Disclaimer: The following story contains references to alcohol, drugs, and other objectionable content.
The Start-of-Summer festival was held every year at the end of school, which was actually in late May, and still technically during the spring. The five neighborhoods that hosted and attended the festival were rather large, with roughly 300 houses each. However, only the younger families came, the ones with teenagers or couples under 50, and only then whoever wasn’t out of town on a business trip or vacation. There would be anywhere from 800 to 1500 people there every year, though the park where the festival was held was very large.
It was basically a brag-fest for the adults, who drank expensive wine, gossiped, and consciously ignored the fact that the teenagers were getting drunk on cheap beer, stoned on illegal drugs, and dancing inappropriately on the other side of the park, music blaring, but not too loud that parents would grow irritated. Every year, authority ignored the many breaches of law, as all the families had either connections with the police or enough money to pay for lawyers so good that the unfortunate officer to actually do their job would be, somehow, successfully sued by said family.
This year, Sara was sitting against a tree, gulping down Miller Light. Maybe if she drank enough, she could block out the world, the confusion, the party around her, the steady ache in her chest that threatened to take over at any moment. If she drank enough, maybe she wouldn’t be sad. Maybe the bruises on her shoulder and face would disappear. Maybe, when she woke up the next morning, she would have a different life, a happier life, along with the inevitable hangover.
An hour and a couple too many beers later, the small girl had thrown up once and felt too tired to move.
“Hey. You have a safe ride home?” Another girl, who was about Sara’s age and completely sober, crouched next to her. Sara hadn’t seen her before – if she had, she was too drunk to remember. Instead of replying, she leaned over and started throwing up in the grass again. The girl held back Sara’s hair, her fingers cool and gentle. When she started sobbing, the girl held her and gave her tissues, then wiped away tears and snot when it became apparent Sara couldn’t use them. After a while, when she thought Sara would be calm enough to talk, she said “Did you drive here alone?” When she nodded, the girl asked for her keys. For some reason Sara couldn’t determine, she pointed to her bag. The girl fished them out, slung it over her shoulder, and helped Sara to her feet.
“Come on, let’s get you home. Don’t worry, I moved into the same neighborhood a little while ago. I’ve seen you come and go from your house before. You don’t need to give directions.” She whispered, but Sara heard, and gratefully leaned on her as they walked through the parking lot, the girl pressing the button on the keys until the car beeped. She helped Sara in and buckled her up.
Then, the stranger drove her home.