Before I could stop the dangerous train of thoughts, my heart sank at the sight of Dakota walking in with a girl I didn’t recognize and I began to wonder who she was. Pride forced itself to the forefront of my mind, telling me to come off as unaffected and uninterested at what I saw before me. I was the exact opposite on the inside, but no one needed to know that.
A silent battle was taking place in my heart. The letter he’d written to me had torn me in half, unsure on which part of my heart I should side with.
I could make amends with Dakota or I could continue to ignore him, my thoughts suggested. A combination of rage and longing swirled together in the pit of my stomach, questioning if I should acknowledge him or not. With all of this going on in my head, it became hard to hear my own thoughts.
“You guys are so weird.” Maven commented in between drags. Smoke fanned across my face and I coughed even louder than the last time. It promptly caused me to smack the blunt out of his hand. “What the hell?!”
“Blowing smoke in people’s faces isn’t nice.”
“Well, in case you forgot, I’m not good at being nice.”
“You should try being nice. You might surprise yourself and actually be good at it.” I snickered, squinting at him. Bringing us back to his previous point, I asked. “What do you mean Dakota and I are weird?”
“I never know if you guys hate each other or like each other.”
“We’re not that confusing.” I said with conviction, shooting him a look.
“You guys are really confusing.” Lifting off the wall, he came up right beside me and awkwardly wrapped his arm on my shoulder. Quickly, I shrugged his arm off, but he placed it back after my attempt. “I’m not making a move on you.” He rolled his eyes. “You’re not my type. On top of that, your dad’s married to my mom. Even though she was doing fucking fine with my dad.”
“I wasn’t happy with the marriage either.” I shook him off again.
“You weren’t?” His eyes brightened, bemused and taken aback by my answer.
“No, the hell I wasn’t. Why would I be happy about my father cheating on my mom with another woman?”
“Another married woman,” he added. “My parents were married for eighteen years before your dad stepped into the picture.”
I didn’t know much about Maven and Hunter’s father, but I did know that he was a successful music producer and that he rarely had time to be a part of their family. My grandmother told me that he supposedly didn’t put up much of a fight when he found out about Evelyn’s affair with my father.
“Why don’t you go and talk to your girlfriend?” I growled. He was higher than a kite. I didn’t have the time or patience to deal with a stoned Maven. “You have a girlfriend who’s probably looking for you.”
“Elton John used to have a wife.”
“Who’s that?” I asked, honestly lost on who he was talking about. “Oh, right. The singer Elton John. Wait, what does that have to do with anything?”
“Forget I said anything.” Maven ruffled my hair in a playful way as if I was some child. He left it at that and dove into the crowd of dancing bodies, cutting through the dense traffic of people to get the kitchen. Maven walked past his girlfriend. She was inside of the crowd of people, dancing extremely close with a guy who wasn’t her boyfriend. Maven had glanced at them once and walked away, unalarmed. I could even see the start of a grin on his face.
Didn’t he care that his girlfriend was grinding with another guy?
“And he was calling us confusing,” I grumbled.
Leaving the corner of the living room where all of the stoners were located, I made my way to the stairs, but was caught off guard.
“Silvia.” My eyes shifted toward the person who had spoken my name. Discomfort mixed with anger shot in to me, staring up at Dakota and the girl who had arrived with him. She was prettier up close, dressed in a red knitted sweater and dark jeans. A new emotion flourished in my chest when I took note of how close she was standing next to him.
Dakota sidestepped and came into my path, blocking me off. “You need to get of here.”
The snappy comment I had in mind came to a halt, seeing the color drain out of his face. There was something off about the way his eyes widened, darting around the living room as if he was waiting for someone to jump out from the shadows.
“Why? What’s going on?”
“I can’t tell you what it is at the moment. You can ask questions when we leave.” He took my hand and walked me away from the stairs. “We need to get out of here as fast as possible.”
If it wasn’t for his grim expression, I would’ve cut him off and rebelled against his orders. During the couple of months we had known each other, I’d never witness such seriousness radiate off of Dakota.
