Tamika Wood’s Birthday Party

& Other Stories by Le Kendall

Content notes are available for Tamika Wood’s Birthday Party.

Alan Sebastian

31 October 1998

I feel awkward. That’s true in general but even more true tonight because I’m at a party. I wasn’t even invited but Scott says it was a general invite and insisted that I go.

It’s Tamika Wood’s birthday party (Not a Halloween party. Not a costume party.) and I’m not friends with Tamika.

“She goes to our school! You know who she is.” Scott had said.

But I’m not even 100% sure I know which one is Tamika Wood and which one is Tiffany West because they’re always together and they both have brown hair. Also Scott dated both of them for a while although not at the same time. Scott has a lot of girlfriends but none of them last very long.

“I don’t know if she knows who I am,” I had protested.

But Scott had laughed and pushed me on the shoulder. “Everyone knows who you are!” he said.

And I didn’t know what to think about that but I kind of wanted to keep arguing with Scott in case he touched me again. I do not have a girlfriend and I do not want to have a girlfriend. Right now Scott does not have a girlfriend. Which is sort of a problem for me.

My twin sister Michelle is also going to the party. I don’t know if she is friends with Tamika but she just rolled her eyes when I asked her. It looked weird because she’s wearing lots of black eyeliner.

So Gillian drove the three of us to Tamika’s place. She even bought Sub Zeros for Michelle. We’re only fifteen and I don’t think we should be drinking alcohol but Gillian said she trusts us to be sensible.

“Thanks, Mum,” I said as we got out of the car.

“I’ll pick you up at midnight,” She reminded us. And as she drove away I wished I’d just stayed in the car and gone home with her and gone to bed.

Michelle quickly disappeared but Scott stayed close by.

I don’t know why he’s friends with me. He’s charming and clever and funny (and good looking) and I’m weird and awkward.

I took a deep breath, and we went inside.

“I don’t know why you’re even friends with me,” I said.

And he laughed, “For literally every reason in the world, Al” he said, “You are the best and most interesting person that I know,” He says that to me quite often and he says it like it’s true even though most people think I’m weird and boring.

“Alan Sebastian,” I said. Because Al is not my name.

Michelle teases me and says I don’t know how to talk to girls. And it’s true. I don’t. But it’s not because they’re girls. It’s because I don’t know how to talk to anyone. Scott knows how to talk to girls. He knows how to make them laugh and stroke his arm and you might think I want Scott to look at me the way he looks at them and talk to me the way he talks to them but I don’t. That’s not the problem that I have.

I want Scott Maher to look at me the way he already does. And listen to me the way he already does. And smile at me the way he already does. And then I want him to kiss me the way he absolutely definitely does not. And that’s the problem.

And I want to be near him even when he’s in a place I don’t want to be. So that’s why I’m at a party.

The music keeps getting louder and there seem to be a lot more people now. Scott pulls me outside which I’m grateful for. It must have rained at some point because the ground is wet. But the party is raging on inside and people are drinking and laughing and music is playing and I don’t understand what’s fun about it but it seems like it is for most people. I look at the way the lights are reflected in the puddles on the ground and try to calm myself down.

Scott has a drink and I don’t. I had one at one point but I didn’t like the taste of it and I put it down somewhere.

“I don’t understand what is supposed to be fun about this,” I say.

But he just smiles at me and says “I’m still glad you came.”

He talks then, the way he does. About a thousand things at once.

And I try not to think about kissing him right up until he kisses me.

I can’t process it and I don’t know how to react or respond. The part of my brain which has been screaming “Don’t think about kissing him,” for six months is frozen in shock and I’m frozen in shock and when he finally pulls away I can still feel my mouth where his lips were on my lips and it still doesn’t feel like something that could have really happened.

And I’m still trying to understand what has happened when he stammers and apologises and laughs like it’s a joke and says he’s drunk a lot but he hasn’t, because he was with me. I close my eyes for a moment to try and work out what is going on and when I open them again he’s gone.

And I just stand there in the cold trying to remember how to breathe.

I stand there for a while.

And I think… I wish I’d kissed him back. And I think maybe if I find him maybe I can tell him that. Maybe if I explain that he surprised me the first time he might like to try again.

Eventually I walk back up to the big house. I’m tired and it’s loud and I can’t see Scott. I wonder where the bathroom is.

“Upstairs,” Someone tells me. But they might have been talking to someone else. I don’t remember whether it was the first or second door so I open one and it’s not the bathroom. It’s a bedroom. And it’s Michelle and Scott in bed together and I see what they’re doing and I don’t want to and I turn and walk away.

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