Everybody Wants to Hear the News

Submitted into Contest #146 in response to: Start your story during a team building exercise.... view prompt

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Romance

This story contains sensitive content

Trigger Warning: themes of substance abuse and violence

As I stood there watching this team building exercise, I thought of my own team and how it had dissolved not too long ago. See, the group I had wasn’t a bunch of coworkers needing a bonding experience, mine was a group of friends. We used to go out drinking on Wednesdays, because everything was half off. Then, we would do something fun like go bowling or to watch a movie. Differing opinions sometimes are just too much when it comes to relationships of any kind. 

“Great work everyone! Take five and we’ll come back for the next exercise.” I encouraged the group. 

This time, I was working with a dozen new employees working for a newspaper ready to have its grand opening. I was sure they were all insane, wondering why they would ever want to get into a dying business, but I was there to get paid, not to ask questions. As people started filing back into the room, I couldn’t help but stare at this one particular guy. He looked to be around my age, late-twenties. With dark hair and bright blue eyes, something seemed so familiar about him. 

“Alright, our next exercise is going to be with partners. Can I have a volunteer to help me demonstrate?” 

The guy I had been watching put his hand up and then walked up to the front to stand by me. 

“What’s your name, sir?” I asked, my heart beating a bit faster than normal.

“Kyle.” He reached his hand out to shake mine, so I did the same, my palms sweating, my head spinning.

“Eliza, nice to meet you.” As we stared at each other a moment too long, it hit me where I knew him from.”

“I used to have a friend named Eliza as a kid. Never found out what happened to her. Kind of looked like you too.”

Okay, so he wasn’t the brightest, but he sure had gotten way hotter than the last time I saw him. I tried not to think of that as I went on to explain, then have them perform the next activity, watching as his muscles tensed under his shirt. This was the last exercise before we were done for the day. I had to catch him before he left. 

“You all did an awesome job today! I’ll be sticking around for a while if you have any comments, questions, or concerns.” 

I was actually going to be late to dinner with my mom, but when there is a hot guy in my way, mom understands. And then suddenly there was a hot guy in my way.

“Eliza, I just wanted to say I had a nice time today. It was way better than I thought it would be.” He told me. 

“Kyle, I think I am the same friend you had when you were a kid. You grew up on Minvern Street, right?”

“Oh shit! Hi. How have you been? Long time no see.” Before I even knew what was happening, he pulled me into a hug, picking me up and twirling me around. 

Once he put me down and collected myself a bit, waving off the dizziness, I thought about how I wanted to answer his question. How have I been? Truthfully, not great. When you lose all your friends because you won’t be sympathetic to their self-destructive behaviors, you tend to feel pretty lonely.

“I’ve been good.” I told him. “Working hard teaching these team-building exercises to different businesses. Actually, I feel like it’s all I’ve been doing these days.”

“Well, that’s too bad. You need to have some fun. Why don’t we get a drink and catch up?”

“That sounds great. I’ll meet you out front in a few minutes.”

As he walked out, a couple more people came up to ask questions and then I was on my own. I had been alone a lot lately and I was really excited for this opportunity to reconnect with an old friend. 

The club he took me to was a total college student paradise, kids with fake IDs coming in to get way too wasted and grind on each other. One problem, we weren’t in college. 

“Interesting location choice. I thought we were just going to grab a drink.” I pointed out.

“Aw, what’s the fun in that? You clearly need to have some.” He replied as if what he said was fact.

He left me at a tall table with two barstools, me gently sitting down, noticing the squeak of the chair. He was going to get us drinks. Normally, I wouldn’t drink too much, especially on what seemed like a date, but all I wanted was to get drunk and forget about life for a bit. A flashback of my friend passed out on my floor in her own vomit crossed my mind. Kyle walked back to the table, allowing me to once again repress those memories. He placed two shots down on the table, both looking like some kind of whiskey.

“I’m going to need more than that if you want me to have a good time.” I told him jokingly.

“There’s more where that came from.” He said as a waiter walked past. “Two Long Island Iced Teas please.” He ordered.

“Now, that’s what I’m talking about. So Kyle, how have you been?”

