18 | Party Time
“Hayden Gabriella Starr.” Mom sound irritated. “You might not like what your Dad did, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s still your Dad. Things happened that you’d want to know.”
“Wagner.” I corrected. “And like I said, I couldn’t care less what the hell happened!”
“Okay, that’s enough.” Mom sounded mad now and I bit my lip, realizing I’d probably gone too far. “I’m sending you a link to an article about it. Read it or not, I don’t care.” She paused. “I didn’t see this conversation going this way, but I don’t care anymore so I’m just going to say it. I’m staying here for another month or so, they need me at work.”
“What?” My head hurt and I clenched my jaw in anger. “So now you’re ditching me too! That’s just great!”
Mom made a frustrated sound. “The Hayden I knew was never like this. What is wrong with you?”
“Maybe you should ask them.” I muttered, referring to Dad and Demi. It was their fault I wasn’t the innocent kid Mom knew anymore.
“I can understand you being frustrated, even angry about what they did.” Mom said. “But I’m going to hang up before you say something that you’ll really regret, if you haven’t already. And don’t you forget that you’re not the only one affected by what they did.”
I bit my lip. I already regretted my words. “Sorry, I’m just in a bad mood.”
“I love you, Hayden.” Mom’s voice softened a bit. “Be safe.”
“You too.” I whispered as she hung up.
I saw that she’d sent a link to the group chat with Damen and my thumb hovered over it for a moment before I remembered that Kai was in the room. I’d completely forgotten about him! I scrunched my eyes shut as my mind scrambled, trying to remember what I’d said.
I finally realized it didn’t matter. It’s not like I was going to ask him if I said anything suspicious and whatever he heard, he heard. Let him get confused if he wanted. I turned around and found him sitting in the same spot watching me, his face once again expressionless.
“Well, I guess there’s no reason not to go to that party.” I said, standing up and tucking my phone in my waistband. My life was fucked up and I really needed to hit something but since I wasn’t in the shape to do that safely, getting drunk off my ass would have to do.
Hayden pulled a pair of sneakers from her closet and sat back on the bed. “Are we going now or later?” She asked, pulling them on.
“Whatever.” I stood up and walked across the room, tossing the band aid wrapper in the trash bin. I couldn’t believe she was pretending that I hadn’t just heard that fucking phone conversation.
I didn’t know what they’d been talking about, or even who she’d been talking to, but it had definitely been odd, and not the sort thing that you just brush off without even acknowledging it.
“Actually, I was thinking of sticking around here for a bit.” I told her. Her sudden interest in the party, combined with her other odd actions tonight were rather suspicious and I wasn’t about to just pretend that everything was fine.
“Why?” She gave me a look.
“Hayden,” I sighed. “I’m not stupid. You’re obviously not okay.”
Her eyes flashed with something, anger? “I don’t want to talk about it.” She headed toward the door but I stepped in front of it, blocking her way. “Kai.” Her voice was warning, and she clenched her jaw, but didn’t look me in the eyes.
“What’s wrong with you?” I asked, not moving. “You supposedly love pizza, but you barely ate a thing tonight, and then I find you crying your fucking eyes out in here after the accident in the kitchen, which you obviously don’t want Damen to know about.”
I purposely left out the phone call and the part where she randomly lost her balance a few times because I didn’t know what to make of them or where they fit in.
I knew she was not a very open person and what I was saying would make her angry, but I wasn’t going to let her get away with this shit. I didn’t know what her fucking secret was, but it couldn’t be that bad.
I watched her closely. “You’re not at all the same girl I saw this week at school and I don’t think it’s because of me, so what’s up?”
I clenched my jaw, afraid to look him in the eyes because I had no idea what he’d see. Anger? Hurt? Worry? Surprise? Those and a dozen other emotions as well.
“What do you want?” I asked, angrily, hating myself for not being able to lie outright and trying to divert the conversation. “I said I’d go to the party!”
“I don’t care what your damn secret is.” His voice softened the tiniest bit. “I’m just worried you’re sick or in trouble or something and you’re hiding it from Damen.”
I lifted my eyes to his and stared at him. “I’m fine.” I said calmly.
“Are you?” His eyes said he didn’t believe me.
He just wouldn’t drop it! “Fuck off!” I glared at him. “You realize I don’t even need a fucking boyfriend anymore? You’ve served your purpose and I can just walk out there and tell Damen we broke up! Then where would you be?”
Kai’s narrowed. “I’d be right on your heels ready to tell him every bit of fucking information I’ve managed to piece together about you including that you lied when you said you had a boyfriend and I think he probably wouldn’t be very happy about it.”
Fuck. I looked away again and bit my lip. I would never have actually “broken up” with him, I kept my word and I’d agreed to six weeks, on the condition that kept of his end of the deal, which he unfortunately had so far.
I was angry and scared because he was getting too close and I didn’t want to get into any more of an argument than we had already, so I gave in. Sort of.
