I know my last update for this story was over a year ago, but what can I say? I’m bad at being steady at something and writing is one of those things. With that said…
Note: TW: Roofie and TW: Poisoning
Head still pounding, after drinking three more coconut waters, Phoenix headed out in the direction of the nightclub. He needed to figure out what happened the night before. And more importantly – who he cheated on Jeanine with. Because that was what he did, no matter how much he hated to admit it.
On the way there, he tried desperately to recall what happened in more detail. He was dancing with the rest of the students, beginning to get tired. He headed in the direction of the bar and Nikki, nearby, asked if he could grab her something to drink while he was there. He said yes, after which he heard the commotion between Jeanine and Ashley.
He remembered approaching Ashley and yelling at her. And her disgusting behavior – yeah, he remembered that too well, ugh.
Ok, next, what did he do next? He remembered grabbing one of the drinks Trev ordered, and he knew he drank it. After that, his memory was mostly hazy. His best guess was that he had a few more drinks after the first one.
His head was beginning to pound more, overloaded with his attempts to pull up a clear timeline of the previous night.
Yikes. This was the first time he has ever felt this hungover. If that was normal for people, Phoenix thought he understood why many chose not to drink at all. Luckily, he wasn’t prone to hangovers.
The throbbing in his temples reminded him otherwise.
“Ahh…” he tried to make it go away, unsuccessfully. How much did he drink? He could empty the drink supply at almost any party with minimal help and not feel like this and he always remembered what he did while under the influence. So what happened this time?
He needed to get something to help this headache. The grocery store carried some seltzer water, so that became his immediate destination.
Barely coherent, he made his way through the few aisles to the one with his desired item, grabbing several bottles and trudging towards the exit. The lady at the checkout gave him a knowing look when he barely managed to slide his card through the reader, all the while muttering “another one, eh? Must’ve been quite a rager last night…” He opted not to respond and instead consumed the seltzer water as soon as he was checked out.
He needed a place to crash. Yeah… that bench outside the market was nice and comfy… and occupied.
“Hey, watch it!” a familiar but grumpy and groggy voice complained when he almost sat on her.
“Nikki? Hey, what’s up?” She was still in her dress from the party and it looked like she spent the night sleeping here? “Why are you sleeping on a bench? Did you stay here all night?”
“Quiet, please…” she grimaced, rubbing her own head. From the looks of it, Nikki was feeling pretty similar to him. He could sympathize.
“Seltzer water?” he offered her one of his and she drank like her life depended on it.
“Damn,” the girl muttered, “it feels like there’s a train running on broken rails inside of my head.”
“Same,” he leaned back. “So, how come you’re here? You don’t live here.”
“No. I think told the cabbie to stop here,” she glanced around. “I don’t remember why, though… oh, that’s why.” She noticed an open candy pack she was partially sitting on. “I guess it was after we dropped you off.”
“You dropped me off?!” he almost yelled, making them both wince.
“Yeah, we left the club together, I remember that much…” she frowned. “Not much more than that, though. Wait, why don’t I remember things? I always remember things.”
“Join the club,” he muttered. “I don’t even remember who I fucked last night…”
He felt her stare on him. “What?”
“You don’t remember? You honestly don’t remember?” she was shocked, to say the least.
“What do you mean?” he frowned, not understanding.
“You really don’t remember me talking to you? And you flirting with me like the house was on fire? Phoenix, please tell me you remember being in the bathroom with me. Because I know I drank a lot last night, but I remember that part,” she was still looking at him, expecting something.
Nikki, it was Nikki! He hooked up with Nikki, now he knew. Hazily, the events of the previous night began to materialize in his head. Yeah, he remembered what he and Nikki did in the bathroom. If he wasn’t so hungover, he would’ve been embarrassed. He still felt terrible about cheating on Jeanine, but at least…
“I’m so glad it was you and not Ashley.”
“Umm, ok? I guess? How can you not remember anything, though? When did you manage to drink that much?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” he admitted. “I know I had those drinks at the bar.”
“The ones Trev ordered, right? They were pretty delicious,” she smiled.
“You tried some?”
“One more for the road,” she smiled and immediately frowned. “Wait. If you only had those cocktails and can’t remember anything afterwards and we…” she clasped a hand over her mouth. “Phoenix, did anyone really watch those after your friends ordered them?”
“I’m not sure. I know Trev went to DJ, and then Jeanine and Jeanne were in that yelling match with Ashley, and I was mostly on the dance floor.”
“So, no one was watching them,” she nodded. “Well, at least we hooked up with each other and we know for sure we used protection. You do realize we drank something we shouldn’t have, right?”
Slowly, he nodded. It made sense. While he and Nikki hung out a lot, there was never even a slight flirtation between them, even when they were super intoxicated. And for them to have an encounter in a club’s bathroom – it was not like them at all.
“Wait, so I came on to you?” he asked.
“Bro!” she chuckled. “You went all out with it. I recall approaching you to ask if I could hitch a ride with you to the beach over the break, since I’ve heard your friends talking about it earlier. But you had other ideas. Sorry,” she sobered up. “I, um, should’ve realized something was wrong for you to be propositioning me, but I was pretty intoxicated myself, by that time. I usually don’t hook up with people who have girlfriends.”
