Chapter 6: Oh, It'll Be a Party Alright...
Friday came sooner than Kat and Mary anticipated. The entire school day and the final rehearsal flashed before Erika’s eyes. And the drive to Buck’s house was a blur to both Kingsley and Andress.
But the more Erika thought about it as she talked with Buck and Kelly, the more time seemed to crawl. She found herself more and more looking forward to being able to spend time with the ‘King’ without the pretense of school or theatre. Buck finished talking about his case- the defense had rested today, and the jury would begin reaching a verdict. “The prosecution’s case collapsed with the new evidence.”
“Excuse me,” Kelly said, “But I have to go to the bathroom.” As she finished her orange and walked towards the restroom, Erika found her eyes following her associate’s exit.
Buck chuckled heartily. “You’ve got it bad, I see.”
“Uncle Buuuuuck...” Erika moaned, but she didn’t deny it.
“I swear, that lovesick look on ‘ya reminds me o’ your father when he was goin’ after your mother.” He paused, then said, “God rest her soul.”
“Yea.” Erika took a small bite of her own fruit before commenting, “I can’t believe that’s how she went.”
“How who went?” Kelly walked out of the bathroom drying off her hands with a disposable towel.
Buck coughed uncomfortably as Erika replied, “My Mom. She got sick after I was born and she just didn’t make it.”
Kelly seemed surprised at that. “I’m sorry.”
Buck grunted. “Even with the best of medical technology, people can still die from preventable problems under the wrong circumstances.” He sighed, before saying, “Well, I’m sure that you all have some preparations to do for t’night. Have fun, ladies.”
As seemed to be becoming a regular occurrence, a phone rang. This time though, it was Buck’s cell phone. He didn’t even need to look at caller ID. “Evening, Kyle. How’s business?”
“Oh, can’t complain,” the caller replied. “Kelly’s really excited about this sleepover. If something happens with her and Erika-”
“I know,” Buck said. “I know. Things’ve been crazy for those two ever since those auditions for ‘The Odd Couple’. I think my dear Cherry might’ve had sumthin’ to do with that.”
The line was silent for a few moments before Kyle coughed. “I know that the phone works, Buck, I’ve seen it work, but you don’t really think she’d have switched the-”
“That phone’s been the gateway to strangah events, old friend.”
“Like the Stone Case?” Kyle didn’t need to hear a response; he already suspected the answer.
Surprisingly though, Buck gave a straight answer. “Like the Stone Case. Helps people find closure, helps bring people to justice or it helps keep the innocent out of jail.” He changed the subject at this point: both men knew what the ‘Bat Phone’, as Kyle called it, was capable of. “Is everything set for tonight?
There was some ruffling on Kyle’s end before a response came through. “It’s all set. I still don’t understand why I had to hide-”
“It’s all part of the plan,” Buck interrupted yet again. “Keep trusting me and we’ll get through this.” He checked his watch, before adding, “It’s almost time for that nice dinner we had planned. Is Holly coming?”
“Yep,” Kyle finished. “Just the three of us.” He gulped and added, “Dixon and Kroenke called again. About-”
Buck groaned and asked Kyle to stop. “Those guys from the New York Times, right?”
“Right. About an hour later, Jenny Bracco from the Washington Post gave me a ring.” Kyle took a deep breath. “What am I supposed to do, Buck? We barely managed to convince them not to try to find her last time. If the Times or the Post come in now-”
“They already know, Kyle. They’ve known since the very beginning.” Buck expected Kyle to gasp at that point, but the lawyer was impressed to hear dead silence. Perhaps Kyle had finally gotten used to his surprises. “Again, it’s all part of the plan, my old friend. I’m counting on them trying to come in soon. Just trust me and everything will work out wonderfully.”
“Don’t get your hopes up too high, Kelly.” Meredith was trying to be the voice of reason.
Kelly kept rummaging through her movie collection for her favorite, asking, “What, I can’t be excited that I’m getting to have a sleepover for once?” She smiled serenely while her friend took a deep breath. How was she going to put this?
