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Chapter 2

When Tyler parks his car outside of Noah’s place, the party is already in full swing. Music is blasting from the inside and a few red solo cups are scattered over the front lawn as a result of wandering drunks.

I get out of the car as a cold breeze brushes past me sending shivers all through my body; I regret not considering bringing a jacket. Tyler comes up from behind me, sliding the letterman jacket that he keeps in the trunk for situations just like this, over my shoulders and I smile at him gratefully. He stands by my side and wraps one arm around me keeping me warm. “Come on, it won’t be as bad as you think,” he smiles. “Probably,” he adds under his breath, making me stiffen at the thought of everything that could go wrong. “I’m kidding!” he adds quickly standing in front of me and squeezing my shoulders reassuringly, “We’ll have fun, I’ll make sure of it.”

“You guys ready to party or are we just gonna stand here waiting to get tan by the moonlight?” Syd says coming between us and sliding her arms over our shoulders.

“Okay fine, let’s go inside. I’m freezing anyway.” I say reluctantly.

"That’s the spirit.” Syd pats my back as she starts dragging us towards the house.

As soon as we step through the door, a group of visibly tipsy girls in shiny outfits swarm around us to greet Syd. I recognize some of them as her friends from the cheer squad, but others I’ve never seen before in my life. Regardless, it’s only natural for anyone to be drawn to Sydney; on top of being stunning, she’s also the friendliest, kindest and funniest person you’ll ever meet, though that doesn’t take away the fact that she’s not afraid to snap at anyone who tries to mess with her or any of her loved ones. She’s the caring momma bear, the protective papa bear, and the cute little cuddly baby bear, all in one petite package. She gives me an apologetic look and mouths “Sorry” before being taken away by the crowd of girls. I smile at her letting her know it’s all right and not to worry about me.

“Guess it’s just you and me then,” Tyler says sliding his arm over my shoulders and I lace my fingers with his. “Let’s go get a drink.” he proposes and before I can refuse, he is already leading us toward the kitchen.

I sit on the countertop to be at eye level with Tyler as he looks around at the assortment of alcohol. “What do you want?” he grabs a bottle of water for himself.

“You’re not drinking?” I ask.

“I’m the designated driver, someone has to get you girls home safe, and tonight is all about you enjoying yourself. Besides, I don’t need alcohol to have fun when I have my bestie right here.” he squeezes my shoulder. “You, on the other hand, look like you could use some liquid courage.” He pops open a beer bottle, hands it to me, and I start taking slow swigs as we make small talk.

Suddenly, he glances over to the side and whispers to me “Be cool.” I’m about to ask him what he’s talking about when I look in the same direction and see Mason walking towards us.

“Hey man, what’s up?” Mason says smiling as he greets Ty with a pat on the back. I start to feel the heat rising to my cheeks as Mason looks at me, still with a perfect smile on his face and says “Hey Maddison, I didn’t expect to see you here, glad you could make it.”

He catches me mid-swig. “H-Hi Mason” I choke and cough before I can say anything else. Because why wouldn’t I?

“Oh-kay...” He claps his hands together. “I’ll see you guys around, enjoy the party,” Mason says, walking away awkwardly.

I bury my head in my hands in embarrassment while Tyler laughs and says “You might’ve not heard me right. I said be cool, not cough in his face?”

I lift my head in anger and punch his arm. “It’s not funny, douchebag,” I say and he laughs even harder, obviously not hurt in the slightest.

“I’m joking! It wasn’t that bad.” he laughs. “You are such a drama queen sometimes,” he says grabbing my waist, lifting me off the counter, and setting me down on the floor. “Come on, we’re going dancing.”

Hand in hand Ty leads me to the makeshift dance floor in the backyard, pushing through the crowd until we find a spot big enough for both of us. Music is booming from the speakers and strobe lights flash over us as I start awkwardly moving to the rhythm. Man, they really go all out for these parties.

Taking a few swigs of my beer, I just barely swaying from side to side but quickly noticing my awkwardness, Tyler grabs my hands and shakes me a little while jumping up and down in an attempt to help me loosen up. It makes me laugh and actually helps a bit.

