Outside, there were padded sun loungers galore, an Olympic sized swimming pool and a sitting area with rustic style chimneas dotted all over. This was definitely a house for pool parties that went on to the early hours. She wondered if she’d get any sleep at all before they left for Europe.
‘Come on girls, I want to start getting ready for tonight. Miami here we come!’ Elle said, climbing out of the taxi at record speed.
Ciara wondered if she should warn someone before Elle got loose.
Their pub crawl – or bar bounce or whatever Gem called it – took them to hot, sweaty places full to the brim of surfers. Ciara was gutted when she didn’t get to hear at least one ‘cowabunga dude’ but stereotyping surfers on her favourite mutant turtle was probably way off.
Or maybe the assortment of cocktails they’d picked up in each bar was going to her head.
It wasn’t all bad. In the one bar they’d found with air conditioning, Elle had fluttered her eyelashes and gotten them table service, which meant they didn’t have to brave the crowds of perspiration to get a drink.
When the young bartender brought them the next round, he handed Elle a sheet. ‘For you, angel.’
Ciara grinned. ‘You seem to be attracting a lot of tweens on this holiday.’
‘Shut up!’ Elle said. ‘Anyway it’s not his number.’
‘Lemme see.’ Gem grabbed the piece of laminated paper. The excited glint in her eyes had Ciara on edge.
‘We’re so entering!’ Gem said.
‘My thoughts exactly,’ Elle agreed.
Oh no, what had they planned this time. ‘Entering what?’
Gem slapped the sheet down in front of Ciara.
Her first reaction was to laugh. They couldn’t be serious, a drinking game? They’d get ploughed by the regulars. But then she saw the grand prize being offered to the group still standing. A limited edition Gucci beach bag – masterfully structured, the most beautiful thing she’d seen with baby pink leather. And it was practical too. But that meant…
‘We’re entering,’ Elle said. ‘I want that bag.’
Ciara quickly scanned the rules. Everyone in the group entering had to buy a massive – and it really was massive – jug of either mojito or Caipirinha. The first table to finish and still be standing would get the bag – and possibly alcohol poisoning.
‘I’ll get a mix and we can share,’ Gem said, leaping off her chair.
‘Wait,’ Ciara grabbed her arm. ‘Have you two lost it completely?’
‘Dear Ciara,’ Elle said on a sigh. ‘Gucci is calling. And anyway, we’re newly ex students and we have an Irish girl on our side. This will be a walk in the park!’
‘Or a trip to the emergency room to have our stomachs pumped,’ she argued.
Gem shook free. ‘Don’t be silly. Plus the rest of the group gets a $1,000 gift card to spend in the Aventura Mall. Even you can’t say no to that! If we win, you get to keep the voucher and Elle and I can share the bag. Deal?’
Ciara bit her lip. Bloomingdales was in that mall. The most expensive thing she’d owned had come from a high street store back home. And her friends were right, she could hold her booze. But they’d been on the cocktails for a while now and a glance around at all the new people walking in, looking fresh and ready to go, didn’t help convince her this was a good idea.
‘You’re not allowed to think about this,’ Elle said. ‘Gem, go enter us before Ciara comes up with an excuse to get out of it.’
Her friend’s azure eyes were steely now, and Ciara knew there was no point in arguing. Elle pulled out her phone, tapped the screen a few times and then handed it to her. It was a list of all the lovely, lovely shops in the mall, with the lovely, lovely clothes just waiting for her to pick them.
It wasn’t like she’d be able to afford something that wasn’t on sale without the voucher. If they won this competition, she could spend and spend and spend without the guilt. Which is exactly what Elle had been thinking, handing her the worst kind of temptation.
‘Fine, I’m in. But if I end up with liver failure I’m holding you responsible,’ she said.
‘Right guys, you know the rules. Drink up as fast as you can and the first group back to the bar with their empty pitchers wins,’ the bartender said.
The crowed rumbled their excitement, while Ciara stood over the tallest, fattest jug she’d ever seen. The colours were pretty, and she hoped the limes diluted some of the rum, but the sheer size of the thing scared her.
Almost everyone had to stand up to get to the straws.
The queue for the bathroom was going to be tremendous after this. If she even made it that far. Which was very unlikely.
Gem and Elle didn’t look as put off as she was. Elle’s refusal to quit had got her far in uni, but this was something else entirely. Gem no doubt had her eyes on the prize, and she did love winning.
Maybe that would work. Keeping focused on the prize.
‘Quick, before we start we need something to remember this by!’ Elle pulled out her phone again and set it up for a picture. ‘Stand behind the glasses and strike a pose. Come on, Ciara. Smile.’
The phone flashed, making her eyes go all spotty for a second.
‘Get me, Gem!’ she handed over the phone and Gem snapped another.
‘I’m Instagraming these. Go Team Elle!’
Ciara rolled her eyes while Gem’s narrowed. Trust Elle to take over.
‘Ready, set, go!’ the bartender boomed.
Ciara did, putting the straw to her mouth and trying a steady suction while breathing through her nose. She doubted anyone could keep guzzling the freezing drinks all the way to the bottom and reckoned her strategy had a 6:2 chance of winning – considering she could handle however many units of alcohol it was packed with.
Gem had taken the guzzle approach, stopping to gasp occasionally and then get stuck back in.
Elle was keeping it steady too, but at a faster pace than Ciara. In fact, she was way behind when she glanced around the room.
She sucked up mouthful upon mouthful, trying to catch up then a searing pain stabbed behind her right eye. ‘Ow, brain freeze.’
‘I’ll knock your brain into next week if you don’t hurry up. Drink through it!’ Elle commanded.
Ciara forced herself to keep going, but the stabbing in her temple didn’t ease up. Someone retched and she looked over to see a ripped guy with bleach blond hair sucking in lung fulls of air, no doubt to stop from being sick. He didn’t succeed and she shut her eyes so his gut load of cocktail making a reappearance didn’t encourage hers to.
‘Done,’ Gem slurred, then giggled. ‘Oh dear, I’m drunk.’
Ciara felt like the floor was swaying beneath her feet and she opened her eyes before the dizzy, sick feeling kicked in. She was neck and neck with Elle and they didn’t have much to go.
‘Quick, just pick it up. It’s not heavy now,’ Gem said.
Elle did, but Ciara’s jug didn’t seem to shift much off the table.