Tequila Sunrise

Posted on: May 8, 2014

“I am so goddamned hungover,” Nicole moans.

The thin queen mattress shudders from her restlessness, and Cheyenne groans in response. “Ohmigod, were you still asleep? I thought you were awake!”

“Mmmph,” Cheyenne manages.

She feels Nicole wiggle closer, her body heat radiating through a thin camisole. Nicole’s body brushes against hers and Cheyenne blushes. She wants to roll over and cup Nicole’s round face in her hands, kiss her and say, “I have been madly in love with you since orientation.”

Cheyenne swallows the words before they can escape. Along with their bitterness, she tastes stale tequila and beer. The room smells like old vomit and sweat, and Cheyenne concentrates on keeping her stomach settled. The fantasy yields to a more practical reality: sobriety.

Small miracle, Cheyenne thinks when she sees the dark shades drawn. The light might repel too many shadows and illuminate too many secrets, like desire, hunger, and lust.

“I think I’m still drunk,” Cheyenne croaks. The room spins around her and she closes her eyes.

“Lucky,” Nicole pokes Cheyenne in the ribs. “You can still fight it off.”


“The hangover,” Cheyenne doesn’t need to open her eyes to know Nicole is rolling hers.

“I thought that was like, an urban legend.”

“Think of it as an experiment. When people ask us what we did on spring break, we can tell them we hypothesized some metabolic shit.”

Nicole doesn’t know a lot about science, but she does know booze.

Cheyenne rolls out of the thin bed they share and stumbles toward the dresser, decorated with carved initials and school slogans by previous budget-conscious occupants.

“I would drink a gallon of water if I could,” Nicole continues from the bed.

“Is it gallons here?” Cheyenne paws through the drawer until she finds the tiny plastic bottle. She shakes it, and the rattle comforts and torments.

“Why wouldn’t it be?” Nicole asks.

“Metric system, right?” Cheyenne shoves the chair away from the mini fridge. The door swings open, and the bottle of water in front of her seems to glow.

“I don’t remember any of that,” Nicole pauses, “but whatever. I would drink a metric fuckton of water if I could.”

“Let me take these and you can have some,” Cheyenne pops three Advil into her mouth and takes a huge swig of water.

The burn hits her tongue first. When the artificial cotton candy flavor registers, she coughs vodka everywhere.

“Was that the vodka?” Nicole laughs.

Cheyenne looks over and Nicole’s camisole has shifted. The neckline is low, too low, and Cheyenne sees more of her left breast, the shape and tint of a nipple. She no longer thinks of sobriety. Fantasies conquer her concentration.

The night before takes advantage of this lapse.

The cloying sweetness of the cotton candy and the burn of the vodka commingle with the stagnant taste of old alcohol. The rush of sickness overwhelms her, and Cheyenne scrambles over a haphazard tower of luggage and a pile of skintight dresses and heels.

After excavating water bottles from the luggage and binge-eating their granola bar stash, Nicole and Cheyenne clean up and escape the hotel room. The sun is too bright, and Cheyenne worries that she didn’t apply enough sunscreen. Her pale peach skin has a reddish tint to it. Nicole’s skin shimmers bronze, contrasting with a microscopic turquoise bikini and oversized white cotton shirt. Cheyenne risks a glance at her cleavage.

Nicole angles a floppy hat over straight dark hair. Paired with the shirt and an obnoxious scarf tied around her thin waist, Nicole looks like a sexy pirate.

“Beach or resort pool?” Nicole asks.

“Beach is cheaper,” Cheyenne says.

“And creepier. I bet those Sig guys we met last night will be at the resort.”

Cheyenne doesn’t want to ask. Admitting she blacked out is embarrassing. The thought of hearing about some hot dudes Nicole wants to flirt with makes Cheyenne cringe.

When they enter the lobby, Nicole glides over to a couple of guys sitting in wicker chairs next to a pink marble column. She perches on the arm of one chair. Its occupant strokes her thigh with disturbing familiarity.

“Feeling okay, Cheyenne?” The other man stands up and offers her his chair.

“Sure, I guess,” Cheyenne says. The guy has a face like a ferret and disproportionately small hands. Cheyenne remains where she is and stifles a laugh.

“Spring break, right?” The guy shrugs his shoulders. “I don’t want to assume anything, but just in case - I’m Adrian and this is Tyler.”

Tyler gives a thumbs-up without looking over. Nicole monopolizes his attention, and he hers.

“Nice to meet you - again,” Cheyenne runs a hand through her long black hair and offers Adrian a wan smile.

“We were gonna lounge by the pool for the afternoon,” Nicole chirps. “Wanna join?”

“We’ll get changed and meet you there,” Adrian responds. “There’s a bar in the pool. I’ll take a margarita if you’re up for splitting it, or cerveza if you aren’t.”

Adrian pronounces it “cerveeeza” and Cheyenne wants to punch him.

“Aren’t they great?” Nicole gushes at the pool. Cheyenne leaves Nicole with her tanning lotion, which smells like lighter fluid and cinnamon. Less sexy, more pirate, Cheyenne thinks.

“I’ll be at the bar,” Cheyenne gags. She adjusts the waistband of her bikini so the tiny Greek letters on her hipbone peek out.

Cheyenne wades into the lukewarm pool and orders a Dark & Stormy. She leans against the counter and brainstorms ways to salvage spring break with Nicole and ditch the frat boys.

“You’re in Kappa?” Slender fingers graze Cheyenne’s hip, then linger. A petite Asian girl with a choppy red bob inspects her tattoo. The girl raises her arm and displays an elaborate one of her own, complete with the same Greek letters. “Hurt like a bitch on my ribcage, but it makes me feel so badass. I’m Whitney.”

“Cheyenne,” Cheyenne traces the interwoven knots down Whitney’s side. They are linked by their sorority tattoos and their inability to stop touching them.

“Tequila sunrise, please,” Whitney’s fingers brush against the length of Cheyenne’s stomach as she turns to the bartender. Both women know it is not an accident.

“You know what? Make that two,” Cheyenne smiles.

Written by: Erin Justice
Photograph by: Hannah Chertock

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