40 Ymiden 722
It's just another party.
Max rolled her shoulders before she slipped through the door to the home a stone's throw from the boundary of the Commercial zone. The reeking smells of alcohol and smoke smacked her in the face the moment she entered. The temperature inside was noticeably higher thanks to the active bodies roaming inside, their bodies sweating in the summer heat and elevated by the drugs they indulged in. This particular venue was new...maybe. The past two arcs in Etzos had been such an off-her-face blur of nightly mistakes and mischief of this sort, she couldn't be sure. She didn't remember it at least.
No different than any other. You're not new.
The Rusalka wasn't selling herself a lie either. She might not remember the faces surrounding her as she navigated the tight spaces between bodies, but she had been around this scene long enough that others would at least vaguely recognize she belonged. The only thing exceptional about this one was there were a few more hints of money around. A couple expensive tunics, even the brassiere one particularly loud, intoxicated girl paraded past her in shouted some element of wealth. They were still the minority. She did appreciate their tendency to be boisterous and attention-seeking. Right now, with only her baseline buzz on, Max felt perfectly mundane.
"Amber!" A small, supple, golden-haired woman shouted over the volume of loud voices. Maxine zeroed in on her instantly.
"Come over here!" Quinnley laughed from atop the wooden coffee table in the center of the room. Max exhaled a laugh through her nose. Of course the privileged party girl would live the stereotype: a drunk girl drawn to elevated surfaces. Quinnley beckoned her friend over wildly with a wave."Perry brought some of my brothers' good whiskey! We're doing shots!"
"Coming!" The black-haired girl, who must've been Amber, hollered back.
Max shook her head as she watched from the crowd. Amber forced her way between the people in her way, jostling a few a little more roughly than would've probably been permitted in the sort of parties the Rusalka was apt to frequent. The girls squealed in delight when they were reunited, swinging arms around one another and giggling. On one of the couches behind them Maxine caught sight of Perry "Green" Vaul. The other men besides him were sipping their whiskey and laughing. Not Green. His eyes were locked on Quinnley and her rich, blonde, flowing hair. Maxine knew men and she knew that look. If she wasn't sure before, the moment she caught him in confirmed it.
That's pure puppy love if I've ever seen it.
One of the boys wrapped their arms around Amber, and she yelped her glee before he pulled her onto the couch with him. Quinnley dropped down onto Green's lap and draped her arms around his neck. His green eyes locked on her vibrant blue gaze. She laughed and it instantly brought a broad grin to his bruised face. From across the room it was obvious he was paralyzed, a fly in the Dorrick sister's sparkling web. Quinnley and the rest of their small group held their glasses toward Green. He happily obliged, pouring the fine whiskey until each glass practically over spilled.
"Oh, but wait!" Quinnley stopped the drinkers from slugging their shot. "We have to toast to something first! Who will go?" She hardly waited a trill before joyfully exclaiming, "Fine! I'll do it. Hold on...Hmm..." Quinnley tapped her chin. Then her blue eyes danced with life and she raised her glass with a pearly-white smile. "Well first we have to thank Perry for swiping the bottle from my stingy brothers." Green blushed and rolled his eyes, waving off the bravado from the other guys happy to enjoy the fruits of his risk. Quinnley paused only long enough for the men to tease Green before moving on. "To fun, villainous debauchery, and living on the fucking edge on a night none of you bitches better remember!"
Their small group cheered and down the hatch the expensive whiskey shots went. Max pulled her flask of rum from her pocket and sighed as she took a sip. The burn of the cheap alcohol twisted even her expression for a trill. It was almost hard to watch as Green went to pouring another round of shots again. If she was one of the Dorrick brothers, she thought for sure she might've taken that bottle when it was empty and smashed it over all their heads. The bottle of that quality must've cost something to sweat about, something meant to be sipped, and there they were shooting the fine whiskey like grog.
What a fucking waste.
She recognized she was standing in the middle of the crowded party, staring obviously at the rich kids in the room. She frowned and glanced about until she found a little smoking circle not far from her marks. The Rusalka eased her way over and slunk down into an uneven, wobbly chair. Most Reevi stoners were like any other low level, narcotic smoker. They shared and passed the blunt, carefree and easy going. Max saw their eyes and rolled her own. She pitched a coin onto the table and the roller scooped it up when it landed. Only then did she find the lit joint offered.
Max took it and breathed in the warm, ashy drug. It filled her lungs and she held it there for a length that even raised the brows of the experienced smokers in the circle. She let the smoke exhale slowly through her nose. The smoke circle was too big for her liking and she knew the Reevi wasn't going to make it to her many more times before it was dead. When her lungs finally emptied of smoke she took another quick puff before passing. From here she could still make out the voices of the drunk Commercial Circle residents.
"Amber, you're such a light-weight!" Quinnley observed, smirking as one of the boys righted the falling dark-haired friend before she hit the floor. "Don't embarrass me! I've been telling you you have to start coming out with me more! Look how much fun we're all having!"
