Page 41 of Riot (Mayhem 2)

Driver laughs too, not minding how badly the boys are behaving.

“Hurry up so we can go eat,” Shawn says with a smile on his face.

With the joint dangling between his lips and his feet hanging above the floor, Driver begins plucking at his banjo. And for a banjo player, he’s pretty damn good. Joel whoops and slaps his knee before yanking me off my feet to do-si-do me around the room. Adam joins in, hooking his arm in mine when Joel passes me along, and Rowan drags Mike and Shawn on the floor to join us. By the time Driver finishes playing, all six of us have square-danced our asses off and are laughing hysterically. I lie down on the floor, laughing too hard to catch my breath, and Joel collapses beside me, grabbing my hand and holding on.

This week, he’s spent most nights at my apartment, and on the nights he hasn’t, Rowan has told me that he’s attached himself to Adam’s couch grumbling about how he wished he was at my place. We haven’t talked about him not wanting me with other guys, and we definitely haven’t talked about me not wanting him with other girls, but as far as I know, neither of us has been with anyone else.

Leti, who made sure to stay out of grabbing-range during our hoedown, moves to stand over me, giving me a smug smile. “Well aren’t you two just totes adorbs.”

I kick his ankle, and his smile widens.

“So do I get to be in the band?” Driver asks, and I lift my head off the floor to see Adam wrap his arm around Driver’s shoulder.

“No fucking way, man. But we’ll buy you dinner.”

Driver seems to consider this for a moment, answering with a shrug. “Sweet.”

At a Chinese buffet, I eat at a table with six hungry men and a bottomless pit of a best friend.

“Are you going to be able to eat all that?” Mike asks Rowan with a skeptical gaze directed at her plate.

I can’t help laughing. Rowan and I are the same size, but I swear she can eat double our weight in food. Eating ice cream out of the carton with her is like competing for digging space with a backhoe. “She’s just getting started.”

She gives me a closed-lipped grin, her mouth already full of lo mein.

“So how are the shirts coming?” Shawn asks me, and I pick at my Chinese donut. My appetite is starting to come back, little by little.

“Almost done. I’m taking pictures this weekend, so you should be able to put them on the website next week.”

“And you’re seriously cool with doing this?”

“Are you kidding?” Joel asks. “You should see her apartment. There are shirts everywhere. All she talks about is knots and slits and bows and shit.”

I chuckle and toss a piece of my donut at him, and he picks it off the table and pops it in his mouth, grinning at me.

Making the shirts has been a lot of work, but none of it has actually felt like work. Since talking to my dad, I’ve been more diligent about completing my overdue homework and studying for tests, since I promised him I would, but I keep catching my mind wondering to clothing designs. My college-bound notebooks are just as filled with shirt designs as they are with notes for class.

“You should see them,” Rowan says, finally having swallowed down her food. “They’re really good.”

“Like really good,” Leti adds.

“They’re alright,” I say. What I’m really proud of are my other sketches—the ones of skirts and dresses and sexy little tops. But those are just for fun.

“You know what I’ve always wanted?” Driver asks. He’s sitting at the end of the table, but I can smell the smoke on him from three seats away. He nods to himself and says, “A cape.”

“A cape?” Adam asks, and Driver nods harder.

“Yeah. With hidden pockets and shit. That way if I get stopped by the cops, they won’t be able to find anything on me.”

“Couldn’t you just get hidden pockets put in your coat or something?”

Driver’s brows pull together with confusion. “You don’t think that’d be too obvious?”

Adam chuckles, and Shawn closes his eyes and shakes his head. “You think a cape would be more subtle?” he asks.

“No, I think a cape would be more cool,” Driver says, emphasizing the last word like Shawn’s having trouble understanding.

Shawn releases a heavy sigh, and I find myself laughing quietly with Joel.

“If he gets a cape,” Adam says, “I want one too.”

“Can mine be sherbet orange with vanilla trim?” Leti asks. “Oh! Wait, no! Orange with fuschia sequins.”

“That sounds hideous,” I gripe, and Leti scoffs at me.

“Your mom sounds hideous,” he counters.

I shrug. “My mom is hideous.”

My mom was only beautiful in ways that won’t matter once her skin starts to sag. On the inside, she’s disgusting, and I pray the last seven years have taken their toll on her.

The rest of the group continues imagining their capes and arguing over whose sounds the coolest, and I find Joel watching me. He does this sometimes now—stares at me like I’m a puzzle to solve or a maze to navigate. A few times, I’ve asked what he was thinking, but since I never like the answer—because it always involves him asking me something personal—I’ve learned not to ask.

“You should make Joel a cape with mohawk spikes running down the back for his birthday next week,” Adam says, and my eyes dart to him before settling back on Joel.