The three of us zigzagged through the throng of inebriated teenagers, swaying to the pop music that blasted from the massive speakers. I was sandwiched between them, unable to see what was ahead of me or behind me. I focused on the back of Dakota’s head, tightly holding his hand in mine. We came to an abrupt stop, causing me to slam my body in to his.
Poking my head around Dakota, I was almost at a disbelief when I saw who was standing there, holding what looked to be a remote control in his hand. The jocks that went to our school lined up beside Finn, simulating a wall in front of the front door. Finn pointed his remote toward the speakers. After one press of a button, the music was cut off.
A chorus of unhappy partygoers rang all throughout the room, demanding for the music to be put back on. With a snap of his fingers, the athletes of Crescent High shouted for the room to quiet down.
Dakota tried to get to the front door, but with no success. Finn leaped at him, pushing him back a few steps. “You’re not leaving. The party just started, Dakota. I’ve been waiting for your arrival.”
“Just let us leave, Finn. You don’t want to do anything you’ll regret.”
Finn motioned to his impenetrable wall of jocks. “Go ahead and try to leave.”
His guys didn’t break-up their line for us to exit out of the house. When Dakota didn’t make another attempt for the exit, Finn laughed to himself and walked into the crowd. It parted for him. He jumped on top of the wooden coffee table and asked for people’s attention.
“What’s going on, K--Dakota?” I caught myself.
A sad smile pulled on to his lips.
“I’m just as clueless as you are, Silvia.” His reply didn’t bring comfort to me like I had hoped it would. His voice dropped to a whisper, “I have a plan though. When I say go, I want you to run to the back exit.”
“What are you going to —”
“It doesn’t matter what I’m going to do. You don’t need to worry about that. I have something for them.” He interrupted me. “Just when I give you the green light, I want you to sprint out of here as if hell is snapping at your ankles.”
“I can already tell you’re going to do something stupid.” I stated. “You’re outnumbered.”
“Who said I was going to fight them?” He gave a smug grin. Dakota peeled back the inside of his jacket, giving me a perfect view of the interior pocket. I brought my hand to the pocket and tugged at the side of it, seeing a set of matches. Not quite understand what he was going to do, he tilted his to the endless amount of alcoholic beverages placed on the fire mantel beside us.
"No.” I protested, speaking soft enough for only him to hear me. “You’re not going to start a fire. This is someone else’s home.”
“Which means it’s someone else’s problem. Not mine.”
Our discussion was cut short when Finn gained everyone’s attention, telling us about how he wanted to introduce a new friend of his. The students of Crescent High didn’t care what he was blabbering about, but the threats from his group of friends were enough to shut most people up.
“Before we bring out my new friend, I would like to give a gift to the birthday girl. It’s late, but so is this party. I hope you don’t mind.” Finn beamed and he waved over Dakota. “Tell her now or I will. Silvia, your little boyfriend here hasn’t been completely honest with you. Especially not from the beginning.”
Swallowing a dry breath, I coiled my hands around his arm. “What is it you didn’t tell me from the beginning?”
Dakota clenched his jaw, peering up at Finn. “Not now, Finn. I was going to do it in private.”
Finn hopped off the table. “What’s the fun in that? Don’t you want an audience?”
“Finn...” Dakota trailed off. “Not now.”
“What is he talking about, Dakota?” I inquired, gripping his hand. “Tell me.”
Dakota, still with my arm around him, stepped toward the exit, but Finn’s friends closed him off once again. As the realization of something dreadful started to sink in, I let my hand fall from his arm.
With his back to me, Dakota’s shoulder slumped forward. “I’m in Segg.”
My hand covered my mouth. The next set of words that came out of my mouth was muffled, but that didn’t stop me. “Please don’t tell me you did something against me with Franklin.”
“Franklin had nothing to do with it and it wasn’t a bet. It was more so an exchange of information. I scratch their back, they scratch mine,” he explained, slowly turning around.
