Dev's not comin'?"
Murph shoved his hands in his pockets. "Dev's spending his night being a good student and doing his Soc paper due Monday." He shuffled his feet, a flush creeping up his neck.
I held out my Vera. "Might wanna put some pj's upstairs, since I probably don't have anything that'll fit you."
He disappeared into his room, and took my keys on his way out again. He was a good roommate - if we got back late (which we probably would), he wouldn't wake Devan if we stayed in my room tonight. And as I reminded Murph, I don't have much - if anything - that would fit him to sleep in.
And I am not prepared to sleep next to a boy in his boxers. Just...no.
Murph thumped back down the stairs and to the lounge, handing off my keys. He took my hand in his.
"So, where we goin'?"
He didn't answer me until we got to the parking lot. It was a little chilly. Murph, my moving furnace, snaked an arm around my waist. Toasty warm in seconds.
"There's a party at Kappa."
"Kappa Alpha or Kappa Sigma?" Not that it mattered. It was still a frat.
"Kappa Alpha." His fingers lingered on my opposite hip. "A lot of the football boys are brothers."
More football boys' names. Can I get a cheat sheet? Please?
"And a lot of the guys hang out there, too."
Now, for some reason, I was starting to get nervous. Not what Murph had intended, probably, but I'm female. That's where my brain goes.
We walked along South Main; the moon reflected off the lake, a sight that would never get old. The music at KA was audible when we were about three houses down and nearly deafening as we stood in line at the door. Murph moved his arm and I was floating for a moment until he anchored me, our fingers twisted together. There was much back-slapping and rowdy hellos (consisting mostly of "Yo! Elf!") and then we were inside.
The amount of bodies was ridiculous. Almost claustrophobic.
There were people everywhere, including the downstairs where the bar was. There was more dancing down there, too. And that's where we were - on the dance floor.
And when incredibly self-conscious on a regular day, on a dance floor with a boy in front of other boys and girls in scanty clothes, this was now firmly classified under 'nightmare.'
Murph took my hand and started to move, the geekiest expression on his face. Couldn't help it - I cracked up and creakily rocked, trying to match his movements. He was breakin' out moves most don't do unless - and until - they're drunk as a skunk. And he was doing it to loosen me up.
And it was workin' like a charm.
I looped my arms around his neck; his hands settled on my waist. He leaned in, close to my ear. "You good?"
"I'm a little nervous." Had to yell to be heard.
It was dim in the basement, the strobe light more annoying than helpful. Those hazel eyes, though, they were clear.
"I dunno. I just am." Really. I'm illogical like that.
He smiled, then leaned in to kiss me soft and sweet in front of a frightening amount of people. Then was back to leaning by my ear. "Don't think about it. Just go with it."
And really, that piece of advice was quite valid. Quite helpful, too. Not to mention it worked.
I'm not sure how long we danced, though I was ready for a break when he went to find something to drink. There was an empty sofa in the corner and I plopped down, content to people watch.
I heaved myself to my feet, wiping sweaty palms on my thighs. A tall, African-American guy with a skinny - leggy, too - dark-skinned woman hanging on his arm had seemingly popped up from the floor. They my age (in college) and he had the best dreads that I'd ever seen. They looked at me, and I had the sinking feeling that I should know them and didn't.
"I don't think we've actually met, yet," he said. The other girl and I were sizing each other up. "I'm Murphy's lifting partner."
Click. "Noah." I smiled. "Nice to meet you."
"This is my girlfriend, Tanya."
Tanya and I shook hands, still measuring each other. Someone called Noah's name, and with a quick, "Be right back" he left the two of us alone. Tanya sat gracefully while my knees more or less refused to continue supporting my weight.
"I'm Murphy's girlfriend," I blurted after less than ten seconds of awkward silence. Cue flaming face. "I mean, Murphy's my boyfriend." She blinked. Great.
"I know," she said, smiling gently. "Noah says that's what he talks about."
"Wow." Really, what else do you say to that?
Sirens cut through the music as the lights came on. Tanya took me by the hand before I could start floundering hopelessly, pulling me off the couch and toward the stairs. We didn't stop at the first floor, fighting the throng of people to get to the other staircase and up onto the second floor, into the common room of someone's suite. There were other girls there, chatting and holding long-necked bottles. I lingered awkwardly by the door, Tanya having the sense to let go shortly after we crossed the threshold.
"Girls," she said, finding an empty seat, "This is Ollie."
They turned as one to look. I was the only one wearing jeans and had never felt so awkward in my life. Might as well have been naked.
"Oh," one of them - a strawberry blond in a mini-skirt and heels - said excitedly, "are you Elf's girlfriend?"
Holy. Shit. I'd found the girlfriends club. Somebody - anybody - needed to rescue me before I disgraced myself in a horrifically public manner. Or, better yet, before I embarrassed Murphy.