"You know my parents," Amber stuttered, smiling with eyes half open.
"Fuck your parents!"
"They say all this is unbecoming of a lady."
"Know what else is unbecoming?" Quinnley scoffed as she took the bottle from Green's fingers without any protest. "Being a stick-in-the-ass, miserable wench! Life isn't about finding a husband and popping out babies." She eased off Green's lap and put a hand on her hips, raising the bottle. "It's about taking chances and having fun! Taking risks! What is life worth if its not full of adventure!" She got back up on the coffee table where the whole party could see and hear her. Amber rushed to join her, giggling and grabbing onto the Dorrick girl for balance. Quinnley raised her voice, "Right?! Who wants shots?!"
A roar of applause and whoops erupted. Max sat back in her shaky chair and the last vapor of smoke wafted from her nostrils. Bodies crammed forward toward the coffee table where the two drunk girls waved the bottle. Cheering, Quinnley turned the whiskey bottle over and started pouring liquor into opened mouths. She tossed her golden hair and probably poured at much whiskey on faces and clothes as she did tongues, but it didn't matter. The world was vibrant and she was the beating heart, epicenter of hedonistic pleasure here. They flocked to her.
"Quinnley!" Amber slurred when the pouring was done. "Quinn-ley!"
"What, babe?" Quinnley turned, slugging from the bottle.
"You are so pretty! And that dress? I could die I'm so jealous! It looks so good on you!"
"Ugh! Babe, stop!"
"No, seriously. You are so gorgeous!"
Quinnley glanced about the party from her furniture precipice and then offered Amber a mischievous grin. She turned to her friend and made sure she caught the eyes, especially, of their cadre of men on the couch beneath them. Green's eyes widened and the boys clapped their hands in shocked excitement when Quinnley locked lips with Amber. Even from across the room Max could see what the party girl was doing. When the kiss ended the girls giggled and stepped down from the coffee table again. Green nervously excused himself out of the main room. That made Maxine smirk.
"Fuck, she's hot," one of the stoners next to Max lamented with an appreciative shake of his head. He messed with his long, brown, moppy hair. "What a pretty little blonde thing."
"Pretty little loud thing," a pixie cut girl protested with a frown.
"Of course Green is with a Dorrick," the guy next to her, noticeably slamming an ale rather than waiting for a smoke, growled. "24 breaks a trial he's on his knees for one Dorrick or another. He's always been such a fucking cuck."
"I mean I don't blame him for this one," the moppy haired guy said with a shrug. "Look at her. I'd be anyone's bitch if it gave me a chance to hit that."
"She's not that pretty," the pixie cut girl argued, earning a few blatantly disagreeing glances from the rest of the circle.
"I respect Tristane, don't get me wrong," the ale-drinker clarified. "I just can't stand Little Perry. He was such a bitch growing up. Look at him! I'll bet every coin put in my hand this arc that he got that bruise on his face talking shit to someone. Every time I look at him I just want to punch him in the face."
Green wandered back into the room and plopped down onto the couch again. Quinnley finished the last drop of the whiskey and the onset of intoxication was clear as the sun on a cloudless trial. Amber was worse, but her attention was completely on one of the boys they came with. The pair's faces attached and it didn't look like they were separating any time soon. Quinnley couldn't be so easily tamed. Green's disappointed gaze longingly followed the Dorrick girl as she danced through the room, mingling and laughing with men who certainly weren't him. His hands turned to fists around the couch cushions.
"I hear that girl parties all over Etzos," Max broke her silence in the circle she used as her blend. "She always so...free spirited?"
"She's fucking annoying is what she always is," pixie cut spouted again. "It's sad how all these men fall all over her, humiliating themselves. Makes me sick."
"I've seen her at every party so far this season," the moppy haired smoker observed. "I've never seen a wealthy girl get so wasted all the time."
"Sloppy wasted," pixie cut corrected.
"You could say that," moppy head agreed. "Still hot though."
"Uptight rich girls wanting to let loose and have fun with some alcohol makes sense to me," the ale drinker decided as he brought his mug to his lips. "I don't get the drugs though."
"How do you mean?" Max tilted her head, watching Quinnley out of the corner of her eye pluck a joint of Reevi from a man's lips.
"She has this cycle I noticed," the ale-drinker explained. "Every time I see her she is slamming drinks until she can hardly walk straight. Then she's like a fiend, jamming joints in her mouth or shoving something up her nose."
"Joints aren't the only things she's jamming in her mouth, that's for sure," pixie cut scoffed.
"Jealousy is the ugliest trait, Josefine," moppy hair joked with a puff on his Reevi. Josefine gave him the finger.
"She likes Reevi, too?" Max asked.
"Nah," the ale-drinker shook his head. "Quinnley likes anything. I don't know if she's an adrenaline junkie or just wants to disappoint the shit out of her dead parents. She's fearless, that girl. It's scary."
