Shoulda Known Better


God, I wish these lights would just stop flashing!

I’ve been lying in bed for the past hour now with a small pillow over my eyes and every curtain in my room turned down. Yet, still, even with my eyelids closed, I could see strobe lights flashing beneath my lids. It was a phenomenon in itself. How the fuck was light still sneaking its way into my mind?

All I wanted was a little rest. I had woken up this morning with a raging migraine, which made me decide to say fuck it to the world and sleep until I was good and ready. I mean, that’s what vacations are for, right? To sleep until sundown if I damn well pleased.

I knew what caused my migraine this time. The conversation I had with Zack a few days ago had left my mind on a continual spiral of questions. None were very much related to the man in question. Most were just about my own sanity, or lack there of, I should say.

To put it frankly, I was looking for answers to questions I’d been trying to solve for years. Being back in California had basically forced me to delve into these deep-rooted questions of my mind as to why exactly my body chose migraines as my stress reliever. Why did everything start? Was there a way to make them end? I just didn’t know.

In the past 72 hours I had gotten little sleep, little water, and next to no answers to my most important questions. I had thought a few times about calling Lauren, but with the current capacity to function, I felt less inclined to talk to anyone at the moment.

With a very loud grunt I flung myself from the bed I had buried myself in and very slowly made my way to my living room, where my laptop and bowl were currently sitting. You’re not supposed to smoke in these flats, the landlord had made it extremely clear. But I was certain there was no way in hell that when the next two months were up she was going to know I burned a few bowls here and there.

“When medication fails, self-medicate.” I mumbled to myself, remembering Brittney saying that to me once or twice during high school when either of us was feeling particularly down and out for the count.

So I did what any desperate person would do in my situation, I packed a fat bowl for one. Usually, my migraines would disappear when I took my medication. But that required allowing my brain to rest, and since I couldn’t stop thinking lately, I needed a little help with putting myself at ease.

I put fire to plant and took in a few puffs of smoke before coughing it out like an old woman with asthma. What can I say; the first hit gets me sometimes. I waved my hand in front of my face, still coughing, trying to move some of the smoke away from my eyes.

“Ugh” I groaned, feeling the effects of from the THC almost instantly. I took a hit, and then another. Before long my bowl was kicked and I knocked out the residue into my ashtray on the desk.

I caught my reflection in the glare on my laptop screen and I could barely see my own eyes. They felt like they were holding onto five pound bags of sand, but I knew then that my migraine was a thing of the past. That was always something I enjoyed about smoking with new people. Every person had quirks when they were stoned. Some people’s eyes were bloodshot, some were glassy, and some didn’t even remember how to open their eyes at all. But, I loved that each person was affected differently. For me, my eyes either turned into slits or they were glassy as fuck. If I were real lucky, sometimes they would be glassy slits for eyeballs.

Deciding to let the high take me where it wished, I felt a strong inclination to get comfy on the couch with my laptop and watch some Law and Order: Criminal Intent. I was a sucker for any of the Law and Order series, and it was always a great way to take my mind off myself. I sparked a cigarette, took a few sips of my now lukewarm coffee abandoned this morning in the midst of a blinding migraine, and snuggled into a blanket with pillows around me. I smiled, knowing it didn’t get much better than this.

A few hours later, after a particularly disturbing episode came to a close, I decided that I needed a drink. The high had worn off a couple episodes back, along with my migraine, and after watching the destructive aftermath of a particularly bad home invasion episode, I felt the need to be around other human beings, if only for a little while.

Remembering a bar in short walking distance, I grabbed my coat off the armchair. I took a quick assessment of my appearance, smoothing out stray hairs and wiping the smudged eyeliner from the corner of my eyes, before grabbing my wallet and keys and heading out the front door.

The sun had already gone down by the time I stepped out of my driveway and I basked in the smell of summer’s night. I was feeling good, pain-free, and ready to move slightly out of the comfort zone that is my flat. I hummed a Grateful Dead tune to myself as I made my way to the bar. Sometimes all you need to get out of a funk is a change of scenery and some greenery (okay, bad joke).

When I pushed the front door open to the bar, I wasn’t at all surprised to be hit with the sounds of many, many people talking at once. Normally, that sound alone would have my stomach dropping into my ass but I knew no one would pay me any mind, and I could keep to myself. I walked up to an open spot at the bar and ordered a simple jack and coke and made my way over to an empty table apart from the crowd.

Being myself, I brought a copy of one of my favorite books, The Hobbit, and proceeded to sip by liquor and read. Literally, nothing could get better than this. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Who in the hell actually goes to a bar to read a book? But, I think you’re forgetting my anti-social tendencies as well as my extreme love of literature.