“I’m talking about Erika.” Kelly poked her head out of the movie cases and looked confused at Meredith.
“I’m not sure I follow.”
Meredith took a breath as she fanned herself; the room was a little too warm for her liking. “I know you better than anyone else. And I can tell that you’re interested in her.”
“Right,” Kelly said, “as a great friend. How many of those do I have?”
“Point taken. But I’m just saying that the plan only called for it looking like you two were dating. You’re actually acting like you might be falling for her.”
Kelly shifted uncomfortably as she went back to looking through her movies. “Oh come on, Meredith. You’re seeing shadows where there are none. She’s just a friend in need of help.”
Meredith had seen enough to know that something was there, though. “You gave her your cookie. You made a scene about Erika having a fever in the hall that I can only call romantic in nature. And you’ve been giving her this, this look that all of those other girls gave you before we started this whole plan!”
“We’re just friends, Meredith.” The doorbell rang through the house before the genius could come up with a comeback. Kelly smiled as she swung the door open to find Erika, Mary, Kat, and Julia all piled on her doorstep and carrying bags of various sizes.
“Well,” Kelly remarked as the group walked into the foyer, “I couldn’t find the movie I wanted to show you all, but I guess I can save that one for a rainy day.” The five walked into the TV room and saw that one of the windows was open. “Meredith,” she called, “I know you said it was hot in here, but did you have to leave the window open?”
“I didn’t open a window,” Meredith claimed as she walked in the room. “All I did was turn down the heat. Oh, and I ordered some pizza a little while ago.” She went to close the window, adding, “It’s generally never a good idea for a parent to pay for sleepover pizza. Usually ends up with someone being run out of house and home.”
Kat, Julia, and Mary laughed heartily from experience, while Erika just smiled. She’d seen some of the parties her stepsisters had thrown. Kelly was merely confused, but let it slide. “Anyway,” she said, “we’ll just have to watch a different movie.”
Outside the room, while the five began deliberating over their choice, a familiar brunette peeked over the door frame and pulled a walkie-talkie out of her school hoodie’s gigantic front pocket. “Jade to Fiona, come in, over.”
“Copy that, Jade,” the longer haired stepsister replied as she hid in the bushes, “but is it really necessary to use all that radio lingo?”
“...Are you still talking, over?”
“No sis, I was done.”
“...Then why aren’t you saying over? Over.”
Fiona smacked her forehead with her free hand. “Fine, whatever. How’s Operation: Drunken Love Nest? ...Over.”
Jade moved into the kitchen silently and removed a two liter container from the oversized pocket. “The bait’s being planted. Just gotta wait ‘til the pizzas get here, and then I can get you inside. Over and out.”
About half an hour later, the pizza guy arrived. “Alrighty then, that’s two cheese pizzas, a half-cheese half-mushroom pie, and a meat lover’s special.” Meredith shrugged her shoulders and grinned at her friends as she paid the man and went into another room.
Julia eyed the number of pizza pies Kelly was carrying as the rest of the part entered the kitchen and gasped. “Wow. Are we really gonna eat that much pizza?”
“Of course!” Kat grinned. “I’m almost always ready for seconds!”
Mary smiled with a blush and said, “Isn’t that the truth...” Kat nodded grinned like the Cheshire Cat as the pizzas were set on the kitchen counter. The lights turned off for a brief moment, the only artificial source of light in the room quickly becoming the candles on the modestly-sized ice cream birthday cake that Meredith was bringing into the room. Although the ensuing birthday song was nothing short of William Hung-esque, Kelly didn’t tell them to stop. She could hear a beautiful voice beneath the entire ear violating symphony.