I know I don’t have to feel awkward around Tyler. We’ve been neighbors since we were kids and the closest of friends for years. He knows everything there is to know about me and I know everything about him. We never keep secrets from each other and we’re always honest, that’s why we work. He’s probably the only guy I don’t feel uncomfortable around, so with his encouragement, I start slowly relaxing and committing to having fun.

By the time my beer is empty Tyler and I are dancing freely without a care in the world, and I’m actually starting to have a good time. “I want another drink!” I yell loud enough for Ty to hear me over the music. He raises his eyebrows in surprise but smiles showing his approval. We move away from the crowd heading towards the house when a voice stops us from going in.

“Mads!” I look around to see Syd standing at a table surrounded by a few other people. “You guys wanna play?” She asks holding a ping pong ball and I notice she’s talking about a game of beer pong. I look up at Tyler waiting for him to answer for me.

“I’m DD remember? But you go ahead if you want to.” I hesitate, looking at Syd as she waves me over but Ty gives me a little nudge in the back pushing me to do what he knows I want to.

I go stand across the table from Syd who’s paired up with Ashley, the head cheerleader of the squad, and since Tyler is watching from the sidelines, I have to pair up with a guy named Jackson. “I’ve never played before, so if I suck I’m sorry in advance,” I tell him and he laughs it off.

“Here, you can take the first shot newbie,” he says, handing me the ball. Each team has ten cups filled halfway in front of them so I aim for the middle one, thinking it’ll be the easiest but I’m sadly mistaken since I miss and the ball bounces off the cup. It’s the girls’ turn and Ashley gets the ball into one of our cups in the back row. “You missed the last one,” Jackson says picking up the cup with the ball still inside it and handing it to me, “Drink up.” I steal a glance at Ty and he shrugs his shoulders as if saying ‘rules are rules’. I sigh and reluctantly chug the contents of the cup.

The game goes on for a while, and out of the ten cups I ended up having to drink seven. Jackson missed only a few of his shots but I missed all of mine, making the girls the winning team. Apparently, I’m a lightweight because I’m quickly starting to feel more than just a little bit tipsy. I stumble as I make my way towards the house and Tyler comes behind me to steady my walk. “Easy there, where are you going?”

“I reeally need to pee.” I notice I’m starting to slur.

“You want me to come with you?”

“No, no that’s okay. I just need a minute to be away from all the noise. I’ll be right back.” I brush him off.

“Okay,” he hesitates. “I’ll be on the dancefloor with Syd, come find me when you’re ready. Cool?”

“Okayy.” I smile and wave as he walks away from me.

I stagger around the empty house, lost, holding on to the walls as I look for the bathroom, deciding to head down to the door at the end of a long hallway guessing that must be it.

Big mistake.

As the door swings open and my eyes adjust to the darkness of the room I manage to make out two people laying on a bed, the one on top is Mason, and the other one is a girl I don’t recognize. They both turn to look at me and I freeze, but before they can say anything I mumble a quick “sorry” before I shut the door and run in the opposite direction.

I spot an open door on the opposite side of the hall and, finally realizing that it is the bathroom, I go in slamming the door behind me. Leaning against it looking up at the ceiling, I try to keep the tears at bay, but before I can stop them two escape through the outer corners of my eyes and make their way down my cheeks. I hurriedly wipe them away not wanting to mess up my makeup and coming out of here looking like an even bigger mess than I already am.

I stare at my reflection in the mirror in front of me ‘Don’t let them see you like this’ ‘Keep it in control’ ‘Get it together’ ‘Keep it in’ I keep repeating in my head, taking deep breaths with my hand over my chest to try to compose myself.

Once I’ve calmed down a bit, I blow my nose, shake my head to snap out of it, and fix my hair in the mirror before I come out. I steal a glance at the room they were in and the door is wide open, which means they’re probably outside by now.

I head to the kitchen to pour myself another drink before walking to the empty living room and taking a seat on the couch. I need a few more minutes before I can go back out there. With one hand, I take long swigs of my drink, I run the other one through my hair and rest my head on it while I look down at the ground. Suddenly I feel the weight shift on the couch.

