Yanking my mask back on, I head out of the apartment.

It’s quiet in the building now. So much so, that I’m alone with my thoughts. Thoughts that are much lighter in mood than when I first entered the building.

Even the snow that’s lacing the streets doesn’t change my good mood.

2

Beth

October

“This place is a dump,” my friend, Amanda, declares loudly as we stumble into the bar located on the very fringes of Garden City.

“Shush,” I hiss at her and shoot a glance towards the bartender. Seriously, she’s going to get us tossed out before we even order our first drink.

The woman standing behind the counter gives us the stink eye and crosses her thin arms over her ginormous fake breasts. She’s got that awful bright red hair that’s so unnatural you just know it came out of a box. She probably does it in an attempt to look younger, but it only ages her. If I had to guess at her age, I’d put her in her mid to late thirties. Give or take a decade, depending on if she smokes or not.

Amanda’s not wrong. The place is indeed a dump, but it’s also the perfect hidey-hole for drinking and having a good time without it ending up in the gossip rags. As a group of girls that are always in the spotlight because of our famous fathers, we want to drink and have a good time without worrying about who could be watching.

Amanda just shrugs her shoulders, completely unapologetic. I sigh and drag our little group over to one of the few open tables that actually has stools.

“Seriously, who names their bar The River Waters?” Amanda goes on with a wrinkle in her nose as we each take a stool. “It’s almost like they don’t want anyone drinking here…”

Looking around the place, I don’t think the bar’s unfortunate name is what keeps most people from coming in. The lighting is dim and the air is thick and hazy with cigarette smoke. Apparently the no-smoking ban in public spaces the city passed a couple of years ago doesn’t apply here.

Heavy metal blasts from the back where a few unsavory looking fellows with long, dingy hair and bushy beards play pool and drink beer. If I’m not mistaken, the leather vests they wear declare they belong to some type of motorcycle club or biker gang. Hanging on the wood paneled walls are posters of half-naked women with enormous fake breasts that are so old they’re covered in dust and a film of brown.

This place is in a desperate need of a good scrubbing from top to bottom.

Setting my purse down, it seems to stick to the table and I change my mind. This place is definitely in need of a fire. They should just probably burn it down and start all over again.

“I don’t want to be drinking here,” Lindsey whines unhappily and flips her blonde hair over her shoulder before shooting me a glare.

You’d think after all the pre-partying we did back at Sophia’s condo that she’d loosen up enough to pull the stick out of her ass. But then again, her father is one of the richest real estate investors in Garden City, and she’s used to all the glitz and glamor money can buy.

I sigh again and start to wonder if maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all…

But then Sophia seems to bristle, taking Lindsey’s glare personally. “Oh shut up, Lindsey. You’re such a fucking snob.”

Lindsey sniffs and begins to shrink under Sophia’s hard look like someone just sucked the air out of her.

“I don’t see why we couldn’t just drink back at our place,” she whines softer now. Looking down at the table, she makes a face of disgust as she watches me try to free my now stuck purse. “At least there we won’t catch any incurable diseases.”

Sophia rolls her eyes hard and shakes her head, her blonde curls bouncing around her heart-shaped face. “We always party at our place. It’s boring.”

Amanda’s green eyes light up. “I know a few guys—“

She doesn’t get to finish before Sophia cuts her off. “No, dammit. We already talked about this.” She shoots me a can-you-believe-these-idiots look before going on. “You know we can’t have anything showing up on social media. If Beth’s father finds out she was out partying, he’ll lock her up and throw away the key.”

Ugh. Just hearing that said out loud is enough to kill the buzz I had going on. Both Amanda and Lindsey look at me sympathetically, and I couldn’t feel more like a loser if I tried.

Yeah, I’m sheltered and my father is way overbearing. It’s his way or his way, there’s no arguing.

You see my father is Senator Richard Norton, and to him appearances are everything. His career and his connections depend upon it. He’s planned every aspect of my life, from the schools I’ve attended, to the hobbies I enjoy, to the friends I keep, and even the guys I date.

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