Page 57

    "She's fine,"...old her.

    "She seems upset," she said. "Before you got here, she was barely even speaking to me."

    "She'll warm up,"...old her. "You know how she is."

    We walked through the kitchen and out onto the porch to the keg, which was surrounded b...ew older guys. "Hey," one of them, who was tall and thin and smokin...igarette, said to me. "Let me get yo...eer."

    "I'm okay,"...aid, giving hi...ild smile a...icked u...up and filled it myself.

    "You two go to Jackson?" another asked Emily, who was standing off to the side, her arms crossed over her chest. She nodded, her eyes on me. "Man, these freshmen get hotter every year."

    "We're not freshmen,"...aid a...urned away from the keg...urly-headed guy was standing right in front of me now, blocking my path...aid, "Excuse me."

    He looked at me fo...econd before moving aside. "Hard to get, huh?" he said a...tepped past him. "I like that."

    I walked back into the kitchen, and Emily followed, shutting the door behind us.

    "Those weren't the one...as talking about earlier," she said quietly.

    "I know,"...aid. "Those guys are at every party."

    We started back to Sophie, bu...unch of people had just come in, and the hallway was packed with bodies and noise...ried to push my way through, only to get stuck about halfway to the living room, with people crammed on all sides of me...urned my head, looking for Emily, but she'd been waylaid b...oud girl named Helena we knew from the Models who, from the looks of it, was yelling in her ear.

    "Excuse me," some gir...idn't recognize snapped as she pushed past me, her elbow cracking against mine...el...plash, then looked down to see beer-hers or mine, it was hard to say-running down my leg. Suddenly the hallway seemed even smaller, not to mention hotter. So whe...pace opened up to my left...ook it, turning int...mall alcove under the stairs wher...ould finally breathe.

    I leaned back, pressing myself against the wall, and too...ip of my beer as people continued to push past...as getting ready to go back into the throng when Will Cash walked by. He glanced over at me, then stopped.

    "Hey," he said. Two guys passed him going the other way. One of them reached up, ruffling his hair, and Will mad...ace. "What are you doing?"

    "Nothing,"...aid. "Just-"

    He turned, then ducked under to wher...as. There was barely enough room for both of us in the alcove-it was the kind of place fo...mall table, or mayb...iece of art-bu...till tried to move to my left, putting some space between us.

    "Hiding out, huh?" he asked. He wasn't smiling as he said this, even thoug...as pretty sure he meant it a...oke. That was the thing with Will. You just could never tell. O...ouldn't, anyway.

    "It just... go...ittle crazy out there,"...aid. "Have you, um, caught up with Sophie yet?"

    He was still looking at me, that flat gaze, an...elt myself flush again. "Not yet," he said. "How long you guys been here?"

    "Oh...idn't come with them,"...eplied as Hillary Prescott walked past. When she saw us, she slowed her pace, staring at us fo...oment before moving on, disappearing around the corner. "I just got here&hellip...ot held up at home."

    Will didn't say anything, just kept staring at me.

    


    "You know how it is,"...aid, taking another gulp of my beer a...unch of girls passed by, laughing loudly. "Family drama and all that."

    I had no idea wh...as telling him this, just a...ad no idea wh...id anythin...id around Will Cash. Something about him unsettled me t...oint wher...elt so tentative that for some reaso...ompensated by being entirely too open.

    "Really," he said now, his voice flat.

    I felt my face flush again. "I should go catch up with Sophie,"...aid. "I'll, um, see you around...uess."

    He nodded. "Yeah," he said. "See you."

    I didn't even wait fo...reak in the crowd, instead just pushing forward, bumping some football player who was passing and following him back toward the kitchen, wher...ound Emily leaning against the island, her cell phone pressed to her ear.

    "Where'd you go?" she asked, flipping it closed and slipping it back into her pocket.

    "Nowhere,"...aid. "Come on."

    When we got back to the living room, Sophie was still on the couch, but now she wasn't alone. Will had joined her, and from the looks of it, they were having some sort of argument. Sophie was saying something, her face pinched, while Will seemed to be only half listening, glancing around the room as she talked.

    "Better not bug them right now,"...aid to Emily. "We'll come back. Anyway...ave got to pee. Any idea where the bathroom is?"

    "I though...aw one over there," she said, nodding towar...earby hallway. "Come on."

    There wa...athroom there, but als...ine, so we decided to try our luck on the second floor. We were navigatin...ong hallway whe...eard someone yell out my name.

    I stopped, then doubled back to an open door we'd just passed to see Michael Kitchens and Nick Lester, two seniors I'd spent all semester suffering through art history with, playing pool.

    "See?" Nick said. "I told yo...aw Annabel!"

    "What do you know," Michael, who was bent over the table about to tak...hot, said. "And her...hought you were just hallucinating."

    Nick turned around, then pu...and to his heart when he saw me. "No, it's Annabel," he said. "Annabel, Annabel, Annabel Greene."

    "You promised when the year was over, you'd let that go,"...old him. He'd done some senior project on Poe and had bugged me with this line endlessly. "Remember?"

    "No," he said, grinning at me.

    Michael took the shot, the balls splitting apart wit...lank. "Nick's drunk," he informed us. "Consider yourself warned."

    "I'm not drunk," Nick said. "I'm just cheerful."

    "Is ther...athroom in here?"...sked. "We've been looking for one everywhere."

    "Right over there," Michael told me, nodding across the room.

    "Come on,"...aid to Emily, and she followed me inside. "This is Nick and Michael,"...aid, handing her my beer. "And this is Emily. I'll be back i...ec, okay?"

    She nodded, lookin...it nervous. "Do you play?" Michael asked her, gesturing at the table.

    ......
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