Gen 3 Ch 11: Expensive Mistakes

Warning: Lots of swearing, alcohol, discussion of bullying, drugs, and other problematic matters. Read at your own discretion. Also, the nightclub is made by the wonderful Caterpillarsims and you can download it here. And the chapter title is definitely based on the Fallout Boy song.


After Kaz’s party, they ended up getting invited to other parties as well. Some took the invitations, others didn’t.

Phoenix never passed up a party invite, usually dragging Trev along with him. He loved the atmosphere, the friendly people, the fun, the drinks… This was his element. As it turned out, he always managed to become the center of attention at such gatherings.

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“Dude! Come on! You’ve already beat my record!” Nikki yelled, shortly before her arms gave out and she dropped him from his position over the keg. “Are you a cyborg or something? Or do you spit it out instead of drinking, or what?”

“Ouch. If I was a cyborg, this wouldn’t hurt. I’ve got bones, you know…” Phoenix crawled up complaining.

No, he wasn’t cheating. As it turned out, while his mother had a weak alcohol tolerance and his father barely drank any, he made up for both of them – it took quite a while for him to get intoxicated.

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“I’m pretty sure most of your internal organs are already replaced by whatever’s in this keg, bro. I can’t believe you’re drinking this much before finals week,” she mused.

“So are you, though,” he pointed at Nikki’s own empty cups.

“Yeah, but in the art department, our final is a final project and we’re all done with it already,” she admitted. “Most of the people here today are from my department.”

“Yeah, well, I’ve got this. It’s communication. I’m great at communication, yo…” he turned away just in time not to barf all over her shoes. Nikki was easy-going and loved to party, yet he was certain she would’ve ripped him a new one if he had ruined her shoes.

“Sure… Hey Trev, do you two live far? Can you get him home safely or should I call you guys a cab? He doesn’t look too good,” she waved his friend over.

“We’re good, thanks Nikki,” Trev lent him his shoulder to lean on as he helped him get upright and leave Nikki’s and her roommates’ place. “Phoenix, this is the third party we’ve been to within the last two weeks. I know I said we needed to let loose once in a while, but I think you took me far too seriously.”

“What? We’re doing fine, though. It’s not like we’re neglecting out studies,” Phoenix tried to argue, but his words came out slurred.

“See, that’s what I mean,” Trev shook his head. “Come on buddy. Let’s get you home and sobered up.”

Back home, Phoenix actually did make some attempts to study. Which is to say, he opened up his laptop and spent the next hour giggling over every mildly inappropriate-sounding term in his school readings.

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“What’s with him?” asked Jeanine when she came home and found her boyfriend practically doubled over, all because he thought the term “groupthink” meant something much more different and risqué than what it actually means.

“Too much booze,” Trev explained. “He outdrank Nikki.”

“What?! Phoenix, are you out of your mind? Your exam is in two days!” she was appalled that he could be so cavalier about his grades.

“Relax, babe, I told you, I’ve got this exam in the bag. But look, I’m studying,” he broke out into a new set of giggles, due to misreading “public opinion” without the “l” in the first word.

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“Yeah, you are. Maybe you should save the studying for tomorrow? Some sleep will do you much more good right now,” she shook her head and headed upstairs to shower.

She worried about him, lately. Phoenix has always enjoyed being among people, but his party habits were becoming a problem. At the same time, he wasn’t really messing up, so she wasn’t sure how to get him to slow down.

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Once she showered and came to bed, he was already heavily sleeping. At least, they had no class tomorrow, so he had some time to catch up on whatever else he needed to review for the exam. She hoped he did study. He wasn’t careless enough not to, right?

 

The next day, she was once again studying, this time at a weekend pre-exam practice session. Their professor was nice enough to take the time out of his weekend and give them another chance to go over everything, and everyone who cared about their grades took the opportunity.

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Between the studying, the soccer practice, and worrying about her roommates and boyfriend, she felt exhausted. She couldn’t wait for the short break after the exams – she needed rest.

Achoo! And on top of everything, it looked like she was coming down with a cold. Great, just great.

After the study session, she decided to study outside and take advantage of the natural sunlight. And the live music from Trev and Eddy made studying somewhat easier.

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Meanwhile at home, Phoenix was also studying, or at least, attempting to. Once he sobered up and really took a look at his notes, he knew one thing for sure – he fucked up. He remembered nothing of this. But how? He did pay attention in class! How could he not remember all this stuff? He was good, even great, at communication!