“There’s this thing in Segg where you can outsource a prank...” Finn said, smirking at me.
He went on to tell me about the process of outsourcing a prank. In short, it meant having someone else do the dirty work, and in return, the other person got a form of payment. The type of payment varied.
I glanced at the both of them, in the midst of the party. “What does an outsourced prank have to do with you, though?”
“I was leading up to that,” Dakota groaned, visibly distressed. “There was someone who didn’t want you in California anymore. They wanted to know what made you move in with your dad in the first place. They figured if they unearthed the truth, they’d get you to run off again. At first, I rejected their offer, but by the second time they came to me, they had leverage on something I cared about. They had information on Diana that I needed.” He went on to say, “It felt wrong at first. I didn’t think it would take that long or that I would get that mixed up in this arrangement. But then they started asking me to get closer to you. Once I realized that they wanted me to do something huge, I knew I had to get myself out of the mess—”
“Wrong,” Finn shouted. “You left because you found something out about Diana you couldn’t face. Go on tell her.”
“No,” Dakota boomed. “I’m not.”
“Fine.” Finn hissed. “I will. Silvia, Dakota used you. Those drawings you saw of you in his sketchbook? I made him draw those and drop them off somewhere so you could find them, making it look like you were his hidden muse of some sort. Those photos tapped on your locker? He put them on there. He left his brother’s house that night, went to the school with me, and put them on there. His laptop and phone? They weren’t even stolen by Beth. That was a lie he told you so you could feel suspicious about Beth and not him. I have to say”—Finn chuckled lightly—“you’re easily fooled, Silvia. I mean honestly, what guy changes from hating you to liking you at the drop of a hat? Are you that gullible?”
A hammer sailed into my heart, leaving a deep dent. Those drawings—the ones I had fawned over and thought about for days— were lies. Moisture hit my cheeks, making the room appear as a single brush of blurred colors.
“It was a lie,” I croaked. “All of it.”
A hand gripped my waist. “It wasn’t all a lie, doll.”
“Let go of me,” I screamed, pushing Dakota off me. “Don’t ever touch me.”
I turned to leave, but the way was still blocked off by Finn’s goons.
“The show isn’t over yet darling.” Finn whistled. “Don’t you want to know what lover boy got for us?” He raised up the remote in his hand. “It’s quite juice stuff. Really.”
“Stop it, Finn.” Dakota hissed, turning to me. “I didn’t do it, Silvia. I didn’t do it.”
“What did you not do?” I shouted in confusion. “Just say--”
Was Jared a boyfriend of hers? Dakota’s voice rang through the speakers.
You could say that. I instantly recognized my own voice, realizing that this was the conversation I had with Dakota after his gig in Los Angeles. It was the same night Beth had entered into Dion’s apartment, asking for a place to stay.
“Ohmigod.” My knees buckled under me when I knew what was happening. Dakota held me to his side, making sure I didn’t fall to the floor.
The recording was cut at parts, but it gave away enough for people to easily follow along on our private conversation.
I tried to tell her once, but she told me that what I was saying couldn’t be true. In the end, I didn’t have any proof. He never tried to touch me. Other than that, he kept his distance...until he started bringing people into my bedroom, offering me to them.
Dakota reached into his jacket and pulled out his matches.
He made sure my mom was high out of her mind when it first happened. I tried to struggle. It was three against one. I was only about thirteen. It didn’t matter how loud I was, she couldn’t--
Dakota lit the match, but just as he did that, a figures jumped in, swatting the match out of his hand and stomping it out. One glance at my tear-stained face, he turned to the partygoers. “Everyone leave.” No one moved. He stomped to Finn, snatching the remote from him and turned off the audio. My breathing eased, but the pain that had piled on in my heart from this revelation was far from diminished.
Dakota hesitated, reaching his hand out to me. Pierson growled lowly at him, making a barrier between us. “Especially you, Ridgewood. Get out of here. You’ve done enough damage.”
I took Pierson’s hand as he led me out of the party, using the other to wipe away the tears.