The cake was on the counter, and Kelly stopped in her tracks. The sheer amount of fun she was having just by being in good company made her want to savor the moment. Meredith had been her best friend since they were in grade school. Kat and Mary, when they weren’t making cracks about their sex life, were great people to hang around, and even Julia had a simple charm that made her more trustworthy than many of her peers. And Erika-
Kelly looked at Erika for a good moment, who was smiling out of genuine happiness. From what she knew about the girl, her parents were both dead, leaving her at the mercy of her cruel stepsisters and an uncaring stepmother. It all sounded like something out of a fairy tale. Despite all of the shit she’d been put through, she still was one of the most honest people that she knew.
She looked back at the birthday cake. Kelly knew what to wish for now. She closed her eyes and blew out the candles. Her birthday wish from last year had finally come true; maybe Lady Luck would smile at her a second time.
The birthday cake was entirely devoured in a matter of minutes (not counting the time they spent suffering from ice cream headaches). The refrigerator was opened in celebration as the girls all grabbed for various flavors and brands of soda. Only one person seemed to be going for the half empty Cherry Coke bottle, though. “I like it,” Kelly said as she defended her choice against a throng of disgusted party guests. “Cherries make everything better, like Jolly Ranchers and Starbursts.”
“But Coke?” Mary shook her head. “A drink? Really? I don’t think-” She was cut off by the sudden presence of Kat’s hand over her mouth.
“It’s fine, it’s fine.” Kat added as a whisper. “Shut. Up. We’re getting free pizza out of this. And possibly getting Erika a girlfriend.”
Despite being only a whisper, Erika could distinctly hear Kat’s aside and blushed a deep crimson hue. Kelly took out several glasses from one of the cabinets and placed them on the counter for everyone to use. “A toast,” Kat said as she raised her empty glass, “to another year of happiness.” Glasses were clinked, and then were filled as they all returned to the TV room with sustenance.
Meredith pulled out a small box out of almost nowhere as they all sat down and handed it over to the birthday girl. “Happy birthday.” Kelly opened the box and had to bite her lip to hold back the laughter. Tears began welling up in her eyes as she held up the item of question to show everyone else. Erika commented first.
“...Is that a condom?”
No one answered the question as Kat and Mary both joined in on the laff-fest. Even Meredith snickered at her gag gift. After a good minute of good-humored ribbing, Kat, Mary, and Julia handed over their gift, which ended up being a couple of classic comedy movies. Kelly thanked them for the gift, and then all eyes were on Erika.
“Um, I... um... I... I forgot to bring a present.” But Kelly just smiled at her newfound friend.
“It’s no biggie. Besides, I already got your birthday present.” Erika looked at her, not even daring to breathe, and everyone else in the room was confused as all get out. “You got me some trustworthy people for me to celebrate my birthday with.” Kat cooed as Erika smiled bashfully, while Kelly took a drink from her glass. ‘Hm... Cherry Coke must taste even better on your birthday. And it goes great with my pizza. Gonna have to get some more of this.’ “Hey Erika! You don’t have to sit on the floor!
Erika stood up and said, “No, really, it’s okay.” But Kelly would have none of it, and she insisted that Erika sit right next to her on the recliner. It was a surprisingly comfortable fit, as both girls found out.
Kelly got up from her chair, feeling happier than she’d been since... well, ever. “Alright, I’m gonna get a bigger glass for my drink. When I get back, let’s watch one of those movies, eh?”
Rory took a deep breath as she looked at the poster on her friend’s wall. “I mean, seriously, you’ve got a picture of a swimsuit model in nothing but a bikini framed on your wall.”
“So? That could mean anything! It could mean that I got it for free through one of those ‘Buy Two, Get One Free’ kinda deals!” Alice tried to defend herself.
Rory gave her best friend a mock-lecherous gaze. “Or it could mean that you just enjoy the view. Just how big of a nosebleed did the framers get when you asked them to frame this?”
Not even Erika could help but laugh at the antics happening on the big screen TV. Sure, she was breaking one of her stepmother’s cardinal rules, but this was so worth it. She was having fun with her friends, laughing her head off, and sitting next to Kelly. Erika saw out of her peripheral vision that Kelly was taking another sip from her glass. ‘She must really like that Coke,’ she thought as she took another bite out of her pizza slice.
