"Duty," Hardin answers even before I can ask. The look of his green eyes pierces me with such intensity that I realize: I'm the one to do it, I have to dare something. And I hesitate, because I did not think that well and did not expect such a reaction. What should I ask him for a job now? I know that he would do anything just to avoid going down.
"I ... hm. Thou shalt ..."
"What is it?" He asks impatiently. I would like to force him to say something nice about everyone here, but I decide against it, even if it would be amusing. "Take your T-shirt off and on again after the game!" Molly yells. I am really happy.
Of course not, because Hardin will take off his T-shirt, but because I have not come up with anything. Now I'm not under any pressure to tell him what to do. "How childish," he complains, but pulls the shirt over his head without hesitation. Immediately my eyes are attracted to his upper body, the tattoos on his surprisingly tanned skin.
Under the birds on his chest, he has a big tree pricked on his stomach. The branches are bare and somehow scary. His upper arms are covered with more motives than I would have thought: small, seemingly incoherent images and symbols that stretch across his shoulders to his hips. When Steph gives me a slight push, I turn away hastily and hope no one has watched me. The game continues. Molly kisses both Tristan and Zed.
Steph tells us about her first time. Nate kisses the other girl. How did I end up in this throng of hormone-driven college rock 'n' roll freaks? "Tessa, truth or duty?", Tristan wants to know from me. "Why do you even ask, we know they're telling the truth anyway," sighs Hardin. "Duty," I reply, surprising the others and me. "Hmmm ... Tessa, then you should ... drink a sip of vodka," says Tristan with a smile. "But I do not drink." "That is the meaning of a compulsory task." "Listen, if you do not want to ..."
Nate starts, but at the same time I see how Hardin and Molly make fun of me. "Just a sip," I hear myself say. Actually, I expect Hardin to put on a contemptuous face again, but he just looks at me quite strangely. Someone hands me the vodka bottle. By mistake, I inhale the stinging steam. I automatically sniff my nose as I try to ignore the chuckle of laughter behind me. Then I make an effort not to think of all the lips that have touched the bottle before me, but then I just put them on and drink.
The vodka burns down to the stomach, but somehow I manage to swallow it. He tastes awful. People are clapping and yelling - all but Hardin. If I did not know him better, I would think he is angry or disappointed. He is so strange. Soon I feel the heat in my cheeks and the alcohol in my blood, which becomes more with each round, in which I have to take another sip.
I obey and I have to admit that for once I am quite relaxed. I feel good. And with that feeling everything seems a bit easier. The people around me are also funnier. "Same task," Zed says with a laugh and quickly takes a sip from the bottle before handing it over to me for the fifth time. I can not even remember the truths or duties of others during the last few laps. This time I take two big sips before someone pulls the bottle out of me.
"I think that's enough." Hardin passes the bottle to Nate. What, damn it, does that Hardin Scott think he means he can decide when I have enough? everyone else continues drinking, so why not? I take the bottle away from Nate and smile at Hardin smugly before touching my lips. "I can not believe you've never been drunk, Tessa, it's fun, right?" Zed asks. I have to giggle.
Thoughts of my mother's lectures about irresponsible behaviour flash through my head, but I push her aside. It's only a single evening. "Hardin, truth or duty?" Asks Molly. Of course he answers again "duty".
"Then I challenge you to kiss Tessa," she announces with a forced smile. Hardin's eyes widen, and although the alcohol has made everything more exciting, I'd rather run away. "No, I have a boyfriend." Whereupon all laugh at me for the hundredth time this evening. 'Why am I ever dating those people who are constantly making fun of me?' It's just a game, just do it, "Molly urges me. "No, I do not kiss anybody", I drive to her and get up.
Without looking at me, Hardin takes a sip from his cup. I hope he is hurt. Actually, I do not care if he is or not. I have enough of these games with him. He hates me and is just rough. Only when I stand, I suddenly feel the full effect of the alcohol. Although I stumble briefly, I manage to leave, and somehow I get through the crowd to the front door. Outside, the autumn wind blows in my face. I close my eyes and breathe the fresh air before sitting down over my already familiar stone wall.
Before I know what I'm doing, I picked the phone in my hand and dialled Noah's number. "Hello?" He answers. His familiar voice makes me eager, along with the vodka. "Hey sweetie." I pull my knees to my chest. There follows a short silence. "Tessa, are you drunk?" He asks reproachfully. I should not have called him. "No ... of course not," I lie and hang up. Then I turn off the phone. I do not want Noah calling back. He breaks the good feeling of vodka, even more than Hardin did before.
Frustrated, I stumble back into the house, ignoring the whistles and tasteless comments of the drunken frat boys. I grab a bottle of brown stuff from the kitchen table and take a sip, too much of a sip. It tastes worse than the Vodka, and I feel like my throat is on fire. Frantically I'm looking for a mug with anything else to get that taste out of my mouth.
Finally, I fetch a glass from one of the kitchen cabinets and fill it with tap water. That helps a bit against the burning, but not really. Through a gap between the people, I still see 'my' people sitting in circles and playing their stupid game. 'Are these really my friends?' I do not think so. They just want to have me around them, so they can make fun of my inexperience. How dare Molly ask Hardin to kiss me when she knows I have a boyfriend.
In contrast to her, I do not snog around with all sorts of people. In my life, I only kissed two men: Noah and in third grade Johnny, a boy with freckles, who kicked me behind the shin. Would Hardin have agreed to Molly's request? I doubt it. His lips are so pink and full, bending over to kiss me. My heart suddenly beats very fast.
'What is this? Why am I so thinking of him? ' I will never drink alcohol again. A few minutes later the room suddenly starts to turn and I feel dizzy. Like on autopilot, my feet carry me up to the bathroom, where I kneel in front of the toilet because I expect to vomit right away.
But nothing happened. Groaning, I straighten myself up and leave the bathroom. How I would like to drive back to the dorm, but Steph will definitely stay. I should not have come here. Yet again. Without much thought, I push the latch down to the only room that is reasonably familiar to me in this huge house. Hardin's door is easy to open, though he claims to always lock up.
Inside, it looks the same as last time, except that this time the floor seems to sway under my wobbly legs. Storm height does not stand in its place on the shelf, but instead I discover it on the bedside table next to an issue of pride and prejudice. Immediately I have to think of Hardin's comments on the novel. Obviously, he has already read it - and also understood - that in our age is rather rare, he is right for a man. Maybe he had to go through the book sometime in class.
But why is Withering Heights also there? I sit down on the bed and hit the middle of it. As my eyes wander over the pages, the room stops spinning. I'm so deep in Catherine's and Heathcliff's world that I do not hear the room door open. "What part of 'Nobody enters my room' did you not understand?", Hardin snaps at me.
His angry facial expression scares me, but also amuses me. "S-S-Sorry, I ..." "Get out of here," he hisses, but I just stare at him. The effect of the vodka is still fresh, too fresh to make me shout at Hardin. "Do not be such an ass!", I counter a lot louder than intended.
"You're back in my room, though I told you that you did not lose anything here, so get out of here!" He yells, taking a step towards me. When Hardin looks at me so furiously and with contempt, as if I were the last person in the world for him, something in me is snapping.
I lose my composure and ask him the question that keeps me busy all the time, without me acknowledging it myself. "Why can not you please me?" I look him straight in the eye. E is a good question, but to be honest, I'm not sure if my cracked ego can handle the answer.