I snort into my cup of punch. Mm. The drink is pretty damn tasty. Pure sugar, just the way I like.
MK spins to face the rest of the kitchen. A gaggle of guys and girls in various stages of undress smile at us expectantly.
“Now. Let me introduce the crew.”
Three sips into my second round of punch, I realize my mistake. This stuff is strong. Mary Kate has migrated upstairs to the roof with a hot American guy I vaguely recognize from exchange orientation. Even though she paused to wink over his shoulder at me before going, I feel a little bit abandoned. First she brings me here without explaining what the hell “fancy dress” parties really entail, then she skips out with the first hot guy who winks at her? I mean, yes, her new boytoy displays an impressive arsenal of temptation, but really, she couldn’t have made sure I was okay first?
Her friends from the kitchen have dissipated, and to be honest, I didn’t remember any of their names yet anyway.
I walk (okay, stumble) toward the confessional booth in the corner. I haven’t seen anyone go in and out of it all night—it seems more like a party prop than anything else. Adding to the atmosphere. I only wish I’d known what that atmosphere would be before I agreed to meet MK tonight.
This is everything I swore I would avoid this semester.
I slide open the door to the right-hand booth of the confessional. I have to hand it to whoever designed this thing—it looks just like the real deal. I stare down at a red-cushioned seat, complete with a kneeler in front of it. Between this confessional booth and the left-hand one hangs a thin wooden screen, carved in elaborate curlicues, through which I can only glimpse shadows. Looks like both sides are empty, as far as I can tell.
I collapse onto the seat of one booth and pull the flimsy door shut behind me. It doesn’t do much to block out the sound of the party, but it helps.
My head throbs. I’ve been so good all summer. Not a single drink until now.
Looks like I’ve lost my tolerance.
I set my remaining punch on the ledge beside my seat and lean my head back against the headrest with a groan. The wooden walls around me seem to close in, hug me close, comforting in their familiarity. I sat inside confessionals just like this as a kid, back when Mom and Dad still made us go to Sunday mass. Someone should’ve warned them that convincing me and Tara to be good Christian girls would never work.
But I always did like this part. Closing myself into a secret dark place, unburdening my secrets to someone who actually cared to listen.
I breathe out a sigh. I need to distract myself, so I start talking. “Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. It’s probably been . . . I don’t know, ten years since my last confession.”
I’m speaking to myself, of course. So when a sigh answers me from the neighboring confessional, I nearly fall off the pew.
“You’ve got me beat by five,” says a deep, masculine voice.
My face flames red-hot. Good thing it’s dark in here. “Oh god, I’m so sorry, I didn’t know anyone else was in here. I’ll go, I’m sorry,” I babble at the wooden separator.
He laughs softly. “Relax. I don’t own the place.”
Now that my heart isn’t pounding from surprise, it starts to pound all over again for a different reason. Dear lord, that accent. He sounds nothing like the Cockney boys down in London, or even the guys leading my orientation group, with their posh upper-class enunciation. His voice is more natural, smooth on the ears.
I can’t place it, and I’m good at accents. It makes me want to stay and tease it out of him.