“I should be the one sorry,” he shrugged.
“You were drugged, man,” she shook her head. “I was too, by whatever was in that cocktail. Because I remember what happened before I had it, but afterwards, everything is foggy. I wonder who messed with them.”
“Could’ve been anyone,” Phoenix supposed. “There were those guys playing darts, the bartender herself, that chick who wasn’t happy with her fries, Ashley, even that DJ who could’ve been angry at Trev…”
“Wait, which Ashley are you talking about?” she asked. “I know at least three just in my department.”
“Ashley Corono, the royal bitch,” Phoenix explained. “She’s been making Jeanine’s life hell for the past semester and I guess, things have finally boiled over. They had some a yelling match, then I yelled at her some more. She’s a creep, I tell you.”
“Yes, she is Phoenix,” Nikki was now looking at him with alarm in her eyes. “Are you telling me Ashley has some sort of a rivalry with your girlfriend?”
“Did she ever make a move on you?” she asked.
“Uh, yeah, why? She’s weird. But how did you know?”
“Phoenix…” Nikki sighed deeply. “Ok, it must’ve been her. She must’ve drugged those drinks. I don’t even have a shred of doubt. I’m guessing, you were her target.”
“Why are you so certain about this?” He had little love for Ashley, but to think that she would purposely drug someone?
“You’re not the only person she’s done this with,” Nikki explained. “I have a friend in the art department. His ex-girlfriend was on the athletics student council and if I remember correctly, she and Ashley weren’t getting along. And then, one day, this guy just wakes up in Ashley’s bed. She’s acting like they spent a great night together, so he just goes with it. I mean, this guy, he had a girlfriend, but he’s one of those guys who usually don’t have much luck with girls and he was all like ‘hey, I scored with a hottie!’ Except, as time passes he really can’t remember any of it. Eventually, he figured out what happened, but you know how guys are, you guys usually don’t talk about these things. But he did talk to someone who knew someone else that a similar thing happened to – I don’t know many details, but it seems like Ms. Corono has a thing for boys who are with the girls she hates.”
“So, you’re telling me, this girl has a pattern of drugging and sleeping with the men on this campus and no one does anything?” Phoenix was incredulous. “How come?”
“Like I said, men are less likely to report this kind of thing. Many don’t even realize something wrong happened, at least not until a lot of time passes. And if they do report it, what’s the school going to do?” she shrugged with annoyance. “You know, her dad is one of this university’s biggest donors, right?”
“Really?” This was news to Phoenix.
“Yeah. So, really, I have a feeling this school is more than happy to look the other way on Ashley’s indiscretions,” Nikki finished.
“That’s messed up. And really, not even legal,” his drug-induced hangover was coming to an end, leaving him feeling highly annoyed. “I wish there was some sort of evidence we could find against her that was so solid they couldn’t ignore it any more. Wait! Come on!”
“The student health center. They can test us for whatever’s in our bloodstream,” he explained.
She seemed hesitant, but after understanding his line of logic, she agreed to come along.
Entering the student health center, they were met with the sight of more than a dozen students slumped in their chairs or on the floor, looking like death warmed over. A couple of guys were slowly breathing in and out while staring at the floor. A group of girls were altogether half-passed out.
“We got two more!” Phoenix heard a nurse yell out to someone further in the building.
“What’s going on here?” Nikki asked in confusion. “Wait, is that Ashley over there? Oh shit, she looks even worse than the rest of them.”
Before they could approach her, the nurse intercepted them.
“Headache? Nausea? Can barely remember the previous night? Aching all over?”
“Yes, how did you know?” Nikki asked.
The nurse sighs deeply. “Look around. All of them came in with the same symptoms. Were you drinking at The Foundry?”
Silently they nod.
“Well, take a seat, someone will be right with you in a bit. But in case you’re curious, whatever you had at that fine establishment contained fake alcohol. And now you’re all experiencing the aftereffects.”
“Wait, so we weren’t roofied?” Phoenix asked, incredulously.
“Maybe? For all I know, they added that into whatever you’ve been drinking, too. We can test you for that, sure. But it is far more likely you’re just really poisoned right now. These cheap alcohol-makers aren’t too discerning about what they’ve been mixing into their crap.”
As she left to get the doctor, the two of them approached Ashley, trying to get to the bottom of everything.
“Hey! Ashley,” Phoenix called. “Did you do something to our drinks?”
Barely raising her head, the blonde squinted at him. “Are you for real? Are you saying I’m responsible for mass-poisoning everyone here? And then myself as well, for good measure? Fuck off!”
She slumps on the student hospital’s couch again, which makes Nikki shake her head.
“I don’t think she did it, Phoenix? But then, what about Bob? He said she…”
Before Nikki can finish, Ashley raises her head again. “Are you talking about Bob Parker? Yeah, FYI, that loser’s ‘nice guy’ act managed to let him weasel into the pants of multiple women on this campus alone, without that idiot girlfriend of his noticing anything. And when she finally caught him in my bed, he lied his teeth off to make himself look all nice and innocent. Of course, believe whatever you want. But if you think I need to roofie a guy to get him into bed with me, then you really aren’t worth my time. Now please move away from me. I’m ill enough already. Stupid bitch got me a second time, can you believe it?”