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So, cursing everything, he was trying to cram as much information as possible into his head at the last moment – the exam was tomorrow.

By the time evening fell, everyone finished up their study sessions, with varying results.

Jeanine could finally play some ball, now that the green was empty of people. (Most college students did not enjoy getting hit in the head by a flyaway soccer ball.) And she enjoyed these times, when it was just her and the sport.

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She was trying out some maneuver she saw a popular player do during the last aired game – it was tricky but she knew she’ll get it eventually.

“Almost there, yes!” As soon as she got it right, a wave of dizziness came over her and she almost lost footing. “Woah…”

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“Hey! Are you alright?” I was Eddy, who came out of the building just in time to see her almost faint.

“Yeah, I’m fine, thanks,” she waved him away.

“Are you sure? You don’t look to be so solid on your feet at the moment,” he prodded.

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“Seriously, I’m fine. See?” she attempted to kick the ball again, which proved to be a mistake – a new wave of dizziness hit her stronger than the previous one and she nearly fell once more.

“Yeah, you’re totally fine. Come on, lean on me,” Eddy caught her despite protests. “Can you walk?”

“Yes, I think so. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Wait, where are we going?” she perked up. “My home is that way.”

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“And the café is this way. I don’t know what you’ve been learning in those anatomy classes of yours, but clearly you haven’t been paying much attention,” he grumbled, leading her in the direction of the café.

“Hey, what’s that supposed to mean?” she asked, irritated.

“When was the last time you’ve eaten? Or gotten a decent amount of rest?” he raised his eyebrows knowingly.

“I ate!” she protested, sheepishly adding, “Eight hours ago.”

“See? And you think that’s healthy?”

She had no response to this. The truth was, she forgot to grab lunch due to being so focused on the upcoming exams and other things.

Half an hour later, they were sitting inside the coffee shop and Eddy was overseeing her eat a loaded bagel.

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“You really need to take better care of yourself,” he informed her. “You weren’t doing anything too dangerous back on the green, but imagine if you had gotten dizzy while driving? You could’ve gotten injured, or worse.”

“I do care for myself,” she tried to argue.

“By overworking and barely eating?” he inquired.

“How do you even know anything about my eating habits?!” she asked, even though she already knew the answer. “Trev had no call to discuss my personal matters with people outside the house.”

“Probably not. But your friends are worried about you. As they should be,” he paused before continuing. “Look, I don’t know you well enough to be telling you what to do, but from an outsider’s perspective, you are not on a good path right now.”

“Yeah, well…” She wasn’t sure why she wanted to disagree with Eddy so badly – perhaps because she knew he was right?

“Do you want to talk about it?” he offered. “We’ve got time. All the practice sessions are done for today.”

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“What is there to talk about it?” she asked. “I’m not anorexic, if that’s what people think. I know I haven’t been eating well lately, to be honest. And I’m not quite sure how I ended up in this situation.”

She leaned back and tried to relax. If Eddy hadn’t been there, on the green, there was a good chance that she would’ve been passed out all alone out there, she realized. This was kind of scary. How did she let it all get so bad?

“It’s ok,” he smiled. “These things happen, sometimes. And it’s a good thing to take a pause and collect yourself, when they do.”

“You sound like a wise old man passing down his life experience to the youngsters, you know,” she chuckled.

“I’m hardly wise. I’ve just seen too many people lose their way, when they should’ve reached out for help,” he admitted sadly.

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“Sounds like you have things you want to talk about too,” she smiled, understanding.

“Don’t we all? Well, my best friend from high school is currently in rehab for drugs, my other friend is stuck in a shitty relationship to a woman who could win any “Witch of the Year” award, my little sister is going to therapy for an eating disorder, and mom is trying to keep it all together without going crazy. And I’m just trying to get my degree and earn money with music, which many tell me is completely bonkers,” he finished. “So, what about you?”

“Wow, that sucks,” she agreed. “I’m sorry about your sister and friends. I hope their situations resolve for the better. You’ll be fine, though. I’ve heard you play – you’re good. Really good.”

“Thanks. I hope so.”