“Tough night?” The person sitting next to me asks. I half-heartedly laugh and shake my head taking another drink.

“You have no idea.” When I finally look up I’m met with a pair of piercing green eyes rimmed by the darkest and thickest lashes I have ever seen. “What about you?” I ask, turning my head towards him, “Shouldn’t you be out there doing host things...or something?”

“Meh,” he shrugs, “Being the host is overrated, you don’t even get to enjoy your own party. It’s mostly just going around making sure nothing gets broken, stolen, or that no one passes out on my front lawn. And a whole lot of cleaning up other people’s puke.”

“Don’t even mention it. I’m feeling sick to my stomach enough as is.” I say looking out the window behind Noah, spotting Mason not too far away from us still with that girl who I now recognize as Brianna. Noah looks in the same direction and then back at me.

“Is this about a guy?” he asks.

I take a long sip, “Is it that obvious?” I ask, my eyes heavy.

“At our age, most problems revolve around guys, girls, or both. Just taking a wild guess.”

“Good point,” I nod before downing what’s left of my drink. I sigh in exasperation ”Ugh, I’m just so sick and tired of being invisible.” I don’t know why I’m ranting to him right now, but I’m drunk, I’m sad, I’m pissed, and he’s the only one here, so what the hell. I stand up and start unloading my frustration onto him. “I hate getting so nervous, and being so awkward! I am so tired of chasing after a fucking asshole who doesn’t notice me and making a fucking fool out of myself all the fucking time. I just want to be seen, you know? For once,” I start pacing back and forth while Noah stays seated, “Even if it’s just for a moment, that’s all I want. Just for one moment, I want to feel like the pretty one, like I’m hot and like I’m worth something! Is that too much to ask?!” I turn to him as he stands up, I’m guessing to leave because I look crazy right now.

“You are pretty though, you know?” he says casually as he stands opposite to me facing the window.

"Thank you!” I say a little too forcefully. I’m still riled up.

He looks out behind me and tucks a strand of loose hair behind my ear. “You want to get his attention?” he’s speaking very calmly.

“Yes!” I exclaim “But I just don’t know wha-” he cuts me off before I can finish my sentence. Tilting my chin up, he presses his lips to mine. As soon as they collide the air around us is still, as am I, and all the noise from the party seems to be drowned out. His hands cup my face as he kisses me slowly, and when I finally snap out of my shock, mine get tangled in his soft hair. The world seems to stop, as if to allow me to bask in the pleasure of his touch. My skin burns in the places that it meets with his and he pulls me closer as he, ever so gently, bites my lower lip.

I open my mouth slightly to grant him passage and his tongue starts massaging mine. I tug at his hair and he sighs deeply through his nose before he picks me up and starts towards the couch. I instinctively wrap my legs around him as he sits down, and I find myself straddling his lap. I push him so that his back lays against the couch and I deepen the kiss, feeling like I can’t get him close enough. His hands mess up my hair before sliding down to rest on my hips, making me shiver as he chuckles lowly. I’m lost in him when I suddenly realize we’re right next to a window, in full view of everyone outside, so I slowly and reluctantly pull away from him. We stay in place, heavy breathing with our faces inches apart from each other as he strokes my cheek with his thumb.

“Feel hot now?” He rasps and I chuckle as he holds my gaze for a beat, before turning towards the window and saying “You’re welcome by the way” when he notices Mason staring at us.

I open my mouth to reply but before I can, I hear the sliding door that leads to the backyard open. Getting off Noah’s lap, I turn just in time to see Sydney stumbling into the house in a fit of giggles.

“Maddieeee!” she slurs, “There you are, I’ve been looking everywhere for you! I was just going to the bathroom but I’m so glad I finally found you.” She glances between Noah and me who are still sitting close to each other and her eyes widen. “Ohhhh, I see what’s going on here.” And with that, I stand up and rush to her to drag her away before this gets even more awkward. “Good for you girl, he’s HOT!” She thinks she’s whispering but I can hear Noah laughing behind us. I push her towards the bathroom and before I go in, I steal one last glance at him still sitting in place with a smirk plastered on his face.

