Interlude: Theo

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Theo Porter wasn't in the mood to watch his fellow students get drunk again.

Yet here he was on the lakeshore, sitting on a piece of driftwood, freezing off his ass, and wishing he hadn't come.

Every one of these people—Davis, Kelly, Mark, Tiana, and all the rest—had gotten arrested last week. Yet not a one of them seemed to care because their rich ass parents could wipe their records clean with a bit of cash.

Theo didn't have that. In fact, the school was currently reviewing his scholarship, and any day now, he was going to find himself back in Chicago. Back in his dad's shitty apartment and the shitty school three blocks away that he'd worked so hard to get away from. The money he'd saved selling booze wasn't enough to get a place of his own—and he wasn't old enough anyway.

And that was just one more shitty thing: if Theo moved back home, then it would be one more reminder that he'd screwed everything up. He couldn't get a full ride to the Northwestern Journalism program anymore. Not with this arrest record to haunt him. So really, why had he even bothered saving for expenses?

Madison joined Theo on the log. The wind off the lake pulled at her thick curls. Her black skin gleamed beneath the moonlight.

She had the tolerance of someone twice her size, and the one bottle of grain alcohol that Garrett had brought was, apparently, not doing the trick. She looked as pissed as Theo about being here.

"Cigarette?" she offered, holding out a box of menthols.

"Sure." Theo didn't like smoking, but sometimes, you just needed an outlet that killed you a little.

She lit it for him, and together, they sucked their lives away. It burned Theo's throat. Mint-flavored death.

"Not drinking tonight?" Madison asked, eying the ruckus twenty feet away. Davis had insisted on a small bonfire, even though Theo had told him it was a mistake.

"No." Smoke twined between his teeth as he spoke. "Not tonight."

"Not feeling it?"

"No," he said, even if that wasn't true. He'd worked hard to cultivate an image. He was one of them; he belonged here; he too lived a life free from consequence.

Madison flicked ash onto the beach. "I heard you made out with that Berm High chick." She grinned sideways. "Trying to break her heart?"

Theo didn't answer that question. He just drew in another long drag, and then held it there. Smoke poisoning his lungs and shredding his tonsils.

The truth was, he had no idea what had happened between him and Freddie Gellar on that stage.

The truth was, he had no idea what had happened between him and Freddie Gellar at those picnic tabes either.

And the truth was, he knew absolutely nothing about her, yet he'd barely thought of anything else for the past three hours.

Which wasn't right. She was the enemy. She had gotten him arrested. She was the reason his entire future had dried up in a single night.

He was supposed to hate her. It made no sense to him that he didn't.

Theo exhaled, a haze to hide the dark waves and darker sky.

Beside him, Madison fell into silence. He appreciated that, and they reached the ends of their cigarettes without the distraction of conversation.

"Give me your cig," Madison said, after rubbing hers out in the cold sand.

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