In Meredith’s mind, she couldn’t quite believe that her plan had worked out so well. Erika and Kelly seemed to have this natural chemistry between them that she had greatly underestimated. She knew it had been there, that had been why the plan called for Kelly getting to know Erika better for the past few weeks. WEEKS! Yes, their romantic relationship was supposed to be a facade, but it seemed so convincing that they could’ve even fooled her, possibly the smartest girl in the school. Kelly had denied the possibility, but she wasn’t entirely sure...
The same thoughts were echoing through Erika’s head. Her entire world had been turned upside down and topsy-turvy ever since she’d auditioned for the show. The most popular girl in the school, the one that a majority of her schoolmates had openly pursued, a girl that Erika actually had had a small crush on, chose to be friends with her. Chose! They’d been two complete strangers when this all had begun, and in an unusual twist of fate, they were more or less forced to spend time together.
Just then, Erika could feel a sudden shift in the positioning of the recliner cushions. Next thing she knew, Kelly’s arms were wrapped around her and she was blushing furiously with a shy little smile on her face.
The glass in Kelly’s hand fell to the floor, spilling onto the carpeting. Julia immediately noticed and got up from her seat, which in turn got everyone else attention. “Julia,” Mary asked, “what gives? The movie’s still going.”
But Julia motioned for Kat to come over. “Come over her and smell this,” Julia implored. Kat did so, paused, and then started smelling Kelly. Mary paused the movie and began walking over to smack Kat a new one. But she refrained from doing so after seeing the look on Kelly’s face.
Finally, Meredith got up to see what all the fuss was about and saw it after a good five seconds. “How in the world did she get-”
“I dunno,” Julia remarked, holding up the glass for Meredith, “Does Kelly usually take her coke Irish?”
Erika finally piped up. “Irish? What’s going on?”
Kat explained it to Erika. “She’s drunk, Erika.” Kelly began cupping Erika’s face and talking about the baby pink elephants dancing atop her skull. “Really, really drunk.”
Meredith shook her head. “I don’t get it. Someone must’ve spiked the drink or something.” Everyone in the door denied involvement, which Meredith took at face value. “Erika, you’ve got to get her to bed. Right now.”
Erika looked reluctant to move. Kelly was about to say something, but instead threw up all over herself and Erika. “Ugh... okay, maybe you’ve got a point.”
“Alright,” Meredith corrected herself, “you both have gotta take a shower and THEN go to bed.” She motioned for Erika to not interrupt, adding, “She’s not herself when she’s drunk, Erika. Really. It’s like she has to say everything she’s thinking out loud and other stuff.”
Carefully, Erika helped Kelly get on her feet and shuffled towards the staircase, being extra sure to get good footing on her way up. “Oh god,” Kelly slurred, “I feel sso hawt hight now.”
Erika unconsciously swallowed spit as she clumsily opened up the shower and locked the door behind her. “Alright,” Erika meekly uttered, “Now I have to... un-un-undress you.”
As she began to take off her drunken friend’s clothes, Kelly started giggling. “Does this mean we’re going to be washing each other?”
Ten minutes later, Erika’s eyes were the size of dinner plates when she left the bathroom with Kelly, who had a ridiculous grin on her face and wasn’t wearing any pants.
Meredith and Julia both came into the area to check on them and both were flabbergasted to various degrees, Julia in shock and Meredith in awe. Julia asked it first. “Did you two... you know?”
Erika frantically shook her head and kept mouthing ‘No’, but Kelly giggled like a little schoolgirl. “I don’t feel so good.”
Meredith stayed calm and said, “Just take her to bed, okay?” Erika nodded as she immediately led Kelly into her own bedroom. With the utmost care, she lifted Kelly into the air and tucked her into her own bed.
As Kelly situated herself, she looked up at Erika. Erika stared back and found herself unable to leave. ”Has anyone ever told you you’re beautiful?”