“Wait, who?” Phoenix asked.
“That bartender who served us last night,” Ashley sighed. “I didn’t realize it was her back then, but I know it was her. She used to work at a bar in the downtown area and a couple of friends and I got pretty ill after visiting them some time ago. Last I’ve heard, the bar got closed down because of a similar thing.” She waved at the other students. “Cheap fake alcohol. Now please, go away.”
Speechless, they were ushered into the doctor’s office after Ashley finished her speech, where they were further warned to stay away from alcohol for the time being, given the appropriate medication, and advised to drink lots of liquids until their symptoms passed.
Leaving the hospital, they were quiet. Both he and Nikki still felt awful after the events of last night, as did most of their fellow club-goers, but these two also had another thing on their mind.
“So…” Nikki finally muttered. “She didn’t roofie us.”
“No.” Which meant that he had much less of an excuse for his cheating.
“We were still affected, though,” she reminded him. “Damn, alcohol poisoning? That’s even worse.”
“Yeah, maybe.” He wasn’t that convinced. What was he supposed to say to Jeanine?
Meanwhile, Jeanine stopped by a coffee shop after her trip to the store. Even though she thought a good night of sleep would make her feel better, she still felt terrible. She had colds before as a child, but this was one of the worst.
At least, the shop had some ginger tea, which always seemed to help.
A text ring caught her attention. It was a message from Eddie.
“Hey, what’s up? Is everything alright?”
She smiled. It was almost like this guy had a psychic ability. She typed out her reply.
“Yeah, I’m fine, just a little sick. I had to go home early last night because of that.”
New message. “I wondered if something was wrong. Please take care of yourself. I’ll stop by in a while and bring some chicken soup, if that’s ok with you.”
This made her smile grow even bigger. “Mmm, chicken soup. Haven’t had one in a while. Mom always cooked it for us when we got sick.”
New message. “That settles it. I’m bringing it over. See you!”
Still smiling, Jeanine left the shop and headed home in a much better mood.
Just as he promised, in a few hours, Eddie really showed up with a bowl of freshly cooked soup.
“Hey, I had to wait for my roommates to finish using the kitchen. I hope I got it right. My soup-making skills are a bit rusty.”
“Are you kidding? It’s delicious! You should go into culinary arts,” she complimented as she practically inhaled the wonderful hot broth.
“Thank you, the compliment is fondly accepted. So, how has your day been? Mine was kind of weird,” Eddie mentioned. “A bunch of my classmates were walking around holding on to their heads and clutching their stomachs.”
“I saw a few, too,” she nodded. A couple of girls came into the coffee shop while she was there, ordered a coffee, and couldn’t even finish it because they were feeling ill. If she remembered right, she also saw them at The Foundry, dancing on the floor. She wondered if they overpartied.
“Yeah, wild,” Eddie agreed. “I’m glad I didn’t drink anything.”
“Yeah, me too. A hangover and a cold seem like a bad mix.”
“Hey, are you two having chicken soup? It smells yummy,” Millicent joined them, coming back from the lab. “Can I have some?”
Eddie waved for her to join them. “Please, do.”
“Thanks. Have you guys seen Phoenix? He looked awful this morning. I hope he wasn’t one of the victims.”
“Victims?” Jeanine looked at her, shocked.
“Yeah, turns out a bunch of people got alcohol poisoning last night at The Foundry. Cheap alcohol. It’s scary. Did you know they put all sorts of unsafe chemicals into that stuff? Quiang’s department worked on a case about it recently.”
“That would explain a lot,” Eddie mused.
“Evening,” Phoenix finally stumbled into the house looking.
“Phoenix! How are you?” Jeanine immediately asked.
“Sick. There’s been an-”
“Outbreak, we know. Oh no, they got you?” Jeanine frowned.
“Yeah, me, Nikki, Ashley, a bunch of others,” he was glad so many people were concerned about the outbreak because he could look as upset as he wanted without giving away the real reason. “It’s cool, the doctor told us what to do.”
“Have some soup, please,” Eddie invited him. “It’ll make you feel better.”
“Well, it is a source of hydration,” Phoenix nodded. “Thank you.”
While he and Millie ate, Jeanine and Eddie caught the last part of a news report about the recent events on campus and in the city.
“Wow, it’s a good time to be staying sober,” she realized. “And I should probably thank this cold – I wouldn’t have left early otherwise!”
“And perhaps it can ease you into taking things easy. You really left the soccer team?” Eddie asked. “I bet Ashley and the others aren’t gonna have it easy now. Especially since she and several others are now sick too.”
Jeanine smiled. “Not really my problem anymore, is it? She made her bed.”
He laughed at that. “Indeed! Well, if you need any help filling your time with things not-related to sport, let me know. There are a lot of things happening on campus that aren’t too well advertised.”
“That would be cool, yeah!” she agreed. “I’d like to check out more things here.”