The muscle in Reeve’s jaw twitches. Stonily he says, “If you cared that much, you would have told me that Lil came by the day of my open house. But you didn’t. You saw how upset I was, but you said nothing.” To me he says, “Let’s go.”
Desperately Rennie cries, “Wait! Wait.” She stumbles in her heels and straightens up again. “I was going to drop this bomb at midnight, but screw it.” She doesn’t take her eyes off me as she says, “Lillia drugged you at homecoming. She put something in your drink. I found a picture of her doing it!”
Everything goes slow-motion for me. As I turn my head to look at Reeve, I feel like I’m underwater.
Rennie is panting. Waiting for Reeve to say something. “Let me show you the photo. I’ll show you. I’m not lying, Reeve! I’ve never lied to you.” She smirks at me. “Guess what, Lil? Your perfect life is over. You’re going to jail, you stupid bitch.”
It’s over. I’m done for. Reeve, my friends, my whole entire life is ruined.
Reeve’s face is expressionless. He doesn’t look at me. Then, in a low, measured voice, he says to Rennie, “I don’t need your proof. I already know what happened at homecoming.”
“It was a stupid joke that went wrong. She wasn’t trying to hurt me. So drop whatever shit you were planning and leave it alone. I’m serious, Ren. If you ever want to see me again, you’ll drop this right now.” He holds out his hand to me. “Come on, Lil.”
“Reevie, no!” Rennie cries. “Please!” I let him take my hand and lead me out of the kitchen and down the hallway where people are crowding around. They stare at us as Reeve pushes through to make a path for me. I see Alex in the crowd of people, and I have to look away.
When we’re outside on the street I say, hiccupping, “I forgot my coat.”
“Stay here. I’ll get it.” He shoulders his way back inside, and I’m left alone with the bouncer, who’s smoking a cigarette.
He eyes me. “Damn. Did you get into a girl fight?”
I touch my cheek. It feels warm and pulsey against my hand. “Sort of. But it’s over now.”
I swirl the inch of whiskey in my tumbler, and the ice cube clinks against the glass and slowly, slowly dilutes the amber into honey. I take a small sip and it burns the back of my throat in the way that only primo-quality whiskey can.
The DJ goes from a popular rap song to a snappy old jazz tune. He’s been mixing it up like that since I got here twenty minutes ago. It’s weird but it works. The kids who are grinding on each other on the dance floor transition into more jaunty shakes and shivers, and it turns the crackly song into something sexy and current. I nod my head to the beat, smile, and take another sip.
I have to admit it. The New Year’s Eve party is as epic as Ren promised it’d be. Which is saying something, because I’ve been burned plenty of times by Rennie’s overhype. Once, when we were eight, she made a big deal about inviting me to spend the weekend at her grandma’s “summer home on the river.” It turned out to be a retirement community on the edge of a sludgy creek. We both got ringworm when we held our noses and waded in up to our ankles in a case of double-dog dare.
I remembered that weekend while I was getting ready tonight. It felt good to focus on something nice from back in the day and not completely totally hate Rennie with all my being. I’m not forgiving her for the shit she put me through. I can’t flip the switch like that, even if I wanted to. But I definitely prefer a scab to a bleeding wound.
I touch my head and make sure my hair is still in place. It took me so damn long to get my finger waves to work. I had to wash my hair in the sink twice and start over. The whole time I was thinking . . . How good can a high school party actually be? I had no clue. Just like Mary, I’d never really been to one before.
I’ve heard about Rennie’s infamous parties for years. Rolled my eyes while other people told stories of her bashes rotten with pilfered booze and barely legal shenanigans. But tonight I have to hand it to her. Her party is truly, all-out, undiluted Rennie Holtz. Crystal punch bowls, vintage barware, linen napkins. The DJ, the bouncers, everyone in costume. And not lame versions of costumes either, the way some people phone it in for Halloween. All the invited guests have stepped up their game tonight. If I hadn’t done the damn finger waves, I would have looked like a jerk.
It’s insanely impressive, especially because it’s not like Rennie has the money to buy whatever she needs to do it up right. It must have taken serious work to make something so luxe on the cheap.
Rennie should do this for a living. Party planning, I mean. No joke. I’m going to tell her that when I see her.
As crazy as it is for me to admit: I’m actually happy I’m here.
The whole afternoon I steeled myself for the inevitable dirty looks, the “Why the eff is that piece of trash here?” whispers. Everyone knows Rennie and I have a past. And even though I’m dressed the part—my hair, a black slip, fishnets, and a silver cigarette case—they’d know I didn’t belong. Not really.
Turns out I didn’t have anything to worry about. Everyone’s been . . . nice to me. They’ve said “Whassup, Kat!” and “Happy New Year!” and “Yo, DeBrassio!” Some girls even hugged me. These are all people I haven’t talked to in forever. People I’ve ignored, I’ve iced out for the last four years. Everything’s thawed tonight.
Just like that.
I take another sip of my whiskey and push through the crowd toward the front of the gallery space. The plate-glass window is fogged with condensation, and I wipe at it so I can see outside. Where’s Mary? She should have been here by now. There’s a line of people trying to get in, kids shoving their hands into their blazers and girls shivering in whispery dresses. I catch myself grinning. They probably don’t know the password.
I feel something tickle my arm. A feather.
I look over and see Ashlin.
“Hello,” she says, slurry, and takes a dainty sip of her champagne out of a glass flute. Ashlin’s dress is short and completely covered in pale pink sequins. It’s skin tight, and her freaking huge boobs look like they’re going to spill right over the top. She has a black mole drawn on her left cheek, and her eyelids are bright with glitter.
“Yo,” I say, and shrug the strap of my slip back up onto my shoulder.