Erika’s tongue was tied, she was so shocked. Before she could get her mind moving again, Kelly had fallen fast asleep.
Meredith was waiting for Erika outside the door. “She’ll be fine. She just needs some rest.” The Andress stepsister nodded, but stopped short of leaving the subject alone.
“Meredith... you said she says things out loud that would’ve stayed in her head when she’s drunk, right? Does being drunk make her lie?”
“...No, not that I’m aware of,” Meredith responded. “Why’d you ask?”
“Nothing,” Erika denied. “I just need to take a really cold shower.”
Meredith nodded. “Alright, we’ll all meet you downstairs.” She turned away for a second, turned back to face Erika, and said, “She really appreciates it, you know. Bringing your friends for her birthday, I mean. Kelly’s never really been able to have anyone over who didn’t try to suck up to her.”
Erika nodded as she closed the bathroom door behind her.
“Goddamn,” Fiona complained, “Took long enough for everyone to leave her alone.”
“Calm the hell down,” Jade commanded as she took out a piece of paper, “We’re about to get what we came for, so calm the hell down.” She peeked into the room and added, “We’re finally clear. Let’s go.”
The two stepsisters made their way out of Kelly’s closet, tripping over each other into her room. Fiona eyed the figure in the bed. “So it’s now or never?” Jade handed her the paper for her to read off. “Alright, gag?”
Jade pulled a ball gag labeled ‘Bitch’ out of her hoodie. “Check.”
Jade also pulled out a HD video camera and began moving a small table to mount the thing on. “Check and check.”
“Weapon of choice?” Fiona smiled as her sister pulled out a vibrator, which had already been switched on somehow. Jade slammed the device against a wall to shut it off.
“I swear, you really gotta be rough with that thing to turn it off,” Jade commented. “Must be defective.”
Erika walked out of that bathroom wearing only a bra and a pair of jeans, the clothes she’d brought for the following day in Kelly’s room. Something in her pants began to buzz as she closed the door behind her. She fished her hand into her pocket and brought out her cell phone.
“Well, hidey ho! I hear someone’s going to be a hotshot actress tomorrow!”
There was no mistaking who was behind the caller’s voice. “Georgie Daniels, is that you?”
There was a great deal of guffawing on the other end. “I’m in town to visit. Can’t make it tomorrow, though. Gotta meet Morty at the house- we both got a break from school for the next week or so. There is another showing, right?”
“Yea, the next day. But that’s the last performance, Georgie. You guys’d be cutting it pretty close.” Georgie chuckled a little less this time.
“I know. Just thought I’d let ‘ya know that I’ll be picking you up tomorrow from Kingsley’s, alright?” Erika agreed to the offer. “Obekaybee, see ‘ya later.”
Erika hung up on Georgie and put the ancient thing back in her pants. In the back of her head, she decided to check up on Kelly one more time before she returned to the movie downstairs.
When she opened the door to Kelly’s room, she wasn’t expecting to see Fiona atop of Kelly and Jade holding a vibrator with her free hand about to remove the bed sheets.
“Jade? Fiona?” Both stepsisters stopped dead in their tracks. “What the hell are you doing to Kelly?”
Fiona began stumbling for words while Jade played it cool as a cucumber. “We’re just giving Kelly Kingsley her birthday present.”
Fiona nodded, deciding to act like she was smart. “What the hell are you doing here?”
Erika’s answer was deadpan. “I’m here for the birthday party.”
Fiona stared at Jade in confusion. They hadn’t planned on a birthday party! But Jade still stayed emotionally detached. “Erika, I don’t care why you’re here, just leave us and Kelly alone for some quality time, okay?” Erika Andress stood in the doorway. She knew perfectly well what her stepsisters planned to do. But something was different this time than the hundred times before. “What’re you waiting for Erik, an invitation? Leave us alone!”
This time, Erika had a different tone in her voice; almost as if she had grown a spine. Maybe hanging out with Kelly did that to her. “No.”