Dad picked the perfect time to go out of town. Of course, I know he chooses this night on purpose. Every year since Mom’s been gone, he’s bailed on the anniversary. It works for me though. What am I saying? It more than works. Dad’s not the only one who knows how to find a distraction. He’s not the only one who needs it either.
Party. My house. Beer. Girls. Yeah, I’m definitely down with that.
I hike across our kitchen and start opening bags of ice and packing them around the keg. My brother Derrick taught me the trick of putting a keg in an old trashcan, and it works perfectly. As ice rattles against the thick plastic, I let myself wonder what Derrick’s doing today. I mean, I’m sure he’s partying because that’s what the Gibson Boys do. I learned from the best. But I can’t help wondering if he remembers what today is. If he plans on having an extra beer to wash the memory down like I will. Or maybe college has changed him enough that he’ll drown himself in work like Dad does.
I shake my head. Nah, this is Derrick. My brother isn’t a sellout.
I jump when something slams into my kitchen door. “Open up! It’s the Po-lice.”
My heart only skips one beat before I realize who it is. Dumbass. I open the kitchen door and shake my head at my best friend Paul.
“The cops don’t say po-lice.” His lame attempt at a joke slips my mind when I spot the brown paper bags in his hand. “Nice. Your hookup came through? What’d you get?”
He pushes his way into the kitchen, setting the bags down on the marble counter. “Two bottles of Tequila, two of Vodka, and a couple of Rum. That’s all I could score.”
My lips stretch into a smile. “That’s all we’ll need. Cooler’s in the corner. Put ‘em in there. I don’t want anyone in the fridge. My dad’s only anal about certain stuff, but the fridge is one of them. He’ll notice if the hummus is scooted over a quarter of an inch.”
“He may notice, but he won’t say anything.”
Which is true. Dad’s always been pretty laid back when it comes to me and Derrick. “Still, it’s his thing, so I don’t want anyone to screw it up.”
My brother and I may have always known how to get our way with Dad, but we’re also a team, the three of us—the Gibson Boys against the world. I don’t know. Dad used to joke around like that when we were younger. I used to think it was cool, but now I know what’s up. He’s trying to focus on the good. He doesn’t want us to realize what we’re missing. Or maybe it’s really that he needs to forget what he’s missing. Or maybe I’m over-thinking stuff way too much today. I need to chill.
“The flyers went out?”
Paul nods his buzzed head. “You doubt me? Of course. This museum you call a house will be packed. Tonight’s going to go down in history as the best no-costumes-allowed Halloween party Portland has ever seen.”
Everyone has costume parties for Halloween. This year we decided costumes would be an automatic ticket out of here.
Paul pops his knuckles. “Museum. Mansion. Castle. Mall. Whatever the hell you want to call it.”
“I don’t care what you call my house, but I do want to call you a dumbass.”
Okay, so my house is big. All Dad does is work, remember? But the rich jokes get old after a while. Plus, it’s not like Paul’s mom isn’t loaded.
He walks back over to me. “Come on, Dylan. Stop your whining and get’cha ass ready. We’re partying in T-minus-one hour, and I have it on good authority that Chastity Edwards is coming just for you. And that girl is anything but—chase? Chaste? Whatever the hell the word is, she’s not that.”
With laughter rolling off me at Paul and his lame sayings, I almost forget what today is. Forget Dad’s off doing God knows what, forget to wonder what my increasingly MIA brother’s up to. All I want to do tonight is have a good time.
Music is pumping through the speakers, vibrating my heart and probably the walls of my house, too. It’s The Black Keys, and I can practically feel every beat as it thumps through Paul’s cousin’s sound system. He’s nineteen, I think, and wants to be a DJ. All I know is he’s the guy we always go to when we need someone to man the music. There’s not a lot of people I would trust with that job because the last thing I want when I’m drinking is music that makes me feel like I’m going to puke. Jeremy knows his shit when it comes to good tunes.
I down the rest of the beer in my cup. I’m short two vital things for making this night kick the kind of ass I need it to kick—my drink and a girl. It’s time I find them both. Stat.
“Hey, Dylan. What’s up?”
“Awesome party, D.”
“Dude, your parties kick ass,” people toss at me.
As I weave my way through what I know has to be ninety-nine percent of our senior class, half the rest of the school, and probably public-school kids, too, I yell my responses. “Nothing. Thanks and thanks.” I have that happy-buzz, tingling feeling coursing through my body.
There’s a fine art to drinking that a lot of people don’t understand. I don’t want to make it sound like I’m a lush or anything. Sure, I party every once in a while, but who doesn’t? I just happen to be one of the smarter ones who knows what I’m doing. I don’t want to end up drinking so much I’m even more depressed than I was going into the night–or praying to the porcelain god.