“My parents are scientists. They graduated at the top of their class, that kind of thing. And dad is also really good with computers, so he’s, like, this crazy hacker persona in the flesh. So, I guess I’ve always felt like I had to be really good at something, too. All of my siblings have ‘their’ thing, so I felt like I had to, as well. Well, that something for me is sports, soccer to be exact. It used to be stealing. I would steal everything I could get my little hands on, as a kid. They even took me to therapy for it, would you believe it? Well, anyways, I got past that. And I am great on the field, I know that. They wouldn’t have given me a full ride scholarship is I wasn’t.”

She ran out of breath after shooting everything off at super speed.

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“But? I sense a “but” coming,” Eddy prodded.

“But I absolutely hate being on the team here, ok? These people are the most arrogant, idiotic, half-assed bunch of morons I have ever had the displeasure to meet!” she blew up. “They’re like a clique, except they don’t spend all their time discussing fashion, they spend their time on the field. And then there’s the team captain, Ashley. You know, I usually hate stereotypes, but she is the stupid, spoiled, and bratty rich girl come to life. And it really eats me up that she is the team captain, ok? Because, even among the idiots on the team, there are people who play way better than her. And they could hold the team together better, too. But somehow, she is the captain. And I hate being this kind of person, but every time she makes some idiotic remark towards me, about my weight, about my social status, about anything, I just want to be the very best on the field and rub it in her face, just to make her realize how mediocre she actually is. I know it’s stupid that these things upset me so much,” she finished.

“It’s not. It’s always unfair when mediocrity is given the green light to success, due to messed-up social structures. But unfortunately, these people exist, and you can’t let them get to you to the extent that they make you physically ill. Because, your wish to outdo your teammates has been driving you to neglect your own health, and these people aren’t worth it.”

“I know. It’s just, I hate it that they’re making me hate something I used to love so much. Soccer used to be fun. Now, it’s irritating,” she sighed.

“Why not quit, then?” he asked.

“The scholarship. I can’t lose it.”

“Fuck the scholarship. You’re great at sports – you could always get a job as a trainer at the gym and you would enjoy it much more, too.”

“I guess I could do that,” she supposed. “It just sucks that, for some of us, paying for an education is an issue, while others have their parents footing the bill and they party through everything.”

“That’s life, it’s unfair. But don’t let that get you down. There’s plenty of good stuff in it too. And I bet your teammates are so moronic because they don’t have any decent friends, like you do,” Eddy pointed out. “It must suck when people only spend time with you because you have money.”

“That is most likely true,” she agreed. The clock hit 10, which made her realize how long they spent talking. “Shoot, I’ve got to get home. My exams are early tomorrow!”

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“Are you going to be ok? Let me walk you,” he offered.

“Thanks, I’m good now, though,” she smiled. “And thanks for taking the time to make sure I was ok.”

“It was the least I could do. You know what? Here’s my number. If anything comes up, feel free to text or call. We all need a friendly ear, sometimes,” he wrote down his number on a napkin. “Take care.”

“You too. And good luck on your exams,” she parted with Eddy in a much better mood. It was nice to get all these things out with someone who seemed to understand. No wonder Trev was such good friends with Eddy – the guy was a great listener. And he gave good advice. She walked home, seriously considering quitting the team. After all, no scholarship was worth all these nerves.

The next day went as expected – the girls, who worked their butts off to prepare, all aced their tests. The boys both failed. In Trevor’s case, it was because his mind checked out of the science department even before he arrived on campus; in Phoenix’s case, it was simply because one day was not enough time to cram all of the information into his brain, especially after a night of getting intoxicated.

“Hi Dad. How are you and Mom? How’s Felicity? Yeah, I’m fine. Mostly. I flunked my tests, though. I’m sorry,” Phoenix waited for his father to yell at him, to chastise him in some way, but all he heard was a long sigh on the other end of the line. He knew his father was disappointed.

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Yes, he knew why it happened. He knew he had officially overpartied. All that talk about keeping a balance during the school year has gone out of his brain as soon as he got a taste of the party scene. He would need to try so much harder next semester. And he would need to cut back on the partying, he realized. Nikki and Jeanine were right – he did not behave responsibly.

After the conversation with his father, during which David expressed concern over his son’s study habits, which used to be so great during high school, Phoenix headed to the coffee shop, where most of the students were either celebrating good grades or moping over poor ones, like him. He didn’t quite expect to be in the later group, but that was the reality.

