“Ugh,” I say. “That’s so Derek.”
“Ash, this is the best thing that could have happened,” Rennie says, taking a sip of her beer. “Derek isn’t boyfriend material.”
I push the bowl of chips toward Ashlin. She stuffs a handful in her mouth and says, “But you and Reeve are totally a thing and Lil and Alex are probably going to get together too. Who does that leave me with? PJ?” She makes a disgusted face.
I don’t say what I’m thinking, which is, Um, excuse me, but Reeve and Rennie are so not a thing because Reeve and I are. I wait to see if Rennie will correct Ashlin, but she keeps sipping on her beer. All she says is, “Aw, PJ is super cute. Don’t worry, Ash. You’ll find the perfect guy for you like I did.”
I stand up because I can’t listen to this garbage anymore. “Ash, I’ll be back in a sec. I’m going to go make sure nobody’s upstairs.”
Rennie rolls her eyes. “Nobody’s going to have fun if you’re running around all uptight like a prison guard. Hello, it’s supposed to be a party. You need to chill out.”
I’m about to snap back at her when Reeve comes bursting into the living room. He scoops Rennie up off the couch and throws her over his shoulder like she weighs nothing, which she does. “Put me down, Reeve,” she squeals, kicking her feet.
“No shoes in the house, Ren!” he says, pulling them off her feet. Then he tosses her back down on the couch, and her cup of beer tips over and spills everywhere; some splashes on my arm. “Awesome. Thanks, guys,” I say, sopping up the floor with napkins.
Reeve bends down and starts helping me. “Sorry, Cho.”
“Chill out, Lil,” Rennie says, her face red from being held upside down. “It’s beer! Beer gets spilled at a party.”
“Rennie, I swear, if you tell me to chill out one more time . . .” I say it and I mean it; I’m not joking.
Rennie narrows her eyes at me, and we stare each other down. Reeve tries to put his arms around both of us, but I shrug away from him.
Then Alex wanders in with a paper plate in one hand and a beer in the other.
“Hey!” I say to Alex. “I haven’t seen you all night.”
Alex swallows his bite of pizza. “I’ve been around.” He takes a swig of beer. “Oh, and I went to pick up the pizzas and they said somebody already got them.”
I clap my hand to my mouth. “Oh my gosh! I’m so sorry! I totally forgot to text you.”
Alex stuffs the rest of the slice in his mouth. “No worries.”
“I’m so, so sorry, Lindy,” I say, and Rennie rolls her eyes.
“Yeah, sorry, Lind,” Reeve drawls. “I took care of it.”
Alex looks from me to Reeve, who is still standing next to me. Quickly I say, “They were on his way to get the kegs, so I thought it would be easier.”
“No worries,” Alex says again, resting his plate on the coffee table. Then he pulls his wallet from his back pocket, and my stomach twists in a knot. He takes a few twenties from the billfold and holds them out for Reeve. “Here.”
“What’s this for?” Reeve asks him, his eyes narrowing on the money.
Alex takes a step closer, still holding out the cash. “I told Lil I wanted to take care of the pizzas.”
“‘I told Lil I wanted to take care of the pizzas,’” Reeve mimics back in a whiny-baby voice. “Too late. I already got it.”
Alex’s face goes red. I’m about to tell him to let it go, but before I can, he tosses the money on the coffee table. “Keep the change.”
Reeve says, “I’m not the delivery boy, you dick.”
Alex laughs dryly. “Who knows . . . in a couple of years, you might be.”
My hands fly to my face. I can’t even believe Alex said that. I’ve never seen him talk to Reeve that way before. On the couch, Rennie rears up like she’s going to tear into Alex.
Reeve’s fist is clenched at his side, and I just know he’s about two seconds from flattening Alex. I have to do something, fast.
Heart racing, I gather up the bills and hand them back to Alex. Nicely but firmly I say, “Thanks, Lindy, but Reeve’s got it covered.” Then I let my body fall against Reeve and slide my hand into his.
It’s a tiny display, subtle and quiet and barely anything. But it only takes a second before Alex’s jaw goes tight. I turn my head and look at Rennie, on the couch. Her mouth has dropped so far open that I can see her molars. My whole body squeezes tight with nerves, but I don’t move.
They are all seeing this. Us.
Then Reeve glances down at me, shocked. And definitely not happy. He pulls his hand free from mine and says, “What are you doing, Cho?” like I’m out of my mind, like we didn’t have that conversation in his truck, like we’ve never even kissed. Then with a chuckle and a shake of his head, he steps away from me, picks up Alex’s paper plate, and disappears into the kitchen. And I’m left there, standing in front of everyone, with my mouth wide open.
What just happened?
I can’t bear to see the look on Rennie’s face or anybody’s face. I spin on my heels and quickly head upstairs. What was that talk about doing what feels right, and people can go to hell if they don’t like it? I was the one who said we should be discreet!
I go straight to my room and close the door and plop down in front of my vanity. My hair looks like crap, super flat but not in the shiny, sleek way. It’s probably because I’ve been running around for the last two hours cleaning up other people’s messes. I drag a brush through it roughly, then I put on a fresh coat of lipstick because most of it has worn off. I can feel the music from downstairs pumping through the walls, and I just want to lie down on my bed. I wonder how soon is too soon to kick people out.
I’m sure he did it because he was embarrassed. Because of the thing Alex said about him becoming a delivery boy. Maybe I handled it wrong. I could have given him space, let him do his bravado thing, and waited for a better moment.
I guess I felt bad for him.
Sighing, I head back downstairs to check on things. From the foyer, I hear the roar of a car engine peeling down my driveway. I peek through the curtains. It’s Alex’s truck.
Great. Just great.
In the sitting room I notice a water ring on the coffee table, and I try to smudge it out. I go into the kitchen to grab some Pledge, and that’s when I find Rennie sitting on the floor, her back up against our oven door. Reeve’s standing over her.