Alexander Lightwood—booklover, nerd, and all-around good guy—stood with his back pressed against the gaudy floral wallpaper of the classic suburban house. He stuck out like a sore thumb. Party music blared through the colossal home-theatre surround-sound speaker in the living room, playing upbeat party music that was mostly EDM. Bodies piled everywhere, hot and heavy, spilling booze from their overflowing red cups.
“What are you going here, nerd?” a random male party-goer bumped into him with a splash. Beer covered a wide area on Alec’s dark grey shirt. He smelled it before it actually felt the coolness seep into the fabric. “Aren’t you supposed to be studying or something?”
“I was, uh, invited.”
“Oh yeah?” The guy challenged, eyeing Alec up and down with a sneer. It was clear what he thought of himself, and what he thought of Alec. He believed himself far too cool to even be socializing with the likes of a nerdy goody-goody toe-shoes. “Who invited you, huh?”
Alec chuckled. He didn’t need to fight, and Magnus wouldn’t want him to cause a ruckus. “Kaelie, actually.”
THREE DAYS AGO
The café that they chose for the day was on the third floor of a dingy-looking building, one with people-only access through a series of small single-person alleyways. It was breezy for mid-summer. The hot summer sun rose high above the early afternoon sky. Noises from the ground level, workers readying for the nighttime rush at the bars down below and the static of a grounded radio speaker filled the silence.
Jace, Isabelle, and Alec were one of the few people who chose to sit outside under the sun. Jace and Isabelle wanted to get a head-start on their summer tan while Alec simply enjoyed the warmth of the sunlight. Most of the patrons were inside enjoying the free wifi and overpriced coffee beverages.
“I don’t get why we have to do our homework now,” Isabelle complained with the eraser-end of the pencil tapping her lips, “We’ve got a hundred and four days of summer vacation before school comes along to end it.”
“The only problem of our generation is finding a good way to spend it.” Jace added. It took only moments for his passive façade to break, then both of them burst into a fit of laughter. He wiggled his eyebrow at his adoptive sister and grinned. “Like maybe…” he sing-songed the first line of the second verse, waiting for one of his siblings to continue it. He eyed Isabelle from the corner of his eye.
Isabelle’s mouth twitched when he started singing. She could barely hold off her giggles before singing along with as much enthusiasm as a kid on a sugar rush. “Building a rocket. Or fighting a mummy. Or climbing up the Eiffel tower!” She kicked Alec’s foot under the table. “Come on, Alec, you know this too! Discovering something that doesn’t exist...”
“Hey!” Jace cut in. “Or giving a monkey a shower!” He too urged the nerdy looking Alec with his hands, to join the mini jam session.
Alec sighed but gave in. “Surfing tidal waves. Creating Nanobots. Or locating Frankenstein’s brain.”
“It’s over here!” Jace mimicked the point-nosed cartoon again.
Together, Isabelle and Alec sung the next few lines. Jace chimed into towards the final verse and ended it with a very snotty rendition of “Mom! Isabelle and Alec are making a title sequence!”, and finishing it off with a couple of air-guitar chords. All three exploded into a fit of laughter until someone’s slow-clapping caught their attention. Turning around, they all searched for the source of the noise.
Kaelie Whitewillow, the Queen with a capital B of their school, stood a few feet from their table with a smirk on her face. She gave them all a once-over but her eyes remained on Jace. They stayed on the blond like a huntress on the prowl.
“That’s so cute, I didn’t know you were a fan! I am too!” Her words came off as sickly sweet, matching the cherry red gloss on her lips. “Say,” she said, dropping her palms to the table and pumping out her chest, “Since you and I have so much in common, why don’t you some to my birthday party this weekend? Nothing formal. Just a pool party at my house. Parents are gone for the weekend. It’s just me and my siblings.”
“Oh really?” Alec drawled, rolling his eyes. “How convenient.”
Isabelle dug her stiletto heel onto his foot, making him yelp. She grinned sweetly at Kaelie. “You’re having a no-parents party. That’s totally cool! We’ll be there—all three of us. Right, Jace? You wouldn’t go without us, right? Your favoritest siblings in the world?”
Jace flinched as his foot go the same treatment as Alec’s. “Uh, right, yeah, not without you two, never.”
Kaelie seemed oblivious to the working beneath the table, and a tiny bit disappointed at Jace’s answer. “Alright,” she folded nonetheless with only a hint of sneer in her voice. “I guess you can come too.” She told Isabelle then scrunched her nose at Alec. “Are you sure you even want to go? Don’t you have homework or something this weekend?”
“I, uh…” Alec trailed off, caught between wanting to decline and saving his toe while it still had blood. He chose to keep quiet instead. Kaelie wasn’t genuine with her invitation, and he could always not go. “Whatever,” he shrugged, “it’s just some lame party anyway.”
“Excuse me? It happens to be my party!” Kaelie seethed. “Fine, you can go too. It’s not like I’ll notice you around away.” Then she turned to Jace again. “I’ll see you this Friday, Jace.” She said, giving the blonde one last flirty wink before walking away.
“What a bi-yatch.” Isabelle muttered under her breath when Kaelie was out of hearing distance. “God, I can’t believe that her skinny-ass quote-unquote rules the freaking school. She’s got to be screwing her way to the top or some kind of Regina George magic.”
Jace, who just took a sip of his drink, sputtered liquid out of his nose mid-snort.
“Disgusting!” Isabelle scrunched her nose, while Alec offered the blonde a napkin.