Yes, he needed to make some changes. No more partying on weeknights. No more drinking ‘till he blacked out. No more leaving all studying until the last minute. He was going to make positive changes to his college experience.

As soon as the break was over, of course. Tonight, most of the students were getting together at The Foundry, a nightclub a couple of miles away from the campus, to celebrate the end of their exams.

That night, the club was full of people happy to relieve the stress of the exams in the easiest ways possible. They were going to drink, dance, hook up, and do all the things responsible students didn’t do during the school weeks.

“Hey, don’t be upset, you’ll do better next time,” Jeanine was reassuring Phoenix.

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“I better. Dad was super disappointed when I told him about the F,” he grumbled.

“Your Dad?” she raised an eyebrow. “I mean, it’s obvious, but this is your education. You should be the one focused on it, not him.”

“I know. Don’t even say it, I know I behaved irresponsibly,” he grimaced. “I think I’m going to need to plan my time better, during the next courses.”

“Well, admitting the problem is part of the solution. You’ll get there. And we’ll help you,” she agreed, smiling at someone who came into the club. “Hey, what’s up?”

“All’s good. How were the tests?” Eddy waved at them.

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Jeanine’s and Phoenix’s faces told him everything. “Well, congratulations, and better luck next time, respectively. What’s with the music here? This DJ sucks.”

“He’s right,” Trev concluded. “Even I could do a better job on the turntables.”

“Why don’t you?” Jeanne nudged him. “I believe you two aren’t the only ones dissatisfied with the music content.”

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“I’ll go see what I can do!” Trev smiled and pranced towards the dancefloor and the DJ’s station, where he easily convinced the guy playing to let him run the music entertainment for the evening.

“Alright! Let’s get this party started!”

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As soon as Trev got his hands on the turntables, the night took a turn for the better and the dance floor quickly filled up with young people happy to dance off the negativity and exhaustion of the course.

While Phoenix joined the dancing people, Jeanne was grilling Jeanine about her upbeat mood.

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“You look like you’re planning something. And you’ve been making sure to get a balanced meal today, which is really great! I’m just curious, what got through to you? And how?” Jeanne wanted to know.

Jeanine shrugged. “I guess I hit rock bottom.” She filled her friend in on what happened the previous night – nearly fainting, Eddy helping her out, their conversation, and her realizations. “It was a good wake up call. I was literally destroying my health because of the people who have no idea what it’s like to actually earn something based on merit. I’m done.”

“Wow, I’ll have to buy Eddy a drink just for being able to get that conversation started with you. So, you’re going to actually take care of yourself now?” she asked, with hope in her voice.

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“Yes. The realization that I could’ve passed out on the green, all by myself – that was scary enough and I’m not in the mood for a repeat,” Jeanine admitted.

“Good,” Jeanne nodded firmly. “And if any of your teammates try to give you trouble over anything, please, do let us know. I’d love to have a go at them myself. Especially at Ashley.”

“No need. The only reason I was willing to put up with all of her bullshit was because I was still holding on to the belief that I depend on the scholarship money. But fuck the money – Ashley and the rest of her morons managed to make soccer bad, can you believe that? I’m just about done with all of them,” Jeanine shrugged. “If she starts any trouble, I’ll tell her whatever I think about her, in the full.”

‘Well, you might just have your chance right now,” Jeanne frowned. “Here comes trouble.”

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A couple of seconds later, Ashley was next to the girls, having made a beeline for Jeanine as soon as she saw her from the other end of the club, completely ignoring the fact that the later was already involved in a conversation.

“Good evening, Jeanine. How were finals?” she asked with a perfect fake smile.

“Great, actually. I aced them,” Jeanine smiled. “How were yours?”

“Oh, they were good, mostly,” Ashley fiddled with the hem of her dress. “So, you’re celebrating now? I guess this is a good day as any to make a cheat day, huh?”

Jeanne couldn’t hide her disgust at the blonde’s behavior, but Jeanine wasn’t fazed in the least.

“Oh yes, it’s perfect actually,” Jeanine smiled openly. “I worked hard, I got my desired results, and now I’m entitled to a reward, don’t you think?”

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“Yeah, sure. Just don’t let yourself go, hon,” she smirked.

“Oh, don’t worry, I won’t. Not that it’s any of your concern, really, is it, Ashley? After all, you’re better off working on your own skills and shape, considering that you can barely catch a ball when someone passes it directly to you,” Jeanine delivered sweetly.

