Back at school, Mia was her school-self on steroids. She started to date Conner Trout, the king of the social ladder. He took her to parties on the weekend where she would get drunk and make out with him in dark corners. Mia couldn't see through the droplets on her skin either, so she let other people tell her what to see.
A few days ago, Mrs. Richardson ran into my mom and me at the grocery store. She looked at me with sad, sorry eyes and told me to watch out for Mia. I think she knows that the just Mia layer has completely disappeared, too.
Right after that, I talked my mom into letting me go to Conner Trout’s party the next weekend. I told her I was going with Mia. I could tell she only said yes because of what Mrs. Richardson had said in the grocery store.
I arrived at Conner’s house an hour after the party started, so I wouldn’t be noticed. People like Conner Trout don’t usually invite people like myself to big blow out parties on the weekend. I placed myself in a corner that the light reached because everyone else seemed to be lingering in the dark. I stood there and watched kids do things that no one would bother to remember the next day whether they were drunk or not.
It was hard to watch Mia take Jell-O shots and press her body to different guys as she danced. It wasn’t like her to do any of this; even her school self wouldn’t do this.
“Hey, Mia!” Conner yelled. “Go get us some more beer?”
Mia nodded and walked towards the kitchen passing me on her way. She stopped short and squinted at me through her droplets. “Charlie?” she asked.
“Yeah,” I said.
She stumbled toward me. “What are you doing here?”
Conner stepped towards us. “Yeah, I don’t remember inviting you.” He was so close to me I could smell the alcohol leaking out of his mouth. “Get out,” he sneered.
“Stop,” said Mia. For a second, I thought she was going to defend me, but then she blinked, giving up on squinting through the droplets, and said, “I’ve got this."
Mia pushed me into the corner. “Did my mom tell you to come here?” she hissed.
I shook my head as I watched Conner merge back into the shadows with the rest of the partygoers.
“Then why are you here?” she whispered through her teeth.
“Answer me, Charlie.”
I sighed. “Truth is, I came to see you. The real you.”
She pressed her hand to my chest.
I tried to take her hand off, but she slapped my arm down. “Leave,” she commanded.
I shook my head. “No. Not until you tell me why you made me leave your hospital room.”
She clenched her jaw. “Doesn’t matter.”
“Yes it does, Mia.”
She flinched at the sound of her name. “Charlie, none of that matters anymore.” She began to cry. “Just let me go. Please, Charlie, let me go.”