Curtis and I pull up to the wooden cabin that faces the lake and my stomach drops, my mind instantly recognizing the rotted lemon colored Jeep parked incorrectly in the spot next to the one we are now parked in.
I let out a groan. “You have got to be shittin’ me. I swear, I must have been Jack the damn Ripper in a former life to be tortured this way in my current one.”
“What are you talking about?” Curtis questions, cutting the engine to the small, red Prius that he was gifted to him the start of his junior year.
“Axel.” I jut my head towards the eyesore next to us. “That is his car, which means that he is here. I was hoping that his hatred of anyone and everyone would mean refusing to come to this thing but I guess I was wrong. This just keeps getting better and better.”
“Are you going to tell me what happened at school on Wednesday? I mean, actually tell me what happened instead of doing that thing where you change the subject every time I bring it up.”
Once she finally returned home from work on Wednesday, my mother decided that part of my punishment involved taking away all of my electronic devices until Saturday morning. She also resorted to sending away anyone who came by the house looking for me, which meant Curtis and Katrena.
When I finally got my belongings back this morning, I called Curtis and spent the majority of the call avoiding the subject of what had happened and debating on breaking up with him officially.
I managed to do one but not the other because, here we are, still technically on a break but not completely broken up.
The whole thing is complicated and stupid as hell at this point.
“It was nothing really, I swear. I fell during gym and Coach made him help me get to the nurse’s office. We exchanged a few choice words and I ended up suspended.”
The look on his face lets me know that he doesn’t believe a word I just said. “Really? You’re telling me you got suspended for cussing him out? That’s it?”
“Why, did you hear something else? Tell me. I know how that school works, so Curtis, what are the rumors surrounding my suspension?”
He stares down at the steering wheel before being to mess with one of the eight keychains he has attached to the D-link in his hand.
“Fine,” he caves. “I might have heard a few of them going around about what others are saying happened. One is that you two fought in the nurse’s office, another is that you brought up his suicide attempt and he attacked you, and the other is that you two were caught skipping class and hooking up in the locker room.”
I let out a sigh, staring at the window towards the party. “Well, since you obviously don’t believe what I just said, which one of those do you believe happened? Come on, spill.”
A guilty look spreads across his face and rage bubbles up inside of me, threatening to spill out and into the small car. I fight back the urge to hit him and wonder when I became such a violent person. “This is unbelievable! It’s the one about us hooking up, isn’t it? Is that the reason why I had fifty missed texts from you when I finally got my phone back?”
“Come on, Ev, can you really blame me for doubting you? You’ve been acting so strange lately. You barely speak to me, you refuse to talk about us, and you kept pretending not to hear me earlier when I asked what happened between you and Axel. What was I supposed to think?”
“Anything other than that I was secretly screwing Axel!” I fling the door to the car open, storming across the yard and towards the front door of the cabin.
Curtis chases after me. “Eveline, come back here and talk to me!”
I spin on my heels, hands clutched into tight fists at my side as fury explodes in my chest. “The rumor that I hit him, that is the correct one. Coach forced him to take me to the nurse’s office and, once we got there, he spent the whole time mocking me. I tried to ignore him but then he called me ‘Evie’ and I snapped. I warned him not to call me that but he kept pushing, so I punched him in the face. Happy now?”
Curtis pales upon realizing his mistake, upon realizing that my reaction was based purely on the fact that Axel had used the nickname my father would so hatefully call me during his most violent episodes.
“Is this why you invited me here tonight, to not so subtly ask me if I have been screwing around with Axel? Or was it to put more pressure on me to make a decision on whether I think we should end this break and officially get back together? Pressure was what got us into this situation to begin with but you don’t seem to realize that. Trust me, Curtis, you don’t want me making a decision right now. And don’t answer those questions because, honestly, I don’t want to hear whatever bullshit you come up with about why you brought me here because I am choosing not to care. I am going to go inside, enjoy this party, and you can do whatever the hell you want because I will find my own ride home.”
I continue across the yard and into the house, careful to make sure I am lost in the crowd before he has a chance to find me and drag me back outside to continue our argument. Luckily, getting lost in here isn’t hard to do because it seems like half our school has decided to show up.
“Eveline, over here!” Katrena’s boisterous voice calls over the music and I spot her, her cotton candy hair bobbing through the crowd towards me. “I see the warden finally let you out on parole.”
She giggles, shoving a large red cup of foul-smelling blue liquid at me and I can only assume it is the infamous ‘death juice’ I have heard so much about from past parties. Supposedly, it is a combination of every liquor a person has in their house, a few packets of blue Kool-aid, whatever mixers you have, and ice, all thrown together into a giant container before being served.
It tastes like raspberry flavored gasoline.
I have never been much of a drinker, having chugged one too many wine coolers my freshman year which resulted in my puking all over the side of someone’s car, but I am currently pissed enough at Curtis to throw caution to the wind and risk it happening again.