“The phone call you heard, it was my mom.” I looked at him and saw the tiniest bit of surprise flash through his eyes. “She was supposed to be moving here within a week or two, but now she’s not going to be coming for a month. See? Not as fucked up as you thought.” I finished irritably. I hoped it was enough to satisfy his curiosity.
I reached around Kai and grabbed the door handle, but Kai’s hand closed around my wrist, stopping me from opening the door. I looked up and glared at him. “What now?”
“What are you hiding from Damen?”
I stiffened. “Nothing.”
Kai just looked at me expectantly.
“Fine.” I sighed. “I got hurt a while back and he worries too much about me, so like I said earlier, there’s no sense in making a deal out of nothing.”
I released Hayden’s wrist slowly and stepped aside, letting her leave. I wasn’t sure if I believed her or not. I didn’t think she was straight-out lying to me, but I wasn’t sure she was telling the whole truth, either.
“Why do we need to go to this party again?” Hayden asked as we walked down the hall.
“We need to be seen together.” I replied quietly.
When we walked into the living room, Damen’s eyes immediately went to Hayden, a concerned look on his face.
“I’m not looking at it.” She said before he could say anything. “I don’t care.”
I back and forth between them, confused. Obviously there was another thing going on that I didn’t know about, but at least Damen seemed to know, so that made me feel a little better.
“You would if you knew anything about it.” Damen said, glancing at me. “You should read it.” He said to Hayden. “Soon.”
I knew they were talking in code because I was there, but they didn’t have to worry because I had no idea what the hell they were talking about.
“We’re going to that party.” Hayden told Damen. “Don’t wait up.”
I shot her a look and glanced at Damen who just nodded at me. “Keep her safe.”
“Can you at least pretend to like me?” Kai glanced at me as we walked down the sidewalk. He’d parked his black BMW M6 a block away from the house the party was at and walked the rest of the way.
“I could say the same to you.” I retorted. I was still annoyed with him and the only thing I wanted right now was to get drunk and forget all my problems.
Kai sighed and ignored my response. “Just follow my lead.”
I nodded reluctantly. This was all a stupid idea in my opinion, and I was only hoping I’d be too drunk to remember most of the night.
We reached the open door and Kai followed me in. “I’ll come find you later.” He called over his shoulder as he headed off.
I rolled my eyes and pushed into the throng of dancing bodies. Kai may have exaggerated a little when he told Damen it was small. This party seemed nothing like the parties I’d gone to back in Virginia, but then, my outlook on life had changed and I was also surrounded by strangers.
It didn’t take me long to find the drinks and when I did, I immediately drank an entire cup. A guy was sitting on the table, watching me, and I thought maybe he looked familiar, but I ignored him and downed the contents of a second cup.
“You’re Hayden, right?” The guy asked.
I glanced at him and filled my cup again. “What’s it to you?” I was a little unnerved that he knew my name. I’d been hoping to be invisible and blend into the background at this school, but obviously, things weren’t working out the way I’d planned.
“I’m Max.” The guy said as I began drinking the third cup. “You’re really looking to get wasted.”
I finished the cup and nodded. “Yep.” I could already feel the alcohol starting to take effect. I refilled my cup but before I could take another drink, Max stood up and took the cup from my hand.
“You’ve been here five minutes at the most and I can already tell you that you’ll regret this tomorrow.” He said. “Give it a break.”
I glanced at my cup in his hand and grinned. “You know I’ll just drink that later.”
“I’m sure you will.” He set the cup down and grabbed my hand. “Come on, I’ll introduce you to some people.”
We’d hardly gone a few steps when two girls appeared and grabbed my arms.
“Hayden!” The one on my left put her arm around my shoulder. “Max, where did you find her?”
Max grinned and released my hand. “Hayden, this is Kyra and Rudy.”
Kyra, the one on my left, held her hand out to Rudy. “She showed. You owe me ten.”
Kyra and Rudy dragged me into the crowd of people and started dancing, but I just stood there watching them, a grin on my face.
I was very confused about how they heck they even know who I was and also why they were betting on whether or not I would come, but I was drunk and being stupid, so what the heck?
Two more drinks and I was actually enjoying myself. Somewhere in the back of my head I knew I was drunk and upset, but the drunk part overshadowed everything else and it was easy to forget the reasons I was there.
Kyra and Rudy pulled me around the house and introduced me to what seemed like the entire school, and then some. Everyone was drunk and having fun, and I began to let my guard slip and actually enjoy myself.
We were in the middle of a game of beer pong when I noticed I had a missed call from Kevan. “Do you know where the bathroom is?” I called to Kyra over the music. It was too noisy to call him back here.
“Down the hall by the kitchen!” She called back. “First door on the left!”
Surprisingly, there was no line, but someone was in there, so I texted Kevan.
Hayden: Call you back in a minute…
Five minutes later, the bathroom door opened and out walked Jett King… Followed by a girl.
Jett stopped when he saw me and grinned. “Hayden! I didn’t expect to see you here!”
The girl he’d obviously just fucked slipped away, down the hall and I gave Jett a look. “Really?”
