I wake up with a mother of all migraines, like lightning, hammering my brain. My mouth feels like it’s full of cotton balls. Everything hurts as if I got hit by a car. Was I?

I groan and open my eyes.

Above me, a humidity covered surface that looks a lot like a visor. I move my hand to swipe it open only to realize that I am wearing an astronaut suit. 

What?!

I sit up as if someone yanked me up and the fast motion makes my already queasy stomach roll.

Quickly, I open the visor and lean to the side to throw up.

Half digested olives and what must have once been a hot dog but now looks like a chewed and red mess, ends up by the surfboard with blue and white flowers that I am currently sitting on. 

I wipe my mouth and try to spit out the horrible after-taste. Did I spend the whole night sleeping on a surfboard?

Double what?!

I tear the stupid helmet off my foggy-feeling head and throw it away. 

It lands far in the distance with a clunk and disappears into the softly swaying wheat that looks like an ocean. I am in the middle of an open field with no footprints around me.

Triple what?!

Sweat breaks out on my face and I jump to my feet to get out of the astronaut suit that is getting hotter by the minute as the late morning sun bears down on me with no clouds to shade. 

My stomach rolls again but this time I only dry heave. 

I pull at the suit, jumping on one bare foot until it’s off of me. The poor thing is beyond repair – full of tears and smeared with dirt. Not to mention the stink. Yuck!

I straighten and another realization hits – I am wearing a skimpy, pink bikini that barely covers the important bits and proudly showcases my athletic body. 

A soft breeze tangles with my long black hair and a feeling of being utterly lost washes over me. How did I get here? What happened?

At first, hazy images float to the surface of my mind. Then I remember. I close my eyes and groan in shame, reliving the night before.

It all started with a highschool graduation party. One that we should have had in May but ended up having in December, Thank you COVID-19! and all of us went a little crazy as if we had to party to compensate for all those months of being cooped up and suffering through virtual classes. (Can you imagine spending a whole summer locked in a hot apartment, in freakin’ Imperial Valley, California? Yes? Well, it was much worse than what you just imagined.)

The party was at George’s. No surprise there. Every party, at least the best ones, happened at the too-handsome, lanky and blonde George’s place. Mostly because his parents were shamelessly rich –  something about discovering the screwdriver–not the drink but the tool–a long time ago that made them billionaires to last for many generations and some. I didn’t personally experience any of these infamous parties, I skipped all of them due to studying hard to achieve my dream. I really wish I would have skipped yesterday’s party too.

George’s house laughed and spit at the moniker of “house” with its majestic and sprawling architecture that made it look like a palace. A palace with three outdoor pools, two indoor pools (because that makes sense), eleven bathrooms (again, logical right?) and four bedrooms, the size of my mom’s whole apartment.

The theme was – dress for your future job. So, it was natural I picked the astronaut suit – my dream and for what I fought for so hard. I wore that suit to so many Halloweens that no one had anything new to mock me with. My mom’s amazing mending skills ensured that it always looked new and ready, but now the torn thing laid crumpled by my bare feet. I have no doubt there is no saving it. The only thing I had to buy was the damn helmet that I just threw away. How am I going to explain this to Mom?

I bury my face into my hands and shake my head as more memories bombard me from yesterday.

So stupid! So stupid! So stupid! I mutter over and over. Not the part of wearing the suit, but what came after it. Hence the olives.

I entered and won the Most Margarita Chugged Down competition. Me – who never drinks, doesn’t-even-like-alcohol-me and I did it all because George promised a kiss after.

Idiot! Idiot! Idiot!

The next thing I remember–and frankly I am not sure whether I got the kiss or not– was George and a few of us jumping into his helicopter and flying over the wheat fields by George’s 1,000 acre property. The very field that was the eyesore and thorn in his parents’ life but try as they might, they could never buy that field, no matter how much money they offered.

Then someone lifted up a blue and white surfboard that was jammed between the seats and the long door of the helicopter. The helicopter that must have once been the property of the army because it could have fit a small car inside with room to spare.

Then someone else rummaged in the back only to find black bungee jumping ropes. 

Oh, no don’t stop reading now! It gets worse from there. Much worse.

Then another someone managed to wrap, yes I said wrapped, the surfboard with the bungee cord, and attached it to a hook by the sliding door.

George flashed a thousand-watt smile at me and I volunteered (again!), earning an impressed look from him and applause from the others. Why George’s opinion mattered, I have no idea! I mean I never liked him before and I always thought him to be too arrogant and spoiled to begin with. It must have been the alcohol playing a matchmaker. Ugh!

So there I was, in my astronaut suit, holding onto the surfboard in the open hatch, while we hovered above the field in the middle of the freakin’ night!

And yes – I jumped. 

I jumped and I managed to pull the surfboard behind me when the ropes completely unfurled four feet from the ground. 

I fell straight down, lying on the surfboard, and got the air knocked out of my lungs. (I know it sounds improbable but it must have been my Guardian Angel’s last final act of saving me from myself. Well, sort of.)

I must have passed out after that and was lucky I didn’t throw up in my sleep or I would not be alive, standing here. My mom would have killed me if I died.

Suddenly, a loud barking of a dog rips the quiet air. A large brown shape rushes toward me on four legs. Behind him lopes a tall, handsome and wide-shouldered guy in his early twenties, wearing blue jeans and white T-shirt over white sneakers.

When they reach me, he commands his dog to stand down. He doesn’t look winded from the running and I can’t help but be impressed by that. 

His eyes widen as if just realizing my lack of proper clothing – though it is getting more proper as the afternoon’s temperature rises beyond seventy degrees. 

He tries his best not to ogle outright and fails. I can’t fault him – I did push my chest out a bit to be fair. Besides, I don’t see George rushing in to rescue me. The spoiled brat!

The guy swipes a hand through his short black hair, clears his throat and says, “What…um what… I mean… What are you doing here?” He stumbles over the words in a charming way, and even blushes. 

I smile and say, “It’s a long story,” and extend my right hand, “I’m Courtney.”