ELEVEN

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After a lengthy back-and-forth of what to wear, I eventually decided to scrap the Halloween costume idea and go for just something dark and vampy. I hadn't anticipated that I would be going out at all, so I hadn't bothered to go shopping. On actual Halloween, not until Tuesday, I was just handing out candy and most kids in the neighborhood didn't think twice about if you were wearing a costume or not.

     I put on a final touch of red lipstick, feeling vaguely like I was going undercover. This wasn't my scene and it wasn't my usual attire, and I wasn't going for anything other than research purposes. I was just glad I was going with Jeremy and Victor, who seemed to go out fairly regularly as guessed by their Instagram posts.

     After sliding on a pair of black boots to complete my all-black ensemble, I exited my room and waited for Jeremy to arrive.

     "You look nice," Dad said from the couch. "Can I send a picture to Mom?"

     I felt my cheeks turn hot. "Dad, please. You're embarrassing me."

     "I'm just excited you decided to go out! You're young, you should be having fun," he said. I had fudged my way through why I was leaving, saying it was a small get-together with some friends. Based off of the people Austin knew, his house would probably be hosting a third of the teenagers in town. I also wasn't sure where my parents stood on underage drinking, so I decided dodging that conversation for now was for the best.

     I couldn't hide my smile as my dad pulled his cell phone out of his pocket, placing his reading glasses halfway down his nose. He held the phone nearly an arm's length away from his face. "Okay, smile."

     "Dad," I said, partially covering my face, but I let him take the picture. This had been a regular tradition — my dad taking pictures while my mom was away and then sending them to her. I knew she appreciated the effort since it was hard on her loving both being with us and being at work. She was able to get away for larger events, like school dances, birthdays and most holidays, but it wasn't always easy. There were times when he would send pictures of day-to-day things, too, like if I got a good grade on a paper or the first time my name was in print for the school's newspaper. My dad's phone probably held a picture any day of my life that held any significance whatsoever.

     My phone lit up on the counter, so I leaned over and kissed my dad on the cheek, careful not to leave any lipstick behind. "I'll see you later."

     "Have fun," Dad said. "Your old man will just be sitting at home, all alone on a Friday night. Guess I'll just have to order myself some dinner and fall asleep in front of the TV because I don't have my girls to keep me in line."

     "Bye, Dad," I said, laughing.

     I exited my house, bracing against the cold as I did an awkward half-run to Jeremy's car. Climbing into the car, I was somewhat out of breath and already unable to feel my fingers.

     "Hey!" Jeremy turned to look at me, a smile on his face.

     I smiled, too. I had never really hung out with Jeremy outside of school or the office. He would offer to hang out every once in a while, but I almost always ended up saying no. It was nice to finally take him up on the offer.

     "I'm Victor." The guy in the passenger seat turned to me, showing off a bone structure that looked sculpted out of marble. He had naturally tan skin and deep brown eyes, and his hair was intentionally messy in a stylish way. I could see why, in the few times Jeremy had mentioned him to me, he always got a dreamy look in his eye.

     "Eden."

     "You also go to St. Joe's?" Victor asked, sounding more like he was making conversation than actually confirming. I had a feeling Jeremy had mentioned me a few times, probably describing me in ways that weren't so flattering during particularly stressful weeks.

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