While Syd does her thing I rant about the night’s events and despite being highly intoxicated she listens attentively. After washing her hands she grabs me by the shoulders looking me dead in the eyes.

“Listen to me Mads, and pay very close attention because I’m only going to say this once, okay?” She seems to have quickly sobered up because she has her serious face on and is speaking with long pauses, which means she’s in lecture mode. I nod my head and she goes on, “Mason is not worth it. I know you can’t see it because you really like him, but from what I’ve gathered over the years, he doesn’t seem like a good guy to me. He’s cocky, attention-seeking, and all he seems to really care about is being seen as the top dog and getting into as many girls’ pants as he can. If he can’t see how amazing and ridiculously beautiful you are, then it’s his loss, because there are many other guys out there who will. Don’t let him get you down or make you doubt your worth, that guy does not deserve your tears.”

I nod slowly as she speaks and when she’s done I sigh shaking my head “You’re totally right.” I hug her. “Thank you girl, I love you.”

“I love you too, Mads.” She nuzzles her head into my shoulder and rubs my back.

We pull away from each other and come out of the bathroom. “Okay, I think I’ve had about enough partying for one night, can we go home? You guys can stay at my place”

“Sure, I’ll go get Ty.” she says starting towards the back door.

“Cool, I just have to get his jacket, I think I left it in the kitchen.”

“Okay!” she replies as she heads out. I shuffle through empty bottles, tossed around cups and questionable stains on the kitchen counter searching for Ty’s jacket but I can’t find it anywhere.

“Looking for something?” I hear someone say from behind me.

“Yeah, I can’t find my jacket. I swear I left it right here!” I say exasperatedly as I turn around coming face to face with Mason.

“Let me help you then.” His eyes are heavy and bloodshot, and his speech is slow and dragged. He’s clearly wasted.

“That’s okay, I think I might’ve just left it in the living room. Let me just-” I try to get away from him but he grabs my wrist and pulls me back, caging me against the counter with his arms at my sides. He closes his eyes and starts leaning into me.

“What the fuck are you doing, Mason?!” I yell pushing him away from me and he staggers backward.

“Sorry princess,” He raises his hands in surrender, “I just thought-”

“Hey, Mads?” I look past Mason to see Noah heading towards me with Tyler’s jacket in hand. Mason backs away but doesn’t leave the kitchen as Noah comes up to me and hands me the jacket. “I put it in my room so it wouldn’t get all dirty in here,” he says with a crooked smile.

“Oh, thank you.” I reply surprised “That was... oddly considerate of you.”

“Like I said, host duties.” he shrugs. “Anyway, hope you had fun,” he bends down to kiss my cheek and as he’s pulling back he stops at my ear to whisper “Told you it would work.” in a voice that sends shivers down my spine. I can feel my cheeks heating up as he starts backing away “I’ll see you on Monday,” he winks, smirking at me with his perfect white teeth, “You too man.” he directs that to Mason.

“Yeah, see you.” Mason says while glaring at Noah.

Sydney comes into the kitchen with Tyler trailing behind her. “Ready?”

“Yeah,” I put the jacket on and push past Mason, ever so lightly bumping against his shoulder. “Later Mason.” I look back at him with a smile and wave my fingers, feeling pretty pleased with myself. I’m still holding my smile as I plop down into the passenger’s seat of Ty’s car.

“So? Did you girls have fun?” he asks looking back as he pulls out of the driveway.

“The most,” Syd replies.

“Yeah, strangely, me too,” I say, surprising even myself.

“See? I told you. Who was right?” he holds his hand up to his right ear leaning towards me.

I roll my eyes. “You.”


“You, Tyler.”

“Tyler what?”

I sigh “Tyler, the best guy on the planet, who is always right and whom I love the most in the entire world.”

“That’s right.” he brags.

“You happy now?” I laugh at his antics.

He turns to me with a smile, looking me up and down. “Very.”

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