I must have zoned out for a while, because before I knew it I had collected three empty glasses, swept through 100 pages of my novel, and became absolutely startled by a body sliding into the seat across from me. I looked over the edge of my book and noticed a familiar mohawk first, and immediately knew who had disturbed me.

“Hey Johnny!” I greeted, smiling brightly at him. I was usually a bit more cheerful and welcoming after a couple drinks.

I put the book down completely and noticed his eyes were a bit glassier than I remembered. I wondered how long he had been there without me noticing. “Evangeline!” he exclaimed, grabbing my book from my hands and placing it on the side of table, “No one should read at bars. You look seriously depressing over here drinking with only the company of.. ” His eyes darted over to the book “Tolkien.”

I furrowed my brows at his cheeky smile. “It’s not depressing!” I retorted, annoyed now that he had burst my Middle Earth bubble. “Besides, Tolkien is better company than most.” I muttered more to myself than Johnny. He still heard me.

“Come join Brian and I.” Johnny’s eyes held a hopeful glint that I just could not deny. Before I had the chance to accept his request, Johnny immediately continued, “You remember Brian right? He’s a nice guy. No worries. I promise it will be fun. Plus I still owe you a drink.”

His ramblings made me giggle, and giggling was not something I often did without the aid of alcohol. “I thought you owed me a coffee?” I questioned, giving him a sly smirk. I had already made up my mind to join them, I just felt like teasing Johnny for a moment or two first.

Catching on to my attitude towards his invitation Johnny replied with nothing more than “Alcohol trumps caffeine. Come on.”

Without another word, Johnny pushed his chair out beneath him and started making his way over to a table, which I now could clearly see, sat one of the men I noticed at the coffee shop a few weeks ago. I collected all my things and hurried to follow Johnny to his table. The minute I stood up, however, I started feeling the JD a little more than when I was sitting down. Maybe I should have eaten something before I left the house…

Trying my hardest to keep myself together, I made my way over to an empty chair and sat down across from Johnny’s friend Brian and next to Johnny.

He took the moment to introduce himself. “Hey, I’m Brian. You’re the girl from the coffee shop aren’t you? Evangeline?” He shot me a 1000 watt smile and hot damn, I’m sure my ankles would have turned to Jell-O had I not been sitting down.

It’s safe to say this man was as good looking, if not better looking, than Zack was. Which is all well and good for every other girl out there, but I had never been keen to fall for a pretty face. I may drool now and again, but I don’t fall. There’s not much use for beauty in my life, unless it’s found in books.

“Has anyone ever told you that your bone structure is fucking insane?” I couldn’t help myself. I hadn’t even given this man a ‘hello’. But, in my defense, his bone structure is fucking insane and I was a little past buzzed.

Johnny started laughing hysterically next to me while Brian just gave me a funny look. “Sorry” I apologized, realizing my manners had escaped me, “I’ve been sitting here for a while.” I gestured to the half-drunk cocktail sitting before me and sent him a small smile.

“Which reminds me,” I continued, picking up the drink and swallowing down the rest of its contents. When I looked back up at Johnny and Brian I could tell they were both a bit confused by my actions. I mean, well so was I, but I didn’t have the energy to care of what impression I was making in that moment. “The ice was melting.” I said, justifying my movements.

Before long, the three of us began talking again, sweeping past my strange introduction, and I let them into my little world of books, school, and weed.

“What do you guys do for a living?” I asked, fully ready to steer the conversation away from myself.

“I play guitar in our band.” Brian replied, giving me a look as if surprised that I hadn’t already known this information.

I nodded my head, appreciative of anyone with musical abilities that I myself had never possessed. “That’s pretty rad. What do you do to make money though?” I questioned further, not quite understanding how anyone really made a living that way. These men looked too well-off to just be in a band.

“No, that’s how.” Johnny supplied, still chuckling at me. “You don’t know who we are, do you?”

I looked between him and Brian, trying to understand what these men were getting at. I pointed my finger at Johnny. “Sure I do!” I exclaimed, “You’re Johnny, and this is Brian!” Maybe I had had too much to drink after all.

At my exclamation both guys began to chuckle harder. If there was a joke or something, I was seriously missing it. “You seriously do live in a bubble.” Johnny shook his head, taking another swig of his beer.

It was definitely the alcohol that was making me so forward, but I couldn’t help myself as I stole the beer out from Johnny’s hands as he went to take another swig and took one for myself instead. I got a little dribble of beer on my chin, so I wiped it away with the back of my hand before letting out a small burp.

