Chapter Ten

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"Do you want a beer?" Dillon asks me as we walk in, raising her voice to be heard over the thumping base of the music. "I think I see a couple of two-fours in the kitchen."

"I don't drink," I tell her.

"Suit yourself," she says, shrugging. "I'm going to go grab one. Don't go anywhere, okay?"

She pushes her way through the crowd, leaving me by the front door. There are a lot of people, most of them dancing. The floor vibrates from a mix of the music and the pounding bodies.

This sea of people around me and I still feel as naked as a newborn. I wonder what Noah would be doing if he were here. Is he the life of the party, living it up on the dance floor? One of the gamers getting overly involved in a round of Mortal Combat? Or is he like me, standing out on the edge looking in?

After a few seconds of trying to find a place for myself, and failing, I follow Dillon into the kitchen.

It's mostly empty, save for a couple of people filling up their cups. Like Dillon said, there are cases of beer sitting on the table in various states of emptiness. Beside them, several bottles of liquor and even a bottle of red wine await consumption.

I pluck a Solo cup from a tall stack of them and pour in a little more than a shot of vodka.

"I thought you didn't drink," Dillon says, smirking as I pick up a lukewarm carton of OJ from the edge of the table.

"I don't drink beer," I rephrase as I fill my cup up the rest of the way with juice. When I take a sip, the burn of the alcohol is almost completely masked by the sugar.

She cracks her can open. "You're so weird."

"No way! It can't be! But no, ladies and gents, it is! The one and only Rowan Murphy has finally deigned to make an appearance at a high school party!"

It's Jessie, stumbling in with a bunch of guys from computer science. I know them, but not very well. I'm pretty sure that they're all part of a D&D league, or something equally as geeky.

Jessie's wearing a lime-green sweatshirt that's too bright to look at dead-on. He nods to Dillon before throwing an arm around my shoulders. "I thought you didn't do parties," he teases.

I take a long gulp of my drink, feeling it start to warm my belly, and tell him, "Rowan doesn't do parties, but Rowan is boring. Tonight I'm Not-Rowan." I giggle, more of a lightweight than I remember myself being, but then again, it isn't often that I drink. I go to take another sip but find that my cup is empty.

"Not-Rowan, huh?" Jessie says, musing. "So Not-Rowan does the opposite of what Rowan would do?"

I pour myself another shot, this time swallowing it down straight. My face scrunches up in distaste and Dillon laughs at me. I don't know why I'm doing this, or what I hope to get from it. All I know is that I'm thinking about Noah and my father and I don't want to be.

"That's the idea."

"Then you've got to dance with me!" he exclaims.

"No way," I tell him firmly. "I don't dance."

"Rowan doesn't dance," Dillon says playfully. "But you're Not-Rowan tonight."

I glare at her, although it's mostly for show. "You are a bitch and I hate you."

"Love you, too, Row."

"You suck, both of you!" I say, cheeks warming as Jessie pulls me onto the makeshift dance floor in the living room. The shades are drawn, making it seem later than it really is, and the couches and tables have all been pushed back against the wall to let more people in.

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