“And what exactly is that supposed to mean?” Ashley huffed up, trying to look intimidating, but combined with her heavy makeup and red dress, it mostly made her look like a prized rooster.

“It means you’re a shit player, Ashley,” Jeanine explained, patiently. “But it’s ok. Practice makes perfect, right? You just need lots of it.”

“Who the fuck do you think you are? Do you know who I am? Do you know who my father is?” Ashley yelled at her.

“Yes, you are a pompous idiot with only a mediocre level of skill, at best. And your daddy is, really, the only reason you were made the team’s captain. Although, sooner or later, the university will still realize that having a bad player in that position is bad publicity, and they’ll probably either kick you out or make trouble for the team. Luckily, it won’t be my problem by then,” Jeanine finished calmly.

“And why is that?” Ashley yelled. “You are on this team, and you will be, if you want the university to continue footing your education bill.”

“I don’t,” Jeanine stated. “As a matter of fact, before I left the campus today, I dropped off an official letter, stating that I’m quitting the team, at the financial aid office – further bills go directly to me. And you know what? I feel great. It means I don’t have to see your stupid face everywhere anymore.”

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“You quit the team?! What? You can’t quit the team. Take the letter back, you bitch!” Ashley started yelling at her at the top of her lungs. “Do it!”

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“Why would I do that?” Jeanine asked, incredulously. “I just told you, I’m done with this team. Now, fuck off, and let me enjoy the end of my evening in peace.”

“You…you idiot!” Ashley tried to argue again, but Jeanine waved her away.

“Just go away, you sound like a broken record.”

Ashley would have argued more, but the thing was, Jeanine has been feeling really under the weather all day, and she ended up sneezing right at this moment, straight at Ashley, who figured that, maybe, she should put some distance between someone who can potentially get her sick and herself. After all, now that Jeanine was really quitting, she was going to be in over her head, as the girl was definitely the most skilled player they had.

Meanwhile, hearing the commotion all the way on the dancefloor, Phoenix noticed Jeanine and Ashley in a heated argument and, realizing that the blonde was once again causing trouble for his girl, he angrily made his way towards her.

“Hey you! What’s your problem again? Didn’t I tell you to stop bothering her?” he started yelling at Ashley.

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“Yeah, so what? You’re not the boss of me. Besides, it’s not my fault your girlfriend is an idiot who doesn’t know what’s good for her!” Ashley yelled right back. “What the fuck do you even see in her? You could totally do better.”

“What the hell? Are you on something?” he snorted. “She knows exactly what’s good for her. And if she finally told you where you can shove your opinion, then I’m completely on board with it.”

“Oh yeah, a perfect little boyfriend, coming to his girl’s defense, aren’t you? Like you haven’t gotten blackout drunk at practically every party hosted on or near campus? But sure, your life is great,” she huffed.

“What is your deal, seriously? And how do you know which parties I was at? Have you been stalking me as well? You’re a psycho, you know that, right?” Phoenix was disgusted.

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“Like you’re one to talk. I just like to keep tabs on people who are of interest to me, that’s all,” Ashley smiled, which made her look even more insane.

“Yes, and the proper term for that is usually ‘psycho’, like I’ve told you already,” he grimaced. “Now stop stalking me and my friends, or I swear to every deity in existence, I will make sure the proper authorities handle you.”

“Whatever. Have it your way. But just so you know, whatever she can do for you, I can do it better,” she made one last pass at him before walking away.

Yikes, he thought. This girl was a piece of work. He wasn’t sure what Jeanine said to her to piss her off so much, but he hoped it was good. Now, where was Jeanine? He wanted to make sure everything was ok, and that she wasn’t upset.

He was upset. Now he had not only his poor grades to deal with, but also, apparently a psycho stalker? Great, just great.

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He made his way to the cocktails still fresh at the bar. He wasn’t going to get blackout drunk tonight, but after this encounter with Ashley, he needed something to wash away the disgust.

 

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He woke up on the couch with a raging headache. The sun was behind him, but even the faint light was making his eyes ache and his head pound so much worse.

So much for not getting blackout drunk, he thought. This was the worst hangover he has ever experienced. Barely moving, he managed to slid off the couch and to the floor, where he thought he could dull the headache by pressing his head firmly against the side of the couch.

