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Critiquing the Problematic Virtue Chapter 7:
Megan Lang navigated the throng of people in the kitchen to reach her backpack, which held her cache of wine coolers. Today she was wearing her new pink button-up top with her favorite jeans, and the black belt that matched her black bracelet and earrings. The shirt revealed a fair amount of her new tattoo, and she took some small thrill displaying it to everyone. Or, rather, displaying some of it. Maybe the new guy she was dating, Chris, would get to see it all tonight. Not a certainty, but she was leaning in that direction.
Also at the party tonight was Chris’ brother, Derek Wiles, who everybody just called ‘Wiles’ for some reason. Chris Wiles was “Chris,” but Derek Wiles was “Wiles.” No one seemed to know why. Derek Wiles was in the living room, leaning against the wall with his hands in his pockets, one knee bent and his foot flat against the wall. He appeared shrouded in darkness with his tan skin and black jeans and hoodie, like a loiterer on a street corner, waiting for something to happen. She did not know him all that well, but after spending a brief amount of time with both him and his brother, she suspected that underneath the gangster drug dealer exterior lived a scared animal. Or maybe he was just an asshole.
Wiles waved her over. “Lang,” he said, “pretend that you didn’t just see me. Chris is here and he wants to surprise you.”
“Gotcha,” she said.
“You’re looking nice this evening,” Wiles said, glancing up and down her body. He gave Megan a sleazy one-sided grin with that look in his eye, and she smiled in return, but inwardly she cringed. She had grown accustomed to the boys who gave her those looks, with their contrived sincerity. Underneath that, they all thought the same thing. No matter what pleasantries came from their mouths, their eyes inventoried her different body parts as various cuts of meat. Everyone wanted something.
“Thanks,” she said, then pivoted on her heels and walked away from him. Even with his baggy-jeans, dark hoodie, and sleazy grin, Derek Wiles was cute. Maybe his asshole-ish quality drew her in, to some extent. Chris, however, had some of the same bad-boy thing, but seemed somehow genuine, and not so lewd and disgusting. Derek Wiles seemed more the type she used to go for, but she intended to change that. No longer a naïve college freshman, this year she would break the cycle.
After retrieving a fresh wine cooler, she pushed back through the crowd so she could get outside to where Whitney, Kellsie, and Becca waited for her. The house population swelled outside. She made her way through the cloud of cigarette smoke from the crowd gathered on the back porch, to the three girls standing in their circle.
Kellsie had on a similar pink top, which on some days might have irritated Megan, but not so much tonight. Kellsie sported that Boulder thing of wearing a skirt over the top of jeans. It must be a Boulder thing, because no one she knew in high school back in Oklahoma ever dressed like that.
Not sold on Kellsie and Whitney, she for sure did not trust them. Kellsie and Whitney were the kind of bred-for-sorority girls that Megan detested. She had only joined this circle because she had been friends with Becca since they met in the dorms last year.
Kellsie nodded towards the black snake of visible tattoo jutting from Megan’s top. “When did you get the ink?”
“Oh, I got this part done just a few days ago,” Megan said. “But it’s been a long time coming. I’ve planned it and been drawing it for a while. I Just had to work up the cash and the pain tolerance.”
Then Whitney lifted up the sleeve of her shirt, revealing the all-too-common tribal armband around her upper arm. “I got this on spring break last year,” Whitney said. “It hurt like a bitch, but the guy who did it was, like, totally awesome. He gave me this huge discount.”
Megan smirked. Whitney did not impress her.
“Does anybody know whose house this is?” Whitney said.
“I think the guy’s name is Miguel.” Becca said. “Megan knows him, don’t you?”
Megan shrugged. “Not really, I’ve met him. Big thuggish Mexican. I know a friend of his, but I don’t actually know him.”
Whitney and Kellsie studied Megan, probably not sure what to make of her. Megan assumed that associating with large, thuggish Mexicans was not an activity they might have listed under hobbies on their college applications.
For a change of pace, Megan turned her head to scan the back yard for familiar faces. At first, it seemed just the usual array of keg party people, but then she saw a tall blond boy, a shorter longhaired boy, and an attractive brunette girl close to the door. She had never seen any of them before, and longhairs were not her type, but something about the scruffy brunette grabbed her. He had not, so far, seen her. She turned her head back to her friends, while trying to steal glimpses out of the corner of her eye. The brunette girl blabbered noisily about somebody jumping off the roof.
The brown-haired one trigged attraction in Megan, but not in the conventional ways; not anything like Chris, who was muscular, tan, and tall. The boy who caught her eye looked unsophisticated, and not sharply dressed, but even at this distance had some kind of definite energy. She considered staring at him, thinking that she might eventually get his attention, but he appeared busy talking to the blond kid and the brunette girl. I’ll bet that’s his girlfriend.
In the middle of that thought, a pair of strong arms encircled her from behind. They belonged to Chris, or at least she hoped they did. Her companions all turned their attention to this well-built man standing behind Megan. Kellsie blushed, which thrilled Megan.
“Surprise,” Chris whispered into her ear. His hands gently squeezed her hips, which excited her, but Megan kept her cool. His hands slid from her hips to her arms, then up to her shoulders, massaging them. Chris always cut little holes near the wrists of his long sleeve shirts for thumb loops. So cute.
“Too late,” she said, “I saw your brother inside. I knew you were here.”
“Who is this?” Kellsie said.
“Hi ladies, Chris Wiles,” he said, extending a hand. Always such a gentleman. The girls all smiled at his biceps that seemed to want to pop out of his shirt. He was Army ROTC and in impeccable shape, and Megan had wondered for a couple weeks what all he might be able to do with those powerful arms. Tonight could be the night to find out.