I thought about it. I lay awake debating against my better judgement. Every ounce of logic explained to me that it was a bad idea. But he had made it sound so simple, turning my stubbornness against me, “I dare you”.
I flung my legs over the side of my bed. Fine.
The carpet was cool on my bare feet but it braced the dull noise of creaking floorboards, convenient for when you don’t want to wake anyone. My breath was rising and falling in quick gasps but I stifled it with my cold hands. I caught myself in the mirror, gazing into the soulless reflection; me. Amelia, named after Amelia Earhart. My dad chose the name because he had always wanted me to feel like I could soar through the clouds and create a whole life for myself. That I would always be free. I had a love-hate relationship with the name, it reminded me of the flowering plant Astelia. Not the most beautiful flower, never the most colourful or the one with the biggest petals, but designed to simply attract insect pollinators. And it fulfilled that goal. That was me, not unattractive, but at the same time not even slightly pretty. I did what I needed to do to achieve my goal and let all other aspects of myself slide into whatever state of disrepair they wanted. I had had one goal for so long I hardly knew how to think of other things. I was put on this Earth to do great things. But aren’t we all?
I unclipped my dark hair from its clasp, letting it spill over my shoulders. I needed to look relaxed. Relaxed is confident. Confidence is attractive. Confidence also hides anxiety. I snatched up those shoes I had been hiding and opened the front door to let myself out, my body adjusting to the lower temperature with some reluctance. The door closed with a click and I walked away from the comfort of my house in a slight daze. Here I was, wearing a flimsy blue dress with no pockets or protection from the cold. It exposed my shoulders, the top of my chest, my knees, crisscrossing with lace over my back. I had never worn so little clothing in my life. My bottom lip was turning red from me nervously nibbling on it. I kept my feet moving so I wouldn’t have enough time to rethink what I was doing. The pavement smelt of fresh rain and fallen leaves, it truly was a gorgeous night with the streetlamps creating a light puddle beneath them. I realised I had just been watching each step of my heeled feet passing over the concrete, I let my head snap up, my eyes piercing through the gloom. He had kept his promise. I took a deep breath, feeling self-conscious of my every move and wondering what the Hell one was meant to do with one’s arms as you walked. Feeling awkward, I wrapped them around myself in a hug, thinking I’d just blame it on the cold if he made fun of me for it.
“So the infamous intellect can break a few rules.” His grin was lopsided and dorkish. He passed me a little metal flask. I took a long swig. Liquid courage.
He nodded his approval and I rolled my eyes at him, “I never said I didn’t drink, just that I’ve never been to a proper party thing.”
He shrugged and took his whiskey back from me. I let him guide me into his car. Any other girl would be impressed by his careless display of wealth but he was my best friend and when he explained what kind of car it was I had completely zoned out. It was red if that helped?
“I’m glad you changed your mind about being a goody-two-shoes forever.”
I buckled my seatbelt and he chuckled a bit, not bothering with his own.
“I swear to God you watch too many bad-boy movies, Ezra. You’re not cool.”
“Coming from someone who’s never even ditched a class, that means very little. In fact, you saying I’m not cool only proves that I am.”
“Just put your seatbelt on or you’ll be the subject of natural selection.”
He shot me a look, he had warned me to turn off my brain tonight, that was the whole point. But what were conversations even made of if not random facts and tales about yourself? The only tales I had of myself were academic. I don’t know how to socialise. At least I could feel the alcohol reaching my head, providing the block in my brain an excuse for acting out of character. I looked out the window and just focussed on the dim lights whirring past the window. The faint traces of rain made it shatter into thousands of little splodges.
“Stop being nervous, you’re gonna have a great night.” He whacked my knee.
The car pulled into the house. That classic high school movie scene buzz was radiating out of those four walls. So the films had gotten one thing right. Suddenly I couldn’t move, sitting on the fake leather seats, tightly buckled in.
“You’ve come this far, man. Besides,” A pause. “What’s the worst that could happen?”
I could hate it and all my anticipations of high school parties will have amounted to nothing and I will feel empty inside and cheated out of what I felt was rightfully mine— I bit my lip and said none of this to him. I had been waiting for this for a while.
“Let’s go, but only because I’m not going to back out of that stupid dare.”
“That’s right, Lia. Let yourself feel what you’ve been quote on quote ‘missing out on’.”
I opened the car door. It was one night, there was no homework, no study that needed doing urgently. I had tonight off. I would lose myself for just one evening, let my name be lost upon the wind or drowned in the rain. It isn’t all flight and seeking your destiny as her father intended. No, Amelia Earhart was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, but her plane went down and she disappeared from this world. Things were never what they seemed on the surface level. The name ‘Amelia’ means “work” and for too long, that has been all I’ve known. So I’m going to forget Amelia, forget my parents who want me to exceed, forget all those who have ever doubted me, forget the anxiety and stress that kept me from living.
Tonight I would be Lia, meaning “relaxed” or “bearer of good news”. Tonight I would be truly free, in a way that Amelia could never be.
I walked into the party.