Katrena watches with wide eyes as I finish off the drink in record timing. “Wow, Ev, go hard or go home, right? I see that you have decided to make the most of your freedom and I cannot say I am disappointed. Hey, where is your more clingy half?”
I shrug, snatching her drink from her so that I can finish it off. “Don’t know, don’t care. He brought me here so he could harass me about what happened this week at school and we got into a huge fight the minute we got here. I mean, I could have just told him what happened but he’s just been up my ass so much lately, you know? Anyway, he basically accused me of sleeping with Axel because he heard that is why I got suspended.”
“Guess I can cross that rumor off my list,” she jokes, holding her hands up defensively as she catches the look on my face. “I never said I believed it, just that I had heard it. I don’t picture you as the kind to get all hot and heavy in some mold scented locker room with a guy like Axel. I was leaning more towards the rumor where you socked him in the face for running his mouth.”
I raise a brow and smile.
A large smile spreads across Katrena’s black painted lips. “Yeah, that’s my girl. What did he do to face the wrath of Eveline?”
I go to respond but stop, my stomach twisting in on itself violently. I choke back the bile creeping up my throat.
“Bathroom?” I squeak out, trying not to make it too obvious that I am only seconds away from getting violently ill.
I managed to hide my wine cooler shame years ago but I do not want to start my senior year off as the girl who punched Axel in the face and then got sick off of ‘death juice’ at a party.
As is to be expected with any gathering this large, the line for the bathroom is long enough to twist down the hall and extend up the stairs. I shove past the waiting partygoers and out the back door, the cool night air rushing across my face.
It does nothing to soothe the storm in my stomach.
I make it a few beside the cabin, check to make sure the trees surrounding it will shield me from anyone who might wander outside, before vomiting onto the closest bush.
Sweat pours down my face and I wipe it away, displeased to see that a bunch of my makeup has come with it.
Well, shit, there goes any hope I had of looking impressive tonight. An hour of makeup and then ten minutes of shoving myself into this tight-fitting floral dress later and now it has all gone to waste because I was stupid enough to think my newbie self could handle some death juice.
I check myself in the front facing camera of my phone, dabbing away the mascara that has smudged across my cheek, before stumbling out of the woods to head back to the party.
A flicker of red catches my attention and I turn, curiosity getting the best of me as I head away from the cabin and towards the lake.
I recognize the girl standing at the shorelines as Alyssa Browning, Axel’s younger sister and a junior at our school. Being that McCall does a spectacular job of keeping each grade separated by a maze of class designated hallways, I rarely ever see her.
Alyssa pales in comparison to Axel’s lumbering height, standing maybe five foot three. Her maroon colored hair falls across her shoulders in soft waves, the water reflecting the moonlight to illuminate her pale blue eyes.
She, like every other Browning I have encountered, is stunning and I am starting to believe that there isn’t a flaw in that gene pool.
Alyssa stares out across the water, waves crashing loudly at her feet. The wind, which seems to be increasing in strength for what was supposed to be a calm night, shoves against me but I move closer to Alyssa, enthralled by the way she seems so transfixed by the water.
She shouldn’t be standing so close. Those waves are going crazy and it wouldn’t take much to knock her over and drag her under. It would be almost impossible to find her with how dark it is out here.
“Be careful!” I shout but she doesn’t move, unable to hear me over the sound of the water. “Hey, you should be more careful!”
She whips around, the bottom of her tan skirt moving with her. She looks frightened for a moment, letting out a sigh of relief when I come to stop a foot away from her. “Oh, Eveline, it’s just you. You scared me.”
“How do you know my name?”
She lets out a half laugh, rolling down the sleeves of her jean jacket. “How could I not know your name? If my boy tells it right, which he never does, you were born purely to torment him. Also, I might have spied on a conversation my mother had with him and overheard that you were the one who punched him in the face this week.”
“Oh, yeah.” Just remembering the shocked look on Axel’s face when I hit him brings a smile to mine. “I guess that might be something the two of them felt the need to discuss.”
“That and we share a mutual friend, Katrena. She and I have Biology together and she is always going on about her friend ‘Eveline’ and, since that doesn’t seem to be a popular name around these parts, I assumed it was you. By the way, discussed is an understatement. You should have seen the way my brother complained about that hit and the way his face swelled up the next day, you would have thought you gave him more than just a little black eye. He refused to leave the house until the swelling went down, it was hilarious. He may come off as the type that doesn’t care but his ego knows no bounds. Personally, I blame all the girls who won’t stop calling the house for him. However, it looks like you managed to damage more than just his face and, while I love my brother, it has been quite refreshing to see him knocked down a peg or two.”
I laugh, wondering why Katrena never mentioned Alyssa to me. “Glad I could be of service. Anytime you need him knocked down a peg or two, or just knocked down, just let me know.”
“What the hell are you doing?” someone demands from behind me and, from the way my hairs stand on edge at the sound of the voice and the way Alyssa’s smile falters, I don’t have to turn around to know who I will find standing there.