My eyes passed over Johnny to see that his mouth was slightly ajar in shock at my actions. “Close your mouth, unless you want to catch flies.” I muttered, suddenly becoming embarrassed that I had acted so brazenly like myself in front of people I hardly knew. Honestly now, I’m chucking up all my actions to alcohol.

Before I knew it, a swell of realization hit me as to where I was and what I was doing. I had become so comfortable for no reason around these two people that I was able to just relax and be myself without fear, worry, or anxiety kicking in. That basically never happened.

Not wanting to spoil a good thing, I suddenly stifled a bogus yawn. “What time is it?” I questioned, knowing full well I could use this as an excuse to head home. Brian looked down at his phone and noted that it was around 10:30pm. “Oh wow! I’ve been here a really long time. I don’t mean to break up the party but I have to head home, guys. I have a lot more work to do tomorrow since I wasted today with a migraine.” I explained, hoping they would take my excuse to leave.

“You had another one?” Johnny questioned, completely ignoring the cue for my exit.

I simply nodded at him. “I get them all the time.” I shrugged to emphasize my point. “I deal.”

“That fucking blows.” Brian commented, and I nodded again, not really knowing what to say to that.

“Yeah, it does.”

“Do you want a ride home? I told Zacky I would swing by before it got too late, so I was about to leave anyways.” Brian offered, giving me another 1000-watt smile. I couldn’t help but give him a short, bashful nod. Pretty boys with nice smiles turn me to pudding.

I gave Johnny a short hug and thanked him for bursting my bubble. He laughed and assured me that it was no problem, and that we’d have to get together again sometime soon. I quickly agreed. Now, usually I would be doing this just to get someone off my back about plans, but I actually enjoyed myself tonight and I found Johnny to be pleasant and funny and the makings of a very good friend.

“You still have my number, yeah?” I questioned, once I pulled my purse over my shoulder. He nodded. “Okay, well you know just text me if you want to get coffee or something.”

“Will do, Evangeline!” I gave Johnny one more fleeting glance before heading out towards the front door with Brian.

The minute the summer air hit my nostrils my hands went straight for a cigarette. I glanced at Brian, who was walking along to what I can only assume was his car, not noticing that I had stopped to smoke. I wanted to call out his name, but for some reason I felt shy about saying it so loud and direct.

“Brian?” I called, as I light the cigarette between my lips. He turned around in confusion, quickly realizing that I was no longer behind him. “I’m going to smoke a cig. You can go if you need to, I’ll be just fine walking home.”

Part of me was hoping he would take the bait and just leave. I felt very comfortable around Johnny, but Brian reminded me too much of those boys in high school who were way out of my league. I had acquiesced his offer out of sheer madness of his good looks, but having a chance to mull it over, I would be much more comfortable walking home alone.

Brian made his way back over to where I was standing in front of the bar’s entrance. “Nah, come on. I’m sure you don’t live far from where I’m headed.” I gave him a look of hesitance. “Plus, what kind of man would I be to let a beautiful girl walk home, drunk and alone?”

My insides made a small flip-flop at his flirty tone, but I pushed it off, claiming ignorance by inebriation. All I could do was reply with a muttered, “I’m not that drunk.”

He laughed at my behavior. “A little too drunk to walk alone, I think.” He mused. “Come on, you can smoke in my car.”

Before I could protest again, Brian swung his arm around my shoulder and began guiding me over to his car. I felt my heart beat increase just a little at what close proximity I was to him. For god’s sake he even smelled handsome. I kept trying to push off the bite of anxiety that was pushing through my alcohol and telling me I’d be better off walking. I knew I’d be fine with Brian. He was Johnny’s friend and seemed decent enough. He didn’t even seem very drunk. My anxiety was ridiculous, and I quickly pushed away another nagging thought of being alone. What could possibly go wrong?

After all, it was just a ride home, right?
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Wow-za took me a month to update again, and for that I'm very sorry. School is crazy, all three of my jobs are crazy, and I've had two viral infections within the past three weeks.

Anywho--like always please feel free to give me any feedback you'd like. I'm starting to get excited about what I've planned for this story!

Also, I feel like everyone should probably know that I just write as I go. I don't write chapters in advance, which is why my updates are always all over the place. But, just know I've got some big events mapped out in my head for y'all.

Also also, if someone wants to recommend some good a7x stories to me, please do. I'm desperate for something to read and I have the worst luck at stumbling upon stories. Plus, I respect recommendations way more than what I find on my own fancy.