This story is by Amanda Swanson and was part of our 2018 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“Water,” was the first thought that entered Jen’s head through the pounding beneath her eyes.
Without opening them, she slowly reached her hand towards her nightstand, careful to avoid the pile of makeup, nightclub bracelets, and half-drunk glasses of water that had accumulated there. When her fingers touched the glass, she was surprised to find that it was still relatively cold. Drunk Jen must have filled a new glass to bring up with her to bed the night (or, more accurately, the morning) before. Hungover Jen was thankful to Drunk Jen for that.
Jen forced herself to chug the whole glass and opened her eyes to try to find an empty place to set it back down on her nightstand. Her shaking hand was covered in smeared black and red stamps, a road map of every bar the bachelorette party ventured to, and she had a sinking feeling the proof transferred onto her cheek while she was passed out. It wouldn’t be the first time.
By now, Jen had cultivated a set of procedures she would undertake any time she woke up in her present state. She moved a new pile of receipts to uncover her birth control packet.
“What day is it?” she thought to herself.
Once again feeling impressed with Drunk Jen’s responsible streak, she set her pills back on her nightstand and went to reach for her phone. The feeling was short lived.
Jen got up, pulled back her blankets, and checked the pockets of the leather jacket laying on the floor. Nothing. The panic kicked in. Her snapchat story, which was more than likely full of drunken videos, would stay up for at least another 12 hours if she couldn’t find her phone.
At age 31, Jen’s life choices had been the topic of conversation at various family dinners she didn’t attend and she was increasingly careful not to give the hungry pack of hyenas any more bones to pick at. Jen’s one saving grace from her family’s judgment in this case would be the company she had been in. Her family had always adored her best friend, Sarah. Sarah’s mom, Carol, on the other hand, never felt the same way about Jen.
“Sarah!” Jen thought, as the memories of the bachelorette party came flooding back.
Jen had arrived in her new LBD and leather jacket to find all three of her friends already seated at the bar.
“We’re so happy you finally decided to grace us with your presence!” Sarah smirked.
Sarah was wearing the same black dress with the ruffle sleeves she wore to Ashley’s bachelorette party. Jen instantly recognized Sarah’s plum red “going out look” lipstick and knew she would be open to having at least two glasses of wine.
“Oh stop it, Sarah! She’s only five minutes late!” Morgan giggled as she adjusted her pink bejeweled “Bride to Be” tiara.
Morgan, for the last five years, had been Jen’s bar-hopping companion. Now, she was about to settle down, making the score 3 against 1.
Sarah, feeling emboldened from her first taste of moscato, couldn’t resist the chance to take another shot at Jen.
“By the way, Jenny, do you think you will ever actually be able to carve out some time from your busy schedule to meet Olivia?” she laughed. “By the time you get around to it, she will be able to introduce herself!”
Jen took a long sip of the Cosmopolitan Morgan ordered her. Jen knew that three months was probably too long to wait to meet your “best friend’s” baby, but it wasn’t like Sarah had been begging her to make the trek out to the suburbs.
“Good one, Sarah! Will you make sure to apologize to her for me before bedtime tonight? Or do you think you’ll actually be allowed to stay out and have some fun?” Jen shot back.
Sarah hid the hurt in her olive-green eyes by pretending to look around for the bartender. It was a low blow, and Jen knew it. Sarah had gone from the perfect daughter, under the intense control of her mother, to the perfect wife, under a very similar regime of her husband, Erik.
The rest of the night was a blur as Sarah and Jen went shot for shot. The grand finale occurred around 1 a.m. when Sarah ran to the bathroom to throw-up, and Jen followed to check on her. Sarah, refusing to admit defeat, attempted to slam the stall door closed before Jen could get in. Instead, the door hit Jen square in the face. Years of pent up anger were released, as each woman drunkenly screamed and cried in the other’s face, about every wrong-doing each had endured at the other’s hand. After 30 minutes of taking up one of the three stalls in the packed club, creating a line of angry early 20-somethings, the two women were unceremoniously escorted from the building and placed in separate cabs.
Jen shuddered at the thought of her next conversation with Sarah before she refocused her attention on her missing phone.
Jen grabbed her Macbook from under her bed and sat cross legged on the floor. This too had become too much of a routine. In the past, she had tracked her phone down to “red-hat-guy’s” place (she didn’t remember his name), a bus-stop bench, and her favorite college bar. She hoped her luck hadn’t finally run out.
Jen recognized the location on the map instantly.
“Perfect,” she sighed as she snapped her laptop shut.
Jen threw her leather jacket on over her baggy t-shirt and leggings combo, and drove the 25 minutes out to Sarah’s house, the whole time fuming over their fight.
By the time Jen got to the front-porch steps of Sarah’s house, she had worked herself into such an angry frenzy that she almost didn’t notice the vomit outside of Sarah’s front door.
“Ha. Serves her right.” Jen smirked to herself as she stepped over the puddle and rang the doorbell.
Sarah answered the door immediately. She looked like garbage. Her plum lipstick was smeared all over one side of her face and her eyes were puffy and red.
“Here’s your phone,” Sarah said expressionless.
Jen took the phone from Sarah’s hand as she walked through the front door towards the couch. She sat down to assess the damage. The first snap on her story was of her and Ashley up on stage with a giant blow up penis. She deleted the entire thing immediately.
“Feel free to leave, or don’t. I don’t care.” Sarah said, as she began to retreat to her bedroom.
Jen looked around the room. Where Sarah once had a mini-bar, there was now a bouncy-chair. Where there used to be a world-map covered in pins, there were now photos of Olivia in a tiny knit stocking cap. Jen was surprised to see that the only picture from Sarah’s wedding day still on display, was of Sarah and Jen, toasting champagne. That’s when Jen noticed how quiet the house was.
“Where’s Olivia and Erik?” she blurted out.
Just then, the front-door swung open. Jen hadn’t seen Carol for years, but she still wore the same angry expression on her face that Jen had come to know so well.
“Are you kidding me, Sarah?! Puke on your front steps! How old are you?!” Sarah’s mom struggled to pull the door closed while balancing Oliva on one hip and a giant diaper bag on her opposite shoulder.
Sarah came running back through the living room and took Olivia from her mother. It was like they were 16 all over again and Sarah had come home with a B+ on her math test. Except this time, in addition to the look of shame on her face, Sarah looked completely shocked. She obviously didn’t remember throwing up last night. Jen’s face suddenly mirrored Sarah’s, as she noticed that Sarah was no longer wearing her wedding ring.
“It was me, Mrs. Nelson.” Jen said.
Sarah closed her eyes and sighed.
“Oh. Well, of course it was you, Jenny.” Carol replied matter-of-factly. “I’m not surprised either, judging by the looks of you this morning.”
Jen caught a glimpse of herself in a mirror hanging on the wall behind Carol. Carol wasn’t wrong. Just as Jen suspected, one of her cheeks was sporting a series of faint black and red tattoos from the stamps on her hand. Her hair was a rat’s nest, and to top it all off, she had a big black bruise on her forehead from where Sarah hit her with the stall door.
“So, is the first time you are meeting Olivia?” Carol asked.
“What?! Of course, not!” Sarah suddenly came back to life, as she crossed the room to the couch. “Olivia loves her aunty, Jenny!” Sarah exclaimed, as she handed Olivia over to Jen.
Jen cautiously reached her arms out to hold Olivia, and for the first time, looked into the same olive green eyes she already knew so well.