"Maybe that's why she's got Green," moppy hair grinned. "Maybe the Dorricks sent him here to study her. Girl's got balls." As if remembering his comments earlier he laughed and shook his head. "I mean, like, lady balls. Not like guy balls. Sorry. I'm fucking stoned."
"I don't care what they're saying about him now," ale-drinker growled. "Green could be a pit fighter champion, assassin legend, I don't give a fuck. He's a pussy and someone needs to put him in his place. Fuck what they say about him having hands now."
"Okay," moppy head chortled. "Let's be real though. What do you guys seriously think my chances are with her? I'm so serious."
Max took the joint when it was offered again but the conversation around her faded away. She watched as Quinnley playfully pretended to hoard the joint she was smoking across the room, throwing her head back and laughing as the man wrapped his arms around her to wrench it gently from her fingers. The Rusalka took her fill of Reevi and passed it. Then, without a word she vacated the circle to mix back into the party. Judging by the abundance of stumbling and glassy eyes, the collective group was hammered off their faces.
"Come on!" Quinnley's voice could just be made out over the muddled conversations around. "Reevi has gotten so boring. Don't you have something else, Mike?"
"Don't be like this, Quin," Mike shook his head and held the Reevi over his head so the Dorrick girl couldn't steal it again. "You know I'm not trying to piss off your brothers."
"You sound like such a pussy!" Quinnley whined. "Why is everyone so afraid of my brothers? They're not in charge of me. I can do whatever I want and you know I can pay!"
"If they got wind I sold you anything hard they would kill me."
"Please! This party sucks, Mike, and I'm out of alcohol. I'm so bored! I want something exciting! Something new!"
"That's what you said after the bug berries, and then after the Reevi."
"You know I'm so much more fun when I'm high. Or did you forget?"
"I didn't forget. I like to remember it. Often."
"Quinnley!" Green interjected sharply. "What are you doing? Are you trying to sell to her, Mike?"
"Take it easy, man," Mike raised his hands defensively. "I was just telling the lady 'no.' Ask her yourself."
"Quit being such a kill joy, Perry!" Quinnley hissed. "Who do you think you are? One of my brothers?"
"No," Green answered sternly. "You don't need any of his shit."
"What are you, at work? I thought you wanted to come out so we could have fun."
"I did. I do!"
Max sipped on her rum watching the exchange. She could see the indignation in Quinnley narrowed eyes and the frustration in Green's gestures. What a fine line he was walking, that Perry "Green" Vaul. A Dorrick underling with just enough ambition and merit to get him invited into the Dorrick home for business, and enough lusty idiocy to pine so desperately after the brothers' young, untamed little sister. One misstep and he was in quite a bit of trouble. One way or another. Maybe jealous, pixie-cut Josefine was right. Men did make such fools of themselves.
"Look," Mike cut in to the bickering neutrally. "I'll just go and leave you two to it, yeah?"
"Nah, man," Green growled, jerking his suddenly fiery gaze to the dealer. "We ain't done. You stay right there."
"I'm good. I'm gonna go."
"Listen, asshole, I said don't go anywhere."
"Perry!" Quinnley scolded.
Max noticed her view was partially blocked by the ale-drinker in the smoke circle earlier. He was staring at Green, clutching his mug. The voices of the arguing men started to raise and the tension in the room was palpable.
"That Green kid really thinks he's better than everyone else, doesn't he?" Maxine murmured just loud enough for the ale-drinker to hear, her words dripping with the influence of Rusalkis to fan the flames of natural spite.
"Come on, dude," Mike reasoned with the hot-headed Green. "I really don't feel like dealing with bullshit tonight. It's really not all that."
"Do you know who she is?" Green was roaring now.
"Of course I know who she is, man, I told you I'm trying to fuck off."
"Yeah, you're going to fuck off."
"Green!" ale-drinker shouted as he walked toward the argument. "Don't you ever shut the fuck up?"
"Who the fuck are you?" Green turned from Mike, shaking. "Fucking Lionel?"
"I hear you're a scrappy fuck these trials" Lionel finished his ale and pitched the mug to the floor. "Still small though I see. Like your prick?"
"You wanna see my little prick?" Green was fully fixated on Lionel now and Mike happily slipped away. "How 'bout I show it to you? You can give it a suck after I make you shit your molars, yeah?"
"Shit-talking little Green. You never did learn, you stupid bastard, did you?"
"Meet me upstairs after I come back, Quinnley," Green said oddly loud in a way that made Max think he wanted listening ears to hear. "You don't need Mike. I'll get you what you want after I finish him. Okay?" Green leaned over and gave Quinnley a kiss on her flushed cheek before walking toward Lionel, arms raised to stir the party crowd. "Alright then! Let's fucking go outside!"
Just like that most of the party was clearing out, following the barking men through the home toward the door. The leftovers were in too much of a stupor or a slump to care. Amber and her lover were still engrossed in one another, and whatever others boys were in their entourage vacated. Quinnley folded her arms and sighed. Her alcohol was gone and so was her dealer. She squeaked when a shoulder gently bumped into her.