It was my first real high school party. And, with any luck, it’d also be my last.
I couldn’t see what all the fuss was about. Surely I wasn’t the only one in the house not having the time of my life, though it was starting to feel that way. A slight difference came in that the living room’s dense crowd appeared to have thinned; it had been lightened by the migration of newly-formed pairs to the upstairs rooms. In the corner, three couples were squashed onto a two-seater couch, so close together they looked in danger of accidentally swapping partners. Music still pulsed through the building, vibrating right through the floorboards, but well-known hits had been pushed aside in favor of crappy dance tracks.
I’d assumed I would get into the swing of it. Sure, it might’ve taken a while to ease myself in, but several hours had crawled by and all I wanted to do was leave. Most of my time had been spent tailing people I thought I recognized, trying to cling to some sense of familiarity in the house that was brimming with strangers. I could’ve sworn most of them didn’t even go to Franklin.
Kim cropped up every now and again, but I hadn’t managed to catch up in time to latch back onto her side. Though sober, she had an incredible knack for tolerating the tipsy antics of our classmates, which of course made her a total hit. Against her, I’d never felt more antisocial.
Eventually, I decided there was nothing to do but give up. The fact things hadn’t picked up already seemed like a sign they never would. I couldn’t stick around much longer without going out of my mind; I had to find Kim and tell her I’d make my own way home.
I was sure I’d seen her heading for the kitchen several minutes ago, so that seemed like my best bet. Halfway across the room, however, a staggering figure came crashing into me from behind, startling the both of us.
I spun round to see Claire, quickly regaining her balance. A few seconds had me realizing why she’d dropped a few inches in height; she must’ve abandoned her shoes at some point in the evening. Faint rings of gray had appeared beneath each eye, her make-up traveling south, and most of her curls had dropped into half-hearted kinks.
“Corey!” she yelled, her voice straining to be heard over the stereo. “I’ve been looking for you!”
“You have?” I asked, but she couldn’t seem to hear me. I gestured toward the kitchen, to which she nodded.
Once the door had closed behind us, blocking out the worst of the noise, I couldn’t help but breathe a sigh of relief. I’d almost forgotten what it felt like to hear myself think.
“Thank God I found you,” she sighed. “I thought it would be impossible in there.”
“What’s going on?”
“Luke,” she said. “Luke’s what’s going on.”
I could already feel my heartbeat quickening, thumping beneath my shirt. He may have been one of the people I’d been looking out for all night, even if I hadn’t wanted to admit it. There was no doubt he’d be here; the most popular guy in school wasn’t going to miss a big party, let alone Claire Delaney’s. And yet somehow the hours had slipped by with no sign of him. It was almost like he’d been hiding away.
“What about him? Did something happen?”
“If by ‘something’, you mean he’s practically drunk out of his mind, then yes,” Claire clarified, running a hand through her hair. “Thankfully I managed to coax him into my room before he got too crazy. Still, now he’s up there asking for you. He wouldn’t say why. I had to promise I’d come get you.”
YOU ARE READING
For seventeen-year-old Corey Ryder, life on the road is all she’s ever known. A trainee trapeze artist in her aunt’s circus, she’s never found herself in one place for more than a few weeks at a time. For her, it’s a way of life. But when a tragic a...