I’m sitting passenger of Adam’s truck, staring up at a mansion that’s already crowded with Arden Prep students. Adam wasn’t kidding when he said that Olivia had a huge house. The fact that she lives in the middle of the country is probably the only reason she hasn’t had the cops called on her yet. The music is so loud that I swear I can see the house shaking and the drunken teenagers are louder.
“You ready?” Adam asks, his hand already on the door handle.
I nod and shed my jacket. I shove my phone in my back pocket and step down onto the cracked black top. I instantly hear someone call Adam’s name. My friend waves at the person, but doesn’t say hi back. He walks next to me, a bright smile on his lips.
When we step into the house, I’m immediately overwhelmed. I used to go to parties every weekend back in my old life. I thrived off them. Somehow, it was different here. The crowd and noise gave me anxiety. Every time someone yelled or bumped into me, I jumped.
“You alright?” Adam leans in closer to me so that I can hear him.
I nod, forcing a smile on my lips. “Just not a huge fan of crowds.”
Adam places a reassuring hand on my lower back, “Let me get you something to drink.”
I watch him make his way throw the sea of people to the kitchen. I can see him pour two drinks into a pair of red solo cups. He quickly finds me again, handing me one of the cups. I sniff it before I bring it to my lips.
“It’s a fuzzy navel, barely any alcohol in it.” He tells me, taking a swig, of whatever is in his cup. He notices how I look at him and laughs. “Mine’s only orange juice, want a taste?”
I shake my head, “I trust you. I was just making sure you weren’t being stupid.”
“Not with you in the car.” He promises.
I notice Olivia then, swinging her hips wildly as she makes her way through the crowd. She’s carrying a tray of Jell-O shots in her hands. She’s wearing a sequined mini dress that just about shows all of her assets. A pair of knee high boots are on her feet. Her makeup is so heavily caked on and dark that I can barely see the color of her eyes. Her hair is pulled up into an elegant pony tail. She looks like she belongs in a night club, not a high school party.
She stops at the front of the living room where a makeshift DJ is playing around with two giant speakers. The DJ hands her a mic and instantly shuts off the music. I hear groans across the sea of people, but they die down once Olivia clears her throat.
“Welcome, Arden Prep, elite!” She screams into the microphone. “You’re the best of the best!” The crowd cheers. “Now, I only have one rule tonight, and if you follow that than it’s going to be a rocking night! There’s a handful of trustworthy faces around here wearing a bright pink bracelet. You guys, raise your hands.” Half a dozen people put their hands in the air. “These are the designated drivers. They each are passing around a bowl. Everyone’s keys should go into a bucket! When the party ends, I’ll determine if you’re sober enough to drive.”
I might hate Olivia with a fiery passion, but I respect her right now. She might be dumb in all other aspects of life, but what she’s doing right now is incredibly smart. I should applaud her for making sure no one here gets behind the wheel drunk.
I watch as everyone loads their keys into a bucket. Adam doesn’t protest either even though he already said he wasn’t drinking. Once Olivia is sure that everyone’s keys got put into a basket, she lets out a cry of excitement into the microphone. The crowd goes wild. “Alright, let’s get this party started! DJ pump up those tunes!” The music starts up again and everyone around me starts dancing again.
Olivia’s eyes scan the crowd and instantly fall on me. She gives me a wave and a bright smile, before making her way through the crowd towards me. A few people take a Jell-O shot as she passes.
“Greer, so glad you could make it!” She yells over the music. She picks a blue Jello shot off the tray and thrusts it under my nose. “They’re my secret recipe, try one!”
I watch as someone else takes a Jell-O shot from the tray and downs it in one gulp. I deem them safe and take the small cup from her. She smiles as I bring it to my lips. It surprisingly tastes good and I can barely taste the alcohol in it.
“Have fun, Greer!” She says to me as she leaves.
Adam stares around at us for a moment before taking my hand, “Let’s dance!”
I agree and we step out into the makeshift dance floor.
I’m not a drinker, let’s just get that out of the way first.
Back in my old life, I always had either soda or water. I prided myself on being smarter than every other drunken, hormonal teenager at the parties I attended. Yet, here I was taking Jell-O shots and drinking a fuzzy navel.
I can already feel the effects the tiny amount of alcohol I consumed has given me. I’m giddy and if I move too fast, the room spins around me. Adam seems to share in my giddiness, but he hasn’t been drinking. His hands are on my waist as we dance to the music. He has a bright smile plastered across his face. We’re both sweating.
I finally tell Adam that I have to sit down and he leads me off into the den. There’s a couple of people seated inside talking, most of them are couples. Adam sits us down on the couch and rests his head back against the couch.
“Are you having fun?” He asks me, sounding breathless.
I nod quickly, “I am, actually.”
He turns his head to study me, “Was it a drunk driver that killed your parents?”