“You know what, I’ve been great. I graduated in 2018 with a degree in illustration. I took a few years off to mess around before I got serious about going into higher education. Then, I took a few more years off to mess around after graduation. Now, I’m working as the art director of CoolCat News.”

“That’s really exciting. I have to ask, why a newspaper? Isn’t that a dying business?”

“News? No. Everybody wants to hear the news. Whether it’s good, bad, or downright ridiculous, everyone wants to know what’s going on in the world.”

“Not me.”

“What do you mean?”

“I just don’t like knowing what sort of tragedies are occuring around me that I can’t do anything to stop.”

Right then, our drinks arrived, saving me from having to delve further into my psyche. He and I looked at each other, both with that mischievous look in our eyes and downed the drinks as fast as we could. I beat him by a couple seconds and he seemed very impressed.

I don’t remember much more after that. Maybe stumbling a bit as I attempted to walk, him grabbing my arm and putting me in his car, buckling my seat belt. Next thing I knew, I was waking up in his bed, topless. I looked over and he was asleep… on the lounge chair across the room. My mouth was dry and I had a massive headache. This was going to be a fun hangover.

I laid there rubbing my eyes, trying to block out the sun peeking through the curtains. What had happened last night? Why was I in Kyle’s bed? Where was my shirt? One thing I did know was that I had to get out of there.

I got up as quietly as I could, heading to the bathroom just past where he was sleeping. That’s when I found my shirt, in the bathtub, covered in puke. I had another flashback to my friend, this time us trying to give her a bath while she was drunk because she threw up all over herself. Holding my nose, I picked up my shirt and threw it in the trash can. Then I washed my hands and wrapped myself in a towel I found on his shelf. I slowly opened the bathroom door, startled by Kyle standing outside of it, wondering if he should knock. 

“I’m sorry about last night. I threw away my shirt. Do you have one I could wear?”

“Uh, sure.” He opened his dresser and pulled out an extra large t-shirt with a picture of the Dr. Pepper logo on it. “Try this.”

I put on the shirt, it engulfing my entire petite body. “Am I really this small?”

“Yes. It’s no surprise you couldn’t hold all that alcohol.”

“Exactly how much did I drink?”

“You had the shot of whiskey, the Long Island, and then about five shots of vodka. I quit after number two.”

“And, how did we end up here?”

“There was no way I was leaving you home alone like that. So, I put you in my car and drove us back here just in time for you to start puking your guts out.”

“And, that’s all that happened?”

“What kind of question is that?” He pondered for a moment. “You think I did something to you last night, took advantage of you? What kind of guy do you think I am?”

“Well, I don’t know. I barely know you.”

“I guess you’re right. Let me just go grab you a glass of water and we’ll talk. How about that?”

“Sounds great.”

After some  clanging of moving things in a cabinet, I saw him approaching from down the hall… with a knife… pointed right at me.

“You left me at the fifth grade dance, humiliating me in front of everyone. You never had to face the consequences because you moved away the next day. So, now… you’re going to get what you deserve.”

“No, please, don’t -”

May 20, 2022 00:42

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3 comments

Tricia Shulist
14:41 May 23, 2022

Well, that took a turn. The main character has no friends because she doesn’t approve of their destructive behaviours, but she gets black-out drunk with a guy she hardly knows, ends up at his place, throws up all over herself — she may be more like her friends than she knows. Thanks for this.

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Vj Hamilton
20:48 May 26, 2022

I found this statement from the narrator to be interesting foreshadowing: “I just don’t like knowing what sort of tragedies are occuring around me that I can’t do anything to stop.” At the bar, the narrator goes from zero to sixty so quickly I thought she'd been roofied. Thanks for a thought-provoking story!

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Jessie Robertson
16:39 May 25, 2022

I've heard that a good story always leaves you asking questions. That certainly applies here. Does it really end how I think it ends or would the end of this story actually turn out differently than you're leading me to believe? If he does stab her, why didn't he do it during the night? (Maybe he wanted her to be sober to fully appreciate the situation that she found herself in?) Will he get away with it? Will he report on it in his newspaper publication? Anyway, so many questions. Nice work.

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