“You were the one so persistent to go!” Jace said, stuffing his nose with rolled up wads of tissue. “Why’d you want to attend some birthday party anyway? It’s not like you and Kaelie are close.”
“It’s Kaelie, now, huh?” Alec snorted under his breath. “Girl flashes her tits in his face and suddenly they’re friends.” Neither Jace nor Isabelle heard him.
Isabelle just smirked. “Why of course. Someone’s gotta dethrone the bitch, ya know?”
“So you’re Linsay Lohan in this scenario. You do know she ends up in jail for DUI, right?” Jace teased, earning a firm slap on his shoulder. “Hey!”
Alec had long gotten over the party-conversation and lowered his head back into his book. He had a whole paper on the psychology of a sentient character in the Harry Potter series and it gave him an excuse to read all seven books again.
Even after his explanation, Paper Cup guy still didn’t take the hint. He disbelieved Alec. “You’re kidding right? I ain’t stupid. Kaelie’d never invite the likes of you. You crashin’ or something?” Then, he laughed. “Man, I didn’t think you’d have it in you to crash a Senior Party!”
Alec ducked his head. “You know what? I think I should just go.” He was annoyed and wet. He had a paper still waiting for him at home, and he sure as heavens didn’t deserve this kind of thing. The only reason he tagged along in the first place was to make sure that his siblings had a safe sober ride home. They could go home at dawn or something, but he wasn’t staying a second longer.
“Move,” he grunted, pushing past the guy, intent of finding his boyfriend who had gone to refill their drinks. He didn’t get far before long arms wrapped around his neck with identical red cups in hand.
“Hello, Alexander,” Magnus whispered into his ear, breath hot against his cheek, smelling slightly of alcohol. A solid chest pressed against his back as his boyfriend coiled like a snake around him. “You wouldn’t believe the line! It’s like they weren’t prepared for every teen party in history involving a lot of booze and everyone getting wasted for no apparent reason. It was hell in the kitchen!”
“Oh, hello,” Paper Cup Guy eyed Magnus like a piece of meat, “Who are you gorgeous and why are you wasting your time on a boring guy like him?”
Alec froze. He would have chuckled if he weren’t in such a sour mood. He knew how his boyfriend got whenever someone even tried to question their relationship, and such a blatant come-on was certainly unwelcome. He didn’t have time to react before Magnus was firing insults like a machine gun.
“Excuse me?” The older boy stood at his full height, towering over the guy. “Did you just try to hit on me?”
Alcohol made people to stupid things. Apparently, it also impaired the brain’s capacity to recognize a threat from flirting.
“Of course I was!” Paper Cup Guy said, batting his lashes. “I mean, you’re seven kinds of hot and he’s all kinds of not,” he pointed to Alec with a sneer. “Wouldn’t you want to get it one with me instead? I promise to make it worth your while.” He licked his lips seductively and blew air-kisses in Magnus’ direction.
“Well excuse you!” Magnus retorted throwing both cups of beer into the guy’s face.
“Hey!” Paper Cup Guy shouted.
“What the hell is happening here?” Kaelie came rushing into the living room looking absolutely livid. She saw the guy drenched in alcohol then Alec before anything else. “You!” She pointed her finger to Alec’s face. “Didn’t I tell you not to cause trouble in my party? What the hell are you doing starting a fight with Larlath! Don’t you know he’s in college?!”
From the side, Magnus snorted. “Well that definitely explains it. Douche.”
“Well, that doesn’t explain him hitting on someone who already has a boyfriend.” Alec shot back, teeth bared in an uncharacteristic display of protectiveness. While he may not show it often in school, he was actually pretty athletic with basic training in martial arts. He could take Larlath, or whatever his name was, down in a heartbeat. He simply preferred peace and not war.
Kaelie obviously took Larlath’s side. “You have a what? No way! Really? Who is it?”
“Uhh, that would be me.” Magnus piped up from the sidelines with a sheepish expression. “Heya Kaelie, long time to see, what’ it been like… four years since graduation? You still haven’t finished all your high school credits?”
Kaelie was taken back by Magnus’ presence. “Ma—Magnus! I… I didn’t invite you, did I? Did my brother…?”
“Kieran?” Magnus shrugged. “Yeah, he actually mentioned a party today. I almost forgot that he had a sister my age. Your baby brother sure is making a name for himself in school. He’s got a talented eye for design. How about you? Planning to graduate before your twenty-second birthday? … Oh, wait. This is your twenty-third! Happy Birthday!”
By then, a crowd had formed a circle around them.
Alec nearly shit himself laughing. “I didn’t know she was twenty-three!”
“Why, of course she is, she was my batchmate in elementary! Didn’t I tell you?” Magnus fake-chastised him. “Why, Alexander, are you judging her for being an old maid who doesn’t have a boyfriend? She’s my age, you know!”
“No, shit, really?” Isabelle quipped from the sidelines, triumph on her face. “Oh my god! Jace you were totally going to bang a MILF!”
Jace paled beside her. “Isabelle shut up!”
Kaelie was red in the face, and even Larlath looked a tiny bit green. Around them were posters proudly declaring Kaelie’s eighteenth birthday hanging on the walls. It was more than humiliating to be caught so publically in such a big lie.
Alec had enough of it. “Come on,” he said, tugging on Magnus’ hand, “Let’s get out of here. I bet I can assure you that twenty-three isn’t really that old.” He winked at his siblings, then flipped off the rest of the crowd as he dragged his boyfriend out of the house and into Magnus’ Prius.