There are a lot of things Irene doesn't intend to do that night, starting off with stubbing her toe on the stairs on her way up to the porch. The top step is a little taller than the others, just enough to catch her foot by surprise. She's wearing sandals in tennis-shoe weather because the sandals make her legs look better, and they offer about as much protection as the withdrawal method.
She's cursing and limping when the door opens. Some guy she vaguely recognizes cheerfully greets the friend she came with and ushers them both inside. Irene bends down to rub her foot, which really fucking hurts, and misses half the names he says as he points to everyone within introduction range.
It doesn't matter. She's only here at all because Chelsea didn't want to go alone. She doesn't need to learn anybody's name. "Sorry," she interrupts the guy, who's pointing out the upstairs and downstairs bathrooms like he's trying to score their numbers by impersonating an overeager flight attendant. "Is there somewhere I can sit down? I whacked my toe."
He leads her to a back room with a futon (which, miraculously, no one is making out on yet) and disappears once he realizes Chelsea didn't follow them. Irene sits and slips off her shoe, grateful for the solitude. There are a couple of dark blotches showing up around the base of the toe she hit. She hopes that doesn't mean it's broken.
Someone pushes the door open. "Hey," he says, sitting next to her. "Hey, hello, what's your name?"
He sounds drunk. She ignores him.
"My name is Standard Gabriel," he announces.
Irene believes him. It wouldn't make sense for it not to be true. No one trying to invent a pseudonym to sound cool would pick that one. Standard, that isn't even a name. "Where's the deluxe version?" she mumbles.
A beat too late, he cracks up. She was expecting fake flirty laughter, but he sounds genuinely amused, like somehow he's made it this far in life without anyone ever making fun of his name. Maybe he did just make it up.
Irene puts her shoe back on and tries to stand. Half a second later, she decides she would prefer to stay. She kicks the sandal back off and slumps against the back of the futon, gingerly cradling her foot in her hands.
"Hey, you okay?" asks Standard, apparently noticing her distress for the first time.
"Not really," says Irene. "Hurt my toe."
"Ooh, ouch. Can I get you something? Water, booze, maybe ask around for an Advil? I don't think these people got any of the good stuff, but I could check."
That's sweet enough that she kind of regrets brushing him off. She looks at him for the first time. He's pretty cute, but she'd rather be alone with her misery right now. "No, thanks," she says, a little more politely. "I'm just gonna stay in here for a while."
"Okay," he says agreeably and stumbles back out, latching the door behind him. Irene stares at the wall until people start poking their heads in looking for hookup space. Then she moves to a more crowded area and tucks herself into a corner.
Chelsea decides to crash there that night, which would be fine if she weren't Irene's ride. Irene tries to reason with her, then tries to borrow her car, then unhappily resigns herself to walking home. It's two miles away, and in fifty-degree weather wearing sandals and walking on a possibly-broken toe, it's going to suck.
Halfway down the block, she passes Standard getting into the driver's seat of a car and does a double-take. He definitely does not look like he's in any shape to be behind the wheel. She hesitates, but if she finds out later that he caused an accident, the guilt will never let her go. "You shouldn't be driving," she says.
"'m fine," he says and misses the ignition with his car key.
This is not terribly reassuring. "Where do you live?"
It takes him two tries to correctly name an intersection that's a lot closer to her house than they are right now. She sighs. "Give me your keys."
It hurts to drive. She tries to use her heel to press the pedals, but she's not tall enough, and twisting to use her left foot throws her off-balance. She goes back to the injured foot, gritting her teeth. At least it's not as bad as walking.
She comes up to his apartment because he offers like it's okay to say no. Most of her choices feel like they've already been made and her job is to figure out the right answer, but he asks like he's hoping, not like he's expecting.
The sex is mediocre. She can't really fault Standard for false advertising. It's missionary, boring, and he's still drunk. She draws her heels in and rolls forward onto the balls of her feet to get a better angle, but it hurts her toe too much, so she stops trying. It's okay. Mediocre is better than bad.
When he pulls out, the condom slips off. "Crap," he says and makes a grab for it. "It's okay, I got it. No spill, you're fine."
Irene believes him. It wouldn't make sense for it not to be true.
She doesn't mean to fall asleep, but she really does not want to walk home, and Standard's bed is warm enough to keep her there. Her parents are going to be a pain about it, but she doesn't think about that.
In the morning, he drives her home. He's a little more shy and a lot more pleasant when he's not drunk. Outside her house, parked in the shade, he says, "This is gonna sound a little bit crazy, but I gotta say it. I feel like we have something. Can I give you my number?"
She takes it, because it's easier that way.
"Call me, okay?" Standard says while she's getting out of the car.
Irene nods. She doesn't intend to.