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Millie found him like this when she came down.

“Phoenix? Goodness gracious, are you even alive?”

“Please, be quiet, Mils. Please.”

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“You’re a complete mess today, aren’t you? I’ll get you some coconut water. Take all the time you need, bro.”

As promised, she brought the coconut water to him and laid it on the table nearby.

Getting to the juice was a journey in itself.

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How did he even get home? He didn’t recall taking a cab, but he must have taken one?

Oh, and Jeanine… yeah, that was nice. The memory was fuzzy, but they had sex in one of the bathrooms and it was good, really good… He wondered if she rode in the cab home with him. He hoped she got home safe. And the rest of their crew.

After drinking the juice he felt slightly better and managed to crawl to the kitchen, where he slumped down on the table. He really needed to rest this hangover off.

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“Hey, how are you? Achoo! Sorry, did you get home safe last night? Trev said he couldn’t find you at the club, when he was done with the music,” Jeanine came to the kitchen, still in her sleepwear and visibly sick.

“Huh?” he could barely raise his head off the table. “Didn’t we get home together?”

“No, sorry. I ended up arguing with Ashley, and then I stayed at the club for maybe fifteen more minutes – I felt really feverish, so Jeanne ended up taking me home. I think I have the flu,” she explained.

“Oh,” he managed to get out.

“You don’t look so good either. I’m heading to the library to drop off my books, and then I’ll pick up some cold meds at the store. Need anything? Never mind, I’ll get you an Alka Seltzer.”

She left and he was left wondering how he could have gotten drunk enough to imagine having sex with someone who wasn’t even there. He really needed to stop drinking, he realized. This was getting out of hand.

His hand fell into his pocket, where it encountered something crinkly. Taking it out, he realized he had an empty condom wrapper in his pocket. It was his go-to brand.

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Instantly, the last vestiges of his hangover seemed to evaporate and he jumped up, thoroughly shocked.

What did he do last night?

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Gen 3 Ch 10: At the Party

On the evening of the party, everyone gathered at Kaz’s place. He and three of his buddies were renting a house several blocks away from the campus, and they had a reputation both for being very chill, and for throwing good parties. Naturally, this made the rest of their classmates happy to be their friends.

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Phoenix didn’t know any of the home’s residents himself, but Trev did, and according to him, Kaz was a cool guy. And this was fine with Phoenix. He was always happy to meet new people.

There were already a few people coming and going from the house when he and the rest arrived.

“Yo! Make yourselves comfortable! There’s beer behind the house, and we’re going to get a bonfire going soon. Should be some snacks by the kegs, too. Have fun!” Yep, Kaz was as nice as everyone said he was.

While everyone was filing in, Trev spotted someone across the yard.

“Yo, Eddy! What’s up, man?” He eagerly made way towards the unfamiliar man.

“Heya, Trev. All’s good. It’s about time you party a bit. What’s the point of college if you don’t? Wanna jam later on?” Eddy invited.

“I don’t know if I sound good enough yet. But I’m in, if you’re in,” Trev agreed.

“Sure thing. Let’s get this party started!”

“Oh, by the way, this is my girlfriend, Jeanne. Jeanne, this is Eddy, my guitar teacher.”

“Ah, so that’s who he’s been ditching me for!” Jeanne joked, prompting a chuckle from Eddy.

“Yes, and let me tell you, this guy’s got talent. He’s learning the instrument much faster than most of my other students. And I’m not just saying that because he’s paying me to teach him. Really, keep up the great work, Trev. I’ll go help Kaz set up the bonfire.”

Eddy went towards the pit where the rest of the partiers were setting up the kindling and wood for the fire and Jeanne looked at her boyfriend in a new light.

“Well, well, well, young guitar prodigy, when were you going to tell me about your success?”

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“Oh, I’m not that good, really. But thanks. One day, I’ll serenade you, promise.”

Meanwhile, Phoenix and Jeanine were helping out with the bonfire as well. Or rather, Jeanine was. Despite Phoenix’s futile attempts to help carry the heavier logs, she did her best to get to carry most of them, trying to exercise even here. The other partiers didn’t notice, but he did. Now, as they were warming their hands over the burning flames, he decided it was as good a time as any to broach the subject.Screenshot-80.jpg

“Jeanie, you really need to take it easy once in a while. We’re at a party, you can relax for once, you know. Look, even Millie is having a beer, and she’s literally only here for a degree.”

