A little party.

I'm on my second bottle of rose wine, happily lapping it up while chatting to my girlfriends who are chain-smoking and cackling beside me; re-applying my lipstick before kissing it all away and leaving loving reddish residue on my date's bristled cheek. Poppy cheery tunes are leaking out of the pristine and generally un-studenty student kitchen and into the cool crisp air - my gosh, that fabled Summers' Eve is really happening at last, it's really here! 

The courtyard area slowly then suddenly fills up with my much more streetwise peers - fashionable enough to know what constitutes 'fashionably late'. We're all suited and booted, as Gatsby'd as can be, Fitzgerald would be proud. Spats, slacks and cigars. Sequins, snazzy accessories and squealing heels. My vision blurs and speech slurs, and I wonder when we'll be leaving. I'm anxious with anticipation, wanting to see my beloved SU when we're both dolled up for the night. I've worked the Christmas and Summer Balls before; in December I was keeping an eye on the dancing talking trees, and in May I was greeting all the lucky students with an 'aloha!' and a flower lei. This is my first off-duty paid-for ball. 

Pre-drinks are often (nine times out of ten, in fact) my favourite part of a night out. It usually gets to the point where everyone's leaving, and hesitation seeps in through the whiskey-flavoured fog that's crammed into my brain over the past couple of hours; hours spent lolling on sofas laughing at nothing or engaging in games such as Ring Of Fire or Fingers, generally feeling content and safe, secure in a friends' front room. I like pre-drinks, and I'm always aware that the night usually goes downhill afterwards, which is why I sometimes have been known to duck out early, sneak home to my laptop and fall asleep with New Girl buzzing away in the background, while everyone else is out on the town painting it red or whatever. I leave while the getting's good. Before the drama starts. I'm smart like that. Well, smart and a scaredy-cat. A selective introvert, maybe. 
Not tonight, though. Tonight I intend to get royally merry and enjoy all the SU has to offer. 
After a stumbling walk to the venue that rivals my eighteenth birthday party and the whole vomit-on-the-doorstep fiasco, or a night in Hastings with my oldest friends tumbling out of Spoons and running through the cold night in our scary heels (worn especially to intimidate a shorter gentleman who had broken my heart just two weeks before) to Tin Tins for Jagerbombs and undoubtedly more sloshing and slipping... We eventually make it through Poets Way and down the hill to the top of the Student Union. 

'Hey Sammy! Do we have to queue? She has a ticket and-' he puffs out his chest, my super-important ultra-exclusive date; 'I'm full time staff.' He winks. We get around the queue that's snaking all the way back to the parked buses and the bottom of the hill to St Lizzie's halls of residence. I wonder how many Freshers are here; almost every third year I know said they were going, and a smattering of second years... I think third years should get priority, purely due to our nostalgic ways. Throughout the night I'm anticipating many drunken claps on the shoulder and clumsy hugs; best friends forever, let's stay in touch, what are your plans? Oh, God. The thought of conversations about the future or saying proper goodbyes to friends of three years who have come to mean so much to me... It makes me want to turn around and bolt back up Romsey Road, throwing my shoes away and screaming 'everything is always going to be the SAME!' in the process.
But we enter the SU food hall with a wink and a jerk of the head from Sammy, my favourite security guy, and the sight is so stunning I stop and forget all my hesitance. I look down over the railings and see an ocean of camera flashes and perfect hair 'dos, I hear laughter rising, and the swell of a band that's playing just for me. I get some waves as the people below spot me arriving. I wave back, as regally as I can, frozen in my royalty, wanting to keep in this moment in my pocket for later; for when I'm getting job rejections, for when I'm cleaning out my dusty dirty student house ready for the new tenants, or even when I'm next at another person's pre-drinks feeling anxious and invisible and worthless. 
I suddenly decide to make the most of tonight. To have an absolute ball. The way Gatsby would have wanted.

After all, a little party never killed nobody.


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