Once I get my happy buzz, I slow down. Not enough to lose said buzz but enough that I don’t turn into a drunk, teenage girl. Have you seen drunk girls? They always start with a girly argument. Then they shift to crying, then hugging, and then to the bizzaro-world of confessions of BFF love.
Yeah, I don’t claim to understand girls, but I like them. A lot. Even if I don’t trust them. Which leaves me with the tough job of hopefully finding one who, like me, only does the happy-buzz thing.
Pushing through the kitchen doors, I hear, “D! Come ’ear.”
Come ear? Oh, here. Paul’s still learning how to keep the happy buzz. He’s in the corner of my kitchen. Becky’s sitting on our expensive-ass table, and Paul’s standing between her legs. Bingo. Chastity is next to them, a pair of pants painted onto her long legs and a shirt that shows her belly-button ring. Damn. That’s new. And hot. I definitely would have known about the piercing sooner if it wasn’t a recent addition.
Her blonde hair is all curly today, like she did something different to it, and she’s got tons of makeup on. I fight a groan. I’m not really into the whole makeup thing. Makes girls look too fake, but how do you say that without sounding like a dick?
“Hey, Dylan,” Chastity says as I walk up to her. “You look good.”
Now, this is the part where I know I’m going to come off sounding too cocky, but I know I look good. I’m wearing my favorite jeans, my new shoes and a black button up shirt left open. Underneath is a nice, white shirt that on its own wouldn’t do the trick. Simple, but effective.
“Thanks. You, too.” I step up beside her, showing I want to be close to her, but waiting for her to give me some kind of clue she wants the same thing. Even though according to Paul she’s here for me, he’s been known to get his lines crossed from time to time, and I don’t want to assume anything.
Chastity steps closer, nudging my arm with hers. Her mouth is next to my ear, so close I feel her breath. “Thanks for inviting me. It’s good to see you.”
Paul did not cross his lines tonight. He had it dead on. Before I know it, my cup is full again, and I have my arm draped over Chastity’s shoulder. Paul’s doing what he does best, which is perform, making fun of this dance he saw, and we’re all laughing at him. All the thoughts from earlier are so gone from my head now. I’ve let them all find their way to the back of my brain to think about another day.
All of a sudden, Paul slips mid-dance in some beer on the floor. My head drops back, and I bust up when he almost falls. When my eyes are forward again, I see her. I’m going to blame it fully on the alcohol, because what else can it be—but I suddenly get a little dizzy. My breath speeds up. She has long, blonde hair. Not super blonde, kind of a dark blonde, and big green eyes. She’s curvy, and I can’t help but stare. I don’t know who this girl is, but she’s freaking gorgeous in a totally natural way.
She takes a step and then another one, heading our way. And she’s scowling at me. Maybe not at me in particular, but at the whole scene. She’s mastered what I like to call The Look. It’s when girls crinkle their nose, tighten their mouths and raise their eyebrows in a holier than thou way. I’m not even sure they know they do it, but every. Single. Girl. I’ve ever met has The Look in her arsenal.
It shouldn’t look good on her, but even through the scowl she’s hot. She keeps walking forward, and soon she’s standing in front of us, arms crossed and giving me The Look face to face.
Forget that I’m standing next to the beer. Forget that the door to outside is right next to us. For some reason, I feel like she came over here for me. And according to “the look,” she hates me. I will some witty comment to come out of my mouth. I’m usually good in a clinch. I can pull a comeback or a sarcastic comment out of thin air. Right now, I have nothing.
All I can say is, “What?”
How do I even answer that question?
He’s standing with a plastic cup full of beer, and his arm draped around some girl. It’s such a possessive way to hold someone. Like, your body is pressed against me, making me feel all desirable, and I’m using you for an armrest. Nice.
He actually takes a drink while his arm is still resting on her shoulders, and while he’s still staring at me.
Wow, he has totally straight, white teeth. And nice hair. Touchable black hair—all messy, but still perfect. Then I let my eyes fall down. God. Of course. He probably spent more than two hundred dollars on his stupid jeans. It’s probably his dumb party. And his freaking mansion.
He’s still staring. I must be scowling.
The girl under his arm gives me a once-over and looks away. Right. I’m no competition ‘cause my jeans aren’t two sizes too small. Whatever.
“Someone said there were sodas over here? Fridge maybe?” I reach toward the handle.
“Don’t touch that.” He almost, almost lets go of the girl with the skin-tight jeans, but not quite. Where would he put his arm?
I hold my hands up. “Fine, whatever.” Guess he’s anal about his fridge.
“On the porch,” he says from behind me.
I don’t look back—just wave to say thanks and head for the glass door. When I step outside, I can finally breathe. It’s like as soon as I get into a huge group of people like this, I don’t know where to put my hands. These aren’t my people. My people are with my boyfriend, James, in a biology lab across town. Not in overpriced, over-tight jeans getting wasted.
“I can’t believe I got talked into this,” I say under my breath.