“I am taking it easy, though. After the weight room at the gym, these logs are practically pillows,” she rationalized.

“Maybe, but that’s not the point. The point is that you’re constantly wearing yourself out. We’re all worried.”

“I know you are,” she retorted in annoyance. “You think I didn’t have enough trouble circumventing Jeanne’s talks and health facts? I’m not stupid, Phoenix. And I’m not wearing myself out. I know I spend too much time at the gym, and I’m sorry it’s been biting into my time with all of you. But I’ve wished I had access to equipment like these my whole youth. Of course, I’m spending a lot of time there. And I am eating, despite what your cousin’s telling you. Just rarely at home. But I’m definitely not starving myself – I know better than that, especially as Jeanne and I share many classes together and I’m learning all those important facts about the human body.”

He nodded, still not completely satisfied. At least, she understood why they were concerned and she wasn’t being careless.

He did think she was spending too much time at the gym. She was his girlfriend, but sometimes he felt that she was having an emotional affair with that fancy modern gym, since that place saw her more often than he did, on some days. But he understood what a selfish line of thought this was.

“As long as you’re being careful and don’t overexert yourself, I’m cool with you spending long hours at the gym. We just care about you, that’s all.”

“I know. And I appreciate it.” She threw another stick into the flames. “Anyways, what’s with the beer? Like, your sister is having some, but is she going to complain if we do?”

“Nah, not Millie. Let me get you a drink.”

He headed towards the keg to pour her a cup, but once he came back, she wasn’t by the fire. Kaz seemed to notice Phoenix’s confusion and nodded towards the front of the house.

“If you’re looking for Jeanine, she’s talking to that blond chick by the front door. Do you know who it is? She seems like a real bitch.”

“I do not. Let me go check.”

Jeanine was indeed talking to some unfamiliar blond woman, whose body language was telling Phoenix all he needed to know about her – bad news.

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“So, Jeanine, I didn’t realize you went to parties.”

“Doesn’t everyone? It’s college. Are you joining us?” Jeanine shrugged towards the bonfire.

“No, I was just going back to the sorority house. I thought you were planning to work out tonight?”

“I don’t live at the gym, Ashley. You do know that, right?” Jeanine chuckled.

“Oh. I just thought you were committed to the team. Maybe I was wrong.”

Well, Phoenix thought, Ashley was quickly making her way to the top of his “Least Favorite People Ever” list. What the hell was this?!

“Ashley, I think it’s enough that I have to put up with your oh so lovely personality during practice, am I also supposed to “enjoy” your company during my time away from the team?” Jeanine didn’t miss a beat.Screenshot-90.jpg

His girl was awesome!

“I just thought that some of us could always use more effort to stay in top notch condition,” Ashley tried to sound polite, but hopelessly failed.

“And I thought assholes weren’t supposed to harass people during their personal time, but maybe I was wrong,” Phoenix approached the two of them, inserting himself into the conversation. “How did you even know Jeanine was here, whatever your name is?”

“He’s right, how did you know?” Jeanine frowned.

“I… well, I was passing by and…” Ashley found herself caught.

“And Jeanine was behind the house, so there was no way you could have accidentally seen her,” he continued. “Hey, babe, Jeanne was looking for you and said she needed some help – she wouldn’t tell me anything about it. ‘Girl stuff’ or something like it. Can you help her out, pretty please?”

“Yeah, of course,” Jeanine went to look for her friend and Phoenix turned to the annoyed-looking Ashley.

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“Look, I don’t know what your problem is, but Jeanine’s been working her ass off both in the gym and elsewhere since before you could walk, and she is in great shape already, so whatever the hell your problem is, why don’t you take it and shove it where the sun don’t shine, ok?”

“Excuse me?!” Ashley feigned shock. In reality, she was giving him a look he might’ve found complimentary had it come from someone other than this girl. It was the same look Morgan used to give him, a hungry look, which kind of reminded him of some wild predator.

“You’ve heard me clearly, Ashley. I don’t know what you were trying to accomplish by showing up here and trying to make Jeanine feel guilty about not spending every waking moment of her life exercising, but you better drop this before I and the rest of our friends report you to the university police for inappropriate behavior. Got it?”

“I see. I was just trying to be helpful. After all, Jeanine is on a scholarship, so losing it could hurt her.”

