The sun was just going down as I pulled up to Isha’s house, tucking the slip of paper with the code into his neighborhood away under my visor. I was riding high off our win the night before at regionals.
There was an obvious bounce in my step, a spring in my posture, stupid grin on my face that I couldn’t get rid of. Pride filled my heart, swelling my chest in an almost pompous way. We were awesome. We weren’t perfect, we didn’t all get along the greatest, but we were a team, and we proved that.
I could still hear the roar of the crowd when we’d finished. I couldn’t wait to pick Isha up for some revelry and fun. We were all meeting at my house for grilling and swimming, probably dancing too. Everyone was planning on camping out down in the entertainment room and watching musicals until we passed out.
I knocked on his door and waited.
I looked around and something made me feel kind of ooky. Something wasn’t right. Stepping back, I pulled out my phone and called him. It jumped straight to voicemail and I felt my stomach sink. I clicked the doorbell again and there was no answer. After a moment I clicked it twice. Finally Preveena’s cold regality answered looking thoroughly peeved.
“Whatever you’re selling, I’m not interested.”
“Mrs. Dosanjh, we’ve met multiple times…”
“What are you disturbing my evening off for exactly?” She folded her arms and looked up at me with obvious disdain.
I smiled like a golden boy, “I’m picking Isha up, we’re celebrating our win at regionals.”
She frowned deeper, “He’s not here.” She moved to shut the door in my face, but I shoved my arm in before it closed.
“Do you know where we went then? His phone’s going straight to voicemail.” My brows creased with worry.
“Get your arm out of my door, Mr. Thompson. Now.”
She snapped the door closed in my face and I jogged back to my truck once the disbelief wore off. I pulled my phone out again and tried Isha’s cell once more without luck. I pounded my fist on the steering wheel, teeth grit tight.
From what I knew about Isha’s mom, she was the ultimate ice queen. Maybe they had a fight? I didn’t think he’d leave without telling me though. I called my mom and he hadn’t showed up there either. Where could he have gone? Maybe he was walking to my house and I’d missed him along the way?
I scrolled through my contacts and clicked on Hannah’s photo (which was her flipping me off with a sugary sweet smile) and called her.
“Go for Hannah, Jockstrap.”
“Hey, have you seen or heard from Isha?” I tried to go for a light tone, but she saw right through me.
“What’s going on?” Instantly serious.
“I just went to pick him up and he wasn’t there. His mom doesn’t know where he is either.”
Hannah made what sounded like a snarl, “She’s such a fucking bitch. They probably fought and she was probably the awful bitch she is. Ran him out. UGH. I could fucking kill her. I swear!” I heard another voice distantly on the other end and I thought it was Rosa. “Did you try calling him?”
“Yeah, twice. It’s going straight to voicemail.”
“Fuck… Okay, you come get Rosa, I’ll check a few places for him. I might know where he went. You guys can start the party without us.”
I frowned, “Are you sure? Should I call Jess?”
“Fuck her. She won’t know where he is.”
“Alright, if you’re sure, she is his girlfriend.”
“Emphasis on ‘girl’ friend not ‘best’ friend. I’ll find him. She won’t her head from her ass in this case.”
“Alright, tell Rosa I’ll swing by your apartment and pick her up then.” I couldn’t help smiling just a bit, Rosa was my favorite person. Car rides with her were super fun, even if we were only going to be driving for a little bit. Even so, I couldn’t get the twisted feeling in my gut to go away, I was worried about Isha.
I was sitting as still as I could, feet on the coffee table, careful not to wiggle my toes. Rosa had painted them for the pool-slash-general-shenanigans party we were attending that night as a well-earned celebration. She was munching on her favorite brand of snack food - the kind that made your breath reek - while we watched bad TV. Her snack habits were inexplicably adorable to me.