The question comes out of nowhere and causes my heart to stall. Even though Leo had drilled me with the cover story of my parents’ death, I wasn’t ready to answer the question.
“Wow, I really wish I can blame that on the alcohol.” He says with wide eyes. “I can’t believe I just asked you that. Of course, you wouldn’t want to talk about it.”
I shake my head, clear my throat, and give him a tight-lipped smile. “It wasn’t a drunk driver.”
Leo said that a drunk driver would cause too much suspicion. He said that people would be more likely to investigate the story. Although, if someone googled my parents’ name they’d find a fake news story about what happened. Someone involved in my case made sure that no one would ever be able to see what really happened to them.
“It was raining and my dad lost control of the car.” I explained, sadness seeping into my voice. Anyone else would think my sadness came from remembering that night. Instead, it came from having to lie to everyone about what really happened to them.
“Were you in the car?” He asks.
I shake my head, “I was at home.”
“I’m really sorry, Greer.” He rests a reassuring hand on my shoulder and gives it a gentle squeeze.
“Thanks.” I tell him.
Silence envelopes us now. Unintentionally, Adam had made things awkward. I didn’t want anyone asking about my parents or my life for that matter. That meant having to lie to them even more than I already am.
Adam stands to his feet a moment later and shakes his empty cup, “I’m going to get a refill, want one?”
I shake my head no. I don’t want to add alcohol to the mix right now. My small buzz is gone and I don’t want to replace it. I watch my friend disappear into the throng of dancing bodies. A minute later, I’m starting to feel uncomfortable sitting amongst the couples that are making out around me.
I leave the den and spot the back door instantly. I need some fresh air. I push past people that are too busy with their alcohol to care about me. Once the night air hits me, I immediately feel better. I shut my eyes and take in a deep breath.
Olivia’s back yard is even more beautiful than her house. There’s an in-ground pool with a hot tub attached. A fire pit is blazing hot and someone is playing guitar with a crowd of people. I make my way onto the foot path that leads further into her back yard. There’s no one else as I get deeper towards the trees.
When I reach the end there’s a swing hanging from a tree. I smile and take my seat on the wooden board. I push my feet off the ground and it propels me into the air. I would’ve killed for a swing like this when I was growing up.
Suddenly, someone’s hands grab the swing and brings me to a stop. I get up from seat and spin around to face them. It’s a boy that I’ve seen around school. He’s wearing an Arden Prep lettermen jacket with the name “Jason Peters” stitched across the front. He gives me a smile that makes my stomach feel queasy. When he moves towards me, I can tell he’s had too much to drink.
“What are you doing out here by yourself?” His words slur as he takes another unsteady step towards me.
I step back, even though I’m a hundred percent positive I could take him in his drunken state. “I was just waiting for someone.” The lie is easy. Maybe if Jason thinks I have someone coming to meet me, then he’ll leave me alone. I don’t like the way he’s looking at me.
Jason looks over his shoulder and sees no one coming our way. “Doesn’t look like they’re coming.”
I cross my arms over my chest and stare him down, “They’ll be here any second.”
“A boyfriend?” Jason questions.
“Yeah, he’s big.” That lie was easier. “Works out twice a day.”
Jason’s eyes tighten with frustration. He doesn’t like my answer. “Your boyfriend doesn’t scare me.”
“You haven’t even met him.” I counter.
“Does he go to Arden?” He asks.
I don’t know how to answer. If I tell him he does, he’ll demand a name and know instantly I’m lying. If I tell him that my boyfriend doesn’t, then he’s more inclined to think I’m lying. I don’t have to answer though because Jason takes two more steps in my direction. My back is against a tree now. I don’t like being cornered like this. My fingers itch at my side to hit him, but I don’t want to cause a scene. Frankly, I don’t want anyone knowing that I can handle myself. That could cause people to ask questions as to why someone like me would need to defend myself in the first place.
A second later, the decision is made for me. Someone takes Jason by the collars and throws him away from me. The linebacker hits the ground and is back on his feet a second later. It takes me a moment to realize what just happened. It’s Kaleb Nixon who seethes in front of me. His angry blue eyes are focused on Jason who runs at Kaleb with a raised fist.
Kaleb knocks Jason’s fist away from him and grabs Peters by the collar of his shirt. Kaleb looks like a vicious animal. He pulls Jason close and snarls in his face, “If you ever so much as look at Greer Evans again, I’ll make sure you can’t even bring a spoon to your mouth!”
Kaleb waits a second longer before pushing Jason Peters away from him. The linebacker stumbles for the path and takes off running. He doesn’t even look back as he disappears. Kaleb is standing there, silent and raging. His shoulders shake and his face is bright red. When his eyes meet mine, they’re so dark with anger that they’re almost black.
“I told you not to come.” He growls as he stalks towards me.