He rolled his eyes and shrugged. “What am I supposed to do? The girl I want says she’s taken.”
He wasn’t… He wasn’t talking about me, right? “Nice to see you, Jett.” I slipped past him and into the bathroom.
I dialed Kevan’s number and he answered on the first ring.
“Hey, are you okay?”
I wrinkled my eyebrows. “Yeah, why?”
There was silence on the other end for a moment. “Didn’t you hear what happened at the trial?”
“What’s up with everyone asking me that?” I groaned. “Like I told my mom, I Don’t Care!” I’d been fortunate enough to have forgotten my problems until he’d brought them up just now.
“Hayden,” Kevan’s voice was a little odd. “Demi-“
“I don’t want to hear about that whore!” I interrupted angrily. “I never want to hear her name again!”
Kevan sighed. “Fine. But just so you know, someone else is going to bring it up and then you’ll wish you’d known.”
I was slightly curious what he meant, but I pushed it out of my mind.
“I’m gonna go.” I told him. “I’m at a party and people are waiting for me.”
I could easily imagine his face as he sighed. “Okay, just don’t do anything stupid.”
Too late. “Yeah, bye.” I hung up and looked in the mirror.
My life was fucked up. To a random person, I might still look like Hayden Starr, but she was gone. I was Hayden Wagner now and she was a completely different person.
Kyra, Rudy, and I were dancing to Taylor Swift’s Look What You Made Me Do when Max appeared in the crowd again.
“We’re starting a game in the other room.” He said to the three of us. “You girls should play.”
“We’re good!” Kyra giggled. “Rudy and I were just headed out. But Hayden will play, right?” She winked at me and then she and Rudy disappeared.
I turned back to Max and shrugged. “Why not?”
“Everyone’s waiting!” He pulled me into the other room where half a dozen people were spread out on the couches. “I got the new girl to play!” He called out and a few of the boys whooped.
“Ugh, her?” One of the girls sitting on the couch made a face. “Do you really think she has the guts for this?”
“Come on, Felicity.” The guy next to her glared at her. “She’s hot.”
I grinned and realized that I recognized most of these people from school. I couldn’t really remember very many names, but Max quickly took care of that.
“This is Bryce, Mandi, Sara, Cam, Faith-“
“Felicity.” The girl rolled her eyes and I realized she was the one that had been in the bathroom with Jett.
“Yeah.” Max shrugged. “Whatever. Lily, Luke, Opal, Hunter, and….” He trailed off, obviously not sure who the girl on Hunter’s lap was.
Hunter winced and shrugged, apparently not sure either.
The girl stood up, annoyed. “Ugh. You’re not even worth it!” She said, storming off to the amusement of the other guys in the room.
“Hunter’s first.” Max said as we sat down between Luke and Opal.
“Really, dude?” Hunter groaned.
I grinned. “What are we playing?”
Felicity looked at me stupidly. “Truth or Strip.”
“Oh.” I realized just then that Felicity and Lily were Staci’s friends and inwardly sighed. This was going to be interesting.
“I got this one.” Mandi said, scooting forward on Bryce’s lap and grinning at Hunter. “Have you ever fucked a teacher and who was it?”
So they played dirty… I could’ve guessed from the strip part, but whatever. This could be fun.
“He’s eye-raped Senorita Garcia.” Cam muttered and everyone laughed.
“Hunter?” Mandi grinned at him and he winced.
“It was only that one time.”
“Seriously, dude?” Cam gave Hunter an open-mouthed look. “Who was it?”
Hunter glared at Mandi and removed his shirt, which drew a collective “ooh” from the rest of the group.
“It was Mrs. Kelly.” Mandi grinned.
“Dude.” Cam snickered. “You’ve got problems. She’s not even hot.”
“Fuck off.” Hunter groaned. “What’s the point in stripping if she tells everyone anyway?” He glared at Mandi. “Your turn, who was your first kiss?”
Mandi blushed scarlet and everyone laughed.
“That was a stupid question.” Bryce gave Hunter a look. “We all know it was you.”
“Yeah, but I want her to say it.”
Mandi rolled her eyes. “It was awful, but it was you.”
There were a few snickers before Luke piped up. “Bryce, what secret are you keeping from Mandi?”
Bryce narrowed his eyes. “Nothing. She knows everything.”
“Except where you were in the middle of the night last night.” Mandi said, whacking the back of his head with her palm.
“Ow!” Bryce stuck out his lower lip. “I told you, I just went to the gas station to get a drink.”
“Like I’d believe that?” Mandi gave him a look.
“He was at my place.” Kai said, coming down the stairs.
I winced. How the hell had I forgotten about Kai? I was hanging out with his friends after all.
Moments later, Staci appeared behind Kai and my eyes widened. Had they really just been together upstairs?
“Kai! Staci!” Max grinned. “It’s about time you two showed up!”
Kai glanced at me briefly, but Staci pulled him over and sat down next to Felicity. One glance at me and her eyes narrowed. “What the hell is she doing here?”