“And why the hell would she lose her scholarship?” Phoenix gave her a look that he hoped conveyed his best impression of a mobster. It must have worked, since she got the hint and left.

Good. She’s been giving him that predatory look ever since she heard him call Jeanine “Babe”, and it was beyond annoying.

“Darn it, I’ll have to mention this to the others. Kaz called it right – what a bitch?”

Back with the rest of the partygoers, Jeanine was enjoying herself. She quickly realized her friend didn’t actually need to talk to her about any “girl stuff” when she saw her and Trev enjoying themselves with a couple of beers nearby. So, she gratefully took Phoenix’s “rescue” and, for once, let someone else deal with her maddening teammate.

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Yes, she and Ashley were on the same team. No, it didn’t mean she had to like the woman. Especially when she was so irritating.

She eyed the flames sadly. She loved soccer, but had to admit, people like her teammate certainly made practice much less pleasant than it should’ve been. What was her problem, anyway? Jeanine knew she had much more skill on the field than Ashley. Ok, so maybe she herself had an issue with this. Why did she have to prove herself over and over again just to be accepted as a valid player, when the less-skilled person got the same accolades? Was it because she was skinnier? Or because she was richer?

She didn’t want to think about this any longer. No, she was here to enjoy the party.

“Cheer up, the party’s just getting started!” someone smiled at her. It was Eddy, Trev’s new friend. “As soon as we’re getting the bonfire stable, we’re going to play some tunes. It’ll be a blast.”

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“Sounds wonderful,” she smiled back, for real. The guy couldn’t really know what she had on her mind, but he was genuinely friendly and she appreciated that.

Soon, Phoenix came back, high-fived her, and announced that she had nothing to worry about and all the offending individuals were off the premises. They had a few more hot-dogs, a few more beers, and a whole lot of fun throwing random junk into the flames. (One of the hosts threw in his old notes from his least favorite class – he called that better than therapy. Someone else threw in an old hairband from a cheating girlfriend.)

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As promised, Trev and Eddy provided entertainment for all the partiers by covering popular guitar numbers, such as “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “More Than Words,” which made the atmosphere so much warmer and merrier.

By the time they came home, everyone was in a great mood, but tired. Except for Jeanine, who still felt hungry. It was strange, she thought – she actually had a good appetite tonight! Usually, she was too tired to even think about food.

Maybe she should party more.

Jeanne joined her for a midnight snack of her own.

“So, what’s the deal with your crazy teammate? Is she harassing you?” Her friend always jumped straight to the point.

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“Phoenix already told you? Yeah, that’s Ashley for you. That girl has some issues that neither of us is qualified to help her with, trust me,” she rolled her eyes.

“No kidding. Finding you off-campus while you’re at someone’s party? That doesn’t sound like “issues,” that sounds like she’s a creep!” Jeanne was indignant. “I’d report her to the campus cops, if I were you.”

“For what? For being at a party and talking to me? And Ashley is annoying, but she’s all talk. I think she’s just pissed that having money in the bank makes her less the center of attention that she wants to be, so she’s taking it out on whoever is close.”

“I still don’t like this,” Jeanne sighed. “I know you like minimizing problems, but please tell me if anything’s weird. Anything at all. I don’t want you to get hurt. Again.”

“You don’t need to be so protective of me, Jeanne. I’m not a kid,” Jeanine laughed.

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“No, but you are my closest friend. And I still feel like shit over how things went in high school. I don’t want you to go through something bad by yourself again,” the girl admitted.

“I know. And I won’t. Promise. Now, let’s go to sleep. It’s past 1 am.”

Phoenix was awake when she got to their bedroom. While they had a lot of fun in the bedroom at the beginning of the semester, as their schedules filled up, they had less and less time and energy for sex, which was kind of a bummer for both. But they were free and available right now. She quickly stripped down to her nightwear and jumped into bed.

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“Hey… what’cha thinking about?”

“I’m thinking that it’s really hot when you tell people off. Especially when they deserve it,” he pulled her into a kiss. “Did I ever tell you how kick-ass you are?”

“Hmm, really? Wanna show me?”

“That’s a rhetorical question, babe.”

Despite their level of lust, the couple only got through a sleepy makeout session before the long hours caught up with them and both fell asleep. Lovemaking would have to wait for another night.

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