I swung myself toward her and cuddled her thigh with my face, “Did you decide on which bikini you’re wearing?” I rolled over, feet sticking straight up into the air, finally wiggling my toes, “I was thinking of wearing the black and silver one, but god! My boobs fall out of it so bad, it’s a bit old - however, that may not be a BAD idea given the fact that you know Jess is going to be preening like she does…”
I was about to open my mouth again when my phone started belting out vocals and I shot a pesky grin at Rosa before answering. But suddenly it wasn’t a joke. Suddenly it wasn’t fun-and-games it was serious and I was scared, sitting upright and nagging my lip as I listened, easily seeing right through Miles’ poor attempt to play light-hearted.
When we hung up, I lurched toward my discarded socks, “Hey, Miles is going to come pick you up for the party, okay? You don’t mind right?” I tried for a smile, failed I’m sure. “Isha’s apparently in a bind, you don’t mind, right?”
“Sure, riding to a party with the sexy football player, devastatingly awful.” She rolled her eyes and settled back into the couch again. “Good lucky finding him.”
I hopped out the door, trying to get my sneaker on, nodding to the long-legged girl on the couch. There were a few bastions that Isha and I took refuge in. The library would be closed, so would the mall. I didn’t think he’d be at the temple, that was a bit of a haul for him and I was usually the one driving him there.
A damp wind promising rain whipped through my hair from the open windows and I chewed my nail before shifting into fifth gear. I knew where he’d be, I just had to calm myself enough to figure it out. I stopped fast at a stoplight I hadn’t noticed and the thought struck me. I did know where he was.
It was way after dark when I pulled into the little parking lot in front of the playground that was pretty much halfway between both our houses. It was dark and there was only one streetlamp illuminating the area, but I thought I could see his silhouette up on one of the pieces of play equipment. I wasn’t sure when my hands started to sweat but I rubbed the clammy things on my jeans as I slowly approached my friend.
He was singing the words to some Bollywood song under his breath, it was familiar but I couldn’t sing along. I boosted myself up and cautiously crawled toward him.
“Shelly?” I cleared my throat, something definitely felt a bit off and I wasn’t sure why my pulse was racing. “Nice place you got here, as usual.” His hand was tightly clutching a bottle of what I knew wasn’t water. It looked like it had a couple sips left in it and my heart kind of melted like someone had poured acid on it. When he heard my voice he sat up, a bit startled. He slowly blinked, like he couldn’t quite figure out who I was,
I had to bite back my emotion, keeping my voice light. Even in the dim light I could tell he was drunker than was healthy. His every movement was swaying, his head looked like it was on a swivel instead of his neck. I stretched my hand out to cup his cheek, forcing a smile. “Shelly, it’s Hannah.”
I tried not to be too obviously excited as I waited for Miles to come pick me up. But I failed, chewing on gum to try and get rid of the funyun remnants on my breath. I hoped I only looked slightly slutty with my bright orange bikini underneath a loose white tank top that was worn thin, and denim shorts. I hoped that Hannah would find Isha okay but I was pretty focused on the boy who was coming to pick me up. I self-consciously looked at my boobs and tried to make them bigger by tying my halter tighter when the doorbell rang.
“Hey!” he said, when I opened the door. He had bright blue eyes that happily looked me over. “You look great!”
I felt a stab in my chest that was a mixture of hope and longing. Damnit. “Hey bae,” I answered, wrapping him in a tight hug. I was sprung. It was hard not to ignore how strong his arms were. “Ready to head out?” He nodded and I grabbed a bag, wishing I could put a pair of heels on. They made my legs and butt look so much better, but there was really no excuse to wear heels at a pool party. So a worn out pair of sandals it was. Heels were the only piece of clothing I splurged on. Almost everything else could be found at a secondhand store - even if it was a ‘boutique’ someone had probably worn it before.
In his truck we often played his Celine Dion, Top 40, or my Salsa and Bachata music. We settled on Celine Dion since he already had it in the stereo. “Is everything alright with Isha?” I asked, pushing the seat back so my legs were mostly on the dash, my toes swinging out the window.